The Uncovering of the Second Veil
Unification (Tawhid توحيد)
وَإِلَـهُكُمْ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ
“And your God is One God:“ (Q 2:163),
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
“Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;” (Q 112:1),
لاَ تَتَّخِذُواْ إِلـهَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ إِنَّمَا هُوَ إِلهٌ وَاحِدٌ فَإيَّايَ
“Take not (for worship) two gods: for He is just One God: your God is one” (Q 16:51).
And the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
There was a man in earlier times. He had no good deed whatsoever except that he pronounced Allah to be one. When he was dying he said to his folk that his body should be burnt after his death and half of his ashes be thrown into the river and rest of the half to be scattered in the air when there was a strong wind, so that no traces of him to be left. His folks did as they were told. Allah bade the air and the water to preserve the ashes, which they did so. On Resurrection when Allah will raise that man from the dead, He will ask him why did he cause himself to be burnt, and he will reply:
“O Lord, from shame to Thee, for I was a great sinner,”
and Allah will pardon him.
The real tawhid توحيد (unification) consists in declaring the unity of a thing and in having a perfect knowledge of its unity. Allah is Alone, without any partner and argument. No one is partner to His acts. The Unitarians acknowledge Him from His attributes and their knowledge of unity is called Unification.
Unification has three aspects:
- Unification of Allah for Allah, i.e. His knowledge of His Unity;
- Allah’s Unification of His creatures, i.e. His decree that a man shall pronounce Him to be One, and admission of Unification in his heart;
- Men’s unification of Allah, i.e. their knowledge of the unity of Allah.
When a man knows Allah he declares His unity, for He is one, and is free of union and separation. Neither duality is lawful for Him nor is His unity a number so as to be made two by the predication of another number. Similarly He is not bounded so as to have six directions, and then every direction to be fixed to other six directions, so the addition of numbers would never end. He has no space, and that He is not in space, so as to need a substance, nor a substance, which cannot exist without another like itself, nor a natural constitution, in which motion and rest originate, nor a spirit so as to need a frame, nor a body so as to be composed of limbs; and that He does not become immanent in things, for then He must be homogeneous with them; and that He is not joined to anything, for then that thing must be a part of Him; and that He is free from all imperfections and exalted above all defects; and that He has no similar, so that He and His creature should make two; and that He has no child whose begetting would necessarily cause Him to origin and union; and that His essence and attributes are unchangeable; and that He is endowed with those attributes of perfection which believers and Unitarians affirm, and which He has described Himself as possessing; and that He is exempt from those attributes which heretics arbitrarily impute to Him; and that He is Living, Knowing, Forgiving, Merciful, Willing, Powerful, Hearing, Seeing, Speaking, and Subsistent; and that His knowledge is not a state in Him, nor His power solidly planted in Him, nor His hearing and Sight so detached in Him, nor His speech divided in Him; and that He together with His attributes exists from Eternity; and that objects of cognition are not outside of His knowledge, and that entities are entirely dependent on His will; and that He does which He wills, and Wills that which He Knows, and creature has no cognizance thereof; and that His decree is an absolute fact, and that His friends have no resource except resignation; and that good and evil are pre ordained by Him, and is the Only Being that is worthy of hope or fear; and that He creates all benefits and injuries; and that He alone gives judgment, and His judgment is all Wisdom; and that no one has any possibility of attaining unto Him, and that the inhabitants of Paradise shall behold Him; and that He is free of any simile; and that such terms as “confronting” and “seeing face to face” cannot be applied to His Being; and His saints may enjoy the contemplation of Him in this world. Those who do not acknowledge Him to be such are guilty of impiety.
As has been said at the beginning of this chapter that unification consists in declaring the unity of a thing, and that such a declaration cannot be made without knowledge. The Sunnis have declared the unity of Allah with true comprehension, because, seeing a subtle work and a unique act, they recognized that it could not possibly exist by itself, and finding manifest evidences of origination in every thing, they perceived that there must be an Agent who brought the universe into being – the earth and heaven and sun and moon and land and sea and that moves and rests and their knowledge and speech and life and death, for all these an artificer was indispensable. Accordingly, the Sunnis, rejecting the notion there are two or three artificers, declared that they are satisfied with a single artificer who is perfect, living, knowing, almighty, and independent of partner. And inasmuch as act requires at least one agent, and the existence of two agents for one act involves the dependence of one on the other, it follows that the Agent is unquestionably and certainly is one.
