Qutb, Qutub, Kutb, Kutub, or Kotb (Arabic: ), means 'axis', 'pivot' or 'pole'. Qutb can refer to celestial movements and used as an astronomical term or a spiritual symbol. In Sufism, a Qutb is the perfect human being, al-ins?n al-k?mil (The Universal Man), who leads the saintly hierarchy. 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. 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".
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."
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 had?th attributed to Ibn Mas'?d has been used as proof that a qutb exists.
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-Hall?dj. 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-afr?d, which belong to the angels; the djinn, who are under the jurisdiction of Khadir; and those who belong to the tenth stratum of ridj?lal-ghayb.
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 maq?m.
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 akhy?r ("excellent ones"), forty abd?l ("substitutes"), seven abr?r ("piously devoted ones"), four awt?d ("pillars") three nuqab? ("leaders") and one qutb.
For those named Qutb ad-Din, with many variant transliterations, see Qutb ad-Din. Notable people include: