The Sixth of nine Discourses on Tawhid,
1st May 2004,
Al-Jami’a Mosque, Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa
I will just recapitulate the summing-up of the point we got to last week. We quoted Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn al-‘Arabi as saying: “Were He not and were we not, what has happened would not have happened.” There he is declaring the foundational reality in which we find ourselves. From it we derive that our existence is due to Him and His manifestation is due to us. Thus He is the Rich and Independent, and we are the poor and utterly dependent.
We summed up that Allah the Powerful, the Immutable, without change or multiplicity, without hulul – without embodiment in any form, or ittihad – without joining to anything, and without division, He manifests Himself by what we took as a technical term, al-‘Ayan ath-Tha-bita, by His source-forms through His Attribute of light. The countless variety of source-forms that come into creation do not affect the unity of Allah and His being beyond them.
We have come to this key word which is ‘Tajalli’. It is a Qur’anic term which means ‘manifestation’ or ‘revelation’, ‘revealing of itself.’ For there to be a Tajalli from Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, this requires a form. There cannot be a manifestation unless it becomes manifest so these forms are in the knowledge of Allah, but they have no intrinsic reality. Yet things do not come out of absolute nothingness, they come out of the nothing which is the zone of His knowledge of the forms which will manifest. We have to make this distinction.
To understand the nature of this manifesting we will look at Surat al-A’raf (7:143):
When Musa came into Our appointed time and His Lord spoke to him,
he said, ‘My Lord, show me Yourself so that I may look at You!’
He said, ‘You will not see me but look at the mountain.
If it remains firm in its place, then you will see Me.’
But when his Lord manifested Himself to the mountain,
He crushed it flat
and Musa fell unconscious to the ground.
When he regained consciousness he said, ‘Glory be to You!
I make tawba to You and I am the first of the muminun.’
When Musa came into Our appointed time.
Look at how Allah surrounds the whole event, how He is the author of the event. It is an unfolding in itself of the point at which, as it were, the fixing of the Nabawiyya of Sayyiduna Musa takes place. ‘Our appointed time’ is Allah’s appointment of him as a Messenger.
His Lord spoke to him
– Allah spoke to Sayyiduna Musa because this is part of the Maqam of the Messengers, that they are spoken to by Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala.
He said, ‘My Lord, show me Yourself!’
What is amazing is that there are these things in the Qur’an, and there are these ignorant, untaught ‘ulama who have not been taught to reflect on the nature of Tawhid, and have not been able to confront that Sayyiduna Musa says: “My Lord, show me Yourself.” This is what is called the Maqam al-Uns, the Station of Intimacy. In an intimacy with his Lord he speaks freely to Him. You will also find in all the recounting of the Mi’raj this intimacy with which Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, speaks openly to his Lord. “My Lord, show me Yourself so that I may look at You.” This is the Station of Intimacy, of love. The lover wants to look on the Face of the Beloved.
Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, says: “You will not see Me,” and remember this in what we are coming to later – then He takes him into the station of Ma‘rifa. He says: “But look at the mountain.” The mountain is the most unarguable evidence of the khalq, of the created, it is solid rock.
“If it remains firm in its place then You will see Me.” He has asked for this to happen and Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, orders him to look at the mountain, at the created form.
“But when His Lord manifested Himself,” when His Lord made this Tajalli, which is the word we have been looking at – “When His Lord manifested Himself to the mountain He crushed it flat.”
This event was the illumination, the opening, the fatiha of Sayyiduna Musa, ‘alayhi salam. What did it mean? From the outside we can say this: the mountain was still there but Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, had taken the form from the mountain so that all that was left was the dust. “Huwal-Awwalu wal-Akhiru, wadh-Dhahiru wal-Batin.” Sayyiduna Musa realised that Allah is the Creator of the Dhahir and that He had removed the source-form which Allah had in His knowledge, so the thing was reduced to dust. It did not disappear, it was not magic, but the form was gone. He realised that all the projections of the created universe are themselves manifestations of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala. So when Allah manifested to the mountain He crushed it flat.
And Musa fell unconscious to the ground.
This is taken among the teachers of Tasawwuf to be an open description of what the Sufis call ‘fana fillah’. Sayyiduna Musa was annihilated in this knowledge of Allah’s revelation. Moulay al-‘Arabi ad-Darqawi said: “If the world disappears, Allah has to appear.” Of course Allah is not compelled to anything, but what he meant was that in the wisdom of how He has set up existence, if the world disappears, Allah has to appear because He is the Haqq. When the Tajalliyat of the solid forms vanish, then Allah is manifest. Allah says in Surat an-Nur (24:35):
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
Then Sayyiduna Musa returns to consciousness. This next part of the ayat, in the language of the Sufis, is ‘baqa billah’. He does not return exalted, thinking that he has some secret knowledge. He returns completely, utterly reduced to being the first of the muminun and he says:
“Glory be to You.” First he exalts Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, he makes tasbih. Then he makes tawba:
I make tawba to You.
He is the Messenger of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, and he makes tawba to Allah, he asks forgiveness. He even asks forgiveness for his adab that he should have asked that he could have the vision of Allah.
I am the first of the muminun.
This is the declaration of Sayyiduna Musa that he has accepted the destiny of being the Messenger of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala. In saying, “I am the first of the muminun,” he is saying ‘I have taken on this task you have given me. I am the Messenger of Allah.’ All this is in this event of this Tajalli from the Essence of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala.
We will go now to the Diwan of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, rahimahullah, to the qasida called The Buraq of the Tariq. Our Shaykh says:
The Haqq can only be seen in manifestation,
whether by an angel or a mortal man.
