The Second Aim: How can a single individual do innumerable things at the same time? Conclusion and the answers to two questions.
THE SECOND AIM
The representative of those who ascribe partners to Allah could in no respect prove that way, and so, although despairing, since he wanted to destroy the way of those who affirm Divine unity, he tried to sow doubts in their minds by asking the following question:
The Second Question: “O you who affirm Divine unity! You say, ‘Say: He is Allah, the One and Only. Allah, the Eternally Besought One;’1 that the Creator of the universe is one, He is single, He is eternally besought by all creatures; and that the Creator of everything is He. That He is one in essence and at the same time the reins of everything are directly in His hand, the key to everything is in His grasp; one thing cannot be an obstacle to another. And you say that at the same instant He has total disposal over all things and all their states. How can such a far-fetched fact be believed? How can a single individual be in innumerable places and do innumerable things at the same time with no difficulty?”
The Answer: This question may be answered through explaining an extremely profound, subtle, elevated, and comprehensive mystery concerning Divine oneness and eternal besoughtedness. Man’s mind can only look at this mystery through the telescope and observatory of comparison and allegory. While there is nothing similar or analogous to Allah Almighty’s Essence and attributes, the functions of His attributes may be looked at to an extent by means of comparison and allegory. So we shall point to that mystery through comparisons of a material nature.
First Comparison: As is proved in the Sixteenth Word, a single individual may attain universality or comprehensiveness through the means of different mirrors. While actually being a particular or part of something greater than itself, it is as though it becomes a universal with numerous qualities and functions.
Indeed, matter like glass and water may be a mirror to physical objects, and one such object may attain universality in such a mirror. In the same way, air, ether, and some creatures from the World of Similitudes are like mirrors to lucent objects and spirit beings. Those mirror-like creatures pass with the speed of lightning or imagination to being means of travel and spectating, so that the lucent and spirit beings travel with the speed of imagination in those spotless mirrors, those subtle dwellings. In the space of a single instant the spirit beings can enter thousands of places. And because they are lucent and because their reflections are the same as them and possess their qualities, they are as though present in person in every mirror, everywhere, as is contrary to the case with physical beings.
The reflections and likenesses of dense corporeal beings are not identical to the corporeality of those beings; they do not possess their qualities and may be thought of as dead. For example, although the sun is a particular and a single individual, it becomes like a universal by means of shining objects. It reflects its image, a sun like itself, in all shining objects, drops of water, and fragments of glass on the face of the earth, according to their capacity. The sun’s heat, light, and the seven colours in its light, a sort of likeness of the essential sun, is found in all shining physical objects.
Let us suppose the sun had knowledge and consciousness, then every mirror would be like a sort of dwelling-place or seat or chair for it, it would be in contact with everything in person. It would be able to communicate with all conscious creatures by means of mirrors, with the pupil of every eye, even, each of which would be like a telephone. One thing would not be an obstacle to another. Communicating with one thing would not be a barrier to communicating with another. While being present everywhere, it would be present nowhere.
If the sun, which is like a material, partial, and inanimate mirror to only the Divine Name of LIGHT out of innumerable Names, can therefore display universal activity in an unlimited number of places while being a single individual, should the All-Glorious One, with the oneness of His Essence, be unable to perform innumerable actions at the same time?
Second Comparison: Since the cosmos is like a tree, all trees may be likened to the truths of the universe. So we shall take the mighty and majestic plane-tree facing this room as a miniature example of the universe and demonstrate with it the manifestation of Divine oneness in the universe.
This tree has at least ten thousand fruits and each fruit has at least a hundred winged seeds. At one instant of time the ten thousand fruits and million seeds display altogether one art and creativity. While the centre of the laws of the tree’s formation is present in its roots and trunk, through a manifestation of Divine will and a condensing of the dominical command, which may be described as particular, individuated, and a ‘knot’ of life, it is also present at the ends of all its branches, within every fruit and every seed. No part of any member of the tree is lacking the laws, they are not obstacles to one another; the tree is formed through them.
And that single manifestation of will and law issuing from a command are not transmitted and radiated like light, heat, and air. For they leave no trace nor may any hint of them be perceived in the long distances and various beings between the places they go. If their being present in all the fruits and seeds had occurred through being transmitted and radiated, some trace or hint of them would be perceived. Rather, they are present in all those places without being fragmented or radiated.
