The Fourteenth Gleam’s second station
I expound upon six of the innumerable mysteries of the basmala: In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.4 Even though addressed particularly to myself, I call it the “Second station of the Fourteenth Gleam.” May it benefit those with whom I am associated spiritually and whose souls are wiser than mine. The argument touches the heart rather than the mind, and seeks to content the spirit rather than to regard rational proofs.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
[The Queen] said: “Chieftains, here delivered to me is a letter worthy of respect. It is from Solomon, and is: In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” (27:29-30)
FIRST MYSTERY: Three stamps of Lordship are impressed upon the face of the universe, Earth, and humanity. They are one within the other, and each carries a pattern of the others:
DIVINITY: We see this in how all entities in the universe help and cooperate with each other, and in their general interconnectedness and reciprocity. The referent is In the Name of God.
DIVINE MERCIFULNESS: We see this in the mutuality of likeness and form, the orderliness and harmony, and the grace and compassion in disposing, raising, and administering plants and animals. The referent is the Merciful, in In the Name of God, the Merciful.
DIVINE COMPASSION: We see this in the subtleties of Divine Goodness, the delicate adjustments of Divine Mildness, and the scattering of the light of Divine Compassion on the face of our own comprehensive nature. The referent is the Compassionate, in In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Thus the basmala is the holy expression of Divine Oneness’ three stamps. They form a luminous line on the page of the universe, a robust stay, and a golden thread. Revealed from above us, the tip of basmala rests upon humanity, a miniature of the universe and its fruit. The basmala links the world to the Divine Throne and is a stairway for our ascent thereto.
SECOND MYSTERY: Divine Unity is evident in the boundless multiplicity of individualized creatures. So as not to overwhelm our minds all at once, the Qur’an, being a miracle of exposition, constantly reiterates the manifestation of Oneness5 within Unity— the manifestation of a Divine Name on all beings.
Consider this analogy: The sun encompasses innumerable things in its light. But to hold the totality of its light in our minds, we would need a vast conceptual and perceptual power. So lest the sun be forgotten, all shining objects reflect its properties (light and heat) as best they can and so manifest its being the sun. This manifestation is reciprocated, for those properties (heat, light, and the color spectrum) encompass the objects that the sun is facing.
Just as God’s Oneness, His being Eternally Besought, and His Divine Names are manifested in everything, particularly in sentient creatures and especially in our mirror-like nature, each Divine Name related to creatures encompasses all creatures through Divine Unity. Thus the Qur’an constantly draws our attention to the stamp of Divine Oneness within Divine Unity, lest our minds be overwhelmed by Unity and our hearts become heedless of the Pure and Holy Essence. The basmala indicates the three important aspects of the stamp of Divine Unity.
THIRD MYSTERY: Divine Mercy causes the universe to rejoice. It gives the spark of light and life to dark entities, and nurtures and raises up creatures struggling with their endless need. It causes the universe to be directed toward humanity, just as a tree is directed toward its fruit, and to hasten to our assistance. It fills and lights up boundless space, an otherwise void and empty world, making it rejoice. For transient humanity, Divine Mercy also appoints eternity and the rank of the creature addressed and beloved of the One, Eternal before and after eternity.
Since Divine Mercy is so powerful a truth, so inviting, mild, helpful, and worthy of love, say: In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Cling to this truth, and be rescued from endless desolation and need. Draw near to the Sovereign, Eternal before and after eternity, and become the one He addresses, befriends, and loves.
Why do all entities gather around humanity with purpose and foresight, and hasten to meet our needs with perfect orderliness and grace? Do they recognize us and so run to help us—as irrational as it is, in many respects, impossible? Or do we, who have no power, have the power of the mightiest, absolute sovereign? Or does this help reach us via the recognition of One Absolutely Powerful behind the veil of the visible universe? In other words, all entities recognize us because the One, All-Knowing and Compassionate, is acquainted with and recognizes us.
