Second Principle: The reality of the Ascension.
What was the reality of the Ascension?
The Answer: It consisted of the journeying of the person of Muhammad (PBUH) through the degrees of perfection. That is, through the various Names and titles He makes manifest in the disposition of creatures, and by showing that special servant of His all the works of His dominicality which He displays in the spheres, creation, and regulation within the sovereignty of His dominicality, and in the levels of the heavens within those spheres -each of which is the means to a seat of dominicality and centre for the disposal of power- Allah Almighty made that servant both embrace all human perfections, and display all the Divine manifestations, and view all the levels of the universe, and the herald of the sovereignty of dominicality and the proclaimer of those things pleasing to Allah, and the solver of the talisman of the universe. And so that he could do this, He mounted him on Buraq, caused him to flash through the heavens like lightning traversing all its levels, observe Divine dominicality from mansion to mansion like the moon, and from sphere to sphere, and showing him each of the prophets, his brothers, whose abodes are in the heavens of those spheres, He raised him to the station of a distance of two bow-lengths and displayed to him His oneness and His Word and the vision of Himself.
This exalted truth may be examined through the telescope of two comparisons.
First Comparison: As is explained in the Twenty-Fourth Word, a king has different titles in the different spheres and offices of his government, different qualities and attributes in the classes of his subjects, and different names and marks in the degrees of his sovereignty. For example, he is Wise Judge in the judiciary, Sovereign in the civil service, Commander-in-Chief in the army, Caliph in the learned establishment, and so on; it is the same with the rest of his names and titles. In each sphere he has a seat or chair which has the meaning of a throne. The single king may be able to have a thousand names and titles in those spheres of sovereignty and levels of government; he may have a thousand thrones of sovereignty one within the other. It is as if the ruler is present and knowing in every sphere through his corporate personality and through his telephone; and sees and is seen in every class through his law, regulation, and representatives; and administers and observes from behind the veil in every level through his command, knowledge, and power; and has a different centre and headquarters in every sphere. His decrees are all different from one another, and his levels are all different from one another.
Thus, a king such as this may allow a person of his choosing to visit all his different spheres and offices and may show him the imperial dominion and sovereign commands special to each. He may cause him to travel from sphere to sphere and from level to level until he brings him to his presence. There he will entrust him with certain universal and general commands concerning all those spheres and will send him back.
Similarly to this comparison, the Sustainer of All the Worlds, Who is the Sovereign of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity, has functions and attributes in the levels of His dominicality which are all different but that look to one another; and Names and signatures in the spheres of His Divinity which are all different but which appear one within the other; and manifestations and revelations in the performance of His splendid deeds which are all different but which resemble each other; and titles in the disposal of His power which are all different, but which hint of one another; and sacred appearances in the manifestation of His attributes which are all different but which all point to each other; and acts of disposal in the manifestation of His actions which are all different but complete one another; and He has a majestic dominicality in His multicoloured art and creatures whose aspects are all different but which gaze on one another.
As a consequence of this vast mystery, He ordered the universe and arranged it in an amazing and wonderful fashion with different formations one over the other from particles, which are the tiniest level of creatures, to the heavens, and from the first level of the heavens to the Sublime Throne. Each heaven is like the roof of a different world, a throne for dominicality, a centre for Divine disposal.
For sure, with regard to Divine oneness, all the Divine Names may be found in those spheres and levels; they are manifested together with the titles. But just as in the Ministry of Justice the title of Wise Judge was fundamental and dominant and there the rest of the king’s titles looked to its command and were dependent on it, so in each level of creatures, in each heaven, one Name, one Divine title, is dominant, and the other titles look to it.
For example, in whichever sphere of the heavens the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) met with Jesus (Peace be upon him), who manifested the Name of All-Powerful, in that sphere Allah Almighty Himself was manifested with title of All-Powerful. And, for example, the most predominant in the sphere of the heavens which is Moses’ (Peace be upon him) seat is the title of Speaker, which he manifested. And so on.
Thus, since the person of Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) manifested the Greatest Name, and all the Divine Names, and since his prophethood was universal, he was surely connected with all the spheres of dominicality. And to meet with the prophets whose seats are in those spheres and to pass through all those levels, surely necessitates the fact of the Ascension.
Second Comparison: The title of Commander-in-Chief, which is one of the titles of a king, is manifested and makes an appearance in every rank of the army from that of the commander-in-chief, which is a broad and universal rank, to that of a corporal, which is special and particular. For example, a private sees in the person of his corporal a sample of the imposing title of Commander-in-Chief, he looks to it and takes his orders from it. On becoming a corporal, the manifestation of the title in the sergeant’s rank will command his attention and it will be to that that he will look. Then, if he is promoted to the rank of sergeant, he will see a sample of the title of Commander-in-Chief and a manifestation of it in the lieutenant’s rank. It will be present together with a seat peculiar to it at that rank. And so on. He will see the title in each of its ranks of captain, major, general, and field marshal in relation to its smallness or largeness.
