Since a mature person who has attained to marifatullah now stands beneath the manifestation of the love of the Real, he incinerates all egoistic tendencies in his spirit, just like a paper ablaze under a lens reflecting the rays of the sun.
1. DIVINE ESSENCE
The impossibility of grasping the essential nature of Allah, glory unto Him, is made evident by the following words of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-: “Contemplate on the creation of Allah. Do not reflect on His Essence, for you will never be able to grasp its value as befits Him.” (Daylami, Musnad, II, 56; Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, I, 81)
After all, knowledge of Allah, glory unto Him, that will deliver understanding to the land of faith and wisdom and allow it to unite with the light of guidance, pertains not to His Essence but to His Attributes. This is due to the fact that the Lord infinitely transcends space and time. Human understanding, on the other hand, functions only through the impressions it receives from the world of sense perception. Accordingly, in order for the understanding to grasp a given thing, the thing needs to resemble another thing in the sensory world and that needs to engender an impression on the mind. Allah, glory unto Him, in contrast, has the attribute of not resembling any created being (mukhalafatun li’l-hawadith). This means that the Lord does not bear any resemblance whatsoever to a subsequently created being and is infinitely and absolutely distinct, superior and perfect in comparison. An appreciation of the perfection of the order that reigns supreme throughout the universe is sufficient to render this a logical fact of the matter. It would be utterly absurd to compare the Almighty Creator, the First Cause possessing a power to create such an orderly universe, with something He created. His perfection, glory and power stand above all things created, an imperative fact necessitated by both reason and logic. It is therefore neither possible nor right for the human mind to opinionate with regard to the essential nature of the Almighty, simply because He is unlike any other.
What we are obliged with regard to the Lord, however, is to grasp and accept, through His Attributes, the existence of His Essence. The analogies and explanations the Almighty provides us in the Quran about Himself, conduce to this purpose. The ayah reveals:
“Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, and the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not…light upon light! Allah guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things.” (an-Nur, 35)
It should be observed that the analogy provided by the Quran first familiarizes the human understanding with impressions it can relate to; and then by abstracting the understanding from those impressions, it proceeds to uplift it to a reality beyond imagination and comprehension, which it refers to as ‘light upon light’. Contrary to how one might be tempted to understand the expression, His Light is not exhausted by a specific kind or multiple kinds of light; neither by all the species of light for that matter. Being infinitely above all types of light; the Lord’s Light is rather an indefinable light that eludes all efforts of describing it. Since, however, perceiving any observable thing requires as much vision as it needs light, not everyone can see the proof of the Real, discern His signs and succumb to His Will. After all, the blind are held back from seeing the things light readily presents to vision, to the sight of anyone and everyone privileged with the ability to see. A seeing eye, then, is as great a requirement for observation as the light that presents to its vision the existence of reality. Only a spirit privileged with a seeing eye can therefore perceive and appreciate.
On the other hand, that the Almighty refers to Himself in the verse as ‘Light’ and declares Himself as ‘the Light of the heavens and earth’, denotes the fact that it is only Him who created entire existence, presented the vast universe to observation, revealed innumerable realities both hidden and open and brought joy to hearts in their revelation. If it were not for the Great Light of the Lord, nothing would have been known or even found; and joy would never have found its way inside the heart.
All species of light that act as visible causes in making entire existence appear for observation are therefore nothing but manifestations from that Great Light. Comparable to the ranking that exists between different lights in the heavens, which is based on a difference of intensity, there also exists a similar scale between the lights visible on earth. For instance, if the rays of the sun were to shine upon the moon, then reflect from there onto a mirror inside a house on earth, then ricochet from the mirror to another mirror straight across the room, then further onto a bowl full of water lying on the ground and then finally back onto the ceiling, the first rank in terms of possessing the most intense shining power would belong to the sun and then to the moon and so on. With each one of these entities, that which is closer to the source of power is stronger than the one following it. The way in which the lights of the heavens are ranked follows a similar pattern; that is the light benefited from is stronger than the light that draws its radiance from it. And, vertically exceeding in intensity, all these lights find their ultimate perfection in the infinite and greatest light, the light of Allah, glory unto Him.
So the appearance of all things and their knowledge comes about only by virtue of the Lord, the enlightener of the heavens and earth, making them appear and known. Without His Light, the manifestation of existence and knowledge thereof is impossible. Still, while gazing say at a forest in broad daylight during spring, a person can only remark, despite seeing multifarious shades of colors: “I did not see anything but greenery!” He is too caught up in the luscious greenery of spring to take note of the light that makes that greenery appear; when it is only thanks to that light that he is able to perceive all the colors before his eyes. In this situation, the light remains hidden only because of the intensity of its appearance.
Embarking from this fact, Sufis say:
“Allah, glory unto Him, is not really hidden. Yet, in terms of our capacity to comprehend, He is hidden because of the intensity of His appearing.”
Aziz Mahmud Hudayi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says:
His Manifestation veils the manifest,
For proof of light, would one with sight, request?
Simpler put, one would not be able to see any objects inside a room lit with a bulb of five-thousand volts. The Almighty, infinitely superior in radiance even to a light of millions of volts, therefore unquestionably remains unseen to human comprehension. The Quran underlines this fact when it refers to believers as:
“Those who believe in the unseen…” (al-Baqara, 3)
Yet for the prudent, this invisibility is of a kind that is more visible than even the most apparent beings. Such that: We live with air but we are unable to see it in spite of the fact that it really encompasses us. We can only feel it while breathing in and out. Yet, going further than not rejecting the existence of air because of an inability to see it, we even exclaim with a do-or-die desperation: “We cannot live without air!”
Maritime creatures are similar to us. They perhaps do not take much notice of the sea, despite living inside of it. But what else are they encompassed by other than the sea?
This means that wherever a given being may be located, to our right or left, in front of or behind us, we may perceive it. But when it comprehensively encompasses us, it sheds all limitations of direction and the manifestation of its existence transcends our perception and withdraws, in a sense, to invisibility. Had it been otherwise or to give an example, had air not been hidden from our vision, life would have become unbearable; it would have been like an intense fog that concealed the sight of every object in its mist. Simpler put, the appearance of a being by which we are comprehensively encompassed would bring upon invisibility to other beings. It is for that reason that the Lord has remained invisible, hidden to human eyesight on earth. Had He been apparent, owing to the splendor of His Beauty (jamal) by which they will have been comprehensively encompassed, human beings would not have been able to see anything but Him. And there would have been no such thing as the life of the world, whose purpose is to put human beings on trial.
Thus, the Almighty, who is transcendent in the sense of being beyond imagination and understanding, is both hidden and apparent. Or rather, He is hidden in Essence but apparent in His manifestation.
He is apparent; for all beings come to be through the light of His Essence.
He is hidden; for eyes do not have the power to look at Him.
He is apparent. Whatever there is other than Him becomes manifest only through His attributes.
He is hidden, for there is nothing like Him. Human reason is conditioned to perceive objects through their opposites. Thus it is only natural for the Lord, the Unchangeable for whom there is no opposite, to remain hidden.
Most certainly, no conscious being in entire creation has enough aptitude to comprehend a Being of such nature. It is owing to this reason that faith consists in accepting the existence of His Essence and not a comprehension of its reality; for to exist or not to exist is one thing, while to pass judgment on its nature is another thing.
The Lord has thus endowed human beings with the power of reason, to discern and acknowledge His Divinity. Moreover, He has made the world of sense abound in the manifestations of His attributes, making it possible to for reason to proceed from these effects to the Cause. Illustrating this is the case below:
The great Sufi Junayd Baghdadi -May Allah sanctify his secret- one day saw a large number of people anxiously and excitedly rushing somewhere.
“Where are you going?” he asked them.
“A scholar has arrived from a so-and-so place. The word is that he explains the existence of Allah using many proofs. We are going to make the most of his proofs and explanations. Join us, if you want!” they replied.
Junayd -May Allah sanctify his secret- thereupon looked at them and said, with a dry smile:
“There are countless proofs in the universe chanting the Divine for eyes that can see, ears that can hear and hearts that can feel. Better still, there are even many testimonies given by the Almighty about Himself. So folks…He who is still riddled with doubts can go! As for us, there is not a speck of doubt in our hearts!”
In a word, the Lord has made manifest a myriad of His attributes in man the essence of the universe, in the universe a silent Quran, and in the Quran a vocal universe. To make matters even easier, He has sent numerous prophets to guide and help man locate the manifestations of His attributes and draw benefit from them. And through prophets, the Almighty has disclosed the realities of worlds seen and unseen to human understanding in the most appropriate manner, in the form of ‘speech’, as is exemplified by the Holy Quran.
So concerning the essence of Allah, glory unto Him, we may merely stay put with the following, as much as is allowed by the limited scope of speech:
The Absolute Being cannot be restricted by any limitation; He cannot be attributed with anything apart from what He attributes Himself. Since it is conditioned by our limited faculty of understanding, even calling Him ‘Absolute’ is to, in fact, restrict Him; yet for the sake of explanation, we have no other choice. But in truth, Allah, glory unto Him, is different from anything and everything that may come to mind, any word that can be articulated.
