The Sharing Group Discussion on 'Aqidah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following was posted on The Sharing Group by Brother Colin Turner, on the 05th February, 2014: “When we say we ‘believe’ in a creed, ‘aqidah, what do we mean?  Is our belief imitative or is it the result of investigation and deliberation?”

Lynn Allen Cione: Would that not depend on the person, their investment in the creed and their understanding of the transmission of faith?

Jak Kilby: Coming to Islam, I found, and I know for many others, it was a similar experience, that for the most part, it was what I believed all along, although did not know exactly what it was, and was always a certain amount out of step with what had been presented to me from ‘outside’.

Marquis Dawkins: Yep. I think it is always a mix of both.  But oft times the investigation confirms the intuition.  Like Brother Jak said, it is as if I was a Muslim all along but learning the faith confirmed what I felt inside.  At the same time, it is why I do not ‘limit’ myself to a particular creed so to speak.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: For the beginner, it is, by necessity, imitative.  But to stay at that level is spiritually lazy.  Once the foundations are firm, there has to be muhasabah, reflection.  I began as Ash'ari.  And then I was Maturidi because I did not agree with the Ash’ari position on several things.  I have since moved beyond that on some points.  We do not worship the text.

We did have these discussions with our shuyukh.  What we learned as the ‘doctrine of tawhid’, was discovered many years later as wahdat ash-shuhud and wahdat al-wujud.  We spent many hours discussing the merits and criticisms of the different madzahib.  But he explained that for those without dzawq, this was necessary.  But for those who knew Allah (s.w.t.), all that was limiting.  There is the ‘aqidah we teach for those who are in the realm of ‘ubudiyyah and there is an ‘aqidah of Haqq.

Marquis Dawkins: I like the way you put that, Brother Terence – “worship the text”.  That is indeed the difference and separation between believers who only see what is before their eyes as far as Scripture and those who see the meanings at higher levels.

James Currie: Terence, do you believe there is any person who can move beyond the realm of ‘ubudiyyah?

Anjum Anwar: Mostly, we are the followers, rather than investigators, unfortunately, whilst on the journey more and more of our religious duties take on cultural values which are presented as religious requirements.  I often ask people what is their understanding of their ‘aqidah and the responses are more based on what they are not, rather than what they think they are or should be.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, doing so requires leaving the self, the nafs, behind.

James Currie: The Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) was an ‘abd and the best ‘abd to Allah (s.w.t.).  Do you believe you can move beyond that status?

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, do you realise that the maqam of ‘abdullah is the highest maqam, and requires fana’?  He had to be qaba qawsayni aw adna before he became ‘abdullah.

James Currie: He was always ‘Abdullah.  Doctrines like these helped destroy the Ottomans.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: I do not think you understand the levels of fana’, brother.  Let us stick to what you know.

James Currie: No, I understand the doctrines.  You know, the Christians say the Trinity must be believed and experienced, but they cannot explain the contradiction in the doctrine.

Jak Kilby: The starting point, which although is not essential at the time of shahadah, but preferable to consider and be sure you accept, are the six articles of faith, in simplified form - belief in Allah as One; belief in the Messengers of Allah and the prophets, peace be upon them all; belief in the angels; belief in the Books, Allah’s (s.w.t.) Revelation to mankind, in their original form; belief in the Day of Judgement as a certainty; belief in Qadr, Divine Will, the Plan of the Planner, Allahu ‘Alam.  This is the starting point but also the default core.

Actually, there are contradictions at play.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said that Islam is easy.  And I have found that most of it is exactly that.  Most difficulties come from men, not from Allah (s.w.t.).  We are encouraged to seek knowledge and yet we can be in danger of complicating the Diyn.  I actually love that hadits about the Bedouin who came to the Prophet (s.a.w.) and asked about the basic practice of Islam.  When he was told the simple essentials he said he would do this and no more or no less.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) commented that if he was sincere and did what he said, he would be of the successful.  I am very attracted to that notion.  It is a good excuse for my laziness and lack of piety that I then attempt the essential, and neglect when I am told formulas such as recite 1,000 this, or 100 that, and simply add in remembrance, praising Allah (s.w.t.) when there is a reason or I truly remember with my heart.

Anser Hussain: Creed can only be established through clear verses and mutawatir ahadits or ijma’ of the companions; everything else can be thought about and speculated and romanced with but should not be accepted unless with direct experience, because the most important point is not to be deluded by Shaythan.

Khalil C. Mitchell: ‘Aqidah: what is permissible to say about the Divine, and what is forbidden?  The schools are the underpinning and preservation of the Diyn.  ‘States’ are personal and, unless housed within the path of authenticated teachings via masters who have sought to preserve Islam, can all too easily descend to something that can, at least be described as ‘drunken ramblings’  or at worst deviation.  However we arrive at the two accepted transmissions of schools of ‘aqidah, either by being unaware and discovering, or by seeking, it is necessary to learn, and then to follow one of them.  ‘Teaching’ understandings of ‘aqidah is another zone entirely and is something that all should be very wary of, as, the subject is so unimaginably serious it should be something handled with the utmost taqwa.  Posting in blogs such as this falls into the category of ‘teaching’.  We have to be careful.

Colin Turner: What are the ‘two accepted transmissions of schools of ‘aqidah’?  I understand a creed to be a statement or declaration which lists and / or describe the shared beliefs of any particular faith group or community.  It would appear that creeds are a combination of declarative statements taken directly from scripture, such as God is One, and of conclusions that are reached following theological speculation and rationalisation, such as God Creates men’s actions while men simply ‘earn’ them.  If this is the case, a creed is a declaration of theological dogma, outlining the principles which must be believed in to qualify an individual for inclusion in the faith community.  To my mind, this poses a number of questions.  Whose creed is authoritative, and why?  Are creeds designed to be believed in imitatively, such as through taqlid, or are they meant to be pondered, deliberated upon and subjected to critical scrutiny by each and every believer?  How failsafe is a creed?  What gives anyone the authority to formulate a creed?  Do creeds, which are made to seem inviolable and non-negotiable, not stifle theological speculation?  And so on.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: The ‘aqidah is merely a system of beliefs to help us understand the Nature of the Divine and our relationship to Him.  At its core is tawhid, our understanding of Allah (s.w.t.) and that is of four levels.  In the beginning, it is enough for a Muslim to know that God is One and Muhammad (s.a.w.) is the Final Prophet.  And then, as explained in Ayat Amana ar-Rasul and elsewhere, we believe in the angels, the previous scriptures, the previous messengers, Divine Will and the Day of Judgement followed by Heaven and Hell.  We do not question that these things exist.  However, we are allowed to speculate and contemplate in order to learn more about God and these elements of Arkan al-Iman.  There are certain guidelines, of course and crossing them constitutes unbelief because they contradict the Divine Nature as Revealed by Allah (s.w.t.) but our religion and understanding of it is not static.  For the beginner, struggling with being a Muslim, the belief is by necessity, imitative.  But it cannot remain so.  That is precisely why Islamic thought and scholarship is static.  The ummah have become parrots.  When faith is never questioned, it ceases to be faith.  It becomes superstition.

In my understanding, the Ash’ari and Maturidi are necessary.  They developed as a means to codify the beliefs of the Muslims under the onslaught of Mu’tazilite thought and the heresies of the Jabariyyah and the Qadariyyah.  The Thahawi was an attempt to return to the position of the Salaf and not question at all, but this creates a different set of problems.  The ummah was by then, far removed from the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and one did not question and clarify, degeneration and pollution could not be identified and that is why it lead eventually to the neo-Atsari anthropomorphism.  Without this comment becoming a long essay on the origins of the sects and how their development led to what we have now, it is suffice to say that the madzahib of ‘aqidah is necessary but inadequate.  Once a Muslim has developed an understanding of the ‘aqidah, there is much to question and reconcile.  However, further understanding requires dzawq, ma’rifah. Unless one has that, this suffices.  And if one has it, the torment is that it could never adequately explained to those who have never tasted it.

Farah Marium Mim: Before this post I had not known of the Ash’ari or Maturidi.  From reading the comments, I am still not sure what they are.  Do you mind explaining them, and what it is exactly?

Terence Helikaon Nunis: The following explains in general, the creed of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah in general: The Creed of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah.

This article specifically explains the Ash’ari madzhab of ‘aqidah, which is followed by the majority of the Shafi’is and a large portion of the ummah: The Ash’ari School of Theology

Farah Marium Mim: Shukran, Sidi.

Colin Turner: Islamic scholarship became static precisely because of this tendency to circumvent speculation by having formulaic creeds which were presented and accepted as the last word in theological orthodoxy.  It also explains why matters of theological speculation became the domain of ‘irfan, and also why Muslim theology today is confined to commentaries on the teachings of the Ash’ariyyah and the Mu’taziliyyah, as though they were the be-all and end-all of kalam.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: And this article is about the major differences between the Ash’ari and the Maturidi which are the two major schools of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah: Differences between the Maturidi & Ash'ari Creeds.

Colin Turner: In Christianity, theology used to be lauded as the ‘queen of sciences’.  In Muslim scholarship, theology is not even a handmaid, let alone a princess or a queen.

Farah Marium Mim: Kind of makes sense.  Insha’Allah, I will understand it better within time.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: I find it frustrating that so many Muslims, who are otherwise versed in shari’ah and tafsir, are ignorant of kalam and ‘aqidah.  Even knowledge of tawhid is lacking since they do not teach the 20 Swifat anymore.  Any discussion of theology will go one of three directions: There are those who will say we must not discuss this or question anything; there are those who can only reproduce texts of what some scholar in the past said to shut down a discussion, often without fully understanding the context of what is discussed; or there are those who are so insecure of the thread they resort to threats of takfir and heresy.

Farah Marium Mim: That is sad.  I have seen that happen too many times.  That is why I try not to discuss anything with those I do not know well, as I do not know what their reaction will be.

Colin Turner: Thanks for reminding me why I love Imam al-Maturidi (r.a.) so much.  I think I have fewer points of divergence with him than with any of the other classical mutakallimun.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: The same reason I follow that school as well.  I have a great respect for the Ash’ari school but I feel that it is too much of a reaction against the Mu’tazila, instead of standing on its own.  Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari (q.s.) was a great scholar who repudiated the teachings of the Mu’tazila after being one of them.  We must never forget thought that he is considered by some, including Shah Wali'ullah (q.s.), to be the mujaddid of his time.  His service to the ummah is invaluable.

