The Fifth of nine Discourses on Tawhid,
24th April 2004,
Al-Jami’a Mosque, Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa
We now come a step further from what we were doing at our last reunion. To recap, we will go to a couple of ayats which will confirm what we have already seen in the Qur’an. What we are coming to is an examination of an important term which is ‘Tajalli.’
The proper understanding of Tawhid is the engagement of the slave with his Lord. You cannot have a Tawhid that does not have one who understands it. The fullness of the meaning of this unity of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, involves the human creature entering into this stage of knowledge.
We will first look at Surat ar-Ra’d (13:33):
What then of Him Who is standing over every self seeing everything it does?
We have to recognise, whether or not it is pleasing to these modernists and scholars who think they can decide what the doctrines of thinking in Islam are, that the Qur’an is Clear, it is Mubin. “What then of Him Who is standing over every self seeing everything it does?” Therefore Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, Who is on the Throne, Who governs the universe is, ‘standing over every self.’ This is an extraordinary metaphor which means He is dominating every self and seeing everything it does. This is the intellectual orientation of Iman and the one who recognises this is established in Iman.
The question challenges the ignorant people who do not understand the nature of existence, they are missing the point of existence so their actions lead them and everyone else astray. The human creature is bonded to an obligation to his Lord to an understanding that He is a witness of his acts.
Now we go to Surat al-Hadid (57:3):
He is the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward.
He has knowledge of all things.
This is the famous ayat we all know and which encompasses everything of creation – firstness and lastness, outwardness and inwardness, that is time and space. Huwal-Awwalu wal-Akhiru – all the measure of time, the in-time from its beginning to the in-time at its end. Huwadh-Dhahiru wal-Batin – all the outsideness of things and all the insideness of things.
Look at how Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, specifically relates particular Attributes of His in explaining His reality to the human creatures. “He has knowledge of all things” – this is an Attribute of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala. So all the in-time things are in His present knowledge, His continuous knowledge, His absolute knowledge and there is nothing hidden from Him. Also, He has knowledge of all the outward of things and all the inward of things, and as we saw earlier He knows what is in the breast.
This is an absolute confirmation of the reality of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, and there is nothing excluded, there is nothing outside of that. All of the creational realities therefore are declaring the Presence of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala. One of the shuyukh of the East, Al-Iraqi said, “How can love deny there is nothing in existence except Him?” This is where the kuffar, who do not want to face up to this, say that we equate Allah with the universe, that Allah is the universe. But what we are saying is that the existent things have no reality in themselves, therefore they are masiwallah, other-than-Allah, therefore they are non-existent.
“How can love deny there is nothing in existence except Him?” So the reality of existence is Allah, but again we are stuck at a point which seems to have no exit. We have established that existence belongs to Allah alone. Attributes and Actions must be His also because Allah is One in His Essence, His Attributes – seeing, knowing, hearing, doing – and Actions must be His also because the attributes of these faculties cannot themselves manifest without an action. You cannot have seeing and knowing and hearing and doing and speech without action, and action belongs to Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala.
He has firstness and lastness, outsideness and insideness, and these relations are established with the essences of things. In other words, we have sight, we have knowledge, we have hearing, we have seeing – the essences of the things, of the creatures have these faculties but we do not have anything, we are not existent, only Allah is the existent. These essences of the things are subsistent in Allah’s knowledge. Our reality comes by being existent in the knowledge of Allah. The created things are the result of the Divine ‘kun!’ emerging from the inward to the outward and they are other-than-Allah. All the created things are masiwallah.
Allah’s Dhat, the Essence of Allah is not like anything, free from the determinations of the essences of things. Allah is not like the created creatures. We have essence, we have attributes, we have action but He is not connected to us.
Now we look at Surat an-Nahl (16:3). We still have to get out of this dilemma about our non-existence and yet our having these attributes that Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, has.
He created the heavens and the earth with truth.
He is exalted above anything they associate with Him.
You must concentrate very hard now, and you will understand it very clearly. “He created the heavens and the earth with truth,” ‘bil-Haqq’. Here Allah opens the door on the very core of this understanding of Tawhid.