It is due to His Essence that this Absolute Being, infinitely glorified, manifests His attributes; just as a glimmering candle shines forth its light. All beings are concisely determined in the knowledge of the Absolute Being, of which the universe is a manifestation. Beings in this realm, which we refer to as the world of observation (shahadah), exist only relatively; none of them can exist through their own existences alone. They are considered to exist only as recipients of the attributes, works, decrees, power and creativity of the Absolute Being. Although the Essence of the Divine manifests His power, wisdom, providence and disposal in every single being, the realm of existence is never the manifestation as such of that Essence. In other words, the realm of existence is the manifestation of the attributes of the Divine and not His Essence.
The Essence thus has a glory above anything else. Were it not for the sun, its rays would never have been. Yet, although the rays do not exist independently from the sun, they are not quite the sun. It should be noted, however, that to recognize everything as Him would be tantamount to accepting the universe and the realm of existence entire as god, which leads to a materialism that reduces ‘One’ to ‘all’. The belief ascribed to Plato and referred to as pantheism stems from his grave misunderstanding. Although some have tried to drag Wahdat-i Wujud into the pantheistic system and recognize it therein, true Sufis have always been stern to reject what could at best be called a deviation. For although everything has come to be through His existence, glorifying and negating the Essence from everything else is from which the true Wahdat-i Wujud doctrine consists. Simpler said, though it is true that the universe is a recipient of the attributes of the Real, the Essence of the Real is not the universe itself; for the Creator may never become manifest in the form of a created. And since Allah, glory unto Him, is mukhalafatun lil’hawadith, that is, He does not resemble the created in any shape or form, accepting a notion that is the complete opposite of the above is blatant disbelief (kufr). The Lord thus has a glory that cannot be sullied by any kinds of anthropomorphic attributes with which He may wrongly be ascribed. It is well known that thrusting this truth aside has led both Jews and Christians to go as far as formulating a ‘son of God’ –Allah forbid-, by which they refer to Uzayr (Ezra) –upon him peace- and Isa (Jesus) –upon him peace-, respectively. As a Divine response to these similar deviations which the human mind tends to conjure in his private world of imagination, Allah, glory unto Him, declares:
“And they have not honored Allah with the honor that is due to Him; and the whole earth shall be in His grip on the day of resurrection and the heavens rolled up in His right hand; glory be to Him, and may He be exalted above what they associate (with Him).” (az-Zumar, 67)
For that reason, the Word of Tawhid, which constitutes the foundation of the Islamic creed, serves, first, to eradicate from the heart all kinds of deviant beliefs in false deities with the words ‘there is no god…’ (la ilaha) and, second, to implant a true belief in a transcendent God, as accepted by Allah, glory unto Him, with the words ‘but Allah’ (il-Allah). The Quran is unquestionably clear:
“Allah is He besides Whom there is no god, the Ever-living, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His…” (al-Baqara, 255)
“…there is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things).” (as-Shura, 11)
“Say: He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.” (al-Ikhlas, 1-4)
In short, what we are obliged with concerning the Essence of the Lord is simply to acknowledge and submit to Him, within the framework of the impressions and wisdoms we derive from our own world. However great one’s intellectual capabilities may be in this temporal world, he is forever helpless in comprehending the Essence…simply helpless.
As is referred to in the Quran, speaking with Allah, glory unto Him, on Mount Sina, gave Musa –upon him peace- an enormous spiritual delight. Amid the Divine manifestation he was privileged with, he lost control over his senses. Forgetting whether he was still on earth or had in fact gone beyond, he virtually overstepped the bounds of space and time. Suddenly yearning and scorching with an avid desire in his heart to see the Essence of the Lord, he pleaded the Almighty to be given that opportunity. But Allah, glory unto Him, replied:
“You shall never see me! (lan taraanii)” and commanded Musa –upon him peace- to throw a glimpse at the mountain. If the mountain could withstand this manifestation, said the Almighty, he, too, would be able to gaze at Him. Behind countless veils according to reports, a ray from the Lord then reflected onto the mountain. The mountain erupted at the instant and Musa –upon him peace- fainted from tremor. On regaining consciousness, he glorified the Lord repented to Him for having overstepped the bounds.
This Quranic reality attests to the helplessness to which man is forever doomed in comprehending the Divine Essence.
With that said, there are numerous saying of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- which reveal that in Paradise, believers will get to gaze at the Essence of the Divine, as clearly as they would see the full moon on a clear night. There is no contradiction between this and what was said above, as the conditions of the world are not the same as the conditions of the Hereafter. Muslims are thus to be given a distinct aptitude and faculty to allow them to observe the Essence of the Divine. That the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was not left upon a worldly state and was made to undergo a spiritual operation by having his chest cleft by Jibril –upon him peace- was, in a sense, to impart onto him a structure and aptitude that would enable him to undertake the great task of prophethood to come. Otherwise, his powers of a natural human being would not have been sufficient either for that enormous task or for a massive manifestation of the caliber of the Miraj (Ascension).
Thus, those who are able to proceed from iman to ihsan, from faith to its internalization, are those to attain to the truth and wisdom under the light of these Divine mysteries. Such servants become essences and darlings of the universe. These are the truly perfected human beings (insan-i kamil). They constantly search and long for the eternal realm, for reunion with the Absolute Being. To have fallen into this world of limitations, into the relative world of existence, is like exile for them. In this world, they have nonetheless been triumphant in shedding their temporary existences, in acknowledging that only with the Existence of the Real do they exist and have hence submitted their will to the Will of the Real.
May the Lord grant all of us a faith of certainty, in the truest sense! May He adorn our gardens of faith with the buds of righteous deeds in line with His pleasure! May He make us neighbors to His Beloved Messenger in the Hereafter and honor us with the privilege of gazing at the Beauty of His Essence!
One who looks with the light of the Real beholds eternity in a speck, the entire ocean in a drop. (Mawlana Rumi)
2. DIVINE ATTRIBUTES AND THEIR MANIFESTATIONS
The Essence of the Lord is one, while His attributes are inexhaustible. His attributes are not reserved to a certain number; they are infinite. Their entirety is known to Him alone. Some of these have been revealed exclusively to prophets. Others, like the Ninety Nine Names, have been revealed to mankind entire. Scholars, on the other hand, are acquainted with many Divine attributes that are not included in the ‘ninety nine’.
All Divine attributes, both known and unknown, have the primary aim of communicating the fact that the one and only Creator of the universe is unsullied by deficient attributes and is of a transcendence, an unimaginable excellence, endowed only with attributes that are perfect. It is hence impossible for any attribute of Allah, glory unto Him, classified under the headings Essential (Dhati) and Positive (Thubuti) to be deficient or to be supplemented by another attribute improper.
The perfection of His existence is through Him being alive; an aliveness that is perennial and absolute. The Lord’s attribute of Life (al-Hayah) is not a kind that has death as its opposite; it is rather a life exclusive to Him alone. The Quran describes this as:
“And put your trust in Him Who lives and dies not; and celebrate his praise; and enough is He to be acquainted with the faults of His servants.” (al-Furqan, 58)
His Knowledge (al-Ilm) is indisputably not a product of thought or ideation. Standing as the most unswerving proof to the infinite knowledge of the Almighty is the delicate harmony and order profuse throughout the universe, impenetrable to any other power of will or reason. Even the tiniest discovery on Earth by man, requires the toil of numerous minds and the successive passage of a number of centuries, with the aid of the gradual development of various scientific principles. Only after the passage of epochs following the creation of man and the piling up of countless efforts on top of one another, for instance, has it become possible to communicate via mobile phones, an activity so widespread today. Such is scientific progress in general. Scientific discoveries, inventions up till now and the countless mysteries yet to be exposed, are nothing but the unveiling of qualities the Almighty, through his Knowledge, has embedded in the order of the universe, just in the blink of an eye.
The infinite difference between the Knowledge of the Almighty and the knowledge of creation is beautifully elaborated below:
During the incredible and mysterious journey of Khidr and Musa –upon them peace-an episode, of which the underlying wisdom is concealed, a sparrow came and landed on the edge of the ship’s deck. Shortly afterward, it beaked out a few drops of water from the sea. Khidr –upon him peace- thereupon turned to Musa –upon him peace- and commented: “Compared to the knowledge of Allah, the knowledge of you, I and entire creation is only as much as the water beaked out from the sea by that bird.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 18/4)
Mawlana Rumi –may Allah sanctify his secret- articulates the wisdom as to why humankind was taught the attributes Knowledge, Hearing and Sight;
“In order for you not to give in to fear and engage in mischief, the Lord has informed you that He is the Knower; that He knows everything through and through.
In order for you to seal your lips against ugly and vile speech, He has informed you that He is the Hearer; that He hears everything perfectly.
In order for you not to get caught up in wickedness, both hidden and open, He has informed you that He is the Seer; that He sees everything vividly.”
