The Fifth Treatise
A bubble from the ocean of the Qur’an
My Lord is Munificent. He buys His property from you, preserves it on your behalf, and gives in return a great price for it.
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
All praise be to the Lord of the Worlds. Peace and blessings be on our master Muhammad, his Family, and Companions.
KNOW, O BELIEVERS, THAT WHEN BELIEVERS PRAY AND RECITE GOD’S Names, for example, saying: “I bear witness that there is no god but God,” or “Muhammad is the Messenger of God,” or “All praise be to God,” they have made a claim, announced a cause and conviction, and declared a conclusion. At that very moment, hundreds of millions testify to the truthfulness of their cause, and they feel as if innumerable past believers had said and confirmed the same words.
Moreover, whatever testifies to Islam’s truth, confirms its essentials or judgments, and supports it with proofs and witnesses affirms them in their cause and strengthens their conviction and conclusion. These pronouncements receive innumerable blessings and gifts, and countless rewards pour down in return for them. They are surrounded by an attractive halo of meaning and an enlivening, inspiring spirit formed of the spiritual ecstasy radiating from the community of believers, and the showers of light emitted by the hearts of those believing in the Unity of God who absorb the water of life from the fountains of these blessed words.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that One who affirms something is preferred to one who negates it, for negation is self-restricted whereas affirmation is not limited to a single source or means. One thousand negations equal a single negation. In the case of 1,000 affirmations, however, each affirmation is as strong as all affirmations.
Assume that several people look for the crescent moon [to establish whether the holy month of Ramadan has begun] through different windows. Since each person saw it through his or her own window and all confirm each other, one affirmation is as strong as all affirmations. But what if someone cannot see the crescent because there is no window, the observer has weak eyes, has not looked, and so on? Such a negation is restricted to that particular individual. His or her denial of the crescent’s appearance does not negate its existence, for one such denial does not support the other denials. Thus each denial is restricted to the one who denies.
This subtle point reveals the following truth: Even if the whole world of misguidance and unbelief denies one issue of belief, the resulting denial would be like that of a single person who, raising a defective argument, finds it confined only to himself or herself. In matters of belief, however, on which all guided people agree and thus confirm each other, the argument presented by one person is as strong as that presented by all believers.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that a strong building’s parts or stones support each other and derive strength from the whole. As each unit supports the other, all individual weaknesses are removed. It is as if the whole building helps each part. Knowing the properties of each branch and fruit of a tree depends on knowing the whole tree, as each provides knowledge for the whole. It is as if each part is a window through which to look at another part, and serves as a standard to know the whole. In this way, each radiation and subject matter of belief and Islam is supported by the whole, and can be made clearer and more understandable in parallel with the whole. The more belief and Islam branch out, the more we are convinced of each part’s truth.
Despite this fact, the carnal self and Satan tend toward the opposite way: One part’s weakness serves as a pretext to consider the whole as weak.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that each part of the universe serves as a unit of comparison through which one can see all of its other parts’ possible existence. Conversely, its parts also serve as units of comparison through which one can see each part’s possible existence.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the least part of a very great whole needs [for its being] whatever the whole needs [for its being]. Whatever a tree needs a fruit also needs. So the Creator of the fruit, rather, of its smallest individual cells, is the Creator of the tree, and (by the same token) of Earth, all its contents, and the whole Tree of Creation.
KNOW, O FRIEND, [that to understand the difference between belief and unbelief and like matters, consider this comparison:] The two halves of this issue are infinitely far from each other and each, like a seed, has flourished and grown into an elaborate tree. [After the evidence of its growth] no one should doubt that issue’s uniqueness and authenticity. One can doubt the seeds’ nature when they are underground. But after each has grown into a tree and yielded fruit, no doubt can remain, for everything has been made clear. An apple tree cannot be produced by a bitter gourd seed, unless one engages in self-deception or can change apples into gourds.
Prophethood is like a seed from which the tree of Islam, as well as its branches and fruits, has grown. The Qur’an is a Sun that has yielded the fruits of the planets of Islam’s eleven pillars.53 [Is it still possible to doubt that seed’s authenticity and soundness after seeing all its invaluable fruits?] KNOW, O FRIEND, that an egg hatches and a peacock chick or another young bird emerges. The chick or young bird grows into a beautiful peacock or another beautiful bird. A tree grows from a seed, stretches its branches high into the sky, and yields fruit. If you seek the beauty and qualities of a peacock or another bird in the eggshell, or the tree with all its branches and leaves, flowers and fruits, in the seed, you will deceive or make fool of yourself.
If we view our Prophet superficially and in the light of what history books say about his early life, we will be unable to perceive him, appreciate his worth, and recognize his character fully. However, Islam and its world civilization have flourished because of him. We should regard historical and biographical accounts as a thin cover that have to be torn apart to show him as the seed and founder of this civilization. His merely human dimension should be seen as the shell of a seed from which the blessed tree of Prophet Muhammad has grown, a tree watered by Divine blessings and flourishing forever by the help of Divine favor. We should not cling to his human qualities and states or his early life, but rather should search out the degree of greatness he attained [as a Prophet whose message has embraced a considerable part of the world, been the source of a magnificent civilization, and has the potential to embrace the whole world in the future].
