AN ANSWER TO A UNIVERSITY STUDENT
The following is the simplified translation of a letter written as an answer to a university student by ’Abdulhakîm-i Arwâsî ‘quddisa sirruh’ as he was the senior professor of Tasawwuf at the Madrasat al-mutahassisîn (Faculty of Theology), which was located in the yard of the Sultân Selîm Mosque in Istanbul during the declining years of the Ottoman Empire:
Go out of the area of the omnipotence of Allâhu ta’âlâ with all your strength, if you can! But you cannot. Outside of this area is nonexistence. And the realm of nonexistence is also under His omnipotence!
On an occasion, somebody asked [the great Walî] Ibrâhim ibn Ad’ham ‘quddisa sirruh’ for advice. He said: “If you accept six things, nothing you do will harm you. These six things are:“
1) When you mean to commit a sin, do not eat the food He gives! Does it befit you to eat His food and to disobey Him?
2) When you want to rebel against Him, go out of His Domain! Does it befit you to be in His Domain and to be in rebellion against Him?
3) When you want to disobey Him, do not sin where He sees you! Sin where He does not see you! It simply is unbecoming to be in His Domain, to eat His food and then to sin where He sees you!
4) When the Angel of Death comes to take away your soul, ask him to wait till you repent! You cannot turn that angel back! Repent before he comes, while you are able, and you have the chance at this very hour, for the Angel of Death comes unexpectedly!
5) When the two angels Munker and Nakir come to question you in the grave turn them back! Do not let them test you!” “It is impossible,” said the person who asked for his advice. Shaikh Ibrâhîm said, “Then prepare your answers now!
6) On the Day of Rising, when Allâhu ta’âlâ orders: ‘Sinners, go to Hell!’ say that you will not!” The person said, “Nobody will listen to me,” and then repented, and he did not break his repentance till death. There is Divine Effect in the words of Awliyâ’.
Ibrâhîm ibn Ad’ham ‘quddisa sirruh’ was asked, “Allâhu ta’âlâ declares: ‘O My human creatures! Ask Me! I will accept, I will give’ However, we ask but He does not give?” Hadrat Ibrâhîm said: “You entreat Allâhu ta’âlâ, but you do not obey Him. You know His Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ta’âlâ ’alaihi wa salam’, but you do not follow him. You read the Qur’ân al-kerîm, but you do not follow the way it shows. You utilize Allâhu ta’âlâ’s blessings, but you do not thank Him. You know that Paradise is for those who worship, but you do not make preparations for it. You know that He created Hell for the disobedient, but you do not fear it. You see what happened to your fathers and grandfathers, but you do not take warning. You do not see your own defects, and you search for defects in others. Such people must be thankful because it does not rain stones on them, because they do not sink into the earth, and because it does not rain fire from the sky! What else could they want? Would not this suffice as a recompense for their prayers?”
Let us come to the point: As you have not come out of nonexistence to this world of existence on your own, so you cannot go there on your own. The eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear, the organs with which you perceive, the intellect with which you think, the hands and feet which you use, all the roads you will pass, all the places you will be, in short, all the members and systems connected with your body and soul, all of them, are Allâhu ta’âlâ’s property and creatures. You cannot misappropriate anything from Him! He is Hayy and Qayyûm, i.e., He sees, knows, and hears, and every moment He keeps in existence everything that exists. Even for a moment, He is never unaware of the state of all things, nor does He ever fail to control all of them. He does not let anybody steal His property. He is never incapable of punishing those who disobey His commands. It would not make any difference if, for instance, He had not created any human being on this globe, as He did not on the moon, on Mars or on other planets; His greatness would not have diminished for this reason.
A hadîth qudsî says: “If [all of] your ancestors and descendants, the young and the old, the alive and the dead, human beings and genies, were like My most devoted, Most obedient human creature ‘’alaihi’s-salâm’, My Greatness would not be increased. Conversely, if you all were like My enemy, who opposes Me and despises My Prophets, My Greatness would not ever decrease. Allâhu ta’âlâ is free from needing you; He does not need any of you. As for you, in order that you might exist and keep on existing and in everything you do, you always need Him.” He sends light and heat by means of the sun. He makes the moon reflect waves of light. Out of black soil, He creates many vivid-coloured, sweet-scented flowers and beautiful sights. From the breeze, He pours out the breath which gives relief to hearts. From the stars that are at a distance of myriads of years’ way, He makes it rain haloes on to the earth, out of which you came about and under which you will be buried in the end. Through many vibrations, He creates effectivity in particles. [On the one hand, by turning dirt, which you dislike and are disgusted with, into soil by means of His smallest, most trifling creatures (germs), He turns this soil, which you tread on, into a white-of-egg-like substance, protein, the constructive matter of your body, through the factory of plants.