All existent speech is nothing but a manifestation of the Divine attribute of Speech (kalam). Allah, glory unto Him, thereby not only makes manifest the infinite power of His Speech; He also makes His Sublime Name reverberate in countless languages. From His Speech, the Almighty has endowed each being a language peculiar to it, including those thought of as being lifeless. The Quran declares:
“The seven heavens declare His glory and the earth (too), and those who are in them; and there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification; surely He is Forbearing, Forgiving.” (al-Isra, 44)
Since all modes of tasbih, the verbal glorification of the Lord, are performed through the articulation of names, the only possible way open for man to get to know the Lord is the manifestation, in our realm of comprehension, of the Divine Attributes. Insofar as their meanings are concerned, these attributes are ‘adjectives’; yet in terms of their reference to the Essence, they are ‘nouns’. In other words, the Lord is attributed with them to such an extent that they are, for Him, names. It may be compared to how certain people, in time, become synonymous with their well-known attributes or titles, which are used to refer to them directly: as-Siddiq for Abu Bakr –may Allah be well-pleased with him-, Imam-i Azam for Abu Hanifa, Meyyitzade etc.
Thus, manifestations of Divine Attributes are also called the manifestation of Divine Names. In this regard, the Almighty Himself has referred to His Attributes as Names, in the medium of which He presents Himself to the comprehension of His servants:
وَاِللّٰهِ الْاٴَ سْمَاءُ الْحُسْنىٰ
“And Allah’s are the best names…” (al-Araf, 180)
To be sure, it is through the name that the servant establishes connection with the Divine. This goes to show that the Lord’s Name is an indispensable element in negating deficient qualities from Him. Good or bad actions the servant performs are therefore directed not to the Reality of the Divine but to His Name. The Lord’s Reality thus always remains free of smear.
If it were not for the proper Name of the Almighty, man would sure find it difficult to regulate his conduct for Him. Man, after all, is accustomed to discern a being in a name and express that same being through that name. For man, a name is the registration of that being. It is for no other reason than this; that upon creating Adam –upon him peace-, the Lord taught him all the names, knowledge of which thereby gave the prophet superiority over angels, as alluded to by the Almighty. In an important sense, to know the name of a being is, after all, to acknowledge its essential being. Indeed, were it not for knowing the Lord through His Glorious Names, what could have we known about Him?
Man is, hence, forever in need of names that express the characteristics of his Lord. In whatever situation one may find himself in, he seeks to call upon the Lord with a name fitting with the situation. Were it not for these names, one’s connection with the Lord would have only been weak, if not entirely missing. It could even be said that these Names, to a certain degree, do away with the muteness of man at the face of the Essence and the Divine and provide keys that open the deadlock of human comprehension. Without a doubt, even mentioning or repeating the names of Allah, glory unto Him, effectively nourishes one’s faith and brings a divine serenity into the heart, increase the love for and focus towards the Lord and desire for the blessings next to Him and turns one to the eternal at the expense of the world and its passing pleasures, igniting one with the desire for the reunion with the Real. These benefits are proved by the fact that the prayers and rememberings (dhikr) recommended by the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- abound in the names of Allah, glory unto Him.
On finding himself in the grip of a dire situation, a believer, who is in desperate need of Divine compassion, looks for an expression that would best sum up his circumstance and clutches on to, say, the Divine Names Merciful (ar-Rahman) and Compassionate (ar-Rahim). On feeling of being on the verge of losing all spiritual ties under the crushing weight of sins, he rummages for a means to get closer to the Real and grips the Names the Forgiver (al-Ghaffar) the Concealer of sin (as-Sattar). When beholding the Divine manifestations in both the universe and in his spirit, he looks for an expression, unfound in books, to give voice to his emotions and roars ‘Allah-u Akbar’ to appease his billowing spirit. Shortly said, in all kinds of emotional states, a servant unlocks the locked doors of his spirit through the means of the various names of Allah, glory unto Him, and treats the spiritual convulsions he may feel time and again.
It is for this reason that the Almighty has presented Himself compliant with the truth of the matter yet in a way human beings can understand. In the fact that He presents Himself as the Knower, the Wise, the Powerful, the Forgiver and etcetera and that human beings know Him as such, there lies a reason humane; as human beings can personally identify with many of these names, although to a very limited degree. And this can only be a Divine gift presented to comprehension of humankind for its guidance and salvation.
In a way, the manifestation of the Almighty’s attributes and actions is nothing but a ‘Divine condescending for human understanding’. The manifestation explains that which is manifested. But this manifestation does not take place as it does in His Essence; it rather is a condescending for our understanding to accommodate. Under the shade of this truth fall the below words of Mawlana Rumi -May Allah sanctify his secret-:
“One who looks with the light of the Real beholds eternity in a speck, the sun as an eternity, and the entire ocean in a drop.”
Aware of this subtle truth, Ibrahim Gülşeni –May Allah sanctify his secret- chants the couplet below:
How is it that you are an ocean within these drops?
Or a radiant sun within these tiny dots?
The answer to this question lies hidden in the below words of Mawlana Rumi -May Allah sanctify his secret-:
“Just how can anyone understand the works of the Real when His wisdom is unquestionable? Who can ever penetrate the core of the matter? Even these words I utter are words spoken necessarily for the sake of explaining.
To engage in the affairs of religion is essentially to be left in admiration and awe. But this admiration is not to turn a cold shoulder on the qiblah of truth simply because reason cannot cope with it. On the contrary, it is to fall in to the depths of awe as an enchanted and ecstatic admirer of Him.
When we sleep, it is because of His love that we lose our consciousness, as souls enchanted by Him. Should we be awake, we live through countless mysteries in the epic written by Him.
When we weep, we are clouds loaded by His nourishments and blessings. Smile and we are His brilliant lightning.
Should we become angry and make war, it is the manifestation of His wrath. When we make peace and ask to be pardoned, it is but the revelation, the appearance of His love.
Who are we in this baffling universe? We are each shadow beings, mere nothings, like the letter alif that does not connect with any other letter or take any dots. Every action and state that emanate from us are the manifestations of His Divine Names and Attributes.”
What commits Mawlana Rumi -May Allah sanctify his secret- to plunge into the deep end of admiration and awe, are the magnificent and infinite manifestations of the names and attributes of the Divine, both in the universe and his own soul, which are of a nature mind blowing. The abundance of Divine names makes it easier to understand the abundance of His actions; they express the boundlessness inherent in the content of Divineness. They distance the Almighty from constricting, narrow perceptions. Attributes opposite to created beings, especially, act as an effective bulwark against perceptions with a tendency to impose limits on the Divine. Some only wish to see Him as Outward. Outward He is indeed; but Allah, glory unto Him, is at the same time Inward.
The Almighty is the Jamiu’l-Azdad, the Combiner of Opposites; He has brought all opposite attributes together in His Being. It is owing to such Glory that all created beings are different to one another. Accordingly, anything that permits comprehension by the human mind can be done so only through its opposite. The sharper the opposition is, the better the comprehension.
On another note, the opposites that we know in our world of understanding are devoid of the ability of harmonious coexistence and are charged with tendency to vanquish one another and seek unity. Valid for realities in realms both physical and metaphysical, this inherent tendency stems from the fact that the origin of being is one. Simply put, it is the outcome of the adatullah, the laws of Allah, glory unto Him, operating throughout the universe. Just as night seeks to subjugate the day and heat looks to overcome the cold to find unity therewith, the spiritual transactions that take place through contemplation and sensing, in the spiritual meaning of the term, are all occasioned by this Divine law. Yet, the opposites in the Essence of the Divine are not charged with a tendency to destroy one another. Rather, they have the nature of and power for coexistence. Thus considered from that angle, the Almighty has no attributes that pose any contradiction in themselves. To give an example, He is Alive. Yet, His Life is free of having death as opposition. A life-death opposition is applicable only for beings created and mortal. He Exists though His Existence is not sullied by nothingness. He Knows but this is not a knowledge burdened by an opposite in ignorance. He sees to all needs but never stands in need of anything. The same goes for each of His attributes.
When all is said and done, since we do not have the power to access the absolute content of the Essential attributes of the Almighty and are able to think only through the impressions we receive for the world of sense, analyzing and comprehending their nature is forever beyond our mortal grasp.
We might illustrate this with the following example: From a single cable of electricity, it is possible to obtain two opposite results: we may plug one end of the cable into, say, a freezer and obtain cold and the other end into a heater and obtain heat. Presuming we were to carry this out inside the same room, the battle that would emerge between the heat and the cold where each proceeds to vanquish the other, would not affect the cable of electricity, their mutual source of power, which would remain indifferent. Similarly, as the Almighty has endowed all beings with a distinct aptitude and power to generate a certain effect, each created being receives the manifestations of His Names within the framework of its aptitude. And this, in turn, results in the perpetual battle of opposites, where the one with greater intensity subdues its lesser.
This means that the battle of opposites prevalent in our universe is not so much a battle where one seeks to reduce the other to nothingness, as it is a battle to defeat the other. Since each opposite quality is founded upon one or more Divine Names and since these Names are eternal, this opposition can never be abolished.