Now, if the Commander-in-Chief wishes to entrust the private with a duty which concerns all the ranks of the army, if he wishes to promote him to a rank where he can observe each sphere like an inspector and himself be observed; he will cause him to make a tour of inspection of the ranks, from that of the corporal to the highest, and will also allow him to be seen. Then he will receive him into his presence and honouring him with conversation and conferring on him a decoration and a decree, will send him back whence he came in an instant.
The following point must be noted in this comparison: if the king is not in any way powerless and if he has spiritual power in the same way that he has material power, he will not appoint persons like the general, field marshal and lieutenant as his representatives but will himself be present everywhere in person. He will give his orders directly, merely from behind certain veils and individuals, themselves of rank. In fact, there are narrations relating that certain kings who were saints of the highest level executed their affairs in many spheres in the form of different individuals.
As far as the truth we looked at in this comparison is concerned, since the Commander-in-Chief was in no way impotent, the order and command came directly from him in every sphere. Affairs were executed through his command, will, and power.
Like this comparison, the commands and authoritative functions of the Sovereign of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity, Who is the Ruler of the heavens and the earth, Owner of the command of “Be!” and it is,1 and the Absolute Commander, are in force in all the levels of creatures and are conformed to with perfect obedience and order. Each appears as a sphere of dominicality, a level of rulership in the levels of creatures and classes of beings, which stretch from particles to the planets and from flies to the heavens, and which, great and small, particular and universal, are all different but are such that they look one to the other.
Now, the way to understand the exalted aims and mighty results of the entire universe and to see all the different duties of worship of all its levels; and, through observing the sovereignty of dominicality of the One of Grandeur and the splendour of His rule, to understand what is pleasing to Him; and to be the herald of His sovereignty, is to make a journey through all those levels and spheres until the Sublime Throne, which is the title of the greatest sphere, is reached; untilThe distance of two bow-lengths. It is to meet there with the All-Glorious and Beauteous One. And this journey is the reality of the Ascension.
Like ordinary human beings travel in the mind with the speed of imagination, and saints journey in the heart with the speed of lightning, like angels, which are luminous bodies, circulate with the speed of spirit from the Throne to the earth and from the earth to the Throne; and like the people of Paradise will rise to Paradise from the resurrection with the speed of Buraq through a distance greater than five hundred years;2 of a certainty the body of Muhammad (PBUH) went together with his elevated spirit as far as the Divine Throne. For the body of Muhammad (PBUH) was the treasury of the faculties of the spirit of Muhammad (PBUH), and the means for the performance of its duties, which is light and has the characteristics of light, is subtler than the hearts of the saints, more insubstantial than the spirits of the dead and the bodies of the angels, and more ethereal than the astral bodies and subtle bodies.
Now we consider the atheist who is listening. It comes to mind that he would think of saying: “I do not recognize Allah and I do not know the Prophet (PBUH), how should I believe in the Ascension?” To which we would reply as follows.
Since the universe and beings exist, and within them are acts and creation; and since an orderly act cannot occur without an author, a meaningful book cannot be without a scribe, and a skilful embroidery be without an embroiderer; the purposeful acts which fill the universe surely have an author, and the meaningful letters and amazing embroideries which cover the face of the earth and are renewed from season to season have a scribe and an embroiderer.
And since two governors directing the same matter spoils the order in that matter being spoilt; and since from a fly’s wing to the lamps in the heavens there is perfect order, there must be only one governor, one ruler. For the art and wisdom in everything is so wonderful it necessitates that the Maker of one thing is powerful over all things, to the extent that He knows every matter. Since this is so, if He was not One, there would have to be gods to the number of beings. These would be both opposed to and similar to one another, and it would therefore be a hundred thousand times impossible for this wonderful order not to be broken.
Furthermore, since as is self-evidently apparent, at a command the classes of beings are in motion in a fashion a thousand times more well-ordered than an army -each group, from the stars, sun and moon and their motions to the flowers of the almond, displaying the decorations and uniforms the Pre-Eternal All-Powerful One has conferred on it, and the motion He has determined, a thousand times more regularly and perfectly than an army- since this is so, the universe has an Absolute Ruler behind the veil of the Unseen to Whose command its beings look and conform.