Those who study his character with an attitude of doubt or curiosity cannot distinguish whether he is a subject or an object, a source or a mirror, a letter (which draws attention to someone else– God) or a word (which has a meaning in itself and so attracts attention to itself), and what is essential to or inherent in the Divine Being and what is disseminated or manifested by Him. The Prophet is purely a created servant of God Almighty, and the one most advanced in worshipping and servanthood to Him. We must view him as the object of Divine manifestations. All of his perfections are from the Almighty.
Nothing can be its own source or origin. But even the tiniest particle can contain, like a mirror [reflecting the sun], the stars. However, those who do not understand the reality of things see each thing in respect of itself, instead of in respect of that thing’s true origin, and mistakenly think of the Divine art as nature.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that prayer or supplication contain the meanings of belief in One God and worship. Those who pray should be convinced that the One to Whom they pray hears, knows, and can fulfill their desires and needs. This requires believing that the One prayed to knows and has power over all things.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the sun—the lamp of the world—can enter and illuminate a gnat’s eye via manifestation. However, a flame produced by lighting a match cannot do this, for its flame would blind the eye. In the same way, a minute particle can manifest the Names of the Eternal “Sun,” even though it contains nothing truly effective and operative in creation.
WHY, O SELFHOOD, do you remain obstinate, conceited, and proud, when in reality you are weak and impotent, destitute and abject? A tiny microbe can defeat you completely.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that this shows how weak and impotent you really are when left to your own devices and before the Creator’s Power and Grandeur. If you try to traverse your memory, said to be the size of a mustard grain, this tiny grain will stretch into the distance like a vast un-crossable desert. If you cannot travel across your own memory, how can you travel through the whole [of your mind]? If, with respect to your mind, your memory resembles a boundless desert, your mind resembles a bottomless ocean. Glory be to Him Who has made the grain [of memory] like a world for the mind, and the world like a grain for it.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that people unjustly attribute the fruits of a group’s action to one person, and assume that he or she has produced them. This mistake leads to a kind of secret association of partners with God, for such an assumption is based on one’s belief that the individual in question has enough power to create something. The gods and goddesses of the ancient Greeks and other pagan peoples arose from such mistakes.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that individuals are surrounded by concentric circles: one’s clothes and body, native town, Earth, the visible world, and so on. Except for the first one, they have no part in or influence on any circle. In fact, they are affected by the circles, as they can benefit from them materially and spiritually. If they try to interfere with them, they only cause the related benefits to decrease.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that those who recite God’s Names, whether consciously or not, receive many benefits. Humanity is a very interesting creation. Each individual is a uniform being composed of many parts, simultaneously simple and complex, having organs, limbs, systems, senses, feelings, and faculties. Each of those have their own pains and pleasures, along with others related to and coming from the whole body. There is a swift, mutual helping and support among them. By virtue of this uniqueness, those who follow the way of servanthood to God will be rewarded, especially in the Hereafter, with all pleasures, blessings, and perfections [acquired by or allotted to their parts, organs, limbs, systems, senses, feelings, and faculties.] But if they follow the way of egoism, they will be the target of pain, suffering, and torment. A toothache is different from an earache, the pleasure of the eyes is different from that of the tongue, and the pleasure and pain originating in touch, imagination, reason, and the heart differ from each other.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that not defining the time of death is a clear proof of its being definite in the Originator’s Knowledge. Had it been made definite [for each individual], supposing it to be dependent on a “natural” law, people would have thought that it is undefined within the Divine Knowledge. Since it is not defined for us, they cannot suppose that it is undefined [within the Divine Knowledge].
KNOW, O FRIEND, that regular recitation of certain Divine Names is a mark or sign of Islam, for the signs of Islam are too exalted for the “hand” of ostentation and hypocrisy to reach.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that repeating the formula of Divine Unity—There is no god but God—isolates the heart from [inner] relations with [whatever separates one from God] and false objects of worship. One who recites this formula has many faculties and senses, each of which should be convinced of the Divine Unity and absolutely isolated from polytheistic attitudes particular to itself.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that it makes no difference whether you send as a gift the reward of reciting, say, Surat al-Fatiha, to one person or millions of people, as there is no difference between one person and millions in hearing a spoken word. Immaterial things multiply or spread very rapidly, without one copy thereof hindering any other, like a light reflected in one or in millions of mirrors.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that calling blessings and peace upon the Prophet is like answering the Giver of Bounties’ invitation, Who spreads His blessings freely and has laid the table of His bounties on him whom He honored with Ascension. When you ask blessings and peace upon the Prophet and mention a (good) attribute of his, concentrate and reflect on the one you praise so that you may grow in zeal to call peace and blessings on him over and over again.
