The Seal of the Wisdom of Light in the Word of Yusuf (Joseph)
This luminous wisdom spreads its light on the presence of the imagination (khayal), and it is the first of the beginnings of divine revelation in the people of divine concern. 'A'isha, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "The first of what the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had of revelation was the true dream. Then he only saw dreams which came like the breaking of dawn, and there was nothing hidden in it," 1 and her knowledge only extended to this. This lasted for six months, and then the angel came to him. She did not know that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had said, "People are asleep, and when they die, they waken up." Everything seen in the state of wakefulness is of that sort, although states differ. She spoke of six months, but all his life in this world was like that, as a dream in a dream.
Everything reported of this nature is called the world of the imagination (khayal), and for this reason, there must be interpretation: the matter which has a form in itself appears in a form other than it. The interpreter passes from these forms which the sleeper sees to the form upon which the matter is based. If he is correct, as in knowledge appearing in the form of milk, then he interprets the source of the form of knowledge from the form of milk, He discovers the source and says, "This form of milk refers to the form of knowledge."
When the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, received revelation, he was taken from the ordinary sensory world. He was covered and withdrew from those who were present with him. When that left him, he returned, and he only received revelation in the "presence of the imagination", although it could not be said of him that he had been asleep.
It was the same when the angel appeared to him as a man. That was also from the presence of the imagination, for it was not a man, but rather an angel who had entered into the form of a man. The gnostic onlooker interpreted it until he reached its form in reality. Then he said, "This is Jibril who came to teach you your deen." 2 He told them, "Answer the greeting of the man," so he called him a man in respect to the form in which he appeared to them. Then he said, "This is Jibril," and he looked at the form to which this imaginary man would return. He spoke the truth both times, with the truth of the vision of the physical eye, and the truth in that this was Jibril without a doubt.
Yusuf, peace be upon him, said, "I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon prostrate themselves in front of me." (12:4) He saw his brothers in the form of the stars and his father and mother in the form of the sun and moon. This is from the point of view of Yusuf. Had it been from the point of view of what was seen, the appearance of his brothers in the form of stars and the appearance of his father and mother in the form of the sun and moon would have been from their volition. Since they had no knowledge of what he saw, that which Yusuf perceived was in the repository of his imagination.
Ya'qub knew that when he related it to him, so he said, "O my son, do not tell your vision to your brothers in case they should devisse some scheme to injure you." (12:5) Then he absolved his sons of deceit and ascribed it to Shaytan, who is the source of deceit. He said, "In truth, Shaytan is a clear-cut enemy to man," i.e. he manifests enmity. Then Yusuf said at the end of the affair, "This is now the interpretation of the dream that I had. My Lord has made it all come true," (12:100) that is, that He manifested it in the world of senses after it was in the form of the imagination.
The Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said about it, "People are asleep". Yusuf spoke of what his Lord had rendered true in the status of one who dreams that he has awakened from his dream and interprets it, and does not know that he is still asleep. Then later when he wakes up, he says, "I dreamt such-and-such a thing, and then I dreamt that I woke up and interpreted in such-and-such a way." This is similar to that. Look at how great the difference of perception is between Muhammad, peace be upon him, and Yusuf, peace be upon him, at the end of the affair when Yusuf said, "This is the interpretation of my dream of long ago which my Lord has rendered true," that is, made sensory or sensed. It was aways sensed, since the imagination only gives out sensed things, and it has nothing other than that. See how noble is the knowledge of the heirs of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace!
I would say more on this presence on the Muhammadan tongue of Yusuf, as you will soon understand, if Allah wills. Know that that which is referred to as other-than-Allah, or the universe, is related to Allah as the shadow is related to the person. The universe is the shadow of Allah. It is the same as the relation of existence to the universe, since the shadow exists in the senses without a doubt. But there must be something by which that shadow appears. If one were to remove that by which the shadow appears, the shadow would be intelligible but would not exist in the senses. Rather, it would be a potential in the essence of the person on whom it depends. The locus of the manifestation of this divine shadow called the "universe" is the sources of the possibilities by which this shadow extends itself. This shadow is perceived according to what it projects itself on from the existence of this essence, but perception occurs through His name, the Light. This shadow is projected on the sources of possibilities in the form of the unknown unseen.