And since according to the testimony of all the wise matters He carries out and splendid works He displays, the Ruler is an All-Glorious Sovereign; and since according to the bounties He demonstrates He is a most Compassionate Sustainer, and according to the beautiful examples of His art which He exhibits, He is a Maker Who loves His art; and since He is an All-Wise Creator Who wishes to attract to His works of art the admiring gazes of conscious beings through the adornments and skills He demonstrates; and since it may be understood that He wishes to make known to conscious beings the meaning of the adornments, which astound the mind, that He displays in the creation of the world and to inform them through the wisdom of His dominicality about where creatures come from and where they are going; most certainly, this All-Wise Ruler and All-Knowing Maker wishes to demonstrate His dominicality.
And since he wishes to make Himself known and loved by conscious creatures through the great many works of benevolence and mercy and wonders of art He displays, He will surely make known to them by means of a herald what He desires of them and what those things are that please Him, and concern them.
Since this is so, He will appoint one of the conscious beings and will proclaim His dominicality through him. He will honour a herald with the proximity of His presence and make him the means of exhibiting the art which He loves. He will appoint one of them as a teacher in order to inform other conscious beings of those exalted aims and to display His perfections. He will certainly appoint a guide so that the talisman contained in the universe and the riddle of dominicality He has concealed within beings will not remain meaningless. And He will appoint a guide who will teach the purposes contained in the beauties of art He displays and publishes as a spectacle for all to gaze on so that they do not remain useless and vain. Moreover, in order to announce the things that please Him to conscious beings, He will raise one of them to a rank above the others, and will inform him of those things and send him to them.
Since reality and wisdom require it to be thus and the one most worthy to perform this duty was the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him), for he actually performed those duties most perfectly, to which fact the world of Islam which he founded and the light of Islam which he showed are truthful and just witnesses; this necessitates that he should have risen above all the rest of the universe, surpassed all beings, and attained to a rank at which he held a universal, elevated, and all-embracing conversation with the Creator of all beings. Thus, the Ascension expresses this truth as well.
In Short: Since He has formed, arranged, and adorned the vast universe in this way for mighty purposes and sublime aims such as those mentioned above; and since among beings mankind exists to see this universal dominicality together with all its subtleties and this supreme Divine sovereignty together with all its truths; most certainly that Absolute Ruler will speak with man, He will inform him of His purposes.
Since everyone cannot free themselves from particular, insignificant, and lowly matters and rise to the highest and universal position, and therefore cannot themselves receive the Ruler’s universal address, certain special individuals from among human beings will be appointed to that duty so that it may be related to in two respects. First, in order to teach human beings, they must be human beings themselves. And in order to be able to receive the address directly, they must be extremely exalted spiritually.
Thus, since among those human beings the one who made known the purposes of the universe’s Maker most perfectly, disclosed the talisman of the universe and solved the riddle of creation, and who heralded the sublimity of the sovereignty of dominicality in the best way was Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him), certainly, of all human beings he would make a spiritual journey in the form of an Ascension touring the corporeal world; he would traverse all the levels to beyond the intermediate world of the Divine Names, the manifestation of the Divine attributes and acts, and the levels of beings, all of which are known as the seventy thousand veils. And the Ascension was this.
Again the following comes to mind: O listener! You are thinking of asking: “How should I believe it? What does it mean to traverse a distance of thousands of years to a Sustainer Who is closer than anything else and to meet with Him after passing through seventy thousand veils?” To which we reply as follows:
Allah Almighty is closer to everything than anything else, but everything is infinitely distant from Him. For example, if the sun possessed consciousness and the power of speech, it would be able to converse with you by means of a mirror held in your hand. It would have power of disposal over you as it wished. Indeed, although it would be closer to you than the pupil of your eye, which is like a mirror, you would be approximately four thousand years’ distance from it and could in no way draw closer to it. If you progressed and rose to the position of the moon and came to the point of being face to face with it, you would still only be able to be a sort of mirror to it.
Similarly, although the All-Glorious One, Who is the Sun of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity, is closer to everything than anything else, everything is infinitely distant from Him. Only one who traverses all beings, rises above particularity and gradually passes through the thousands of veils in the degrees of universality till he approaches a Divine Name which encompasses all beings, and then traverses the many degrees beyond it, may be honoured by a sort of Divine proximity.
For example, a private is far inferior in rank to the commander-in-chief. He looks to his commander through the small sample of his commander’s rank he sees in his corporal, at a great distance and beyond many veils, as it were. To gain true proximity to his rank through his corporate personality, the private has to pass through many universal degrees or ranks, like that of lieutenant, captain, and major. Whereas the commander-in-chief can be present with the private and seeing, in person as well as in meaning, through his commands, regulations, view, decree, and knowledge. Since this truth has been proved decisively in the Sixteenth Word, we deem that sufficient and cut short the discussion here.