O RELIGIOUS SCHOLARS. Do not be upset with people’s indifference to your knowledge and the small amount they pay you. Worldly payment comes in proportion to need, not personal merit, which will be given in the Hereafter. You are not allowed to sell your personal merit, at a small price, for this world’s illusory provisions.
O WRITERS AND PUBLIC SPEAKERS who address people through the media. Be humble [before people] and freely announce and repent of your defects. You have no right to feel self-pride and publicize what is against the marks or signs of Islam. Who has allowed you to do so? Who has given you the right to spread groundless doubt about Islam, and spread misguidance throughout the nation and among the Muslim community? Do you think that the nation is misguided like you? No one can see or show others as deviated. Who gave you permission to suspect that the Muslim community has deviated from the symbols of Islam? Publishing what most believers do not accept is calling to deviation, and one who publishes such material calls to deviation.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that since unbelief is the opposite of belief, unbelievers are hostile to believers. Thus the love of unbelievers [because of their unbelief], with whom it is impossible to establish friendship, is useless. The Qur’an condemns unbelievers and their unbelieving ancestors to Hell’s eternal punishment. O people of the Qur’an, do not expect them to love and help you. Say: God is sufficient for us. What a good guardian and good helper He is.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the difference between the civilization of unbelievers and that of (true) believers is this: The former is barbarism disguised as civilization, outwardly glittering but inwardly hideous, apparently pleasing but in reality frightening. As for the civilization of believers, its inside is more exalted than its outside. It is more perfect in meaning than in appearance. It is composed of friendliness, love, and mutual helping, for the believers’ belief in and affirmation of Divine Unity causes them to see brotherhood among everything that exists, as well as friendship and loving among it parts, particularly among human beings, and more particularly among believers. They see brotherhood in the origin, and union in the end. [In other words, all things issue from a single origin and, after dividing like a tree’s branches, come together in the end.]
Unbelievers see all things as hostile, alien to, and separated from one another. They even see this hostility among fellow unbelievers, since they consider brotherhood only a point of meeting between two lines of disunity or separation. One line extends eternally into the past, and the other eternally into the future. They only feel a strong (and very temporary) brotherhood at times of national zeal or racial passion. However, in reality such apparent love for a brother or sister is really no more than love for himself or herself. Any acceptable humanitarian aspects and spiritual virtues of the unbelievers’ civilization are either borrowings from Islamic civilization, leftovers from the revealed religions, or are owed to the guidance of the Qur’an [being in the world].
O you who desire ijtihad (using deductive reasoning to establish new religious precedents in Islamic law), the door to ijtihad is open. But you can pass through it only in certain cases:
ONE: When winter gales blow and small holes must be covered, how can doors be opened? When unacceptable acts are done freely, when innovations opposed to the spirit of religion flood in, and when destructive thoughts attack it from all sides, is it reasonable or permissible to destroy the “wall” by making breaches in it?
TWO: Islam’s essentials cannot be subjected to ijtihad, for they are like nourishment or sustenance for Muslims. When they are neglected or rejected, as they are today, we must strive to revive them and apply them in our daily life. If the need arises, ijtihad may be applied in secondary theoretical matters, which earlier scholars made spacious enough to meet future (and unknown) needs.
THREE: Every time has its own demands. Today, these are politics and securing [the necessities of] worldly life. However, in the centuries following that of the Prophet, inferring from the Qur’an that which pleased the Creator of the universe and securing eternal happiness was in demand. Since at that time people’s minds, hearts, and spirits were concentrated on those items, many people learned, consciously or unconsciously, from the prevailing circumstances, events, and conversations. It was as if everything served to teach and prepare them for ijtihad, so that the fuel of their minds ignited even if they were not lit with the “match” of special study. When they turned to ijtihad, this meant light upon light for them.
But today, minds and hearts are confused. [Because of modern life’s disorienting complexity] people cannot concentrate on one subject, and modern trends of thought and politics dominate minds. Thus, someone as smart as Sufyan ibn Uyayna54 needs to spend at least ten times as much time as Sufyan needed to be able to perform ijtihad. When Sufyan, at the age of puberty, started to study for ijtihad, he was like a match ready to ignite. His modern counterparts are far away from ijtihad, for they are deeply grounded [and bounded] in modern, non-religious sciences and hardened by them to the degree of their preoccupation with them.
FOUR: The desire to perform ijtihad by expanding the sphere of Islamic secondary matters in order to attain higher degrees of piety and follow Islam’s essentials more strictly causes perfection. However, if one does not follow Islam’s pillars and prefers the world over the Hereafter, such desire leans toward destruction insofar as it is really an attempt to cast off religious responsibilities.
FIVE: Islam holds that the benefit derived from a religious obligation is the reason why someone wants to fulfill it. In other words, it was not legislated because of the benefit to be derived. But that is exactly the view held by modern people. The modern view first considers worldly happiness; the Shari‘a first considers the person’s eternal happiness and then one’s worldly life in proportion to its being the means of acquiring eternal happiness. Furthermore, many modern “needs” have become “necessities” only because people have abused their free will and followed unlawful tendencies. Therefore, their “necessity” cannot be put forward for new dispensations and making unlawful things lawful. This is the same principle whereby a drunk, who has become intoxicated by his or her own free will, cannot plead drunkenness as an excuse for criminal conduct. Any ijtihad done in such a context will be “earthly,” not “heavenly.” And any addition or amendment to the laws of the Creator of the heavens and Earth, and ruling of His servants without His authority, must be rejected.
