Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)
Subsistence (baqa بقاء) and Annihilation (fana فنا
Chapter XIV (w)
Subsistence (baqa بقاء) and Annihilation (fana فنا)
Allah hath said:
مَا عِندَكُمْ يَنفَدُ وَمَا عِندَ اللّهِ بَاقٍ
“What is with you must vanish: what is with Allah will endure:” (Q 16:96), and:
كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ - وَيَبْقَى وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَام
“All that is on earth will perish: But will abide (forever) the Face of Thy Lord – full of Majesty, Bounty and Honor.” (Q 55:26-27)
You must know that fana فنا (annihilation) and baqa بقاء (subsistence) carries different expressions both in reference to dictionary and culturally. The formalists are more puzzled by these words than by any other technical terms of the Sufis. Etymologically baqa بقاء (subsistence) has three meanings:
- The first kind of baqa (subsistence) is that begins and ends in annihilation, e.g. this world, which had a beginning and will have an end, and is now subsistent;
- The second kind of baqa is that subsistence which came into being and will never be annihilated, viz. Paradise and Hell and the next world and its inhabitants;
- The third kind of baqa is that subsistence which always was and always will be, viz. the subsistence of Allah and His eternal attributes.
Accordingly, knowledge of fana فنا (annihilation) lies in your knowing that this world is perishable, and knowledge of subsistence lies in your knowledge that the next world is everlasting. Allah says:
وَالْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى
“But the Hereafter is better and more enduring.” (Q 87:17),
Here أَبْقَى has been used in exaggeration, for the life of the next world is such subsistence which has no annihilation.
But in reference to a state (hal حال) the meaning of annihilation (fana) and subsistence (baqa) are:
- Ignorance perishes and knowledge subsists:
- Disobedience perishes and obedience subsists:
When a man is obedient and acquire knowledge, due to subsistence of dikr ذكر (remembrance of Allah) his forgetfulness is annihilated, i.e. when anyone gains knowledge of Allah and subsists in knowledge of Him, the ignorance is annihilated from him, and when he is annihilated from forgetfulness he becomes subsistent in remembrance of Him, and this is to efface an evil quality through good attribute.
But the elects among the Sufis attach different meaning to the terms in question, as they do not refer these expressions to knowledge or to state (hal), but apply them solely to the degree of perfection attained by the saints and they are those people who have become free from the pains of mortification and have escaped from the prison of maqamat (stations) and arisen high from the change of states. Their struggles have succeeded in attainment of their object, so that they have seen all things visible, and have assimilated all they heard. They have fully grasped the knowledge of their hearts and are aware of the secrets therein. And after attaining such degree, recognizing the worthlessness of their achievements, they got annihilated in the object of desire, and in the very essence of desire have lost all desires of their own. The karamat (miracles) becomes veil for them and maqamat (stations) are damaging for them. Their states are dressed in clad of wretchedness and while with the object, are objectless. They are free from all and have no affection left for intimated things. Allah said:
لِّيَهْلِكَ مَنْ هَلَكَ عَن بَيِّنَةٍ وَيَحْيَى مَنْ حَيَّ عَن بَيِّنَة
“That those who died might die after a clear Sign (had been given), and those who lived might live after a Clear Sign (had been given).” (Q 8:42).
And I have personally contributed to this fact:
فنيت فناءي بفقد هواءي فصار هواءي في الامورهواك
“I annihilated my annihilation by annihilating my desires;
Now on all matters my desire is sacrificed on your will.
When one is annihilated from his attributes, he becomes subsistent, i.e. when one in the presence of attributes, gets annihilated from the evils of his attributes, then he in the annihilation of desires subsists with the subsistence of desire, then he is neither near nor far, neither stranger nor intimate and similarly he is neither sober nor intoxicated, neither separated nor united, neither he is affected by destruction nor by non-existence. He is left with no name, sign, mark or record. As some elder venerable has said:
وطاح مقامي والرسوم كلاهما فلصت اري في الوقت ولا بعد ًا
فنيت به عني فبان لي الهدي فهذا ظهورالحق عند الفناء قصدا
“My maqam (station) and forms both are vanished, and now there is no proximity or farness for me;
When I got annihilated from my self, it opened the way for my guidance, and manifestation of the Truth depends on the intention of annihilation.”
