All praise and thanks to Allah, Almighty, the First with no other before Him. He is the only First, and there is no last but His oneness. The end is with Him alone, and he is the end. He is All-Existing: with Him there is no end. Neither is there nearness or farness; nor is there a will or wish, or time, or above, or below, or place; neither is there a universe. Allah is now as He was before. He is eternal. He is One without oneness and Alone without loneliness. He is not named with a name, for it is He whose name is “He,” the self-named one. There is no name other than “He,” and none other than He is named. He is the First without anything before Him. He is the Last without anything after Him. He is Visible in all that is seen. He is Known, clearly, in all that is hidden. He is in all forms and images without any relation to any appearance. He is the secret and the appearance of the first letter announcing the beginning of existence. He is the presence of all the letters that belong to the First and all the letters that belong to the Last and is the presence in all the letters that are visible and all the letters that are hidden. Therefore He is “the First” and “the Last” and “the Visible” and “the Hidden”. He is the First and the Last and the Visible and the Hidden. All the letters that form the words, from the first to the last of realms seen or unseen, are without any relation to His Being and are without any effect on His Being.
Do not fall into the blasphemous error of the sect called Hululiyyah, who believe that another soul, even another being, can be infused into them and that they may have God materially existing in them. Know that He is never in anything, nor is anything in Him. He is neither inside nor outside of anything. None can see Him, whether with the eye of the head or with an inner eye; nor can any conceive Him through the senses, the mind, intelligence, knowledge, or imagination. Only He can see Himself; only He can conceive Himself. None can know Him; only He can know Himself. He sees Himself by Himself; He knows Himself by Himself; He conceives Himself by Himself, He knows Himself by Himself, None other than He can see Him. None other than He can know Him. That which hides Him is His Oneness. None but Himself can hide Him. The veil that hides Him is His own being. He hides His being with nothing other than His Being the Only One; therefore, none other than He can see Him. Neither a prophet whom He has sent to humanity, nor a saint, a perfect man, nor an angel close to Him can see Him, for they are not apart from Him. His prophets, His messengers, His perfect men, are none other than He, for He has sent Himself, from Himself, for Himself, without any other cause or means besides Himself. He sent His essence, from His essence, by His essence, to His essence. There is no difference between the One who sent and His messengers who were sent. The letters of His being are the being of His messengers. There is no other being than He. Neither does He become another; nor does His name become another’s name; nor is there any other named by His name. That is why our Master, the Light of the Universe, the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w said: I know my Lord by my Lord. He also said: He who knows himself know his Lord. By this it is meant that surely you are not you, and you – without being you – are He. He is not within you; nor are you in Him. He does not exclude you; nor are you excluded from Him. When you are addressed as you, do not think that you exist, with an essence and qualities and attributes – for you never existed, nor do exist, nor will ever exist. You have not entered into Him, nor He into you. Without being, your essence is with Him and in Him. You were not; nor are you temporal. Without having any identity, you are Him and He is you. If you know yourself as nothing, then you truly know your Lord. Otherwise, you know Him not. You cannot know your Lord by making yourself nothing. Many a wise man claims that in order to know one’s Lord one must denude oneself of the signs of one’s existence, efface one’s identity, finally rid oneself of one’s self. This is a mistake. How could a thing that does not exist try to get rid of its existence? For none of matter exists. How could a thing that is not, become nothing? A thing can only become nothing after it has been something. Therefore, if you know yourself without being, not trying to become nothing, you will know your Lord. If you think that to know Allah depends on your ridding yourself of yourself, then you are guilty of attributing partners to Him – the only unforgivable sin because you are claiming that there is another existence besides Him, the All-Existent: that there is you and a He. Our Master, the Prophet s.a.w said: He who knows himself knows His Lord. He did not say: He who eliminates himself knows His Lord! The proof of the existence of something is that when it is presumed nonexistent, its opposite appears. As there is none other than Allah, proving His existence does not depend on the disappearance of some existence other than His. And as you do not exist, you cannot cease to exist, nor be transformed into anything else. Your being is neither temporal nor eternal, for you have no being. Our Master, the Messenger of Allah said, “Actually you do not exist, as you did not exist before you were created.” Allah has no partners and there is none like unto Him. Allah Most High is the meaning of before the before and after the after; without Him, before and after have no meaning. Were this not so, He is alone. 