The Phrase - Everything Perishes Except the Face of Allah
Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim
We have looked at the letter and we have looked at the word, now we will look at a phrase. This phrase is a Qur'anic phrase about which Ibn aI-'Arabi has written much. Everything he says is a confirmation, explanation and commentary on what is in the Qur'an al-Karim. The ayat of Qur'an is: "Everything is perishing except the face of Allah."
There are different degrees of knowledge. There is the knowledge of the simple people, there is the knowledge of the chosen people and there is the knowledge of the elite of the chosen people. The highest knowledge confirms the lowest knowledge. This statement, "Everything perishes except the face of Allah" "continues: "And He is the Going On, oh Lord of Majesty and generous gifts." All this spiritual knowledge of which we are about to speak should not, correctly, be examined at this stage. This is a medicine for you to give you the desire to arrive at the stage where you can use this knowledge and live in it. Modem man is so cut off from this knowledge - the materialists' view of life does not supply intellectual answers and is in itself unscientific. It is against the evidence of experience.
Then modem man says, "I want spiritual knowledge." In other words, 'I am not interested in this outwardness, I want inward knowledge but I am not interested in all of these religions. These are all forms, and I want the essence. I want Allah and I will dispense with the Prophet, with Jesus, Buddha, this one and that one', and because they have not got a path of teaching, these people end up in terrible disaster. Modem man is in the marshes! What a mess! If he goes to know spiritual knowledges without a guide he has to base it on himself, yet the only path since the beginning has been the dismantling of the self, the taking to pieces of the experiencing locus. You are the locus of these darknesses and turbulence, and what is desired is to dispel these clouds in order that the sun should shine.
These people do not arrive at a spiritual condition, they arrive at a kind of very high sickness like a fever because they have mistaken fine feelings and fine sensory sensations for the meanings. They never leave the realm of the sensory and so they do not enter the realm of the meanings. In America very often people would say to me, "I know what you are talking about. I am a mountain climber and I climb up the-great mountains in the Rockies and I look at the horizon and I am annihilated. I feel that I am nothing before this greatness of the Divine." What he is saying however is that he has identified himself with the horizon, he has expanded his personality until he is a complete issue of The National Geographic! People say, "Ah, when I listen to Mozart", and some very exalted people say that when they listen to Bach, "I feel this oneness that the mystics talk about", but if you experience anything then there are two, so where then is unity? Where is the oneness of Allah?
From the beginning man has spoken about this difficult matter in terms of being blown out like a flame, being pulverised like a mountain, or being blown away like a cloud, and all have agreed that this recognition is based on your non-existence. Now we really begin because I have now connected what we were saying to what we started with. People want to take this knowledge and in taking it they have invented something and based their spiritual knowledge on their presence and not the presence of Allah.
We have taken this phrase, "Everything perishes except the face of Allah." Everything perishes, everything is in annihilation - fana, except the face of Allah. It continues, "The Lord who is Dhul-jalali wal-ikram." So to understand this deeply I have said that you must have a certain experience and that modem man wants to get somewhere without taking the journey. However, because he is trapped in materialism, if you told him to take the path of the great men of knowledge of the past, because they are rebels they would refuse, you have to show them something at the end, you just talk to them about the goal. They do not understand it but it is exciting, ravishing and intoxicating and so people say, "Yes, this is what I want." If they are sincere, they set out on the path and as they go on the path they realise that they do not have this doctrine as experience so they have to go back to the beginning of the matter. What were the beginnings of the matter? They are what is visible with the outer eye: prayer, fasting, Zakat and the Hajj.
What they dismissed before as religion in the way of divine knowledge they realise is the vehicle to take them to discovery. We will very breath that is in you, this spirit that knows itself. Ibn al-' Arabi calls this the mirror. You are the mirror and you are facing the world. While the world is facing you it is a mirror and it puts to you what is in front of you. What is before you is inside you without contradiction and without struggle for every moment of your existence. Your reality is before you. There are not two worlds, there is one world and that world is visible and invisible and light. What is before you in the visible world comes from the yearning of the living heart so nobody must be surprised at anything in the destiny since the pen, properly speaking, is in their own hands.