Here we are at variance with the dualists, who affirm light and darkness, and with the Magians, who affirm Yazdan and Ahriman, and with the philosophers, who affirm nature and potentiality, and with the astronomers, who affirm the seven planets, and with the Mutazilites who affirm creators and artificers without end. I have briefly refuted all these vain opinions in a book entitled al-Riayat be-huquq Allah. I must refer anyone who desires further information to study this book or the works of the ancient theologians. Now I will turn to the signs and indications which the Sheikhs have talked on this subject.
التوحيد افراد القدم عن الحدث
“Unification is to separate the Eternal from phenomenal,”
That is to say, not to regard the eternal as a locus of phenomena, or phenomena as a locus of the eternal; and to know that Allah is Eternal and that we are phenomenal, and that nothing of mankind genus can be connected with Him, and that nothing of His attributes is mingled in created, for there is no homogeneity between the eternal and the phenomenal and eternal was existent before phenomenal. As Eternal was not dependent on phenomenal before their existence, similarly eternal has no need of phenomenal after their existence. This is contrary to the doctrine of those who hold spirit to be eternal. They have been mentioned earlier. If someone considers eternal to descend into phenomena or phenomena to be attached to the eternal lawful, then no proof remains of the eternity of Allah and the origination of the universe. This is the faith of atheists. May Allah save us from such belief?
In short, in all the actions of phenomena there are proofs of unification and evidences of the Divine Omnipotence and signs which establish the eternity of Allah:
ففي كل شيء له اية تدل علي انه و احد
“Everything in the universe is His sign, which speak of the Unification of Allah.”
But the men are too heedless and that’s why they leaving Him aside, desire from others and are intoxicated in praise of others. When He does not require any help in creation or annihilation, then how come that He would need the help in their subsistence.
Hussein b. Mansur (al-Hallaj) says:
اول قدم في التوحيد فناء التفريد
“The first step in unification is the annihilation of separation,”
The meaning of tafrid تفريد is pronouncement that one has become separated from imperfections, and tawhid توحيد means the declaration of a thing’s unity. Therefore, in tafrid (separation) it is possible to affirm that which is other than God and this quality may be ascribed to others besides Allah. But in unity it is not possible to affirm other than Allah and unity may not be ascribed to anything except Him. Thus, partnership in tafrid (separation) is permissible but not in unification. Accordingly, the first step in unification is to deny (that God has) a partner and to put admixture aside, for admixture on the way (to God) is like seeking the way without a lamp.
And Husri says that we have five principles in unification:
رفع الحدث واثبات القدم وهجرالاوطان ومفارفة الاخوان ونسيان ماعلم وجهل
- “To do away with phenomenal,
- affirmation of eternity,
- departure from familiar dwellings,
- separation from brethren, and
- forgetfulness of known and unknown.”
To do away with phenomenal consists in denying that phenomena have any unification or that can possibly attain to His holy essence.
The affirmation of eternity consists in being convinced that Allah always existed, as has already been explained in discussing the saying of Junaid.
The departure from familiar dwellings means, departure from habitual pleasures of the lower soul and the forms of the world, and for the adepts, it refers to departure from lofty stations and glorious states and exalted karamat (miracles).
The separation from brethren means turning away from the society of mankind and diverting full attention towards Allah, for any thought of other than Allah is a veil and imperfection for the Unitarian. The more his thoughts are associated with others (than Allah) the more is he veiled from Allah? It is agreed among all the religions that unification is the fixing and concentration of mind and thoughts, whereas to care for or content with others (than Allah) is a sign of dispersion of thought.
