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Wujud (Finding and Existence)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism-2

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Wujud (finding and existence) is not what is meant in Qur'anic statements like the following: They assuredly find that God is One Who truly returns the repentance of His servants with acceptance and extra reward, and All-Compassionate (especially toward His believing servants) (4:64); He will find God All-Forgiving, All Compassionate (especially towards His servants who seek forgiveness for their evils and sins) (4:110); and In the end he will find God and meet with Him, and He will pay him his account in full (24:39). These are, respectively, more concerned with how those who have sinned or lapsed somewhat into deviations on the way, beg God for forgiveness, and how the unbelievers will find God or how God will treat them. Rather, finding and existence denote the finding of Him with His truth beyond all concepts of modality, as referred to in, O son of Adam, seek Me that you may find Me,[1] and some allegorical sayings of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. When travelers to the Truth attain this rank of finding, they feel and achieve a state of melting away in the presence of the manifestations of His "Face," with nothing being left behind except that state and the pleasure it gives. One who starts with this belief and advances toward knowledge and love of God is called "an initiate." Such initiates continue their journey by understanding the language of His signs in the outer and in their inner world and by feeling that their witnessing of Him is that of "a seeking one." Finally, when they have reached the ultimate point where they have found the truth in their consciousness according to the capacity of that consciousness, beyond all concepts of time, space and matter, each becomes the "one who has found." The beginning of this journey demands belief and perfect resolution, and its continuance requires being driven and led, and reaching the end according to the capacity of each, melting away and total annihilation in the face of the rays of the Realm of the Holy Presence. This final point in no way denotes incarnation or union (with God) or God's taking on a corporeal body or His being transformed into another being. It only denotes the state and pleasure of feeling as a drop in relation to the ocean and as a particle in relation to the sun. Abu'l Hasan al-Nuri[2] expresses the state of those who have reached this point vividly: "I have been going to and fro between finding and losing for twenty years. When I enjoy meeting with my Lord Whose Essence is unknown, I lose my heart; and when I feel my existence in heart, I then suffer a loss of Him."

Certainly, it is not possible for those who are still at the beginning of the way to feel the state described by al-Nuri. For this state, which is frequently felt and frequently disappears, resembles the state of a diver who feels the water when diving into it, and lets the water pull him or her deeper, and who feels only the water when he or she becomes "lost" in the depths. If such a feeling that appears on the way to reaching the truth of something is based on the knowing of the heart or consciousness, it is the culture of consciousness or cognizance in consciousness. If it is of the kind obtained with vision or insight, then it is sight. If travelers are in constant pursuit of increasing research, analysis, and synthesis, then the result is spiritual discovery and vision. Finally if they see everything annihilated in God, then their state is annihilation in God and subsistence with God, and they feel no need whatsoever for anybody else save Him.

At the beginning or in the first stage of the journey, travelers are saved from all doubts and hesitations and attain in their consciousness such a degree of knowledge of God that they no longer need deductive or inductive reasoning in the name of "finding," even though they sometimes refer to things and events when expressing the truth. Based on a knowledge that comes directly from the Divine Presence to aid finding, they rise to the horizon of knowledge of God they inwardly experience, and this knowing is above the kind of knowledge acquired by rational arguments and the observation of His "material" witnesses in the universe.

In the second stage, travelers reach the point where they feel and have the vision of the Eternally Existent One, which is in effect knowing Him with a knowledge based on spiritual observation of Him, without restricting Him with such considerations as body, substance, matter, time and space.

In the third stage, which marks almost the end point of the journey, travelers are in a state of experiencing the Truly Existent One without seeing any other existents save Him, and they attain annihilation in Him in their world of feelings.

This systematization of the journey is based on the assertion that spiritual knowledge of God is higher in value than the knowledge acquired through scientific or rational arguments, and that the spiritual vision of God is above the spiritual knowledge of Him, and that finding Him in self-annihilation in Him is more valuable than the spiritual vision of Him. However, this needs to be revised according to those who see the vision beyond finding.