Consider this: How could the All-Majestic One, Who causes all entities to turn toward you with their hands outstretched to help you, not know, see, or be aware of you when you are in need? He teaches you that He knows you through His Mercy. So know Him, and reverently show that you do. Understand with conviction that Divine Mercy’s truth subjects the universe to your service, even though you are a slight, transient, wholly feeble, powerless, and needy creature.6
Such Mercy requires total and sincere gratitude as well as honest and ardent reverence. Say: In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, which expresses and interprets such feelings. Make it the means of admission to His Mercy, an intercessor and advocate at the Court of the All-Merciful.
Divine Mercy’s presence and actuality is as clear as the sun. A center-patterned tapestry is woven by positioning and sequencing the warp and weft and then gathered to the center. In the same way, bright threads extending from manifesting Divine Names weaves a seal of such compassion, a tapestry of such gentle mildness, a pattern of such goodness within the stamp of Mercy, that it is impressed upon the mind more brilliantly than the sun.
The Gracious All-Merciful One, Who causes everything to serve life; Who demonstrates His Compassion in the self-sacrifice, the extraordinary sweetness of compassion, of motherhood in plants and animals; Who subjects animate life to humanity and thereby displays our importance and status as the finest and loveliest weave from the Divine Lordship as well as His Mercy’s brilliance—that One has, due to His lack of need, made His Mercy the acceptable intercessor for His sentient creatures and humanity.
If you are truly human, say: “O humanity: In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” Seek and find that intercessor. Nothing but Divine Mercy brings to life, nurtures, and administers all plant and animal species. It neither overlooks nor confuses one with another, but raises each at the right time and with perfect order, wisdom, and goodness. It then impresses the Seal of Divine Oneness upon Earth’s surface. Just as Divine Mercy’s existence is as certain as the existence of Earth’s creatures, each creature also is a proof.
The Seal of Mercy and Divine Oneness is impressed upon Earth and upon humanity’s nature. The Mercy stamped upon us is not less than the Compassion and Mercy stamped upon the universe. Our nature is comprehensive, as we are the weave’s center and the Divine Names’ focal point.
How could the One Who gives you this face, Who impresses upon it Mercy’s stamp and Oneness’ seal, leave you to your own devices? How could He consider you of no account, have no regard for your actions, and so make all creation, which is directed toward you, futile and wasteful? How could He make the Tree of Creation worthless and rotten with decayed fruit? Would He cause His Mercy to be denied when it is as obvious as the sun, and His Wisdom, which is as clear as light? Neither can be doubted or considered to contain any defect.
You can ascend to the throne of Divine Mercy by In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Grasp its importance by looking at the beginning of each Qur’anic sura (chapter), all worthwhile books and good actions. A clear argument for this phrase’s greatness, a greatness determined by Him, is the comment of Imam Shafi‘i7: “Although the basmala is a single verse, it was revealed 114 times in the Qur’an.”
FOURTH MYSTERY: Divine Unity is manifested within the boundless multiplicity [of individualized creatures]. To say: You alone do we worship (1:5) is not enough, for our minds wander [from Reality]. Our heart would have to be as comprehensive as Earth to observe the One in His Oneness behind the Unity within the totality of individualized entities, and then say: You alone do We worship, and from You alone do We seek help (1:5). Thus, the seal of Divine Oneness must be apparent on all entities’ minds and species, just as on each individualized entity.
In addition, they should remember the One in His Oneness. This need is met by the Divine Oneness being shown within the stamp of Divine Mercy. As a result, everyone at every level can turn to the Pure and Holy One and, by saying: You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help (1:5), address Him directly.
To express this mighty mystery and point to the seal of Divine Mercy, the All-Wise Qur’an abruptly juxtaposes individualized detail with totality, small with large, particular with general. To prevent the mind from wandering and the heart from drowning, to allow the spirit to find its True Object of Worship directly, it broaches such subjects as our creation and speaking, the fine details of the favors and wisdom in our features, while mentioning the creation of the heavens and Earth. This truth is miraculously shown in And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and Earth, and the varieties in your languages and in your colors (30:22).