And forgetfulness of a thing which is known or unknown means that the knowledge of the created is bounded with state and attribute or genesis and nature, and whatever the knowledge of mankind affirms about, for unification denies it. Similarly whatever their ignorance affirms about it is merely contrary to their knowledge, for ignorance is not unification, therefore, knowledge of the reality of unification cannot be attained without denying the personal initiatives in which knowledge and ignorance consists. When insight overwhelms it is knowledge but when heedlessness overwhelms it is ignorance.
Some elder related that once while he was attending the discourse of Husri, he fell asleep and he dreamed that two angles descended from Heaven and listened discourse of Husri for some time. Then one of the angels said to the other, that whatever Husri had said was theory and not tawhid (unification). When he awoke up he heard Husri explaining Tawhid. Husri looked at him and said, “It is impossible to speak of unification except theoretically.”
التوحيد ان يكون العبد شبحًا بين يدي الله يجري عليه تصاريف تدبيره في مجاري احكام قدرته في لجج بحارتوحيده بالفناء عن نفسه
وعن دعوة الخلق له وعن استجابته لهم بحقاءق وجود وحدانيته في حقيقة قربه بذهاب حسه وحركته لقيام الحق
له فيما اراد منه وهو ان يرجع اخرالعبد الي اوله فيكون كما كان قبل ان يكون
“The reality of Unification is that when Allah on the path of His predestination plan enforces His decree,
- the man should consider himself a puppet before Him and annihilate his desires and authority in the sea of His unity;
- should annihilate his nafs (lower soul),
- be not attentive to the call of the people and annihilate his movements while in proximity and through the realization of knowledge and essence of Tawhid
- stands by the will of the Truth so that his end is like his beginning and attains the state in which he was before his existence.”
This means that the Unitarian has no authority, power or choice to interfere in the will of Allah and is absorbed so much in the unity of Allah that he has no regard to himself, for in the state of proximity his nafs (lower soul) is annihilated and senses vanishes. The commandments of Allah are enforced on him as He pleases. One is so annihilated in his desires that that he becomes like an atom as he was in the eternal past when the covenant of unification was made, and Allah answered the question which He Himself had asked, and that atom was only the object of His speech. Mankind do not find any joy to extend some sort of invitation to such a person who have attained this maqam (station) and neither such person has any affection with the mankind that he should respond to their call.
This saying indicates the annihilation of human attributes and perfect resignation to Allah in the state when a man is overpowered by the revelation of His Majesty, so that he becomes a passive instrument and a subtle substance that feels nothing, i.e. he is annihilated to everything and his body becomes an object for the mysteries of Allah. His speech and actions are attributed to Him and his every attribute stands by Him. He is annihilated to everything and his subsistence becomes an evidence of the secrecies of the Truth, so much so that his speech and acts are referred through Him and his all attributes stand by Him. Still he remains subject to the ordinances of the Shariat (religious law), so that the proof of the Truth may be established, but he will be annihilated from the vision of everything.
Such was the maqam (station) of Prophet (peace be upon him) when on the night of the ascension he was borne to the station of proximity, although, there was a gap in the maqam, but not in proximity. His object was far above the intellect of people and their imaginations and thoughts. The mankind found him absent and he found himself in absence. He was amazed on his being without attribute after getting annihilated in the attribute of annihilation. His natural chemistry and temperateness of disposition did not remain fixed at one point. His nafs (lower soul) moved to the place of soul, and soul moved to the place of spirit, and spirit moved to the place of the inward and inward reached to the proximity of the Truth and he was liberated from everything and he desired that his body should be destroyed and his personality be dissolved, but Allah’s purpose was to establish His proof. He bade the Prophet (peace be upon him) to remain in the state that he was in. He gained strength from the command and through this strength attained the maqam (station) of existence by Allah and when he was back to his own state, he said:
اني لست كاحد كم اني ابيت عند ربي فيتعمني ويسقيني
“I am not like any one of you. Verily, I pass the night with my Lord, and He gives me food and drink, thus, my life and existence is bounded with Him.”
And he also said,
لي مع الله وقت لا يسعني فيه ملك مقرب و لا نبي مرسل
“I attain a particular time from Allah in which none of the trusted angels nor does any Prophet have any room.”