In short, real annihilation from anything involves consciousness of its imperfection and absence of desire for it. One who thinks that annihilation of something can be corrected by being veiled from it, he is wrong. It is not like that a man when he loves a thing should say, that he is subsistent therein or when he dislikes it, he says that he is annihilated there from, for these qualities are the characteristic of one who is still seeking. There is no love or hate in annihilation, and neither there is consciousness of union or separation in subsistence. Some wrongly imagined that annihilation signifies loss of essence and destruction of personality, and that subsistence indicates the subsistence of the Truth in man; both these notions are absurd.
In India I met with a man who claimed to be a preacher and versed in exegesis of Quran and theology. He debated with me on annihilation and subsistence. I found that he knew nothing of annihilation and subsistence, and neither could he distinguish the eternal from the phenomenal. Similarly, there are many ignorant Sufis, who consider that total annihilation is possible, but this is a manifest error, for annihilation and separation of the different parts of a material subsistence can never take place. I ask these ignorant that what they mean by this kind of annihilation. If they say that it is annihilation of substance, which is impossible. And if they say that it is annihilation of attributes, which is only possible in so far as one attribute, may be annihilated through the subsistence of another attribute. Both these attributes are present in man. It is absurd to suppose that anyone can subsist through the attributes of another individual.
The Nestorians and the Christians hold this belief and say that Mary (may blessings of Allah be on her) annihilated all the attributes of humanity by self mortification and that the Divine subsistence became attached to her, so that she was made subsistent through the subsistence of God, and that Jesus was a result and fruitation of that and was not originally composed of the stuff of humanity, because his subsistence is produced by realization of the subsistence of God. Therefore, Jesus, his mother and God are all subsistent through one subsistent, which is Eternal and an attribute of Allah.
All this agrees with the doctrine of the sects of the Hashwiyya, i.e. Mujasima مجسمه and Mushabah مشبه, who maintain that the Divine essence is a locus of phenomena and that the Eternal may have phenomenal attributes. I ask all who proclaim such tenets that, can phenomenal be the locus of the Eternal or can the Eternal be the locus of the phenomenal or can the phenomenal be an attribute of Eternal, or can the Eternal be an attribute of phenomenal? Such doctrine is the religion of atheist. They refute the proofs of the phenomenal nature of the universe and if we agree to it, this compels us to say that both the Creator and His creation are eternal or that both are phenomenal, i.e. what is created may be commingled with what is uncreated, or that what is uncreated may descend into what is created. This profligacy suits to the atheist, for when Eternal is called locus of phenomenal or phenomenal is called locus of Eternal then Creator and creation would also be called Eternal. Similarly when it is evident from the argument that creature is phenomenal, then it is must to call Eternal also phenomenal, the locus of a thing is like its substance and when locus is phenomenal so the state would also be phenomenal. For them, whether they call phenomenal as Eternal or Eternal as phenomenal, both lead them to the path of deviation.
In fine, when one thing is linked, united and commingled with another, both things are in principle as one. Accordingly, our subsistence and annihilation are attributes of ourselves, and in the characteristics of our attributes our annihilation is like our subsistence and our subsistence is like our annihilation. Therefore, annihilation is such an attribute which exists with the subsistence of another attribute.
One may speak, however, of an annihilation that is independent of subsistence, and also of a subsistence that is independent of annihilation, in that case annihilation means,
“annihilation of all remembrance of other,”
and subsistence means,
“subsistence of the remembrance of Allah.”
