Posted by: Seeker of the Sacred Knowledge | September 1, 2011

Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn al-‘Arabi and the “Oneness of Being” (wahdat al-wujud)


Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi the following: “A Mujtahid Imam in Shari’a, Tasawwuf, Tafsir,Hadith, and other Islamic sciences, and widely regarded as a friend (wali) of Allah Most High, he was the foremost representative of the Sufi school of the ‘oneness of being’ (wahdat al-wujud), as well as a Muslim of strict literal observance of the prescriptions of the Qur’an and Sunna….” (Reliance of the Traveler, p. 1080).

He was nicknamed “Sultan al-‘Arifeen” and “Muhyiddin” and “Shaykh al-Akbar,” and he authored over 500 books and treatises on numerous subjects, took knowledge from over a thousand shaykhs, and studied Hadith under such scholars as Ibn ‘Asakir, Abdul-Haqq al- Ishbili, Ibn Bashkuwal, and others. Among those who expressed praise and admiration of him and spoke highly of him are the following:

1) the Syrian Hanafi Mufti Imam Abdul-Ghani an-Nabulsi;
2) Shaykh al-Islam Jalaluddin as-Suyuti and
3) his teacher Abdur-Ra’uf al-Munawi;
4) Shaykh Ibn ‘Imad al-Hanbali;
5) the scholar of language and hadith al-Fayruzabadi, who often quoted Ibn al-‘Arabi in his Sharh on Bukhari’s Sahih;
6) Imam ‘Afif ad-Din al-Yafi’i;
7) Imam Ibn ‘Ata’Illah as-Sakandari;
8] Shaykh al-Islam ‘Izz ibn Abdus-Salam (after becoming the student of Imam
Shadhuli) who described him as the spiritual Pole (Qutb);
9) Imam as-Safadi, who said about the statement of his ‘Aqida in the beginning of his Futuhat, “I saw that from beginning to end it consists in the ‘Aqida of Abu’l Hasan al-Ash’ari with no difference whatsoever”;
10) the Qur’anic commentators al-Alusi, al-Baydawi, Abu’s Su’ud, and Isma’il Haqqi;
11) the hadith master Ibn an-Najjar;12) Imam al-Qurtubi al-Maliki, in his Tadhkira and other books;
13) the scholar of language and hadith Murtada az-Zabidi;
14) Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari;
15) the Shafi’i mujtahid and hadith master Siraj ad-Din al-Bulqini, who said: “We seek refuge in Allah from saying that Ibn al-‘Arabi affirms hulul and ittihad! He is far above that. Rather, he is one of the greatest Imams and among those who have probed the oceans of the sciences of Qur’an and Hadith,” and his student
16) Siraj ad-Din al-Makhzumi, who said: “Our Shaykh Siraj ad-Din al-Bulqini and
likewise Shaykh Taqi ad-Din as-Subki used to criticize the Shaykh (Ibn al-‘Arabi) in the beginning, then they changed their position after they realized what he was saying and the explanation of his intent;”
17) Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in his Fatawa Hadithiyya (p. 50-54, 335-36);
18) the late hadith master of Syria Shaykh Badr ad-Din al-Hasani;
19) the Hanafi Mujtahid Imam Muhammad Ibn ‘Abidin, who reports in his Hashiyat Radd al-Muhtar (4:238-40) that Jews had interpolated statements of kufr into his work Fusus al-Hikam, and that Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi was innocent of them; …and many others.

The late Syrian authority on Ibn al-‘Arabi and his teachings and writings, Mahmud Ghurab, demonstrated that there were interpolations added to his book “Fusus al-Hikam” (86 according to him) which not only are falsely attributed to Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi, but furthermore contradict what he wrote in the Futuhat al-Makkiyya, of which we have an autograph copy to this day.

Most of those who attack Ibn al-‘Arabi do so by pointing to those false statements found in Fusus al-Hikam, such as that Hell’s punishment will turn into bliss for its inhabitants which those in Paradise will not experience, or Pharaoh is going to eventually be forgiven and attain salvation 405, or that one does not have to die as a Muslim believer to attain salvation in the Hereafter, or that the Prophethood of Muhammad (asws) is not final and other religions are not abrogated with Islam, and so on…none of which Ibn al- ‘Arabi believed in.