'He has no partners', would have no meaning. It must be so; otherwise something other than He would have to exist on its own and not depend on Him for its existence. Such a partner would not need Allah for its existence and so would be a second god – and that is an impossibility. Allah Most High cannot have partners, and there cannot be any like unto Him. If one believes that things exist in Allah – from Him or with Him – and that these things depend upon Allah for their existence, even so, such things are appearing to one as lords. Though their lordship may depend on Allah, still one who believes in them is guilty of recognizing some other lord as a partner of our Lord. It would be a grave error to consider any other existences as valid alongside of Allah the Self-Existent, even if the thing is seen as dependent on Allah for its existence. A being that has given up its existence and has become naught after having given up its existence, is still far from a breath of knowledge. If one contemplates oneself as such a being, one is far from knowing oneself. If someone thinks of himself as existing among other beings and things that disappear as he does, whose nothingness becomes naught in nothing – if such a person believes that there are no others who exist beside Allah, he is nothing indeed, and his nothingness will go on as long as he thinks he exists. He will be guilty of the unforgivable sin of attributing partners to Allah, while he may think that he knows his Lord, since he knows himself.
The way of knowing oneself and knowing one’s Lord.
Then how is one to know oneself in order to know one’s Lord? The answer to this question is: Allah Most high exists and none other exists with Him. He is now as He has always been. If one sees oneself as other than the only existence which is Him, or if one does not see oneself as a part of Him, then the answer came from the Messenger of Allah when he said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord.” He did not mean by ‘self’ one’s ego – that self which favors the pleasures of the flesh and its lowly desires and which tries to command all of one; nor did he mean the self that first deceives – making one believe that the dirt and the ugliness is proper, then flagellates itself for the wrong it has done and forgets and does it again; nor did he mean the self-satisfied self. He meant one’s truth, one’s reality. When the Prophet s.a.w prayed and said: O my Lord, show me the reality of things, what he meant by ‘things’ was those things that appear to be other than Allah. He meant, “Teach me those things other than You. What is all this around me? Let me know. These things – are they You, or are they other than You? Did they exist before or did they come to be? Are they here forever or are they going to pass away?” And Allah showed him that the ‘things’ had no being and He showed ‘them’ to be Him, and it was seen that all appeared as other than Allah was His being. He was shown things without a name, without time, without quality, as the essence of Allah. The name of a thing is suggested by the thing to the one who names it, and by him is given to others. Thus, in a thing, the existence of the thing and the existence of its self are equivalent. Therefore, when the thing is known, the self is known and when the self is known the Lord I known. You presume others to be other than Allah. There is nothing other than He, but you do not know this. While you are looking at Him you do not recognize him. When the secrets open to you, you will know that you are none other than He. Then you will also know that you are the one whom He wished (but you need not disappear), and that you are forever and will not disappear with time, for there is no passing of time. Your attributes are His. Without doubt, your appearance is His appearance. What is in you is in Him. Your before is His before; your after is His after; your essence is His essence – without Him entering you or you entering in Him, for Everything is perishing but His Face. (Al-Qasas, 88). That which exists and is visible is He. There is nothing but He, so how could nothing cease to be? There is only Him, His essence, which always will be. Therefore, if one knows that a thing exists that cannot cease to be, then the doubt and the ignorance about that thing will cease to be. That being is eternal, without changing into another being. When one who is sure of an existence joins with one who denies that existence, they do not unite. At best the doubt about that existence disappears. Therefore, do not think anymore that you need to become nothing, that you need to annihilate yourself in Him. If you thought so, then you would be His veil, while a veil over Allah is other than He. How could you be a veil that hides Him? What hides him is His being the One Alone. That is why the utterance became permissible for Mansur al-Hallaj, when the words "I am the Truth" came from his lips, and for Abu Yazid Bistami when he cried: "Praise be to Me, the