The Ninth Treatise
A whiff from the breezes of the Qur’an’s guidance
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds, for His mercy to the worlds through the Messengership of Muhammad, the master of the Messengers, upon him, his Family, and Companions be peace and blessings.
KNOW, O FRIEND, THAT CREATION, WHETHER IN THIS WORLD OR THE World of the Unseen, testifies that There is no god but He. This is required and displayed by the cooperation and solidarity among creation’s parts. The pillars of creation and all structures testify that There is no Lord but He,75 which is required and displayed by the similarity and correspondence among those pillars and structures.
All organs and limbs of all earthly beings testify that There is no owner and master but He, which is required and displayed by their having almost the same formation and functions. All parts of all plants and animals testify that There is no director and organizer but He, which is required and displayed by the mutual helping among those parts. All subdivisions of these same parts testify that There is no trainer but He, which is required and displayed by the correspondence among individual members of species. The fact that they have almost the same organs and structures shows the same Pen and indicates that the Trainer is one. The diversity among countenances bears witness that the Inscriber is absolutely free, doing whatever He wills.
All cells forming these parts and organs testify that There is no disposer but He, and that disposal is possible only by His commands or laws of creation and operation. If the Disposer were not one and single, there would have to be infinite disposers who are absolutely equal in terms of qualities and opposites, independent and dependent, unrestricted and restricted, and so on. All atoms forming these cells testify that There is no orderer but He, as is required and displayed by the similarities and correspondence among atomic structures, working, and functions. And with all its particles, the main substance of creation—ether—testifies that There is no god but He, as is required and displayed by its simplicity, calmness, and immobility as well as by the speed it shows in fulfilling the Creator’s orders.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that no one has the right to complain about and object to the Maker of the universe. If such a demand were to be satisfied, thousands of instances of wisdom having parts in the general order of creation (which rejects such a satisfaction) would have to be violated or sacrificed. If truth had followed their caprices, the heavens, Earth, and their contents would have been corrupted (23:71).
O COMPLAINING ONE! How can you object and make your caprices the standard for the universe’s order, and your corrupt taste as the measure of Divine bounties? How do you know that what you see as a misfortune is not a blessing? Are you authorized to change the direction of creation’s turning wheels to satisfy your trifling and worthless fancies? You can complain only to Him, not about Him, for what falls to your lot from Him is only a “grain” out of heaps of corn. One who is owned cannot be the owner. Know your place and do not overstep the limits of your authority.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the one who operates in a cell operates in the whole body, for he must operate in a cell according to its relation with the body. The operation in a cell is under the command of the Creator of all things.
HOW, O FRIEND, can it be fit the Wisdom and Attribute of Preserving of the One Who preserves the eggs of vermin and fish and the seeds of plants for wise, merciful purposes not to record and preserve your deeds? Those deeds are the seeds of trees that will yield their fruit in the Hereafter. This is especially true in our case, since we are the bearers of His trust and His vicegerents on Earth. Every living being has the strong desire and inclination to preserve its life. This, and the tendency in creation to reconcile opposites to continue life, point out that worldly existence will result in eternal permanence through the manifestation of the Names All-Living, All-Preserving, and All-Permanent. They also allude to a fact determined by Divine Destiny: Each perishable, transitory thing has a vital, permanent point or aspect.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the One Who preserves a fig tree’s seed while it is changing into a fig, and does not allow it to rot in the ground so that it can grow into a fig tree—that All-Preserving and Protecting One Who protects all other plants and animals—will not neglect the deeds of humanity, His vicegerent on Earth.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that meaning’s material existence (i.e., letters and words) may change and be effaced, but the meaning continues to exist. A covering may be rent, but its essence or kernel remains. Clothes are worn out but the body survives; the body is ruined but the spirit survives. The body gets old but ego remains young; multiplicity and the multiple are divided and decay, but unity and the unitary remain permanent. Matter dissolves but light endures. Despite its putting on different “bodies” and its numerous changes and different conditions, “meaning” endures from the beginning of its life to its end and maintains its unity (it does not change). This shows that it will pass over the “ditch” of death and, freed from its hooks and stripped of its body, continue on to eternity safe and sound. The strong tendency of material (temporary) things to remain and survive points out that such simple things as meaning, light, and spirit (inclined to permanence) will remain eternally.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the grandeur of God’s Divinity and Its dignity and absolute independence require that all things should be at His control. Your physically small size and some of your seemingly unimportant states do not necessitate your being excluded from this control. Your distance from Him does not mean His being distant from you. The insignificance of some of your attributes and of your existence; your imperfect character, mind, and life-style; and your ignorance with regard to the universal wisdom in your existence do not exempt you from this control. The Creator’s greatness does not require excluding small things from His control, as greatness necessitates being encompassing in controlling and independent in creating.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that as material, solid things get larger, they lose their sensitivity to delicate, subtle things. But light, when it expands and spreads, begins to pervade and penetrate more deeply into hidden and subtle things. As light becomes more refined, like X-rays, it becomes more penetrating. If this is so with the dimensions of contingent existence, imagine how it is with the Light of Lights, Necessarily Existent and Single, Knower of all secrets and the hidden, and the Disposer of night and day. His greatness necessitates His being all-encompassing, penetrating, and pervasive.
