The First Treatise
Rays from God’s Unity as bright as the sun
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
God is the Creator of all things, and He is guardian and watcher over everything. To Him belong the keys of the heavens and Earth. (39:62-63)
Glory be to Him in Whose hand is the kingdom and inner dimensions of all things. (36:83)
There is nothing but with Us are the stores thereof. (15:21)
There is not a moving creature but He has grasp of it by the forelock. (11:56)
KNOW, O HEEDLESS ONE WHO ATTRIBUTES ALL THINGS AND EVENTS IN this world to the law of causality. The causes to which you ascribe creativity are only veils covering the Divine Power’s operation, for God’s Dignity and Grandeur require such veils. But the Eternal Divine Power, absolutely independent of everything, is ever-active and creates, for Divine Unity and Glory require that it be so.
The Eternal Monarch’s officers have no authority to execute His orders independently. They are not partners in His Sovereignty; rather, their only functions are to serve as media through which His Lordship’s acts and executions are watched and known, and as observers and witnesses. By doing so, they obey His laws and commands of creation and thereby perform their duty of worship, which is required by their nature and disposition. They exist because they must manifest the dignity of Divine Power and majesty of Divine Lordship and Sovereignty. Human monarchs, on the other hand, need officers and other means to help them enforce their rule. There is no resemblance or relation between these two kinds of officers.
Since most people cannot discern the beauty and wisdom behind events, they complain and object. To divert such complaints from God, causes are placed as an intervening veil (between people and God’s acts). However, those who see the real beauty and wisdom in events know the truth of what is going on. A parable clarifies this point: The Angel of Death complained to God that His servants would complain of his role as the taker of souls. God answered him: “I will put illness and misfortune between you and them so that they will complain of them, not of you.”
In sum, God’s Dignity and Grandeur require apparent causes to prevent complaints and to hide, from those who reason superficially, the hand of Power’s involvement in certain seemingly insignificant or vile things and affairs. At the same time, God’s Unity and Glory require that these apparent causes have no part in either the creation or disposition of things.
Belief in God’s Unity has two degrees: believing superficially that God has no partners, and that the universe belongs only to Him (such believers may be susceptible to deviation and confusion) and firm conviction that God is One, that everything belongs to Him exclusively, and that only He creates. Such believers see His seal and observe His stamp on all things. Free from doubt, they feel themselves always and everywhere in His Presence. Their conviction cannot be diluted by deviation or doubt. For you to acquire such conviction in God’s Unity, I will point out some of its rays that I have obtained from the Qur’an.
God Almighty sets a special seal on each thing He makes, showing that He is the Creator of all things. He sets a special stamp on each creature, demonstrating that He is the Maker of all things. Each “letter” that Power “writes” bears an inimitable signature specific to the Eternal Monarch.
For example, look at the seal He has put on life, through which one thing is made into many and many things are made into one. He transforms the water we drink into a means for forming innumerable animal organs and systems. Through His command, a single entity becomes “many.” Conversely, He changes varieties of foods into a particular body or skin, a whole system or subsystem. Thus “many” things become, by God’s command, a single entity. Whoever has an intellect, consciousness, and a heart must conclude that making a single, simple entity from many things and using a single entity to make many things is a seal special to the Creator of all things.
Among His innumerable stamps, look at the one He has put on living things. Being complex and inclusive in character, a living thing is a miniature universe, a shining fruit of the Tree of Creation, a nucleus of creation made by the Creator as a sample or pattern for most species. It is as if that living thing were a drop filtered through wisdom from creation with absolutely exact measures, an all-inclusive point extracted from existence via knowledge with absolutely precise calculations. As one without the supreme disposition of creation cannot create anything, the one who made the honeybee an index of most things, and who inserted most parts of the Book of Creation in human nature, must be the Creator. He encoded a fig tree’s future life in its tiny seed, and made the human heart a small-scale copy of thousands of worlds as well as a window opening onto them. He recorded our past life and everything related to it in human memory. The One Who has done these and many similar things can only be the Creator of all things, and His doing so is a stamp specific to the Lord of the Worlds.
