Second Important Matter: It is an important explanation about unity of existence, which is a disputable issue.
SECOND IMPORTANT MATTER
Q u e s t i o n : The Unity of Existence is considered by many people to be the most elevated station. But the way of the Unity of Existence in this form was not seen explicitly in the Companions and foremost the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, who were at the level of ‘the greatest sainthood,’ or in the Imams of the Prophet’s Family and foremost the five ‘People of the Cloak,’ or the great interpreters of the Law and the generation following the Companions and foremost the founders of the four Schools of Law. So did those who emerged subsequently to them advance further than them? Did they find a better highway on which to proceed?
T h e A n s w e r : God forbid! Nobody at all has the ability to advance further than those purified ones who were the stars and heirs closest to the Sun of Prophethood; the highway is indeed theirs.
As for the Unity of Existence, it is a way and a state, but it is a deficient degree. However, because it is illuminating and pleasurable, most of those who have reached that degree on their spiritual journeyings have not wanted to leave it; they have remained there and supposed it to be the ultimate degree.
Thus, if one who takes this way is a spirit who is divested of materiality and intermediaries and has rent the veil of causes, and is immersed in a state of witnessing, then an experiential -not pertaining to knowledge- unity of existence which arises not from the Unity of Existence but from the Unity of Witnessing, may obtain for him a certain attainment, a spiritual station. He may even reach the degree of denying the universe for the sake of Allah. But if he is submerged in causes and preoccupied with materiality, the term Unity of Existence may go so far as meaning denying Allah on account of the universe.
Yes, the great highway is the highway of the Companions, those that followed them, and the Purified Ones. Their universal rule is, “The reality of things is constant.” And in accordance with the sense of There is nothing that resembles Him,1 Almighty Allah has absolutely nothing that resembles Him. He is utterly beyond being comprehended in place or class and being divided into parts. His relation with beings is Creativity. Beings are not imaginings or fancies as those who follow the way of the Unity of Existence said. Visible things too are Almighty Allah’s works. Everything is not ‘Him,’ everything is ‘from Him.’ For events cannot be pre-eternal. We shall bring this matter closer to the understanding with two comparisons:
T h e F i r s t : For example, there is a king. Through his name of Just Judge he has a Ministry of Justice which shows the manifestation of that name. Another of his names is Khalifa, and the Shaykh al-Islam’s Office and learned institution are the manifestations of that name. He has also the name of Commander-in-Chief, through which all the offices of the army display activity; the army is the manifestation of that name. Now, if someone was to appear and say: “The king is only the Just Judge, he has no office or ministry other than that of justice,” then the attributes and states of the religious scholars in the Shaykhul-Islam’s Office would have to be applied -not actually but theoretically - to the officials of the Ministry of Justice; a secondary and shadowy Shaykh al-Islam’s Office would have an imaginary existence within the actual Ministry of Justice. And again in hypothetical fashion, the dealings and states of the Army Office would be supposed in the officials of the Judiciary, an unreal Army Office would be imagined there, and so on. And so, in this situation, the king’s true name and true sovereignty is the name Just Judge and his sovereignty in the Ministry of Justice. His names like Khalifa, Commander-in-Chief, and Sultan are not actual, but hypothetical. However, the nature of kingship and reality of sovereignty demand all the names in actuality. And actual names require and necessitate actual offices.
Thus, the sovereignty of Divinity necessitates in actuality numerous sacred Names like All-Merciful, Provider, Bestower, Creator, Doer, Munificent, and Compassionate. And those true and actual Names require actual mirrors. Now, since the people of the Unity of Existence say: “There is no existent but He,” they reduce the reality of beings to the level of imagination. Almighty Allah’s Names of Necessary Existent, Existent, One, and Single have true manifestations and spheres of application. For sure, if their mirrors and spheres of application were not real and were imaginary and non-existent, it would not harm them. And perhaps if there was no colour of existence in the mirror of true existence, they would be purer and more brilliant, but the manifestations of Names like Merciful, Provider, Subduer, Compeller, and Creator would not be real, they would be hypothetical. However, those Names are realities like the Name of Existent, they cannot be shadows; they are essential, not secondary.
Thus, the Companions and great interpreters of the Law and Imams of the Family of the Prophet said: “The reality of things is constant;” Almighty Allah has a manifestation through all His Names in actuality. Through His creativity, all things have an accidental existence. For sure, in relation to the Necessarily Existent’s existence their existence is an extremely weak and unstable shadow, but it is not imagination, it is not fancy. Almighty Allah gives existence through His Name of Creator and He continues that existence.