James Currie: Brother Terence, you have overestimated your abilities in this subject and are in danger of misguiding the people.  When faced with your contradictions, you retreat to a position claiming experiential knowledge and dzawq, tasting, not dissimilar to Christians and others who hold irrational creeds, although obviously in your case, this is not to the same extent as those non-Muslims.  Unfortunately, your position is quite common amongst the late-era Sufis.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, you have not shown in any way that you understand this topic.  Whereas I have explained the fundamentals quite clearly.

Firstly, you misunderstood the maqam of ‘‘Abdullah’ initially.  And then it appears as if you tried to go back to polemic without actually explaining your understanding of it.

Secondly, you are unable to differentiate, let alone explain, the different traditions of the doctrine.  Do you know the difference, for example, between the Maturidi position and the Ash’ari?  Or what is wahdat ash-shuhud and wahdat al-wujud?

Thirdly, you mention things that have no meaning in this discourse.  Please explain what you mean by this ‘late era Sufis’.  I have never heard of them.  What is their doctrine?  What is their tradition?  How did they evolve?

It would help us if you could be clearer.  All these cryptic criticisms are confusing.

James Currie: Brother Terence, it is highly presumptuous of you to consider me unable to differentiate traditions of ‘aqidah, when I have studied both the Ash’ari and Maturidi schools.  I am also aware of the distinction between wahdat ash-shuhud and wahdat al-wujud.  Engage me in these topics if you want.  It is precisely because I understand enough about these two schools of ‘aqidah that I oppose the pick and mix approach that some seem to be encouraging here, even if implicitly.  Mixing between schools of law, fiqh, without firm knowledge is discouraged or even forbidden because it can nullify good works, but doing similar in ‘aqidah is potentially even more dangerous for obvious reasons.

You mentioned above that the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) only achieved the rank of ‘abdullah at a certain point during his prophethood.  I am not even going ask you to explain this, being genuinely concerned for you in what you might say.

As for the term ‘late-era Sufis’, since you believe this has no meaning in this discourse…

Colin Turner: Why is mixing between schools of theology problematic?  Where is it stipulated that all Muslims must follow just one theological school?  Is this a Qur’anic notion?

Anjum Anwar: Maybe for the sake of uniformity and to minimise confusion?  Just a thought.

James Currie: Brother Colin, it's similar to why scholars discourage or forbid mixing between schools of jurisprudence, fiqh.  It is actually possible for someone to take one premise from the Maturidi school and one premise from the Ash’ari school, and then use them together for a conclusion that would be invalid in both schools, in some instances even considered disbelief, kufr.  So you see, the risks of getting things wrong in creed, ‘aqidah, are much greater than in jurisprudence, fiqh, and hence the warning.

Marquis Dawkins: I could agree with that for those that ‘need’ it.  Brother Terence, I think knows what I mean by that statement.  First and last comment I will make about that.  You then realise schools are just that – schools.  What does the Qur’an Say?  More importantly, what does Allah (s.w.t.) Say?  To use a Christian perspective, who is more qualified to speak or teach about Jesus (a.s.)?  Thomas Aquinas?  Augustine of Hippo?  Max Luciado?  C.S. Lewis?  Pope Francis?  Or Jesus (a.s.) himself?  You can learn something from all of them, but the source is the most important, not the reflection.  Just my 2 shillings.

Colin Turner: Theological speculation rests on rational acceptance, not blind imitation, and if one is not convinced that a particular precept taught by a particular school accords with reason, then there is no way that one would be able to accept that.  The example you mention of using premises from different schools in order to confound both of them is an extreme one; it would be an act of willful destruction, and I doubt that anyone would do that purposefully unless they were of malicious intent.

The question that all of this raises, of course, is this: can any one theological school possibly get everything right?  My contention is that it cannot; if this had been possible, the proliferation of theological schools during the Abbasid period would never have happened, debates would never have led to defections from one school to another, and later scholars would never have taken sides.  It makes good sense that there will be as much diversity among different theological positions as there is amongst juristic ones.  And we ought never to forget that “Differences of opinion among my community is a Mercy”.

Marquis Dawkins: Amin.  I suppose an issue with that is not everyone can handle that sort of thinking, depending on their spiritual level, so to speak.  It is one of the problems of Christianity that has caused so many denominations and offshoots.  The good thing in general about Islam is, just because I disagree with a brother about a subject or verse of Qur’an, does not mean I am going to open up a mosque across the street and declare everyone at his mosque a heretic.  We simply say, “Allah Knows Best.  May He Correct us where we are wrong and Justify us where we are right,” and hopefully leave it at that without insult or condescending remarks toward another brother or sister in Islam.  That is the way it should be anyway.

James Currie: Brother Colin, you may think my example is extreme, but unfortunately there are real and prevalent examples of this.  I am not saying that some mixing between schools can never take place, but there needs to be grounding in proper knowledge.  I would strongly recommend people here stick to the basics and avoid confusion.

Colin Turner: Of course there needs to be grounding in proper knowledge.  Theological positions are not shirts chosen in a clothes shop or candies bought three-a-penny from a roadside stall.  As for people here, well, caution is one thing, but it is rather presumptuous to assume that members of this forum are unable to navigate their way through the theological ocean, however high the waves at times.  After all, theological positions are what underpin our belief - if, of course, our belief is investigative rather than the product of pure emulation.

Marquis Dawkins: Exactly.  Navigating through the theological ocean is what brought me to the an-Nur, the Lighthouse of Islam in the first place.

James Currie; Of course, they can navigate it themselves.  But if I see a storm, I will still tell people about it.

Colin Turner: I agree, Brother James.  Caution is advisable at all times.

The an-Nur, Lighthouse of Islam.  I like that, Brother Marquis!

James Currie: By the way, Brother Colin, it is in the topic of wahdat al-wujud that I have seen the mistake being made.  That is the storm that I see.

Colin Turner: Wahdat al-wujud is much maligned and misunderstood.  I find that those who reject it out of hand are those who do not really understand it.  I would agree that for the uninitiated or the careless, it can be quite devastatingly dangerous.  But some of the precepts of the Ash’ariyyah are no less hazardous, if not digested properly.

James Currie: Just because most opponents misrepresent wahdat al-wujud does not make it a sound doctrine.

Colin Turner: Granted, but the converse also holds true.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, we are not bound to a particular school.  As I have mentioned above, taqlid is the default position but it should not necessarily be the status quo.  Our faith and understanding of it is never static.

Please explain how, when someone takes a point of doctrine from the Ash’ari and another from the Maturidi, for example, that it leads to kufr.  Or did I misunderstand you?  And how do you define kufr in this case?  You have said a lot of things but you have not answered my question based on your earlier comment as well.  Neither did you answer them from a previous thread.

On the issue of wahdat al-wujud, since it is not a sound doctrine according to you, and you seem to think you know better than Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) and Imam ‘Ali ibn ‘Utsman al-Hujwiri (q.s.), please enlighten us exactly why it is not a sound doctrine.  Perhaps it would help us if you could explain to us exactly how you understand it.

James Currie: Brother Terence, let us be clear in case anyone misunderstands what you wrote.  I did not say that mixing between schools of ‘aqidah is kufr or inevitably leads to kufr.  I did however warn that, similar to mixing between schools of fiqh, mixing premises from different schools of ‘aqidah can lead to invalid conclusions, and the risks involved for ‘aqidah are potentially much greater than with fiqh, because the invalid conclusion may even constitute kufr in certain specific instances.

As far as I know, Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) never used the term ‘wahdat al-wujud’.  The scholars who defend him say that some of his books have been tampered with by his opponents, who inserted kufr statements to try to discredit him.

Anser Hussain: I think it will be sounder if a text is used when arguing positions.  For the benefit of us low ones.

James Currie: Brother Terence, can you please explain how you feel you ‘moved beyond’ the Ash’ari and Maturidi schools unto your doctrine of wahdat al-wujud?   Can you please explain how you think the doctrine allows you to go beyond the ‘realm of ‘ubudiyyah’?

Brother Anser, there are no definitive texts for Brother Terence’s esoteric doctrines, but rather he considers that they need to be experienced to be understood.

Anser Hussain: I was taught by teachers who studied with sound teachers with isnad and taswawwuf, that ‘aqidah can only be established by qathi ayah and mutawatir ahadits or maybe sound ahadits.  Please, brothers, enlighten me.

James Currie: Brother Anser, that sounds about right.

Colin Turner: A creed should be a starting point for discussion, debate and the use of our God-Given powers of reason.  They should be seen as a road and not the destination.

James Currie: Brother Colin, one needs to keep on the road to reach the destination.

Brother Anser, what you just articulated is basically the default Atsari position, textual approach based on Revelation, which the Ash’ari and Maturidi schools were established to defend using reason.  But there are those, who under the guise of the Ash’ari and Maturidi schools, who want to lead people elsewhere.

Colin Turner: If people want to lead people elsewhere, that is their business.  Most of us follow a particular theological school, either partly or in toto, because of our convictions.  What and how other people believe is up to them.

Furthermore, any creed that is not part of a larger discursive theological framework is not worth the paper it is written on.  Take the notion, for example, of God Creating man’s acts and man ‘earning’ them.  If that is not unpacked, discussed and subjected to deliberation and debate, how are people to internalise it, digest it?  Most people, it seems, learn the creed parrot-fashion, and so while they are able to rattle off the different articles of faith, they have little or no idea of the implications of those precepts for everyday life.  Not only is speculative theology dead in our community, but pastoral theology is almost completely obsolete also.  What does it mean to say that God Creates man’s actions?  In fact, as you are probably aware, it means a lot.  Belief is not something static, and it's how we understand, internalise and live in accordance with these precepts which drive belief, which either increases it or decreases it.  When people ask, “What do you believe in?” the answer should not be just a list of principles.  But most of the time, that is all it is.  Constant God-awareness is impossible if we treat the creed like a tick-box exercise.

Anser Hussain: I follow authentic Sufism from upright scholars from Sham and Yemen, and some of these have great love for Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.), and one teacher even teaches that there.  My understanding from them is there is difference between creed and experience.  Creed governs experience not the other way round.  I am still waiting to hear from Brother Terence how he sees experience and text.

