Also by SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR
A Young Muslim 5 Guide to the Modern World
An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines
I...
•
The Vision·and Promise ofSufism,
Islam 5 Mystical Tradition
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR
•HarperOne
An Imprint ofHaxperColliruPNb...
•HarperOne
THE GARDEN OF TRUTH: The Vision and Promise if Sufism, Islam's Mystical
Tradition. Copyright © 2007 by Seyyed H...
•In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful
CONTENTS
List of Transliterations ix
Map of the Islamic World x
Introduction xiii
PART ONE
One~What It Means to Be Human
J...
Four~Goodness and Human Action
To Do His Will, to Conform to the Divine Norm 8I
Five~How Do We Reach the Garden of Truth?
...
LIST OF TRANSLITERATIONS
Arabic and transliterated Roman characters
"
j, long vowels Persian letters added
y b j;, ? ~I a ...
The IslamicWorld
INTRODUCTION
The present book is the result ofover fifty years ofboth scholarly study
of and existential participation in ...
another book about Sufism, but a Sufi book. It is necessary to present
the reality of Sufism as did the authorities of old...
That is also why the spiritual teachings in this book are addressed di-
rectly to the seeker without hiding behind the gar...
ethics and social behavior, philosophy, theology, some of the natural
sciences, and nearly all the arts from calligraphy a...
One
WHAT IT MEANS
TO BE HUMAN
Who Are u.-e and What Are J.fe Doing Here?
"Am I notYour Lord?" They said, "Yea, verily we
b...
THE UNAVOIDABLE QUESTION
Wherever we are and in whatever time we happen to live, we cannot
avoid asking the basic question...
It is no accident that the Sacred Law of Islam is called the Shan{ah,
which means road. It is a road that all Muslims are ...
state and the subsequent decay in the human condition caused by the
downward flow of time. We have become forgetful beings...
we really are, we move between two great mysteries and unknowns,
namely, where we were before we came into this world and ...
WHO THEN ARE WE?
As we travel upon this road of self-knowledge with the help of the
means provided by tradition-means with...
identified with our ordinary memory. We can forget many things and
remain the same human being.The spiritual life may in f...
am I?" Sufism seeks to lead adepts to the heart, where they find both
their true self and their Beloved, and for that reas...
It becomes an aid in, rather than a detriment to, self-realization. The
same is true of the imaginative faculty, which bec...
usually depends, there being occasional exceptions that only prove the
rule). In the Islamic tradition, it is primarily Su...
as God's perfect servants and also as creatures created by God as His
valid interlocutors. In Sufism,humanity is the mirro...
in the daily canonical prayers that Muslims perform five times a day
throughout their lives after reaching adolescence. Su...
written numerous commentaries, some of them book length). Like
all other chapters of the Quran save one, the Fiitibah begi...
ter asked one of the disciples, "What are the conditions under which
we should say al-~amd" li'Lliih?" The disciple replie...
One answer that the Sufis give to the question about human nature
is that the human person, the anthropos (including the m...
The next verse,"Master ofthe Day ofJudgment," concerns the flow
of time at the end of which there is death and meeting wit...
badlthJ so often cited in classical Sufi texts, has many meanings, the
most evident of which is that knowing God is the pu...
While the cross is a symbol that ordinary Muslims do not take in its
Christian sense, since Islam does not identify the cr...
Ibn 'Arabi and the fourteenth-century Persian master who lived in the
Yemen, 'Abd al-Karim al-JIII, the author of the most...
Universal Man. To realize the state of the Universal Man is in turn to
become the veritable servant of the Lord, to be awa...
Go die, 0 man of honor, before you die,
So that you will not suffer the pangs of death,
Die in such a way as to enter the ...
and proximity, a state in which their will is surrendered to the Will of
God. It is they who are really someone in this wo...
What is to be done, 0 Muslims, for I know myself not,
Neither a Christian am I, nor Jew, nor Magian nor Muslim.
Neither of...
Two
TRUTH
The Knowledge That Illuminates
and Deliversfrom the Bondage ofIgnorance
Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanis...
THE CENTRALITY OF TRUTH
The famous tenth-century Sufi Man~iir al-l:fallaj uttered ana'l-Jjaqq,
that is, "I am the Truth" o...
levels of certainty, there is first of all the lore or science of certainty
('ilm al-yaqi"n), which is like hearing a desc...
as a Christian heresy) have often composed the most sublime mysti-
cal love poetry. The knowledge of which Sufism speaks i...
to be followed to transcend the cosmic labyrinth. One might say that
the Sufi masters first climbed the cosmic mountain an...
embarking upon the path a homogeneous religious and intellectual
ambience and the basic elements of the Truth necessary to...
lect, the Supreme Principle cannot be known in the ordinary manner
of knowing to which our minds have become habituated. I...
potentiality, and potency are all related etymologically.This truth is an in-
dication of the fact that possibility and th...
At the level of the Essence there is absolute oneness, but on the
level of the Names and Qualities multiplicity is introdu...
or unity ofbeing" (wa~dat al-wujud), which has been so often miscon-
strued byWesterners and also by some modernized as we...
Thou art like the eye and He the light of the eye,
Who has ever been able.to see with the eye that with which the
eye sees...
the principia! order and the negation ofboth the oneness and the ab-
soluteness of God. Although it may appear so outwardl...
Sufis claim that on the highest level of understanding there is in fact
only the one and absolute Being.Viewed from within...
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  • 1. Also by SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR A Young Muslim 5 Guide to the Modern World An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines Ideals and Realities ofIslam Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization Islam and the Plight ofModern Man Islamic Art and Spirituality Islamic Life and Thought Islamic Philosophyfrom Its Origin to the Present Islamic Science:An fllustrated Study Knowledge and the Sacred Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis ofModern Man Muhammad: Man ofGod The Pilgrimage ofLife and the Wisdom ofRumi Poems ofthe Way Religion and the Order ofNature Science and Civilization in Islam Sufi Essays The Islamic Intellectual Tradition in Persia The Heart ofIslam The Needfor Sacred Science Three Muslim Sages Traditional Islam in the Modern World
  • 2. • The Vision·and Promise ofSufism, Islam 5 Mystical Tradition SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR •HarperOne An Imprint ofHaxperColliruPNb/Jshers
  • 3. •HarperOne THE GARDEN OF TRUTH: The Vision and Promise if Sufism, Islam's Mystical Tradition. Copyright © 2007 by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or repro- duced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers, IO East 53rd Street, NewYork, NY 10022. HarperCollins books may be purchased for educational, business, or sales promo- tional use. For information please write: Special Markets Department,HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, NewYork, NY 10022. HarperCollins Web site: http://www.harpercollins.com HarperCollins®,. ®,and HarperOne™ are trademarks ofHarperCollins Publishers. Map spread on pages x-xi by Topaz Inc. FIRST HARPERCOLLINS PAPERBACK EDITION PUBLISHED IN 2008 Library ifCongress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The garden of truth : the vision and practice of Sufism, Islam's mystical tradition I Seyyed Hossein Nasr. -Ist ed. p.cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-06-I6i599-2 I; Sufism-Doctrines. 2. Sufism-Customs and practices. I.Title. BPI89.3.N364 2007 297.4-dc22 o8 09 IO 11 I2 RRD(H) IO 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 I
  • 4. •In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful
  • 5. CONTENTS List of Transliterations ix Map of the Islamic World x Introduction xiii PART ONE One~What It Means to Be Human J.Vho Are~ and J.Vhat Are J# Doing Here? 3 PART TWO Tw~Truth The Knowledge That Illuminates and Deliversfrom the Bondage ofIgnorance 29 'Jlu.ee~Love and Beauty The Fire That Attracts and Consumes, the Peace That Calms and Liberates 59 vii
  • 6. Four~Goodness and Human Action To Do His Will, to Conform to the Divine Norm 8I Five~How Do We Reach the Garden of Truth? The Path to the One 103 PART THREE Six~Access to the Center Sufism Here and Now 139 PART FOUR Appendix One~The Sufi Tradition and the Sufi Orders Reflections on the Manifestation ofSufism in Time and Space 163 AppendixTw~The Tradition ofTheoretical Sufism and Gnosis 209 Notes 235 Glossary ofTechnical Terms 239 Selected Bibliography of Works in· English 247 Index 249 viii
  • 7. LIST OF TRANSLITERATIONS Arabic and transliterated Roman characters " j, long vowels Persian letters added y b j;, ? ~I a to Arabic alphabet ~ t t J ii ~ p ~ th t gh '...? 'i (t ch ~ J J f ; zh c 1). J q s g t kh .!l k .) d J 1 ~ dh i m short vowels diphthongs ) r iJ n ~ a J..!.. aw j z h ...!.. u ~...!.. ai (ay) J' J w -;- (.>-;- ayy (final form 'i) .; sh .' uww (final form ii)~ y )'- .J' ah; at ~ 4 Jl (article) al- and '1 ix
  • 8. The IslamicWorld
  • 9. INTRODUCTION The present book is the result ofover fifty years ofboth scholarly study of and existential participation in Sufism. Providence has made it pos- sible for me to visit many Sufi sites from the Atlantic to the Pacific, to encounter numerous Sufi masters, to participate in almost countless Sufi gatherings, and to read and study many Sufi works and scholarly writings about Sufism by scholars of both East and West. My goal in this book, however, is not to present a history ofSufism or just an aca- demic work on the subject, although I have sought to be scholarly to the best of my ability. My aim is rather to present to the reader a Sufi text written in English and using contemporary language. In purely academic works, one relies only on written sources or field reports based on external observation, whereas this book, while using written historical sources, issues from the lived reality ofSufism, the experience of Sufi spirituality, the all-important centuries-old oral tradition, and truths that are metahistorical. I felt obliged to write this book because I believe that after some two centuries of study of Sufism in the West, with the appearance of many translations, analyses, histories, and some profound expositions of Sufi metaphysics, and given an ever greater interest in Sufism by certain Westerners, it is necessary to write, not just Xlll
  • 10. another book about Sufism, but a Sufi book. It is necessary to present the reality of Sufism as did the authorities of old but in a manner ac- cessible to the present-day seriousWestern seeker orWestern-educated Muslim seeker, even if such a person has no previous knowledge of the subject. In this book I have dealt with universal truths of interest to those attracted to the life of the Spirit and in light of the human condition in general, presenting them from within the spiritual and intellectual universe of Sufism while providing a means of access to that universe and revealing some ofits riches. Until a few decades ago a few fine studies ofSufism as well as com- petent translations ofSufi works were available in European languages, but no introductions to the subject written from within the Sufi tradi- tion. During the last few decades some outstanding works dealing with the heart of Sufism and written from its perspective have appeared, such as Sufism: Veil and Quintessence by FrithjofSchuon, An Introduction to Sufism by Titus Burckhardt, and What Is Sufism? by Martin Lings.All of these exceptional, masterly works presume, however, some knowl- edge ofSufism as well as of traditional metaphysics.William Chittick's Sufism: A BriefIntroduction, also written from the Sufi point of view, is more ofan introduction but couched in scholarly language, being more about Sufism rather than being a Sufi treatise. Then there are works ofWestern Islarnicists, sympathetic to Sufism but not participants in its practices. Of this genre the well-known book Mystical Dimensions of Islam by Annemarie Schimmel stands out, and more recently there has appeared The Shambhala Guide to Stifism by Carl Ernst. By contrast, the present book seeks to introduce the reader to the inner teachings ofSufism in the manner of classical Sufi works but in a contemporary language. Like classical Sufi texts, this work is interspersed with Quranic cita- tions, sayings (badiths) of the Prophet of Islam, and poetry. Where not indicated otherwise, the translation ofthese quotations is my own.The verses of the Quran are of course indicated, but since I learned the badlths and many ofthe poems through oral tradition, no references are given for most ofthem. Still, to guide the reader to the major scholarly and poetic sources, references are provided for some ofthe quotations. My hope, however, is that the text will be read by those seeking to study Sufism from within or with a teacher as well as by those drawn to spirituality in general, and not considered simply as a scholarly work. , :xiv I N T R 0 D U C T I 0 N
