By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
The special nearness or proximity of God to man (Qurb), as mentioned in the Hadiths can only be attained through voluntary worship, humanitarian works and virtuous efforts. By advancing through the obligatory acts to the voluntary worship, that encompasses not only ritual acts of worship but also humanitarian, social and welfare causes, one attains special close relationship with God. It is beautifully explained in the following Prophetic saying, known as Hadith-e-Qudsi:
“Allah, the Exalted, has said: “My servant keeps on coming closer to Me through performing voluntary worship until I love him so much so that I become his hearing with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me something, I will surely give him, and if he seeks My protection (refuge), I will surely protect him”. (Sahih Bukhari)
This special bond with God is built by losing oneself for Divine. However, it is different from the general relationship between God and man, whether believer or non-believer. The believers of God who attain such special and close personal relationship with Him are known in the Quran as “Aulia Allah” (the friends of God). The holy Quran says: “Behold! Verily, on friends of Allah, there is no fear, nor they shall grieve” (Surah Yunus, verse: 62).
Moreover, this nearness and proximity can only be perceived by the insight of faith (Farasat-e-Iman), not through the ordinary sensation of physical sight. Farasat is a sense of visual acumen, perception and insight. The light which gleams in the heart of the illuminated mystic endows him with a supernatural power of insight (Farasat), as outlined in the prophetic saying: “Beware the Believer’s insight (Farasat), because he sees with the Light of God”.
Other prophetic traditions which can be cited in the support of Wahdat ul Wujud are as the following:
God the Almighty says, “O man! I was ill, but you didn’t visit me.” Man says, “My Lord! You are the Lord of all the realms, how can I visit You?” God says, “Do you not know that so and so of my servants got ill, but you did not visit him. If you had visited him, you would have found Me with him.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith of Birr)
God the All-Mighty says: “My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties that I have imposed upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory 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, his foot with which he walks.” (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith of Riqaq).
Sufis believe that Wahdat-ul-Wujud emanates from the lofty Islamic doctrine of Tawheed (belief in unity of God). Deeply linked with each other, both the doctrines exhort man to organise and discipline the external and internal aspects of his life in line with the unity of God, something that will ultimately earn him the desired experience of union with the Supreme Being. This is precisely what the Sufis mean by their perception of Wisal-e-Ilahi (union with God).
Imbued in the doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wujud, Sufis conceive of three modes of Tawheed:
First, Tawheed al-Zaat (unity of existence), meaning that all that exists around us is only One in essence. And everything that we can perceive, feel or know of is a part of God’s existence. So, for instance, when we harm a creature, animate or inanimate, we should not forget that by doing so, we are actually coming at odds with God, even though indirectly.
Second, Tawheed al-Sifat (unity of attributes), that is, all noble traits, good forces, branches of knowledge and all intellectual faculties belong only to Allah the Almighty.
Third, Tawheed al-Af’al (unity of actions), which implies that every act that occurs in the world is a direct act of God. The unity of actions is supported by the Quranic verses: “All is from God” and “God has created you and what you do.”
Such an all-embracing and all-pervading view of Tawhid, as explained above, is the hard-earned result of turning inward and experience of looking within. Heart is the heart of the matter when we talk about Wahdat-ul-Wujud. One cannot have an experience or realisation of it, until one’s heart and soul are completely lost in it. Therefore, many Sufis and Islamic scholars are of the view that Wahdat-ul-Wujud is not something to be rationally discussed and hotly debated. They opine that when existents and events are not referred ultimately to God, it is impossible to explain them fully. However, a holistic idea of Wahdat ul Wujud makes it clear that there is striking similarity between the rational understanding of Islam and that of those who follow the Sufi doctrines.
In essence, the Sufi Islamic doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wujud asserts that the only thing that exists in the world is the Being of God. Nothing except Him has any real existence. Whatever is seen, touched, known, or perceived is only a fantasy or illusion to man. Thus, Sufi saints propounded a higher form of belief in Tawhid (oneness of God). Because they professed “La Majuda Illal Lah” (there is no existence except God), which is, in fact, a greater understanding of the Islamic Kalimah of Tawhid: “La Ilaha Illal Lahu” (there is no God but Allah).
This higher spiritual perception of God, which is in full synergy with the Islamic doctrine of Tawhid, is the core essence of the Sufi doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wujud. But the orthodox and literalist cleric of all ages issued Fatwas of Irtidad (hersey) and shirk (polytheism) against the Sufis, saying that since the believers of Wahdat-ul-Wujud see no existence except for God, they have to believe everything to be God. In other words, when there is nothing except God, whatever exists in the world is God. But it is a grave misconception, because shirk (association with God) will only occur when there will be something in existence in parallel with God.
When there is nothing in existence except God, as the Sufis believe, how can one conceive of anything associated with Him? How can Sufis associate anything with the Being (Zaat) or Attributes (Sifat) of God, when they see nothing at all except God? How can they think of indulging in the gravest sin in the sight of God, Shirk, when they believe that the whole universe from the sky, stars, galaxies to the earth, plants, stones, animate and inanimate and everything is just an illusion to the human mind, with no real entity? How can the believers of the Wahdat-ul-Wujud be Mushrik, when they see to the whole world as a figurative nay, a nominal existence?
Those who are hell-bent on declaring the Sufis as Mushrik or Murtad because of their belief in Wahdat-ul-Wujud should not forget that Sufis are so God-oriented that they see, feel, perceive and know of nothing but God. So, they find nothing to be associated with God. Only those who believe in the existence of so many things together in parallel with God can do shirk (association of with God). A practical instance of this God-centeredness was found in the life of the great female Sufi saint, Hazrat Rabia Basri (r.a). Once someone asked her if she hated Satan because she loved God so much, she replied, “My heart is so full of love for my Lord that I find no space in it to hate Satan!”