O ONE ENVELOPED BY HEEDLESSNESS and naturalism, and thus “blind” and “deaf,” a “worshipper” of material causes in the darkness of imagining nature as the origin of existence. I will explain to you one of the 55 “languages” spoken by each minute particle and compound of the universe to witness the Almighty’s necessary Existence and His Unity in His Divinity and Lordship.
Consider this: Creation must be attributed either to creatures themselves and causes or to the One, Necessarily Existent Being. Due to defective reasoning, you may find it hard to attribute all things to the Necessarily Existent Being. But, because no cause can give existence to any creature, attributing their existence to self-creation or material causes is illogical and cannot be accepted. What is supposed in the first alternative is certain in the second.
Furthermore, while there is only one supposed difficulty in attributing creation to a Single, Necessarily Existent Being, the obvious impossibility in attributing it to creatures themselves or causes are as many as the number of parts in the universe. For example, if a honeybee is not attributed to a Single, Necessarily Existent Being, everything in the heavens and Earth would have to take part in its coming into existence because the honeybee is related, in one way or another, with all parts of the world. Also, creating multiple things from a single source is far easier than creating a single thing from numerous sources, all of which contradict each other, are deaf and blind, and whose coming together increases their deafness and blindness.
If the supposed difficulty in attributing things to a Single Being is only as great as a minute particle, that same difficulty will be as large as a mountain when creatures are attributed to themselves or to causes. With one movement, a single being can produce a result and give a form or order to multiple things. But multiple things cannot produce the same result even with many movements, and can give the same form or order only after exerting great effort and difficulty. For example, a commander can command many soldiers very easily; however, soldiers can do so only with great difficulty or not at all. Innumerable drops come from a single water faucet.
The one supposed difficulty in the former case becomes innumerable impossibilities in the second. Some of these impossibilities are as follows:
- Since the perfect artistry and design observed in things requires all-encompassing knowledge, absolute sight, perfect power, and all-inclusive will, each particle should have the attributes of the Necessarily Existent Being.
- If things are not attributed to a Single, Necessarily Existent Being, divinity must be attributed to each thing. This means that we associate partners with the Divine Being in His Divinity and Necessary Existence, which should be absolutely free from having partners.
- If we do not attribute a dome to a builder, then its faultless construction, which could not occur by chance, would require each of its stones to be as knowledgeable and skillful as an engineer. Like those stones, if things are not attributed to a Single Being, an item’s particles or atoms should be consciously dominant over and dominated by each other and by the thing itself.
- Since the absolute balance, solidarity, mutual helping, and correlation observed in the universe require a comprehensive consciousness and an absolute power of seeing, each particle forming things and causes should have this degree of consciousness and knowledge and power of seeing. If things are attributed to themselves, they or even each particle forming them should have these attributes. If they are attributed to causes, each cause should have them.
Many other such impossibilities and false conceptions arise if the existence of a Single, Necessarily Existent Being is not accepted as the originator of all things.
When things are attributed to their true Lord, Who necessarily exists and is One, particles and compounds become like raindrops reflecting the sun’s images. They come into existence by the rays of the manifestations of Divine Power, which is absolute, luminous, comprehensive, eternal and infinite, and based on—rather including—the eternal, infinite Knowledge and Will. It is the Power to Which the miracles of creatures testify, and of which a single ray is more radiant and penetrating than the sun, as sunlight can be hindered, refracted, divided, and scattered in the world of multiplicity—the (material) world where things exist separately and in abundance. This Power’s smallest manifestation is greater than the greatest material cause, as a partial manifestation of something luminous has the properties of the whole, even in the world of multiplicity—like the sun being “contained” in the smallest piece of glass.
The difference between attributing things to themselves or causes and to the One, Necessarily Existent Being is like that between the sun’s image reflected in a raindrop and claiming that that image is the sun. Could anyone believe such a claim? By contrast, the eternal Divine Power easily penetrates all things. In relation to It, everything that exists, without exception, is the same. Such Power is essential and intrinsic to the Divine Being Himself, eternal and infinite, and therefore can have no opposite, degrees, limitations, or impotence.