Colin Turner: Brother Anser, what is ‘authentic Sufism’?

Anser Hussain: Brother Colin, the purpose was to worship, and through extra actions a person receives openings where all unknown becomes known.  My understanding of authentic Sufism is Sufism within the Qur’an and sunnah, not emotionally inspired.

Colin Turner: So your Sufism is emotionless?

Khalil C Mitchell: Brother Colin, this has been a tremendously beneficial post for me.  At this point there is a possibility that the sciences of taswawwuf and ‘aqidah are being conflated.

Do we have the right to follow our convictions out with the parameters of the expertise of the scholars that have studied for decades?  Or chop and choose what we take from each, in this case, two schools?  Where does truth come into it?  Can we arrive at universal truth through our own rationalisation?  Do we have the ability?  Do we end up in a zone of comprehending our own ‘personal’ understanding of God with what we feel He has Shared with us?  Are we then in a position to share our own rendition of this?  Surely that would be forming our own new school of ‘aqidah - some bits from this side, some bits from the other.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, you have not answered my questions again except for the first one.  You only asked more questions.  And if you had read the three articles from my blog on this thread, that is essentially my position.  Now, please answer my questions.

Brother Anser, there is no taswawwuf without shari’ah.  The position you outlined is the Atsari position, not the Ash’ari or the Maturidi.  ‘Authentic’ Sufism implies that there is another sort of Sufism.  Taswawwuf begins at a doctrinal position that is enhanced by ahwal.

Anser Hussain: My emotions are constrained by Divine Law.  I submit my tongue, body, heart, and emotion or that's what I strive for.

Colin Turner: Interesting questions indeed, Brother Khalil.  Can we arrive at universal truth through our own reasoning?  I think we can, to an extent.  After all, how do we come to accept Revelation if not through exercising our own powers of ratiocination?  Reason takes us to the door, surely?  Of course, reason is lame and limps with a stick, but it is still capable of leading us to the right house.  As for following our convictions outside the parameters set by scholars who have studied for decades, well yes, I believe that many people do this, and should do it if that is the way their convictions lie.

Anser Hussain: That is how I have learnt.  It is in no way superior, just a simple way by a simple person.

Colin Turner: I do not really see how love for God can be constrained by Divine Law.  Or, indeed, why it should be.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: If we were to arrive at the Divine Attributes by pure reason, we would end up as Mu’tazila.  The basis of our understanding is the Qur'an and ahadits.  But to say that we take the clear verses and not rationalise them, we would arrive at an impersonal God and that does not work for most of us.  I would think that the basis of the Maturidi is the best that we have amongst all the schools, the most enlightened and the most progressive.  For example, the Maturidi acknowledge the possibility of female prophets.  The other schools do not.

But all schools of ‘aqidah only explain tawhid al-ilah, tawhid al-asma’ wa asw-swifat and partially, tawhid al-af’al.  And that is where I feel the position of the ahl asw-swafa’, which is experiential is inherently superior.  But tawhid adz-dzat cannot be taught.  So we must have a default position to introduce Muslims to God, and that is why we have the madzahib.

Colin Turner: I agree that we arrive at the Divine Attributes by a mix of reason and Revelation.  However, that initial acceptance of the Revelation as truth is mediated by reason.  Of course, reason itself is a product of Revelation, but that's not really the point here.

But do the madzahib not introduce Muslims to God's Laws rather than God himself?  That is why, presumably, and as Ustadz Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (q.s.) said, “It is possible to be Muslim but not mu'min.”

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother Colin, I was about to point out that irony.  But we also remember that to arrive at any understanding of the Divine, one must have a purified intent.  True sincerity is to be cleansed of the self, such that the between in-between is Removed.  As Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami (q.s.) amongst so many others said, we can only ever truly Know God by God.  Even if one were to read a thousand books of this subject, it will not benefit one who is not sincere.

The madzahib codify our understanding of God so that there is some semblance of uniformity in our understanding of how He Relates to Creation in a manner that the most ordinary person can relate to without the benefit of wahy or ahwal.  This became necessary when Islam expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula and encountered other cultures with sophisticated creeds of faith.  The primary purpose of our madzahib of ‘aqidah is not to define God per se and limit our understanding of him, but to define what He is not as understood by ex-Zoroastrians, ex-Christians, ex-Buddhists and such like.

Ultimately, to the lay person, all this is irrelevant.  There is a story of a celebrated scholar entering a village on the way to hajj and the people feted him.  An old lady at the village well asked his student what the ruckus was about and was told that this scholar could give a hundred reasons why God Exists.  And she said, “He must not be such a great scholar if he needs a hundred reasons.  I need none.”

Colin Turner: Ah, ok.  You are using madzhab to indicate schools of theology as well as schools of legal theory.  I have always used madzhab in the jurisprudential sense alone.  What you are saying makes more sense now.

James Currie: Brother Terence, please highlight what questions you want me to answer.  Apart from your question about the term ‘late-era Sufis’, I think I have addressed the bulk of them.  But I would also like you to outline your understanding of wahdat al-wujud and answer my questions to you about it.  You mention both wahdat al-wujud and wahdat ash-shuhud, but of course the wahdat ash-shuhud of Shaykh Ahmad as-Sirhindi (q.s.) was a refutation of wahdat al-wujud.  Which do you prefer to advocate?  If you must know, then I am influenced by the understanding of Shaykh Ahmad as-Sirhindi (q.s.) on this issue.  Any perception of wahdat al-wujud remains precisely that - a perception.  But in reality, there is always a distinction between the Created and the Creator, between the ‘abd and the Rabb.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Wahdat ash-shuhud was never a refutation of wahdat al-wujud.  We are not ingenuous here.  Could you please explain wahdat al-wujud and wahdat ash-shuhud as you understand it?  And do enlighten us why the latter is a refutation of the former.

James Currie: There is always a distinction between the Created and the Creator, between the ‘abd and the Rabb.  Do you disagree?

Terence Helikaon Nunis: That is correct.  And how is that related to wahdat al-wujud, brother?

James Currie: Well, it depends on what articulation of wahdat al-wujud you follow. I have seen countless articulations, mostly different each time.  That's one of the problems in the doctrine.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: If it alludes to pantheism, then it is incorrect.  There is only one correct understanding and it is a mirror to wahdat ash-shuhud.

James Currie: Brother Terence, could you outline that understanding?

Anser Hussain: Brother Terence, refrain from being aggressive.  We should all act like students and take what is right and leave what's not sound.  Whether it's from you or someone else, Allah (s.w.t.) Knows Best.  It is beautiful way that the brothers were expressing what they have learnt.  I think we should all take rather than make it personal.  This advice is for me First.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Wahdat al-wujud, translated as Oneness of Being, is erroneously understood to mean that Allah (s.w.t.) is Present in Creation in the sense that the Hindus and the Sikhs believe, and to a lesser extent, the Christians believe in the incarnation of the Triune Godhead in Jesus (a.s.).  This is contrary to tawhid and we reject it.

Firstly, the doctrine of taswawwuf emphasises that only Allah (s.w.t.) is a Reality, al-Haqq.  It is as if He were a Lamp and Creation is the Light that emanates from it.  The light in this analogy cannot exist independently from the Source.  The Lamp abides regardless of whether the light is present or absent.  What it does say, is in essence an exposition of tawhid asma’ wa asw-swifat, in that nothing in Creation can have an Attribute that Allah (s.w.t.) does not Possess.  As simple a way that I can think of to explain this would be to utilise analogies.  For example, the plants are alive in that they possess the Attribute of al-Hayy, or the mountains abide in that they possess the Attribute of al-Baqa’, or that a mother nurses the child because of the Attribute of ar-Rahmah.  In reality, all these Attributes Belong to Allah (s.w.t.) Alone to the limits.  Another manner of describing this would be to understand that when we put steel in the fire, it becomes hot.  It takes on the attributes of the fire in terms of the heat and the colour.  But at no time does the steel become fire.  Thus, although Creation is Infused with the Attributes of the Divine, Creation and Creator are Separate and Distinct in that aspect.

Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) and others wrote, that all Creation has the Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.) in varying degrees except asw-Swamad.  That is Given only to mankind.  When Allah (s.w.t.) Blew His Ruh into Adam (a.s.), He Blew these Attributes, what the Sufis call the Divine Secret.  All of us have these 99 Attributes in varying degrees and that is why some are more patient, some are kinder and some are more forceful, for example.  It is their nature.  People are merely exhibiting the degrees of these Attributes.  Man also has the one Attribute that is not found in Creation at large, as mentioned above - asw-Swamad.  Creation was Created for us.  Creation Exists because of us as the Perfected Soul, nafs al-kamaliyyah.  That was the Divine Design.

The epitome of that is the ‘abdullah.  ‘Abdullah is the maqam of one who is in constant remembrance of Allah (s.w.t.) in accordance to the ayat of the Qur'an where Allah (s.w.t.) Said that He did not Create men and jinn but to constantly serve him, li ‘abudu.  To be in such a state, one must have no self distinct from the Creator.  And that is why the Prophet (s.a.w.) said that he is like the Shadow of God on earth.  The shadow of your hand does not move until the hand moves.  The Prophet (s.a.w) did not take a step except by Allah's (s.w.t.) Leave.  Or for example, there was the ayat where Allah (s.w.t.) Said to the Prophet (s.a.w) that he did not throw the sand, but Allah (s.w.t.) Did it.  Rasulullah (s.a.w.) is the Divine Will Manifest, and that is the reality of all the prophets and their inheritors.

And that is why we have hadits that say that Yawm al-Qiyamah will not come until there is no one who says ‘laa ilaha illa Allah’, or until there is no thawaf, or there is no fasting.  These acts of ‘ibadah are the acts of the awliya’, these perfected souls.  When there comes a time, when there are no more people to perform the thawaf, or the swa’um or recite the tahlil, there will no longer be those of nafs al-kamaliyyah.  That awtad that Sustains Creation by Allah’s (s.w.t.) Will no longer exist and Creation has run its course.  Then, and only then, will the time for the Trumpet to be Blown come.

So now, the question is how do we reconcile this with wahdat ash-shuhud?

Shima Umm Ramy: Thanks, Brother Terence.  Another one for my notes!