Anyone with a fairly good mastery of Arabic can read for themselves the ‘Aqida of Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi in his Futuhat al-Makkiyya, and see how it matches exactly the Aqida of Ahlus-Sunna. As an example, one of the lines of poetry found in the Fusus states:

Subhana man azhara-l ashyaa’ wa Huwa ‘aynuha!
Glory to Him Who manifested all things and is those (same) things!

This idea, that Allah is the creation and the creation is Allah, is the common
misunderstanding of the true meaning of the ‘oneness of being’ (an expression which Shaykh al-Akbar never used in his writings but was coined by his students).

Rather, as Shaykh Abdul-Ghani an-Nabulsi wrote in his book Idah al-Maqsud min Wahdat al-Wujud (Explaining what is meant by ‘oneness of being’), the creation can never be Allah because Being (Wujud) is a necessary attribute of Allah, while the being of the creation is only something possible and not necessary to it, since it is subject to non-being, and a beginning and ending. Because of this primary difference, the creation cannot be Allah. Rather, the creation’s being is not independent of Allah, and it can exist only through the Being of Allah its Originator, the One True Being.

Therefore, the true understanding of this concept of wahdat al-wujud is none
other than that which is expressed in the hadith wherein the Prophet (asws) said, “The truest words ever spoken by a poet are the words of Labid: ‘Indeed, everything – other than Allah – is false (batil)’.”

So when the Sufis say ‘Oneness of Being,’ the ‘Being’ that they are referring to is only the Eternal Being of Allah, the Real (al-Haqq) Most Exalted, Who is indeed One in His Essence, Attributes, and Acts. They do not at all refer to created contingent beings (hawadith), whose existence is only metaphorical and secondary, and not essential to them, and whose true origin is nothingness (as Labid stated). Allah said, “Everything is perishing except His Being” (Q28:88).

The verb form of the word “perishing” (halik) is present perfect, meaning that everything other than Allah is in a constant state of annihilation. The Shadhuli Sufi Shaykh Ibn Ata’Illah as-Sakandari said in his Hikam, “Created beings are established (in existence) by His establishing them, and are (in the same moment) erased (from existence) by the Oneness (Ahadiyya) of His Essence.” The Syrian scholar Muhammad Sa’id al-Buti, in his commentary on the al-Hikam al-‘Ata’iyya, wrote:

“What is the meaning of the expression “oneness of perception” (wahdat al-shuhud)? When I interact with secondary causes with full respect to Allah’s ways, His orders, and His Law, knowing that the sustenance that comes to me is from Allah, the felicity that enters my home is from Allah, my food is readied for me by Allah – even the smallest details, the wealth which I have been graced comes from Allah, the illness that has been put in me or a relative of mine comes from Allah, the cure that followed it is from Allah, …and so forth – when the efficacy of causes melts away in my sight and I no longer see, behind them, other than the Causator Who is Allah Almighty; at that time, when you look right or left, you do
not see except the Attributes of Allah.

As much as you evolve in the world of causes, you do not see – through them – other than the Causator, Who is Allah. At that time you have become raised to what the spiritual masters have called ‘oneness of perception.’ And this oneness of perception is what Allah’s Messenger expressed by the word Ihsan (‘you worship Allah as if you see Him’). You do not see the causes as a barrier between you and Allah.

Rather, you see causes – in the context of this doctrine – very much like pure transparent glass. The glass pane is present, no one denies it, but as much as you stare at it, you do not see anything except what is behind it. Is it not so?… The world is entirely made of glass panes in this fashion. You see in them Allah’s efficacy in permanence, so you are always with Allah Ta’ala. None has tasted the sweetness of belief unless he has reached that perception.”

Finally, Imam Sha’rani wrote in his Yawaqit wa Jawahir (1:9): “During my abdridgment of the Futuhat, I would pause at a number of passages whose agreement with the Ahlus-Sunna I could not perceive, so I removed them from this abdridgement…and a time passed wherein I continued to think that those passages which I omitted were nonetheless from the Shaykh (Ibn al-‘Arabi), until our noble brother the scholar Shamsuddin Abu’t Tayyib al-Madani (d. 955H.) came to us and I mentioned this to him. So he brought to me a copy of the Futuhat, which matched with the autographed copy found in Konya, Turkey, and I did not see in it any of those passages which I omitted from my abridgment.

