The Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from “The Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom” by Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.).

Behold, thy Lord Said to the angels, “I will Create a vicegerent on earth …” (Surah al-Baqarah:30)

When Allah (s.w.t.) Made Adam (a.s.) to be the first teacher and His deputy, teaching His angels the names they did not know, He Commanded His angels to prostrate in front of Adam (a.s.) as people prostrate toward the Ka’bah.  In this world, if those who turn toward the Ka’bah to prostrate are prostrating to the Ka’bah, may Allah (s.w.t.) Save them.  They would then be guilty of the unforgivable sin, setting up partners to Allah (s.w.t.).  The prostration round the circumference of a circle whose center is the Ka’bah symbolises submission to that which is central.  The prostration of the angels to Adam (a.s.) is the respect and humility of the student toward the teacher.  When a person prostrates toward the Ka’bah, it shows that he confirms what he has learned from the Omniscient, and acknowledge his inability to do, his nothingness, his obedience.

When Allah (s.w.t.) Created His deputy, He also Built a city for him where he could reside with his retinue and governing officials.  He named the city, “Human Being.”  When Allah (s.w.t.) Finished the Building of the city, He Assigned a special place at its center for His Khalifah.  All the speculations about it, whether the deputy really resides there or just uses it as a headquarters, whether it is a throne room or a courtroom or a ministry, or merely a place where his voice is heard, are beside the point.  Allah (s.w.t.) Called that place, “Heart.”

Allah (s.w.t.) Built this city on a foundation of four walls made of earth, water, air, and fire.  Some say that the place of the Lord's deputy is not the heart but the mind.  Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) insisted that it is the heart, although no one has evidence or proof.  But for establishing stability and for heedfulness and remembrance, the heart is surely the center.  Our Master Muhammad (s.a.w.) related that His Lord Said, “I do not fit in the heavens and the worlds which I Created, but I Fit into the heart of My faithful servant.”

Our Master Muhammad (s.a.w.) also said, “The Lord Looks neither at you nor at your deeds, but at your heart.”  The Lord always Remembers and is Heedful, and Looks upon His deputy at all times.

Our Master, Muhammad (s.a.w.) said, “There is a small piece of meat in the body of man: If it is clean and righteous, the whole being is clean.  If that piece of meat is rotten, the whole being is rotten.  That piece of meat is the heart.”  It is the palace of the deputy of Allah (s.w.t.) where the secrets are kept and it must be proper and in order.  It is the safe where the secret documents and rules and orders of the deputy are kept.  If the leader is right, the followers are right.  If the leader has gone astray, his companions and followers will go astray.

When Allah (s.w.t.) Made the human soul master of the human city, He taught him the character, the behaviour, the thoughts of the inhabitants of that city.  Since he understood his people, his people recognised him and became his dependents and helpers.  If Allah’s (s.w.t.) deputy, whom He Sent to govern is disloyal and corrupt and betrays His trust, his people will be corrupt and disloyal to him as well.  On the other hand, if he fears and respects the One Who Entrusted him with power, his companions will trust and respect him also.  So we look at ourselves!  If we are God fearing, just, and righteous, so is our soul.  We are the way we are because of it.  First, the ruler and the guide must be right; then the signs of righteousness appear in his dependents.

One sees so many things in oneself, without knowing why they are, whether they were there in the beginning or happened afterwards or will be the same tomorrow, for one does not know the procedures of the secret Divine government within, or how to protect that little piece of meat, the heart, whose disorder can destroy us all.  The Lord Created a tower on the higher levels of the city of man.  He Built it with refined materials and set it to overlook the whole city, and called it “Mind.”  He Opened four large windows on the top of it, for the enjoyment of the four corners of the city, and Called them “Eyes,” “Ears,” “Mouth,” and “Nose.”

In the center of the tower, He Built a vault to protect the treasure of inspirations, and in it He Stacked the treasure, all arranged in perfect order.  The directors of the senses could consult this Hall of Information, and add new data to it in turn.  The dreams dreamt come from this vault. Here, too, is the wealth gathered by the collector of taxes within the city of man, the monies stacked separately as lawful and unlawful.  In a corner of the mind, He Built yet another vault where memories are kept.  The keeper of memories is a high official called, “Intelligence.”

There is another area in the city of man where the daughter of the deputy of Allah (s.w.t.), “Personality,” lives.  This place is known as “Selfhood.”  Here, there are contradictions.  Here, both Allah’s (s.w.t.) Ordinances and what He has Forbidden are kept.  Just as the soul, the deputy of Allah (s.w.t.), is Under and Protected by His Throne.

Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (r.a.) said, “The human being is that child whose father is the soul and whose mother is the self.”  Even if the soul realises the danger of the temptations of the commanding self, the human being is left in a difficult position.  He is undecided between two powerful entities: the soul calls unto him, then the evil commanding self calls unto him.  But this entire test is by the Permission of Allah (s.w.t.), for He Says:

… “All things are from Allah …” (Surah an-Nisa’:78)

He also Says:

Of the Bounties of thy Lord, We Bestow Freely on all these as well as those ... (Surah al-Isra’:20)

And He Says to the soul:

By the soul, and the proportion and order Given to it; and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; ― (Surah ash-Shams:7-8)

Selfhood is a place of order and enlightenment, but it is also inclined toward the evil Commanding Self.  If it is tempted, then it loses its purity.  All things are from Allah (s.w.t.), it is He Who Made the Commanding Self desirous of evil, and it is He Who Made human selfhood bent from time to time to evil as well as to good.  The soul and the self are man and wife.  When the man calls upon his wife and she does not respond, people say, “What is the matter that your wife does not come to you?”

The man asks his trusted companion, Intelligence, the reason for this unresponsiveness.  Intelligence tells his master, the soul, “O my gracious master, you are calling upon a being who has a station as high as your own.  She is a master in her own right, with power, and under the Orders of the Omniscient.  She is called Desire for the Worldly, the Commanding Self.  It is not easy to command her!”

Then, the soul sends his wife a letter by his adviser’s hand, explaining his feeling about her.  But the self takes the messenger of the soul prisoner.  Intelligence submits to the self, under duress.  When Intelligence, now under the influence of the Self, is permitted to return to his master the soul, he reports that not only has he lost his wife, but most of his administration and armies have gone over to her as well.  Only a very few have remained loyal to him.  The mind tells the soul that his enemy has already infiltrated the court yard of his palace, and is ready to destroy his reign and capture his kingdom and sit upon his throne.  He claims that it is his sacred duty to warn him before they are both destroyed.

Now, with the warning of the mind, the soul realises that he is reduced to total helplessness.  He is powerless, unable to act.  All he can do is to throw himself upon the Mercy of the Lord of All and Everything.  Turning to Him, he begs for help.  He knows now that he cannot save himself.  Only at his defeat does he know the value of his Lord, the Omniscient.  That indeed was the purpose of all that had happened.  If a man lived all his life in complete comfort and safety and had all that he wished for, nothing he had would retain any value to him.  It is only pain and trouble that make one realise the value of peace and safety.

When Allah’s (s.w.t.) Khalifah, the soul, turns to his Lord for Help, the Lord becomes a mediator between the soul and the self.  And so the self abstains from taking total control of the realm of the human being.  The Lord Addresses her, “O Self-Assured Self, return to Me, pleased with Me; I am Pleased with you.  Enter my Paradise among My servants whom I Love.”

Responding to this call, both the self and the soul bow their heads in submission, satisfied by the Divine Approval.  Now again at last, the Self , whom the Lord Addressed, is this joined existence of the soul and the self, harmonious and at peace, pleased by their Lord and their Lord Pleased by them.


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