To understand this point more clearly through comparisons from the sphere of contingencies and multiplicity, consider the following:
In respect to receiving the sun’s manifestations in the form of images, pieces of glass, oceans, and planets are the same because of their transparency and the sun’s luminosity. In respect to reflecting the light of a lamp located in the center, the smallest mirror in the smallest circle (around that center) and all mirrors in the largest circle are the same because of their reciprocating or facing-each-other position. Since something is immaterial, large numbers of things can benefit from that thing simultaneously—as from a source of light, for example—without one hindering the other. For example, in hearing a word uttered, one and thousands are the same, for it can be heard by thousands of people at the same time without one preventing the other. [There is a very precise balance or measurement in the universe. To understand such preciseness,] consider a balance so large and sensitive that walnut-sized or mountain-sized things could be weighed with the same exactness. Suppose we weigh a pair of things, whether as big and heavy as two suns or as small and light as two walnuts. If a walnut is put on either scale, the scales would be worlds apart from each other due to the balance’s sensitivity. Due to the exact orderliness and interconnection among things, a child could start and then steer a huge vessel or a toy ship with the same ease. Due to obedience, a commander could move a huge army as easily as one private by ordering: “March!”
Since the main existence of things lies in their inner incorporeal dimension, and a species does not receive its nature from its physical composition, all members of a species, without exception, have the same nature. Thus, because of such essential properties of things or basic characteristics of existence, everything, in relation to Divine Power, is the same. There are no exceptions.
The inner dimension of existence [its essential dimension, for the outer visible, material forms are transient] is immaterial and transparent. The faces of whatever exists are turned toward Divine Power, which is incorporeal and of pure light. There is an infinitely precise balance in existence, and all things are infinitely well-ordered and interconnected with each other. All particles obey “enthusiastically” the Divine laws and orders of creation, which may be summed up in the word: Be! As the Necessarily Existent Being is absolutely free of corporeality and detached from corporeal things, it is equally easy for Divine Power to resurrect a fly and Earth, to create a honeybee and the heavens and Earth, to originate a minute particle and the sun.
Actually, this ease is so visible and tangible that it does not need proof [for example, the apparently dry, dead wood of vines or palm trees produces clusters of grapes or dates]. Divine Power is such that if Its acts are attributed to causes or themselves, innumerable difficulties arise. This Power, on the other hand, penetrates the inner, transparent dimensions of things or their archetypes—which constitute the essence of their existence in Divine Knowledge—even through such small openings as the eye of a needle, and manifests on them by Its creativity.
In sum, what we see concerning how Divine Power creates things demonstrates:
ONE: Means and apparent causes are veils to preserve the Divine Power’s dignity [in the eyes of people] in Its dealing with the corporeal aspects of things.55
TWO: Things that are transparent in both their outer and inner aspects (e.g., life, existence, and light) have no veils (means and causes) placed between them and Divine Power.
THREE: Divine Power deals with all things easily. It creates a huge fig tree from its dust particle-sized seed, and hangs a cluster of grapes from a thread-like stem. The existence of the Owner of that eternal Power is more manifest than the existence of the universe. Each creature testifies to its own existence in a few ways, whereas it bears witness to its Maker’s existence in many observable, intelligible, and rational ways. No creature, even with the help of all heavenly and earthly causes, could produce its like. In the art they contain and the skill needed to make them, the fig tree’s seed is the same as the tree itself, and a human being is the same as Earth. So, the Power Who originates the seed and humanity easily creates the tree and Earth.
O YOU WHO GO ASTRAY by not attributing things to the One Necessarily Existent Being. You see how impossible it is to attribute existence to itself or to causes. The mental and spiritual anguish of such an effort will end only when you flee and submit to the One Necessarily Existent Being, by Whose Power alone the existence of all things can be explained. Referring to His Will clarifies all ambiguities, and remembering Him and depending on His Name brings peace and tranquility to hearts and minds.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the area where your heart and mind move cannot be encompassed. Although you sometimes travel within a minute particle, float in a drop, and imprison yourself in a dot, you actually put the whole world before your eyes and include all creation in your intellect, aspiring to see the Necessarily Existent Being. Sometimes you become smaller than a minute particle or greater than the heavens, or you enter a drop or include everything that exists.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the gifts God has ordained that humanity attain or make use of come with conditions. Some of these conditions are established by God, while others pertain to human beings themselves. For example, light, air, food, and speech are God’s gifts, and how much we benefit from them depends upon our respective organs’ soundness and health. All senses and organs have been created by God Almighty; our role is to keep them sound and healthy. Do not suppose that they come to us by chance and that, as a result, we can own and control them as we wish. They come to us by the Will of the One Who bestows them on us; we keep them working by our own will, and use them according to the wish of the One Who grants them.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that things are not more ordered and sound in their beginning than in their end. Their outward appearances and forms are not more beautiful in art and more exalted in wisdom than their insides. Do you suppose that such things are left to chance? Do you not see that the flower and its fruit display more wisdom than the seed and its shoot? The Maker is He Who is First and Last, Outward and Inward, and Who knows all things.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the Qur’an’s miraculous eloquence saves it from corruption. One cannot confuse its words with the words of any person, regardless his or her identity or command of Arabic. One cannot put on the “dress” of the Qur’an, as was done with the other revealed books and eventually led to their corruption.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the repetition of: Which of the blessings of your Lord do you deny? in Surat al-Rahman at the end of the revealed verses pointing to diverse “natural” phenomena—each is a sign of Divine Existence and Oneness. It indicates that humanity’s and the jinns’ disobedience [to God’s commands], rebelliousness, and ingratitude arise mainly from their blindness to the Divine act of bestowing bounties and their heedlessness of the One Who bestows. Therefore, they attribute bounties to causes and chance and deny God’s blessings. Given this, believers must say In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate when they begin to use or consume a bounty. This means that it is from God and is taken in His Name and for His sake, not for the sake of means and causes. To Him belongs all praise and gratitude.