KNOW AND SEE HOW the Qur’an considers ordinary people’s level of understanding, as they are the absolute majority. When a matter can be explained in several ways, it chooses the one most suitable for its audience. If this were not so, the argument would be more abstruse than the conclusion.76 The Qur’an mentions natural phenomena to deduce the Creator’s Attributes. What is understandable to ordinary people is also more suitable for guidance.
For example, the Qur’an says: And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and Earth and the difference of your tongues and colors (30:22). Behind the difference of colors lies God’s creation of people with distinguishing marks and countenances. The Qur’an also says: There are signs [for God’s Existence and Unity] in the creation of the heavens and Earth and the alternation of night and day (3:190). Earth’s rotation on its axis and revolution around the sun is revealed under the “sheet” of night and day.77
The Qur’an says: (We have made) the mountains as pegs (78:7). In this verse, Earth is likened to a ship (sailing in the ocean of space) or a tent fastened and made steady with pegs (mountains), which cause Earth’s wrath to subside. Otherwise, it would nearly burst with rage (67:8) because of its inner convulsions. Earth also breathes through mountains. Without them, it would cleave apart, for it is by virtue of its mountains that Earth only quakes and then settles down. Mountains are reservoirs of water, filters for air, and protect land from the ocean’s invasion. So, in a figurative meaning, mountains are pegs (pillars) of life.
The Qur’an considers ordinary people first. For example, Islamic law recognizes the sighting of the crescent moon (to determine the beginning and end of Ramadan and the beginning of Dhu al-Hijja, the month of Hajj), rather than astronomical calculation, and also contains reiterations to establish and repetitions to confirm.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the Qur’anic verses are far richer in meaning than poetic imagination and far superior in every possible way. The One Who speaks in the Qur’an describes His Essential Qualities and acts, whereas most poetry talks about others. The Qur’an is mostly extraordinary when describing the ordinary; poetry is mostly ordinary when talking about the extraordinary.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the mirrors reflecting and the “pages” (of creation) bearing witness to God’s Unity are infinite and multifarious, one within the other, and originate from the same center. Seeing one requires seeing the others; unveiling one enables one to enter into all of them. If you cannot see one, this never means that the others are veiled or non-existent. Despite this, the carnal, evil-commanding self, instructed by Satan, denies what is essentially true and confirms what is essentially false.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the one who writes the word writes the letter, the one who writes the line writes the page on which it appears, and the one who writes the page writes the book. Thus the Creator of an ant must be the Creator of all animal species, and the Creator of all animal species must be the Lord of the Worlds. It is a sign of the absolute, all-encompassing Lordship that a word or even a book is inscribed in a large letter. A sea is a large letter in the universe, trees are lines, and Earth is a point. The Creator writes (creates) the word “fish” in the letter of the sea, and some earthly, moving creatures in the lines of trees and animals in the point of Earth. One may think that a small ant would be neglected, but this is not true. Just as Surat Ya Sin can be written within its initial letters Ya and Sin, so are creatures written in their eggs or seeds.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the resemblance among stars and suns shows that their Lord cannot be like or one of them. The Lord of one of them is the Lord of all of them and of all things. O people, if only you were just and fair-minded when it comes to such creatures as fleas and gnats. While those fine, innocent creatures bear with a perfect submission your biting of all fruits and most animals, is it fair to retaliate for even the slightest thing they inflict upon you?
