Qutb, Qutub, Kutb, or Kutub literally 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 or Kutb is the perfect human being, al-insān al-kāmil, 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 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".
According to the Institute of Ismaili Studies (Ismailism is a branch of Shīʻa Islam), "In mystical literature, such as the writings of al–Tirmidhi, Abd al–Razzaq and Ibn al–‘Arabi (d. 1240), [Qutb or Kutb] refers to the most perfect human being (al–insan al–kamil) 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."
Scriptural Evidence of Qutb
In the teachings of al-Halkīm Tirmidhī, there is evidence to suggest that the qutb is the head of the saintly hieracrchy 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.
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 leaser 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. 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 and spiritually present inMecca at the Ka'ba, which is referred to as his maqām.
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.
The cosmic hierarchy of qutub
The cosmic hierarchy is the way that the spiritual power is ensured to exist through the cosmos. There are two different hierarchies that are considered legitimate. The first is Al-Huhwīrī’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. The second hierarchy 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.