The universal and general actions are not incompatible with His oneness and individuality. It may even be said that while the manifestation of will, and the law and life-source are present in all the places, they are present in none of them.
It is as if the law has as many eyes and ears as there are fruits and seeds of the majestic tree. Yes, each part of the tree is like a centre of the senses of the law, so that their long intermediaries are not a veil and do not form a barrier, but like telephone wires, are a means of facilitating and bringing things closer. The farthest is like the nearest.
Since, as is clear from observation, through a single partial manifestation of an attribute of the Single and Eternally Besought One like will, millions of events occur in millions of places without intermediary, one has to be certain, completely certain, that the All-Glorious One can have total disposal over the tree of the universe, together with all its parts and particles, through the manifestation of His power and will.
As is proved and explained in the Sixteenth Word, while being in one place and being particulars identifiable as single, through the mystery of luminosity, impotent and subjugated creatures like the sun, and semi-luminous creatures like spirit-beings, which are restricted by matter, and the laws issuing from a command and the manifestations of will which are the life-source and centre of direction of this plane-tree, which in turn are like its light and spirit, are clearly present in numerous places and in numerous events. While being particulars restricted by matter, it is as though they acquire an absolute universality, and through the exercise of will, in the space of one second may demonstrably perform a great number of works. You see for yourself and you will not be able to deny it.
The Single and Most Pure and Holy Essence, Whose attributes are all-comprehending and functions, universal, is far beyond and exalted above matter, and is utterly remote and free from any restriction and the darkness of density. All these lights and luminous beings are but obscure shadows of His Sacred Names; and all existence and life and the World of Spirits, the Intermediate Realm, and the World of Similitudes, semi-transparent mirrors reflecting His beauty.
What being can be hidden in the face of His oneness, which is within the manifestation of His attributes and actions, which in turn are evident through His universal will, absolute power, and all-embracing knowledge? What matter can be difficult for Him? What place can be concealed from Him? What object can remain distant from Him? What individual can draw close to Him without acquiring universality? Can anything at all be hidden from Him? Can any matter at all be an obstacle to another? Can any place at all be empty of His presence?
Ibn al-‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: “In all beings are an immaterial eye that sees and ear that hears.” Is this not so? Are the chains of beings not each like a wire or vein for the swift conveyance of His commands and laws? Are obstacles and difficulties not means and intermediaries in His disposal of beings? Are causes and intermediaries not merely an apparent veil?
While He is present nowhere, is He not present everywhere? Does He have any need to be located in a place or situation? Can the veils of distance, smallness, and the degrees of existence be obstacles to His proximity, power of disposal, and witnessing?
Moreover, could the qualities pertaining to material, contingent, dense, numerous, restricted, and limited beings, and the states of change, transformation, division, and occupying space, which are their particular and confined necessary consequences, in any way touch the Most Pure and Holy Essence, Who is far beyond matter, is Necessarily Existent, the Light of Lights, and is Single, One, and free from any restriction or limitation and exalted above and pure of any fault or deficiency? Could impotence in any way be fitting for Him? Could any defect approach the skirt of His splendour and glory?
CONCLUSION OF THE SECOND AIM
Once, when I was reflecting on Divine oneness, I looked at the fruits on the plane-tree outside my room. A chain of thought came to me as inspiration, and I write it here in Arabic exactly as it came to me.2
All these fruits and the seeds within them are miracles of dominical wisdom, wonders of Divine art, gifts of Divine mercy, material proofs of Divine unity, bearers of the good news that Divine favours will be granted in the hereafter. Just as they are all truthful witnesses to His all-embracing power and knowledge, each of them is a mirror confirming His unity in all the corners of the world of multiplicity and in all the parts of the world of this tree, a world that has become multiple.
They turn the gaze from multiplicity to unity. Each of them says through the tongue of its being: “Do not let your glance wander over all this mighty spreading tree lest you become distracted, for the whole tree is within us. Its multiplicity is contained within our unity.”
Even, just as every seed, which is like the heart of the fruit, is a physical mirror confirming Divine unity, so it mentions and recites in the silent prayer of its heart the Divine Names the mighty tree recites in its audible prayer.