A natural outcome of this line of consideration is that while it is the Divine Name Guider (al-Hadi) that prevails over believers, it is the Name Deviator (al-Mudill) that reins dominant in nonbelievers. The opposition between faith and disbelief, then, is set to continue until the Day of Judgment. It is impossible for the defining quality of this battle to go beyond ‘seeking triumph’ and become a war of attrition, of total annihilation, as the manifestation of each Divine Name is ceaseless and eternal.
Another outcome of this is that no matter how much strength nonbelievers may possess, they may never vanquish faith. The same goes for Muslims, too. What we have touched upon here regarding the human tussle between faith and disbelief is a fact equally valid for all oppositions throughout the universe.
On another note, in receiving the manifestation of Divine Names, the universe, which exists through their composition, is not alone. Both the Quran and man are recipients of equal measure.
Whereas the universe constitutes a concrete cosmos through this manifestation, the Quran is a prose of truths that expresses all the realities embedded in the universe in the form of ‘speech’. As for man, he is not only like the universe in terms of being a recipient of the manifestation of the Divine Names he is furthermore the kernel to the shell that is the universe, its core and essence. It is due to this reason that man is called the minor universe (alam-i saghir).
It is essential for the opposition in Divine Names to exist in man, their perfect precinct of manifesting. Accordingly, a believer in whom the Divine Name Guider (al-Hadi) reins dominant, at the same time imperatively carries a portion of the Name Deviator (al-Mudill). The faith a person of the kind has is nothing but the result of that specific Name, the underlying cause of his faith, gaining supremacy in that person. In a nonbeliever, this situation is totally the opposite.
A natural consequence of this is that every believer has, more or less, an aptitude for disbelief and every disbeliever for belief. It is therefore vital for a believer to adopt a mindset that is halfway between fear and hope and live compliantly. A believer must therefore never put out of his mind the likelihood that he might lapse into deviation at any second. Together with that, he must never rule out the possibility that there might come a day when the Divine Name al-Hadi will claim its ascendancy in the soul of even the most stubborn disbeliever. He must therefore treat every nonbeliever under the light of this glimmer of hope.
Emphasized by the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- is exactly that:
“A person, for a long time, offers the deeds of Paradise but ends his life with the deeds of Hellfire. A person, for a long time, offers the deeds of Hellfire but ends his life with the deeds of Paradise.” (Muslim, Qadar, 11)
That is why it is crucial for each believer to position his heart somewhere between fear and hope and adopt the below command of the Almighty as a motto:
“And serve thy Lord until there come unto thee the Hour that is Certain!” (al-Hijr, 99)
Because of the unknown nature of fate in terms of whether one ends up a believer or not, feeling absolute security from Divine punishment or counting oneself absolutely bound for it are both tantamount to kufr. No-one is secure apart from prophets and those, like the ashara-i mubassharah, who were given by prophets the glad tidings of Paradise whilst still alive.
As we have already mentioned above, while opposite attributes coexist harmoniously and tranquilly in the Essence of the Divine, these attributes have manifested on Earth, the temporary land of trial, with a tendency to seek victory over one another. Such is the case with the victory, now and again, of those guided through the manifestation of the name al-Hadi or of those obstinate in their disbelief through the manifestation of al-Mudill. Even despite the superhuman efforts of prophets, societies have always had their fair share of nonbelievers; and in contrast, believers have always been able to sustain their existence, even during periods when nonbelievers and oppressors reigned sovereign.
The Quran solemnly testifies to many who struggled in the cause of iman even in their last breaths without buckling; to the People of Ukhdud when being thrown into pits of fire, to the first followers of Isa (Jesus) –upon him peace- whilst being gnawed to death between the teeth of lions, to the Habib’un-Najjar as he was stoned by his own townsmen and to the magicians of the Pharaoh, hung upon date trunks simply for heeding to the call of Musa –upon him peace-, whose final words before reuniting with their Lord as martyrs were:
رَبَّنَا أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًا وَتَوَفَّنَا مُسْلِمِينَ
“Our Lord: Pour out upon us patience and cause us to die as Muslims!” (al-Araf, 126)
From all this, we can gather an important lesson of creed and conduct. No matter how intense a person may be in his denial, nobody has the right to deprive him of the call to Islam; for a moment may come when the Divine attribute the Guider may emerge from beneath his subconscious and lead to a momentous change in his character. In other words, even the most chronic disbeliever has the possibility of being guided. This fact of the matter is expressed by the Almighty in the below Quranic verse, in His advice to Musa and Harun –upon them peace- just before sending them to talk some sense into the Pharaoh:
فَقُولاَ لَهُ قَوْلاً لَيّـِنًا لَعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ اَوْ يَخْشٰى
“Then speak to him a gentle word haply he may mind or fear.” (Taha, 44)
Undoubtedly, the Quranic verse above at the same time presents us with a perfect method in communicating Islam, a method which has two principles:
1. The person, who is the subject of the call to the truth, must be spoken to with a soft, delicate and non-provocative tone.
Indeed, in spite of leaning towards embracing the call of Musa –upon him peace- on numerous occasions after witnessing his miracles, the Pharaoh was prevented by his vizier Haman and other notables. Yielding to his conceit and vanity, he never ended up believing. But as he was being swallowed by the waters of the Red Sea caving in on him, in a state of utter hopelessness, he tried to catch hold of the Divine Name the Guider, and said:
“…I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit.” (Yunus, 90)
But a lifetime seeking the manifestation of the Divine Name Deviator meant that the Pharaoh’s faith, confessed amid the throes of death, was never to be accepted. And the notorious oppressor migrated to the Hereafter as a nonbeliever.
The Quran reinforces this method in another verse:
“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way.” (an-Nahl, 125)
2. Irrespective of their circumstances, the call to Islam must be generalized so as to encompass humankind entire.
As wretched as he was in declining the call to believe, the Pharaoh was also a ruthless murderer, having slain thousands of newborns just to kill Musa –upon him peace-. Still, this did not mean he be denied of the call to the truth. The prophets entrusted with the duty of delivering to him the call were even told to:
“Then speak to him a gentle word haply he may mind or fear.” (Taha, 44)
In the same way, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- personally communicated the call to Abu Jahl on numerous occasions. Despite accepting deep down the truth of the Prophet’s call, Abu Jahl could not defeat his ego and pride to admit to it. Yet, this exceptional manner of conduct of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- lead to the guidance of many former ingrained disbelievers, like Omar ibn Khattab, Abu Sufyan, Hind and Wahshi.
In both serving the Islamic cause and in all social relations in general, this manner of conduct thus opens possibility of implementing a style of beauty and elegance and moreover takes into consideration the specific circumstances involved. And this is an influential, and no less inspirational, outlook integral to the behavior of Sufis observed to this day.
As a natural and compulsory consequence of believing in Him through an affirmation of the heart and a verbal confirmation of the tongue, the Almighty has desired that He be glorified through worship, a duty for whose fulfillment, He has endowed, among entire creation, only man and jinn with enough competence. He has bestowed upon them intelligence and comprehension, proportionate to which He has held them responsible.
Despite the fact that jinn significantly outnumber human beings and are invariably mentioned before their human counterparts wherever they are cited together in the Quran, priority of honor nonetheless belongs to human beings. With that said, jinn are responsible, like man, to carry out their duties of servanthood and worship, the common reason of existence for both.
The Almighty reveals this in the Quran as:
وَمَاخَلَقْتُالْجِنَّوَاْلإِنْسَ إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُون
“I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.” (ad-Dhariyat, 56)
What is more, Allah, glory unto Him, whose infinite Mercy has surpassed His Wrath, has not just left man and jinn alone, only with the power of reason and comprehension and a sense of discerning right from wrong, He has also reinforced them with further Divine aids. As if the universe alone was not splendid enough a display proving of the existence of the Allah, glory unto Him, in all its aspects, the Almighty has sent a convoy of prophets and saints, to alleviate the difficulties man and jinn may encounter in connecting these proofs to Him. And indeed, so that no person is excluded from this supplementary aid, the Almighty inaugurated it with the first man, crowning Adam –upon him peace- the ancestor of mankind, with the laurels of prophethood. Because of the superiority of man over jinn, all prophets have hailed from the species of man, some of whom have been responsible also with the guidance of jinn.
Although the messages of each prophet is the same in terms of the abstract truth they communicate, their social rulings have followed a parallel course with the progress of human life, finding their consummate perfection in the Prophet of the Final Hour –upon him blessings and peace- and the Holy Quran revealed to him. Thus, the Holy Quran will remain until the end of time a miracle of expression never to be annulled. Likewise, as the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- presides over both man and jinn as prophet, he has also been referred to as Rasulu’th-Thaqalayn. The term thaqalayn signifies the species of both man and jinn.
