بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Regarding the term “Unification of Allah” or “Union with Allah” found in the translations of works on Tasawwuf, Sufism:
“Among the disservices done to Islam by some Western scholars is their tireless insistence that the Sufi term wusul (“to arrive, to reach”) be translated as if it meant ittihad (“to unify”) with the result that their translations of Sufi works are filled with talk of “union with God,” a rendering that has come to be traditional and authoritative among them, while it is a fallacious conception that the masters of Tasawwuf (sufism) from every age (in history) have taken pains to dissociate themselves, their method, and their students from. So it is perhaps fitting to mention two of the aphorisms of the great Shadhili master Ibn ‘Ata’ Illah, who said: Your reaching Allah is reaching the knowledge of Him, for other than that, Our Lord is too exalted for anything to be joined with Him or for Him to be joined with anything; and He also said, The affirmation of electhood (being selected) does not necessitate a negation of the fact of being human. Election is merely like the rise of the daylight’s sun: it appears on the horizon without being part of it. Sometimes He takes it from you and returns you to your own bounds. For daylight is not from you to yourself, but rather it comes over you. (al-Hikam al-‘Ata ‘iyya wa al-munajat al-ilahiyya (9.24), 59, 66, aphorisms 2\3 and 249)”
The Reason why such expressions, that seem ambiguous and baffling to the laymen and translator, are used by classical scholars in their specialized works is because Allah himself speaks in such a manner in the Quran. Allah uses descriptive imagery to convey ideas that have great depths, so the scholars have done the same, these works are considered technical works requiring a technical vocabulary, in this manner they are imitating what the prophet said about the Quran;
The Prophet (saws) who was given the revelation of the Quran said “I have been sent with ‘Jawami-al-Kalim’ (the shortest expression having the widest meaning) and have been made victorious with awe, and while I was sleeping, I saw that the keys of the treasures of the world were placed in my hand.” Abu Huraira added: Allah’s Apostle has gone, and you people are utilizing those treasures, or digging those treasures out.’(Bukhari)
The Prophet Muhammad (saws) said, Jawami’-al-Kalim means that Allah expresses in one or two statements or thereabouts the numerous matters that used to be written in the books revealed before (the coming of) the Prophet.
This means the shortest expression containing the widest amount of knowledge, therefor to convey something using descriptive imagery, to speak of it how it is seen and experienced in peoples lives is Jawami-al-Kalim.
That treasure is the knowledge contained in these expressions we find in the Quran and Sunnah. The reason why expressions which are wrongly translated as “unification with Allah” are used, but rather mean “the Knowledge of Allah” is because the scholars understand how the human conscious perceives the world and gains knowledge, man gains knowledge from all his senses what is wrongly termed unification is rather inner realization of Allah’s “Hand” (or actions) in the moment they are experiencing (“seeing Allah”), so a person gains certainty that what they witnessed is the will of Allah acting in the world (as events are unfolding).
The prophet (saws) himself used a similar expression in the Hadith of Jibril to describe what Ihsan (Human perfection) means.
When Jibril visited the prophet (saws) and the companions (r.a) in the form of a man he sat with them and asked the Prophet (saws) four questions, What is Islam? What is Iman? What is Ihsan? and When is the Hour?
When the prophet (saws) was asked about Ihsan He (saws) said; Ihsan (Human perfection) is “That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you don’t see Him then truly He sees you.”
When Jibril (as) went away, the prophet (saws) asked, ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’ Umar said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘He was Jibril who came to you to teach you your deen.” (Muslim and Bukhari narrated the hadith and it has a grade Higher than Sahih and that is “Agreed Upon”).
All this relates to knowledge man gains from the unseen world (the quantum world), between our human sight of the physical world and our sight of the inner Unseen world is a Barzakh (barrier or veil) over our perception stoping us from seeing that world of Angels and Jinn and everything else Allah created in it completely; “Behind them lies the intervening (Barzakh) barrier (stretching) to the day of their resurrection” (23:99-100) meaning this veil is only temporary in this Universe and man who was created in Jannah (heaven), naturally has the capacity to see the unseen world if that barrier wasn’t present.
