Qutb, Qutub, Kutb, Kutub or Kotb (Arabic: قطب) means 'axis', 'pivot' or 'pole'.[1] Qutb can refer to celestial movements and be 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.[citation needed] 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.[3] There are five Qutbs per era, and they are infallible and trusted spiritual leaders. They are only revealed to a select group of mystics because there is a "human need for direct knowledge of God".[1]

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."[4]

Scriptural evidence

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.[5]

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-Hallaj. 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.[5]

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.[6]

The language of Sufi is a notable style of writing in Persian which is full of novel spiritual ideas and metaphors, this indicates of the needs to not take their wordings literally if it seems to be against the Islamic teachings.[7]

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.[8][9][10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

People named Qutb

For those named Qutb ad-Din, with many variant transliterations, see Qutb ad-Din



  1. ^ a b 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. ^ Brill, E.J. (1938). Encyclopaedia of Islam. A Dictionary of the Geography, Ethnography and Biography of the Muhammadan peoples. Netherlands: Leiden. pp. 1165–1166. ISBN 90-04-09796-1.
  4. ^ A glossary of terms, The Institute of Ismaili Studies Archived 2010-10-09 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Bearman, P.; Kunitzsch, P.; Jong, F. "Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition". Koninklijke Brill NV. Retrieved April 2, 2011.
  6. ^ 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. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00017559. JSTOR 3107388. S2CID 154491288.
  7. ^ Jaberi, Sareh; Abdullah, Imran Ho; Vengadasamy, Ravichandran (2015). "A Traveler in God's Path: Sufi Words and the Metaphor of Journey. Asian Social Science". doi:10.5539/ass.v11n16p160. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "Idris and Al Khidr"--see Axis of the Universe about one-fourth of the way down the web page:
  9. ^ "The Tree Symbol in Islam" by Noble Ross:
  10. ^ "How many worlds are there?" – Discussion of the Planes of existence as conceived in Shi’ism
  11. ^ The Saints of Islam, quoting The Mystics of Islam by Dr. Reynold A. Nicholson
  12. ^ Jones, Lindsay (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale. p. 8821. ISBN 0-02-865733-0.