We have established this dilemma that we have the attributes that Allah claims to be uniquely His and yet we somehow have an in-time experience of them – we see, we hear, we know, we judge, we act – but Allah has revealed here that He has created the heavens and the earth bil-Haqq, with the Truth. So there is not a connection, but it is how things are that all these created forms which have no existence in themselves, which are utterly dependent on Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, are nevertheless created bil-Haqq.
Allah will open out to us now what the nature of this bil-Haqq is, and again, without this you cannot have Tawhid.
He is raised above anything they associate with Him.
Allah is locking us into this stage of knowledge because we have to admit that He created the heavens and the earth bil-Haqq and at the same time He is exalted above the things. So it is still this impossible, apparent contradiction because He is exalted above everything they associate with Allah and what can you associate with Allah except the things, except the created existence?
Let us continue with discovering the Qur’anic ayats. We have to go to Surat Ta Ha (20:114):
High exalted be Allah, the King, the Real!
Allah says He is exalted, He is raised above all the created forms and He says He is the King, which means He rules over all the created forms. Also He is Al-Haqq, the Real. The mutakallimun have always recognised that this name Al-Haqq is used very specially by Allah in the Qu’ran and it relates to the Essence, the Dhat of Allah. So the very Essence of Allah, the unknowable, the unthinkable, that on which you cannot meditate or try to grasp – the very core of the Divine Reality – is the Ruler Who is exalted above everything.
Now we go back to Surat ad-Dukhan (44:39):
We did not create them except with Haqq.
- so the created forms have been created from the very Essence of Him Who is exalted above all the things. Then He says,
But most of them do not know it.
- most of the human creatures do not know this. This is also true of those Muslims who have abandoned the proper teaching of Islam which has remained constant from the beginning and has been in the hands of very respected and noble ‘ulama. It is only in the last one hundred and fifty years that this whole understanding collapsed. The interesting thing is that the understanding of this highest aspect of the Deen went along with that thing which sustained the whole of the Deen throughout the whole of society, which is the Amr of Shari‘ah. When the Amr was removed by which the Shari‘ah was imposed, then the understanding of Tawhid went. These things are not disconnected.
We did not create them except with truth, but most of them do not know it.
The loss of the Amr was the abandoning of the Tawhid.
They could not have abandoned the Shari‘ah if they had not lost the doctrine, the understanding of Tawhid. Therefore the responsibility for the disappearance of the leaders of the Muslims comes back on the common people who had been given this knowledge and who let it slip out of their fingers.
Now we go to Surat Yunus (10:5 and 6):
Allah did not create these things except with truth.
We make the Signs clear for people who know.
In the alternation of night and day
and what Allah has created in the heavens and the earth
there are Signs for people who have taqwa.
Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, gives another chance, another possibility to grasp this tremendous thing that we are moving towards understanding.
“Allah did not create these things except with truth.” We have established this, we have understood this. After that Allah says: “We make the Signs clear for people who know.” ‘Sign’ is a very important word in the Qur’an which appears throughout the Qur’an in delineating the people of knowledge from the ignorant, that is the muminun from the kafirun. “We make the Signs clear for people who know.” Remember that elsewhere Allah says: “There are signs in your self and on the horizon.” Therefore a sign is an indicator and these signs have been created to give us an understanding of how existence is.
“We make the Signs clear for people who know,” and the people who know are the people who glorify Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, because they have not been created except to glorify Him, subhanahu wa ta‘ala. If they have knowledge it is because they worship Him, if they do not worship Him then they do not have knowledge of Him. The matter is not one of ratiocination, it is not one of reason, but one of seeing clearly.
Knowing is by confirmation – “We make the Signs clear for people who know.” Then Allah indicates the sign:
In the alternation of night and day
and what Allah has created in the heavens and the earth.
The alternation of night and day means that this planet is moving in its orbit with a sun and a moon, and this regulates our existence on the earth. It is measured, it has order, everything is in its place. Our reality is based on the continuous flow of the time-process which only exists because the sun is there illuminating the earth, ‘setting’ – going out of our sight, and coming back into our sight with the day. These are signs which indicate the purposefulness, the meaningfulness of existence in the alternation of the night and day.