  • 11. That is also why the spiritual teachings in this book are addressed di- rectly to the seeker without hiding behind the garb ofscholarship. The title of this book, The Garden ofTruth, is drawn from the tradi- tional Islamic symbolism ofthe garden.The traditional Islamic garden is an earthly reflection ofParadise, and the word paradise itselfcomes from the Middle Persian word pardls, meaning garden, and is also the origin of the Arabic word firdaws, meaning paradise and garden. Using the symbol ofthe garden, the Quran refers to Paradise itselfas the Garden. Moreover, the Sacred Text speaks of levels of Paradise. The Sufis have drawn from this symbolism and speak ofthe Garden as designating not only the various levels ofparadisal realities but also the Divine Reality beyond Paradise as usually understood. The highest Garden is associ- ated with the absolute Truth, which is one ofthe Names ofthe Divine Essence. Hence, we can speak of the Garden ofTruth as that reality wherein all the spiritual realities are gathered. The Sufis also speak of the Gardener as God in His absolute and infinite Reality, and of}annat al-Dhat, or Garden of the Divine Essence. I therefore also make oc- casional use of this symbolism in the pages that follow. Sufism is a vast reality that provides the means for those who follow its tenets to reach the Garden ofTruth. It is the path to the Garden and, on the highest level and in its inner reality, the "content" ofthe Garden as well as the means ofreaching the Presence ofthe Gardener.The Sufi tradition contains a vast metaphysical and cosmological set ofdoctrines elaborated over a long period by Sufi teachers and masters ofgnosis. It contains methods ofspiritual realization that address nearly all the dif- ferent spiritual possibilities on the levels ofaction, love, and knowledge. It has preserved over many centuries and going back to the Prophet a regular chain of transmission of initiatic power (walayah/wilayah) and the grace (al-barakah) necessary for the spiritualjourney.And above all, it can enable men and women to reach the state ofsanctity. Sufism has manifested itselfin vast expanses oftime and space, from the first century of Islamic history, that is, the seventh century, to now, and from Senegal and Morocco to Indonesia and China. Sufi orders are found in all Islamic lands as well as in India, China, Russia, non- MuslimAfrica, and since the twentieth century in manyWestern coun- tries. Sufism has also produced in several languages some ofthe greatest mystical poetry ever written and has created some of the most inte- riorizing music ever heard.Within the Islamic world it has influenced INTRODUCTION XV
  • 12. ethics and social behavior, philosophy, theology, some of the natural sciences, and nearly all the arts from calligraphy and miniature paint- ing to architecture and urban design. It has, moreover, played a crucial role in the encounter and dialogue between Islam and other religions and cultures. Although attacked since the nineteenth century by both modern- ists and puritanical reformists in the Islamic world, Sufism is still very much alive in most Muslim countries. Although denatured, diluted, and distorted in certain circles in the West, it is now also present in a serious form in many parts ofAmerica and Europe. In both the Islamic world and the West, Sufism will continue to play an important role in bringing about understanding across religious borders, in addition to its central role in providing an authentic spiritual path for those who seek to reach in this life the Garden of Truth and ultimately the Gardener. In the Islamic world Sufism is the most powerful antidote to the religious radicalism called fundamentalism as well as the most important source for responding to the challenges posed for Islam by modernism. In theWest it is the most.accessible means for understand- ing Islam in its essential reality. Sufism constitutes also a central link between the spiritual traditions of Islam and the West. In this book, however, I am concerned not so much with the cul- tural and civilizational role of Sufism as with the souls of men and women in quest of the Truth. I therefore seek to present the realities ofSufism while keeping in mind the concrete spiritual and intellectual needs of contemporary men and women in both East and West. May_ the book be a humble guide for those who seek. In conclusion, I wish to thank the Radius Foundation and Katherine O'Brien for making possible the preparation of the manuscript of this book for publication, and to Eric Brandt,.Laurie Dunne, and others at HarperOne who have made its publication possible. Seyyed Hossein Nasr Bethesda, Maryland May 14,2007 xvi INTRODUCTION
  • 13. One WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN Who Are u.-e and What Are J.fe Doing Here? "Am I notYour Lord?" They said, "Yea, verily we bear witness." Quran 7:172 After extinction I came out, and I Eternal now am, though not as I. And who am I, 0 I, but I.1 'All Shushtari
  • 14. THE UNAVOIDABLE QUESTION Wherever we are and in whatever time we happen to live, we cannot avoid asking the basic questions of who we are, where we came from, what we are doing here, and where we are going. In everyone's life, especially when one is young, these basic questions arise in the mind, often with force, and demand answers from us. Many simply push them aside or remain satisfied with established answers provided by others in their family or community. In traditional societies such answers always came from the teachings of religion, and to a great extent they still do for the majority of people in many parts of the world. But there have always been and still are today the few who take the question "who am I?" seriously and existentially and who are not satisfied with answers provided by others. Rather, they seek to find the answers by them- selves, trying with their whole being to delve into the inner meaning of religion and wisdom. They continue until they reach the goal and receive a response that provides for them certitude and removes from them the clouds of doubt. In any case, how we choose to live in this world-how we act and think and how we develop the latent possibili- ties within us-depends totally on the answer we provide for ourselves to this basic question ofwho we are, for human beings live and act for the most part according to the image they have of themselves. Sufism addresses the few who yearn for an answer on the deepest level to the question ofwho they are and in a manner that would touch and transform their whole being.The Sufi path is the means within the Islamic tradition of finding the ultimate answer to this basic question. and of discovering our real identity. Throughout the ages religions have sought to teach us who we are and through their inner teachings to provide the means of "becoming" our True Self. Islam is certainly no exception. It unveils the complete doctrine ofour true nature and also the nature of the levels of reality issuing from the One, who alone is ultimately Real, and provides teachings that, if put into practice, lead us back to the One through a path of spiritual effort combined with joy and felicity. The Quran asserts majestically, "Verily we come from God and to Him is our returning"(2:rs6). The One is of course that Supreme Source and End of all things whom Abraham, Moses, and Christ addressed as the One God and whom the Quran calls by His N arne in Arabic, Allah. 4 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH '
  • 15. It is no accident that the Sacred Law of Islam is called the Shan{ah, which means road. It is a road that all Muslims are obliged to travel if they are to die in a blessed state. For most, however, the journey on this road is limited to the plane ofaction, the performance ofgood acts, and faith in the reality of God. Few wish to take a step further to discover the ultimate nature of who they are and carry self-knowledge to its end. Sufism, which is the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam, while beginning with the Shari"<ah as the basis of the religious life, seeks to take a further step toward thatTruth (lfaqi"qah), which is also the source ofthe Shan{ah. Sufism, which is also called the Tanqah, or the spiritual path, is the divinely ordained means ofproviding an answer to that ulti- mate question and leading us to the Truth or Ifaqtqah contained within that answer.The Shan<ah is the circumference ofa circle whose radii are the Turuq (plural of Tari"qah) and whose Center is the lfaqtqah orTruth, that is, the Source of both the Law and Way as well as the Center for one who begins on the circumference,journeys along one ofthe radii, and finally reaches the Center, which· is also his or her own center. To reach the Center means not only being in a blessed state but also reach- ing the state to which various mysticisms refer as union with God. The Prophet of Islam said, "Whosoever knows his self, knows his Lord"; that is, self-knowledge leads to knowledge ofthe Divine. Sufism takes this saying (J:radlth) very seriously and also puts it into practice. It provides, within the spiritual universe of the Islamic tradition, the light necessary to illuminate the dark corners of our soul and the keys to open the doors to the hidden recesses of our being so that we can journey within and know ourselves, this knowledge leading ultimately to the knowledge of God, who resides in our heart/center. Not only were we created by God, but we have the root ofour ex- istence here and now in Him.When we bore witness to His Lordship as mentioned in the Quranic verse, "Am I not your Lord?" the woJ:ld and all that is in it were not as yet created. Even now we have our pre- eternal existence in the Divine Presence, and we have made an eternal covenant with God, which remains valid beyond the contingencies of our earthly life and beyond the realm of space and time in which we now find ourselves. The answer to the question "who are we?" is related in a prin- cipia! manner to our ultimate reality in God, a reality that we have now forgotten as a result of the fall from our original and primordial WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 5
  • 16. state and the subsequent decay in the human condition caused by the downward flow of time. We have become forgetful beings, no longer knowing who we are and therefore what our purpose is in this life. But our reality in God, who resides at the depth of our being, is still there. We need to awaken to this reality and to realize our true identity, that is, to know who we really are. Not everyone wants to awaken from that daydreaming we call or- dinary life, but there are those who do.These men and women deeply yearn to discover their true identity, which means not only to discover the reality of God but also to journey on a path that leads to His em- brace. Sufism is meant for such a person, and ifyou are such a person, then it has a message for you, for it is a path ofreturn to your reality in God and indeed to God Himself. It provides the means to awaken us from the dream of forgetfulness of who we are and allow us to enter into and remain in the remembrance of the Divine Reality, which is also the heart of our selves, the Self of all selves. The Sufi path leads from the desert ofoutwardness, forgetfulness, selfishness, and falsehood to the Garden ofTruth, wherein alone we can realize our true identity and come to know who we are.The message ofSufism is perennial be- cause human nature is always human nature, beyond accidental changes ofhistorical epochs and fashions ofthe day, and also because as long as we are human, the question that each individual faces is "who am I?" The response ofSufism to this perennial question resonates today as it has always done for those whose ears are sensitive to its call and who yearn for illuminative knowledge. LIFE IS A JOURNEY According to Sufi metaphysics, and in fact other metaphysical tradi- tions in general, all that exists comes from that Reality which is at once Beyond-Being and Being, and ultimately all things return to that Source. In the language of Islamic thought, including both philoso- phy and Sufism, the first part of this journey of all beings from the Source is called the "arc of descent" and th~ second part back to the Source the "arc of ascent."Within this vast cosmic wayfaring we find ourselves here and now on earth as human beings. Moreover, our life here in this world is a journey within that greater cosmic journey of all existents back to the Source of all existence. We are born, we move through time, and we die. For most ofus, without knowing who 6 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH '
  • 17. we really are, we move between two great mysteries and unknowns, namely, where we were before we came into this world and where we shall go after death. The answer of materialists and nihilists is that we came from nowhere and we go nowhere; we had no reality before coming into this world, and nothing ofour consciousness survives our death.They reduce our existence to simply the physical and terrestrial level and believe that we are merely animals (themselves considered as complicated machines) who have ascended from below, not spiritual beings who have descended from above. But if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that even the concept of matter or corporeal- ity is contained in our consciousness and that therefore when we ask ourselves who we are, we are acting as conscious beings and have to begin with our consciousness. Ifwe are intellectually awake, we realize that we cannot reduce consciousness to that which is itself contained in our consciousness. Now, no matter how we seek to go back to the origin of our con- sciousness, we cannot reach its beginning in time, and the question again arises what our consciousness, its origin, and its end are. The spiritual practices of every authentic path, including Sufism, enable those who follow and practice them earnestly and under the appropri- ate conditions to gain new levels of consciousness and ultimately to become aware that consciousness has no beginning in time (but only in God) because "in the beginning was consciousness," and it has no temporal end because "in the end is consciousness." Once we discover who we are in the spiritual sense, we gain an insight into the mystery of where we came from before the caravan of our earthly life began its journey here below and also into the mystery ofwhere we shall go after the end ofthis terrestrial journey. Self-knowledge also pierces the veils that limit our ordinary consciousness and ultimately leads to those higher states ofconsciousness that stand above the world ofbecolll!ng. We are then able to be aware of our human reality and our ultimate identity beyond.the confines of time and space. Sufism makes possible the piercing of these veils as it leads the seeker on an inward journey within the journey on the road of the Sacred Law, or the Shancah, which is itselfa journey within the journey oflife, while life itselfis a journey within the journey of all beings in their return to the Source. The Sufi path is an inward journey whose goal is to know who we re- ally are, from where we came, and where we shall go. Its aim is also to know ultimately the nature of Reality, which is also Truth as such. WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 7
  • 18. WHO THEN ARE WE? As we travel upon this road of self-knowledge with the help of the means provided by tradition-means without which such a journey is in fact impossible-we gain a new perspective concerning every kind of reality with which we had identified at the beginning of our journey.We come to realize that although we are male or female, that attribute does not really define us. There is a deeper reality, one might say an androgynic reality, transcending the male-female dichotomy so that our identity is not determined simply by our gender. Nor are we simply our body and the senses although we often identify ourselves with them. As we travel upon the Sufi path, it also becomes more and more evident that what we call "I" has its existence independent of sense perceptions and the body as a whole although the soul continues to have a consciousness of the body while being also aware through spiritual practice of the possibility ofleaving it for higher realms. Likewise, although we have emotions and psychological states with which we often identify, the spiritual path teaches us that they do not define and determine our identity in the deepest sense. In fact, often we say, "I must control my temper," which demonstrates clearly that there is more than one psychological agent within human beings.As St. Thomas said, confirming Sufi teachings,"Duo sunt in homine" ("There are two in man").The part ofus that seeks to control our temper must be distinct and not determined by the part ofour soul that is angry and needs to be controlled.Yes, we do experience emotions, but we need not be defined by them. In the same manner, we have an imaginati~e faculty able to create images, and most ofthe time ordinary people live in the lower reaches ofthat world ofimaginal forms.Again, we are not determined by those forms, and journeying upon the spiritual path is especially effective in transforming our inner imaginal landscape. As for the power of memory, it is for the most part the repository of images and forms related to earlier experi~nces oflife. Metaphysically speak- ing, however, it is also related to our atemporal relation to our Source ofBeing and the intelligible world to which we belonged before our descent here to earth. That is why true knowledge according to Plato is recollection, and in Sufism the steps of the path are identified with stages of the remembrance of the Friend. Most people, however, con- sider these everyday remembered experiences as a major part of their identity. Yet again, the center of our consciousness, our I, cannot be 8 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH '
  • 19. identified with our ordinary memory. We can forget many things and remain the same human being.The spiritual life may in fact be defined as the practice oftechniques that enable us to forget all that we remem- ber about the world ofseparation and dispersion and to remember the most important thing, which this world has caused us to forget, namely, the one "savingTruth," which is also our inner reality. Many would say that if we are not determined by our gender, bod- ies, emotions, imaginative faculties, or memories, then surely we are what we think and are determined by our minds. Here we are reaching a more delicate realm. One can say with Aristotle that man is a ratio- nal animal, which means that it is in the nature of the human being to think. Even as great a Sufi figure as the thirteenth-century Persian master, Riimi, says, 0 Brother, thou art thought itself, The rest of thy being is but sinew and bone. Mathnawl, 2:278 But by thought Riimi did not mean simply everyday discursive thought, which skips from one concept to another without the whole being of the person who holds the thought participating in the con- cept (even ifit be true), a thought that does not go beyond the level of mental play. Moreover, conceptual knowledge can be wrong and lead to error, and excessive cerebral activity can distract our consciousness from the center of our being.That is why mystics have also spoken of "unknowing," and more specifically, Sufis have stated explicitly that in order to reach the Truth one has to "tear the veil of thinking." In any case, while we have a mind, our true identity resides in an even deeper level of our being. This deeper level is the heart/intellect, the heart being the center of the human microcosm and also the organ of unitive knowledge as- sociated with the intellect (in the medieval sense of intellectus, or the Greek nous, not in its current sense ofreason). The heart is also where the Divine Reality resides in men and women, for as the sacred bad"ith2 asserts, "The Heavens and the earth cannot contain Me, but the heart ofmy faithful servant does contain Me." Here, at the very center of the heart where the Divine resides, is found the root of the "I" and the final answer to the question "who WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 9
  • 20. am I?" Sufism seeks to lead adepts to the heart, where they find both their true self and their Beloved, and for that reason Sufis are some- times called "the people of the heart" (ahl-i dil in Persian). Of course, the phrase "both their true self and their Beloved" does not mean any ultimate duality, for as Riinii also said, in the heart there is room for only one I, which is both the root of our true selfand the Selfas such. Who am I? I am the I that, having traversed all the stages oflimited exis- tence from the physical to the mental to the noumenal, has realized its own "nonexistence" and by virtue of this annihilation of the false self has returned to its roots in the Divine Reality and has become a star proximate to the Supernal Sun, which is ultimately the only I. Having passed through the door ofnothingness and annihilation, I come to the realization that at the root ofmy consciousness, ofwhat I call I, resides the only I that can ultimately say I and that ultimately alone is. Neither this body am I, nor soul, Nor these fleeting images passing by, Nor concepts and thoughts, mental images, Nor yet sentiments and the psyche's labyrinth. Who then am I? A consciousness without origin, Not born in time, nor begotten here below. I am that which was, is and ever shall be, A jewel in the crown of the Divine Self, A star in the firmament of the luminous One. Being human, however, implies a second phase ofdiscovery in light of the first. Having discovered his or her roots in the Divine through the teachings and practices ofSufism, the Sufi then returns to the lower levels of existence, which are again seen as parts of his or her identity but not as they were before. Rather, they are transformed so that each at its own level reflects something of that supernal Reality, which de- termines our ultimate identity. The heart, havingt>een discovered and its hardened shell melted through spiritual practice, emanates a light that shines upon the mind, which then, rather than jumping aimlessly from one concept to another, becomes an illuminated instrument of the intellect, able to discern true knowledge and distinguish between truth and falsehood, substance and accidents, necessity and contin- gency, levels ofexistence, and, most ofall, the Absolute and the relative. 10 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 21. It becomes an aid in, rather than a detriment to, self-realization. The same is true of the imaginative faculty, which becomes transformed in such a way as to create imaginal forms reflecting higher rather than lower levels ofreality and to facilitate the theophanic contemplation of sacred forms. As for the emotions, rather than being negative and dis- persing one's spiritual energies, they become completely transformed into positive energies dominated by love, charity, empathy, and so forth and controlled by virtues, which shall be mentioned later in chapter 5. Our memories are likewise transformed, becoming the treasure-house for the remembrance of the Friend rather than a bleak warehouse filled with trivial and opaque fonns, concepts, and images. We finally come to the body, which in most mystical schools in the West is looked upon primarily as an impediment to the freedom ofthe spirit. Ofcourse this aspect ofthe body is real, but another aspect is also very significant and is emphasized strongly by many schools ofSufism. First ofall, we have more than one body.We have levels ofsubtle bodies within us corresponding to all levels ofcosmic reality going up to God. Sufism makes possible the awareness of these other bodies and makes clear their role in the spiritual life. Second, as the soul and the psyche become illuminated by the spirit and the real "I" begins to shed its light on the individualized self, the body also becomes transformed by this inner illumination and in fact often becomes itself illuminated. One need only recall in the Christian context the halo in the iconography ofsaints and the incorruptibility oftheir bodies; a new and at the same time primordial relation is established in them between spirit, soul, and body. In Sufism the body becomes an outward source of barakah, or grace, in the case of those men and women who have come to realize who they really are. The body also becomes a tangible and concrete external form that preserves and reflects the spirit within. It becomes the temple of the spirit. To the question "who are we?" we can then answer finally that·~e are latent archetypes embedded in the Divine Reality, which is the ultimate root of every "I," and that through that archetype, which has become existentiated by God, we have existence in all realms ofbeing from the spi~itual to the physical, microcosmically and also macrocos- mically.We were brought into this world in order to realize who we are and, having discovered that reality, to live accordingly while on earth. But this self-discovery is not possible without inner illumination, the subjective counterpart of objective revelation (upon which the former WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN II