Furthermore, just as the fruits and seeds are mirrors professing Divine unity, so they are the visible signs of Divine Determining and embodied tokens of Divine power. Through these words, Divine Determining and power intimate the following:
“The many branches and twigs of this tree appeared from a single seed and demonstrate the unity of the tree’s Artist in creating it and giving it form. Then, after growing and spreading its branches, it gathered together all its truths in a single fruit. It encapsulated its entire meaning in a single seed, thereby demonstrating the wisdom in the Glorious Creator’s creation and planning.”
Similarly, the tree of the universe takes its existence from a source of unity and is sustained by it. And man, the fruit of the universe, demonstrates unity within this multiplicity of beings, while with the eye of faith his heart sees the mystery of unity within multiplicity.
Moreover, the fruits and seeds are allusions of dominical wisdom. Wisdom says the following with them to those who are aware: “The comprehensive regard towards this tree and its planning look with their comprehensiveness and universality to a single fruit. For the fruit is a miniature specimen of the tree. It is what is aimed at by the tree. Also, the comprehensive regard and planning look to every seed within the fruit, for the seed bears the meaning or index of the whole tree. That is to say, since the fruit is the aim the tree’s existence and the purpose of its creation, the One Who plans the tree regards each fruit with all His Names connected to the planning. Moreover, the mighty tree is sometimes pruned and trimmed for the sake of the tiny fruit; some parts of it are destroyed so that it may make new growth. It is grafted in order to produce even better, permanent fruit.”
In the same way, man, who is the fruit of the tree of the universe, is the purpose of its creation and existence and the aim of the creation of beings. While his heart, which is the seed of the fruit, is a most brilliant and comprehensive mirror to the universe’s Maker. It follows on from this wisdom, therefore, that tiny man will be the cause of the destruction and transformation of the universe. He will be the point of momentous revolutions like the Day of Resurrection. It will be for his judgement that the door of this world will be closed and that of the hereafter opened.
Since we have arrived at a discussion of resurrection, it is appropriate to explain one point concerning its reality which demonstrates the clarity and strength with which the Qur’an of Miraculous Exposition illuminates and proves resurrection.
The result yielded by this sequence of thought shows that if it is necessary for man’s judgement and his gaining eternal happiness, the whole universe will be destroyed and that a power capable of destroying and transforming the universe shows itself and exists. But resurrection has many degrees. It is obligatory to believe in some of them; they must be acknowledged. Whereas others become apparent according to levels in spiritual and intellectual development, and for these knowledge pertaining to both are necessary.
In order to present cogent and strong proofs for the simplest and easiest level, the All-Wise Qur’an points out a power capable of opening up a truly vast realm of resurrection. The degree of resurrection in which it is necessary for all to believe is this:
After human beings die, their spirits depart for another realm. And their bodies rot except for a minute cell from the base of the spine which will act as a seed. It remains intact, and on the Day of Resurrection Allah Almighty will create the human body out of it and return its spirit to it.3 This degree is so simple, then, it may be seen every spring through millions of examples.
Sometimes in order to prove this degree, the verses of the Qur’an point out the unlimited activity of a power capable of raising to life all particles, and sometimes the traces of a power and wisdom capable of sending all creatures to extinction and then recalling them. Then they point to the activity and traces of a power and wisdom able to scatter the stars and shatter the heavens, and sometimes to the activity and manifestations of a power and wisdom capable of causing all animate creatures to die and then raising them to life again all at once at a single trumpet-blast.
Sometimes the verses demonstrate the manifestations of a power and wisdom that will raise to life the face of the earth and animate creatures all separately. And sometimes they demonstrate the traces of a power and wisdom that, lopping off its mountains, will cause the globe of the earth to disintegrate completely, and then restoring it will transform it into an even more excellent form.
That is to say, apart from the Day of Resurrection, in which it is obligatory for everyone to believe and to acknowledge, with that power and wisdom, Allah Almighty can create numerous other degrees and resurrections. And what is more, dominical wisdom requires that besides certainly bringing about mankind’s resurrection, He shall bring about all those other degrees or create certain other important matters.