On the other hand, by combining the water in the earth with the suffocating gases in the air, again in the factory of plants and by storing in them the energy which He sends from the sky, He creates starchy and sugary substances and oils, the source of energy, that will operate the machine of your body.] Thus, in plants, which He causes to grow in fields, wildernesses, mountains, in rills, and in animals, that He enables to live on the earth and under the seas, He prepares food which will go into your stomach and nourish you. By establishing chemistry laboratories in your lungs, He separates poison from your blood and puts the useful matter of oxygen in its place. By establishing physics laboratories in your brain, the information coming from your organs of perception, through your nerves, are taken there and, as He has placed a magnetic power into the stone of iron, so with the effect of intelligence, which He has placed into your brain and other immaterial powers, which He has placed into your heart, various plans, commands and actions are prepared simultaneously through His creation. By making your heart work through very complex mechanisms, which you consider very extraordinary, He makes rivers of blood flow in your blood vessels. He weaves many a dumbfounding net of roads through your nerves. He conceals stocks in your muscles. By means of many other phenomena, He equips and completes your body. He establishes and fits all of these in an order and harmony to which you give such names as the laws of physics, chemical reactions or biological events. He places centers of power within you. He projects the necessary precautions into your soul and conscience. He also gifts a treasure called the intellect, a gauge named reason, a means named thought, and a key which you call will. In order that you might use each of these correctly, He gives you sweet enticements and bitter warnings, hints, inclinations and goals. And as a greater blessing, He clearly sends instructions through faithful and dependable Prophets ‘’alaihimu’s-salâm’. In conclusion, operating the machine of your body and giving you the necessary instructions, He hands it over to you so that you may use and utilize it conveniently.
He does all these things not because He needs you, your will or help, but to make you happy by giving you a distinguished position and authority among His creatures. If instead of leaving it to your hands, your feet and all of your limbs, which you can use at will, He used them without you knowing it, as is the case with the beating of your heart, the expansion of your lungs and the circulation of your blood, if He controlled you by force, with reflex actions, with paralysed hands or feet, if each of your actions were a vibration and every movement were a twitch, could you claim to possess yourself and the things He has lent you? If He made you move under the influence of external powers, like the lifeless or irrational and senseless exterior and interior powers like pack animals, and if He put into your mouth a morsel of the blessings – which you take in large amounts to your houses now –, could you take and eat that morsel? Do you think of your state before and after you were born? Where were you, in what were you, during the creation of this globe, on which you live, eat and drink, go about, amuse and divert yourself? On this planet, you have discovered the means that are remedies for your diseases and the ways of defending yourself against the attacks of your enemies and the harms of wild and poisonous animals. Where were you while the stones and soil of this globe were being baked on fires in the ovens of creation and while its water and air were being distilled in the chemistry laboratories of the Omnipotence?
Have you ever thought: Where were you while the lands, which you claim to be yours today, were gliding away from the seas, while mountains, rivers, plateaus and hills were being laid down? Where and how were you while, with Allâhu ta’âlâ’s Omnipotence, the salty waters of the seas evaporated and formed clouds in the sky, while the rains, falling from those clouds, took substances [of nourishment prepared by lightning and waves of power and energy in the sky] into the motes of burnt, dried soil, and while these substances, stirred [by the influence of the rays of light and heat], vibrated and nourished the cells of life? Today, they say that you have descended from monkeys, and you believe it. When they say that Allâhu ta’âlâ created you, gave you life, will make you die and that He alone makes everything, you don’t want to believe! O man! What are you? What were you in the veins of your father? At one time, in the veins of your father, whom you insult with such terms as imbecile, old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, you used to make him feel uncomfortable. Who made you move then, and why did you disturb him?
If he had wished, he could have thrown you into a rubbish-heap, but he did not. He hid you like a deposit. While he was so kind as to entrust you to a chaste woman, where you would be nourished unsparingly, and struggled to protect you for a long time, why do you insult your father by holding him responsible for your inconveniences, instead of reserving a share of gratitude for him and your Creator for the blessings you have been given? Moreover, why do you throw your own deposit into the rubbish-heaps dirtied by everybody? When people around you follow your wishes and desires you believe that you are creating everything with your intellect, knowledge, science, power and strength, and that you are inventing all accomplishments. You forget about the task which Allâhu ta’âlâ has assigned to you, and you refrain from that high official duty and attempt to claim ownership of the deposit. You want to regard and introduce yourself as the owner and the dominant one. On the other hand, when those around you do not follow your desires, when the external forces seem to overcome you, you can see inside you nothing but regret and frustration, incapacity and despair. You claim that you own no will or option, that you are under the slavery of everything, that you are like a machine, automatic but with a broken spring.