James Currie: Brother Terence, let alone the doctrine of wahdat ash-shuhud, the difficulty you will have is reconciling your account with the schools of ‘aqidah: the default Atsari position, the Ash’ari school and the Maturidi school.  In reality, Allah (s.w.t.) has no partner in His Entity, His Attributes, or His Actions.  On the other hand, you are ascribing Divine Attributes to both the Creator and the Creation. Quote from your account: “All Creation has the Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.) in varying degrees”.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: I fail to see how that is a problem, brother.  You are kind because Allah (s.w.t) is Kind.  And you know love because He is Love.  Allah (s.w.t.) has no partner in His Existence as well.  Do you believe that you exist separate from Him, a distinct entity?

James Currie: Indeed, all Created beings are distinct from Allah (s.w.t.).

Terence Helikaon Nunis: That is correct for laymen and incorrect for the ‘arifin.  Created things are not distinct from Allah (s.w.t.) in the sense that they do not have an independent existence.  Ma’rifat is the realisation that there is no will except the Divine Will and that is why we say, “Laa Hawla wa laa quwwata illa bi Allah.”  One of the conditions for understanding wahdat al-wujud and wahdat ash-shuhud is ma’rifat.  And that is why we have the madzahib of ‘aqidah.  At least with that, the Muslim has something to fall back upon.  It is not complete, but it is enough.

Colin Turner: Does the reflection exist separately from God, a distinct entity.  Yes and no.  The hand and the shadow are separate from one perspective but inextricably linked from another perspective.  The hand precedes the shadow ontologically but is with the shadow pre-eternally and post-eternally.  One can imagine the hand without the shadow, but not the shadow without the hand.  Yet the hand is never without the shadow, not because it is necessary but because that's simply how the hand is.

James Currie: Allah (s.w.t.) is distinct from all Created things, but Created things are utterly dependent on Him.  Allah (s.w.t.) has no partner in His Entity, His Attributes, or His Actions.  Do you disagree with this basic ‘aqidah principle?

Terence Helikaon Nunis: That is not the contention, brother.  You have failed to understand what I wrote or Brother Colin reiterated.  The problem is not that Allah (s.w.t.) is ‘distinct’ as you insist, but rather that there is anything other than Allah (s.w.t.) to be distinct from.  Creation is merely an illusion.  That is what all this is about.

Anser Hussain: If we believed what we write, we would be purified.

James Currie: Let's be clear in some basic ‘aqidah points: that Allah (s.w.t.) is distinct from all Created things and all Created things are distinct from Allah (s.w.t.); and Allah (s.w.t.) is independent from all Created things and all Created things are utterly dependent on Allah (s.w.t.).

Colin Turner: Brother James, it is not an issue of partnership; I am unsure why you would construe Brother Terence’s or my position as one that is potentially - or actually - in violation of the principle of tawhid.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: I have taken this discussion as far as I can and explained the two doctrines in as simple a manner as I could.  You are confused by the idea of God Alone being the Haqq.  Evidently, this is not for you, brother, and I urge you to content yourself to what you are sure of.

Anser Hussain: Brother Terence, Brother James; there is no contradiction in what you brothers are saying.  What Brother James is saying is sound ‘aqidah and what Brother Terence is saying is the taste or its fragrance.  Wahdat al-wujud is a theory; it is not established through Qur’an and sunnah.  It is permissible as long as it does not contradict the Qur’an and the ahadits.

Marquis Dawkins: This is a brilliant discussion and one that resonates with me personally.  It is the clear dividing lines between doctrinal faith and true spiritual faith.  Which is more Acceptable to Allah (s.w.t.), I wonder?  Actually, I know, and the prophets, peace be upon all them, have testified of it again in many ways.  But it is why Paul, a scourge to some in both faiths, mentioned in one of his letters that some people in the faith needed only ‘milk’ because they were not ready for the ‘meat’.  This remains true today.  Yes, fundamentals, of course, are important; that is any aspects of life, religion, martial arts and so forth.  But to gain truth and knowledge, you cannot simply remain at basics and declare that is the final word.  As I said in another thread, or as the Bible and Qur’an declare, we only know a fraction of a fraction of the true Wholeness of God.  And so, as humans, we tend to nitpick at things that may, on the surface, seem concrete, but in reality are, far above our understanding.

We could know every single word upon word, line upon line, precept upon precept in any of the kutub but would that mean we understand all, or any of it?  And even then, would it mean we truly understand God?  Not in the least!  We would have an understanding of God but not the understanding of God.  For if we did have the full understanding of God, we would indeed be partners with Him - shirk indeed!

Anser Hussain: al-Hamdulillah, we have Qur’an. the Word of God, as a Guide.

Anser Hussain: al-Hamdulillah, the beauty of Islam and iman.  Sometimes, words cannot explain what the heart feels.

James Currie: Quote from Brother Terence: “You are confused by the idea of God Alone being the Haqq.  Evidently, this is not for you, brother, and I urge you to content yourself to what you are sure of.”  Actually, I am affirming the Islamic creed that Allah (s.w.t.) Alone is al-Haqq.  You, on the other hand, are saying that this Divine Attribute and other Divine Attributes can be possessed by Created things.

Quote from Brother Terence: “For example, the plants are alive in that they possess the Attribute of al-Hayy, or the mountains abide in that they possess the Attribute of al-Baqa’, or that a mother nurses the child because of the Attribute of ar-Rahmah.  In reality, all these Attributes Belong to Allah (s.w.t.) Alone to the limits.”

Anser Hussain: I think you both brothers have made your points to each other and to those in the group, very clearly.  Anything beyond that is the ego, as Allah (s.w.t.) is the Guide.

Colin Turner: I think what Brother Terence might have meant is that Created beings possess the Names not as they are in God but as reflections.  ‘Ali (k.w.) said that the Divine Names are the pillars that hold up the cosmos.  Given that God is simple, basith, and that His Names cannot be shared out among others, what we see in Created beings has to have the status of reflection.

James Currie: Brother Colin, reflecting and possessing are not the same.  If Brother Terence had limited himself to saying that Creation reflects the Divine Names, then there would not be this contention.  However, Brother Terence is clearly saying that the Divine Names can be shared with Created things.

Brother Terence, you say that “Creation is merely an illusion”.  Do you believe that Paradise and Hellfire are merely illusions?  Do you believe that the prophets are merely illusions?  It’s a dangerous path that you are treading and calling people to.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother, I have already explained that this is not for you.  Please stick to one of the madzahib.  This is beyond your level of understanding.

James Currie: Sound creed is beyond your level of understanding, it would seem.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: It would seem that many others disagree with you, brother.  The point being that if you cannot let go of what you think you know to grasp something that is quite esoteric, it would be better for your iman to stick to what you know.  Earlier in the thread, you expressed your reservations on the twin doctrines of wahdat al-wujud and wahdat ash-shuhud.  I have summarised them succinctly that the premise of the Ahl asw-Swafa’ is that Creation is an illusion, a veil.  Even the self, the nafs, is a veil since Allah (s.w.t.) in His Essence does not even share that Attribute of Existence.

That is very difficult concept to digest, let alone Heaven and Hell.  Do you think you are you?  Mind you, we have not even gone into the role of Iblis.  As these people have written and as our shuyukh have warned us, to fully expound these concepts, the Muslims would claim we are heretics.  There is a reason why in these books, there is the ahadits on the authority of Abu Bakr (r.a.) and Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) that, “were I to reveal this knowledge, they would cut my throat.”  And he made the gesture across the neck.

This was not a class for beginners.  And it is my mistake to open up that peek of this doctrine.  If you could not reconcile even the little I explained, there is no point in continuing this further.  Perhaps, when you have understood enough to let go of Descartes’ erroneous position of cogito ergo sum, a teacher would come along when you are ready.  As it is, I will not address this issue with you further.  And you little baiting is not going to work, brother. It does not change what is.

Aftab Ahmed: God Created and then Divided Mercy into 99 parts, and He Gave one part to us and the rest are with himself.  This is a swahih hadits.  Is that not Sharing in His Attribute of Mercy?  We are Created in the image, representation, of God.  Why does the Qur’an say we are Created in the Image of God, if we do not share His Attributes?  Just a thought?

Created and Creator are distinct.  When the sun is in full splendour, the stars are not perished.  They are invisible due to the radiance of the sun, likewise, when Allah (s.w.t.) is experienced by the people in their spiritual ascension, all becomes invisible for them except Allah (s.w.t.).  This is what they call wahdat al-wujud.  It does not mean only God is in Existence and rest of Creation is not.

Colin Turner: Brother Aftab, God does not ‘share’ anything of Himself with us in the sense that we understand the verb ‘to share’ in everyday usage.  God is not composite and does not place Attributes which are an inextricable feature of His Essence into or on us.  If we ‘share’ His Attributes, the sharing is metaphorical, not literal.

Aftab Ahmed: God Created Adam (a.s.) in His Image.  This statement is mentioned in many authentic ahadits, and we interpret it the following manner: Adam (a.s.) was Created possessing the Attributes which Allah (s.w.t.) also Possess.  The attributes of Adam (a.s.) and sons of Adam (a.s.) are contingent and relative whilst the Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.) are Eternal and Absolute.  This is what I mean by sharing, not that God’s Attributes are subtracted when sharing.  His Eternal and Absolute Attributes are inextricable, I agree.

Colin Turner: So, in fact, Adam (a.s.) was Created as a full-length mirror to the Divine Attributes, and with the potential to reflect all of the Names consciously, hence his status as khalifah.

James Currie: Quote from Brother Terence: “…the Muslims would claim we are heretics”. That’s a very telling statement.  Sad, really.  There were Christians who believed that Divinity is an Attribute shared between the persons of the Trinity and incarnate within a created human form.  Brother Terence, your esoteric doctrine resembles that Christian belief.

Abdur Rahman: I think Brother Anser made a valuable point.  I wonder how much benefit there is in continuing this discussion.  You have both made your respective positions clear.  This is beginning to become unhelpful.

James Currie: Brother Abdur Rahman, the fact that you are unclear about the issue is worrying in itself.

Khalil C Mitchell: Thank you all for you contributions.  This it seems is important and it is important clarity is grasped, as we, from what I am gathering, there are important distinctions between the points being raised by Brother James and Brother Terence.  The points I find most valuable are related purely to the doctrine of ‘aqidah, which I have learned from this, has to be completely tied to either the Maturidi or Ash’ari schools.  Other than this, there are ‘grey areas’.