S e c o n d C o m p a r i s o n : For example, on the four walls of this house are four full-length mirrors. However much the house is depicted together with the other three mirrors in all the mirrors, each holds the things in itself in accordance with it own make-up and colour; it is like the similitude of the house particular to itself. Now, two men enter the house. One of them looks at one of the mirrors and says: “Everything is within it.” When he hears of the other mirrors and images within them, he applies what he hears to a tiny corner of the one mirror whose contents are shadows twice over, whose reality has shrunk and has changed. He also says: “I see it thus, in which case reality is thus.” The other man says to him, “Yes, you see it like that and what you see is true. But in actuality and reality the true form of reality is not like that. There are other mirrors besides the one you looked at; they are not the shadow of shadows and as tiny as you saw.”
And so, each of the Divine Names requires a different mirror. And, since Merciful and Provider, for example, are real and fundamental, they require beings worthy of them who are needy for sustenance and compassion. Just as All-Merciful requires real beings with spirits needy for sustenance in a real world, so too, All-Compassionate requires a Paradise which is thus real. If only the Names of Existent, Necessarily Existent, and Single One of Unity are held to be real and the other Names considered to be shadows within them, it is a sort of injustice towards those other Names.
It is due to this mystery that the great highway is surely the highway of the Companions, the Purified Ones, the Imams of the Prophet’s Family, and the great interpreters of the Law and founders of the four schools of law, who possessed ‘greater sainthood’, and were directly the first class of the Qur’an’s students.
Glory be unto You! We have no knowledge save that which You have taught us; indeed, You are All-Knowing, All-Wise.2
O our Sustainer! Do not cause our hearts to swerve now that You have guided us, and bestow mercy on us from You; for You are the Bestower of Gifts.3
O Allah! Grant blessings to the one whom You sent as a Mercy to all the worlds, and to all his Family and Companions.
AN ADDENDUM TO THE SECOND MATTER
Q u e s t i o n : Muhyi’l-Din al-‘Arabi considered the Unity of Existence to be of the highest level. Likewise, some of the great saints who took the path of love followed him. However, you say that this matter is not of the highest level, and is not real; that it is rather the way, to a degree, of those who become intoxicated and immersed in the Divine, and of the people of love and ecstasy. So what, briefly, is the high level of the affirmation of Divine Unity pointed out by the clear verses of the Qur’an, through the mystery of the legacy of prophethood? Can you explain it?
T h e A n s w e r : It is a hundred times beyond the ability of an utterly powerless unfortunate like myself to judge these elevated stations with his limited thought. I shall just explain one or two extremely brief points proceeding from the effulgence of the All-Wise Qur’an. Perhaps they will be useful in understanding the matter.
There are numerous reasons for the way of the Unity of Existence, and for becoming enmeshed in it; one or two of them shall be described:
The First Reason: Because they could not squeeze into their brains the maximum degree of the creativity of dominicality, and could not entirely establish in their hearts that everything, through the mystery of Divine Oneness, is held directly in the grasp of dominicality and that all things have existence through Divine power, choice, and will, those who took that way were obliged to say that everything is either Him, or does not have existence, or is imaginary, or is His manifestation or emanation.
The Second Reason: The mark of passionate love is to want never to be separated from the beloved and to flee desperately from such separation; to tremble at the thought of parting, to fear distance from the beloved as though fearing Hell, and to abominate transience; to love union with the love of one’s own spirit and life, and to yearn for closeness to the beloved with the longing for Paradise. Thus, through adhering to a manifestation of Divine immediacy in all things, those who took the way of the Unity of Existence disregarded separation and distance; supposing union and meeting to be permanent, they said: “There is no existent but He;” through the intoxication of love and as demanded by the ecstasy of permanence, meeting, and union, they imagined that in the Unity of Existence was a most pleasurable way of illumination whereby they could be saved from the dreadfulness of separation.
That is to say, the source of the first reason was the hand of the intellect being unable to reach up to some of the truths of belief, which were extremely broad and elevated; its being unable to comprehend them, and not having developed completely in regard to belief. While the source of the second reason was the extraordinary unfolding of the heart from the point of view of love, and its wondrous expansion and breadth.
However, the supreme level of Divine Unity the Purified Ones-who were the people of sobriety and great saints of the legacy of prophethood -saw through the explicit expositions of the Qur’an is both extremely elevated, and shows both the maximum level of dominicality and creativity, and that all the Divine Names are real. It preserves its bases and does not spoil the balance of the decrees of dominicality. For they say that together with the Oneness of His Essence and His being free of space, with His knowledge, Almighty Allah encompasses and determines directly all things together with all their attributes, and through His will He chooses and specifies them, and through His power He creates them. He creates and directs the whole universe as though it were a single being.
He creates the huge spring with the same ease as creating a flower. Nothing can be an obstacle to anything else. There is no fragmentation in His regarding things; He is present everywhere at the same instant through the disposal of His knowledge and power. There is no division or distribution in His disposal. This mystery has been expounded and proved completely in the Sixteenth Word and in the Second Stopping-Place of the Thirty-Second Word. Since, according to the rule, “Comparisons are incontestible,” attention is not paid to defects in comparison and allegory, I shall set forth a very faulty comparison so that the difference between the two ways may be understood to a degree.