Look at the signature put on the acts of bringing to life and reviving. Out of innumerable possible examples, we mention only one: In each transparent (mirror) or apparently transparent (glass) thing, from planets to drops and glass, there is a stamp—an image or reflection—specific to the Sun. The Unique, Eternal Sun also sets on each living thing a seal, a stamp, of reviving and bringing to life, which reveals itself by showing all of His Names on that thing.13 If all material causes—supposing they had power and will—came together to produce the like of that stamp, they could not do so, even if they helped each other (17:88).
Assume that the Sun’s images reflected in a drop, glass, or any transparent thing are not attributed to the Sun. Given this, one would have to accept that there is a real, tiny Sun in each drop facing the Sun, in each piece of glass reflecting the Sun’s light, and that every transparent thing has become a Sun.
Assume that every living thing and life, every act of bringing to life, is not attributed to the Divine Names’ manifestations. Assume that the belief that life is the focus of the Divine Names’ manifestations, which could be regarded as the Eternal Sun’s rays, is not acceptable. If this were so, each living thing would have to possess an infinite power of creation, all-encompassing knowledge, absolute will, and attributes found only in the Necessarily Existent Being. Also, each atom would have to have divinity, for the existence of everything would have to be ascribed to itself. Likewise, if the existence of everything were ascribed to causes, absolute divinity would have to be attributed to each cause. Thus there would be countless partners in Divinity, which necessarily requires absolute independence and rejection of any partnership.
Consider an atom or a seed. See how astonishing are its well-arranged composition and relationships. It has relationships with all parts of the living thing of which it is a part, as well as relationships with all members of its species and all other creatures. Its relationships and duties resemble those of a private with respect to military officers. If the atom’s or seed’s connection to the Absolute Power were severed, we would have to admit that it has eyes to see all things and an all-comprehensive consciousness.
In summary: If the sun’s reflection in a drop is attributed to the actual sun, many suns would have to exist in the smallest things. It is the same with the Absolutely Powerful One, in relation to Whose Power whatever exists, without exception, is the same. Accepting the above assertion means accepting countless divinities.
Writing a book requires only a writer and a pen. However, if it is printed on a printing press, there would have to be as many iron letters as the actual letters in the book, and many people would be needed to make and arrange them. Sura Ya Sin is written in very small letters inside the two Arabic letters Ya and Sin. If a book is written in small, fine letters within one word, as many iron letters as actual letters in the book would be needed to print that one word.
If you say that the universe is a book written with the pen of a Single One, then you are following the easiest and most reasonable path. If you attribute the universe’s existence to nature or material causes, you are following the most unreasonable and difficult way. In such a case, “printing” one living thing would require as many instruments as necessary for printing most of the universe. This seems to be an impossible supposition.
Suppose a flower’s or a fruit’s existence is attributed to nature or material causes. Given this, each soil, water, and air particle would have to have as many “programs” and hidden factories [to produce it] as all flowers and fruits in all of their colors, tastes, and shapes. Or, each particle should have enough power to make all plants, and enough knowledge to know in exact detail everything there is to know about all flowers (flowering) and fruit bearing plants and trees. Then, each air, water and soil particle or atom could be used to form all (or most) plants.
Suppose different seeds have been buried in a soil-filled pot. Empty the pot and fill it with soil taken from Earth’s surface. In both cases, the result will be almost the same, as can be seen world-wide. Despite the variety in shape, color, taste, and appearance, any soil can be used to produce all flowers and fruit-bearing trees. Thus each seed, despite its physical simplicity and similarity, would have to have special machines or workshops to form the entire plant or tree.
LOOK, O FRIEND! While each letter in a book points to itself as a letter and in one respect only, it points to its writer in many respects. Similarly, every “created” letter of the Book of the Universe points to itself only as a letter, while pointing to its Maker in many respects. It does so individually and in the words and sentences in which it is included, and manifests its Maker’s titles, describing them as if it were a fine poem.