Abdur Rahman: I have no wish to be drawn into unhelpful argument, so I will bid adieu to this thread.  Salam, one and all.

James Currie: I pray to Allah (s.w.t.) that you see the benefit.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Guide us all.

Khalil C Mitchell: This is important.  A lot is being learned by people reading this, insha’Allah.  Ok.  I am trying to understand something, Brother James, when you are raising that Brother Terence is saying that Divine Attributes are being ‘possessed’ rather than ‘lent’, it is obviously an important issue.  Is it fairly a common occurrence for this type of incorrect connection to be made?  Your argument that the language used is of utmost importance.  I understand that this usage of ‘possessed’ is totally incorrect if it really means the Divine is ‘inside’ parts of Creation but I am not so sure if Brother Terence really means this.  Perhaps it goes down to an understanding of the language, an understanding of ‘possessed’, not ‘lent’.  Brother Terence, can you clarify what you mean exactly?

Colin Turner: We should be able to have discussions and debates about the most contentious issues without the need to withdraw because it is ‘unhelpful’, that is it becoming a little acrimonious.  None of us has a monopoly on the truth and we are all here to share ideas and learn from each other.

Khalil C Mitchell: I agree, Brother Colin.  I think there is a conclusion in sight.  I want to get answers to these two points as I feel a resolution can come from them.  There ought not to be machine gunning on either side, as Brother Colin and many others have requested.  Gentlemen, these points to get to the bottom of this thread are essential.  Words have vast meaning and need to be clarified.

Colin Turner: I cannot speak for Brother Terence, but if I understand him correctly, I think he is reiterating that man, in and of himself, is non-existent.  In other words, he is contingent: he does not possess in and of himself the preponderating cause that brings him from apparent non-existence, in the knowledge of God, into phenomenal existence, in this world, as a Manifestation and Reflection of God’s Names.  While figuratively we can be said to exist, our actual existence is dependent on His Existence, just as the shadow is dependent on the hand, or the reflection is dependent on the one standing before the mirror.  Man is thus completely other than God, but at the same time he is nothing but the Manifestation of God - just as the reflection in the mirror is totally removed from the one standing in front of the mirror, yet at the same time is nothing but the one standing in front of the mirror.  Human language cannot go much further than this in trying to explain the inexplicable.

If we consider the issue from the perspective of existence, it becomes even more fraught.  Yet it is difficult to avoid it.  Existence is single.  The pen exists, the cow exists, the star exists.  That which unites them is not their ‘accidents’, their quiddities, but their existence.  Everything partakes of existence.  God, too, Exists.  Does this mean that all things are in a sense one, by virtue of the fact that all partake of existence?  Well yes, that is an unavoidable conclusion.  But do we say that God is the chair or the cow or the star?  No, of course not.  God is Exalted far above any kind of description.  So to say existence is one is not shirk.  God Exists and we exist.  How can that be shirk?

Khalil C Mitchell: I am sure Brother Terence can clarify exactly what he means.

James Currie: Brother Khalil, someone saying that the Divine Attributes are ‘reflected’ in created things, without indwelling within created things, is different from someone saying, as Brother Terence has done, that “Creation is Infused with the Attributes of the Divine” and “nothing in Creation can have an Attribute that Allah (s.w.t.) does not Possess”.  The choice of words is very important, the difference between sound Islamic creed, truth, and belief in incarnation of Divine Attributes within Created things like the Christians, falsehood.

Brother Colin, everyone has a different explanation for wahdat al-wujud.  That is part of the problem.  By you saying that “Existence is single”, are you not affirming an entity that subsumes all other entities?

Colin Turner: Brother James, is existence an entity?

Brother Khalil, I was not presuming to speak on Brother Terence’s behalf. Sorry if I gave that impression.

Marquis Dawkins: This really was an eye opening conversation as many said but I think again, as Brother Terence was alluding to, there are people who just will not ‘get it’, no amount of explanation or da’wah can convince a person of what they cannot see or do not want to see.  You can show someone that water is made up of one molecule of hydrogen, two molecules of oxygen in liquid form, but to them it's just ‘water’ and calling it anything else is bid’ah.  It is why it is said Jesus (a.s.) spoke in parables, because to state the spiritual truths he was given plainly, people would have been even more confused and / or tried to kill him even sooner.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Actually, Dr. Colin explained it quite well.  As close as I would.

In any case, this thread has run its course.  Everything that can be said at its most base level has already been said.  And if Brother James is unable to understand it, no matter his quibbles about the language and the similitudes provided, he will not get it.  It is important to note that everyone else on this thread understood part or most of it.  Brother Colin and Brother Abdur Rahman were able to explain parts of it better than I could.  I doubt the deficiency is in the explanation or our collective understanding then.

However, we must consider that understanding wahdat al-wujud and wahdat ash-shuhud, which we never addressed in detail here, presupposes knowledge of the maqamat al-fana’ wa baqa’ bi Allah.  And if one is unable to grasp that, then the idea that only Allah (s.w.t.) is al-Haqq and everything else is a Manifestation of His Swifat, it becomes problematic. Like I mentioned above, this is not for the beginner or the dabbler.

James Currie: Do not worry, Brother Terence.  I understand exactly what you are saying.  Really, it is not difficult to understand.  It is just that I disagree, because your doctrine flatly contradicts accepted Islamic creed.  In the past I discussed this issue with a Hindu, who was explaining his belief that all existence is one and his belief that Life is the Divine Attribute that binds and flows through everything.  I am shocked to find you using almost identical arguments to the Hindu.  Unfortunately, your esoteric doctrine is very accommodating of both Christian and Hindu beliefs.  And the Islamic scholars have long refuted your doctrine that Divine Attributes indwell within Created things or are infused within them.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: No, brother, you do not understand.  And the more you write, the more apparent it becomes.  Earlier in the thread, pantheism was already mentioned and rejected.  The fact that you seem to circle around certain points removes any doubt that not only do you not understand the twin doctrines, but you do not know the premise of tawhid af’al and tawhid asma’ wa asw-swifat.  This is already within the realm of tawhid dzat.  All this is as orthodox as can be, mind you.  I would suggest you revisit the levels of tawhid as taught by the a’immah of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah, or find a teacher who is capable of explaining it to your level.

James Currie: Without doubt you affirming that Divine Attributes are infused within Created things opens up the doors for Hindu pantheism and Christian beliefs about incarnation.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: As per the hadits that Brother Aftab mentioned that Allah (s.w.t.) Kept 99 parts of Mercy for Himself and Gave the rest to Creation, or the statement of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the saints that we are Created from Love; is it not correct then, due to the inadequacy of the language, to say that Creation is infused with those Attributes?  Or the ayat of the Qur'an where Allah (s.w.t.) Said, “Wa laqad Karamna Banu Adam”, where it is implied such as per the mufassirin.

We cannot have an attribute that Allah (s.w.t.) already does not have.  That would imply that we have a virtue He does not, taking away from His Ownership of All Attributes.  However, our attributes are a reflection of His.  Our Existence is a reflection of Divine Attributes.  All Creation is a reflection of that.  I fail to see how this leads to pantheism.

Brother James, it is my inadequacy that I cannot explain this any better to you.  You talk about the position of the scholars and you cannot quote a single one of them, whereas I have quoted from the blog posts to the comments on this thread, six or seven of them.  The explanation given above is almost the same as Imam al-Hujwiri’s (q.s.) in Kashf al-Mahjub.  The other one is the same as Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi’s (q.s.) as well.  The fact that you could not recognise them and disputed their orthodoxy belies your ignorance of this subject, brother.  And yet, in your bad adab, instead of addressing the subject, you continually imply that Brother Abdur Rahman, Brother Colin and myself are ignorant of this topic or deviant, and yet it is you who are unlearned and disputing something that is obviously beyond your level of learning.  I must clarify that I only discuss this with people who are well-versed in this sacred science.  When I taught at the mosque and the convert centre, it was the Ash’ari creed simply because this is not something for those who dabble.

James Currie: Brother Colin has already responded nicely to the hadits that Brother Aftab mentioned.

Abdur Rahman: I have no problem discussing difficult issues, though, be it noted, I only posted three times on this thread - once to share what I thought might be a useful resource, the ibn ‘Arabi Society website; once to say that this discussion is becoming acrimonious, what I meant by ‘unhelpful’; and once to say that I do not want to participate in such things.  Other than that, I have not contributed to this thread, though I have read all of the posts.

The manner in which a topic is discussed is just as important as the content - that was my point.  It is an important and interesting topic, and one that is ill served by what comes across as personal antagonism.  I mean no insult, and realise that it is very difficult to convey tone and nuance via a keyboard.  It is worth noting, however, that there is much in this thread that comes across as unnecessarily antagonistic.  May God Forgive me for any shortcomings and misunderstandings.

James Currie: Brother Terence, you should be careful about making assumptions about other people’s level of learning. Just to clarify, I sat for years with teachers who taught wahdat al-wujud, and understood and accepted the metaphorical usages in the doctrine.  However, while studying the Sanusiyyah text in Ash’ari creed, I started to see the common equivocations in the doctrine of wahdat al-wujud.  For instance, it is very common for advocates to flit between metaphorical and literal usages as though there is no difference, as you have done.  This flitting between usages is very dangerous, because it appears to blur the distinction between the Creator and the Created.  Also, it means that the doctrine of wahdat al-wujud is frequently used to justify calling on dead saints for help, when advocates say that in reality they are calling upon Allah (s.w.t.).

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, the saints are not dead.  This is another error on your part.  Did not the Qur’an not say that those who die in the way of Allah (s.w.t.) are not dead?

Aftab Ahmed: Brother James, there is difference between pantheism and Indwelling of the Attributes of God in contingent and relative sense.  Pantheism denotes that the Essence of God is in indwelling with Creation, whilst the Sufi philosophy indicates that the Eternal and Absolute Attributes which God Possessed from pre-eternity and will Possess to post-eternity are Dwelling with the Creation in a relative and dependent sense.  The Essence of Allah (s.w.t.) is one thing and the Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.) are another.  When we can have faith in free will and the Divine Will simultaneously, we can also have faith in other relative and contingent attributes which are Engineered within us by Allah (s.w.t.), I do not know what the problem in believing we possess the attributes in a limited way is.