The prophet (saws) said this Barzakh (veil or barrier), which stops us from seeing that world, which exists around us, can be removed when we do certain things. The Prophet (saws) said: “If your hearts were always in the state that they are in during dhikr (a time when the heart is receiving light from Allah), the Angels would come to see you to the point that they would greet you in the middle of the road.” (Muslim).
In other words if we where always receiving light from Allah we could see through the Barzakh (veil), and see the Angels to such an extent they would greet us in the middle of the road, meaning this is how much we would become accustomed to them in our life.
Imam Nawawi in his Sharh Sahih Muslim commented on this hadith saying: “This kind of sight is shown to someone who persists in meditation (muraqaba), reflection (fikr), and anticipation (iqbal) of the next world.”
To “worship Allah as if you see Him” isn’t figurative speech, it is literal, and to explain the manner of this in as a succinct a way as possible and with out using Jawami al Kalim like “Reaching Allah” (or ignorantly “Union with Allah”); many of Islam’s greatest Ullumah, such as Imam al Ghazali, Ibn Arabi, Shaykh Abdul Qadir al Gilani (and others to numerous to name), said that the unseen world which the Jinn and Angels exist in is the world our imagination (our minds eye) looks into when we imagine something, the quantum universe, but their is a barzakh (barrier) between us and that world preventing us from seeing that world completely.
This barzakh (barrier or veil) has been removed for the Prophets and Awliya so they can see the Jinn and Angels, the veil itself isn’t just one veil it is made up of layers of veils and each of these veil’s is removed as man gains insight and increases in Human Perfection (Ihsan). This continues until he attains Ihsan completely and can “worship Allah as if he sees him”.
As if he sees him here means sees the signs of Allah in creation and acts upon them like saydinah Khidr did when he taught Musa (as), which Allah mentioned in surah al Kahf (18), with the example of the boy the ship and the wall, each time al Khidr (ra) received knowledge regarding these matters from the Unseen world and Musa (as) who was accustomed to receiving out right revelations could not perceive how al Khidr knew, he was reading the Signs Musa had not yet learned how to read, Allah was rather sending Angels to speak to Musa (as) directly.
The Prophet said: “Ittaqu firasat al-mu’min fa innahu yara bi nurillah”, “Beware the vision of the believer, for he sees with the light of Allah,” then he recited the verse: “Therein lie portents for those who read the signs” (al-mutawassimin) (15:75) (Tirmidhi)
Allah also said; “Those who strive hard in Us, We shall most surely guide them in our Ways” (29:69) “In everything He (Allah) has a sign which declares that He is One.”
Allah states this entire matter very clearly in the Quran, Allah will say on the day of judgment to people: “We have stripped from thee the Veil that covered thee and thy (inner) vision, this day is iron” (50:22)
“Behind them lies the intervening (Barzakh) barrier (stretching) to the day of their resurrection” (23:99-100).
It’s interesting that Allah says the barazh stretches to the day of judgment and not across space, this reference to time rather than location has significance in physics, relating to relativity, time (time dilation), the nature of the barrier (Barzakh) or field between the seen and unseen quantum world, and the nature of how Angels exist in that world.
“Some faces that Day shall be Nadirah (shining and radiant), looking at their Lord” (75:22-23)
“And thus We gave Abraham [his first] insight into [Allah’s] mighty dominion over the heavens and the earth and [this] to the end that he might become one of those who are inwardly sure”. (6:75)
The Sight of Allah’s dominion is with mans inner perception, Allah removes the Barzakh (veil) over mans perception and he then sees the unseen world that others can not.
“Means of insight have now come unto you from your Sustainer [through this Quran]. Whoever, therefore, chooses to see, does so for his own good; and whoever chooses to remain blind, does so to his own hurt. And [say unto the blind of heart]: “I am not your keeper.”(6:104)
The Quran is a means to guide man to this insight Allah gave the prophets, those who achieve Ihsan (Human perfection) Allah removes the Barzakh for them like he did for the prophets (saws), a persons depth of perception into that world is according to his capacity and the perfection of his inner sight.
Imam al Ghazali said perfection of our inner sight can not be achieved until after death, “this day is iron” means we will have certainty with that vision.