The first manifestation of the light is the light of Ahmad,
may the most excellent of blessings be upon him eternally.
Now we go to the Lesser Qasida where our Shaykh says:
The Merciful is only to be seen in manifestations like the Throne, the Footstool, the Tablet or the Lote-Tree.
Again, what is being said in the Diwan is being echoed from what we have found in the Qur’an. The Tajalli comes but only allowing the creature to see that the manifestation of the Essence is the manifestation of the power of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, in these forms which are the limit-forms of creational knowledge.
These two things have come together which we looked at at the beginning and established ruthlessly as separate. We have on the one hand this term of the mutakallimun, of the Sufis, which is the ‘Tanzih Mutlaq’. This is absolute transcendence. ‘Tanzih’ is that nothing can be associated with Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala. At the same time we have Tashbih, which is that there is an imminence, a Presence of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, in manifestation. They are created forms but as we saw earlier, “We have created everything bil-Haqq,” they are not illusion.
Shaykh al-Akbar said very beautifully, “If you assert only Tanzih,” which is like the wahhabis, that He is above all and has absolutely no connection with the creation at all, “you limit Allah.” Because you are still left with this enormous creation. “If you assert only Tashbih,” in other words, like the pantheists who say that Allah is in the universe, in all the stuff, “then you define Him.” So if you exalt Him above the creation you limit Him, and if you declare He is in it, you define Him. “But if you assert both, you follow the right course and you are a leader and master in Ma‘rifa.”
The Dhat of Allah, the Essence of Allah, the Haqq, is existent. The dhat, the essences of the created things are non-existent but we have established that when we say ‘non-existence’ it is a relative non-existence because nothing can come out of nothing. It comes out of what is in the knowledge of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, without diminishing or being connected to it.
Thus from the point of view of essences, otherness is predicated from the beginning to the end. All the essences of the created things are masiwallah, other-than-Allah. The known of Allah, from eternity, is still other- than-Allah. They are knowledges, but they are not the ‘He-ness’ of Him. The Essence is still immutable, untouched. These known things are known in His knowledge just as, to take a metaphor, you can know about someone somewhere and visualise them, but it does not diminish you or add to you. There are signs in yourself and on the horizon if you only understand. The creation is not connected to Allah, it is utterly dependent on Allah. Without Him it cannot be and He is independent of everything.
From the point of view of the essences, otherness is real. From the point of view of Existence, of Being, of the Divine – identity is real. Surat al-Ikhlas:
In the name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful
“Say: ‘He is Allah, Absolute Oneness,
Allah, the Everlasting Sustainer of all.
He has not given birth and was not born.
And no one is comparable to Him.’”
The existence of the Haqq is nothing but the existence of the created beings. That is, the One is revealing Itself in the forms of the essences of the created things. Otherness and identity. The oneness of Allah and the otherness of all the created things. We understand with a double knowledge this Tawhid which is One.
Shah Kamaluddin said: “To soar into the realms of Ma‘rifa, develop the two wings of identity and otherness.” The created things are other-than-Allah and Allah has identity with a knowledge that encompasses all the created things.
We have come to four terms which will clear this up for us. The one who sees only the phenomenal, the created stuff, otherness, is veiled. He is called mahjoub. He who identifies the phenomenal with the Haqq, the one who says: “God is in the world, He is actually the world,” is an illusionist. He is called maghzoub. He who is intoxicated with the wine of unity, who says: “There is only Allah!” is drunk with Allah. He is an absorbtionist absorbed in the majesty of Allah, and is called majdhoub. But he who distinguishes between otherness, the creation, and identity, the Creator, is loved by Him. He is mahboub.
So you have four – the mahjoub, the maghzoub, the majdhoub and the mahboub. The first sees only otherness and he is veiled, mahjoub. He is a materialist. The one who identifies the phenomena with the haqq is a maghzoub. The one who is intoxicated with the wine of His unity, he is absorbed in the Divine and is an absorbtionist and is majdhoub. But the one who distinguishes between otherness and identity is loved by Him and is mahboub. These are the four states of knowledge.
The first one is kufr itself. The other two are those who have been led astray, and the one who is on the Sirat al-Mustaqim is the one who distinguishes between otherness and identity.
To see this in its clearest form we will go to Surat ar-Rahman (55:19-21).
He has let loose the two seas, converging together, with a barrier between them
they do not break through.
So which of your Lord’s blessings do you both then deny?
This is the summing up of this matter. Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, has set up existence with these two seas. They come together, but there is a barrier between them which does not break. Allah is the Rabb and the slave is the slave. Allah is the Creator and the creation is the creation. Until you say these two things you do not have a pure Tawhid. Then Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, asks:
So which of your Lord’s blessings do you both then deny?
Do you deny the blessings of His being exalted above the creation, or do you deny the blessings of this enormous universe that He has made for us? This is the true understanding of Tawhid and it is embedded in this blessed ayat of Surat ar-Rahman.
We make du’a to Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, to make from among this gathering of people the Awliya and salihun who will take the message of Islam through the whole of this continent. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, that by the people of this gathering the Deen of Islam will stretch from the south and raise its hand up to the north to restore Islam to the Berber and Arab people.
We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, to give a fatiha to all the people of this gathering, and give them a fatiha for their own ruhani knowledge and for their actions in the world. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, to give light and strength and inspiration to all the people gathered here.
We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, to let love grow in the hearts of the fuqara. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, to make this a group of people worthy of the company of the Sahaba. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, to make them the Sahaba of their time. We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, to raise this Tariqa up to be a light for the whole of Africa.