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Title: Qutb  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sufism, Ba 'Alawiyya, Javad Nurbakhsh, Qutb ad-Dīn Haydar, Tajuddin Muhammad Badruddin
Collection: Arabic Masculine Given Names, Sufism
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Qutb, Qutub, Kutb, Kutub, or Kotb (Arabic: قطب‎), means 'axis', 'pivot' or 'pole'.[1] Qutb can refer to celestial movements and used as an astronomical term or a spiritual symbol.[2] In Sufism, a Qutb is the perfect human being, al-insān al-kāmil(The Universal Man), who leads the saintly hierarchy.[3] The Qutb is the Sufi spiritual leader that has a divine connection with God and passes knowledge on which makes him central to, or the axis of, Sufism, but he is unknown to the world.[4] There is only one Qutb per era and he is an infallible and trusted spiritual leader. He is only revealed to a select group of mystics because there is a "human need for direct knowledge of God".[5]

According to the Institute of Ismaili Studies, "In mystical literature, such as the writings of al–Tirmidhi, Abd al–Razzaq and Ibn Arabi (d. 1240), [Qutb] refers to the most perfect human being who is thought to be the universal leader of all saints, to mediate between the divine and the human and whose presence is deemed necessary for the existence of the world."[6]


  • Scriptural evidence of Qutb 1
  • Temporal Qutb and cosmic Qutb 2
    • Temporal Qutb 2.1
    • Cosmic Qutb 2.2
  • The cosmic hierarchy of the Qutb 3
  • People named Qutb 4
  • Buildings 5
  • References 6

Scriptural evidence of Qutb

In the teachings of Al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, there is evidence to suggest that the Qutb is the head of the saintly hierarchy which provides scriptural evidence to support the belief in the qutb. The hadīth attributed to Ibn Mas‘ūd has been used as proof that a qutb exists. This hadīth was called into question for its reliability of the sanad and was discarded by MuhammadRashīd Ridā.[7]

Temporal Qutb and cosmic Qutb

Temporal Qutb

There are two different conceptions of the Qutb in Sufism: temporal Qutb and cosmic Qutb. The temporal and cosmic qutb are connected which guarantees that God is present in the world at all times. The temporal qutb is known as "the helper" or al-ghawth and is located in a person on Earth. The cosmic qutb is manifested in the temporal qutb as a virtue which can be traced back to al-Hallādj. The temporal qutb is the spiritual leader for the earth-bound saints. It is said that all beings - secret, animate, and inanimate - must give the qutb their pledge which gives him great authority. The only beings exempt from this are al-afrād, which belong to the angels; the djinn, who are under the jurisdiction of Khadir; and those who belong to the tenth stratum of ridjālal-ghayb.[7]

Due to the nature of the Qutb, the location where he resides, whether temporal or cosmic, is questionable. It is thought by most that the Qutb is corporeally or spiritually present in Mecca at the Ka'ba, which is referred to as his maqām.[8]

Cosmic Qutb

The cosmic Qutb is the Axis of the Universe in a higher dimension from which originates the power (ultimately from Allah) of the temporal Qutb.[9] [10][11]

The cosmic hierarchy of the Qutb

The cosmic hierarchy is the way that the spiritual power is ensured to exist through the cosmos. Two descriptions of the hierarchy come from notable Sufis. The first is Ali Hujwiri's divine court. There are three hundred akhyār (“excellent ones”), forty abdāl (“substitutes”), seven abrār (“piously devoted ones”), four awtād (“pillars”) three nuqabā (“leaders”) and one qutb. [12]

The second version is Ibn Arabī’s which has a different, more exclusive structure. There are eight nujabā (“nobles”), twelve nuqabā, seven abdāl, four awtād, two a’immah (“guides”), and the qutb.[13]

People named Qutb

For those named Qutb ad-Din, with many variant transliterations, see Qutb ad-Din. Notable people include:

  • Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966), Islamist and Egyptian Muslim Brother, executed for plotting the assassination of Gamal Abdel Nasser
  • members of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, ruling family of the kingdom of Golconda in southern India, (1518-1687)
  • Hoda Kotb, American television personality


  • Qutb complex, a group of monuments and buildings at Mehrauli in Delhi, India
  • Qutb Minar, tall brick minaret in Delhi, India


  1. ^ Esposito, John L. (2003). The Oxford dictionary of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. 
  2. ^ Hobson, J. Peter (2001). The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam. London, England: Stacey International & Cyril Glasse. p. 374. 
  3. ^ Sult̤ān Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman. Sultan Bahoo: The Life and Teachings. Sultan-ul-Faqr Publications.  
  4. ^ Brill, E.J. (1938). Encyclopaedia of Islam. A Dictionary of the Geography, Ethnography and Biography of the Muhammadan peoples. Netherlands: Leiden. pp. 1165–1166.  
  5. ^ Esposito, John L. (2003). The Oxford dictionary of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. 
  6. ^ A glossary of terms, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
  7. ^ a b Bearman, P.; Kunitzsch, P.; Jong, F. "Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition". Koninklijke Brill NV. Retrieved 04/02/2011. 
  8. ^ Lewisohn, Leonard (1999). "An Introduction to the History of Modern Persian Sufism, Part II: A Socio-Cultural Profile of Sufism, from the Dahahbi Revival to the Present Day". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 62 (1): 36–59.  
  9. ^ about one-fourth of the way down the web page:Axis of the Universe"Idris and Al Khidr"--see
  10. ^ "The Tree Symbol in Islam" by Noble Ross:
  11. ^ Discussion of the Planes of existence as conceived in Shi’ism:
  12. ^ The Saints of Islam, quoting The Mystics of Islam by Dr. Reynold A. Nicholson
  13. ^ Jones, Lindsay (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale. p. 8821.  
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