“In matters of faith, He has ordained for you that which He had enjoined upon Noah and into which We gave thee [O Muhammad] insight through revelation as well as that which We had enjoined upon Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus: Steadfastly uphold the [true] faith, and do not break up your unity therein. [And even though] that [unity of faith] to which thou callest them appears oppressive to those who are wont to ascribe to other beings or forces (the Jinn and Shayateen) a share in His divinity, Allah draws unto Himself everyone who is willing, and guides unto Himself everyone who turns unto Him”. (42:12-15)
“which We have revealed unto thee”, implying that it was only through revelation that the Prophet Muhammad came to know “that which God had enjoined upon Noah”. The Prophet gained knowledge through his perception of the unseen world and the revelations Allah gave him from that unseen world.
“This [revelation, then] is a means of insight for mankind, and a guidance and grace unto people who are endowed with inner certainty”.(45:20) it is because man sees with his minds eye that Allah is speaking about inner certainty, more accurately it is mans heart that sees the unseen world as Allah mentions in the Quran literally, but sight is naturally located with the eyes.
When Allah punishes people he deprives them of the insight and guidance that they normally receive from their hearts and He leaves them to go astray accumulating more sins for which their punishment in the end will be more severe, this then is the opposite of receiving insight.
“HAST THOU ever considered [the kind of man] who makes his own desires his deity, and whom Allah has [thereupon] let go astray, knowing [that his mind is closed to all guidance], and whose hearing and heart He has sealed (the hearts perceptive faculty is stopped), and upon whose sight He has placed a veil? (his inner senses) Who,then, could guide him after Allah [has abandoned him]? Will you not, then, bethink yourselves?” (45:23-25)
“For he (the prophet Lot) had truly warned them of Our punishing might; but they stubbornly cast doubt on these warnings, and even demanded that he give up his guests [to them]: whereupon We deprived them of their sight [and thus told them, as it were]: “Taste,then,the suffering which I inflict when My warnings are disregarded!” (54:36-37)
Imam al Ghazali said regarding the verse “We have stripped from thee the Veil that covered thee and thy (inner) vision, this day is iron” (50:22); In that hour (it) shall be said unto (man), “We have stripped from thee the Veil that covered thee and thy (inner) vision, this day is iron” (50:22). Now that covering Veil (on the inner eye) is that of the imagination and fantasy (He “who makes his own desires his deity”, the punishment for this is, “upon whose sight He has placed a veil?”); and therefore the man who has been deluded (blinded in his inner sight) by his own fancies, his false beliefs, and his vain imaginations replies (on that day): “Our Lord! We have seen Thee and heard Thee! O send us back and we will do good. Verily now we have certainty in knowledge!”
If we understand the physical world and the unseen world are the same Universe and that human consciousness or our imagination is a state of matter, it is created from matter, and made from the small quantum particles (subatomic particles) that exist in the universe like light, It becomes easier to realize that our minds inner sight (imagination) is looking into the quantum unseen world.
If we imagine a brick wall in our mind, we are literally moving and arranging these quantum particles to form that image in our mind, that image of the brick wall is real and made from real substances.
From here we can understand how literal statements like “worshipping Allah as if you see him” are.
The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: ‘The angels are created from light (the scholars said it is the same light we see in our mind that shapes the images of our imagination), just as the Jinn are created from smokeless fire (a fire that isn’t fueled by wood burning) and mankind is created from what you have been told about.’ (Muslim))
The Angels are created from the same light we see in our mind so it isn’t to difficult to see how they are charged with being inspiration for mans guidance and the bearers of Allah’s revelation, which the prophets received through their inner perceptive faculties. It also shouldn’t be to difficult to see how the Jinn, who are being tested on earth like mankind can similarly be a source of inspiration for Good or Evil and they influence man through his perceptive faculties whispering to him what they want him to do.
Throughout the body is the nervous system, it is literally the bodies electrical wiring and it is connected to the brain, heart and every other organ in the body, it is this quantum aspect of mans physiology that beings made from quantum particles such as Angels and Jinn can interact with man through, this reality everyone on earth is subject to through out his life just like the Laws of physics.