essence, absolved of all defect!" for they were both united with Truth. These are not people who have annihilated themselves in Allah; nor have they come to be in Allah, nor did they exist before, becoming naught afterwards. They are those who see their attributes as Allah’s attributes, their essence as Allah’s essence, without their attributes and essence being either in Allah or out of Him. Their selves are only Allah’s being. These are the ones who have reached Allah. They are eternal. They never ceased to be, for they never were, since there is only Allah’s self, Allah’s essence. Neither is there any existence. There is only the existence of Allah. Our Master, the Messenger of Allah, said: 'Do not curse Time, for Allah is Time' pointing out that Allah’s being is free from likeness or equals or partners, but is manifest in eternal time. The only existence is the existence of Allah. Allah Most High speaking through His Messenger said to Moses: "O my servant, I was ill and you didn’t come to visit me; I was hungry and you didn’t feed me…". Allah Most High clearly declares that the being of the one who is sick is His being, and that the one who is hungry and in need is also He. If the sick and the needy are He, then your being also is His being. In the same way, everything made out of elements and events is also He. When the secret of a single atom out of all the atoms from which the elements are made becomes known, the secrets of the whole universe visible and invisible will be revealed. Then you will not see anything but Allah either in this world or in the Hereafter. You will see all the existences in this world and in the Hereafter, all the names and the things named with those names and their being, as His Being alone. You will see Allah creating nothing forever. You may see His revealing, His being, and His attributes in another kind of image, without qualities and references as He reveals himself: "Every moment He manifests Himself in another glorious state." (ar-Rahman, 29) Then you will see that all the things you thought He made, He did not make. Their appearance is a reflection of Allah’s revealing His essence and His attributes, every moment, in a different form and shape. He is the Before, for He is self-existence. He is the After, for He is endless. He is the Visible because He is the Only One. He is the Invisible, for He is the One Alone. He is the First because only He exists. He is the Last, for there is no end after Him. He is the first letter and all of the letters until the last letter. He is the letters seen and the letters unseen. He is the name and He is the named. His being is the only necessity; therefore it is also a necessity that there be no existence but His.
On Dying Before Dying
He who thinks of himself as other than Allah is certainly not other than He, because Allah Most High is free of all existence except His Divine Essence. All, visible and invisible, that exists in Him, with Him, apart from Him, is not other than He, for the other itself is He. Whoever sees himself thus and is endowed with these qualities has neither bounds nor end. One dies when, by Allah’s will, one’s borrowed time ends. One’s materials being – which is called life – ending at an appointed hour, loses all its character and qualities both good and bad. One who dies a spiritual death while his material life continues also loses his characteristics whether good or bad, and nothing of him remains. In their place Allah comes to be. His self becomes Allah’s self; his attributes become Allah’s attributes. That is what our Master, Prophet of Allah s.a.w meant when he said: 'Die before dying' meaning, “Know yourself before you die.” Allah, speaking through His Prophet, said: My servant comes close to Me with the worship of good works until I love him; and when I love him, I become the hearing in his ears; I become the sight in his eyes; I become the words on his tongue; I become the hands with which he holds; I become the strength of every part of his being. With these divine words the Messenger of Allah indicates that the one who dies before dying realizes his whole being as Allah’s being and sees no difference between himself and Allah, between his attributes and Allah’s, nor does he see any necessity for nor possibility of any change in his state. For if his being were not already Allah, he could not even know himself. Thus when you know yourself, your self and selfishness will leave you, and you will know that there is nothing in existence but Allah. The condition for self-knowledge is to know that if you had a being of your own, independent of other being, then you would neither have needed to annihilate yourself in Allah nor to know yourself. You would have been, yourself, a god – self-existent and without any other existence but you —while it is Allah Most High who is free from the existence of any other god but Himself. And when you come to know yourself, you will be sure that you neither exist nor do not exist, whether now, or before, or in the future. Then the meaning of la ilaha illa ‘Llah – There is no god but Allah – there is not being but His, nor any other except Him, and He is the Only One – will become clear to you. Do you think it possible to interfere with the sovereignty of the Lord? How could the Absolute