The Science of the Moment

The Companion, Abu Huraira, may Allah have mercy upon him, said: 'I carried two bags from the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace – I have unfolded one of them to you – had I unfolded the other, this throat would have been severed from me.'

Before we examine the dynamic nature of the Universe, let us look at the description of the coming into existence of the myriad forms that is used in the Wisdom-teaching from the Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him. What we will have to grasp in this picture is the relation between the realities and the forms – as we have already indicated, the former is dependent on the latter, but the latter implies the former. To talk of one preceding the other is valid in description and in the realm of meaning and clarification, but not otherwise. Up until recently, all the revealed teachings, that is, all the earlier 'Islams', which, although decayed and without centre, still held to a vision of how the Universe came into being, were dismissed as 'pre-scientific' as if we now had a 'factual' picture of how-it-is. While the best scientists have never suggested or accepted this mythology by which they have 'explained' existence, the mass-education view, and that of many of the true scientists' less intelligent followers, has been to look on existence as a thing explained. Our own time has seen a complete collapse of the evolutionary theory and in its collapse, even before the rubble has been cleared, we recognise just how much personal projection was going on under the guise of an illusory objectivity. Men were describing existence as how they thought it should be rather than as it was. That they had observed an undoubted hierarchical fanning out of structural forms so bedazzled them they insisted on its taking place in a step-by-step process of minute change over millennia. That life-forms were not processed in the same way as the early horse and cart, giving way to faster and more efficient kinds of transport through steam to electric mono-rail system, was outside their own personal and parochial view of reality at the end of the 19th Christian century.

It had always been to those pseudo-scientists, and more so to the people they 'educated' in the rather forbidding and authoritarian edifices they built to honour their own knowledge, a matter of some scorn that these 'mythological' descriptions of how things came into being began with the creation of the human being and then everything fell into place around it. They smiled at worlds on elephants which stood on tortoises, and they shrugged away as primitive a world of Angels and Celestial Pens and Preserved Tablets. They were so clever – they 'knew' that there was no large cosmic pen in the sky and that the air was not populated with lots of feathered creatures with wings looking like the imaginings of the simple-minded Giotto. Of course, the people of the Path never imagined this either and would have been enormously amused that these gentlemen should spend such a lot of time disputing a picture that they had never held. Yet precisely the kind of inner seeing that this language of Angels and Pens demands was to be the kind of understanding that the serious scientists were more and more being called upon to make in the formulation of their models and theories. The knowledge they gained forced them to a language of paradox and bewilderment that prompted one modern physicist to find parallels to their new thinking in the Zen Masters' use of the 'ungraspable' koan, or riddle. The Shaykh al-Akbar has indicated in his writings that enigma and riddle are essential when talking about the reality of things coming into being.

The important matching we will find in this description is between the microcosm of man and the macrocosm of the Universe. The inter-connectedness of man's place in the Universe to the basic structure of forms and events which make up our world, this is the pivot of our doctrine of wahdat al-wujud, oneness of existence.

In a Hadith-Qudsi, Allah-ta-ala addressed the Messenger saying: 'Oh Muhammad, were it not for you, I would not have created the heaven nor the earth, nor the Garden nor the Fire.' In the beautiful phrase of the Shaykh al-Akbar, 'In the Universe, it is man that is intended.'

We have already said that the first created thing was the Light of Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him. This is the meaning of the Messenger saying: 'I was a Prophet while Adam was between water and clay.' It must be remembered that the perspective of the Wisdom-teaching sees him, blessings of Allah and peace be upon him, as being the Seal of the Messengers, and therefore the perfection and totality of what man is, for while he is the First Manifestation from the Lights of the Essence, he is also the last to manifest his perfection among the prophets. So he has firstness and lastness. He is the perfect image of image, and the meaning of form. Now another name for this Light that we call the Nuri-Muhammad is the Universal Self, and another is the Pen. The Pen is a mithal for the dynamic of the creative process. The first existent thing in emanation was the Preserved Tablet of Forms. Thus the Pen 'wrote' on the Tablet all the forms and form/events of all creation from the beginning to the end, these two things, beginningness and endness, only coming into being with the manifestation of form which implies space and therefore in our understanding, also time.

The mithal of the Pen's writing on the Tablet is that of semen activating in the womb. From this come the six genera, six being the perfect number, as we saw in the science of the letters. This is the meaning of the creation-process taking six 'days'. The six genera are Angels: Jinn: Inanimates: Plants: Animals – and the setting and ordering of the Kingdom: Man, the Khalif of the Reality. When the world is manifest, Allah is hidden. And so man is put on earth as His Khalif, the one who stands in, during the absence of the King. Man himself, by this meaning, is a barzakh.

Allah created the seven heavens and the seven earths. Then in the manifest he gave each heaven a planet, 'each swimming in its sphere.' (36.40). With the manifestation of the spheres, and that means matter, time comes into being. So time is designated by the first sphere, and also by the movement from the first sphere to the second, for time is itself the movement of the space, or vice-versa. With this creation of the spheres came the manifestation of the four matrices air, earth, fire and water. In our system the sun's movement gave us 'night' and 'day'. The night is a father and the day is a mother – each father connects to a planet and each mother connects to an element, as the elements connect to the planets in influence and identity. The movements of the spheres and the swimming of the Lights accord with the swirling movements of the waters in the womb. The four matrices of air, earth, fire and water, correspond to the four wives a man is permitted in the Shari'a – thus a balanced and fully developed man would be held in perfect harmony by his purification through these unions.