LOOK, O FRIEND, how the Glorious Maker puts His special stamp on each particular thing, and His specific seal on each part of a whole. Likewise, He puts His special stamp on each species and each whole. He puts the stamp of His Unity on the universe, as well as on any part of it, thereby demonstrating His Unity. By concentrating the manifestations of all or some of His Names on a single entity, He displays His Oneness.14
Look at the stamp pointed out in: Look at the prints of God’s Mercy, how He revives Earth after its death. He is the Reviver of the dead in the same way, and He is powerful over all things (30:50). Earth’s revival is an astonishing “resurrection” or coming to life again. Countless animal and plant species are raised to life. There are far more members of many non-human species than there are of humanity. Nevertheless, to fulfill certain subtle purposes, most plants are not raised in their exact former identities, but in forms bearing a substantial and close resemblance. However they are revived, their revival indicates the ease of the Resurrection [that will occur at the end of time after the universe’s destruction].
Despite their being infinitely mixed with each other, reviving these innumerable species without confusion and with exact differentiation is a special stamp of the One of infinite Power and all-encompassing Knowledge. Species are infinitely mixed and intermingled, and there is great similarity among them. On the “page” of Earth, countless “books” are written without confusion or mistake, with infinite order, and with absolute accuracy in distinguishing among them. This is also a special seal of the One in Whose hand are the kingdom and keys of all things. He can do one thing while simultaneously doing something else.
Those who deny the Resurrection should observe its countless examples in Earth’s quickening. Your denial of it is like this: A man saw another man rewriting innumerable lost books from memory, or composing new ones like the lost ones, all at once. He is told that the miracle-working author can rewrite his book, composed in an instant, after he had dissolved it in water. The man replies: “Impossible! How can a destroyed book be rewritten in a moment?” for he compares his own ignorant and impotent self to that miracle-working author who never forgets anything and can do all things.15 If someone says to a man, who shows his strength by lifting a mountain, that he cannot remove a rock blocking the guests’ way to the garden in which he will offer them the most delicious foods and beverages, would you not call him a fool?
During spring there is an exalted, subtly embroidered seal belonging to the Lord, one showing itself in absolute accuracy and orderliness, abundance and extensiveness, and with absolute speed and ease. You see that completely mixed things are perfectly distinguished and separated. This seal is particular to the One Who can do many things at once, from Whom nothing is hidden, and for Whom nothing is difficult.
In this same season, we see extraordinary art and activity on Earth based on purposefulness, insight, wisdom, and munificence. This occurs everywhere, in exactly the same way, orderliness, and abundance. This art and activity are seals of the One Who, despite being nowhere, is present everywhere through His Power and Knowledge, Whom nothing wearies, and Who never needs help.
LOOK, O FRIEND! Just as the stamp of the Oneness of Him Who is the Eternally Besought-of-All is observed on the “page” of Earth and throughout the heavens and Earth, so is the stamp of His Unity observed on the universe as a whole. The universe is like a magnificent palace, a well-ordered factory, a well-planned city, all of whose elements or parts work together for great purposes. Elements hasten to help each other, even over long distances, when they are needed and do not get lost. Those who discern this truth see how some parts help other parts to meet their needs. It is as if they respond to each other’s requests for help and, in close cooperation and obedience to a single manager, work in orderliness and serve living beings for specific purposes.
Look at this principle of mutual helping and cooperation. The Sun and the moon, day and night, and summer and winter work with plants to help animals and to convey their food to them, which they take from the treasury of Mercy. Animals hasten to help human beings. For example, honeybees and silkworms take honey and silk from the treasury of the All-Merciful and carry them to humanity. Soil, air, and water particles help fruits and vegetables, each of which differ in taste and quality of nourishment. In turn, they help the body’s cells in perfect orderliness and for great purposes.