You understand fate not as al- ’ilm al-mutaqaddim (the eternal knowledge) but as al-jabr almutahakkim (the despotic compulsion). While saying this, you are not unaware of the fact that your mouth is not like a record-player. When your favorite meals do not come to your table, you hold out your hand and tongue and eat the dry bread which you are able to obtain, though you are free to eat or not and die of hunger. You eat the dry morsels that are not crammed into your mouth by force! You eat but also think that you are deprived of doing everything. You do not think that your hand and mouth have moved under your own control, and it has not been caused by involuntary movements. But, though you possess your self-control even at such times as this, when you have to, you deem yourself compelled, a slave, in short, nothing against external effects. O man! Which of these are you? You claim to be ‘all’ when you thrive well and when success and victory are with you, and ‘nothing’ under the force of fate when the affairs turn out bad and contrary to your wishes? Are you ‘everything’, or ‘nothing’? O mankind! O man who is floating on deficiency and stupidity! You are neither ‘all’ nor ‘nothing’! At any rate, you are something between these two. Yes, you are far from being inventive, dominant and victorious over everything.
But, you have an irrefutable freedom and option and a wish and choice rendering you authoritative. Each of you is an official undertaking individual and collective duties under the command of Allâhu ta’âlâ, who is the Unequalled Authority and Absolute and Unconditional Owner without a partner! You can do your duties under the rules and regulations established by Him, within the limits of your ranks assigned by Him, within your responsibilities and means which He has created and entrusted to you as deposits. He alone is the Sole Commander, the Unique Ruler and the Single Owner. There is no other commander besides Him, nor a ruler resembling Him, nor a partner with Him. Unless the aims and purposes which you lay claim to and rush upon so zealously, the struggles which you set about, the glories which you take pride in, and your accomplishments are for Him, they are false and vain. Then why do you give a place to lies in your hearts and turn towards polytheism? Why do you not obey the commands of Allâhu ta’âlâ, the Unequalled Ruler, and know Him as the Creator? But instead you run after thousands of imaginary idols and get drowned in distress? Whatever you run towards, isn’t it an idea, an option or a belief that drags you on? Why do you look for that ideal belief in someone other than Allâhu ta’âlâ?
Why do you not direct your belief to Allâhu ta’âlâ and place your option in this belief and in the deeds which are the results of this belief? When you know Allâhu ta’âlâ as the Absolute Ruler and work without violating this trust and responsibilitiy, indeed, you will love one another and be attached brothers! What will not the Mercy of Allâhu ta’âlâ create from this brotherhood? Every favour you gain is the result of a brotherhood produced by the belief in Allâhu ta’âlâ and of His mercy and benevolence. And every trouble or calamity you experience is the result of fury, resentment and hostility, which are infused in you as a retribution for not paying attention to Allâhu ta’âlâ, for cruelty and injustice. And this is the result of attempting to make laws by yourselves or by following others who will compete with Allâhu ta’âlâ; in short, of not believing only in Allâhu ta’âlâ with a true belief in His Unity. Briefly, the chief reason for the suffering of humanity is the crime of polytheism committed against Allâhu ta’âlâ.
The darkness of corruption that has surrounded the horizons of humanity, despite the improvements in knowledge and science, is the result of polytheism, disbelief, lack of belief in Allâhu ta’âlâ’s Unity and lack of mutual love. Unless they love one another, however hard human beings may try, they will not escape sufferings and disasters. And, unless they know Allâhu ta’âlâ, love Him, regard Him as the Absolute Ruler and worship Him, men cannot love one another. Whatever might be thought of other than Allâhu ta’âlâ and the path of Allâhu ta’âlâ, all of them are paths leading to divisiveness and wretchedness. Can’t you see that those who attend the mosque love one another and those who haunt the tavern fight? Whatever you give your heart to, or whomever you worship besides Allâhu ta’âlâ, each of them can be opposed and equated. And all of them are under the omnipotence and will of Allâhu ta’âlâ. He is the Single Ruler who does not have a partner, match, like, opposite or equivalent, and He alone is the One whose equivalent is non-valid, false, a nonexistent equivalent, the existence of which is impossible. Whatever you follow, worship, love or regard as the absolute ruler besides Allâhu ta’âlâ, be it known that it will burn together with you.
Markaz-i dâ’ira-i iflâs wa bî nawâî Sar shâr-i sahbây-i khodgâmî wa nâ ’âshinâî (In the middle of bankruptcy, absolutely I am with no good fortune. Pre-occupied with my woes, trying to save my self, I lack the expertise) as-Sayyid ’Abdulhakîm-i Arwâsî