Do you not see that shadows incline to the darkness, indicating the hiddenness they contain because of the distance of the relationship between them and the persons who project them? Even if the person is white, his shadow is like this. Do you not see that when mountains are distant from the eye of the onlooker, they appear black? In their actual sources they are other than the colour the senses perceive. This is only due to the effect of distance. It is like the blue of the sky. This is the effect distance has on the senses with non-luminous bodies. It is the same for the sources of possibilities which are non-luminous because they are non-existent. Even if they are described as unchanging, they are not described by existence since existence is light. Distance makes luminous bodies appear small in the senses, so this is another effect of distance. The senses perceive them as small in size, whereas in their sources they are large according to that degree and greater in magnitude. One knows by proof that the sun is larger than the earth, but it appears to be the size of a shield. That is also an effect of distance.
You only know the universe according to the amount you know the shadows, and you are ignorant of the Real according to what you do not know of the person on which that shadow depends. Inasmuch as He has a shadow, He is known, and inasmuch as one is ignorant of what is in the essence of the shadow of the form which projects the shadow, he is ignorant of Allah. For that reason, we say that Allah is known to us from one aspect and not known to us from another aspect. "Do you not see how your Lord stretches out shadows? If He had wished, He could have made them stationary," (25:45) i.e. it still would be a potential in Himself. It is as He said, that Allah would not give a tajalli of Himself to possibilities until He manifests the shadow. The shadow is as if it remains outside of the possibilities which do not have a source manifested for them in existence.
"Then We appoint the sun to be a pointer to them," that is to His name, the Light of which we spoke, and the senses witness it, for shadows have no source in the absence of light. "Then We draw them back to Ourselves, in gradual steps," so Allah draws it back to Himself because it is His shadow which appeared from Him, and it is not other-than-Him. All that you perceive is the existence of Allah in the sources of possibilities. Inasmuch as the He-ness of Allah is He, it is His existence. Inasmuch as forms differ in it, it is the sources of possibilities. As the name of the shadow does not leave it by the difference of forms, in the same way the name of the universe or the name other-than-Allah does not leave it by the difference of forms.
In regard to the Divine Unity of His being, the shadow is Allah, because He is the One, the Unique; and in respect to the multiplicity of forms, it is the world, so understand and realise what I have explained to you!
Since the matter is as I mentioned, the universe is illusory, and it does not have a real existence. This is the meaning of the imagination, that is, you imagine that the universe is an autonomous extra thing outside of Allah. It is not like that in itself. Do you not see that in the senses, the shadow is connected to the person who projects it, and it is impossible that it be detached from that connection since it is impossible for something to be detached from its own essence? Recognise your source ('ayn), and who you are, what is your he-ness and what your relation to Allah is, and by what You are the Truth and by what you are the universe, "other", and whatever resembles these expressions. In this, those that know vie in excellence, so there is the one who knows and the one who is more knowing.
The Real is, in relation to a particular shadow, small or large, pure or more pure, as light is in relation to what veils it from the onlooker through coloured glass which tints it. At the same time, it has no colour, and so you see it as making a mirror-image of your reality to your Lord. If you say that the light is green by the greenness of the glass, you will have spoken the truth as your sensory vision testifies. If you say that it is not green and has no colour as evidence accords you, you will have spoken the truth as sound logical consideration testifies. This is light projected across the shadow, and it is the same as the glass which is a luminous shadow because of its purity.