There is another consideration based on the concentration of the Divine Existence only. This consideration, which has been called the Unity of Being, is sometimes reduced to a mere philosophical view, although it arises from a spiritually experienced state. It will be useful to give some information about it here.

* * *

In fact, all of existence is nothing more than a shadow or a manifestation of the Names and Attributes of the Unique One, the Eternally-Besought-of-All. Travelers favored with the knowledge of the truth behind things and events sometimes go into a state where they experience only His absolute Existence to such a degree that they become completely lost in It and all other existent beings disappear from their sight. Although this is a state experienced spiritually, it is sometimes reduced to a mere philosophical view or to a matter of speculation, in imitation of others who have experienced this state spiritually, and it can be confused with several other approaches, such as the Unity of the Witnessed, Monism, and Pantheism. Although a discussion of these approaches and their substantial difference from the Unity of Being is not among the topics which will be discussed in The Emerald Hills of the Heart, it would be useful to note some of the important points, as this is a matter open to misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

Existence is related to being and/or identity, nature and the existent beings themselves, and is unquestionably manifest. This is a view shared by numerous Muslim thinkers, as well as by many modern philosophers. However, existence is different from the existent beings, identity, and nature. Identity and nature must be conceived of before existence. For example, we can conceive of an amount of water with its identity and nature, even if it does not exist here. Its existence is additional and accidental to its being or identity. Something cannot exist without its essential qualities being combined with certain accidental elements. As regards our example, different states and qualities of water are additional to its essential being or identity. Although the essential identity always remains as it was, without any changes, accidental and additional qualities can be replaced with similar others. Water, while remaining as water in essence, can change into ice or vapor.

Just as a physical substance like water has an essential identity and nature, metaphysical beings have also an essential identity and nature. However, in saying this, we should not confuse the Being Whose Existence is Essential and Absolutely Necessary with contingent beings. Muslim thinkers have accepted the Absolutely Necessary Existence as the Being Who is Absolutely and Uniquely Self-Existent, and have also agreed that His Being is absolutely free from requiring a nature or a form or a composition; need is essential to all other beings whose existence is contingent and created. The Self-Existent One is free from such accidental qualities. It is not permissible to associate the Necessarily Existent One with a different, additional nature or existence. We cannot even conceive of nor mention such a possibility with regard to Him; it would be supposing the inconceivable to be conceivable to explain the question.

It is He Who is discerned in the universe. All things, each individually and all as a whole, are signs of His Existence. Things and events run in a gurgling flow and clearly point to Him at every juncture of their being. In one respect, the universe and humanity are the of the continuity of this flow, and human consciousness is that which hears, views, and reviews it.

From this perspective, all existence (creation) comes from Him and continuously flows like a river with uninterrupted manifestations. Because of the order, coherence, and speed of this flow, we cannot discern the interruptions in our nature or in the lives of things. Since the "film" of things and events is projected extremely swiftly and the very thin lines between the frames on the film strip cannot be discerned, we cannot feel the alternation of coming into existence and disappearing. Like separate pictures on a film being projected on a screen, things and events are projected on the screen of existence, one after the other, but we cannot discern the lines separating the frames.

They come and go, one after the other, with the only Unique One remaining;
That which comes, goes, and that which goes does not come back again: this is a mystery.