The stamp of Divine Unity, being within innumerable creatures and limitless multiplicity, is of various kinds and degrees. They are as in concentric circles, from the greatest to the smallest. But however clear that Unity is, it is still a Unity within multiplicity and cannot be truly addressed by observers. Thus the stamp of Divine Oneness must be behind the Unity, so that individuality does not call to mind multiplicity, and so that a way may be opened up to the heart directly before the Pure and Holy One.
Also, a most entrancing design, radiant light, agreeable sweetness, pleasing beauty, and powerful truth have been placed upon the stamp of Divine Oneness to draw our attention and hearts to it. Mercy’s vigor draws sentient beings’ attention and attracts them to it. It enables them to attain to the seal of Oneness, to serve the One in His Oneness, and thereby manifest the true address of: You alone do we worship, and from You alone do We seek help (1:5).
Thus In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the index of the Chapter of Opening (Surat al-Fatiha) and an epitome of the Qur’an, is the sign and interpreter of this mighty mystery. Whoever attains to it may ascend through the levels of Divine Mercy; whoever causes it to speak may learn the mysteries of Divine Mercy and see the lights of Divine Compassion and Pity.
FIFTH MYSTERY: There is a Tradition8 to the effect that God created humanity in the form of the All-Merciful One. Its extravagant interpretation by some Sufis does not accord with the fundamentals of belief.9
Some ecstatic Sufis claim that our spiritual nature is “in the form of the All-Merciful.” Immersed in their confusing contemplative trances, they might be excused for expressing mistaken views. If others consider such views acceptable, they also are in error.
The Pure and Holy God, Who orders and administers the universe as easily as if it were a palace or a house, Who turns galaxies as if they were particles and sends them travelling through space with wisdom and grace, Who dispatches the minutest particles as if they were obedient officials, has no equal or match, no partner or opposite. According to: There is nothing like to Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing (42:11), He has no form, likeness, or peer. Nothing resembles or is similar to Him. On the other hand, according to: And His is the highest comparison in the Heavens and Earth, and He is Exalted in Might, the All-Wise (30:27), humanity can conceive of His acts, Attributes, and Names via allegory and comparison. Thus the Tradition’s intended meaning is: “Humanity’s form, in its totality, reflects the Divine Name the All-Merciful.”
This Divine Name is evident via the light of all Names manifested in the universe, and on Earth through innumerable evidences of God’s absolute Lordship. In the same way, the All-Merciful is fully manifested, in miniature, in our comprehensive form.
A further indication may be derived from the following analogy: Animate creation and humanity are loci of evidences of the Necessarily Existent One, proofs and mirrors to the All-Merciful, All-Compassionate. These proofs are so certain, clear, and evident that just as we might say that a mirror reflecting the sun “has the form of (or is like) the sun” (emphasizing the brilliant evidence of the sun’s light), we also might say: “Humanity has the All-Merciful One’s form,” stressing the clear evidence within us, and the completeness of the connection in Him, of the All-Merciful. Therefore, the more moderate and balanced believers in the Unity of Being said: “There is no existent but He,” expressing the evidence’s clarity and the connection’s perfection.
O God, O All-Merciful, All-Compassionate. Through the truth of In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, have mercy on us according to Your being the Compassionate. Open to our understanding the mysteries of this phrase, according to Your being the Merciful. Amen.
SIXTH MYSTERY: O unhappy humanity laboring under limitless impotence and unending need. Understand Divine Mercy’s value as a means and an intercessor. It is the means to a Glorious Sovereign in Whose army vast galaxies and minute particles serve together in perfect obedience and harmony. That Glorious Sovereign, the One, Eternal before and after eternity, is the Eternally Besought—everything needs Him Who has no need.