I am still a learner.  If I commit mistakes, I am more than ready to correct myself and may Allah (s.w.t.) Forgive us for any shortcomings.  The safest creed is what we have from the authentic narrations and the book of Allah (s.w.t.).  Doctrines such as wahdat al-wujud can be exploited by people for making an excuse to end the stage of servitude, as happened in the lifetime of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.).  The doctrine of wahdat ash-shuhud, unity of manifestation, is much safer for the people like us.  Interestingly, Shaykh Ahmad as-Sirhindi (q.s.) said that the doctrine of wahdat ash-shuhud is subservient to the doctrine of unity of being, the former being a correction and addition to later.

The former, again bring the rank of servitude, and making distinction between Creation and the Creator, Creation was invisible or a non-entity during wahdat al-wujud.  Prophets are always in the rank of servants which is the highest rank, but they are able to make distinction between Creation and its Divine Creator, their cognitive abilities are Protected by God’s Grace whilst it is not protected in the saints, but the saints are forgiven to utter anything in their deep intoxicated love of the Creator.  The case of Shaykh Ahmad as-Sirhindi (q.s.) is an exception; he moved from wahdat al-wujud to wahdat ash-shuhud.

James Currie: Come on, Brother Terence, be realistic.  The saints are dead in the sense that they have passed on from this worldly life, but there is still the life of the grave that we affirm.  There is no error on my part by describing them as dead.  Death is a reality that no human soul will escape.

Jennifer Giove: I think this may just be a difference between the body and the soul.  The body is dead but that part of the Creation that causes us to be ‘alive’, that God-consciousness as some people might call it, is alive with Allah (s.w.t.).

James Currie: Yes, Sister Jennifer, it is the body that dies, but the soul endures by the Will of Allah (s.w.t.).

Quote from Brother Aftab: “The Essence of Allah (s.w.t.) is one thing and the Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.) are another”.  Brother Aftab, this is a mistake on your part.  There is the well-known ‘aqidah principle, shared between schools, that “Allah’s Attributes are not Him nor other than Him”.

Aftab Ahmed: That does not make sense.  The ear is one thing and the potential of hearing is another, the legs are one thing and potential to walk is another.  Engineer and his skill to perform engineering are two different things.  The Essence of Allah (s.w.t.) and the Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.) seems distinct in this way.  In your own words, that Attributes are not Him nor other than Him, but pantheism denotes that the Essence of Allah (s.w.t.) is dwelling in the essence of Creation, making it unitary existence.  But, the way I see it in your own words, the attributes which we possess relatively and contingently cannot be called pantheistic belief.  Hindus believe in the residing of God's Himself in Creation.

How do you interpret the authentic hadits which says we are Created in Image of Allah (s.w.t.)?  Do you accept it on face value without interpreting it to not get into the trouble of pantheistic belief?  The Qur’an makes it clear that none is like unto Him, and on other hand we are Created in His Image.  It looks like Qur’an makes distinction between the Essence of God and the Essence of Creation, but when it comes to the Attributes, it confirms the likeness of humans to the likeness of God in limited sense.  Otherwise, how would we manifest God’s Attributes in this world?  Perfection is to derive our manners from the Attributes of Allah (s.w.t.).

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, the problem is your denial of wasilah which is in total contradiction of the position of the a’immah of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah no matter which madzhab.  If, as you have demonstrated, you do not even known our position on tawaswswul and istighatsa, which is an ijma’, we certainly should not be discussing the finer points of ‘aqidah.

James Currie: Brother Aftab, before responding immediately with “That does not make sense”, I would recommend you consider carefully that well-established principle from the schools of ‘aqidah.  Look at your own examples.  Do you identify the skill to perform engineering as being the engineer himself?  Do you identify the skill to perform engineering as being distinct or separate from the engineer?

Colin Turner: I think that Brother Terence has clarified things by stating explicitly in one of the above posts that Divine Attributes can be predicated of human beings only in the sense that they are reflections, and, as such, totally dependent on and subsidiary to the Attributes and Names of God.

Jerry Mikell: So Brother Colin, are the Names and Attributes of God separate from human beings?  If they are reflections, then a mirror has no life or action.  What sayest thou my friend?  Are we merely reflections of the Divine and separate from Him, or do we embody the Names and Attributes and in fact prove them in manifestation?

James Currie: Nice question, Brother Jerry.

Colin Turner: Embody meaning...?

James Currie: Brother Terence, just as you attempt to use the Ash’ari and Maturidi schools as a Trojan horse for your esoteric doctrine of wahdat al-wujud, you try to use the issue of tawaswswul to sneak in your istighatsa beliefs.  There is no scholarly ijma’ for your understanding of istighatsa.

Come on, Brother Colin. Brother Jerry’s question is pretty clear.

Colin Turner: This is not a courtroom, Brother James.  I am not sure I understand what Brother Jerry means by ‘embody’ here.

Jerry Mikell: Brother Colin, what I mean is that we embody or manifest, within the realm of creational form, the Names or Attributes, in as you said, a sort of reflective way, because the embodiment or manifestation is in the realm of duality, thus losing its original purity from the higher realms of unity.  Having said that, if we had conscious access to the higher realms where these Names and Attributes Manifest through from Absolute Essence which is unknowable to the realm of the physical Creation, we would perceive our embodiment or manifestation as original and pure.  So it is all about perception, is it not?

Creation moves from the simple to the complex, or in reverse from the complex to the simple:

He Rules (all) affairs from the heavens to the earth: in the end will (all affairs) go up to Him, on a Day the space whereof will be (as) a thousand years of your reckoning. (Surah as-Sajdah:5)

I just want to say that I love all of you.  Literally.  “All you need is love, love, love is all you need.”  Seriously, this Diyn is the most magnificent spiritual growth and development process ever made available to human kind.

We need to have an intellectual understanding of things sure, but most of all we need to ‘experience’ the deeper realms of consciousness as much as we are able and Allah (s.w.t.) Gives us the capacity.  “Are you experienced?” as Jimi said long, long ago.  (But not in the way he was talking about.).  Here is the deal the way I see it.  We cannot move from the experience of dualism to the experience of the higher realms until we purify our nafs or ego.  Every aspect of the Diyn calls to that.  One of the greatest barriers for people of intellect is their love of intellect.  Why?  Because they feel they have intellect, and the human ego invests itself in its identity.  So identity must go.  The intellect must be jettisoned.  It is one of the final stages of the rocket to Allah (s.w.t.) to break off.  The final stage is life itself.  We must be willing to give up our very lives for Allah (s.w.t.).  The Taoists call this ‘ru ding’.  We call it annihilation in Allah (s.w.t.).

This does not mean that we do not ever use intellect again.  We do.  It is a tool.  But the greatest experience we can have is the Divine Presence available to the heart.  The beauty of Islam is that it holds the possibility for every level of consciousness to be experienced according to one’s desire and capability.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Help us all to actualise our potential and Raise us to His Presence.

Colin Turner: You said: “If they are reflections, then a mirror has no life or action.  What sayest thou, my friend?”  I would agree that we have no life or action in and of ourselves; God is the One Who Creates the outcomes of our choices, which we make freely, and which do not constitute action in the physical, causal sense of the word.  So yes, we are lifeless and without action from one perspective, and living and animated as His Creation from another.  You then posed the questions “Are we merely reflections of the Divine and separate from Him, or do we embody the Names and Attributes and in fact prove them in manifestation?”  I do not think these two propositions are mutually exclusive.  We are reflections of the Divine, and separate from Him in one sense, that is, in the sense that we have, in and of ourselves, nothing, on account of the fact that He is Distant; and we embody, or manifest, His Names and Attributes through the mirror of our being, on account of the fact that He is Near.  Is the one who is reflected in the mirror near or far?  Stand in front of a mirror and the answer is clear.  The image in the mirror is separate from the one reflected and yet is nothing but the one reflected.  The reflection is in one sense lifeless and inactive, but in another sense full of life and action.  The mirror analogy is not perfect, but I think it serves our purpose here.

Jerry Mikell: We are not separate from Him.  This is the illusion we live in.  We are from Him and to Him we Return.  There is no separation in Reality.  Separation only occurs from the mind.

And most of them believe not in Allah without associating (others as partners) with Him! (Surah Yusuf:106)

Colin Turner: Is the shadow separate from the hand?  First we have to decide what our definition of ‘separate’ is.

Jerry Mikell: Manifestation is a mystery.  Kun faya kun.  No one knows how.  So we say Allah!  To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth.  We are God’s Manifestation.  This is not a hand and shadow phenomenon.  That is a dualistic metaphor.  We are talking about moving beyond into the unitarian state.  Creation comes through different levels of manifestation - from the simple to the most complex, both of which prove His Power, His Knowledge, His Ineffable Nature.  And all the other Attributes which at the highest level of wahidiyyah or logos are inseparable.  They are contained only in potentiality at this level, all agglomerated, if you will, together which give this level such awesome power.

Colin Turner: I was talking about the world of multiplicity, in which we are immersed.  How we are ‘with’ God in the realms of malakut, jabarut and so on is a different issue.  There, all dualistic paradigms are somehow dissolved, and it is difficult to speculate on how that will take place.  It is much safer to deal with mulk, which is, after all, our area of special interest.

Jerry Mikell: I do not think we can separate, Brother Colin.  We can for the sake of conversation, but Reality is not separate.  And we are not with God, nor is He with us.  There is no separation.  Wahdahu laa sharikallah.

Colin Turner: You are not making this any easier, brother!  I was trying to show Brother James that ‘reflecting’ or ‘manifesting’ God, as per Brother Terence’s post, is not something he has to fear or reject as shirk, and therefore heretical.  Now you are talking about the mythical nature of duality and multiplicity and the job has just become more difficult!