Those who cannot penetrate this mystery spend their lives like an insensate person, who cannot see, hear, or feel anything. While others who have familiarity with this mystery sometimes refer to vision or to witnessing when observing the creation, they sometimes mention only the absolute Existence in interpreting their observation, or they sometimes utter some words that are apparently incompatible with the rules of the Shari'a that suggest union and incarnation. They do this because of their inability to find words that express their vision and discovery. It will even sometimes happen that there appears a person who is stuck in monism and who commits great sins by seeing the absolute Existence as if it were a permeating spirit that manifested itself as the creation. It is possible that the universe may be viewed as an image or a shadow, as it is a reflection of the Light of the absolute Existence, and that things and events, including humanity, can be seen as being unstable, transitory images. However, this does not by any means imply that the universe is He. The truth is that it is He Who eternally exists without anything else eternally existing with Him. He willed the objects or identities in His eternal Knowledge to be clothed in an external, sensible existence in accordance with the measures He determined for them. This happened along with or within time and space; in other words, time and space began or appeared together with His bringing forth the objects or identities existing in His Knowledge into external existence. He observes the manifestations of His Existence that are indescribable and beyond-all-concept with the eyes of others-the creatures He has created. He favors everything with the rank of being a polished mirror to Him.

He has done all this with the single command "Be!" and with this command He has clothed the archetypes in external existence and displayed them in different forms. As He has done all this with a single command, He can destroy everything in a moment with another single command.

He said "Be!" once and the whole universe was;
If He says, "Do not exist any longer!" everything will immediately be destroyed.

Since the universe did not exist eternally along with Him and since it was brought into existence by His peerless, inimitable creation, and since it continues to exist by His Sustaining, then its existence is relative and dependent and can be viewed as being essentially non-existent. Everything owes its existence and subsistence to Him absolutely. The Eternally Existent One willed that His perfections be observed in innumerable mirrors and so created existence as a shadow of the shadow of His Knowledge and Existence; this has included us as a part of creation. Our identities as "I," "you", and "he" or "she" had not been thoroughly distinguished with respect to our existence in His Knowledge. Destiny or His "Pre-Determination" identified us as individuals, and His Power clothed us in our "ego," thus distinguishing and bringing us into external, sensible existence as complete individuals with different natures particular to each one of us. As He has manifested on us all His Attributes, He has entrusted us with a restricted will-power. He has also endowed us with different potentials which we can develop or realize as abilities. He has determined goals for us according to our abilities and endowed us with inclinations to realize those goals and has given us the ability to make use of or direct these inclinations. Thus, in addition to His Attributes of Knowledge and Existence, which He has manifested on us, He has also honored us with the manifestations of His other Attributes. So what behoves us is to willingly resign ourselves to this great, Divinely-willed honor and act accordingly.

Those who attain the horizon of viewing existence in a certain spiritual state regard their existence as essentially non-existent in the face of the essential, absolute, eternal, and everlasting Knowledge and Self-Existence of God. This means the non-acceptance of a transient shadow in the face of an Eternally Self-Existent One. Feeling that the whole of existence is as a single unit is different from that the whole of sensed existence is essentially identical with the absolute Existence. Divine truths are never the same as relative truths. Although the Divine Names and Attributes, such as God (Allah), the All-Merciful (al-Rahman), and the All-Providing (al-Razzaq) seem to point to a single truth concerning the Being called by or described by these, they are different both from the perspective of the concept to which each points and the impression that each causes to rise in minds. For this reason, one who has true, substantial knowledge of God considers the relation between the Truly Existent One and other beings whose existence is relative and dependent in proper terms, and observes the true criteria in thinking, while those who are in a certain state of experience and spritiual pleasure may lapse into confusion.

In the realm of the relative truths-the facts related to creation-there are manifestations with different names or titles, such as living and non-living, and in the living realm, there are the animals, humankind, angels, and jinn and Satan. All the existing beings that are called by such collective names can be traced back to a unity that arises from a stage or rank in the process of creation, which we call "the first determination" or "the Pure Realm of Divine Dominion" or the "Truth belonging to Ahmad" (the name of the Prophet before his coming to the world). The overall Divine manifestation in this stage is viewed as His overall manifestation over the whole of creation with all His Names (Tajalli Wahidiya), though some prefer to call it Tajalli Ahadiya. This manifestation caused the archetypes in God's Knowledge to develop and, with the concentration of the manifestations of certain Divine Names while others remained subordinate-the manifestation which we usually call Tajalli Ahadiya-the archetypes were individualized.