This perfect, purposeful, and well-arranged mutual helping is manifested by all of these things, especially inanimate objects. It is an evident proof and clear argument that they are servants of an All-Wise Sustainer, workers of a Munificent Manager who work by His command and leave, and by His Power and Wisdom.
LOOK, O FRIEND! The food needed by living things is distributed on time and according to their need. This well-arranged universal providence, contained in an all-encompassing mercy, implies love for and knowledge of those being supplied. Such all-encompassing mercy combined with perfect graciousness implies favoring and gratifying. Such graciousness combined with universal wisdom implies a certain purpose and consciousness. Such universal wisdom combined with a perfect arrangement makes all things interdependent. Such dependence requires mutual helping and solidarity among all parts of existence.
All of this is a special stamp of the One Who is the Lord, Sustainer, Provider, and Director of all things; a seal unique to the One to Whose Command the sun, the moon, and the stars are subjugated. He is the One Who has made all things good which He has created (32:7) and When He wills a thing, He only says: “Be,” and it is (36:82).
The stamp of Oneness is seen on all individual things and species, on Earth and the universe, and is distributed throughout the world on such universal elements as air, water, and soil.
Planting seeds in an arable land indicates that the land is controlled by the owner of the seeds, and that the seeds belong to the one who controls the land. All universal elements [like water, air, and soil, which imply an all-encompassing knowledge and wisdom] are at the disposal of a single Maker. Their simplicity, uniformity, and comprehensiveness, and all the things “planted” in them (i.e., fruits of Mercy, miracles of Power, and words of Wisdom), as well as their world-wide distribution for certain purposes, are evidence that the comprehensive and comprehended, as well as the “land” and the “seeds” planted in it, are controlled by God. Each species and element testifies that it belongs to the One Who owns everything. Each flower or fruit, animal or micro-organism, is a seal proclaiming, a stamp pronouncing, a signature declaring in the tongue of perfect harmony, orderliness, and purpose: “The One Who owns me owns this space. Whoever created me created it. Whoever uses me as a letter wrote it. Whoever made me a stitch wove it.”
The One Who controls the smallest creatures and manages the life of the weakest beings has supreme power over all elements. The One Who employs all elements manages the lives of all animals and plants, and holds them in His hand of Lordship. This stamp of Unity is clear to those whose eyes are hearts are open and clear.
Can you claim absolute ownership of and control over anything? Ask an individual being, and it will reply: “Only the absolute owner of my species can claim to own me.” Ask the species, and they will reply: “Only the absolute owner of Earth, both its exterior and interior, can claim to own me.” Ask Earth, and it will reply: “Only the absolute owner of the whole universe can claim to own me.”
We have pointed out some stamps of Unity put on parts, individual beings, and wholes; on the universe; and on life, living beings, and bringing to life. Let’s look at another of these innumerable seals of Oneness on species and wholes.
The difficulty or ease of creating a tree and a fruit is the same, as both depend on the same law of growth and issue from the same center. Depending on the same law of raising and upkeep lessens difficulty and expenditure to such an extent that there is no difference between one person growing a tree with abundant fruit and many people raising one fruit tree. A single fruit grown by many people requires as many tools as does growing a tree with abundant fruit. Similarly, the instruments, machines, and factories needed to equip an army would be the same if only a single soldier were to be equipped. The difference is only qualitative. Also, printing thousands of copies of a book is not much more expensive than printing one copy. If each copy were printed on a different printing press, the amount paid would be thousands of times greater than that paid for thousands of copies from the same press.
In sum: If innumerably multiple things are not attributed to one source, then, in addition to having to attribute one thing to innumerably multiple things, there would be as many difficulties as those things. So, the extraordinary ease of creating so many species distributed world-wide comes from the Oneness of their Creator.
The essential similarities among members of a species and species of a class show the stamp’s oneness and the “pen”’s singleness, and testify that such similarities are a Single One’s work. Also, the absolute ease [of their creation in such abundance] and the small expenditure spent on them show that they are a Single Being’s work. If this were not so, their creation would be impossibly difficult. This observed ease and economy of means also shows that God has no partners in His Essence and acts, for such a condition would destroy the order, which, in turn, would ruin the universe.