Again it comes to mind that you are thinking of asking: “I deny the existence of the heavens and I do not believe in the angels, so how can I believe in someone travelling in the heavens and meeting with the angels?”
Yes, of course, it is difficult to demonstrate something and convince someone like you over whose eyes a veil has been drawn and who sees only what is immediately apparent to them. But the truth is so brilliant that even the blind can see it, so we also say what is unanimously agreed, that the depths of space are full of matter called ‘ether’. Subtle energies like light, electricity, and heat point to the existence of some subtle matter which fills space. For just as fruits clearly demonstrate the existence of the tree that bore them, flowers their flower-bed, shoots their seed-bed, and fishes the sea, the stars also thrust before the mind’s eye the necessary existence of their source, seed-bed, sea, and flower-bed.
Since there are different formations in the world above us and different rules are seen to be in force under different conditions, the heavens, which are the source of those rules, also differ. And since just as in man there are immaterial faculties apart from his body, like the mind, heart, spirit, imagination, and memory, certainly in the world, which is the macroanthropos, and in the universe, which is the tree of which man is the fruit, there are other worlds apart from the corporeal world. Moreover, there are heavens to each world, from the world of the earth to the world of Paradise.
As far as the angels are concerned, we say this: on the globe of the earth, which is medium-sized among the planets and insignificant and dense among the stars, animate and conscious beings, the most valuable and luminous among beings, are found in countless numbers. So surely the stars, which are like embellished castles and fine palaces compared to the earth, which is like a dark house, and the skies, which are like the seas of the stars, will be the dwelling-places of angels and spirit beings, which are conscious, animate, extremely numerous, and of various sorts.
In my commentary on the Holy Qur’an called Isharat al-I‘jaz (Signs of Miraculousness), both the existence and plurality of the heavens have been proved conclusively in the section on the verse,
Then He applied His design to the heavens and fashioned them into seven heavens,3
and in the Twenty-Ninth Word we have proved the existence of angels with the finality of two plus two equals four, so considering those to be sufficient we cut short the discussion here.
In Short: It is required by wisdom and by reason that the heavens are formed of ether, that they are the source of subtle energies like electricity, light, heat, and gravity, and that, in accordance with the Hadith, The heavens are waves held back,4 they are favourable for the motion of stars and planets. It is further required that from majarrat al-sama’5 (the Milky Way) to the closest planet they should consist of seven levels in different states and formations, and that each level, each world, from the world of the earth to the Intermediate Realm and World of Similitudes, to the World of the Hereafter, should be a heaven, like a roof.
And the following comes to mind: O atheist! You say: “Man is only able to ascend to a height of one or two kilometres with a thousand difficulties by means of the aeroplane.6 How then could someone come and go bodily within a few minutes covering a distance that would normally take thousands of years?”
To which we reply: According to your science, in its annual rotation a heavy body like the earth cuts a distance of approximately one hundred and eighty-eight hours in one minute. In one year it covers a distance of approximately twenty-five thousand years. Should an All-Powerful and Glorious One, then, Who causes its regular motion and revolves it like a stone in a sling be unable to convey a human being to His Throne? Should a wisdom that causes the body of the earth, which is extremely heavy, to travel around the sun through a dominical law known the sun’s gravity like a Mevlevi dervish be unable to raise a human body to the Throne of the All-Merciful One like lightning through the gravity of that All-Merciful One’s mercy and the attraction of the Pre-Eternal Sun’s love?
Again it comes to mind that you would say: “All right, so he could ascend there, but why did he and why should he? Would it not have been enough if he had gone just in heart and spirit like the saints?”
To which we would reply: Since the All-Glorious Maker wished to display His wondrous signs which lie in both the outer aspects of things and in their aspects that look directly to Himself, and to make the workshops and sources of the universe spectacles to be gazed upon, and to point out the results of man’s actions in the hereafter, it was necessary to take together with his heart and spirit as far as His Throne Muhammad’s (PBUH) eyes, which were like the key to the world of visible objects, and his ears, which perceived the signs in the world of sound. Furthermore, it is required by wisdom and reason that the All-Glorious Maker should have taken as far as His Throne his blessed body, which was like the machine of his spirit comprising different members and components, by means of which be performed his duties.