One with a true knowledge of God and a true vision of the truth behind the appearances can discern the relative truth and its relation with the Divine truth and God's absolute Oneness and His overall manifestation over the whole of creation with all His Names at the same instant. They do not lapse into confusion. Even though they feel that everything goes back and ends in an essential unity, they can see each individual being in its particular nature and therefore can distinguish between the absolute, necessary and essential Existence and the relative one. This does not cause them either to ignore the gifts coming from spiritual vision and discoveries or to remain indifferent to the acquisitions of feelings and sound reasoning. Those who have set up their royal tents on this horizon express their perceptions in their true nature and with a true distinction between those things that are absolute, essential and original and those that are relative and dependent. They conclude that although there is an absolute, essential truth, its manifestations as sensible existence are numerous. They never lose their bearings or true direction and therefore do not fall into deviancy.

In addition, the Existence of the Truth has usually been viewed from two perspectives. Looking from one perspective, the Attributes are ignored and therefore the differences among them or their manifestations are not considered. Those who view the Existence of the Truth from this perspective are people of state and vision, who concentrate only on the Divine Being Himself. Some view this perspective as that of the Pure Being, but leading scholars of Sufism give to it such designations as Uniqueness, the Pure Divine Realm, the Realm with No Determination, and the Unknown Identity. Those who have acquired this perspective, which is also a rank from where the Divine Being can be viewed, experience this state each according to his or her capacity. Looking from the other perspective, the Divine Being is considered with all His Attributes in the differences of their particular characteristics and manifestations. This perspective, which is also a rank, is designated as the Oneness, the Pure Realm of Divine Dominion, the First Determination, or the Truth of Muhammad.

God's being the One or Oneness, which denotes, in connection with His relation to the creation, His overall manifestation of all His Names throughout the universe, has an inward and outer aspect. We can call the former His being the Deity or Divinity and the latter His being the Lord or Lordship. Although these two aspects are two faces or aspects of a single truth, there is a slight difference between them which initiates can discern, according to their personal experiences during the journey. For this reason, initiates of varying states, perceptions, and pleasures can interpret the states differently. For example, some initiates tend to do away with their carnal selves and egotism, freeing themselves from the considerations of their relative, self-existence, which they regard as an obstacle to feeling the All-Holy Existence with all their hearts. They are rooted in annihilation in God and absorbed in subsistence with God, sipping peace and contentment from the pure water of His company. Others have melted away in the face of the rays that come from the All-Holy Existence to the extent that they are unaware of their own relative existence and their surroundings. More than this, they regard the ability to discern the relative existence of others than the Absolute One as a dream and the attribution of existence to others than Him as covert polytheism.

It is natural that those who have different perceptions and feelings should voice these and interpret the issue of existence differently. Some may suggest pantheism in their styles, some monism, some may assert the Unity of Being, while still some others clearly adopt the Unity of the Witnessed.

Now let us see how the theologians and the scholars of Sufism themselves view the matter:

Sa'd al-Din al-Taftazani[3] deals with the Sufis in two categories from the viewpoint of their perceptions of existence. According to him, some Sufis are quite sensible in their view of the Unity of Being. Although they accept the multiplicity of other things in existence other than the absolutely Existent One, when they reach the final point in their journey and see themselves totally immersed in the infinite ocean of Divine Oneness with their being absorbed in the Divine Being and their attributes in the Divine Ones, all else save Him disappears from their sight; the result of this is that they can only see the All-Holy Existence. This state is regarded as and called the annihilation in Divine Oneness, which the one who is the most advanced in belief in Divine Oneness, upon him be peace and blessings, indicated in his report from God, Who said: "My servant gets nearer and nearer to Me until I love him by fulfilling the supererogatory acts of worship. When I love him, I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he grasps, and his feet on which he walks. (His hearing, seeing, grasping, and walking take place in accordance with My will and commandments.)" Those who have almost completed their journey in this rank cannot find words to express the scenes they witness nor the feelings that arise in their consciousness, and therefore they may utter words whose meanings are beyond their purpose and which sometimes suggest union and incarnation.