And what Allah has created in the heavens and earth.
– which therefore means that if you look out further beyond our immediate reality on earth with the sun and the moon, out to the stars, in all of this Allah then indicates the key of this knowing – the knowing clicks into something else. It is not knowing by the intellect, by measuring, it is knowing these are: “Signs for people who have taqwa.” If you realise the power of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, you change. This taqwa is something natural and connects to fitra. If you go to people who have not had the word of Islam, by their fitra they are in some way acknowledging their recognition of the movement of the stars. The people who have examined the ancient stone edifices of ancient peoples see that they have connected their understanding to the knowledge of the movement of the stars. It is an awareness of the harmony of the universe and this is from taqwa. Taqwa is therefore the foundation of knowledge. The person with taqwa is another kind of person, and this is the mumin. We are now moving closer.
We go to Surat al-‘Ankabut (29:44):
Allah created the heavens and the earth with truth.
There is certainly a Sign in that for the muminun.
Now it is clear. Grasping this is an important indication that Allah has deemed necessary to mention who it is for. It is for the muminun. The ones who know are the ones who have taqwa and the ones who have taqwa are the muminun, the people who have Iman in Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala. The Dhat, the Essence of Allah, is present in both the origination of the world and in its continuance. We have established that Allah is the Outward, because, “He has created the heavens and the earth bil-Haqq,” and this is a sign for the muminun.
Now we go to Surat an-Nur (24:25):
And they will know that Allah is the Clear Truth.
Now it is all being laid out. They will know that Allah is the Haqq al-Mubin, the Clear Truth, the Manifest Truth. They will know, and this is the knowledge that He says will come to the human creature, that Allah is manifest, clear Haqq – Essence, unknowable, exalted above everything they associate with Him. So the Dhat of Allah is present in the creation of the world and in the continuance of the world.
We stay with Surat an-Nur, ayat 35.
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
We are being taken further into the secret of existence. Further we find:
Allah guides to His Light whomever He wills.
So Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth and He will guide to His Light whomever He wants. We have established that Allah is One in His Acts, His Attributes and His Essence, unalterable, and He manifests Himself through His Attribute of light in the forms of the created objects, which in reality are only reflected entities because they have no existence in themselves. They are made bil-Haqq, so they are a reflection of what is true, manifesting outwardly the essences which are in the knowledge of Allah. So the Divine Qualities emerge in the world of created phenomena. In other words, the human creature has knowledge, will, seeing, hearing, power and action reflected on him by this light from the Essence of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, on His Throne.
Remember that things are not and cannot be created out of nothing. “Nothing can come of nothing,” as Shakespeare said. Equally non-being cannot manifest as the matter of being on the form of beings, so a nothing cannot make things happen. Allah is above all limitation and all individuation, and yet this happens by His Light. Allah reveals Himself in the objects in accordance with the essences of the things which He has created by His knowledge. They have these characteristics of knowing, seeing, willing, by His knowledge.
Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, has shown Himself in the objects in accordance with the essences of the things, hidden in His Essence and subsisting in His Attribute of knowledge. It is by His knowledge that He lets these things come into being. They are brought out by His Action: “Kun!” He only has to say to a thing, “Kun!” and it is.
The khalq, the created things come into created manifestation by the manifesting of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, by His name Al-Khaliq. The Creator is an Attribute of the One Who is Reality, is Essence, is Haqq, high exalted above everything they could connect with Him. The famous Jami said: “Essences of the creatures are mirrors wherein Allah reflects Himself. Or, Allah’s Being is the mirror wherein the essences reflect their forms.” The Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn al-‘Arabi said: “Allah is your mirror wherein you see yourself, and you are His mirror wherein He sees His own Names and their working.”
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi says, “Were He not and were we not, what has happened would not have happened.” Thus our existence is due to Him and His manifestation, His Tajalli is due to us. It is due to us that this manifestation takes place. He is the Rich, the Independent and we are the poor, the utterly dependent.