  • 22. usually depends, there being occasional exceptions that only prove the rule). In the Islamic tradition, it is primarily Sufism that answers this ba- sic existential question ofwho we are and through this answer provides guidance for a life full of spiritual felicity, marked by illumination and leading ultimately to deliverance from the bondage of all limitation. TO BE GOD'S SERVANT Not only is the root of our "I" immersed in the Divine Essence or "I," which is ultimately the only Essence, all else being Its Self-Disclosure and manifestation, but we also possess a human and individual self cre- ated by God, which is real on its own level. To understand fully the reality of being human, we must also understand fully this aspect of our nature as God's servants, to use the language of the Islamic tradi- tion. Our ego must realize its full servanthood, which the Sufis call 1 ubudiyyah, before the Lord, and we must realize that as servants we can never become the Lord. That is why such great Sufi masters as , Abii'l-Ijasan al-Shadhili, the thirteenth-century founder of one ofthe most important Sufi orders, asserts that the desire for union with God itself distances us more than anything else from God. Likewise, the Andalusian sage Ibn 'Arabi, who also lived in the thirteenth century and who spoke so much of the unity of the Real, asserts in a similar manner that the servant (al- 1 abd) remains the servant and the Lord (al- Rabb) remains the Lord. But with God's grace, with the affirmation of the Lord, that divine spark within humanity, which is identified with the intellect, can transcend all dualities, including that of servant and Lord, to reach the One, the Divine Essence, which is the root of the "I" ofthe servant.Without realizing our perfect servitude, however, we cannot realize that ultimate Oneness because without that realization our egos, still asserting their separate existence, would prevent God within from saying "1." In Arabic, the word servanthood (1 ubudiyyah) is related etymologically to the word for worship ('ibiidah).The Quran states,"We created man and the }inn so that they would worship Us" (51 :56); and also "There is no ' god but I, so worship Me" (21:25). From the Islamic point ofview, there- fore, the very raison d'etre of human existence is to worship God and thereby to realize the perfect state ofservanthood, which means also to realize what it means to be fully human. Sufism asks us to delve into the deepest meaning ofworship in order to realize this nature of our being ,12 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 23. as God's perfect servants and also as creatures created by God as His valid interlocutors. In Sufism,humanity is the mirror reflecting all God's Names and Qualities; we are beings created, according to a famous badlth, "in the image (~iirah) of God," image meaning here not form in the ordinary sense, for God is formless, but rather reflection of the Divine Names and Qualities. Sufism also understands "in order to wor- ship me" to mean "in order to know me," a knowledge (rna 'rifah) that is possible only through the realization of our perfect servanthood. That realization means etymologically not only obeying God as our master, but also realizing that all things ultimately belong to God and that in ourselves we are nothing but the poor (Jaqlr), the term faqlr being in fact one ofthe most conunon names for a follower ofthe Sufi path.The Persian term danvlsh, which entered the English language as dervish, implies the same truth. It means humbling oneselfbefore the threshold of the Divine Reality. The highest meaning of servanthood is in fact the realization of our "nothingness" before God. It is only by passing through this gate of"annihilation," or what the Sufis callfana)) that we are able to gain subsistence, baqa') in God and to reach the root of our "I" and also therefore the Divine. Human beings qua human beings cannot enter the Divine sanctuary, but there is within us a reality that is already Divine. To be fully human is to realize our perfect servitude and to remove the veil ofseparative existence through spiritual practice so that God, transcendent and immanent within us, can utter "I." A COMMENTARY ON THE OPENING CHAPTER (AL-FATII:IAH) OF THE QURAN Sufism looks upon all Islamic acts of worship from the point of view of actualization of perfect servanthood, which makes possible for us to realize, through faith, acts of worship and spiritual practices leading to intellectual and illuminative understanding, who we really are,"'~nd who God is. All acts of worship are for the purpose of remember- ing God and drawing nigh unto Him or, more precisely, realizing this already existing nearness and intimacy, for as the Quran says, "If my servants ask about me [0 Mul).ammad], (tell them) I am indeed near" (2:186). Nowhere is this Sufi view ofworship, which leads to both self- knowledge and knowledge of God combined with love and devotion, more evident than in Sufi conunentaries upon the opening chapter of the Quran, called siirah al-Fatibah, which is repeated over and over WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN IJ
  • 24. in the daily canonical prayers that Muslims perform five times a day throughout their lives after reaching adolescence. Such commentaries have been written by many spiritual authorities over the ages to the present day. The text of the chapter, which is the first surah of the Quran, is as follows: In the Name of God-the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful Praise be to God, the Lord ofthe worlds, the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful, Master ofthe Day ofJudgment. Thee we worship, and in Thee we seek help. Guide us upon the straight path, the path ofthose on whom Thy Grace is, not those on whomThine anger is, nor those who are astray.3 Quran 1:1-7 Let us try to study this chapter from the point ofview ofthe signifi- cance of worship in relation to the human state. But before doing so, it is important to mention that every word and letter of the Quran in the original Arabic has not only an outward but also an inward mean- ing, including a numerical symbolism, similar to what one finds in the gematria associated with the Kabbalah and Hasidism. Moreover, the Quran has many levels (seven, according to some) of inner meaning, of which the highest is, according to the Sufis, known only to God. Sufi commentaries, which are called ta'Wt1, that is, spiritual hermeneu- tics, are not humanly contrived meanings but rather the exposition of meanings already contained in the SacredText but hidden from the eye of outwardness. The word ta'Wt1 means to take something back to its origin, and in fact spiritual hermeneutics, in unveiling the inner mean- ing of the Sacred Text, also takes it back to its origin, for manifestation implies going from the inward to the outward so that metaphysically speaking the inner and the origin are ultimately the same reality. Coming back to the Fiitibah, I shall provide a commentary based on one aspect of ~he inner reality of this text related to the question ofwhat it means to be human and not, ofcourse, addressing all aspects and levels of its inner meaning (about which Sufis over the ages have ,14 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 25. written numerous commentaries, some of them book length). Like all other chapters of the Quran save one, the Fiitibah begins with the formula "In the Name ofGod-the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful." Now God has many Names, but the two Names al-Rabmiin and al- Rabrm, the Infinitely Good and the All-Merciful, are the gates through which the revelation of the Quran pours forth for the guidance of human beings. Al-Rabmiin, which is a Name of the Divine Essence, is also the Divine Name that the Sufis associate with the existentiation of the cosmos itself. They believe that God breathed His Goodness, which is also Mercy, upon the latent archetypes residing in the Divine Intellect and Divine Knowledge and that through this "Breath of the Compassionate or the Infinitely Good" (nafas al-Rabmiin) the world came into being. Therefore, were it not for God's infinite Goodness and Mercy, nothing would have come into existence, including us, nor would there be a revelation to guide us out ofthe labyrinth ofour ego and psyche toward full self-knowledge leading to the knowledge of God and of His creation and our ultimate deliverance from all limita- tion. The formula at the beginning of the first chapter of the Quran, which is called basmalah in Arabic, not only consecrates the SacredText but also establishes the metaphysically necessary basis for the descent of the revelation and its reception. The text of the chapter itself begins with "Praise be to God," and this statement is on behalf of human beings although here it is ut- tered by God.The word for praise is al-bamd, and the attitude inherent in it constitutes an essential aspect of being truly human. The Quran asserts in several verses that all things praise God, but the praise by men and women is ofspecial significance because human beings have been given the possibility ofnot praising God and ofnot being thank- ful to Him. The term al-bamd" li'Lliih, or "praise be to God," which also implies gratefulness to Him, is so significant that it penetrates the daily life of all Muslims. Its constant repetition in daily discourse cre- ates a perpetual attitude ofpraise of God and thanksgiving.Traditional Islamic sources assert that on the Day ofJudgment all Muslims who have followed their religion faithfully will assemble under the "flag of praise" (liwii' al-bamd) carried by the Prophet. In Sufism bamd and the inner attitude associated with it are central. Followers of the Path are expected to be always grateful to God and to praise Him no matter what their circumstances. According to a Sufi story, one day a master and his disciples were sitting together.The mas- WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 15
  • 26. ter asked one of the disciples, "What are the conditions under which we should say al-~amd" li'Lliih?" The disciple replied, "Whenever one receives bounty or a gift from God one should say al-~amdu li'Lliih." The master responded, "What then is the difference between you and the dog sitting in front of us? If I throw him a piece of meat, he wags his tale in gratitude and praise of God. And when I do not do so, he simply sits there awaiting something from me." The master added, "A danvfsh is a person who, if he receives a gift or bounty from God, says 'al-~am~ li'Lliih' and if he receives nothing and is in the greatest state of difficulty and need, he still says 'al-~amdu li'Lliih."'The attitude of praising God and being always grateful to Him, with the awareness that in ourselves we are poor and God is the Rich from whom all blessings flow-from the life we have to the air we breathe to the food we eat to the earth upon which we walk-is necessary for being truly human. It is a significant component of our humanity and is a basic way for us to realize who we are and to reach the state ofperfect servanthood. The greatest gift of God to us, however, is His Word or revelation, which enables us to return to Him. "Praise be to God" at the begin- ning ofthe Fiiti~ah may be understood in the sense that we praise God and are grateful to Him for being worthy of receiving His revelation, and we say al-~amdu li'Lliih because God has created us as human beings and spoken to us, that He has placed us in a state in which we can say consciously al-~amdu li'Lliih. The grandeur ofthe huma.n state is not in that human beings can make complicated machines or conceptualize complex theories, but in that men and women are worthy of being addressed by God and being considered worthy of receiving His rev- elation and guidance. This opening al-~amdu li'Lliih may be said to be not only an opening for the rest ofthe Quranic revelation that follows, but above all gratefulness for our being human. To be human is to be capable of hearing the Word of God and being led back to Him. The fact that in the Islamic rites each Muslim-man and woman--stands directly before God in the daily prayers without any intermediary in- dicates from the Sufi point of view not only that each Muslim has a priestly function but also that there is a nexus linking each soul directly to God. As Riim1 says, There is a connection, without diminution, without comparison, Between the Lord of the soul and the soul ofhuman beings. Mathnauii, 4:761 16 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 27. One answer that the Sufis give to the question about human nature is that the human person, the anthropos (including the male and the female), is a being created to be able to be addressed by God and to ad- dress Him in turn, consciously and with free will. Our relation to God, which means also the Divine Selfat the center ofour being, determines who we really are and what we are meant to be.We can each start with the question "who am I?" and if we search enough be led step by step to the Sufi answer that we are beings who can address God directly by praising Him and being grateful to Him, that is, by saying al-bamdu li'Llah, and in turn be worthy ofbeing addressed by Him and conse- quently to reach Him, and to realize that ultimately He is the only I. This verse ofthe Fatibah continues by speaking ofAllah as the Lord of the worlds.This means metaphysically and cosmologically that God is the master ofall space and that we are beings situated in one ofmany worlds, in all of which He is the Lord. To say "Lord of the worlds" is to realize that space is not simply quantitative extension measurable in Cartesian coordinates. Rather, it is symbolically the realm of Divine Presence, which permeates all places in which we live and move and have our being in this and in all other worlds. This verse speaks of worlds in the plural, which means, first of all, that reality is not limited to this world and, second, that there is no world-that is, other states of being, not worlds of modern science fiction-into which we can journey in soul and spirit in which the lordship of God is not the cen- tral reality.There is no extraterritoriality with respect to God's domin- ion, His laws, and our responsibility to Him as human beings, as beings defined by our having responded to Him even before the creation of the world when He asked us "Am I not your Lord?" with a resounding affirmation. To be fully human is to realize our servitude toward God and to be always aware of this lordship wherever, in whichever world, we happen to be. ~- The Fatibah follows with the repetition of "the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful" to remind us that all the worlds in which God is Lord are also filled with His Goodness, Mercy, and Compassion. Moreover, since this verse is followed by the one concerning time, it might be said that the repetition of al-Rabman and al-Rabzm is the means for us to be reminded that although our lives are bound by the conditions of space and time, it is the presence of Divine Goodness and Mercy that stands between these two parameters and constitutes the reality in which we actually live and have our being. WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 17