Our inner perceptive faculty that sees the unseen world is the heart, It was reported from Jabir ibn Abdullah that some angels came to the Prophet while he was sleeping. Some of them said, ”He is sleeping.” Others said, ”His eyes are sleeping but his heart is awake.” Then they said, ”There is an example for this companion of yours.” One of them said, ”Then set forth an example for him.” Some of them said, ”He is sleeping.” The others said, ”His eyes are sleeping but his heart is awake.” Then they said, ”His example is that of a man who has built a house and then offered therein a banquet and sent an inviter (messenger) to invite the people. So whoever accepted the invitation of the inviter, entered the house and ate of the banquet, and whoever did not accept the invitation of the inviter, did not enter the house, nor did he eat of the banquet.” Then the angels said, ”Interpret this example to him so that he may understand it.” Some of them said, ”He is sleeping.” The others said, ”His eyes are sleeping but his heart is awake.” And then they said, ”The house stands for Paradise and the call maker is Muhammad; and whoever obeys Muhammad, obeys Allah; and whoever disobeys Muhammad, disobeys Allah. Muhammad separated the people (i.e., through his message, the good is distinguished from the bad, and the believers from the disbelievers).”.”(Bukhari)
“Know that Allah comes between a man and his heart”(8:24)
Revelation was sent down to the heart of the prophet (saws) to perceive, “Which the True Spirit hath brought down, Upon thy heart, that thou mayst be (one) of the warners” (26:193-194)
The heart is our normal perceptive faculty present in all mankind, which Allah guides us through or punishes through, “We have revealed to you as We revealed to Nuh and the Prophets who came after him.” (4:162), we follow the emotions we feel there and they are according to how we sense matters, a study of the hearts nervous system and the neurons present there will show it is a mini brain, built to sense and remember emotions, the hearts role and importance above the brain can be gaged by the fact that in the fetus the heart develops long before the brain does to regulate the body.
Imam Suyuti said “Whomever Allah desires to guide, He expands his breast to Islam, by casting into his heart a light which it [the heart] expands for and accepts, as reported in a hadith; and whomever He, Allah, desires to send astray, He makes his breast narrow”. (6:125, Tafsir al Jalalayn) the heart produces the largest electromagnetic field in the body, in literal terms it produces a field of light that can be measured by scientist, this electromagnetic field is produced my almost all living creatures and it is how they sense the world around them. When two waves touch, as physics states, they can become coherent, or synchronies with each other, and a transfer of information occurs between them without hindrance, non coherent waves, that haven’t synchronized, transfer information less clearly.
“And whosoever believeth in Allah, He guideth his heart. And Allah is knower of all things.” (64:11)
“And obey not him whose heart we have made heedless of Our Remembrance, who followeth his own lust.” (18:28)
The heart is the faculty that receives information through our senses, Lust muddles the senses so the person can not perceive clearly through his faculties.
It was once said: O Sayyid! A gnostic of high degree used to say, ‘Being a dervish (an ascetic) is to correct the imagination.’ In other words, nothing other than the Real (Haq) should remain in the heart (Otherwise the imagination will only see the lies and false beliefs the evil heart contains). In truth, he spoke well. O Sayyid! Since the veil is nothing but imagination, the veil must be lifted through imagination. Night and day you must dwell in imagining Oneness (Tawhid). (Shaykh Baqi’s son, Khwaja Khurd)
Tawhid of the heart here means unattaching the heart from this world, not having any feelings or emotions towards anything in it and only remembering Allah. This lesson Allah has been teaching mankind from the earliest of revelations He sent to man, Allah said “But those will prosper who purify themselves (their inner selfs). And glorify the name of their Lord in prayer. No, you prefer the life of this world; But the hereaft er is better and more enduring (here Allah is encouraging people to renounce the world). And this is in the books of the earliest revelations. The books of Abraham and Moses. (Surah al Alla 87:14-19)
What is meant by “this day is iron,” (50:22) is that what was veiling our inner sight, the veil (Barzakh) on our imagination, will be lifted on this day (Qiyamah) and our inner eye (Imagination), will from now on be focused and see straight, permanently seeing the unseen world and everything Allah created in it like Heaven, Hell, the Angels and Jinn, “Some faces that Day shall be Nadirah (shining and radiant), looking at their Lord” (75:22-23).
