The True Meaning of Tawhid & the Three Degrees of Shahadah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ 

The following is an extract of a Letter, from the discourses of Shaykh Ibrahim ibn ‘Abdullah Niyas al-Kawlakhi (q.s.): “The true meaning of tawhid and the three degrees of shahadah.” 

“When someone attains the station of annihilation in the Essence of Allah, everything will vanish from him, until nothing remains except Allah.  The tongue of the one in this state will say, ‘Nothing remains except Allah, nothing besides Him.  There is not in this place any attachment or intelligibility.’  In this state is found the real meaning of Laa ilaha illa Allah.  This kalimah at-tawhid has a shell and a core, and the core of the core.  The shell, or tawhid al-‘amm, has come in the Qur’an as: 

سُوۡرَةُ البَقَرَة

ٱللَّهُ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ (٢٥٥) 

Allah! there is no Allah but He ... (Surah al-Baqarah:255) 

And this, in truth, describes those who are absent from Allah, Glorious & Exalted is He.  They are absent from Him, while He is never absent from them. 

If a person continues traveling in Allah, and makes Him their sole aim and purpose, they will arrive to the station of presence with Allah, and will begin to address Him in the way He is addressed during the swalah: 

سُوۡرَةُ الفَاتِحَة

إِيَّاكَ نَعۡبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسۡتَعِينُ (٥) ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٲطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ (٦) 

You do we worship, and Your aid we seek.  Show us the straight way. (Surah Al-Fatihah:5-6) 

He has thus come to the station of ‘Laa ilaha illa Anta’ and this has also come in the Qur’an as: 

سُوۡرَةُ الاٴنبیَاء

لَّآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنتَ (٨٧) 

… “There is no god but You …” (Surah al-Anbiya’:87) 

If you complete the journey and attain the station of annihilation in the Essence of Allah, you will find the only remaining dzikr is ‘Laa ilaha illa Anna’ and this has also come in the Qur’an as: 

سُوۡرَةُ طٰه

لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنَا۟ (١٤) 

“… there is no god but I ...” (14) 

A person might find it strange to hear his brother saying, ‘There is no god but Me’ and may assume this person to be ascribing Divinity to himself, while the truth is that the Real has Spoken upon his tongue.  He hears this Divine Speech just as his brother does, but it is only the Speech of Allah.  Allah Spoke like this to Prophet Musa (a.s.), from a bush: 

سُوۡرَةُ طٰه

فَلَمَّآ أَتَٮٰهَا نُودِىَ يَـٰمُوسَىٰٓ (١١) إِنِّىٓ أَنَا۟ رَبُّكَ فَٱخۡلَعۡ نَعۡلَيۡكَ‌ۖ إِنَّكَ بِٱلۡوَادِ ٱلۡمُقَدَّسِ طُوً۬ى (١٢) وَأَنَا ٱخۡتَرۡتُكَ فَٱسۡتَمِعۡ لِمَا يُوحَىٰٓ (١٣) إِنَّنِىٓ أَنَا ٱللَّهُ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنَا۟ فَٱعۡبُدۡنِى وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ لِذِڪۡرِىٓ (١٤) 

But when he came to the fire, a voice was heard, “O Moses!  Verily I am your Lord!  Therefore (in My presence) put off your shoes: you are in the sacred valley Thuwa’.  I have Chosen you: listen then, to the inspiration (sent to you).  Verily I am Allah: there is no god but I: so serve you Me, (only) and establish regular prayer for celebrating My Praise.” (Surah ThaHa:11-14) 

If Allah is Able to speak on the tongue of a bush and say, ‘There is no god but Me’, surely He is Able to speak on the tongue of a human being and say, ‘Verily, I am Allah’  If a person attains the station of annihilation in the Essence of Allah.  They will surely know that there is nothing except Allah.  This is the tawhid al-khalisw which is sought by the Sufi people.  Shaykh Ahmad at-Tijani (q.s.) is recorded as saying in Jawahir al-Ma’ani: ‘The reality of Oneness you have not comprehended as long as you say ‘Existence’ and ‘Allah’.  Where is the Oneness if you affirm two?  There is no tawhid until you have established Absolute Oneness for Allah, by Allah, and to Allah.  Until the servant finds no ‘entrance’ and no ‘exit’, and this is not possible except by traveling the path of annihilation.’  That is why the first thing which the ‘arifin encourage their disciples to seek is this annihilation in Allah, Glorious and Exalted is He. 

After this annihilation, they continue to elevate the murid until he attains the in the shaykh, as he is an Attribute of Allah.  What is desired from these two annihilations is that the servant will soon come to the station where he will meet with the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and the shaykh, and will know nothing else after this gnosis.  If a disciple continues to advance, they will come to have Direct Witnessing of the ‘non-existence of things’.  An example of this ‘non-existence of things’ is seen in the cinema and movies we watch.”


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