According to Taftazani, there is another group of Sufis. They claim the Unity of Being and project it as a philosophy or theory. They regard whatever there is in the name of existence as comprising the Divine Being only. According to them, there is no other kind of existence save the Existence of the All-Originating One in the universe. All other things or beings that seem to exist are no more than a mirage or an illusion.

As Mustafa Sabri Effendi[4] also pointed out, the first group are called Sufis, while the second group are known as pretenders of Sufism. The expressions of the first group that suggest Unity of Being arise from a spiritual, ecstatic state and an inability to find the words to express it. The consideration of the others is a distinct philosophy or theory.

Jalal al-Din al-Dawwani[5] tries to base the considerations of the Unity of Being on a theoretical foundation. He explains: Since it is inconceivable that all other beings save Him can come into existence by themselves, every contingent being (i.e. whose existence is not necessary or absolute) must depend on an absolute, necessary existence. In addition, as any contingent, created being cannot have come into existence or subsist by itself, it cannot oppose the point on which it is dependent in coming into existence and subsistence. So, all things and/or beings and causes or means of their coming into existence can continue to exist by the point (the First Cause or Creator of Causes) on which they are dependent. This leads tothe conclusion that the existence of every other being save Him is relative, even nominal. Although such beings have relative existence that is dependent on the absolute Existence, we cannot regard them as having an independent self-existence.

According to this approach, although there are numerous, relatively existent beings in the universe, there is only One with a true, independent, self-existence. All the things we observe are the manifestations of that All-Originating One's acts.

Muhy al-Din ibn al-'Arabi goes a step further and observes: Nothing has anything worth mentioning in terms of existence other than that it is something originated, or manifested, or reflected. These manifestations or reflections occur (like the frames on a film) so quickly, and follow one another so fast, that we wrongly perceive this occurrence as being uninterrupted. After all, all that (other than the Absolutely Existent One) we regard as existence consists of this seemingly-uninterrupted manifestation. Jami' shares this consideration, saying: "Whatever there is in the universe is either an illusion or imagination or shadow-like reflections in mirrors." Badr al-Din al-Simawi[6] refers or reduces everything to matter and cannot be considered to be among even those who have a theoretical view of the Unity of Being worth studying.

The considerations of some concerning the doctrine of Unity of Being are based on a state of pleasure, while some fix their eyes on the True Being exclusively, and others have only a theoretical or philosophical approach to the matter, having provoked different thoughts, comments, and expressions. Despite all of these, those who share this view at all times and places are agreed that there is no existent being that exists and subsists by itself save God. For this reason, attributing existence to others than God is done because their existence or subsistence depends upon God, not because they exist or subsist by themselves. There is a single true existence, with all things and events being manifestations of it. From another perspective, if existence is an ocean, objects and events are the waves. However, each wave has a unique characteristic, distinguishing it from the others, while it is seen to be lost in the ocean by those who are immersed in a state of spiritual pleasure.

If the Unity of Being is approached from a merely philosophical perspective without considering that it is a view based on a state of spiritual experience and which sees the creation as a mere shadow of the True Existence, it will inevitably be reduced to the denial of the Divine Attributes and Names and cause many negative ideas to arise concerning religion, morality, knowledge, and wisdom. It can even cause one to fall into a hidden association of partners with God in the name of Divine Unity.

With its essential principles, such as Say, "There is no deity save God," and attain salvation, and Say, He is God, the One and Unique (112:1), and Your deity is the Deity Who is only One (2:113), the religion of Islam has continuously insisted on the absolute Oneness of God, never mentioning ideas or concepts such as the Unity of Being or the Unity of the Witnessed, as doctrines it has sanctioned. For this reason, such concepts have been regarded as arising from spiritual states and experiences and have not been considered as objective or binding teachings.