For example, let us imagine a huge, matchless, and wondrously adorned peacock which can fly from east to west in an instant, and opens and closes its wings, which stretch from north to south, are adorned with hundreds of thousands of fine patterns, and in every single feather of which are included brilliant arts. Now, there are two men observing it; they want to fly with the wings of the intellect and heart up to the elevated qualities of this bird; to its wondrous decorations. One looks at the peacock’s state and form and the marvellous inscriptions of power on all its feathers; he loves it with extreme passion and ardour; he in part abandons his attentive reflective thought, and adheres to love. But then he sees that every day those lovable decorations change and are transformed. Those objects of his love, which he worships, disappear and are lost.
While he should have said that through true Divine Unity, which he could not encompass with his mind, and absolute dominicality and the Oneness of the Divine Essence, they were the artistic decorations of an Inscriber possessing universal creativity, he said instead -in order to console himself- that the spirit of the peacock was so sublime that its maker was within it, or that the peacock had become Him, and that since its spirit had become one with its being, and its being combined with its outward appearance, its spirit’s perfection and being’s exaltedness displayed those manifestations, showing a different inscription and beauty every moment; it was not a true creation through its will, but rather a manifestation, an emanation.
As for the other man, he said that those harmonious and well-ordered decorations so full of art definitely required will, choice, intention, and purpose. It was not possible for there to be a manifestation without will, an emanation without choice.
Yes, the peacock had a beautiful and elevated nature, but it could not be the doer; it was passive. It could not become one with the active agent. Its spirit was fine and exalted, but it could not be the creator and disposer, only receptive and a means. For observedly in each of its feathers was an art performed with infinite wisdom and an inscription and decoration made through an infinite power. And these could not occur without will and choice. These arts showing perfect wisdom within perfect power, and perfect dominicality and mercy within perfect wisdom were not the work of some sort of manifestation. The scribe who had written that gilded notebook could not be inside it and be united with it. The notebook rather only had contact with the nib of the scribe’s pen. In which case, the wondrous decorations of the similitude of the peacock known as the universe were a gilded missive of the peacock’s Creator.
Now, look at the peacock and read the missive. Say to its Scribe: “What wonders Allah has willed! Blessed be Allah! Glory be to Allah!” One who supposes the missive to be the scribe, or the scribe to be inside the letter, or fancies the missive to be imagination, has surely hidden his reason in the veils of love, and been unable to see the true form of reality.
Among the varieties of passionate love, the one most giving rise to the way of the Unity of Existence, is love of this world. When it turns into true love, love of this world, which is metaphorical, is transformed into the Unity of Existence. A person loves a personal beloved with metaphorical love. Then, unable to accept with his heart his beloved’s transience and ephemerality, he consoles himself saying that he is a mirror to the True Object of Love and Worship, and attaches himself to a reality, so acquiring permanence for him through true love.
In the same way, when the strange love of one who takes the huge world and the universe in its totality as his beloved is transformed into true love through the constant blows of death and separation, he seeks refuge in the way of the Unity of Existence, in order to save that great beloved of his from death and separation. If he has extremely strong and elevated belief, it becomes a pleasurable, luminous, acceptable level, like with those resembling Muhyi’l-Din al-‘Arabi. However, there is the possibility of falling into abysses, embracing materiality, and becoming submerged in causes. As for the Unity of Witnessing, it is harmless; it is an exalted way of the people of sobriety.
O Allah, show us what is indeed the truth, and make us follow it!
Glory be unto You! We have no knowledge save that which You have taught us; indeed, You are All-Knowing, All-Wise.4
1. Qur’an, 42:11.
2. Qur’an, 2:32.
3. Qur’an, 3:8.
4. Qur’an, 2:32.
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- Fourth Step: To give up egotism, to regard himself as a mirror of the manifestation of Allah.
- 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.
- Twenty-Fourth Letter: It explains an important secret of the obscure secrets of the universe, and wisdoms behind the manifestations the divine names of ar-Rahim (All- Compassionate) al-Karim (The Generous) and Wadud (Loving). It consists of two stations.
- First Fruit: The place of love in the realm of beings; the targets where love and fear should be directed at. What is the fear of Allah? How is it achieved?
- Fourth Flash: Stamps that show the existence and oneness of Allah on the deed of "giving life".
- Second Station: It is a summary about the proof of oneness from the point of the Greatest Name.
- Addendum: Ways of cleaning the soul and developing the spirit.
- About death
- Will you explain with examples that all branches of science are based on a name of Allah?
- Fifth Point: What meanings does a person who performs five daily prayers in times that each one indicates specific periods in the life span of man and universe express?