Commentary on the Hikam (#3)

Dr. Saeed Ramadan al-Buti

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Let us plant this certitude firmly in the core of our beings. It brings immense benefits to us. Among its other benefits is that this doctrinal certitude leads you to what the spiritual masters (al-rabbaniyyun) have called “oneness of perception” (wahda al-shuhud). I am not saying “oneness of being” (wahda al-wujud) – beware! What is the meaning of the expression “oneness of perception”? When I interact with causes with full respect to Allah’s ways, His orders, and His Law, and know that the sustenance that comes to me is from Allah; the felicity that enters my home is from Allah Almighty; my food is readied for me by Allah – I mean even the smallest details; the wealth with which I have been graced, comes from Allah; the illness that has been put in my being or that of a relative of mine comes from Allah Almighty; the cure that followed it is from Allah Almighty; my success in my studies is by Allah Almighty’s grant; the results which I have attained after obtaining my degrees and so forth, are from Allah Almighty’s grant – when the efficacy of causes melt away in my sight and I no longer see, behind them, other than the Causator Who is Allah Almighty, at that time, when you look right, you do not see except Allah’s Attributes, and when you look left, you do not see other than Allah’s Atttributes. As much as you evolve in the world of causes, you do not see, through them, except the Causator, Who is Allah. At that time you have become raised to what the spiritual masters have called oneness of perception. And this oneness of perception is what Allah’s Messenger – Allah bless and greet him – expressed by the word ihsan [which he defined to mean]: “That you worship Allah as if you see him.”5 You do not see the causes as a barrier between you and Allah. Rather, you see causes, in the context of this doctrine, very much like pure, transparent glass: the glass pane is present, no one denies it, but as much as you stare at it, you do not see anything except what is behind it. Is it not so? You only see what is behind it. The world is entirely made of glass panes in this fashion. You see in them Allah’s efficacy in permanence, so you are always with Allah Almighty.

None has tasted the sweetness of belief (iman) unless he has reached that level of perception. At that time you will find yourself, when you enter your house, enjoying the pleasures of this house and whatever sustenance and good things are in it, you will know that it is Allah Who has bestowed all this upon you, so you will love Him. When you find that Allah has tied together your heart and the heart of your wife with mutual love, you will know that the secret of this love is not effected by your wife, but comes from Allah, the Lord of the worlds. When you look at yourself in the mirror, finding yourself in good health, you immediately know that it is Allah Almighty that has bestowed good health upon you. When food is placed before you and you look at it, you imagine that Allah – so to speak – has carried this food and placed it before you after he subordinated to this purpose His heaven, His earth, the pastures of His livestock, and then said to you: “Eat!” You will live with Allah Almighty! If you become thirsty and drink some cold water you will forget the water and remember only the One Who quenched your thirst. And when you lie down in bed at night and find yourself falling sleep, you will know that the One Who made you sleep is Allah – not sleeping pills at all, nor the efficacy which Allah subordinated to the physician. And so forth. You interact with causes, but this certitude shall make you as I described: you will see causes as very, very transparent glass panes which, as much as you stare at them, you will no longer see other than what is behind them.

The disbeliever, on the other hand, or the denier, or the doubter, or the sceptic, will look at these causes as one of us would look at glass panes that have been completely painted over. These panes have become thick obstacles that prevent you from seeing what is behind them. As much as you look, you cannot see what is behind them. At that time one will divinize causes, and all those things. It is not permitted for the Muslim to fall into this spot in any way whatsoever.

We have now determined the working relationship between the words of the Imam Ibn `Ata’ Allah al-Sakandari in his second hikma and his words in the third. There remains one question which might arise in the minds of some people: “If everything is according to qada’ and qadar, then the believer is foreordained by Allah to be a believer, and the disbeliever is foreordained by Allah to be a disbeliever. Therefore, the disbeliever’s disbelief is not by his free choice, nor is the believer’s belief by his free choice.” Our preceding discourse might lead some of you to this difficulty. What is the answer? It is actually a different question, unrelated to what we have said today. I shall answer this question, Allah willing, but what I say now will not suffice and I therefore direct you to what I said in detail, in depth, and at length in my book Al-Insanu Musayyarun aw Mukhayyar? (“Is Man Controlled or Endowed With Free Choice?”). I believe that I answered this problem there in great detail. However, I shall answer now succinctly.

Everything is by qada’ and qadar, just as Allah’s Messenger – Allah bless and greet him – says, including helplessness and intelligence.6 Allah’s foreordained destinies are two kinds. The first kind is directly created by Allah Almighty. This is all part of “the world of creation” (`alam al-khalq): stars and their orbits, the order of the universe which is unrelated to man’s free choice, human birth and death, human illness and cure, vegetation, earthquakes, eclipses – all these matters are part of Allah’s foreordainment and created by Him directly, without any part for free choice. This comes under the heading of “creation” in the verse “His verily is all creation and commandment” (7:54). The Creator does not make you in any way responsible for what He created without any choice on your part. “Allah tasks not a soul beyond its scope” (2:286).

The second kind of foreordained destinies is what Allah has foreordained – and what is foreordainment? It is Allah’s knowledge of what shall take place. Allah only creates something in correspondence with (tilqa’) His knowledge. This second kind of foreordained destinies is one that takes effect or circulates through the free choices of human beings. For example: your prayer, your fasting, your pilgrimage, your purification-tax (zakat), your acts of obedience, your acts of piety, your acts of disobedience – we seek refuge in Allah! – and all your deeds freely undertaken: are they foreordained by Allah or not? They are foreordained by Allah, in the sense that Allah knows that you will pray by choice. When, according to Allah’s knowledge, you rose to pray, He put you in a position to pray (aqdaraka `ala salatik) and created in your entity the motions of your prayer. He is the Creator [of all this]. Allah knows that you will perform pilgrimage to the Sacred House. At the time you determined to go on pilgrimage, He put you in a position to do so and created for you the causes that facilitate it for you. Allah knows that So-and-so will disobey Him by drinking wine. At the time he finally determined to drink wine, Allah put him in a position to do so and created in his hand, his feet, and his mouth the power to do it.

So then Who is the Creator of the acts of obedience? Allah. And Who is the Creator of the acts of disobedience? Allah. But to what does reward and punishment apply? Reward and punishment do not apply to the actual deed which is created by Allah, but to the resolution (al-qasd), the “earning” (al-kasb) as Allah Almighty said: laha ma kasabat wa `alayha ma iktasabat – “For it is what it has earned, and against it is what it has deserved” (2:286). If I determine to come to this place so that we should remind each other of one of the matters of this Religion, and say: “Ya Allah! O my Lord, I have determined to do this”- at that time the Creator creates power in my person, enables me to walk and come here, and when I sit in this place He enables me to think. He does all this, but on the Day of Resurrection what will He reward me for? Will He reward me for something which He Himself created? Rather, He will only reward me for my having determined (qasadtu). And so Allah has made my act subservient to my determination.

This is a brief summary of the topic. Perhaps we shall elaborate on it in the next lesson, Allah willing. And praise belongs to Allah the Lord of the worlds.

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