Actually, the concepts of the Unity of Being and the Unity of the Witnessed arise from certain feelings and perceptions that people who are of a particular temperament and way of journeying, and who have reached a particular rank of knowledge of God, develop in the state in which they have been favored during their spiritual journey. When they get out of, or are awakened from, that state of pleasure or intoxication, which has caused them to voice these concepts, review their feelings and perceptions in the light of the essential doctrines which the Messenger brought and preached. Nevertheless, it is also a fact that some sayings uttered by those favored with true knowledge of God in moments of intoxication and immersion, and some others which, even though they have been uttered in wakefulness, have caused confusion due to the choice of words, have led those with ill opinions of these people to make philosophical speculations about the Absolute Self-Existence and the existence of contingent beings. A mind devoted and obedient to the Shari'a understands from the dictum There is no existent being save Him that there is no true self-existent and self-subsistent being except Him, while those who deal with the matter purely from a philosophically speculative approach understand that whatever exists is God. According to the former group, only God has a substantial existence, with every other being than Him having only a relative existence or as a shadow. As for the others, all existence, visible or invisible is He. It is clear that such a view or consideration entails polytheism and has nothing to do with the doctrine of the Unity of Being, which the Muslim Sufis perceive and express in a spiritual state of spiritual pleasure. It has almost the same meaning as pantheism and/or monism, which is related to union and incarnation. Such deviancy has been continually responsible for the most abominable forms of the association of partners with God, such as Ezra is God, the Messiah is God, 'Ali is God, Baha'ullah is God, the Pharaoh is God, and Nimrod is God.

* * *

The issues concerning God, the universe and humankind are obvious when looked at from a viewpoint of Qur'anic disciplines. However, a number of ignorant persons and a number of ones who are illintended have adopted deviant approaches, have tried to prove existence and to substitute the world for God. They have distorted the truth of Divinity or denied Him any attributes or regarded Him as a spirit that pervades existence. They have also offered views that God takes on bodily forms (incarnation) or that there is a created being that is united with God and becomes God (union). They have distorted the Divine truth in the ugliest way possible by claiming that the statement that "There is no deity but God" is the same as "There is no existent being save Him," meaning that God is identical with the visible universe.

In my view, in this respect we should adopt an approach such that we regard the concept of the Unity of Being, which negates the existence of beings other than God, as being based on a state of spiritual pleasure and as arising from being over-powered by absorption and being lost in God's Existence along with an inability to find the words to express this state. We cannot accept the philosophically speculative theory that existence comprises God and that His Existence consists of the existence of all beings. We must protect Muslim minds from such theories. We should also bear in mind that if the doctrine of the Unity of Being is not outlined by and kept within the essential principles of Islamic belief, it may lead to an incorrect conception of God, His Existence and His relation with the created. It is a only with a correct conception of Divine Unity that people can be favored with a special knowledge that stems from Him and in which they perceive the true character or reality of things and events. Then they turn away from these events to the Eternal Witness, and in indifference to His signs and the signposts that show the way to Him, become immersed in the lights of His absolute Existence and melt away with respect to their carnal self and ego. But to adopt speculative theories or views that ascribe divinity to things and events means the association of partners with God and this implies going beyond one's limits of perception and knowledge. Such views or theories can even amount to the denial of God, the Truth, He Who is known by His Names and qualified with His eternal Attributes, and Who infinitely surrounds all things with His majestic Attributes such as Knowledge, Power and Will.