KNOW, O FRIEND, that a person is a community formed of responsible organs and limbs. Each outer and inner sense has a particular form of worship, as it may be rebellious or sinful due to misuse. Prostrating before that which is not God is misguidance, as is the imagination of poets prostrating themselves before and adoring all beauty that is not God and not for His sake. Such things lead the imagination to transgress (the limits established by God).
KNOW, O FRIEND, that one of the greatest causes of misguidance is the human tendency to regard something familiar as known because it is common and usual. However, this tendency may cause ignorance, for people do not reflect on such things, even though they are miracles of Divine Power. Rather, they pay attention to what they consider extraordinary because it is rare. This is like looking at the waves caused by wind, and the sea’s shining with the sun’s images, without considering the whole sea with all its animals and flora. Then people attempt to mention those waves or images, not the animals and flora, as the proofs of the grandeur of the sea’s Owner and Maker.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that most of what we know about Earth and consider evident is based on a superficial familiarity, a veil spread over ignorance, and without foundation. Thus the Qur’an draws our attention to the usual and the ordinary. With its piercing expressions, it draws aside the veil of superficial familiarity to show that what we see as usual and ordinary is in fact extraordinary.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the relationship and conversation between two things do not require their being equal or similar to each other. A raindrop and a blossom have a relationship and transaction with the sun. Human beings should never suppose that their smallness veils them from the favoring of the Creator of all things.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the expansion of time for some saints should not be regarded as impossible. For example, Imam Sha‘rani studied Ibn al-‘Arabi’s four-volume Al-Futuhat al-Makkiya (Meccan Discoveries) two-and-a-half times in a day.78 This can be understood by the following examples: During a dream that lasts for a few seconds, you seem to have lived for a year. If you read the Qur’an during such a time, you could read it from beginning to end several times. Certain saints who can unveil what is hidden to other people experience such expansions of time while awake. They are as if acting in the Sphere of the Spirit, which is uncontained by time, and almost with its speed.
Motion is like time’s body, or time is like motion’s color, for whatever takes place in one takes place in the other. So, why should a saint whose bodily existence is dominated by his or her spirit not be able to move with the speed of the spirit or imagination?
KNOW, O FRIEND, that some people cannot comprehend the consequences of Divine Unity, and their corrupt imagination cannot bear them. They try to reject the authentic, decisive proofs that establish Divine Unity and, arguing that such proofs cannot give such a tremendous result, try to undermine their authenticity. They do not know that belief supports and leads to consequence, the proof being only a window through which to look at it, or a brush to sweep away the (dust of) illusions on it. Besides, there are as many proofs for Divine Unity as there are specks of dust in deserts, raindrops, and waves in the ocean.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that the One Who prepares melons and apples for you to eat knows better than you what you need to eat, and is aware of what pleases your conscience. Do the branches and stems of plants and trees know these things? Such means or causes of Divine bounties are only channels of Mercy and canals of bounties.
75 The Divine Name al-Rabb, usually translated as Lord, denotes God as One Who raises, brings up, sustains, educates, trains, and administers all things. (Tr.)
76 For example, if the Qur’an, which guides people to Divine truths, described the subatomic world in the phraseology of modern science, earlier generations could not have understood it.
77 If it said: There are signs [for God’s Existence and Unity] in Earth’s revolution around itself and sun, and night and day occurring thereby respectively, it would have confused millions of people who lived before this discovery. (Tr.)
78 Imam Sha‘rani, ‘Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Hanafi (1493-1564) was an Egyptian Sufi scholar. His most famous works are Al-Mizan al-Kubra’ (The Greatest Balance) and Al-Anwar al-Qudsiya fi Ma‘rifat Adab al-‘Ubudiya (Sacred Lights in Knowing the Matters of Servanthood). This ability was recorded at the end of Al-Yawaqit wa al-Jawahir [“Rubies and Other Kinds of Gems”]. (Tr.)