The universe, the embodiment of a composition of Divine Names, is at once a dazzling exposition of Divine Power. As sciences progress, the magnificent manifestations of Divine art are grasped more extensively and in greater depth, allowing one to infer a stronger conviction of the power of the Almighty. Confirming this are scientific activities of all kinds, from contemporary research of outer space to the progress of genetic sciences and the wonder of computers. It is for such reason that Allah, glory unto Him, declares:
“…among His servants only who are possessed of knowledge fear Allah; surely Allah is Mighty, Forgiving.” (Fatir, 28)
With each step taken on the path of progress, sciences present more evidences of Divine power and glory to human comprehension. Endowed with such a character, the universe is like an infinite source of realities at the service of the human mind; an epic work of elaborate poetry that has not been committed to words. Those who achieve depth in knowledge by adhering to Divine commands transcend the realities that have been to put to words and, with a spiritual authority, begin to read the wisdoms and mysteries written in the book of the universe.
Natural sciences aim at decoding the Divine Order that regulates the universe under ‘laws of nature’. By grasping these realities known as ‘laws of nature’ from a more universal standpoint, those with depth of knowledge, however, attain to the Divine Purpose which governs the universe.
Man, a minor universe, is also an infinite prose of realities presented to human comprehension, akin to the other realms. This is the reason as to why he is called zubda-i kainat, a condensed universe, its essence and seed. Just as a seed contains all the characteristics of what it will engender, man is implanted with all the mysteries and realities that exist in both the universe and the Quran, in the form of a nucleus.
The Almighty, whose existence does not resemble the existence of what He has created, whose Essence is impenetrable to the mind and who has left open only the door of appreciating Him through His works and art, has created man as khalifah or vicegerent on Earth. Making him the most honorable of all creation, the Lord has created man as the kernel of the universe. In terms of the realities embedded in him, man is a minor universe. Science must therefore make man acquainted above all with his own self and informing him of the reason of existence, push open the door to marifatullah or Divine knowledge.
The essential purpose science should strive to attain is elaborated by Yunus Emre as:
To know is to learn knowledge,
To learn is to know oneself,
If you do not know yourself,
What sort of a read is that?
‘I read and I know’, say not
Or that ‘I worshipped in lots’
If you do not know the Real
All that is, is vain talk
This particular value and rank the Lord has graced man with has found its voice, more generally, in works produced in Sufi milieus, works that echo their depth of heart. Perhaps the first to come to mind among all works that duly describe man with his inherent worth is the famous poem of Sheikh Ghalib, the renowned Sufi poet of the 18th century. In this poem, the Sheikh addresses ‘man’ in the following:
In you lies the cellar of the mysteries of love,
The glimmer and bounty of creation, its well
And many more states lay hidden in you, all secret,
Knowledge, skill and reality…in you they indwell
Just look and you’ll see that in you lies the earth and skies
The throne and angels…and certainly, heaven and hell
Look after your essence, then, for you’re the universe’s core,
The apple of the eye of being, the kernel of its shell
So in short, man is a succinct summary of the Lord’s glorious realities that are manifest in this temporary world. Endowed with this quality, man is a universe of a distinct kind, with an exclusive potential to become the Quran come to life.
Yet, scientific research has not been able to implement the relative success it has enjoyed in bringing the unseen facts of the universe out into the open, in the realm of the ‘human being’. This is due to the fact that man is a compound of body and spirit and that the Lord has revealed man only little information concerning the enigma that is spirit. Therefore, in terms of his inner world, man poses a greater mystery than the universe itself. The rapid increase in knowledge of the human body over the course of the past two millennia has not followed a similar course regarding knowledge of the spirit. This is nothing but a confirmation of the Quran’s declaration:
“And they ask you about the spirit. Say: The spirit is one of the commands of my Lord, and you are not given aught of knowledge but a little.” (al-Isra, 85)
As for the universe, it is systematically interwoven by a set of intricate and perfect principles, which we refer to as adatullah or sunnatullah, the Laws of Allah, glory unto Him. These are, at the same time, laws of wisdom pertaining to both the physical and metaphysical realms, referring the mind to the infinite knowledge and power of the Lord. Their common unchangeable denominator is that they are proofs attesting to the fact that they have been set down by One Being, from whose power the entire artwork of the universe has come to be. Since the Almighty presents Himself to us, His servants, through the wisdoms and mysteries of what He has created, Islam naturally invites man to discern these manifestations in the universe, as if he is reading the lines of the Quran. The Quran professes:
“Do they not see the earth, how many of every noble kind We have caused to grow in it?” (as-Shuara, 7)
“Look then at the signs of Allah’s mercy, how He gives life to the earth after its death, most surely He will raise the dead to life; and He has power over all things.” (ar-Rum, 50)
“Who created the seven heavens one above another; you see no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent Allah; then look again, can you see any disorder? Then turn back the eye again and again; your look shall come back to you confused while it is fatigued.” (al-Mulk, 3-4)
“Will they not then consider the camels, how they are created? And the heaven, how it is reared aloft? And the mountains, how they are firmly fixed? And the earth, how it is made a vast expanse?” (al-Ghashiyah, 17-20)
“Do they not look at the sky above them? How We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it?” (Qaf, 6)
That there prevails in this boundless universe a harmonious order that shrinks minds in stature and leaves them in awe is indisputable. This harmonious order has been in tact since the time the universe was created, in the eternal balance of a delicate and meticulous calculation. Had the Earth not been on 23.5 degree tilt, for instance, there would have been no such thing as seasons; an endless summer or winter would have been all there was. Again, had the distance separating the Earth from the Sun been only a little more, every single spot on Earth would have come under the freezing grip of a glacial climate. Less and everywhere would have scorched to crisp. These and many more characteristics unmentioned here suffice to verify the fact that all bodies in space have been programmed in a way to facilitate human life.
Eyes that can see thoroughly acknowledge that in the face of Divine sovereignty and order, the Earth is just one of billions of dust floating in space. Mountains, planes, oceans and even human beings are just tiny specks in amid this floating pool of dust. Afflicted with such vulnerability, man is thus nothing apart from the privilege of being a servant of the Lord.
Programmed according to a calculated mechanism of many interwoven layers, thus created in a perfection that befits the glory of the Almighty, human beings will better appreciate the Glory that reigns supreme in the skies and on Earth with the progress of science. The Quran declares:
“We will soon show them Our signs in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things?” (al-Fussilat, 53)
And without a doubt, the advance of space research is truly bringing with it a more comprehensive understanding of the subtleties pointed out to by the Quran. Not only does every new scientific discovery confirm the Quran, they, at times, also throw light on many unclear verses.
Many a right minded scientist in the fields of embryology, anatomy and biology has indeed felt compelled to give credit where it is due, dazzled before the verses of the Quran that provide methodical detail on each stage of embryonic development in the mother’s womb:
“And certainly We created man of an extract of clay, Then We made him a small seed in a firm resting-place, Then We made the seed a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators.” (al-Muminun, 12-14)
Since the Quran is not a book reserved to sciences like astronomy, botanic, biology, geology and so forth, and since it’s characteristic feature is to be jawamiul’-kalim, it is exempt from the duty of affording specific details on science and technology. Yet each scientific and technological discovery and development effectively corroborates the truths and wisdoms the Quran has pointed out to in concise –not in detail-, serving to throw greater light on Divine realities with every passing day. The realm in which exhibits these realities in their most explicit and detailed fashion is the universe itself. The reason for this despite the comparatively clearer manner in which the Quran lays open the realities essentially embedded in the core of the human being, many of its truths have nonetheless been left somewhat concealed.
The concise nature of the Quran is due to the fact that it comprises infinite realities. Had the realities that are gradually exposed through scientific toil, been laid out in the open by the Quran, a couple of problems would have emerged as a result:
a. Considering the level of knowledge of their times, people would have found it difficult to accept them and consequently would have perhaps chosen the option of impulsively refuting them. Divine Mercy and Compassion has therefore disguised these truths in a way to allow for them to be exposed gradually, through the passage of time.
b. Had the Quran provided meticulous details on all realities, its content would have become enlarged to a point where it would have been almost impossible to read it from start to end, let alone commit it to memory. By declaring:
“…and We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and Glad Tidings to Muslims.” (an-Nahl, 89)
“…and there falls not a leaf but He knows it, nor a grain in the darkness of the earth, nor anything green nor dry but (it is all) in a clear book.” (al-Anam, 59) the Almighty conveys that the Quran points out to all realities throughout the universe in concise; and by stating:
“Do they not then meditate on the Quran? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy.” (an-Nisa, 82), He invites all His servants to breathe the true air of contemplation the Quran emits.