The two views or approaches mentioned here are worlds apart from each other. One is based on seeing everything, not excluding the human ego itself, as being, with respect to its existence and subsistence, absolutely dependent on the Divine Existence and Self-Subsistence. Those who adopt such an approach are annihilated in the Almighty and subsist by Him, believing that everything comes from Him. The other is the view of the self-conceited ones who are unaware of what a spiritual state is or what spiritual pleasures are. They speculate that all things, including themselves, are united with Divinity or with a part of it. While the former regard themselves in the face of the Divine Existence as a drop in the ocean or a particle in the sun, the latter consider that the ocean is the drop itself or the sun is the particle itself. They maintain that the universe is an appearance of Him. The former are self-possessed, always feeling in awe of Him and pursuing Him as the final goal. The latter are, on the other hand, loose, inattentive and lack any goal. The author of  Mizan al-'Irfan describes the former as follows:

Those who have reached the final point in their journey,
Are all self-possessed and people of perfection.
Their state is described as "finding,"
And they have no interest in whether they exist or not.
The voice cannot express their state,
Only those who share their state can understand them.
For they have reached annihilation in the Divine Being,
Having been freed from their corporeal existence,
Since they have been annihilated in the Existence of the Truth,
Absorbed in states of exhilaration and ecstasy.
They cannot see another existence save that of the Truth,
His love invades through their hearts,
Yet they are aware that still they are His servants.
The states of others do not resemble theirs.
These are the ones, O brother, who maintain
Their relation with God as His servants;
The one who writes about them no longer has any say.

According to these people, all things exist because the Necessarily Existent One exists. The relation of the Divine Being with things and events is that He brings them into existence and maintains and cares for them. But it is not possible for us to know the character of this relation, or how this relation takes place and is maintained. What we know is that it is He Who originates all things and maintains them. Nothing can "be" without Him; nothing can come into existence or maintain its existence without Him. For this reason, everything is from Him and it is He with all His Attributes of Perfection and Grace Who is the Originator of all things. In this approach, there is no room left for the duality of cause and source.

The prince of lovers (Jalal al-Din al-Rumi) says:

Certainly, there is no duality concerning the Almighty,
I, We, You have nothing to do with that Holy Being.
Incarnation and Union are inconceivable for Him.
Thinking of duality for the Unique One is obviously an error.

There is a point to be mentioned here. The doctrine of the Unity of Being maintained by some Muslim Sufis as being based on a spiritual state of pleasures and absorption is not contrary to the Islamic belief of Divine Unity. However, we should admit that there are many utterances which have been made due to intoxication and immersion which are apparently incompatible with the principles of belief. What follows is one such utterance by an intoxicated one that suggests monism:

The Almighty has declared: "I am nearer to you than your jugular vein."
That is, the ocean and a drop it contains are the same.
O human being, you have fallen away from your own self.
If you but know, all are the same-the one who witnesses and the one witnessed,
And the place where witnessing takes place; and also the same are
The owner and protector and the one owned and protected.
Though the universe is the result of the manifestation of
God's All-Beautiful Names,
There is only one Greatest Name among those Names.
O Lord! You are the One Who absolutely exists; as for other existing beings,
They are no more than images or illusions.
For this reason, whatever You create is one and the same.
Though the beauty of all beautiful things is because of Your all-enchanting Beauty,
Still there is only one uniquely Beautiful Being.
Every sedition and seduction in the world is because of His love.
It should be known that the chief cause of this sedition anddissension is the one and the same.

It is true that the style of these words is also seditious and seductive. Some have tried to comment on such words so as to make them compatible with the spirit of religion, while others have wandered in the pits of monism when interpreting them.

Like natural sciences, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and medicine, and the religious sciences, such as jurisprudence, Qur'anic interpretation, and Hadith, Islamic Sufism has some concepts peculiar to itself. Those who do not know the true meaning and contents of these concepts will never be saved from errors. It is not possible to know and understand Islamic Sufism correctly without knowing these concepts.

