What do people mean when they say that they are united with Allah?

The Details of the Question

- I have heard that in Sufism, there is a journey to Allah and that some people claim that they have united with Allah and attained Allah. For example, I have heard that Abdulqadir al-Ghaylani (May Allah have mercy on him) said:
“When they (Sufis) are united with Allah (He is exalted), grace and relief come upon them.”
- What does journey to Allah mean? What does to meet (rejoin) Allah mean?
- Does it not mean that they believe that they are equal to or a part of Allah? Will you please explain it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Sayr and suluk (journeying and initiation) is a training of knowledge of Allah (marifatullah) aimed at getting to know the names and attributes of Allah closely. It has nothing to do with the body. It is a completely spiritual training method. The expressions “spiritual journey or journey to Allah” are also used to describe it.

However, in reality, it is not a journey to Allah’s sacred being, but a journey to get to know His names, attributes and deeds. There is such a long distance as to pass through a thousand dark and luminous veils in the journey made for this marifatullah. But not everyone can follow this way. Some go through 5-10 veils while others go through a hundred veils.

By passing through those veils, people experience the manifestations of certain names and attributes of Allah in their way. As a result of this manifestation, some rise to the level of a kind of fana fillah (annihilation in Allah) in tawhid mustaghraq (immersed oneness) called “Jam’ (Gathering, Coming Together)” and begin to see Allah everywhere with the manifestation of His names and attributes. Since they begin to see everything in this level - with nominal meaning - as a shadow or a dream, they say “La mashuda illallah” (There is no visible being except Allah) and since they see the manifestations of Allah’s names and attributes everywhere - with significative meaning -, some people call this level “maqam jam’”, that is, meeting with Allah, coming together with Allah.

For example, when a person looks at the Sun, if he looks at the Sun’s own body, being, and light, this look becomes a veil against the Creator. If he looks at the Sun with the significative meaning, he observes the attributes of Allah, such as knowledge, wisdom and power, manifested in the circle of power in which the Sun was created. And he thinks that no particle exists independently of Allah, operates, and performs any function, and he attains a pure palace of oneness.

If, as some people do, this sayr and suluk does not lift the veil of causes and rise above it, for example, if one thinks that the Sun has the manifestation of some names of Allah in terms of the significative meaning, but still continues to know that it is a created being with the nominal meaning, this level is called “maqam farq” according to some.

The views of Sufi scholars on the issue are as follows:

Farq (difference) is what is attributed to man. Jam’ is what is kept from man. That is, the worship of man and other human affairs belong maqam farq. The boons that Allah gives to His servants with His grace and benevolence is maqam jam’. (see ar-Risalatul-Qushayriyya, 1/166)

There are different definitions and interpretations regarding the issue. However, it is possible to summarize the issue in line with what we have mentioned above as follows:

“Maqam jam’” is a sign of seeing Allah without seeing the beings called masiwa. Accordingly, maqam jam’ coexists with the manifestation of His oneness. As a matter of fact, the oneness mentioned in the verse “...And He is with you wheresoever ye may be...” (al-Hadid, 57/4) indicates a secret of oneness and maqam jam’.

So, it is a maqam jam’ for a person who realizes that Allah is omnipresent with His knowledge and power and thinks that all beings are manifestations of His name, attributes and deeds.

On the other hand, it can be considered as a maqam farq if a person does not forget the bodies of the beings and accept that Allah is the creator of everything and at the same time does not ignore that creatures have existence - depending on Allah.  

Our answer to the question “Does it not mean that they believe that they are equal to or a part of Allah?” mentioned above is “No!”.

Everything is from him, but nothing is a part of Him.

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