Jerry Mikell: And I am not saying we are God.  That is insane and pure polytheism.  Some day we ought to have a get together somewhere in the world so we can eat, drink and be merry together.  You too, Brother James Harris; what you said above is brilliant.  Had I read it before rambling, I would have shut up.  I will restate it again so perhaps the discussion concludes on this note:

I cannot speak for Brother Terence, but if I understand him correctly, I think he is reiterating that man, in and of himself, is non-existent.  In other words, he is contingent: he does not possess in and of himself the preponderating cause that brings him from apparent non-existence in the Knowledge of God into phenomenal existence, that is in this world, as a manifestation and reflection of God’s Names.  While figuratively we can be said to exist, our actual existence is dependent on His Existence, just as the shadow is dependent on the hand, or the reflection is dependent on the one standing before the mirror.  Man is thus completely other than God, but at the same time he is nothing but the Manifestation of God - just as the reflection in the mirror is totally removed from the one standing in front of the mirror, yet at the same time is nothing but the one standing in front of the mirror.  Human language cannot go much further than this in trying to explain the inexplicable.  If we consider the issue from the perspective of existence, it becomes even more fraught.  Yet it is difficult to avoid it.  Existence is single.  The pen exists, the cow exists, the star exists.  That which unites them is not their ‘accidents’, that is, their quiddities, but their existence.  Everything partakes of existence.  God, too, Exists.  Does this means that all things are in a sense one, by virtue of the fact that all partake of existence?  Well yes, that is an unavoidable conclusion.  But do we say that God is the chair or the cow or the star?  No, of course not.  God is Exalted far above any kind of description.  So to say existence is one is not shirk.  God Exists and we exist.  How can that be shirk?  Give him an embrace for me when you see him. I like that man.

Colin Turner: I like him too.  I will give him an extra hug on your behalf.

Jak Kilby: I am a happy ignoramus.  I can live without all these things.  And many things questioned have no concern for me, al-Hamdulillah.

James Currie: Brother Jak, you have the ma’rifah of the one who knows his limits.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, the rest of the thread is beyond you, as our esteemed brothers have demonstrated that these twin doctrines are neither gharib nor shirk.  With regards istighatsa and tawaswswul, here is a post on it.  Feel free to do your own research: Asking Aid from the Prophets, Saints & Scholars.

This other post explains the different levels and types of intercession by our scholars: Intercession by Different Means.  I am not sure which Wahhabi teacher you studied from that taught you that tawaswswul and istighatsa is not part of our tradition.  If you cannot even understand this, it is no wonder you completely misconstrue Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) and the other scholars of tawhid dzat.

James Currie: Brother Terence, if the awliya’ providing assistance from afar is a karamah, a miracle that involves breaking of the norm, as your article indicates, then the norm is that the awliya’ do not provide such assistance.  Call on Allah (s.w.t.) instead!  By the way, Imam Shihab ad-Din ar-Ramli (q.s.) is a relatively late scholar in the history of Islam.

Brother Colin, if you say that all existence is one, because A exists, B exists and C exists, then it sounds like you are affirming an entity that subsumes A, B and C, even if you do not give it a name.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: So you deny all instances of tawaswswul as found in the Qur’an and ahadits because you think you are better than our pious predecessors?  It is irrelevant whether Imam Shihab ad-Din (r.a.) is a later scholar.  It does not deny his scholarship.  The awliya’ are no ‘far off’, and neither is the Prophet (s.a.w.).  His distance from your heart is your distance from Islam.

There is no learning for one who thinks he knows better than the example of our Prophet (s.a.w.).  Whatever you have learnt on these matters is inadequate.  You have ideas on these issues that are not congruent with the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah and the more you write, the more apparent it becomes.

James Currie: Of course, I do not deny the instances of tawaswswul as found in the Qur’an and sunnah.  I deny your doctrine of istighatsa which you try to sneak in under the category of tawaswswul.  You are not supported by the opinions of early scholars on this issue.  I notice that you did not address my above point.  The awliya’ providing help from afar is clearly not the norm by your own standards.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: The point is addressed in the article.

James Currie: No, your contradiction is not addressed.

Aftab Ahmed: Brother James, you did not answer my question.  I asked you for your interpretation of the statement, “We are Created in the Image of God”.

James Currie: Brother Colin said: “So in fact Adam was Created as a full-length mirror to the Divine Attributes, and with the potential to reflect all of the Names consciously, hence his status as khalifah.”  Reflection does not mean that the Divine Attributes actually indwell within, or are possessed by, the Created form.

Aftab Ahmed: The Qur’an Says God Breathed into us of His Spirit.  Was His Spirit a Created form or was it Eternal?  The Qur’an Says on the spirit, “That the knowledge Given to mankind of the spirit is very little”.  I do not think that spirit is a Created form, the Attributes which we have are coming from that spirit.  Also ahadits say Adam (a.s.) was Created in the Image of God.  It is known fact from the authoritative ahadits and the Book of Allah (s.w.t.) that the Spirit is not going to die, it will live in Paradise or endure in Hellfire forever.

Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother James, what Allah (s.w.t.) has Provided you in terms of knowledge, be content with it.  No matter how many questions you ask and no matter how it is explained, you will never grasp this knowledge as long as you hold on to your intellect and its limitations.  The problem is that we all speak of unity but you cannot let go of duality.  How can you expect to know the Light when you are still chasing shadows?

James Currie: Brother Terence, I have heard your arguments regarding duality from Hindus.

Brother Aftab, who told you that “God Breathed into us of His Spirit“?

Aftab Ahmed: The Qur’an told me, Brother James.  Read the following verse:

“When I have Fashioned him (in due proportion) and Breathed into him of My Spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him." (Surah al-Hijr:29)

James Currie: Did anyone tell you that the Ruh here means the Qur’an and that it indwells within the human form?

Terence Helikaon Nunis: The Qur’an is Kalamullah.  Consider what you wrote about the Divine Attributes being Breathed into Adam. (a.s.).

James Currie: I did not write anything affirming that Divine Attributes indwell within Created forms; rather I deny that.

Aftab Ahmed; Brother James Currie you are misinterpreting the Qur’anic verse, brother.  The tafsir of it is as follows: “And I have Breathed into him of My Spirit” means when God has Cast a reflection of His Divine Characteristics on him.  This shows that the soul of man implies life, knowledge, power, will, discretion and other human characteristics in the aggregate.  These are in reality a slight reflection of Divine Characteristics that has been Cast on the human body, which was originally Created from dried clay.  And it is this Divine Reflection on the human body which has raised him to the position of the vicegerent of Allah (s.w.t.) and made him that worthy being before whom angels and every earthly thing should bow down.

As a matter of fact, the source of each Characteristic of everything is one Divine Characteristic or the other, as is borne by a tradition: Allah (s.w.t.) Divided Mercy into one hundred parts: then He Reserved ninety-nine parts for Himself and Sent down the remaining one part to the earth.  It is because of that one part that the creatures show mercy to one another.  So much so that it is due to this that an animal refrains from placing the hoof on its young ones.  In this connection one has to be on strict guard against the notion that the possession of a part of any Divine Characteristic amounts to the possession of a part of Godhead.  This is because Godhead is absolutely beyond the reach of each and every Creation.

James Currie: What is difficult to understand?  Reflection does not mean indwelling.  And by reflection here, we do not mean bouncing of particles.  It is through the human form that the Divine Attributes can be best understood by Creation.

Quote from Brother Terence: “And the awliya’ are not ‘far off’, and neither is the Prophet (s.a.w.).  His distance from your heart is your distance from Islam.”  Again, you are trying to use the Muslims’ natural and immense love for the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) as a Trojan horse for your istighatsa beliefs.  True love for the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) entails adhering to his beloved sunnah and abstaining from istighatsa practices that go against Revelation, reason and empirical knowledge.  We keep the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) close, remembering him in our hearts, through abundant swalawat and he is made aware of this as reported in swahih narrations.

Aftab Ahmed: How would you reflect if you are not Given those Attributes?  We are Given life.  That is how the Attribute of Life is reflected.  We are Given love.  That is how the Attribute of Love is reflected.  What is your understanding of ‘reflection’ here?

James Currie: As I said, it is through the human form that the Divine Attributes can be best understood by Creation.  We are going round in circles now.  I will try to locate some statements from classical scholars to support what I am saying.

Aftab Ahmed: If you do not possess certain attributes how would you unveil them?  We have to possess the attributes in order to demonstrate or manifest them.  In a way, you are saying that we are lifeless and the attributes of life are being reflected from lifeless being.  Is that logical?

James Currie: See if you can do the same finding scholarly statements.  You will have difficulty I suspect.

Aftab Ahmed: I can defend my position from the hadits of Mercy divided into 100 parts and 1 Part is given to all the Creation and the rest are with Allah (s.w.t.).  That is all, no scholarly statement is superior to the noble words of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

James Currie: It is not doubted that the words of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) are superior to the statement of the scholar.  Rather, the issue is whether your interpretation of his words is superior to that of the scholar.

Colin Turner: Brother James, you said: “if the awliya’ providing assistance from afar is a karamah, a miracle that involves breaking of the norm, as your article indicates, then the norm is that the awliya’ do not provide such assistance.  Call on Allah (s.w.t.) instead!”  Well, with regard to tawaswswul, the matter is not a complex one.  Between God and us there is a veil of apparent causes, to which we have recourse in order to function on a day-to-day basis.  When we want a cup of tea, there are a number of steps we have to go through in order for this desire to be fulfilled: we walk to the kitchen, we pour water in the kettle, we put the kettle on the flame...and so on.  This is Sunnatullah - the way God Arranges our causal world so that we can ‘do stuff’, basically.  Each of these steps embodies a ‘calling upon’ or ‘recourse to’ apparent causes, one after the other, until the task is completed.  In order to taste the rizq that is the tea, or, maybe we could say, in order to ‘taste’ the Razzaqiyyah of Allah (s.w.t.), we have to have recourse to causes.  This ‘having recourse’ is tawaswswul, pure and simple.  Another, possibly more meaningful example, is when we have a headache and we reach for the painkillers.  Now we know that the painkiller - the paracetamol or aspirin - is not the thing which gives shifa’; the only Giver of shifa’ is Allah (s.w.t.).  However, if this is the case, then why, when someone has a headache, do we not say, ‘Don't take a tablet!  Call on Allah instead?”  Well we do not say this because in actual fact, as I am sure you realise, taking the tablet is calling on Allah (s.w.t.)!  Taking the tablet is a kind of active du’a - having recourse to apparent causes in order to invoke the Divine Name ash-Shafi’.

My question now is this: what difference is there between a tiny disc of compacted chemical compounds, the tablet, which can neither see us nor hear us, nor know our ailments - what difference is there between this and the ‘deceased’ saints?  Bearing in mind, of course, that those saints are actually alive in the Presence of God - much more alive than the paracetamol or the aspirin?