KNOW, O YOU WHO ARE EXPOSED to Satan’s whisperings, involuntary thoughts and suggestions arising from your heart and carnal self, and obscene scenes and imaginations when you try to consider and reflect on Divine truths. Obscene and malicious images pass before your eyes, making you tremble when you look at the “Sun” of truths. It is as if your imagination fouls your hands when you stretch them to glorify God, and your carnal self soils your eyes when you fix them on God’s praise and extolling.
When reflected on things you hold sacred, such dirt causes you to suffer and draws your attention to them more closely. Do not suffer on account of them, and do not ponder them to be saved from this state, for they are harmful only when you consider them as such and concentrate on them. Look at the sun and its light, the sky and its stars, a garden and its flowers through the holes of a dirt-stained garment. The dirt does not affect what you see. Unintentional thoughts and suggestions are like certain insects and bees: If you struggle with them to protect yourself, they will crowd and pester you more; if you ignore them, they will leave you alone.
KNOW, O FRIEND WHO, ALTHOUGH PREOCCUPIED with philosophy and preferring reason to Revelation, nevertheless comments on Revelation. You corrupt it, for your use of reason, self-pride, and deep attachment to philosophy prevent you from understanding it. Once I thought as you think now. But then I saw a high, brilliant castle whose floors are connected to the ceiling of the heavens. From its windows are hung different ropes, some of which are close to Earth. Whoever overcomes the carnal self and holds tightly to a rope can rise to the highest stations. I have seen people who, lost in self-pride and heedless of these ropes, try to rise on things piled under their feet. After rising a little, they fall. How can these things help them rise?
I have seen others who, relying on their egos, drive nails into the castle’s walls and try to climb up by them. However, they also fall and break their necks. And so on. Whatever abilities and intellectual faculties people possess have been given to them to use according to their capacities and to enable them to rise to the ropes, not to the stations. When used properly, your reason can lead you only to the ropes, while you can rise by Revelation. Whoever relies on God finds Him sufficient.
KNOW, O FRIEND WHO WONDERS about the triumph of the sinful over the pious, and the supremacy of the wicked over the righteous in this worldly life. In a vision I saw a castle that contained many pavilions. Their inhabitants varied in beauty and exaltedness, glory and luster. The one sitting in the center resembled the king. Below him down to the portal were rooms whose residents varied in rank and distinction. A servant stood by the door, and a fawning dog lay in front of the door. Then I saw another castle with a glittering front. In wonder, I looked into it and saw the king playing with the dog in front of the portal. The women, dressed immodestly, were joking with the children. Important tasks were left undone, as the duties or functions of the dog, children, and servants of the lowest degree seemed to have acquired prominence. The residents were busy with shameful things. However glittering, fortified, and magnificent its appearance, in reality the castle was dark and wretched.56
I see humanity, an individual, and my carnal self as castles. Those who live in castles have infinitely different degrees or ranks [in knowledge, morality, and values.] What modern, civilized people call “progress” is, in fact, falling and degeneration. What they call “acquiring and holding power” is vulgarization and loss of value. What they call “being awake,” “revival,” and “enlightenment” is deepening in the sleep of heedlessness. What they call “politeness” is show and hypocrisy, cleverness and Satanic intriguing, and humanity being metamorphosed into beasts.
Due to their God-given radiating faculties being together with their dark souls, some graceful and attractive scenes may appear in these fallen, rebellious people. But for the pious believers obeying God Almighty, their carnal selves represent the sorrowful-looking dog in front of the door. They use their God-given faculties not to gratify lowly desires and fancies, but to guide people back to the purpose of their creation. If God Almighty loves a servant, He does not make him or her love the world’s beauty; rather, when necessary, He uses misfortune to make that servant despise them.
This corrupt civilization has developed attractive devices and charming toys that fascinate those who live in the castle and who are, like moths attracted by light, drawn to burning fires.
KNOW, O WRETCHED, SINFUL SAID. Why this self-conceit, heedlessness, and indifference [to God’s blessings]? Do you not see that your free will is as weak as a hair, your power less than a minute particle, your life as temporary as a flash of light, your consciousness as dull as a dim and decaying ray of light, your time as short as a passing moment, and your space the size of a grave? Yet your impotence is endless, your needs are infinite, your poverty is boundless, and your ambitions are limitless. Should such a person rely on what is in his or her hands and depend on his or her self, or should he or she rely on God, All-Merciful, All-Compassionate? Among the wrappings of His Mercy and chests of bounties are light-filled and light-diffusing suns and fruit-bearing trees, and among the streams rising from the source of His blessings and the floods of His Mercy are water and light.