Man is creation. Moulay aI-'Arabi ad-Darqawi, the shaykh of our shuyukh, says, "If the cosmos was to disappear, do you think it is possible that you would not disappear also? When you disappear, does not the whole world disappear with you?" When you die it all goes with you. Your world is gone, and a world with you in it has gone. There is no longer a you/world - that dual vitality has disappeared. Let us look for a minute at this cosmos, still imagining for a moment that it is the thing we stand on, that we are like moon colonisers and have landed on this alien planet. Let us pretend that it is all outside us before we confront this difficult fact that we are just a tuft of the carpet that has been pulled out from the great design of the carpet.
We look up and we see the stars streaming through the sky and they are like a cosmic dust, and we look down and we see the dust of the atoms. What is above us and what is below us is basically the same. We do not know anything at this stage unless there is unveiling, but the opposites are such that if you go from the one thing to its opposite you will at the extreme of that opposite arrive back to what you left. Thus the materialists in their relentless search to prove the solidity of the stones beneath their feet have come back and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are very sorry. I am afraid it is nothing but space." Nothing but space - the materialists have even said it! Properly speaking, the materialists are nearer to tawhid than the muslim 'ulama. What the scientists have discovered with their instruments which cost a fortune and have left them stupid before their knowledge, was already known by Ibn aI-'Arabi and the Andalucian sufis without having spent a penny. They had better television because they could see in it whatever they required, and written in the great book of Ibn aI-'Arabi is everything that you find in high energy physics, atomic physics.
As you already know from school, if you go into a square inch of your flesh you will find a living population the size of the city of Madras. When you go in deeper that city begins to open out and as you go in further it expands out even more until you enter the sub-atomic world where you are basically an empty space. When you go into you there is nothing there, but I do not want to frighten you so we will forget about you - let us look at the stones. The principle is of binding: there is active energy around a nucleus so there is a kind of basic dust which by its polar energy holds itself together so that around that the protons and the neutrons can revolve. What you have is an agitation in a kind of ball. If that is looked into it all begins to disappear in more subtle forms. According to the structure of these atoms, this binding becomes closer and more powerful and more solid until this agitating mass takes on the character, when stood back from, of solidity.
Thus the stones under your feet seem solid but then planet has a structure, like that obnoxious story of the Little Prince standing on the planet. In fact you are standing on this thing and it also is bound by a series of inner energy processes, all of which are movement, all of which are whirling and involve tremendous speed. This tremendous speed becomes the stillness of the stone of the rock before you. Equally the planet, made up of all these, becomes like a great stone when in fact, when stood back from as you would look at a planet in the sky, it is spinning and is in an orbit and that orbit in turn is galactically whirling in an enormous motion. The speed is what solidifies in our experience but not, I am prepared to say, in reality. Something that seems to be there in place is not in place in any way that you can say that place exists, so cosmically we are in a very unusual situation.
Now we look at the creature on the rock. What is happening beneath his feet is happening in his own body. There is not only the streaming energy of the electrical currents of his body, which if interrupted he will become ill and which if cut off he will die, not only are there rivers running through his body, not only is there a whole inner geography in motion, not only is his body a processing system taking in energy and putting out energy, putting out waste and taking in raw energy but that we are powered by oxygen. If you look with your eyes at the air you see space, but remember that the oxygen on which you depend is itself a solidity, it is a gas. Nothing is what it seems to be!
Now we are going to take a step. Everything so far is basically your school education about physics and cosmology. Look at the strange reality we find ourselves in which is that you are in this cosmic sea! It is streaming; you are streaming, and you perceive that it is below you and that you are on it. This basic myth is the foundation of history, events, suffering and ignorance. The reality is not like this but how it is, is very strange. All of existence is here and at the same instant it is not here. It is not that everything is going in and out like a light blinking - if you blink a light very fast there is a point where it seems constant and the point at which it becomes constant is the point when it is changing at the speed of light. When you look at the star it seems to be there because its light is happening so quickly that you are getting a picture of a constant zone. Others with a different signal seem to be blinking, twinkling.