  • 28. The next verse,"Master ofthe Day ofJudgment," concerns the flow of time at the end of which there is death and meeting with God. To be aware of our human condition is to realize that we are on a jour- ney in this life, which ends with death followed by resurrection, and that we are destined for the unavoidable meeting with God, which means that although we die, we are also immortal. The profound real- ity ofour consciousness cannot be eradicated by the accident ofbodily death. The verse speaks not only of the Day beyond all days, but also ofJudgment.This eschatological assertion is ofthe utmost significance for our life here on earth. It reveals the grandeur of the human state and the fact that actions in this life on earth have consequences beyond the life ofthis world. Now, these are matters widely accepted by people of faith every- where. The Sufis take a further step, however, and seek to die and be resurrected here and now and to experience the encounter with God while still here in this world through spiritual practices and by climbing the ladder of perfection. In the deepest sense those who have already achieved the goal have already died, been resurrected, met the Master ofthe Day ofJudgment, been judged by the Supreme Judge, and rest in the Paradise ofDivine Proximity. The Prophet oflslam was once asked about death and resurrection. The Prophet answered, "Look at me; I have died and been resurrected many times." If we put aside the opening basmalah, the first three verses of this seven-verse opening chapter ofthe Quran deal with the nature of God while having consequences for the human state.The fourth and middle verse, "Thee we worship, and in Thee we seek help," concerns the hu- man state itselfin relation to God.The raison d'etre ofbeing human, as already mentioned, is to worship God and to seek His help in realizing our utter dependence upon the Divine Reality. The normal human being is a being who worships the Divine in whatever form It might be, as the long history ofvarious human societies-excluding the secu- larized part ofthe contemporary world, which is an anomaly-reveals. For Sufis, worship (%iidah) is not merely one of the activities of hu- man beings, it is the activity defining the state ofservitude ((ubudiyyah) and therefore of being human. Moreover, in Sufism the highest form ofworship is knowledge of God, which is always combined with love. According to a sacred badlth, God asserts through the mouth of the Prophet, "I was a Hidden Treasure; I desired (or loved) to be known. Therefore I created the world so that I would be known." This famous 18 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 29. badlthJ so often cited in classical Sufi texts, has many meanings, the most evident of which is that knowing God is the purpose ofcreation. To worship God through ma crifah or unitive knowledge is therefore the fulfillment ofthe very purpose ofcreation and the highest form of worship.The definition of ibsan or virtue, which is that ofSufism itself, is "To worship (or adore) God as if thou seest Him and ifThou seest Him not, then He seeth Thee." This sacred badfth refers to the same truth, for vision is directly related to knowledge. As for seeking His help, of course all believers ask for God's help in time of need.The Sufis, however, are those who realize that, being poor in the ontological and spiritual sense, they are always in need of God and dependent upon His help. The earnest prayer, "in Thee we seek help," also strengthens our reliance upon God and our awareness that ultimately He alone can help us. To be fully human is to be constantly aware ofthis dependence and reliance, or tawakkulJ about which classical Sufi texts speak again and again. Standing before God who is Infinitely Good and All-Merciful, who is the master of space and time, whom men and women worship and whose help they seek, what does the servant ask from the Lord? It is to be guided upon the straight path. The last three verses of the Fatibah contain in brevity the complete doctrine of human salvation and our existential situation vis-a-vis the reality of Universal Existence. These verses specify three possibilities: the straight path, which is "the path of those on whom Thy grace is"; the path of "those on whom Thine an- ger is"; and the path of "those who go astray." In relation to the Divine Reality, which is both transcendent and immanent at the center of our being as the Self, there are only three paths one can follow. The first is to march upward toward that Reality, the second to descend away from It, and the third is to neither ascend nor descend but to go horizontally, sideways, drawing spiritually neither closer to nor farther away in r~Ja­ tion to the vertical axis of existence. Our existential situation can be further clarified by recourse to geometrical symbolism.We are situated at the point of the intersection of the vertical and horizontal axes of a cross.We have a choice to ascend the vertical axis and be among those "on whomThy grace is," or to descend on the same axis into ever lower states of being as one of those "on whom Thine anger is." Finally, we can wander along the horizontal line of the cross among "those who go astray." Eschatologically these three possibilities correspond from a certain perspective to the paradisal, infernal, and purgatorial states. WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 19
  • 30. While the cross is a symbol that ordinary Muslims do not take in its Christian sense, since Islam does not identify the cross with the death of Christ, there does exist in Islamic esoteric teachings, both Sufi and Shi'ite, an elaborate doctrine of the metaphysical significance of this symbol and its relation to the reality of the Universal Man, which will be discussed shortly. In any case, the Sufi understanding of the inner meaning of the Fatibah reveals this existential situation, one of whose spatial symbolisms is the cross, of the human being as he or she stands before God. All Muslims believe in the central significance of the straight path (al-#rat al-mustaqim), and Islam itself has been called by some the re- ligion of the straight path. This basic Quranic image and symbol has many aspects and diverse meanings. As far as the path of life is con- cerned, the Sufis ask what this straight path is, and when told that it is the path that leads to God, they seek to follow it to its end while in this life. They want to climb the vertical axis of the cross, like the lad- der ofJacob, to Heaven here and now. For Sufism, "the straight path" is ultimately the Tanqah or the Sufi path itself, which begins with the Shan(ah or Divine Law. It is the path of return to the Source or the ljaqiqah, of which we have already spoken. For them the "straight path" is also the path of ascent. To repeat the Fatibah at least seventeen times a day in the various daily canonical prayers combined with movements and other words that complement its meaning and to be aware ofits inner significance, some of which we have outlined here, is to realize true servanthood before God. For the Sufi it is to realize what it means to be truly hu- man.With the aid of the Quran, which plays such a central role in all of Islam including Sufism, the person of inner vision comes to realize the significance of being God's servant, which leads ultimately to the realization of our annihilation before Him (!ana') and subsistence in Him (baqa'). In this way the human being becomes aware of the ideal to which he or she must dedicate all oflife. THE UNIVERSAL MAN In classical Sufism the answer to the question, "what does it mean to be human?" is contained fully in the doctrine ofwhat is usually trans- lated as the Universal or Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil), whose detailed exposition is to be found in the writings ofsuch famous authorities as ,20 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 31. Ibn 'Arabi and the fourteenth-century Persian master who lived in the Yemen, 'Abd al-Karim al-JIII, the author of the most famous work in Arabic bearing this title.The idea ofUniversal Man, which some have also called Perfect Man, is so central to Sufism that one of the greatest Western scholars of Sufism, Louis Massignon, called it "the privileged myth of Islam." We find in Greek philosophy the idea ofanthropos teleios, which can be understood as "perfect man," and some have traced the philosophi- cal formulation ofthis idea by Sufis to the Greek and more specifically Neoplatonic sources. But even ifSufis used certain theoretical formu- lations drawn from such sources, the reality they were describing did not come from earlier philosophical texts.The Universal Man is a real- ity independent ofany philosophical descriptions ofit. On the basis of the Quran and the teachings ofthe Prophet, the Sufis were able to ex- perience the reality ofthe Universal Man, which after several centuries came to be described in doctrinal fashion by Ibn 'Arabi and others. In any case, according to the Sufis the Universal Man is the reality containing all the levels of existence other than God. It includes all the latent possibilities in each of those levels-a reality that, in those who have actualized it within themselves whether they be male or female, has become fully realized. The Universal Man is the androgy- nic prototype of the human state, both male and female, and also the prototype of the cosmos. That is why there exists a correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm. The Universal Man is like a mirror before God, reflecting all His Names and Qualities, and is also able to contemplate God through eyes that are illuminated by the light ofGod. He or she contemplates God's creation through God's eyes. The Universal Man possesses both active and passive perfections, and such well-known religious symbols as the Seal of Solomon and the Crescent symbolize the wedding of these twin perfections in Q.pth men and women. In the human world the Universal Man finds its exemplars in the prophets and the great saints. Its function is both revelatory and initi- atic. To become truly human is to realize, with the help of those who have already realized the state ofperfection, the reality ofthe Universal Man, which we all are potentially. Realization means reaching the state of the Universal Man. It means returning to our primordial state (al- fitrah) and ultimately to our reality in God with the guidance of those who have already realized to one degree or another the state of the WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 21