KNOW, O FRIEND WHO REGARDS the conclusion as too great to be supported by the evidence provided. Each truth of belief is corroborated, supported, and strengthened by every other truth, which indicates the truth of Islam and each of its parts. These innumerable evidences, witnesses, and signs of the truth of Islam and of belief corroborate the truth of each and set the seal of approval on it, for while the negation or rejection of many equals that of one, as explained earlier, the confirmation of one is strengthened by the confirmation of many.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that intense love causes one to deny the thing loved. This is also true for intense fear, excessive greatness, and comprehensive reason. Intense love for that which may not be attained can lead to denying the thing loved, intense fear may cause one to deny that which one fears, and greatness beyond the grasp of reason may be denied by that reason.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the seed of unbelief potentially bears Hell, just as a mustard plant is contained in its seed. Likewise, belief potentially bears the seed of Paradise, just as a palm tree is contained in its seed. It is normal for a mustard seed to grow into a mustard plant, and a palm seed to grow into a palm tree. In the same way, misguidance leads to Hell and guidance leads to Paradise.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that if a seed is pierced in the heart, it cannot grow [into a tree] so that it becomes “proud” of itself. Similarly, when your ego’s hard grain is pierced with the rays and burning “flames” of your regular recitation of the Divine Name, it cannot grow and become strengthened to be proud of itself, like Pharaoh, by heedlessly relying on human accomplishment and rebelling against the All-Compelling and Overwhelming Lord of the heavens and Earth. Naqshbandi saints have opened up the heart’s grain and found a short way to ignite the rocky mountain of ego and smash the head of the conceited self with the “drill” of silently reciting God’s Names. The loud recitation of those Names destroys the idol of (philosophical) naturalism.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that even in the remotest, largest, and most delicate spheres of multiplicity [the corporeal spheres where things exist separately and in abundance], the imprints of wisdom, care, and making firm and perfect are observed clearly. Look at the remotest ends of your body’s skin. See how the Pen of Divine Power has inscribed lines and designs pointing to the meanings in its possessor’s spirit on the pages of your body’s forehead, face, and palms. The invisible, immaterial copy of your life-history is hung around your neck and points to your destiny. This inscription [which indicates one’s destiny] has no opening through which blind chance or any similar agent [like causality] can pass.
KNOW, O FRIEND who is fond of this worldly life. You think that the purpose of life and of whatever the Eternal Power has entrusted to humanity and living beings—such as wonderful systems and extraordinary faculties—is only to maintain this fleeting life and secure its continuance. But you are wrong. If the purpose of life is its continuance, then the most manifest, clearest, and radiant proofs of wisdom, favoring, and orderliness, as well as the absolute lack of futility observed throughout the universe and witnessed by its overall order would represent the most astonishing futility and wastefulness, purposelessness, and chaos [since everything perishes].
What comes to you from the fruits and purposes of life is proportionate to your part in owning and controlling your life. The other purposes and fruits pertain to the Giver of Life. Humanity is only the object of His Names’ manifestations. God will display His Mercy’s colors and radiations in the greatest degree in Paradise, which will consist of fruits growing from the seeds of this life.
Your relation with your life is like that between a steersman and the royal ship he steers. The steersman places his hands on those instruments that move and steer the ship. His share of the ship’s uses and income is proportionate to his relation with the ship and the service he renders—perhaps one in thousands. This relation between you and the ship of your existence and life is the same, and your share from the uses and purposes of your life is also only one in thousands. Moreover, you have not even earned this part by your words or deeds.
KNOW, O MY HEART, that the world’s pleasure and beauty, in the absence of knowledge about our Creator, Owner, and Lord, are no more than a hell, even if they were as great as those of Paradise. This is my experience and observation. With His knowledge, a blessing like compassion becomes so pleasing and sweet that it may make one indifferent to whatever is in the world, even to Paradise.
KNOW, O MY HEART, that whatever happens here has two aspects: One pertains to this world, the carnal self, and our worldly desires and fancies; the other pertains to the Hereafter. With respect to the worldly aspect, the greatest, most important, and most established affair is the smallest, most insignificant and fleeting in itself. So do not worry or grieve about it, or consider it important.
KNOW, O MY HEART, that no one is more stupid and ignorant than one who sees the sun’s image in a transient, tiny object, or its manifestation on a flower as color, and then demands that that image or color be exactly like those of the original—the light and heat-diffusing lamp on the world’s ceiling that enjoys the central position in the solar system and makes the planets revolve around it. Furthermore, when what is seen in the tiny object or the flower “disappears,” due to their restricted and defective view, they deny the existence of the sun at midday, even if all that exists, without exception, testifies to it in broad daylight.
Such people confuse a shadowy existence formed through manifestation or reflection, according to what Destiny has determined, with the main, substantial existence. They see the sun’s image in a transparent object and ask: “Is the sun so little? Where are its amazing heat and other properties?” And so on.