من فني من المراد بقي بالمراد
whoever is annihilated from his own will subsist in the will of Allah,”
because your will is perishable and the will of Allah is everlasting. When man stands by his own will his object of desire will be annihilated and he will stand by annihilation, but when he is controlled by the will of Allah his desire of object will subsist and he will stand by subsistence. It is similar to the power of fire which transmutes anything that falls into it to its own quality. If the heat and overwhelming power of fire can change the attributes of a thing then why cannot the overwhelming power of Allah’s shall change the attributes and surely the power of Allah’s will is greater than that of fire. But remember fire affects only the quality of iron without changing its substance, for iron can never become fire.
All the Sheikhs have given subtle indications on this subject. Abu Said Kharraz, the author of the doctrine, says:
الفناء فناء العبد عن روية العبودية والبقاء بقاء العبد بشاهد الالهية
“Annihilation is to get annihilated from one’s own humility and subsistence is to subsist in the contemplation of Allah.” i.e. it is an imperfection to be conscious in one's actions, and one attains its real spirit when he ignores his acts but is annihilated so as not to see them, and becomes subsistent through beholding the Grace of Allah. Hence all one's actions are referred to Allah, not to one's self, because so far man’s actions are connected to him, he is wholly imperfect, and he becomes accomplished when possessed by Allah. Therefore, when one becomes annihilated from things on which he depends, he becomes subsistent through the beauty of Godhead.
Abu Yaqub Nahrajuri says:
صحة العبودية في الفناء والبقاء
“A man’s true servantship lies in annihilation and subsistence,” because no one is capable of serving Allah with sincerity until renounces all self-interest. Therefore, to renounce humanity is annihilation, and to be sincere in servantship is subsistence.
And Ibrahim b. Shaiban says:
علم الفناء والبقاء يدورعلي الاخلاص الوحدانية و صحة العبودية وماكان غيرهذا فهو المغاليط والزندقة
“The knowledge of annihilation and subsistence depends on sincerity, unity and true servantship; all else is error and heresy.”
When one acknowledges the unity of Allah he finds himself overpowered by the Omnipotence of Allah, and one who is overpowered is annihilated in the might of his vanquisher. When he is absolutely annihilated, he confesses his weakness and sees no other resources except to serve Allah, and he gets access to the court of satisfaction. And whoever explains these terms otherwise, i.e. annihilation as annihilation of substance and subsistence as meaning subsistence of God (in man) are deviating from the right path, and this is religion of Christian, as has been stated earlier.
To my opinion, all these sayings are near to each other in meanings, although they differ in expression and wordings. The real gist of all is that the annihilation in a man takes place through vision of the Majesty of Allah, so that in the overwhelming sense of His Majesty this world and the next world are obliterated from his mind, and states and stations appear contemptible in the sight of his aspiring thought. The karamat vanishes from his states and his senses and nafs (lower soul) are annihilated and then his annihilation also gets annihilated and his tongue proclaims the Truth, and his mind and body are humble and abased, as in the beginning when Adam’s posterity were drawn forth from his loins without admixture of evil and took the pledge of servantship to Allah. As some elder has said:
لا كنت ان كنت ادري كيف السبيل اليكا افنيتني عن جميعي فصرت ابكي عليكا
“Had I attained the path leading to Thyself, I would not have subsisted.
Thou have annihilated me from every thing and now I am crying in Thy remembrance.”
Another has also said:
ففي فناءي فناء فناءي وفي فناءي وجدت انت
محوت اسمي ورسم جسمي سءلت عني فقلت انت
“Annihilation is annihilated in my annihilation and I have found Thy in my annihilation;
I have removed my name and body sign. When I was asked of me, I talked of Thou.”
Such are the principles of annihilation and subsistence. Wherever these terms occur in the present work they bear the meaning which I have explained. The foundation and doctrine of the Kharrazi sect and their Imam Sheikh Abu Said is based on annihilation and subsistence and it is in reality a good foundation. That separation and anxiety which is the guarantee of union is never baseless and it is laudable among the seekers of the Path.