LOOK, O FRIEND! Life proves Divine Oneness and the necessity of His Existence, and death proves His Permanence and Eternity.
The Sun’s images reflected in bubbles floating on a river and the sea, as well as in transparent things on Earth, bear witness to the Sun. These images disappear when the Sun sets or the river enters a tunnel, and new ones appear when the Sun rises or the river comes out of the tunnel. This testifies to the permanence of the Sun’s light and demonstrates that these images are the work of a single Sun. Their existence shows the Sun’s existence; their disappearance shows that there is only one “eternal” Sun.
Similarly, the existence of creatures shows the necessary existence of the Necessarily Existent Being. Their disappearance, along with the causes of their existence and their replacement with new creatures, bear witness to His Permanence, Eternity, and Oneness. This is because along with the alternation of day and night, seasons and years, beautiful beings are renewed, and fine creatures are replaced as they “set” while their likes “rise.” All of this testifies to the existence of an Eternally Beautiful One Who continuously manifests Himself, and to His Permanence and Oneness.
The disappearance of causes and their effects, along with the succession of years and centuries and their being followed by their likes, testify that causes and their effects are created for subtle purposes. All of those fine beings coming in successively are creatures of the All-Majestic, All-Gracious, and Beautiful One, all of Whose Names are beautiful and holy. Such activity testifies that they are His changing works, moving mirrors, and successive stamps and seals.
LOOK, O FRIEND! Without exception, everything points in the tongue of its essential helplessness to its Creator’s necessary existence. In the general order of creation, each element has a tongue to express its functions and tasks. These tongues, despite each element’s helplessness, indicate their Creator’s Oneness. Everything testifies in two ways to the Creator’s necessary Existence and Unity. In every living being, there are two signs of His Oneness and absolute independence of creation. Through the Qur’an’s enlightenment, I have seen that each part of creation testifies to the Necessarily Existent Being, the One and Eternally-Besought-of-All, in around 55 tongues, which I described briefly in Qatra (The Drop).16
Know, O friend, that just as creatures testify to the All-Glorious One’s necessary existence and Oneness, so do they testify to His Attributes of Majesty, Beauty, and Perfection; the perfection of His Essence; and the fact that His Being, Essential “Qualities,” Attributes, Names, and acts have no defect or deficiency.
A work’s perfection points to the act’s perfection. The act’s perfection points to the title’s perfection. The title’s perfection points to the attribute’s perfection. The attribute’s perfection points to the being’s essential capacity or indispensable quality. The being’s perfection of the essential or indispensable quality points to the being’s perfection. A palace’s perfect structure and decoration manifests the perfection of the engineer’s work. The work’s perfection shows the title’s perfection, meaning that the engineer is skillful, expert, and capable. The title’s perfection displays the perfection of the engineer’s qualities (the engineer is knowledgeable, intelligent, capable, and efficient). The perfection of the qualities displays these essential capacities (the engineer has fully realized his or her superior capacities and distinguished potential). The capacities’ perfection reveals one’s perfection as an engineer.
Similarly, the perfection of the works we observe in the universe bears witness to the perfection of the activity behind them, which, in turn, bears witness to the perfection of the titles of the one doing the work. The titles’ perfection testifies to the qualities’ or attributes’ perfection, for names or titles issue from attributes. The attributes’ perfection reveals the perfection of the essential capacities, which are the attributes’ sources. The essential capacities’ perfection testifies to the All-Glorious Being’s perfection. Actually, compared to His glorious Perfection and majestic Beauty, all perfection or beauty in the universe is only a dim or vague shadow.
- Causes or causality veil the operation of Divine Power.
- Belief in God’s Unity has two degrees: superficial belief and firm conviction.
- Life is an argument for God’s Unity.