Just as in Paradise Divine wisdom makes the body accompany the spirit, because it is the body that is the means by which the duties of worship are performed and the means of innumerable pleasures and pains, so did his blessed body accompany his spirit. Since the body goes to Paradise together with the spirit, it is pure wisdom that He should have made the blessed body of Muhammad (PBUH) accompany his self, which ascended to the Lote-tree of the farthest limit, which is the trunk of the home of Paradise.
Again it comes to mind that you would say: “According to rational criteria is it not impossible to traverse a distance of thousands of years in several minutes?”
To which we would reply: The motion in the different works of the All-Glorious Maker’s art varies to the utmost degree. For example, it is well-known how different are the speeds of light, electricity, spirit, and imagination, and that of sound. And, as has been established by science, the speeds of the motion of different planets are so different that it astounds the mind.
How then should the motion at the speed of spirit of his subtle body, which followed his exalted spirit during the Ascension, seem contrary to reason?
Furthermore, it sometimes happens that on sleeping for ten minutes you are subject to a year’s-worth of different states. And even, if the words spoken and heard during a dream lasting one minute were collected together, for them to be spoken and heard in the waking world, a day or even longer, would be necessary. That means a single period of time is relative; it may seem like one day to one person and like a year to another.
Consider the meaning of this by means of a comparison. Let us imagine a clock which measures the speed of the movement displayed by man, cannon-balls, sound, light, electricity, spirit, and imagination. The clock has ten hands. One shows the hours while another counts the minutes in a sphere sixty times greater. Another hand counts the seconds in a sphere sixty times greater than the previous one, and yet others each count regularly decreasing fractions to a tenth of a second in vast spheres that regularly increase sixty times.
Let us suppose the circles described by the hand counting hours was the size of our clock, so that of the hand counting tenths of a second would have to be the size of the annual orbit of the earth, or even larger. Now, let us suppose there are two people. One of them is as though mounted on the hour-hand and observes according to its motion while the other is on the hand counting tenths of a second. There will be an enormous difference, as great as the relation between our clock and the annual orbit of the earth, as regards the things observed by these two individuals in the same period of time.
Thus, since time is like a hue, shade, or ribbon of motion, a rule that is in force in motion is also in force in time. And so, although the things we observe in the period of one hour would be equalled in amount by the conscious individual mounted on the hour-hand of the clock, like the one mounted on the hand counting tenths of a second, Allah’s Noble Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) mounted Buraq of Divine Assistance and in the same space of time, in that specified hour, like lightning traversed the entire sphere of contingency, saw the wonders of the outer aspects of things and the aspects which look to their Creator, ascended to the point of the sphere of necessity, was honoured with Divine conversation and favoured with the vision of Divine beauty, received his decree, and returned to his duty. It was possible for this to happen, and it did happen.
And again it comes to mind that you would say: “Yes, so it could happen, it is possible. But everything possible does not occur, does it? Is there anything else similar to this so that it can be accepted? How can the occurrence of something to which there are no similar cases be posited through only probability?”
To which we would reply: There are so many similar cases to it that they cannot be enumerated. For example, anyone who possesses sight can ascend with his eyes from the ground to the planet Neptune in a second. Anyone who has knowledge can mount the laws of astronomy with his intellect and travel beyond the stars in a minute. Anyone who has belief can, by mounting his thought on the action and pillars of the obligatory prayers, through a sort of Ascension, leave the universe behind and go as far as the Divine presence. Anyone who sees with his heart and any saint of perfection can, through his spiritual journeying, traverse in forty days the Divine Throne and the sphere of the Divine Names and attributes. And certain persons, even, like Shaykh Geylani and Imam-i Rabbani, truthfully recorded their spiritual ascensions as far as the Throne, which lasted a minute.
Furthermore, there is the coming and going of the angels, which are luminous bodies, from the Divine Throne to the earth and from the earth to the Throne in a short period of time. And the people of Paradise ascend to the gardens of Paradise from the plain of resurrection in a short space of time. Of course, this many examples demonstrate that it is pure wisdom, completely rational, and an occurrence about which there can be no doubt that the person of Muhammad (PBUH), who is the Lord of all the saints, the leader of all the believers, the head of the people of Paradise, and is accepted by all the angels, should have had an ascension which was the means of spiritual journeying, and that it should have been in a form appropriate to his rank.
1. See, Qur’an, 36:82, etc.
2. Bukhari, viii, 147; Ibn Mubarak, al-Zuhd, ii, 122.
3. Qur’an, 2:29.
4. Tirmidhi, Tafsir Sura al-Hadid, 1; Musnad, ii, 370.
5. Tabarani, al-Mu’jam al-Kabir, xx, 123; Ibn Hajar, Majma’ al-Zawa’id, viii, 135.
6. This treatise was written in 1928 or ’29. [Tr.]
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