It is the same for one of us who has realised the Real. His form manifests itself in him more than it manifests itself in another. Among us there is the one for whom Allah is his hearing, seeing, and all his faculties and limbs,3 according to the signs which the Shari'a gives in a transmission from Allah. In spite of this, the source of the shadow exists, so the pronoun of "his hearing" refers to him. Other slaves are not like this. The relation of this slave is nearer to the existence of Allah than the relation of other slaves.
Then the matter is as we have confirmed. So know that you are imagination and that which you perceive and of which you say, "It is not me" is also imagination. All of existence is imagination within imagination. True existence is Allah, the Real, in particular in respect to essence and source, not in respect to His Names, because the Names have two meanings. One meaning is His source which is the same as the "Named", and the other meaning is what it indicates and that by which the Name is separate from this other Name, and so distinct. The Ever-Forgiving is separate from the Manifest and the Hidden, and the First is distinct from the Last. Thus it is clear to you that each Name is the same as the other Name, and yet it is not the other Name. Inasmuch as the Name is the same, it is the Real, and inasmuch as it is not it, it is the imaginary Real which we discussed.
Glory be to the One who is only proven by Himself and Whose being is only confirmed by His source! The Hidden is pure non-existence, so whoever holds to multiplicity, holds to the universe and the Divine Names and the names of the world. Whoever holds to Divine Unity holds to Allah in respect to His Essence which is independent of the universe, not in respect to its divinity and form. If the Essence is independent of the universe, then He is the source of its independence from the ascriptions of the Names, because it has the Names, and they indicated it as they indicate other named things in which their effect is realised. "Say: He is Allah, Absolute Oneness" (112:1) in respect of his source, "Allah, the Everlasting Sustainer of all" in respect to our dependence on Him. "He has not given birth" in respect to His He-ness and us, "and was born born" the same way, "and no one is comparable to Him" in the same way.
This is His description so He singled out His Essence in His statement, "Allah is Unique (Ahad)". Multiplicity appears by His attributes which are known with us. We beget and are begotten, we depend on Him, and we are equals to one another. This is the One who is pure above these attributes. He is independent of them as He is independent of us. There is no description of Allah except for this sura, the Sura al-Ikhlas (112), and it was revealed in that. The Divine Unity (ahadiyya) of Allah is in respect to the Divine Names which demand the unity of multiplicity on our part, and the Divine Unity of Allah, in respect to His independence from us and from the names, is the Divine Unity of the source. Both of them are included in the name, the Unique One (al-Ahad).
Know that Allah has not manifested the shadows and made them prostrate themselves, casting themselves to the left and the right,4 except as indications for you of yourself and Him. In this way you are able to recognise who you are and what your relationship to Him is, and what His relationship to you is, until you know from where and by which divine reality that which is other-than-Allah is described, through its complete poverty to Him as well as the relative poverty of some to others. In this way also, you are able to know from where and by what reality it is that Allah is described by independence from people and the universe, and the universe is described by independence, i.e. the independence of some from others in an aspect which is the source of its need of some. For the universe is in need of causes without a doubt by essential need. The greatest of its causes is the causality of Allah, and there is no causality of Allah by which the universe is in need except for the Divine Names. The universe is in need of each of the Divine Names, whether from the universe like it or, from Allah Himself. Thus it is Allah, and not other-than-Him.
This is why Allah said, "Mankind! you are the poor in need of Allah whereas Allah is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy." (35:15) It is known that we depend on each other. Our names are the Names of Allah since everything is, without a doubt, in need of Him. At the same time, our sources are His shadow, and not other-than-Him. So He is our he-ness, and He is not our he-ness. We have prepared the way for you, so look!
1. In al-Bukhari and elswhere.
2. In Muslim, also an-Nawawi's Forty Hadith.
3. Hadith, see. p.11.
4. Ref. Qur'an 16:48, "Do they not see the things that Allah has created, casting their shadows to the right and to the left, prostrating themselves before Allah incomplete humility."
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