- If the One God created everything, everything becomes easy. If nature or material causes created everything, everything becomes extremely difficult.
- Everything points to itself only as a “letter,” while pointing to its Maker in many respects and manifesting its Maker’s titles.
- Spring displays countless examples of the Resurrection.
- The universal interconnectedness of everything for great purposes points to the One Creator and Director.
- The Provider’s love for and knowledge of everything is shown by how He takes care of them.
- Every species and element testify that it belongs to the One Who owns everything.
- Attributing innumerably multiple things to many sources results an equal number of difficulties.
- Creatures’ testify to the Necessarily Existent Being’s necessary existence via their existence. They bear witness to His Permanence, Eternity, and Oneness via their disappearance, along with the causes of their existence, and via their being followed by new ones.
- Everything points, in the tongue of its essential helplessness, to its Creator’s necessary existence.
- The perfection of what we see in the universe testifies to the All-Glorious
- Being’s perfection.
13 God Almighty should be considered from five perspectives. One is His Essence as Divine Being (Zat in Islamic terminology). Only He can know His Essence. A Prophetic Tradition says: “Do not reflect on God’s Essence; instead, reflect on His works and acts.” God has no partners, likes and resemblance, as pointed to by the verse: There is nothing like or compared unto Him. The second perspective is His Essential, “Innate” Qualities as being God, which are the Attributes’ source. The third perspective is His Attributes, which are of three kinds: Essential Attributes (e.g., Existence, Having No Beginning, Eternal Permanence, Being Unlike the Created, Self-Subsistence); Positive Attributes (e.g., Life, Knowledge, Power, Speech, Will, Hearing, Seeing, Creating); and innumerable “Negative” Attributes, summed up as “God is absolutely free from any defect and shortcoming.”
The Attributes are the sources of the Names: Life gives rise to the All-Living, Knowledge to the All-Knowing, and Power to the All-Powerful. About 1,000 of God’s many Names are known to us. The Names are the sources of the Acts: giving life has its source in the All-Living, and knowing everything down to the smallest originates in the All-Knowing. God is “known” by His acts, Names, and Attributes. Whatever exists in the universe, in the material and immaterial worlds, is the result of the Names’ and Attributes’ manifestations: Universal and individual provision points to His Name the All-Providing, and the All-Healing is the source of remedies and patient recovery. Philosophy has its source in Wisdom, and so on. The acts, Names, and Attributes are the “links” between God and the created, or the “reflectors” with which to have knowledge of God.
Although we try to know or recognize God by His acts, Names, and Attributes, we must not think of Him in the terms associating likeness or comparison unto Him, for there is nothing resembling Him. He is absolutely One, Single, and totally different from all that exists or has the potential to exist. In this sense, His Oneness is not in terms of number. He also has Unity and relations with the created. To have some knowledge of Him through His acts, Names, and Attributes, some comparisons are permissible. This is pointed to in the verse: For God is the highest comparison. The writer’s using the Sun as a unit of comparison to understand God’s acts, Names, and Attributes should be considered from this perspective. (Tr.)
14 Unity and Oneness denote two different meanings. Unity means God’s manifesting all His Names throughout the universe or on any part of it. Oneness means God’s concentrating all or some of His Names on a single entity, which causes differentiation among species and individuals.
15 The Qur’an declares: I shall not allow to go to waste the deed of any doer among you, whether be a male or female: you are one from the other (3:195). It is clear that Islam does not discriminate between men and women in religious responsibility. Each gender shares most of the responsibilities, but each one has certain responsibilities that are particular to it. The Qur’an usually uses the masculine form of address, for this is one of Arabic’s characteristics. In almost every language, the masculine form is used for a group comprising both men and women, like the English word mankind, which includes both men and women. So, brotherhood also includes sisterhood, and, since the believers comprise both male and female believers, the believers are brothers and sisters. However, in order to maintain the original text and avoid repetition, usually we do not mention the feminine forms in translation. (Tr.)
16 Qatra is included here as the fourth treatise of this book.