Sovereign over all and everything be constrained? He has ruled forever. He is God. He is the Ruler, not the ruled. He is the Eternal Creator, not the created, and is now as He ever was. He does not need His creation to be Creator; nor does He need the ones He rules to be Lord. He possessed all the attributes before He manifested them in the universe He created, and as He was, He is. The manifestation of His essence does not differ in any way from His being as it was before. The manifestation of His oneness requires His having been the First. He is hidden in being Visible; His secret is manifested in what is seen. His Before is His After, and His After is His Before. His multiplicity is in His Oneness, and His Oneness is in the multiplicity. He is One, and all is One. His quality is His appearance at every moment in a different form and a different state. In His Blessed Qur’an, in the chapter Ar-Rahman, The Beneficent, He says: "All those who are in heaven and on earth ask of Him. He manifests Himself at every moment in another glorious state. (Ar-Rahman, 29). Nothing existed nor does anything exist; yet at every moment He manifests Himself in another glorious state. There was no first; nor was there a before; there is no more manifestation now. In truth, there is no being other than Him: for what only appears to exist, existence and nonexistence are the same. If one conceives it otherwise, one must conceive that a thing may appear from nothing, which negates the oneness of Allah, and that is a defect – while His oneness is free of and above all defects. The only existence is Allah’s existence. If you know this and do not consider yourself to be the same as, or other than, or together with, Him –then truly you know yourself. That is why our Master the Messenger of Allah s.a.w said, "He who knows himself, knows His Lord" and not, "He who annihilates himself knows his Lord" - for he saw and he knew that there is nothing but Allah. And that is how he knew himself. Know yourself; know your being. Certainly you are not you, yet you do not know. Know that this existence is neither you nor other than you. You do not exist, yet you are also nonexistence. Your existence is not someone else, nor does your existence make you someone else. Without being and without not-being, your existence is Allah's being, because it is certain that the being of the truth is the same as your being and your not-being, and at the same time the truth is you and not-you. Then when you see what is around you as not other than you, and all and everything as the existence of the One - when you do not see anything else with Him or in Him, but see Him in everything as yourself and at the same time as the non-existence of yourself - then what you see is the truth. Then indeed, truly, you see yourself and you know yourself. When you know yourself with these qualities. you know your Lord without being in Him, with Him or united to Him. The knower and the known and the one who joined are one. Someone might ask, "How then is one to be with Allah, when there is none other than He? One cannot be united with oneself!" The answer is that there is no union or being with Him, because to be with someone or to be united with him is only possible when there are two entities. As there are not two, there is only one, there is neither being with Him nor uniting with Him. Unification may occur between two things which are neither the same as or different from each other. If the two are not the same, then they are the opposite of each other. Allah Most High is exempt from having another the same as. different from, or opposite to Him. In the oneness with Allah which we describe, coming close has no nearness and being far has no distance, for there is no space or time. Someone might ask, "What is being close without nearness and being far without distance?" The answer is: in one's state of closeness or farness one must realize that there is nothing but Allah. Yet you do not know yourself, because you do not know that you are naught but Him. You are He without yourself. It is only when you are He without the letters and the words of knowledge that you know yourself, that you know that you are the Truth. You were not aware that you were the Truth, that there was nothing else but the Truth, and that the Truth was you. When the knowledge comes, through the understanding of the One and Only, then you will know Allah by Allah, not by yourself. To give an example: suppose that your name is Mahmud; yet you do not know that, and you think that you are called Mehmed. One day you learn that you are Mahmud. You continue being what you were; yet when you learn that you are Mahmud, the name Mehmed is taken away from you. Your realization that you are not Mehmed has not made you cease to be Mehmed (because you never were Mehmed); the disappearance of a thing requires its pre-existence. The one who knows and the thing known, the one who joins and the thing joined, the one who sees and the thing seen - are all one. The Knower is His attribute; the Known is His essence. The Joiner is His attribute; the Joined is His essence. The Seer is His attribute, the Seen is His essence. The one who assumes the attribute is the same as the attribute. That is what is meant by the words of our Master