  • 32. Universal Man. To realize the state of the Universal Man is in turn to become the veritable servant of the Lord, to be aware of our central state in this world as His vicegerent (khalifah), to realize ourfanO.', and finally, through this annihilation of the ego, to reach with the light of the intellect within us the Supreme Essence, which alone is ultimately real. WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE, AND WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING HERE? What most of us are doing here in this world is living in a daydream called ordinary life, in the state of forgetting what Christ called the one thing necessary, that is, the Divine Reality. And we are in such a state because we have forgotten who we are. All we need to do is to wake up and realize our primordial nature, which is always there although buried deeply within many layers of the dross of forgetful- ness. The Prophet said, "Man is asleep and when he dies he awakens." Sufism is meant for those who want to wake up, who accept dying to the ego here and now in order to discover the Self of all selves and to be consumed in the process in the fire of Divine Love. Since we all die, it is better to seek to wake up now under condi- tions that involve our free will and intelligence rather than in a situa- tion in which we are helpless. This initiatic death is the beginning of the spiritual path. In answer to the question,"what should we be doing here?" the Sufis, like sages of other traditions, say that we should take full advantage of the precious state of being human, wake up to the reality of our prototype as Universal Man, and seek to walk, while we still can, through the door that opens to the inner chamber ofour heart and also to the Divine Presence. That opportunity will not always be there, for our next breath may be our last. If we do not pass through that door now, which opens into more inward or, to use the objective symbol, higher levels of being, leading finally to the Reality which is the Source and End of all, that door, which will close at the moment ofdeath, may not be open to us tomorrow.We have no guarantee that we will continue in the state we possess as human beings in this world once we reach posthumous states ofbeing.That is why Riimi, echoing the saying ofthe Prophet, "Die before you die," suggests to those with ears to hear and eyes to see, 22 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH '
  • 33. Go die, 0 man of honor, before you die, So that you will not suffer the pangs of death, Die in such a way as to enter the abode of light, Not the death that places you in the grave. What we should be doing here is discovering who we really are while we can. Now this process, which requires death to our "selves" and the piercing of the walls of our ego to penetrate into our heart, is not possible without the spiritual master, who already knows what it means to be fully human and who has realized this knowledge him- self or herself through journeying across the mountains and valleys of microcosmic existence to reach the One. As we shall see later in this book, in Sufism the prototype of this spiritual guide is ultimately the Prophet himself, and all Sufi masters are his representatives in this realm ofinitiatic guidance. As the fully realized Universal Man and beloved of God, the Prophet was given the initiatic power, called walayahlwilayah in Arabic, that makes it possible for us to awaken from our earthly day- dreaming and to fulfill the ultimate raison d'etre ofbeing human, that is, loving and knowing·God, which means realizing the perfect state ofservanthood combined with intimacy with the Divine and, through the transparency of our outer self, allowing God within us "to know" Himself. TO BECOME SOMEONE; .TO BECOME NO ONE From the Sufi point ofview only the person who has reached the center of his or her being and knows who he or she really is can be consid- ered fully human and be really someone. In fact, the cap that members ofmany Sufi orders wear is often called the crown ofpoverty (taj-ijaqr in Persian), and those human beings who have realized fully what it means to be human are the real royalty of this world.They are princes among human beings for, as some old masters have said, they are the ones who cannot choose because God has already chosen for them. It was once asked of that supreme prince of the Sufis of Khurasan, Bayazid Bas~rn1, who lived in the ninth century,"What do you want?" He answered, "I want not to want." Such people, who have realized what it really means to be human, are in the state ofperfect servitude WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 23
  • 34. and proximity, a state in which their will is surrendered to the Will of God. It is they who are really someone in this world even ifnot noticed by those with only outward-looking eyes. In Arabic and Persian the word rajul (pl. rijal) means not only man/ men but also outstanding figures whether in the field of science, reli- gion, or politics. One speaks ofthe political rijal ofa particular country or era as well as the rijal al-ghayb, literally, absent or invisible figures, who constitute an important part ofthe Sufi universe. In Sufism, those who have walked with determination upon the Sufi path and performed that crucial spiritual battle against their negative tendencies, or what is called the greater jihad, are considered the real rijal ofthis world.They are the people who are someone in the eyes of God, whatever their station in society. The word rijal carries a masculine gender, but lest one think it refers simply to the male gender, it is important to recount the famous Sufi tradition according to which on the Day ofJudgment when all human beings are standing before God, He will say,"The rijal [in the spiritual sense] step forward." And the first person to step for- ward will be the Virgin Mary. It is by virtue of coming to know our- selves and therefore our Lord that we become really someone beyond all transient honors and distinctions with which fallen human beings seek to distinguish themselves. And in becoming someone spiritually and in the eyes of God, we fulfill the purpose ofhuman existence. Paradoxically, however, to become someone spiritually means also ultimately to become no one. It is in the end to transcend all particu- larities and realize the Self within all selves, to become not this person or that person but personhood as such, which also means becoming the perfect mirror of the Divine. To return to the symbol of the sun, it is also to pierce with the light ofthe intellect all veils of duality and oth- erness to return to the Sun of the Self, which is the origin of all selves and the source of the intellect shining within those who have realized the state of perfect servanthood. It is in light of return to the Self that many Sufis have spoken, often in ecstatic language, of having gone be- yond name, color and race, country, and even the formal aspects ofre- ligion, beyond faith and infidelity, to become no one and yet someone in the highest sense of the term. A sonnet (ghazaQ attributed to one ofthe exalted masters ofSufism, who remains someone ofthe greatest importance even today and yet became no one, expresses the reality of this final state of being human, the state of realizing the unity beyond all dualities, the one Formless reality beyond all formal distinctions: ,2 4 T H E G A R D E N 0 F T R U T H
  • 35. What is to be done, 0 Muslims, for I know myself not, Neither a Christian am I, nor Jew, nor Magian nor Muslim. Neither of the East am I nor West, nor of the land, nor sea; Nor of nature's quarry, nor of heavens circling above. I am not made of earth or water, not of wind or fire; Nor am I of the Divine Throne nor of floor carpeting, Nor of the realm of the cosmos, nor of minerals. I am not from India, nor China, nor Bulgaria, nor Turkistan; I am not from the kingdom of the two Iraqs, nor from the earth of Khorasan. Neither of this world am I nor the next; nor of heaven nor hell; Nor from Adam nor Eve nor ofEden, nor paradise or its porter. My place is the placeless, my mark the markless; Not either body nor soul for I am myself the Beloved.4 Ruml, Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi To be human in the full sense is to be able to realize the Truth and become fully immersed in its light. It is to be drawn so intimately into the bosom of the Beloved that one could say with Riim'i, I am no longer in this body or soul but have "become" the Beloved. And this Beloved is the eternally Living, in whose Life alone do we find eter- nal life and felicity beyond the gates of the death of the ego and the obliteration of all that separates us from transcendent and immanent Reality, which is also our Self, the very center of our being. Truly I am a wondrous thing For him who sees me: Lover and Beloved, both am I, There is no second. 0 seeker of the essential Truth, Thine eye's film hides it. Return unto thyself, take note: None is but thee. All good, all knowledge springs from thee; In thee's the Secret.5 'All Shushtan WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN 25
  • 36. Two TRUTH The Knowledge That Illuminates and Deliversfrom the Bondage ofIgnorance Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished away. Verily, falsehood is ever certain to vanish. Quran 17:81 Then you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free. The Gospel according toJohn 8:32, NIV One with Thee make me, 0 my One, through Oneness Faithed in sincerity no path can reach. I am the Truth, and Truth, for Truth, is Truth, Robed in Its Essence, thus beyond separation.' lfallaj
  • 37. THE CENTRALITY OF TRUTH The famous tenth-century Sufi Man~iir al-l:fallaj uttered ana'l-Jjaqq, that is, "I am the Truth" or "I am the Real," and paid for it with his life, for many misconstrued the real import of these words. These words have nevertheless echoed like an ever-repeated refrain through the an- nals of Sufism during the past millennium.What is this Truth ofwhich J:Iallaj spoke, for which he paid with his life, and that all Sufis have sought to attain, considering its attainment to be the supreme goal of human life? The term baqq used by J:Iallaj is a Quranic term. It means both truth and reality and is in fact a Name of God, who is usually referred to in Sufi literature alternatively as Allah or al-Jjaqq, for God is both absolute Truth and absolute Reality. The term baqtqah, which is derived from it, refers at once to the Truth and to truth in whatever context and at any level of reality with which one is concerned. In the same way that the word realization contains the term real, spiritual realization in Sufism is called tabaqquq (from the word baqq), and the accomplished Sufi is called mu/:laqqiq in the lexicon of figures such as the "supreme master" Mu}:lyi al-Din ibn 'Arabi, whose teachings have dominated much of Sufism for the past seven centuries. According to Sufi~m, the supreme goal of human life is to attain Truth, which is also Reality, the source ofall reality, and whose attain- ment, as also stated by Christ, makes us free, delivering us from the bondage of ignorance. Although deeply involved with love and also on a certain level with action, Sufism is at the highest level a path of knowledge (ma (rifah in Arabic and (ilfon·in Persian), a knowledge tha~ is illuminative and unitive, a knowledge whose highest object is theTruth as such, that is, God, and subsequently the knowledge ofthings in rela- tion to God. There is such a thing as the Truth, and it can be known. This is the first of all certitudes, from which flow all other certitudes of human life. The knowledge of the Truth is like the light of the sun while love is like the' heat that always accompanies that light. In the Quran we read,"Moses said to his household: Verily, beyond all doubt I have seen a fire. I will bring you tidings ofit or I will bring you a flaming brand that ye may warm yourselves" (Quran 27:6).2 To bring tidings of the fire, to see a firebrand, and to be warmed (which could also be translated as being burned) by the fire in this Quranic verse symbolize the three stages of attaining certainty of the Truth, which is symbolized here by fire. To use the traditional accounts ofthe ,3 0 THE GARDEN 0 F TRUTH
  • 38. levels of certainty, there is first of all the lore or science of certainty ('ilm al-yaqi"n), which is like hearing a description offire from a reliable source and gaining certainty from this description.This is usually called the lore of certainty, but it also means certainty of lore or on the level of lore. Then there is the eye of certainty, or in a sense the certainty of seeing ('ayn al-yaqi"n), which is like seeing the fire and gaining cer- tainty of its existence through direct vision. Finally, there is the truth of certainty (baqq al-yaqi"n)-or again what can also be understood as certainty oftruth-which is like being consumed by the fire and gain~ ing the highest certainty of it by "becoming" the fire. The goal of the life of the spiritual person is to ascend this ladder of certainty until he or she is consumed by the fire of the Truth, to which some Christian mystics refer as being consumed in God. In a famous verse Riim'i says: The result of my life is contained in but three words: I was unripe, I ripened, and I was consumed. He is referring here to the same reality. There is first of all the cer- tainty that there is such a thing as the Truth. Furthermore, on the basis of this first certainty, one can advance to higher levels of certainty of the Truth until one is consumed by It and one enters the Garden of Truth Itself. THE CENTRALITY OF GNOSIS TO SUFISM Christ said,"In my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). This saying has of course several meanings. One of them is that there are many religions that lead to God. It also means that there are diffc;_~ent types ofspiritual paths, some based on sacrifice and selfless action, some on faith and devotion, some on love, and some on knowledge. Since Islam is the religion of unity, its inner dimension, which is Sufism, integrates these different possibilities within itself. But also since Islam is based ultimately on the knowledge of the Oneness of God, the way ofknowledge is central to the Sufi path although, as already stated, this knowledge is always combined with love, faith, and correct action.That is why many ofthose who know in a unitive and illuminative manner and who are called gnostics (in the original sense of the term and not TRUTH 31