To use its own expression, the Quran is the Furqan; that is, it is the Book that draws the definitive line between guidance and depravity, good and evil, the light and the dark and brings their differences to the fore. It yields results according to the shares, intentions and aptitudes of those who approach it. Approached with an uncorrupted heart, it is then sure offer added proofs to increase and strengthen the iman; and to this the Quran itself attests:
“Those only are believers whose hearts become full of fear when Allah is mentioned, and when His communications are recited to them they increase them in faith, and in their Lord do they trust.” (al-Anfal, 2)
In contrast, those who approach the Quran conditioned by a negative prejudice will only add further fuel to their deviation. Looking upon anything with the eye of love serves to bring its beauty to the forefront. An opposite look of hatred, on the other hand, obscures its otherwise unmistakable beauty; similar to Abu Jahl’s perception of Islam. The more such people read the Quran the more ossified their feelings of disbelief and deviation become, as they quiver in the helplessness of not being able to attain to the heights of the Quranic beauty. They are comparable to those who are defeated in a game by a sworn archrival; they grow in fury and the fires of their inexpressible anger rages even higher. And consequently, they become all the more deserving of punishment. As regards, the Quran declares:
“And We reveal of the Quran that which is a healing and a mercy to the believers and it adds only to the perdition of the unjust.” (al-Isra, 82)
“Say: “It is a Guide and a Healing to those who believe; and for those who believe not, there is a deafness in their ears, and it is blindness in their (eyes): They are (as it were) being called from a place far distant!”” (Fussilat, 44)
Thus, as much as the Quran is an unmistakable light of guidance for the pious, it only serves to increase the corruption of those whom stubbornly close their eyes to its light.
Concerning such people is again the below Quranic verse:
“Have they not travelled in the land so that they should have hearts with which to understand, or ears with which to hear? For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts which are in the breasts.” (al-Hajj, 46)
As mentioned above, the universe is a system of creation that has come to existence as the compound of the manifestation of Divine Names, while the Quran is the reflection of the realities, both hidden an open, of this system onto speech. As for man, he is the core, essence and seed, as it were, of both and as such, he carries a share of its opposite manifestations, in varying degrees.
Having created the universe through the compound of the manifestations of His Names, the Almighty has endowed only human beings with the perfected manifestations of these names. This is the reason as to why man is the ashraf-i makhluqat, the most honorable of creation. Depending on his aptitude, man, in turn, is endowed with opposite attributes, being a jamiu’l-azdad. He laughs and cries, loves and hates, and so forth. In other words, man’s existence, in the broadest sense, is permeated by attributes both of mercy and of wrath. Hence, he may give expression to a richness of heart and generosity and at the same time, incinerate in the flames of anger and malice. He is ever exposed to the ebb and flow of calm and fury.
Man has received his fair share of many a Divine attribute. But their degree of manifesting poses an infinite difference in one human being to another. From the lowest end of the scale to the highest, the amount of share received of this manifesting makes up the social classification.
To give an example, each human being undoubtedly holds a manifestation of the Divine Names Merciful (ar-Rahman) and Compassionate (ar-Rahim). But their level of intensity varies from one person to another, posing contrasting ratios. Some are ‘merciful’ and ‘compassionate’ only towards themselves or at most, to their family members of close circle of friends, while there are others whose ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion’ are vast enough to embrace humankind entire, even the animal kingdom. On the manifestation of the attribute ‘Merciful’, we may cite the accounts below:
Once traveling to certain destination, Bayazid Bistami -May Allah sanctify his secret- decides to take a break under a tree to eat. After finishing his food, he gets up and carries on his journey. But a while later and after having covered a great distance, he notices an ant crawling on his bag, upon which he remarks with angst:
“I have exiled this creature of the Lord from its homeland”; as he returns all the way to that same tree to drop the ant off where it belongs.
Here is another immeasurable display of mercy:
One day, as Sari-i Saqati -may Allah sanctify his secret- was explaining to his students the Prophetic saying, “He who does not trouble himself with the troubles of believers is not one of them” (Hakim, Mustadrak, IV, 352; Haythami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, I, 87), another student of his fretfully rushed inside and said:
“Sir…Your entire neighborhood has burnt down. Only your house has survived the fire!”
“Alhamdulillah (Thank God)”, sighed Sari-i Saqati, blissfully.
Thirty years down the track, he would be seen confessing to a close friend:
“By saying alhamdulillah in that time of anguish, I had thought of merely my own wellbeing and remained aloof from identifying with the troubles of others who were struck by that disaster. And my last thirty years, my friend, has been nothing but a repentance for that mistake!”
Therefore, regardless of where and when the mercy and love one feels may have sprung from and who its focal point may have originally been, if they are allowed to flourish and expand as to embrace entire creation, they will undeniably turn one into a ‘true Muslim’ or in other words, a true person of love. Even if it may have blossomed from a specific passion or attraction, like a sapling sprouting from a slapdash sprinkle of water, love will be set on the path of becoming ‘real love’, if it is extended to entire creation for the sake of the Creator.
Unless the limits of that unfathomable connection of mercy and affection that is ‘Divine Love’ are expanded to an infinite horizon, any mercy and affection felt will not become love in the truest sense. At best, it will remain at the phase called metaphorical love, an elementary form of real love.
The compound of the manifestation of Divine Names has resulted in the surfacing of different temperaments, as many as the number of human beings. Just as mixing different paints with one another brings out the tone of the dominant color, similarly, the coalescence of these Divine Names surface, in a human being, according to the dominant manifestation that prevails over him. Quite naturally, therefore, Sufi paths are branched out; each branch or order (tariqah) attends to a given temperament, easing the path of the spiritual progress of an aspirant by attracting him to an order that complements his disposition. This also underlines the necessity of espousing a different method of training each murid, compliant with his temperament.
In a similar manner to which organisms are classified under human beings, animals or plants, or living and non-living organisms at the very top, temperaments may also be subjected to a classification in terms of their fundamentally defining characteristics. But it should be borne in mind that the difference between the minimum and the maximum ratios of any given qualities possessed by any two organisms belonging to the same category may be radically greater than the difference between two categories themselves. For instance, the difference of ranking between the lowest human being and the highest is more striking than the difference between the human being and animal as such. Behind this significant difference lies a tremendous disparity of manifestations that surface in each. This holds equally for all attributes both positive and negative. Truly dizzying is the difference between a person in the deep end of oppression or disbelief and his counterpart, who is on the highest end of the scale.
A nonbeliever, in whom the Name Deviator (al-Mudill) prevails, for example, lives a life debauched within the narrow confines of his existence. He could not care less about the believers’ faith. But as was the case with Abu Lahab and those alike, once his disbelief escalates in intensity, that carelessness turns to resentment and incites him to battle with righteous believers and even taking up arms against Prophets if he must, simply to appease that resentment. The same is the case with oppression. A hunter who hunts not out of need but out of pleasure will soon become hardhearted and even sadistic. The callous emperors of Rome, who would look on in bloodthirsty pleasure as the first believers of Jesus –upon him peace- were being devoured by ravaging lions, provides a case in point for the diagnosis of the Quran:
”They are even more bewildered than animals.“
The infinite diversification between the manifestations that surface in all organisms, living and non-living, including human beings, exposes ‘difference’ as an integral law of the universe. Equating any two beings with one another, let alone the entire realm of existence, is thus nothing but a futile undertaking, given that the infinite manifestation Divine Names means that there are no ‘twins’ in the universe; twins in the sense of complete and utter sameness. In terms of matter and spirit, no two human beings are one and the same. Much is the same case with two trees of the same species, always differing in the amount of branches, leaves and fruits they bear.
Coming to an understanding of the Almighty, man and the universe from this fundamental perspective, enables one to endure his opposites and even refines him to a maturity of treating them with compassion and leniency. Tasawwuf is just that: the maturity of being able to look lovingly and compassionately upon things that leave others in anger; others who have not set out on this path of love. This is a virtue acquired from having probed the underlying wisdom of external appearances.
This virtue and maturity, in turn, impresses us with many qualities. First and foremost, it makes us commiserate with the sinner instead of feeling personal anger towards him. It renders us gentle towards the nonbeliever, making us consider his deprivation; from guidance it gives us hope at the same time. It instills us with power and courage to call to the way of truth. It makes us look upon anyone needing to hear the call, like the blind who are in need of others to help them walk and guide their way. It allows us to comprehend the absurdity of not carrying the natural pity felt upon seeing a bird with a broken wing, to a person of whose spirit has been broken under the gnashing weight of sin. It turns our emotions of love and compassion to a grand waterfall, founded high above all interests of kinship, falling generously on humankind entire. In a society made up of human beings of such magnitude, murder and conflict make way to benevolent solidarity. And in tandem there will come a rise of the number of righteous souls most of whom now belong to the yesteryears. The praiseworthy moral conduct, which they embody by emulating the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- will be spread to the rest of society. Behavior towards people of with faults will gain the maturity exemplified in the case below:
Khatam-i Asamm -May Allah sanctify his secret-, a scholar from Balkh, is an illustrious figure of Sufi history for having refined himself through the spiritual legacy of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- and elevating his moral conduct to an exceptional level. That he was famous with the nickname Asamm, or deaf, despite being a man of sound hearing, is based on an outstanding experience:
One day, he was visited by a distressed woman, who had come with a request. Just when she had begun to explain to him her troubles, she involuntarily broke wind. The embarrassment she felt was beyond words; she virtually melted like a candle. But in order to prevent the woman suffering an even greater embarrassment, Khatam -May Allah sanctify his secret- acted as if he heard nothing. And taking his hand to his ear, he said:
“I have bad hearing, sister. Raise your voice a little…I cannot hear!”