The truth of the matter is that the things that are here, are not here. They are not here, and then not here. They are 'are not' at the same time. At the point that they are 'are not' is itself the frontier which makes time. The somethingness of the' is' moment is time, and the frontier of the not-there is before-timeness, after-timeness, endless- timeness. This barrier is the secret of the divine power of the Creator and beyond this we cannot go with words. This is the truth of every living thing. What is the truth of the smallest grain of sand is the truth of the greatest star and is the truth of the whole cosmos. The truth of one thing is the truth of everything. Someone said to one of the great shaykhs of the Darqawi tariqa, "Tell me the greatest great Name of Allah!" And he said, "Show me the least thing in the whole universe, and I will show you the greatest great Name of Allah.
Al-Hayyu al-Qayyum - these are two names of Allah. The Hayyu is the Living and if you listen to it, "Hayy, Hayy, Hayy", it is what you do in the hadra, it is the breath, it is life itself. What is life itself but the instant? You have no life except at this instant. The man or woman who came into this room has already moved atom by atom millions of miles in the revelation of the sub-structure of their body. Look at the feeble base on which we are held up! Ibn aI-'Arabi says, "Existence is a khayal" - an imagination, but that imagination is bil-Haqq, by the truth, by the real, it is it! And it is not it, that you can worship it, because it is not there that you should worship it, and it is there that you must worship its Creator. You are part of it so you do not exist that you should be a mushrik, yet you are there as a slave that you should recognise your source. It is your source, but you are its proof on itself to itself of its lordship.
He is the Lord of the world. Are you not one of his worlds? By you the world is seen. If you are not there, there is no world, there is no-one to see. He has made you and sees by you and you see by Him because your faculties are His. The ear is yours, the eye is yours - the property of the slave, but the seeing is His and the hearing is His. Why? Because the ear is sensory, the eye is sensory, but the seeing is meaning and the hearing is meaning, so there is this line between the visible and the invisible and this is the divine reality which sets up the forn and destroys the forn. Knowledge of it is the only knowledge. You are by it, it is not by you. You are dependent on these energies coming together in this whirling conflagration that is your brief life. He is independent, exalted above any connection with anyone or anything.
Everything is in annihilation except the face of Allah. What is the face of Allah? Here I must stop. I cannot say. If I were to say, you would not understand. That does not mean that there is another way that we can say it that, "That is it, but it is a secret", because when you have the secret, if you give it, it is not a secret. What is this secret? It is your secret, meaning that this matter of the face of Allah must concern you more passionately, more deeply and more profoundly than any other matter in existence, because it is your source. It is that which remains when you perish. You are it. You belong to it. You are from it. Everything that you have, everything that you know, everything that you experience is by the lights of this face. It is like you have this enormous television set and all of it is based on its energy which makes it possible. The image is based on the source and the source is its energy, but for you to know that there is that energy it has to flood through all the parts of the machine and in every part of that machine that energy will set up processes which will create a picture which is how you are with Allah. He is the Hayyu, the Living. What is Al- Qayyum? Al-Qayyum is the opposite name. Al-Hayyu is the instant, and the Qayyum is the endless desert of eternity and the same truth. The instant and the endless time are not two things, they are one thing without thingness. This is the situation of the human being.
People of this knowledge cannot continue in the charade of pretending that they are here forever and that their private project is greater than the only meaningful act of the human being which is to glorify Allah. This glorification has a binding condition because this knowledge, as we said at the beginning, is based on your having a body and having a limited intellect. The binding condition is that you are permitted to glorify Allah on condition that you feed the hungry, that you look after the orphan, that you protect the widow and you give out of what you possess until generosity becomes your mark. Generosity is not by niyyat, generosity is in the hand. There is no time for the niyyat of generosity until you have niyyat to take the next breath that you take and such men do exist, who breathe knowing that the breath is from Allah. They account for every breath they take because it is nothing else than the breath of the Merciful.
We have touched on the first layer of the many layers of meaning in this great ayat, but you must remember another ayat of Qur'an which says: "If all the trees were the pens, and the seven oceans were the ink, and then one ocean more, they would be used up before they would be finished speaking of the glories of Allah." This is the human situation, this is the cosmic situation, nothing exists except Allah, nothing happens except the glorification of the angels, and sometimes men consciously by their choice join with a conscious praise, the praise that they are, by their existing in the first place.
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