So what man once thought was imagination, illusion and unreal he will see with his inner eye clearly in front of him and it will be tangible and real to his vision like this world is, it will be solid to his eye as Iron (Hadid). The unseen world, like the Angels, is made from subatomic particles, the particles are smaller than atoms all linked together to create something bigger, like invisible light it to is invisible to us, but we will be able to see when Allah lifts the barzakh from our imagination and our lower self won’t be present to muddy the picture in our mind creating delusions in us, we will only see what is actually there.
With this understanding of what the unseen world is, Allah described the entire day of judgment with the simple phrase, “this day is iron”, this is “Jawami al Kalim” of everything we have mentioned so far, but Allah in His perfect speech was able to describe it with 3 simple words in arabic.
Allah in Arabic literally uses the word “Hadid” (iron), and this is the descriptive imagery He employs to describe in short sentences what would take pages to teach, which is why the works of the scholars are considered technical works and not easy to understand, they employ much descriptive imagery that requires study in others fields of knowledge (prerequisite knowledge) to know the proper context of it, there is no such thing as actual “Union with god”, translators added this from their preconceived ideas they learnt from elsewhere, outside of islam and hence it is entirely false, most translators in fact are not qualified to translate these works it is like asking a physicist to translate a chemistry textbook.
“Union” is simply a reference to mans perception being directed to what Allah wants it to see at that moment He is acting in creation, in other words seeing His signs as he mentions in the Quran many times. The person witnesses Allah’s “hand” in creation and is one of those people “who worships Allah as if he sees Him” because he is following what Allah is showing him, this is the meaning behind the story of Khidr in the Quran who was following what Allah was showing him at each moment.
This entire matter is summed up in a famous hadith Qudsi where Allah literally says when He loves a person he takes control of all his perceptive faculties and guides them to perceive Him in life; The Messenger of Allah (saws) said that Allah (mighty and sublime be He) said: “Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory (extra) works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.” (Bukhari).
After Allah lifts the veil from all of mankind’s sight on the day of Judgment He says about man in the Quran (50:23), “His companion (the Angel which accompanied man through out his life and was right next him) will say: “Here is (your record) ready with me”.
The first thing man will see when the veil from his inner sight is removed is his recording Angel who he was blind to his entire life, yet the prophets (saws) could see them.
The words of the prophet (saws) “That you worship Allah as if you see Him” is a short expression of the reality of Ihsan when it is experienced and achieved, the Prophet (saws) spoke from his own experience with Ihsan to answer Jibril and teach us. When someone begins to practice perfecting his inner self, slowly as he draws closer to Allah, Allah will lift one veil blinding his inner perception after another until his inner sight becomes sharper and he gains more insight and wisdom.
When he reaches Ihsan (Human Perfection) he would be worshiping Allah as if he sees him, the closer he draws nearer to Allah the better he will be able to read and see Allah’s signs in creation.
“We detail Our signs for people who know” (6:97), “On the earth are Signs for those with certainty in Faith”(51:20), “That is, [signs] for the arifun (Awliya, those who have experience with Allah) by which they find evidence for their ma’rifa (gnosis)”(51:20, Tafsir al Tustari). The word “sign” (ayat) appears more than 351 times in the Qur’an instructing people to read the various kinds of signs that Allah has created for us.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “We, the Community of Prophets, are the people most severely tried, then others according to the perfection of their faith.”
The Prophet (saws) said, “Many amongst men attained perfection but amongst women none attained perfection except Maryam (Mary), the daughter of ‘Imran, and Asiya, the wife of Fir’aun (Pharaoh). And the superiority of Aishah (the prophet’s wife) to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (an Arabic dish) to other meals.” (Bukhari).
“Ina lilah wa ina ilayhi rajioo
A more in depth discussion on the nature of the Unseen World (Ghayb), the Quantum Universe, Human Physiology and how Human consciousness acquires knowledge is discussed in the work Who Was Al Khidr.