the Messenger of Allah: He who knows himself knows his Lord. When one understands this, then one knows that there is neither union nor separation. He is the one who knows; He is the one who is known. He is the one who sees; He is the one who is seen. He is the one who joins; He is the one joined. Nothing unites with Him but Him. Someone who is aware of this is free of the unforgivable sin of attributing partners to Allah. Otherwise he has not breathed a breath that will save him from that sin. For whoever believes that anything other than Allah exists is attributing partners to Him. When Mahmud finds that he is not Mehmed, nothing is substracted from him. Mehmed is not annihilated in Mahmud; nor does he become a part of him, nor does he become other than he; nor does Mahmud enter into Mehmed. Mahmud simply knows himself as Mahmud. Thus he knows himself by himself, not by the name Mehmed for the name Mehmed never existed. How could one know something by means of something that never existed? Many of those who think they know themselves and their Lord and have freed themselves from the delusion of their own existences say that the only way to the true path is through nothingness and the nohingness of nothingness, and that to know God is only possible for one who annihilates himself. They have fallen into error because they have not truly understood the Prophet's words: "He who knows himself knows his Lord." He said about them: Their delusion is their belief that by annihilating themselves they have annihilated his attributing of partners to Allah. First, they believe that it is necessary for them to efface their own being in order to avoid setting themselves up as partners to Allah. Scond, they feel they must annihilate even the concept of annihilation, so as to achieve th otal extinction of all other existence. However, all these activities are nothing but polytheism, the attributing of partners to Allah! For one must fundamentally believe in the possibility of other existences if one believes their annihilation to be necessary. Wthout doubt, doing this is trying to affirm that there is another god besides Allah and is thus attributing partners at the core. May Allah guide and lead such people and ourselves to the true path. If someone asks, "You have demonstrated that if one knew oneself, one would know one's Lord. Yet the one who knows himself is other than Allah. So how can someone other than Allah know Allah? Our answer is: The one who knows his Lord through the knowledge of himself knows that his being exists neither by its own existence of anything other than himself. Perhaps his existence is the existence of Allah without his being either within or without, either together with, or from, Allah. But his being is as it always was: nothing - without annihilation or extinction. For a thing to annihilate itself and become nothing presupposes its existing by its own power, not even having been created by the power of Allah, and that is an impossibility. So the knowledge of oneself is nothing other than Allah's knowledge of Himself, for the self of such a knower is nothing other than the truth. When the Prophet s.a.w said, “He who knows himself…” by word “self” he meant one’s being and whoever reaches that level does not exist either outwardly or inwardly except by the existence of Allah. His being is Allah’s being; his word is Allah’s word; his action is Allah’s action; his knowledge of himself is Allah’s knowledge of Himself. Yet you see Him as other than Allah, for you see yourself as other than Allah. “The believer is the mirror of the believer” (hadith). The Truth is both eyes and the mirror and the vision in the mirror. For the eyes of the believer are the eyes of Allah and the vision he sees is He, within the mirror of truth. For He is not that which that reflects in your eye, nor a knowledge in your mind, nor in your thoughts, nor a figment of your imagination, nor a feeling within you. But He is your eye, your knowledge, your vision. If someone says, “I am the Truth,” do not hear these words from some man, from someone other than He, but hear it from Him, from Allah. For only Allah says, “I am Allah.” You have not attained that which came to the one who uttered these words. If you had reached the state that reached him, you would understand what he means, you would see what he saw, and you would say what he said. For the existence of all and everything is not its own existence but His, without its existing at all. After all that has been said, beware of falling into doubt and imagining that Allah is created like you and everything else. Know that the one who sees and that which is seen, the believer and that in which he believes, the one who knows and that which is known, the one who understands and that which he understands, the creator and the created – are all one. Without seeing, without knowing, without understanding, without words and without letters, without even His own being, the Lord knows Himself by Himself. Know that Allah’s existence and His knowledge of His existence are without any quantity, quality, seeing, thought, knowledge, or other condition. When one looks into a mirror one sees oneself. Whatever appears on you appears on the image in the mirror. When you look upon your image in the