Within such objections is a mistaken wish to take hold of a brand of the sun’s fire, to touch or influence it. They fail to understand that “nearness” to the sun does not mean or necessitate that they can influence it by their acts.57 Further, seeing that the smallest things are made surprisingly firm, with astonishing care and pleasing art and for significant purposes, they derive a mistaken analogy: Their Maker must have exerted great (and unnecessary) effort in making them. So they ask: “Why has the Wise Maker expended such great labor upon this gnat? What value does it have?”
O YOU WHO THINK LIKE A SOPHIST. God’s is the highest comparison, and for Him the highest of examples and similitudes should be coined. God is the Creator and Guardian of all things. Bear the following in mind so that you can consider this matter clearly:
FIRST POINT: On account of what it bears [from His Attributes], everything indicates the Almighty in His Lordship’s perfection. Whatever that thing has [of good] is from Him; it [i.e., that good] cannot be ascribed to it as its own [good].
SECOND POINT: Everything contains doors opened on the Almighty’s Light. If one door appears to be closed, it does not mean that all others are closed. Rather, one open door means that all doors are open.
THIRD POINT: Destiny, a reflection of God’s all-encompassing Knowledge, has determined for each thing a specific, fitting character out of the radiations of God’s absolutely luminous Names.
FOURTH POINT: His command, when He wills a thing, is but to say to it: “Be!” and it is (36:82); Your creation and resurrection are like [that of] a single soul (31:28). Attributing things to themselves or to possible causes requires that we accept all kinds of impossibilities arising from such a mistaken judgment.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the Qur’an explains many truths through parables and comparisons, for its abstract Divine truths can be presented only in limited, concrete forms in this [material] sphere of contingencies. A contingent being considers these concrete, contingent forms and contemplates, in their light, acts issuing from the sphere of Absolute Necessity (the sphere of Divinity).
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the heart has the same meaning for you as the Divine Throne has for the universe. Your heart is your being’s “outer dimension,” and you are your being’s “inner dimension” in your heart. In the sphere of the Divine Name “the Outward,” the Divine Throne encompasses all things. In the sphere of the Divine Name “the Inward,” It is like the heart of creation. In the sphere of the Name “the First,” It is pointed to by: His Throne was upon the water (11:7). In the Divine Name “the Last,” it is symbolized by: The ceiling of Paradise is God’s Throne.58 The Divine Throne has the qualities of being first and last, outer and inner, issuing from: He is the First and the Last, the Outer and the Inner (57:3).59
KNOW, O FRIEND, that helplessness gives rise to entreating, and need causes praying.
O Lord, O Creator, O Owner! I entreat You and pray to You because I am needy. I take shelter in You through my prayer because I am destitute. My helplessness is my means of imploring You and asking You for help. My weakness is my treasure. My ambition and pain are my capital. Your Beloved —the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings—and Your Mercy are my intercessors. Pardon me, forgive my sins, and have mercy on me, O God, O Merciful, O Compassionate!
53 That is, the six pillars of belief and five pillars of Islamic life. (Tr.)
54 Sufyan ibn Uyayna (726-814), one of the greatest scholars of Islamic history, was well-versed in hadith and fiqh. He met more than 80 scholars belonging to the generation following the Companions. He narrated hadith from Zuhri, Ibn Munkadir, Ibn al-Zinad, A‘mash, and others. Imam al-Shafi‘i, Shu‘ba, Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Jurayh, Yahya ibn Kathir, and others narrated from him. He was a very pious scholar. (Ed.)
55 Unable to see the true wisdom behind this Power’s sending misfortune and dealing with things and events that seem to be lowly and insignificant, people may blame the Divine Being. To save them from such mistakes, God acts behind causes in the visible, material world.
56 The first castle represents a believer who, although dull and not glittering in appearance, is in reality happy and brilliant, whose faculties (heart, intellect, senses, and organs) function according to the Creator’s will. The second castle represents a modern unbeliever who, glittering and happy in appearance, is unhappy and uses his or her faculties, senses, and organs only for the world’s temporary pleasures. (Tr.)
57 To believe in God, some people desire to see God Himself or witness His Being in everything and event with naked eyes, to “touch” Him or exert some influence on Him. They cannot see that their nearness to the sun and being within the scope of its direct influence is not due to themselves, but to the Sun’s manifestation of its lights and heat. So, God is nearer to Us than ourselves by His manifestations of His Names and Attributes, such as Knowledge, Will, Power, Grace, Giving Life, and Nourishing. But those heedless of Him cannot understand this reality and try to deny His existence on the pretext that they cannot see Him or touch Him. (Tr.)
58 A saying of the Prophet related by Ibn Maja and Ibn ‘Asakir. Jami‘ al-Saghir, no. 3116.
59 The Divine Throne’s truth and real identity is unknown. Its (symbolical) relationship with creation may be seen as an immaterial center through which God’s commands are conveyed or conducted throughout the universe. For example, in one respect, water is regarded as the Throne of Mercy (the conductor of God’s Mercy), and soil as the conductor of life. (Tr.)