A Question: You say: “You make much use of analogies in the form of comparisons or parables in the Words. Whereas according to the science of logic, this form of analogy does not afford certainty. A logical proof is required for matters of certain knowledge. Analogy in the form of comparison and parable is utilized by scholars of canon law in matters in which the prevailing opinion is sufficient. Also, you present comparisons in the form of certain stories; the stories are imaginary and cannot be true. Is this not contrary to reality?”
The Answer: It has often been stated in the science of logic that analogies in the form of comparisons and parables do not afford certain knowledge. However, there is a certain type of this form of analogy that forms a proof more powerful than those proofs consisting of certain knowledge used in logic. Also, it is more certain than that sort of deduction. This type of analogy is as follows.
It demonstrates the tip of a universal truth by means of a partial comparison and constructs its judgement on that truth. It demonstrates the truth’s law in a particular matter, so that the vast truth may be known and particular matters may be ascribed to it.
For example, although the sun is a single being, by means of luminosity it is present in every shining object. A law of a truth is demonstrated by means of this comparison which states that light and luminosity cannot be restricted: for them, distance and proximity are the same, many and few are equal, and space cannot conquer them.
This is another example: a tree’s fruits and leaves are all shaped and formed at the same time, in the same fashion, easily and perfectly, in a single centre and through a law issuing from a command. This is a comparison or parable demonstrating the tip of a mighty truth and universal law. It proves the truth and the truth’s law in a truly decisive form, so that, like the tree, the mighty universe displays and is the field of operation of that law of truth and mystery of Divine oneness.
Thus, the analogies, comparisons, and parables employed in all the Words are in this form and are more powerful and afford more certainty than the categorical proofs of logic.
Answer to the second part of the question: It is a well-known fact that in the art of composition, when the true meaning of a word or phrase is used solely as the means to perceive another meaning, it is called an ‘allusive expression.’ The essential meaning of a phrase defined as ‘allusive’ is not the means of either truth or falsehood; it is its allusive meaning that is such. If the allusive meaning is correct then the phrase is true. Even if its essential meaning is false, it does not damage its veracity. If the allusive meaning is not correct while its essential meaning is, then the phrase is false.
For example, “So-and-so’s salvation is of great length.” That is, “His sword-belt is very long.” This phrase alludes to the man’s tall stature. If he was tall but did not have a sword and belt, the phrase would still be correct and true. If he was not tall but had a long sword and belt, then the phrase would be false, since it is not its essential meaning that is intended.
So, the stories or parables in the Words, like for example, those in the Tenth and Twenty-Second Words, are sorts of allusions. The truths at the end of the stories are extremely correct, extremely true and conformable to reality; they are the allusive meanings of the stories. Their essential meanings are comparisons that bring distant objects close like a telescope and however they may be it does not damage their veracity and truthfulness. Moreover, all those stories are comparisons or parables. Purely to enable people in general to understand, what is properly communicated without words is put into words, and immaterial and abstract matters are represented in material form.
1. Qur'an, 112:1-2.
2. In the original text the author follows the section in Arabic with a Turkish rendering of which is the basis of the translation here.
3. See. page 544, footnote 22.
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Third Aim: The explanation of verses such as “The Best of Creators” and “The Most Compassionate of the Compassionate” and the answer to the question about the perfection of the Creator of all the worlds.
- Second Station: It is a summary about the proof of oneness from the point of the Greatest Name.
- Fourth Flash: Stamps that show the existence and oneness of Allah on the deed of "giving life".
- The Addendum to the Tenth Phrase of the Twentieth Letter: It shows that there is an infinite facility in divine unity and endless difficulties in multiplicity and associating partners with Allah.
- Third Principle: The wisdom and purpose of the Ascension.
- Can Allah’s luminosity be understood by examples? Will you give information about luminosity, angels, which are luminous beings, and the incident of Miraj (Ascension), whose essence is light
- The Thirty-Third Word: It explains that there is a window opening to Almighty Allah in everything with thirty-three examples.
- The Fourteenth Word: Some verses and Hadiths which are difficult to understand: The creation of heavens and the earth in six days.
- About death
- Third Topic: Divine Determining in the realm of living creatures; The Clear Book and The Clear Record; Self-evident Divine Determining and Theoretical Divine Determining; freedom and Divine Determining.
- Gleams: Flowers from the Seeds of Reality. A short ‘Mathnawi’ and collection on the subject of belief for the Risale-i Nur students.