Sahl b. Abdullah said:
ذات الله موصوفة بالعلم علي مدركة بالاحاطة ولامرءية بالابصارفي دارالدنيا
وهو موجودة بحقاءق الايمان من غير حد ولا احاطة ولا حلول وتراه العيون في العقبي ظاهرًا وباطنًا في ملكه
وقدرته قد حجب الخلق عن معرفة كنه ذاته ودلهم عليه باياته,
و القلوب تعرفه والعقول لا تدركه ينظراليه المومنون بالابصارمن غيراحاطة ولا ادراك
“The limit of Unification is that
- you should recognize that the essence of Allah is endowed with knowledge, that is neither comprehensible nor visible to the eye in this world,
- but He in the light of the reality of faith, exists without any distinction and comprehension; and He by His Grace is manifest in His kingdom;
- and that mankind is veiled from knowledge of the ultimate nature of His essence, although He guides one through manifestation of His signs and wonders;
- and that the hearts know Him, but the intellect cannot reach unto Him; and that believers shall behold Him with their (spiritual) eyes, without comprehending His infinity.”
This saying is very comprehensive and includes all the principles of unification.
And Junaid said that the noblest saying concerning unification is that of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
سبحان من لم يجعل لخلقه سبيلا الي معرفته الا بالعجز عن معرفته
“Glory to Allah, who has not vouchsafed to His creatures any means of attaining unto knowledge of Him except through helplessness to attain unto knowledge of Him.”
Many have mistaken the meaning of these words and supposed that helplessness of gnosis implies to non-existence of gnosis. This is absurd, because helplessness refers only to an existing state, not to a state that is non-existent. For example, a dead man is not incapable of life, but he cannot be alive while he is dead and a blind man is not incapable of seeing, but he cannot see while he is blind and a lame is not incapable of standing, but he cannot stand while he is lame. Similarly, a Gnostic is not incapable of gnosis so long as gnosis is existent, for it is must and resembles intuition.
This saying may be brought applicable with the doctrine of Abu Sahl Saluki and Master Abu Ali Daqqaq, who assert that gnosis is acquired in the first instance, but finally becomes intuitive. And intuitive knowledge is that the possessor is compelled and incapable of putting it away or drawing it to himself. Hence, according to this saying, unification is the act of Allah in the heart of His creature.
التوحيد حجاب الموحد عن جمال الاحدية
“Unification veils the Unitarians from the Beauty of Oneness,” because if unification is said to be the act of man, and an act of man does not cause the revelation of Allah, and in the reality of revelation that which does not cause revelation is a veil.
Man with all his attributes is other than Allah, for if his attributes are taken as divine, then he himself must be taken as Divine, and then perforce, to whom this attribute belong to, he is also His attribute and he would also be the Truth. Similarly, Unitarian, Unification, and the One, all three, will be the causes of the existence of one another and this is precisely the Christian Trinity. If any attribute prevents the seeker from annihilating himself in unification, he is still veiled by that attribute, and while he is veiled he is not a Unitarian, for all except Allah is vanity, and this is the interpretation of “لا اله الا الله there is no God but Allah.”
When Ibrahim Khawwas met Hussein b. Mansur at Kufa, he asked him, “O Ibrahim, in search of what have you spent your whole life?” Ibrahim answered: “I have struggled a lot in tawakul (trust in Allah).” Mansur said: “You have wasted your life in cultivating your spiritual nature: what has become of annihilation in unification?”
The Sheikhs have discussed at large the terms by which unification is denoted. Some say that it is an annihilation that cannot properly be attained unless the attributes subsists, while the others say that it has no attribute whatever except annihilation. The analogy of union and separation must be applied to this question in order that it may be understood.
I declare that tawhid (unification) is a mystery revealed by Allah to His servants that cannot be expressed in words at all, much less in high-sounding phrases, for explanatory terms and those who use them are other than the Truth, and to affirm what is other than Him in unification is to affirm polytheism. So under such conditions, Tawhid will be referred as sportiveness, although the Unitarian is always very serious about Tawhid and does not keep any concern with extravagancies.