  • 39. as a Christian heresy) have often composed the most sublime mysti- cal love poetry. The knowledge of which Sufism speaks is not mental knowledge but a light that illuminates the beholder ofthis knowledge and in fact all around it and finally returns the human being to its Source, the Supernal Sun. On the highest level, the subject as well as the object of this knowledge is God. The gnostic in Sufism is called al- 'iirip bi'Lliih, one who knows by God and not one who knows God, for ultimately it is only the Divine Spark within us that can know the Divine. Our duty is to remove the veils within that prevent such a uni- tive knowledge from taking place. The Prophet has said, "Knowledge is Light," and one can add that the Quran speaks ofGod being the Light ofthe heavens and the earth. Now, existence itself is a ray of light that issues from the Divine Sun. Knowledge is therefore also being. The more one knows in a prin- cipia} manner, and not only discursively, the more one is. On the high- est level the knower, knowledge, and the known are one.To know the Truth with one's whole being is ultimately to "become the Truth," to realize that the root of our "I" is the Divine Self Itself, who alone can ultimately utter "I." It was not the individual ego of al-Ballaj who uttered anii'l-l:faqq.· That would be blasphemy, and that is how those ignorant around him who did not understand interpreted it. In reality, one who does not utter anii'l-l:faqq is still living as a polytheist and idol worshipper, positing his or her own ego as a reality separate from God as al-l:faqq and idolizing that ever-changing and evanescent ego as well as the world as a divinity. In any case, the quest for the Truth lies at the heart of Sufism, and the goal of the adept is to be able to ascend the levels of certitude until one's separate existence is consumed by the Truth and one is given access to the Garden of Truth. SUFI DOCTRINE AND ITS FUNCTION IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE The description and theoretical exposition ofthe Truth is contained in Sufi doctrine while the realization oftheTruth is possible only through spiritual practice. Sufi doctrine, which is also called theoretical gnosis (al-ta$awwuf al- 'iltni in Arabic and 'itfon-i na-?an in Persian), is itselfthe fruit of spiritual realization and not simply philosophical speculation (for more discussion, see appendix 1). It is presented to those in quest of the Truth as a map of the structure of reality and the road that is J2 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 40. to be followed to transcend the cosmic labyrinth. One might say that the Sufi masters first climbed the cosmic mountain and then flew into the sky of the Divine Presence and after that, upon descending, drew a map for other climbers who wished to reach the summit and fly to the Beyond. Sufi doctrine is like the lore ofcertainty and its realization the truth ofcertainty. From the operative point ofview, the doctrine is presented and then its truths realized, but in reality it is the realization of the truths of the path that have made it possible in the first place for master expositors of Sufi doctrine to formulate their teachings and guide men and women on their journey to the One.Theoretical gnosis appears as a theoria, in the original Greek sense ofvision, of the Truth, but in fact it issues from consummation by that Truth. Only then can it act as guide for those who wish to reach that Truth. Sufi doctrine or theoretical gnosis seems to begin with the mind, but for its full under- standing it must be accompanied by practice, which involves the whole of one's being and requires faith. Through this process what appears at first as a concept in the mind becomes a luminous presence that trans- forms one's whole being, further informing the theory or doctrine. Sufi doctrine is in a sense both the beginning and end of the Sufi path. It is the beginning because it presents to the seeker, before he or she undertakes the spiritual quest, the basic truths concerning the nature of reality and finally the crowning Truth concerning Ultimate Reality as such. It is the end because the goal of Sufism is the at- tainment of that gnosis or ma (rifah, described theoretically in texts of Sufi doctrine but now realized with one's whole being. The lore of certainty in which we hear about the fire of truth cannot but lead, ultimately, through our quest after the fire, to discovering it and being consumed by it. In traditional Islamic society most disciples were introduced to only certain essential elements of Sufi doctrine, and gradually as they pro- gressed upon the path, more and more doctrine was taught to them. The great expositions of Sufi doctrine by such figures as Ibn 'Arabi, and later followers of his school such as Sadr al-Din Qunyawi, 'Abd al-Razzaq Kashani, Da'ud Qay~ari, 'Abd al-Karim al-Jili, Ibn Turkah I~fahani, 'Abd al-Ghaniy al-Nabulusi, and many others were certainly available but studied only by a few among the larger groups of adher- ents of Sufism. The tradition itself, the Quran along with its inspired commentaries, the sayings of the Prophet (l;Iadtth) and of many sages and saints, traditional literature, and other sources, provided for those TRUTH 33
  • 41. embarking upon the path a homogeneous religious and intellectual ambience and the basic elements of the Truth necessary to attain the goal. Today we no longer live in such a situation, even in many parts of the Islamic world. Especially in the West, most people no longer hold a homogeneous spiritual and metaphysical worldview from which one can begin. To make Sufism understood to Westerners in such a situa- tion, it is therefore necessary, even more so than in traditional Islamic circles, to begin with a fuller exposition of Sufi doctrine. This in turn involves not only presenting these doctrines but also clearing the ground of errors that prevent the mind from understanding the doc- trines involved. In a world in which agnosticism and skepticism were very rare, one did not have to remove such errors before speaking of the existence of God. Today, obviously, the situation is very different. Ideally, therefore, it would be necessary to clear the ground of all prevalent errors, according to the Sufi point of view and authentic metaphysics in general, such as secular humanism, rationalism, empiri- cism, behaviorism, deconstructionism, and so forth, which clutter the minds of so many men and women today. Only then can one present to them the Truth, which Sufi doctrine seeks to expound and explain. But that is not practically feasible here, and it would require another book. I shall therefore present the main aspects of Sufi doctrine with the presumption that those who read this book are already in quest of something beyond the fashionable "isms" of the day and that through their intelligence they will understand, at least on the theoretical level, what this doctrine entails. For those who remain rooted in the modern and now postmodern mind-set in which Truth itself in its absolute sense is denied and metaphysics is not even considered a possibility, what is said about the Truth here can at least make them better ac- quainted with the worldview that underlies and defines Sufism in its diverse manifestations. Nevertheless, whenever necessary, reference will be made to errors that prevent the truths of Sufism from being comprehended. THE DIVINE REALITY The highest truth is the truth of the Highest, and the knowledge of the Supreme Reality is supreme knowledge. Although this principia! knowledge is at the heart and within the very substance of the intel- ,J4 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 42. lect, the Supreme Principle cannot be known in the ordinary manner of knowing to which our minds have become habituated. It cannot be comprehended by the mind because the very term comprehend is derived from a Latin word meaning to encompass and to embrace, but the Divine Reality is Infinite and cannot be encompassed by anything. The only way to know It is to plunge into the Sea of Divinity, to swim in the Ocean of the Godhead, to use the well-known image of Meister Eckhart. Our intellect is like an arrow that can reach the sun and is given the power by God to anticipate the knowledge gained by this "union." That is why we are able to speak about God and even make the assertion in an apophatic manner that God in His Essence is beyond all that we can say of Him. At the heart of Sufi doctrine and theoretical gnosis stands the Reality, which is unutterable and yet makes all metaphysical uttering possible and, furthermore, manifests Itselfin categories that can be known in a kathaphatic manner, that is, in positive categories. The subject of Sufi metaphysics is said in classi- cal texts to be the unconditioned absolute Reality, which is not even conditioned by absoluteness.Yet this metaphysics begins and ends with the truth of this Supreme Reality because It is the Origin and End of all things and Its realization the supreme goal of human life. As men- tioned in the previous chapter, the Supreme Principle is both the ab- solutely transcendent Reality and the absolutely immanent Self, who determines the ultimate reality of human beings and defines what it means to be human. The Divine Essence, or what is referred to in Christian theology as Ipseity, called al-Dhiit in Arabic, is beyond all determination and definition and corresponds to what certain Christian mystics call the Godhead or the Divine Ground. It is the Essence of the Divine Order or God. The Islamic term for God, Allah, denotes the Divine Essence as well as the Divine Names and Qualities, which make creation and manifestation possible.The Name Allah denotes at once Godheacf"and God as the Divine Person and Creator. It contains, therefore, both the impersonal and personal aspects of the Divinity. Allah is God under- stood in the full metaphysical understanding of the term and not ac- cording to particular confessional and theological definitions. Allah is Reality, which is at once absolute, infinite, and pure goodness and per- fection. God is the Absolute, the One before whom no relativity may even be said to exist. He is the Infinite in that in Him are to be found all possibilities. It must be remembered here that the words possibility, TRUTH 35
  • 43. potentiality, and potency are all related etymologically.This truth is an in- dication of the fact that possibility and the power to bring all existents into being are related in the Divine Order. God is also infinite and absolute goodness and perfection as well as the source of all goodness and perfection in the created order. Sufi metaphysics has used several symbolic languages to express the truths with which it is concerned, including symbols connected to light, to the features of the human face, and to love, but most of all it has relied on the revelation by God in the Quran of His Names and Qualities. There is subsequently in Sufism the very important science of the Divine Names, which Muslims believe have been revealed di- rectly by God as a means of unveiling His Nature, to the extent that He has wished, to the Prophet and through him to the followers of His last revelation. This science has both a theoretical and a practical import. Theoretically it depicts a metaphysical vision of the Divinity and the cosmology that flows from it, and practically it makes possible access to the Divinity for it is through the Names of God-the sacred Names revealed by God in the Quran concerning Himself-that men and women are able to return to God and to realize who they really are. To call God by His "Beautiful Names," to use the Quranic terminol- ogy, results in receiving His answer since He Himselfhas revealed these Names as His Names; it results in drawing nigh unto Him. In this science a distinction is made first ofall between God's Essence, His Names and Qualities, and His Acts (al-Dhat, al-Asma', and al-Sifot and al-Apal in Arabic). Although the Essence Itselfis beyond all names and determinations, being the black light, which is black because ·of the intensity ofits luminosity, certain Names pertain to It and It alone and never to His Acts, which constitute His creation; such Names in- clude huwa (the Essence), al-Rabman (the all-Good), al-Rabrm (the in- finitely Merciful), and al-Abad (the One). Then there is the level of the Names and Qualities, which are the first Self-Determinations or Self-Entifications (ta 'ayyun) of the Essence. At this level are Names pertaining to various Divine Qualities such as generosity (karamah) with the corresponding Name al-Katim (the Generous), or the Quality of knowing ('ilm), of which the corresponding Divine Name is al- 'Alrm (the Knower). Finally, there are Names such as al-Khaliq, mean- ing Creator, pertaining to God's Acts, which are the foundations ofHis creation; in the deepest sense, creation is not only a result of a Divine Act but the whole created order an Act of God itself. 36 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH '
  • 44. At the level of the Essence there is absolute oneness, but on the level of the Names and Qualities multiplicity is introduced although without destroying in any way the Divine Unity, since each Name and Quality is a self-determination of the Essence. Furthermore, it is at the stage of the Names and Qualities that the first basic duality, that is, the archetype ofthe feminine/masculine duality in the human and cosmic orders (the yin/yang of the Chinese tradition) appears.The Names are divided into those of Majesty (jalaQ, the source of the masculine, and those ofBeauty (jamaQ, the source ofthe feminine. God is at once just and forgiving, wrathful and merciful, although as it is written on the Divine Throne, according to a sacred saying of the Prophet quoted often by Sufis, "Verily My Mercy precedeth My Wrath." This l}adith means that although God is just and is wrathful toward evildoers, His Mercy comes before His Justice and He forgives those who have com- mitted evil acts yet turn to Him in earnestness and with their whole being.Were it not for this ordering ofthe Names in the Divine Order, there would be no positive dualities observable in creation such as the male/female or yin/yang distinctions. Such dualities must, however, be distinguished from false dualisms, such as gods ofgood and evil, which one finds in certain dualistic religions, for the dualism implied in the ordering of the Divine Names in Islam does not in any way detract from the Oneness of the Divine Principle.The whole universe comes into being through the interplay of the various determinations of the Divine Names and Qualities.The Names ofGod are not simply words in the ordinary sense but realities, each of which reflects an aspect of the Divine Reality. Moreover, in every religion each Name that plays both a cosmological and salvific role is sanctified through revelation by the Reality to which the Name refers. For example, in Hinduism we have the sound Om and on another level the names S'iva and Vi~nu, which correspond in the Hindu universe to the Names and corre- sponding Qualities of God in Islam. In any case, the science o(the Names is, according to the Sufis, the key for knowledge of ourselves, of the world, and ultimately of God as well as the means of return to our Origin. THE ONENESS OF BEING The Sufi science of the Divine Reality cannot be fully understood without discussing the famous doctrine of the "transcendent oneness TRUTH 37
  • 45. or unity ofbeing" (wa~dat al-wujud), which has been so often miscon- strued byWesterners and also by some modernized as well as exoteric Muslims as pantheism. To understand this doctrine, which many have called the crowning jewel of Sufism, it is necessary to turn our atten- tion first to the universal hierarchy of reality. There is first of all the Ultimate Reality, which is the Beyond-Being and which some have called Non-Being, that is, a reality that transcends even Being taken as a positive category. It can be symbolized by that darkness or black light standing above and not below light and its polarizations by a prism into various colors. It is the aspect of the Divinity that is above as well as within the creative aspect of God and does not participate in the creative act. It corresponds metaphysically to theVoid or sunyata in Buddhism and to the supreme Tao, which cannot be named in Far Eastern doctrines. The first determination of Beyond-Being is Being, the ontological principle, which is God in His aspect as Person and Creator, the reality we address as Thou and our Lord. Then there is the Logos in divinis, to be distinguished from the created Logos. This Logos in divinis is at once the origin of universal existence and of all prophetic functions. Christianity states that it was by the Word (that is, the Logos) that all things were made and that Christ was the Logos. A similar doctrine can be found in Sufism, where the Prophet is identi- fied, in his inner reality as the Mul).anunadan Reality (al-baq"iqat al- mu~ammadiyyah), with the Word or Logos. As far as levels of being are concerned, we can speak of Beyond-Being, Being, and Universal Existence, which embraces and gives reality to the existence of all things. It is by virtue of the act of existentiation or what the Qutan calls the command "Be!" (kun!) that everything in the universe has come into being. Multiplicity has appeared, but inwardly it still bears the imprint of unity. The truth of the oneness of Being can be fully known only by being experienced spiritually. When the veil of the ego is removed within the human being, the inner Divine Spark sees and knows the Divine everywhere behind the veils of multiplicity. God becomes the eye with which the human being sees, and the human being becomes the eye with which God sees the world. In reality God is the light with which we see all things. That is why we cannot see Him in the ordi- nary sense.As Mal).miid Shabistari, the fourteenth-century Persian Sufi poet, said in a celebrated verse in his Rose Garden ofDivine Mysteries: , 38 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 46. Thou art like the eye and He the light of the eye, Who has ever been able.to see with the eye that with which the eye sees?3 It is also possible to have an intellectual participation in seizing this truth through proper metaphysical preparation. That is why there are extensive works of Sufi doctrine and theoretical gnosis such as those of Shams al.:..Din Fanari and Ibn Turkah I~fahani, to which we shall turn in appendix 1, as well as writings ofphilosophers and theosophers such as Sadr al-Din Shirazi that deal extensively with the doctrine of the oneness of Being, which can in fact be interpreted in several ways. The meaning of wabdat al-wujud, if not the actual expression, can be found in sources ranging from certain Quranic verses, such as "Whithersoever ye turn there is the Face of God" (2: us), to certain sayings ofthe Prophet, such as "I am Al;tmad without the m" (meaning Abad or the One, referring to the inner oneness of the Prophet with the Source of all being). It is also the theme of many poems, some of which are among the greatest masterpieces ofSufi poetry.As for its full exposition, it must be sought in works ofSufi metaphysics. In any case, to understand even the theoretical meaning ofthe oneness ofBeing on any level requires a certain intellectual intuition as well as intellectual preparation, in addition to Divine grace, while only the saint who has reached the end ofthe Sufi path and become drowned in the Ocean of Divinity can know its meaning fully and in the ultimate sense. Only a person of the spiritual rank of Ibn 'Arabi could have sung: We were letters, exalted! not yet uttered, Held aloft in the keep of the Highest ofSummits, I Therein am Thou, and we are Thou, And Thou art He, and All is in He is He- Ask of any that so far hath reached.4 To speak of being is to speak of reality. Now if God is al-Ifaqq, that is, the Absolute Truth and Absolute Reality or Absolute Being- which in this case may be said to embrace both Beyond-Being and Being-and He is at the same time al-Abad, the One, there cannot be two independent realities. That would ultimately involve dualism in TRUTH 39
  • 47. the principia! order and the negation ofboth the oneness and the ab- soluteness of God. Although it may appear so outwardly, there cannot therefore be but one Being; all beings must issue from and ultimately be nothing other than Being. Complete ontological otherness would imply a form of dualism and posit a thing to be real independent of God or, to speak more philosophically, to possess a being completely other than the Absolute Being. Every creature has a face turned to God, which is also the Face of God turned to that creature, bestowing being upon that creature; and each creature has a face turned to the world and has an essence in itself, which makes it what it is in itself. This is what the Islamic philosophers call the quiddity or essence ofan existent, as opposed to its existence, and the Sufis refer to the highest level of this reality as its immutable archetype ('ayn thabit). The latter is literally "nothing" in that it has no existence in itself. Everything that exists does so as the result of God's existentiation of its archetype. Every creature is ultimately the manifestation of the Face of God and Its reflections through the immutable archetypes upon the mirror of nothingness. When the Quran asserts, "Everything perisheth save His Face" (28:88), the Sufis understand this truth as referring not to some future eschatological event but to the here and now. At this very mo- ment, which is also the eternal now, everything is nonexistent and has perished in itself save the Face of God, and right now in whichever di- rection one turns there is His Face, ifone could only see.To understand this reality is to realize the meaning of the oneness ofBeing. The world appears to us as multiplicity, and the goal ofthe spiritual life is to ascend from this multiplicity to unity, to see the One in the many and the many integrated into the One. Now the doctrine ofthe oneness ofBeing does not negate the reality of multiplicity. Nor does it claim that God is the world and the world in its totality is God, a position held by pantheists. How could a metaphysics that speaks so categorically of the transcendence of God be accused of pantheism? What the Sufis assert is not that God is the world, but that the world is mysteriously plunged in God, to use a formulation ofFrithjofSchuon. Existence is a manifestation ofBeing, and all existence issues from and belongs to Being in the same way that the rays of the sun are finally nothing but the sun. Some Sufis and Islamic philosophers have interpreted the doctrine ofthe oneness ofBeing to mean that all levels ofbeing come from the one Being, that all the rays oflight emanate from the sun, while many 40 THE GARDEN OF TRUTH
  • 48. Sufis claim that on the highest level of understanding there is in fact only the one and absolute Being.Viewed from within the sun, there is nothing but the sun. So, many masters of gnosis have asserted that when you gain a clear understanding of the nature of things, to quote the famous Treatise of Unity (al-Risiilat al-a/:zadiyyah), "you do not see in this world or the next aught beside God."5 Everything in the universe is a mirror in which is reflected determinations of the One Essence, the Absolute·Being and Reality, which alone is, the alpha and omega of all existence and also the single Reality and Being here and now ofall things that appear to us as independent objects and realities. To realize this truth fully is to be able to see God everywhere. It is to realize the supreme goal of human life by returning to our pre-existential reality in the Divine. CREATION AND THE MANIFESTED ORDER Although there is metaphysically only one Ultimate Reality, the Beyond-Being, of which the first Self-Determination is Being, on the level ofrelativity we have. the world ofmultiplicity, in fact, many worlds ranging from the archangelic to the material, all ofwhich are manifesta- tions and Self-Determinations ofthe One.Those very Sufis who spoke of the oneness ofBeing as the highest understanding of the Truth also asserted that there are grades and levels (mariitib in Sufi texts) ofbeing, which constitute the many worlds that separate us from the One.They even asserted and continue to assert that the person who does not be- lieve in the multiple states or grades ofbeing, or what is known as the great chain of being, is an "infidel" and lost to the world of faith. To be human living on this terrestrial plane of existence and to believe in God as the Absolute Being necessitates accepting the hierarchy in be- tween. All religions in fact emphasize this cosmic hierarchy in one way or another, as we see in texts as far apart as the writings of Diony;ius the Areopagite and Tibetan Buddhists on cosmology. The truth of the matter is that, on the one hand, we have a universal hierarchy linking each lower state ofbeing to a higher one, from the carpeting on earth (aljarsh) to the Divine Throne (al- 'arsh)-that is, symbolically speaking, from the lowest to the highest order of universal existence, to repeat a famous Sufi dictum-and on the other hand, each existent, by virtue of its existence, also has a direct link to Being. On the human level it might be said that while we occupy a particular level ofexistence, with TRUTH 41