So by this I came to know that the copies found in Egypt were all reproduced from the copies into which interpolations were added after the Shaykh.” Furthermore, it is known that the Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi rewrote the Futuhat a second time after noticing that his first draft became tampered with. (What is ironic is that the same thing happened to Imam Sha’rani with his own book at- Tabaqat al-Kubra and other books, into which some of his enemies inserted stories containing things contradictory to the Shari’a, with no fear of Allah, as Imam Sha’rani himself mentioned in the beginning of one of his last books al-Anwar al-Qudsiyya)

Shaykh al-Islam Jalaluddin as-Suyuti wrote a whole book in defense of Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn al-‘Arabi, called Tanbih al-Ghabi fi Tanzih Ibn al-‘Arabi (“Warning the Ignoramus concerning the Vindication of Ibn al-‘Arabi), in refutation of the book by Burhan ad-Din al-Biqa’i (one of his teachers) who declared Ibn al-‘Arabi a kafir. In this book Imam Suyuti wrote: “Whatever is transmitted and attributed to the (Sufi) Shaykhs – may Allah be pleased with them – if it contradicts external knowledge, bears various possibilities:

A) first, we do not concede its attribution to them until it is established as authentic;

B) second, after authenticity is established, it may have a figurative meaning; if not, then one should say, ‘perhaps it has a figurative meaning for the people of internal knowledge and the gnostics of Allah (Most High)’;

C) third, this may have come from them in a state of intoxication and
distraction from their senses, and the lawfully intoxicated person is not taken to task as he is not held responsible in such a state.

Holding a bad opinion about them after all these resolutions is a sign of deprivement of success. We seek refuge in Allah from failure and a terrible verdict…” (p. 59-60). This last point is demonstrated by the authentic hadith recorded by Muslim (Kitab at-Tawba, #4932) in which a person traveling alone in an empty land loses his mount (and thus his food and drink), and gives up all hope of living.

When he suddenly finds his mount directly above him with all of his provision, he says out of overwhelming joy, “O Allah, You are my slave and I am your Lord.” His intense happiness overtook his rational senses and caused him to say something that, if someone in control of their rational sense said, would be outright blasphemy. But as Qadi ‘Iyad explained in his commentary on this hadith, he is not to be taken into account because his words were not intended according to their apparent literal meaning… likewise for all of those statements which issue from the Sufis when overwhelmed in their spiritual states.

As for those who claim that he believed in Divine Union (Ittihad) and Indwelling (Hulul), then they are clearly believing in lies, and obviously have not read the numerous passages in the Futuhat (and his other books) wherein he denounces these beliefs as false (such as in Futuhat 2:134). He said in his statement of ‘Aqida, “Know that Allah Most High is One – according to consensus – and that the station of Oneness is transcendent above it being an object of indwelling (hulul), or that it indwell in an object, or that it unites (ittihad) with another object.”

And he said in his Futuhat (Ch. 169): “The Eternal can never be the locus of contingent creations, nor can He indwell in a contingent being (muhdath).” And he said (Futuhat, Ch. 559): “…This demonstrates to you that the created order (‘alam) is not the verysame Being of the Real (al-Haqq), nor did the Real Most High come to indwell in them. For if it were the Being of the Real, or if He indwelled in them, then He Most High would not be Eternal (Qadim) or Unique (Badi’).” And he said: “The gnostic-knower of Allah (‘arif) can never say that he is Allah, even if he reaches the loftiest levels of proximity to Him.

Far be it indeed for the gnostic-knower to say such a thing! Rather, he says, ‘I am the lowly slave…’.” (Sha’rani’s Yawaqit 1:80-81). And he said in the Introduction (1:7) to it: “Whoever casts the scale of the Shari’a from his hand for a single moment perishes.”

Finally, in some of his poetry he writes: “Leave the words of people whose leader/ states that he has united with the One God. Union with Him (ittihad) is impossible, and no one claims it/ except an ignoramus who is stripped of his intellect. And who is empty of His Reality and His Shari’a/ so worship your God and do not associate another with Him.”

Other Scholars That Supported Wahdat-ul-Wujood :

Pir Mehr Ali Shah Jilani

Shaykh Abdul Rahman Shaghouri

Shaykh Abdul Karim Mudarris Al Bayyarah

And Many More

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