Thinking that her moment of embarrassment had gone unheard, the woman then heaved a huge sigh of relief. Raising her voice, she resumed explaining her trouble.
It is reported that Khatam acted deaf for an entire fifteen years following the incident, when the woman eventually passed away, Khatam -May Allah sanctify his secret- acted as if he was deaf to prevent her from finding out and feeling humiliated. Hence, he came to be known as Khatam-i Asamm or Khatam the Deaf.
It is of course improbable that the profound level of moral conduct and sensitivity displayed by Khatam -may Allah sanctify his secret- was a result of him bringing what he had read in books to life. Khatam’s behavior may only be explained by his success in transforming the share Khatam had received from the Divine Attribute the Concealer of Sins (Sattaru’l-Uyub) into moral conduct. Such conduct has been labeled, especially in tasawwuf, as ‘embodying the morals of Allah.’
True saints, therefore, surrender their will to the Will of the Lord, absorbed in the manifestations of His magnificent attributes. Knowing that whatever the Lord wills is proper, they instill this knowledge to those around and set them right on this knowledge. On this subject, the following account is replete with wisdom:
“Suppose that the Lord made you preside over the universe…what would you do?” Sunbul Sinan -may Allah sanctify his secret- one day asked his disciples.
Each came up with an answer.
“I would destroy all nonbelievers” retorted one.
“I would smite all drinkers” said another.
“I would not leave one person who smoked”, exclaimed another. Muslihiddin Effendi, a scholar and a disciple of Sheikh Sinan, was meanwhile keeping silent. His silence was broken by the Sheikh, who turned to him and asked:
“And you…what would you do?”
With his usual propriety, Muslihiddin Effendi replied:
“Master…Is there a deficiency in the Lord’s will and governance that I should think of placing another measure? I can only reply that I would keep everything as they are!”
Delighted with his answer, Sunbul Sinan -may Allah sanctify his secret- said:
“Only now has the issue found its core (merkez)! (i.e. only now has the question been settled)”
Muslihiddin Effendi came to be known as Merkez Effendi after that day. And after the passing away of Sunbul Sinan -may Allah sanctify his secret-, he became his successor, assuming his spiritual duties.
In a virtual summary of this mindset, Ibrahim Hakki Erzurumi -May Allah sanctify his secret- articulates his submission to the Real in the following:
All His works supreme
With one another fitting
Whatever He does, convenes
Wait, what the Lord does, and see
What He does, He does splendidly
Hence, attaining to this beauty of character is possible only through embodying the manifestations of the attributes of Allah, glory unto Him, in the heart. Otherwise, we would be no different to a piece of paper oblivious to what is being written and drawn upon it. Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- says it beautifully:
“If you were to draw the picture of an unhappy man on a piece of paper, both the picture and the paper would remain ignorant of the sorrow or happiness of what is drawn.
On the surface, the picture is of sorrow; yet neither the picture nor the paper has any clue. The picture of a smiling man has no idea of his smile.”
So regardless of how deeply we may be inundated with the manifestations of Divine attributes, which we owe to the honor of being human, we will be no different to a paper and a lifeless picture thereon, unless we are aware of it. We must therefore melt all the mortal and relative attributes we have been given as part of a trial, in the pot that is the manifestation of the glorious attributes of the Lord. We must be fully aware that the contents of each attribute belonging to the Essence of the Lord are of an indefinably infinite extent. They are all without beginning (azali) and end (abadi). They are all absolute in Him, attributed with infinite qualities. Simpler said, no Divine attribute recognizes any limit. Therefore, His Knowledge, Speech, Power, Creativity and all attributes alike a free from all comparisons and efforts of explanation. Our world and its features, on the other hand, are both limited and mortal; a fleeting shadow is all they are. Still without success in perfectly understanding the nature of himself, it is certainly unthinkable for man to be able to comprehend the attributes of the Lord that are exclusive to Himself, in their proper nature. Just as we cannot comprehend the reality and nature of the Essence of Allah, glory unto Him, we are equally inept in comprehending the reality and nature of each of His attributes.
Those triumphant in coming to terms with this truth and in realizing that their sight, hearing, understanding, speech and all other abilities are but crumb-like manifestations of the attributes of the Lord, live amid the climes of nothingness, inhaling the inspiring winds of wisdom breezing there about. Annihilating their existence in the deep satisfaction of iman, they say:
“There is no other being than Allah.”
Molding their minds and spirits is the wisdom of acknowledging:
“Lord…You are the way You are, whatever that may be!”
Consequently, free from all apprehensions and delusions, they return to their Lord with a purified heart, recorded in the books of the righteous.
“Which are the greatest names of Allah?” a dervish once asked Bayazid-i Bistami -may Allah sanctify his secret-.
“Which of His names are small? Do not be a fool. All of Allah’s names are great. If you want your wishes accepted by Him, seek to clean your heart of anything other than Him. His Names do not manifest in hearts that are oblivious. But at hearts which have been revived by His Light, Allah gazes at each moment with many of His names.”
In fact, the name of Allah is ascribed with greatness in many a Quranic verse:
“Therefore glorify the name of your Lord, the Great.” (al-Waqia, 96)
The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- complied with this command by saying, while bowing down in ritual prayer, Subhana Rabbiya’l-Azim (I glorify my Majestic Lord from all deficient attributes) and while prostrating, Subhana Rabbiya’l-A’la (I glorify My Sublime Lord from all deficient attributes).
O Allah! Grant us a share of the secret of Divine knowledge and love for the sake of Your beautiful names and in particular, for the sake of Your genuine name!
Since a mature person who has attained to marifatullah now stands beneath the manifestation of the love of the Real, he incinerates all egoistic tendencies in his spirit, just like a paper ablaze under a lens reflecting the rays of the sun.
3. KNOWLEDGE OF THE DIVINE AND ITS MANIFESTATIONS IN THE WISE
Marifatullah, or knowledge of the Divine, is a boundless and infinite knowledge from the Divine that comprises all the mysteries and wisdoms prevalent in the universe entire. Any effort to perfectly define it would be a task beyond human capability. Yet each person enjoys a share of this knowledge to the extent allowed by his power, aptitude and effort. Hence, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has prayed:
لاَأُحْصِىثَنَاءًعَلَيْكَأَنْتَكَمَا أَثْنَيْتَ عَلٰى نَفْسِكَ
“(My Lord) I am powerless to glorify and praise as befits You! In whichever manner You have glorified and praised Yourself, that is how you are!” (Muslim, Salat, 222)
Indicating the importance of marifatullah are also the following words narrated as a hadith al-qudsi: “I was a secret treasure. I loved to be known and thus created creation for them to know Me.”
After the words of the Holy Quran and the sayings and behavior of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, there are no better words and behavior than the genuine servants of the Lord who have attained to marifah, that knowledge spoken of. That is because their unique words and behavior are profound and of a ladunni nature; they are not acquired. They are thus called the ‘inheritors of prophets’ (warathatu’l-anbiya). The hearts of those who witness the behavior of these genuine persons, who hear their words, become inundated with spiritual inspiration. With an increased eagerness, they gradually ridding themselves of devilish whispers and worldly ambitions, whereby the secrets slowly become unraveled.
Some of these righteous souls Adam’s –upon him peace- temperament, others are of Ibrahim’s -upon him peace-. There are some who characteristically take after Musa –upon him peace-, while there are others who resemble Jesus –upon him peace-. And there are some who are of the temperament of Muhammad –upon him blessings and peace-.
The distinctive attribute of those who are of a Muhammadan temperament is that they are persons of knowledge, love and unity (tawhid). Among them are such persons who virtually elude all efforts of describing them through a single attribute, simply because they have embodied all the defining attributes in their existence. Any further explanation would be redundant.
The Lord has endowed these beloved servants of His with different manifestations depending on their particular spiritual states. He has turned some into a Shah Naqshiband, boundless and unique oceans of inspiration in knowledge of the Divine, and others into a Majnun wandering in the deserts of love. There are some made by the Lord to stroll across the valleys of awe and others muted before the presence of His Majesty. Some have been rendered a Yunus Emre, a nightingale chirping the tunes of love, while others a Mawlana Rumi, whose tongues bursts with wisdom, scattering rare pearls of spirituality all around. Equipping all of his saints with the knowledge of marifah and privileging each with a distinct manifestation, the Lord has blessed them to entire humankind as outstanding lights of guidance.
Since a mature person who has attained to marifatullah now stands beneath the manifestation of the love of the Real, he incinerates all egoistic tendencies in his spirit, just like a paper ablaze under a lens. As he thereby becomes an illuminating center of attraction, others naturally grow fond of and respect him. But because he has disengaged himself from the grip of passing compliments and interests, he does not fall into the destructive whirlpool of pride, conceit and self-importance. Though in public, he is with the Real. He lives amid feelings of ta’zim li amrillah, respectfully abiding by the commands of Allah, glory unto Him, and shafqah li khalqillah, nurturing compassion and mercy to the Almighty’s creation. But as is demanded by his love of the Lord, never does she show any love and affection to the oppressor and the ingrate, his counter opposite in perfection. Yet, as is demanded by his compassion, he feels sorry for them and prays for their guidance.
