Axis, pivot, or pole. In Sufi thought, a human manifestation of divine consciousness, only one of which exists in any age, and around whom the spiritual life of the age revolves, that is, through whom spiritual knowledge is gained. It is the highest rank in the Sufi hierarchical structure of saints or walis, equivalent to the Shii understanding of the role of the imam. The shaykh of the Sufi order symbolizes qutb. The identity of the qutb is revealed to a few chosen mystics in every age due to the human need for direct knowledge of God in every age. Popularly has come to refer to any holy man. Associated with the notion of al-insan al-kamil (perfect person).