He is infinitely rich and does not need the universe or its entities. Everything is under His authority and direction, obedient before His Majesty and Greatness, awed and prostrate before His Sublimity. This is the Divine Mercy, and it is for you. It uplifts you to the Presence of One without need, the Eternal Sovereign Who befriends you and addresses you as His well-loved servant.
Yet just as you cannot draw close to the sun, even though its light is reflected and manifested to you through your mirror, you are infinitely far from the Light of the Pure and Holy One, the Eternal before and after eternity. You cannot draw closer to Him unless the Light of His Mercy makes Him closer to you.
Whoever finds this Mercy finds an eternal treasure of unfailing light. This Mercy can be reached through the Sunna10 of the most noble Prophet, its most brilliant exemplar and representative, its most eloquent voice and herald, who the Qur’an hails as “a mercy for all the worlds.” He can be reached by calling the blessings of God upon him, for the intent of this prayer is mercy. As a prayer of mercy for the living embodiment of Divine Mercy, it reaches the “mercy to all the worlds.”
So use this prayer to reach him, and make him the way through which you can reach the Mercy of the Most Merciful of the Merciful. All Muslims say this prayer for the “mercy to all the worlds,” which is synonymous with Mercy. Doing so is a dazzling demonstration of how precious a gift Divine Mercy is, and how broad is its sphere.
In conclusion, the most precious jewel in Mercy’s treasury is its door-keeper: Prophet Muhammad. The first key is In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, and the easiest key to use is praying for the Prophet.
O God! For the sake of the mysteries of In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, bestow blessings and peace on the one You sent as a mercy to all the worlds in accordance with Your Mercy and the honor due to him, and on his Family and Companions. Grant us mercy so that we are free of need for the mercy of any, among your creatures, other than You. Amen. Glory be to You! We have no knowledge save what You have taught us. Truly, you are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
4 A bright light from the basmala concerning Divine Mercy touched my dimmed mind from afar. I wanted to record it as notes and then pursue and gather its light in 20 to 23 sections of “Mysteries.” Alas, I have not been able to do this yet, and my 20 to 30 have been brought down to 6.
5 Oneness: The concentration of the Divine Names’ manifestations on one thing.
6 Divine Mercy also includes (Divine) Wisdom, Grace, Knowledge, and Power.
7 Al-Shafi‘i (d. 820): Muslim legal scholar, founder of the Shafi‘i legal school. He developed a new synthesis of Islamic legal thought. Most of the ideas were already familiar, but he structured them in a new way. He mainly dealt with what the sources of Islamic law were and how they could be applied by the law to contemporary events. His Al-Risala, written during the last 5 years of his life, entitles him to be called the “father of Muslim jurisprudence.” (Ed.)
8 The Arabic word hadith, commonly translated into English as Tradition, literally means “news, story, communication, or conversation,” whether religious or secular, historical or recent. In the Qur’an, this word appears in religious (39:23, 68:44), secular or general (6:68), historical (20:9), and current or conversational (66:3) contexts. The Prophet used it in a similar sense, for example, when he said: “The best hadith is the Qur’an” (Bukhari). However, the Muhaddithin (Traditionists [scholars of Traditions]) state that the word stands for “what was transmitted on the Prophet’s authority, his deeds, sayings, tacit approvals, or descriptions of his physical appearance.” Jurists do not include this last item in their definition. (Tr.)
9 Sufism: A spiritual Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find divine love and knowledge through the ways particular to it. Its adherents are known, in the West, as Sufis. (Ed.)
10 The Sunna is the record of the Messenger’s every act, word, and confirmation, as well as the second source of Islamic legislation and life (the Qur’an is the first one). In addition to establishing new principles and rules, the Sunna clarifies the ambiguities in the Qur’an by expanding upon what is mentioned only briefly in it, specifies what is unconditional, and enables generalizations from what is specifically stated and particularizations from what is generally stated. (Ed.)