Khalil C Mitchell: This is most interesting. Really, thank you all.  This proving to be one of the most educational threads I have read.  The more that is covered the more education.  I know that people are wanting to join this group just to read this thread.

I am wondering something.  The state of witnessing, hal, once witnessed and then articulated, described, becomes in effect a variation of what we understand as ‘aqidah.  Only once it is articulated of course, otherwise it is a state that is beyond description that can only be witnessed, not described.  So is it that the rooting of ‘aqidah, the permissibility of what is acceptable to speak about is in effect a grounding safeguard that once adhered to prohibits confusions as to what reality is?

James Currie: Narrated Abu Hurayrah (r.a.), “I heard Allah’s Apostle (s.a.w.) saying, ‘Verily Allah Created mercy.  The day He Created it, He made it into one hundred parts.  He Withheld with Him ninety-nine parts, and Sent its one part to all His creatures.  Had the non-believer known of all the Mercy which is in the Hands of Allah, he would not lose hope of entering Paradise, and had the believer known of all the punishment which is present with Allah, he would not consider himself safe from the Hell-Fire.’”  This is recorded in Swahih al-Bukhari.

Brother Aftab, please note the words, “Verily Allah Created mercy” in this narration, which makes it clear the interpretation that should be taken.  There is no evidence here that Divine Attributes indwell within Created forms.

There is also this narration: Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) reported, “I heard Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.) as saying, ‘Allah Created mercy in one hundred parts and He Retained with Him ninety-nine parts, and He has Sent down upon the earth one part, and it is because of this one part that there is mutual love among the Creation so much so that the animal lifts up its hoof from its young, one, fearing that it might harm it.’”  This is recorded in Swahih Muslim.  The mercy being referred to here is Created mercy.

Colin Turner: The ‘Created mercy’?  Where is it and what does it look like?  I think you are taking the hadits far too literally.  The tradition in question seems to indicate that the manifestation of mercy is at its ‘lowest’ in dunya.  And this also applies to most of the rest of the Names and Attributes.  Mercy is the Domain and Prerogative of God, Whose Mercy is Absolute, and can brook no opposition, peer or partner.  Mercy is not something that can be parcelled out or divided up among beings.  If that is what you think the hadits is saying, then either you are wrong or the hadits is.

Jak Kilby: Actually, Brother Colin, this hadits, Brother James has quoted, is one of my favourites.  But I do not see it as you have just mentioned at all.  Rather than being “manifestation of mercy is at its ‘lowest’ in dunya”, regarding the one part Given to all Creation, thus, this 1% is shared out by all the people of all time, and all the animal life, and presumably all jinn, and most of it can be seen in positive relationships amongst people, and amongst animals that even what we see as beasts will show signs of this by the mother looking after and nurturing it's offspring and protecting them, then rather than of the ‘lowest’, is it not simply massive, and inspirational, such that it might make you weep for God’s Love, since He has thus given such a huge thing but more is reserved for the next life, the 99 parts?

Jerry Mikell: Brother James keeps referring to the term ‘in-dwelling’ and actually, in this morning moment in the snow in North Carolina, I agree with him.  Give me five Brother James.  Why?  Let me from the outset apologise that I have not read all the posts as they are many, and so perhaps I am reiterating something that has come before or misunderstanding the line of reasoning that has come down and if so please excuse me and discard what I say, but based on what I have read most recently here is my comment which is not complete: Because I do not believe our actions are from us essentially though they obviously emanate from our forms.  As Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Quran:

“But Allah has Created you and your handiwork!” (Surah asw-Swaffat:96)

Also there are so many ayah that remind us of association which to me means that in fact we, on the physical plane, the hayat ad-dunya, are engaged, seemingly, in cause and effect relationships.  But as we move thabaqan ‘an thabaq from the complex physical to the more simple yet all-encompassing realms of boundlessness that contain all the Names and Attributes, and from there to the Absolute which cannot be accessed, as ‘Ali (k.w.) said, “When you reach the Essence, stop!” - we find that Existence emanates from where we know not.  It is kun faya kun.  And let me throw in a caveat here that I do not mean that there is any place to really ‘move’ to or from.  This is a device of language.  All realms of existence are concurrently present and co-emerging.  It is a complete mystery how life occurs, so we stop and say “Allah”!

All of the metaphysical philosophies that I have examined and that ring true to me to some degree agree that there is no ‘in-dwelling’ because in fact, there is nothing but a physical form brought together by the condensation of energy and all Attributes are part of one matrix or field which contains and permeates every entity.  The human form is capable of receiving and emitting more complex attributes of this field than say and ant or a flower because of its nature or fithrah, but it does not own the attributes nor does it contain them.  They are in the energetic, light field which embraces all things.

So in summary, it is my thinking that we, as human beings, are receivers and emitters of the Divine Attributes, and at the same time there is an element of self-hood that is being formed by how we construe what we receive and what we emit that has an energetic substance and will continue on after the death of the body.  I hope the above makes some sense.  Be Blessed, mates.

Colin Turner: Brother Jak, I do not think that what you have said is at odds with my understanding of the hadits at all.  We see the Manifestation of Mercy in the cosmos, in all of the forms you mentioned, and particularly in the compassion of mothers for their offspring.  And yes, it is massive, as you say.  But it is still only a drop in the ocean compared to the absolute superabundance of Mercy which is ‘Reserved’ for the next world.  By ‘lowest’, I meant exactly that: what we see here, despite its awesomeness, is nothing in comparison with what we will see in the next world.

Jerry Mikell: Rahmah is next to Bismillah in Surah al-Fatihah.  So in a sense it could be viewed or construed as the first Existent Manifestation which contains all the Names and Attributes.  The simple translation of ‘mercy’, in my opinion does not do the Name justice:

The Beneficent One, Who is Established on the Throne. (Surah ThaHa:5)

For me, the hadits means what Brother Colin has suggested: that compared to the superabundance of mercy which exists and permeates the Throne of the Worlds, our experienced portion at the physical level of existence is but one part.  I disagree, however, that it is reserved exclusively for the next life.  I believe at least a portion of the superabundance not available to normal consciousness is available in this life if we are able to transcend our normal ego state of consciousness.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) was drawn to within two bows lengths.  Many ‘arifin say this is available to others of human kind, though they are not receptors of Divine Revelation.

James Currie: Brother Colin said: “The ‘Created mercy’?  Where is it and what does it look like?  I think you are taking the hadits far too literally.”  Brother Colin, the fact that you ask these questions about mercy suggests a problem with literalism and metaphor in your mind.

James Currie: Brother Colin and Brother Jerry, the Mu’tazilites famously denied Attributes for Allah (s.w.t.) falsely claiming that affirming Attributes would entail partners for Him.  Are you both going to the other extreme of denying attributes for Creation thinking that affirmation here would also entail partners for Allah (s.w.t.)?

Aftab Ahmed: Brother James, there is no such thing as ‘created mercy’ in literal sense.  It is likely the ‘created mercy’ in that hadits refers to the ‘entity of mercy’, for example: Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), mother to a child and so forth.  When I said that we share attributes with God, it does not mean that there is likeness between us and God Exalted.  For example, the redness and the whiteness both share an attribute of color, seen by vision yet they are not alike in their quiddity.  Likeness is defined as sharing in a specific type and quiddity.  There is difference between the Attributes of God and Creation.  God Possesses Knowledge, Power, Will, Life and we also possess them, but there is difference in the nature of the attributes.  His Attributes are not in likeness to Man’s.

This analogy will explain: the pleasure of eating a delicious meal and the pleasure of glancing something beautiful, both are pleasures by name, but they are different in their quiddity.  The same in the case when we talk about the Attributes of God and ourselves.  We possess the same attributes in name, but not in the quiddity.  We are told to acquire Attributes of God in our nature because only closeness in Attribute can make ourselves closer to God.  When two persons share common interests, they are likely to be good friends meaning in proximity to each other than two persons who do not sharing anything in common.  We know or understand God’s Mercy through the Attribute of Mercy which we are Given.  We understand God’s Knowledge through the Attribute of Knowledge we have.  We understand God’s Love through our attribute of love.  In short, we cannot conceive God perfectly, because we are conceiving Him from mortal attributes.

Angels do not have free will, so they cannot understand the Attribute of God’s Will, but we understand it because we have tasted it.  A being cannot understand anything unless he has in him something corresponding to it.  If we were not given the Attributes in name it would be inconceivable to understand God.  I think that is why it is said, we know God through ourselves.  Technically speaking, no one knows God.  We only experience God’s Attributes, not the Essence of God.  So it does look right no one shares in God’s Attributes in God’s Nature; we share His Attributes in our nature.  There is no likeness to God’s Essence and His Attributes.

Colin Turner: Brother James, God Exists and we exist.  Does that mean we are partners of God?  Of course not.  So in theory I would have no problems with affirming attributes for God and for Created beings, if such a thing were possible.  But it is not possible, is it?  I mean, if Attributes of Perfection exist in God in an Absolute Sense - a point which no-one here would question - then it is inconceivable to posit their subjection to true multiplicity.  In short, God is simple, basith, and cannot be divided into ‘parts’ like composite beings.  God’s Power cannot be parcelled up and distributed among Created beings in any real sense, although clearly for practical purposes we describe ourselves as having wisdom, power and other such attributes.  But those attributes that we ‘have’ are not really ours.  The fact that God is Simple precludes this completely.

Jerry Mikell: Brother James, I agree with Brother Colin above.  The ascription of Attributes to Allah (s.w.t.) allows us to describe Him in the realm of duality, with our faculty of mentality using language which is not pure Reality.  Everything goes back to Allah (s.w.t.), so there cannot be ascription, because He is above description or we would be dabbling in shirk.  By the way, Brother James, I very much appreciate your participation.  The depth of this thread owes a great deal to it.

James Currie: Thanks, Brother Jerry.  Let us not be under the impression that you are all singing from the same song sheet here.

Colin Turner: The fact that people sing from different song sheets signifies a diversity of approaches, and that can only be a positive thing, surely?

Jerry Mikell: Brother James, perhaps from a deeper Reality we are all singing the same song but from different song sheets like the light that passes through the prism appears in different colors yet is the same pure light.  Let us just agree on this: we are all very blessed to have come to the Diyn of Allah (s.w.t.).


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