He only needs the wealth and possessions the world has to offer to spend as charity in the way of the Divine. A mature person of perfection devotes himself only to the knowledge of the Divine and reuniting with the Real. From now on, he is a genuine servant who takes pays no attention to the pains and agonies of the world.
Mawlana Rumi -May Allah sanctify his secret- beautifully uses the below parable to emphasize how spiritual aptitudes always differ from one person to another, how each person behold the patterns embroidered by the Lord throughout the universe from different perspectives as reflected by their own mirrors of the heart and how some manage to continue being with the Lord despite seemingly being among crowds:
“A Sufi went to an adorned garden, to raise his spirits and to thereby throw himself deep in contemplation. He became infatuated with the vibrant colors of the garden. Closing his eyes, he began his muraqabah and contemplation. An ignorant man passing by thought the Sufi was asleep. Astonished and upset, he scolded the Sufi:
‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked. ‘Open your eyes and stare at the vines, the booming trees and the greening grass! Gaze at the works of Allah’s mercy!’
The Sufi replied: ‘Know one thing very well, you ignorant man, that the heart is greatest work of Allah’s mercy. The rest are like its shadow. A stream flows amid the trees. From its crystal water, you can see the reflection of trees on both sides. What is reflected on the stream is a dream garden. The real garden is in the heart, for the heart is the focus of Divine gaze. Its elegant and slender reflections are to be found in this worldly life, made of water and mud. Had the things in this world not been the reflection of the cypresses of the heart’s joy, the Almighty would not have called this dream world the place of deception. It is said in the Quran:
‘Every soul shall taste of death, and you shall only be paid fully your reward on the resurrection day; then whoever is removed far away from the fire and is made to enter the garden he indeed has attained the object; and the life of this world is nothing but a provision of vanities.’ (Ali Imran, 185)
The ignorant who presume the world to be Paradise and exclaim ‘here is Paradise!’ are those fooled by the sparkle of the stream. Those who are left distant from the true gardens, who are the righteous servants of Allah, incline to that reverie and are deceived. A day will come when this slumber of ignorance will come to an end. The eyes will open, the truth shall be seen. But what is the worth of seeing that sight during the final breath? A great joy to he who has died before death and whose spirit has had a scent of the truth of this garden…”
And without a doubt, should a person take no heed of the pleasures of the world that appeal to the ego and turn away from them, Allah, glory unto Him, will purify his spirit and enlighten his heart.
When the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- said, “The heart that is visited upon by light will open up and expand”, the Companions asked, “What is its sign, Messenger of Allah?” The reply was:
“Distancing oneself from the passing world, becoming devoted to the eternal life of the Hereafter and preparing oneself for death before it comes to pass.” (Tabari, Tafsir, VIII, 37)
The hearts of these loyal journeymen of this honorable road of marifah are like nacres that produce pearls larger than drops of April rain. They do not shrink back from turning many a raw heart, which nurtures fondness towards them, into a sizeable piece of pearl; as long as these aspiring hearts can understand the drop of rain that deserves to be kept in that nacre!
In the commentary of the Mathnawi, it is said:
“Allah, the possessor of Speech, whispered a secret into the cloud’s ear and tears began pouring out of its eyes like an emptied water skin. He whispered a secret into the rose’s ear and adorned it with the beauty of color and scent. He whispered a secret to the stone and turned it into an agate among all minerals. That is to say, the Lord manifested with His attribute al-Latif (the Subtle, the Graceful) and made the cloud downpour with water, the rose beautiful and the stone precious.
The Lord also whispered a secret into the human body and elevated to infinity the folk of marifah who protect that secret. Inspired by the Divine realm and salvaged from the physical, these saints of the Lord have tapped into the secret of closeness to the Real.”
Undoubtedly, these secrets are the secret of love, which, through numerous manifestations, conduce to the attaining of marifah. In its inspirational climes, the secret of love keeps hidden the perfection and beauty of everything.
Top-level saints experience, more intensely, the manifestations of essential love. Essential love, in the ordinary sense, is when a person inadvertently falls in love with another and establishes an affectionate connection. But in the real sense, essential love is an attraction towards the Lord in a like a manner and to become annihilated in Him.
The righteous, the privileged recipients of these manifestations of essential love, are not the types who love only when things are sailing smoothly and grow weaker in love when things begin to get tough. The allegory below offers a wonderful example of true, essential love:
Mawlana Jami -may Allah sanctify his secret- recounts:
“There was a young man who used to frequent the circle of our master Sadaddin Kashgari. He excelled in self-discipline, contemplation and love. But there came a day when he, like me, fell in love with a beautiful woman; and in a single moment, he transferred to her all the treasures he had amassed in his heart up until then.
So he one day bought a present of gold and diamonds and left it on the street she habitually walked past, hiding it, at the same time, to ensure nobody else saw it and picked it up instead of her. His beloved, he thought, would then collect it as she strolled past, without knowing who it was from and why it had been left there. Once I heard about this, I said to him:
‘What a strange thing is you are doing! You are leaving on her path that which took you so much effort to amass, just like that! Even if she saw and collected it, she is still not going to know who it is from and why it had been left there. At least leave a sign so she knows it is from you!’
Shaken, the young man responded in tears: ‘What are you talking about? Do you suppose that I do not know just how strange what I am doing is? I do not expect anything in return, for I do not want to discomfort her by making her to feel obliged towards me because of those gifts!’
I quivered. If the love felt for a mortal, I thought, could exude such depth, elegance and beautiful behavior, there is no guessing how magnificent a manifestation one may see from those who are enraptured in ‘essential love’”.
In explaining the spiritual levels of the heart by recollecting on his own experiences and the spiritual stages he outgrew, Mawlana Rumi -may Allah sanctify his secret- has used the term raw for the time he excelled as a dersiam (professor) in the Seljuk Madrasa mastering books of exoteric content, cooked to label the phase when he received the manifestations of Divine Knowledge whereby the mysteries of the universe became exposed, and burnt for the state in which he was virtually burnt to ashes in the flame of essential love.
Attaining to marifatullah is possible only through a contented belief in the Essence of the Divine and an understanding of Divine manifestations, to the degree allowed by human capacity.
O Allah! Allow us to sufficiently live up to the trusts You have entrusted us with! Hand us possession to enough righteous deeds that would usher us through to receive a maximum of Your Mercy in the Hereafter! Turn our hearts into stages exhibiting the magnificent manifestations of Your Love! Make us tap into the mystery of being created in the ‘best of mold’ so as to forever revive our hearts with the dews of Your Compassion!
 Wahdat-i Wujud is a Sufi conception systematized by Muhyiddin ibn Arabi -may Allah sanctify his secret-. There is yet another conception called Wahdat-i Shuhud, belonging to Imam Rabbani -may Allah sanctify his secret-, who is celebrated as the Mujaddid Alf-i Thani, the Restorer of the Second Millennium. Both conceptions are, in fact, explanations of the very same thing from two different windows; both seek to grasp and elucidate the difference between the Divine attribute of Being with the being/existence perceivable in the world of sense. With that said, there is one important difference between the two. Whereas Wahdat-i Wujud is to feel Divine Oneness (tawhid), Wahdat-i Shuhud is to observe the manifestations of Oneness. Since both conceptions essentially pertain to hal or the spiritual mindset, they must not be confused with philosophical reasoning or be tainted by it
 See, al-Araf. 143
 Prof. Marshall Johnson, renowned for his research in the field of anatomy, was one to feel astounded upon reading the particular Quranic verses which describe the embryonic development of humans. Especially striking his attention were the details given on the characteristics of mudhgah (foetus, literally ‘chewed flesh’):
A single chew of meat (mudghah)… precisely shaped according to the alignment of teeth; as if they are teeth marks on chewed meat. Its entire length is a centimeter, virtually the size of a single chew.
Found in a mudghah are the entire characteristics of a human being. Some are actual while others are potential, not yet activated. The science of medicine cannot find words to explain this phenomenon. Should it go ahead and say that the organs of the mudghah are active, it would not be true to the point as there are some that lay dormant; and vice versa. In contrast, however, the Quran elaborates it as a “…a lump of flesh, complete in make and incomplete” (al-Hajj, 5), an expression that comprises all relevant information on the mudhgah; an expression revealed many centuries ago.
Impulsively rejecting the Quran to begin with, Prof. Marshall then felt obliged to accept it in its entirety as he could not help but confess:
“Yes; this Quran, which throws light on the pursuit of scholars, has definitely been revealed by God. When their times come, each of its realities will reveal themselves, one by one, and come out into the open. That which God declares in the Quran as “For every prophecy is a term, and you will come to know (it).” (al-Anam, 67) will then become manifest. (See, Abdulmajid Zindani, Kur’ân’da İlmi Mûcizeler, p. 31-36).
 Jawamiul’-kalim denotes the ability to express great meaning in just a few words.
 See, Ajluni, Kashfu’l-Khafa, II, 132.