To sum up: the concept of the Unity of Being comes from a spiritual state marked by personal spiritual experiences and the pleasures and ecstasy that arise from an initiate's knowledge of God and His Oneness. An initiate who has this degree of attainment feels inwardly that the truly existent one is the only True One, and regards all other beings as a shadow or as having an imaginary existence. The Muslim Sufis who possess this concept have experienced such a degree of knowledge of God in their hearts and have made it a dimension of their conscious nature, trying to express it in proportion to their power of expression. Their expressions concerning unity in multiplicity and multiplicity with respect to unity are the utterances of these inward feelings and experiences, based on the consideration that unity is the foundation and source of everything, while multiplicity is illusory. In fact, it is not possible for a hero of state and pleasure who witnesses the manifestations of His Names and Attributes in every thing and event to think or act otherwise. They feel the omnipresence of that All-Exalted Being far beyond the horizons that are within the reach of human reason and imagination. They feel that they are always in His company and they turn to that Being Who eternally exists and who cannot be known with respect to His Divine Essence. What follows is an excerpt from how they put their experiences into words:

The All-Beautiful One Who wills to see
His Beauty through innumerable faces,
Should be in innumerable parts, like mirrors broken.

As for another view of the Divine Being in His relation to the universe, which is known as the Unity of the Witnessed and which has become a separate school led by Imam Rabbani Ahmad Faruq al-Sarhandi,[7] although it is nearer to the thought of the Prophet's Companions than the Unity of Being, it cannot be considered as being fully compatible with the consideration that is a way of perfect self-possession and complete wakefulness, because it also originates in a state of intoxication and absence and is combined with ecstasy and absorption. By contrast, those following the way of the Companions present to their audience their experiences, which even when experienced in a state of intoxication and absorption, with extraordinary self-possession, never falling into confusion.

The Unity of Being, which is known in the West as pantheism and, with its variations, monism, is a philosophical school. This approach, based on seeing the universe as God Himself or His appearance, cannot be reconciled with Islamic Sufism. Furthermore, it is impossible to reconcile it with any Islamic philosophical movement. As mentioned before, while those who share this approach have strayed from the right path by admitting a pervading divinity and sharing it among all things, the Muslim Sufis following the Prophetic way have always believed that everything is from Him, not that everything is He.

O God! Show us the truth as the truth and enable us with the observance of it, and show us the falsehood as falsehood and enable us with the avoidance of it.

And let God's blessings be on our master Muhammad, who is the guide to the truth, and on his family and Companions, the noble, godly ones.


[1] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an, 2:302.

[2] Abu'l-Hasan al-Nuri (d. 1499) is one of the famous Sufi ascetics. He was mostly concerned with the matter of wujud. (Trans.)

[3] Sa'd al-Din al-Taftazani (d. 1390) was  a famous scholar of logic, rhetoric, grammar, theology and jurisprudence of Samarqand during the rule of Timur. His Sharh al-'Aqaid al-Nasafiyya is among the basic works of the Muslim theology. (Trans.)

[4] Mustafa Sabri Effendi (1869-1954) was a Turkish scholar and shaykh al-Islam. He lived in Turkey and Egypt. Mawqif al-'Aql wa'l-'Ilm is among his most well-known works. (Trans.)

[5] Jalal al-Din Muhammad ibn As'ad al-Dawwani (1426-1502) was a prominent philosopher and theologian from Shiraz. He combined elements of illuminationist and Peripatetic philosophy and possibly also interests in Ibn al-'Arabi. His Lawami' al-Ishraq fi Makarim al-Akhlaq ("Lustres of Illumination on the Noble Virtues") is famous. (Trans.)

[6] Badr al-Din al-Simawi was born in Simavna town in today's Greece. He is generally known for his materialistic views of existence. He was sentenced to death because of his participation in revolts in the political scene in the Period of Interregnum (1402-1413). His Waridat is famous. (Trans.)

[7] Imam Rabbani, Ahmad Faruq al-Sarhandi (d. 1624): Accepted by many as "reviver of the second millennium." Born in Sarhand (India) and well-versed in Islamic sciences, he removed many corrupt elements from Sufism. He taught Shah Alamgir or Awrangzeb (d. 1707), who had a committee of scholars prepare the most comprehensive compendium of the Hanafi Law. (Trans.)