mirror, your image is looking upon you. Naturally the eye that looks at you from the mirror is your eye. Then, when the image in the mirror looks at you, is it not true that you are looking at yourself with your own eyes? If the name of the one who is looking in the mirror is Ahmad, and if the image in the mirror could speak and say, “I am Ahmad,” it would be telling the truth. Yet, as the image is reflected so would be the words. It would not be the image that calls itself Ahmad, but the one who is looking into the mirror. So if someone says, “I am the Truth,” do not hear it from any other than from the Truth Himself, for it is not a man who says it; it is the word of Allah. That man who utters these words is nothing but an image reflected upon the empty mirror, one of the infinite attributes of Allah. The reflection is the same as that which is being reflected, and the words of the image are the reflected, and the words of the image are the reflected words of the Real One. The void is a mirror, the creation is the image in it. Man is as the eye of the image reflected in the mirror; the One who is reflected in the image is hidden in the pupil of that eye, thus He sees Himself. Then: 'He is the One who sees: He is the eye. He is the One who is seen. (Shaikh Mahmud Shabustari, Gulsheni-Raz). Only the one who has the eyes of his heart open will understand these words. Is one not to discriminate between the appearance of the beautiful and the ugly, of the good and the bad? Is one to consider a decaying corpse or excrement as God? Allah Most High is beyond and free from such associations. We address those who do not see a corpse as a corpse or excrement as excrement. Our words are for those whose eyes of the heart are not blind, whose ears of the heart are not deaf, and whose tongue of truth is not tied. For the one who does know himself is blind, deaf and tongue tied. The one who is blind and whose tongue is tied can neither see nor understand when the meanings of things are made manifest. These words are for those who are with Allah, not for those who are blind and tongue-tied in believing that things exist without Allah. The ones who understand are the ones who have resolved to find themselves and to know Allah by knowing themselves and who spend all effort, for they have the divine light of the love and the wish for Allah in their hearts. These are the ones who will know that there is no existence other than He. The one who has neither the wish nor the intention for this will not understand. Allah Most High says in the Holy Qur’an: The eyes cannot see Him, but He sees all eyes. (An’am, 104) In other words, no sight can reach Him, while He is in all that sees. The truth of the matter is in this verse. No eyes can see Him, so no one can perceive Him. He is the only existence, and if no one can see Him, then there is no one besides Him. If there were other existences besides Allah, they should have been able to see Him. So the meaning of “The eyes cannot see Him…” is that there is no existence other than His. The Truth can only be conceived of by Itself, which has no other identity except the Truth: Allah sees Himself by Himself and by none other than Himself. His Essence sees His Essence. “The eyes cannot see Him…” because the eyes are created. They came to be after the One who is before the before and after the after. That which is created and temporal and after cannot perceive the Creator who is before the before – permanent – and after the after – eternal. There are no eyes; there are no things; there is only the One, the Truth. The one who does not reach this conclusion cannot possibly come to know himself. Allah sees Himself by Himself, without any form or quality or eyes or sight. There is nothing except Allah; all else is nothing. There is only He. Then what are all these things that we see around us? Nothing that is seen is other then He. The one who sees anything other than He cannot see Him, for one does not see other than what he sees. The one who does not know himself, who sees himself as other than He, cannot see Allah. Every cup shows what is in it. No words suffice to describe a thing to the blind. The blind man does not see; the one who does not understand does not understand. The one who sees, sees; the one who understands, understands. These are the signs of the ones who know Allah. Those who do not know Him will not see Him, whether by teaching or by learning or by thinking. The one who knows only knows through service to a perfect guide. That one will be enlightened by his light and find the path to truth, find oneness and unity…if it be the will of Allah.
May Allah Most High lead us in the straight path – by words and deeds and wisdom and enlightenment which please Him – and to realms and states with which He is pleased. Amin – and you are the Most Merciful of the Merciful. May Allah’s peace and blessing be upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and Companions. Peace be unto the Messengers. All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.
Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom
At-tadbirat al-ilahiyyah fi islah al-mamlakat al-insaniyyah
By Ibn ‘Arabi
Interpreted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al Jerrahi al-Halveti
Publisher: Fons Vitae, 1997