Time, starting with the first sphere, begins with the whole creation-process and so time in its movement is the emergence of the Light of Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Of time he said: 'Time revolves like its form on the day that Allah created it.' With this Light comes the Balance. AL-MIZAN. Its meaning is the justice and harmony of all creation and, therefore, of time/space and therefore of us and events. It is the meaning of the Garden and the Fire, of the balance between the matrices. It is what was called in the ancient Tao-form of Islam in China, yin/yang. It is the secret of the contrary Names. It is what we are born and die on, and which turns our acts and intentions into realities to be weighed on the Day of the Balance. The Messenger's nature, being the embodiment of the creation principle, is hot/wet, for that is from the power of the other world. Thus knowledge is greater in Islam in its final form than in its previous forms which were under the dominance of cold/dry. That is why this community comes last and translates all the knowledges of previous communities. This is the meaning of the laughter of the Buddhist Masters, for they have dry/cold but do not have hot/wet which would give them the wisdom of tears. The Messenger's du'a was, 'Oh Lord, reward me with a weeping eye,' and his warning was, 'If you knew what I knew, you would laugh little and weep much.' Weeping is the outward sign of freedom from fear, and the indication of inward balance and complete serenity.

Man himself stands at the heart of this cosmic activity by virtue of his being both gatheredness of all the forms, a summing up of the creational process, and the highest complexification of the life-energy. He is the perfection of the Balance in his form when it is perfect, that is, in the Messengers and Prophets, of whom as we noted there have been 124,000 since the beginning of creation. He is – in his complete form – the pivot of existence. There remains on the Earth always the embodiment of the Nuri-Muhammadiyya – the first of the awliya, and while prophecy is closed and finished with the Last Messenger, he nevertheless is the embodiment and the transmitter of the Light of the Messenger. For the whole Wisdom-process is nothing but this transmission. This Light is poured out in a descending cascade through a series of perfected ones and they are to the organism of the Earth as the breath-system is to the purification of the blood in the body. The disappearance of these living men, these awakened men, would mean the death of the planet. And what man is to the Earth, the Earth is to the Galaxy and size has nothing to do with these matters.

From among the Salihin of the submitted-ones, there are 300 elect in perfection of humility, poverty, love and awe – the Nuqaba, or chieftains. From these there are 40 Masters, men who have achieved the goal and are most complete in knowledges and Stations – the Nujaba, or nobles. From these there are the Highest and most unified degree of the human species: the 7 Abdal, or substitutes. This word has various implications, but one of them is the essential spiritual capacity of these men to manifest both in their actual place and elsewhere at the same time by recreating 'a substitute' manifestation, which is not in any manner ghostly, but simply a being in two places at the same time. The Messenger, who embodied and surpassed all the stages of the awliya, by that token 'contained' all the stages of the Way in himself. He manifested this capacity on the night of the Miraj, when he was both in his bed in Madinah, and at the Rock in Jerusalem. The Shaykh al-Kamil says of them in his Diwan:

The path of the Abdal, dedicated to Allah, is:

hunger, sleeplessness, silence, isolation and dhikr.

From the Abdal come the 4 Awtad or pillars, and from them are the 2 Imams, and one of these is the Qutb, the pivot of existence, the stillness at the heart of the vast cosmic activity.

In the science of states we saw how everything in the earth is moving from state to state. In the words of the Shaykh al-Akbar:

So the world of time moves in everything, and the world of breath moves in every breath, and the world of tajalli moves in every tajalli. The reason for that is His word: 'Every day He is upon some activity.' (Qur'an 55.29).

All this restless cosmic activity we experience as the interaction of solid forms, existence to us is viscous, opaque, and we imagine 'real' because solid. The forms are 'kathif', thick, dense, while Allah, may He be exalted, describes Himself as Latif, subtle, gracious, sparse, delicate. As we understand it, the Latif is in all things, so that while we specify 'dog' and 'cat' and 'stone' and so on, we are aware that the essences of the existent things are in reality one essence. While this is not that in regard to form, we claim that this is the same as that in regard to substance. Now we must see that in a unitary picture this insideness and outsideness of things is no longer tenable. It must mean that the substance itself is nothing other than the Absolute Reality. We are now also in a position to say that the substance is not kathif but on the contrary is sparse, subtle, and latif itself.

Have we then, despite ourselves, arrived at the pantheism the Masters of the Way so categorically deny? It is at this point that we must examine the last doctrine that completes the creation view of the Sufis.

It is called AN-NAFAS AR-RAHMANIY, the Breath of the Merciful. There is a Hadith Qudsi, where Allah-ta-'ala declared: 'I was a hidden treasure, and I longed to be known. So I created the Universe in order to be known.' In the Qur'an the Name of the Lord of the Universe is Allah, and equated with it is the Name the Merciful. This connects the Mercy explicitly with the Essence. This Hadith Qudsi indicates the movement that comes from the overflowing Mercy of the Divinity in its utterly Hidden Perfection out into the creation of manifest energies. This overflowing of Light from the Essence, which is the movement of Mercy, is likened to a held breath which then bursts out and flows over everything. It is as if the held breath were the Names in the Divine Ranks before manifestation, and the breathing-out were the coming into existence of the multiple forms:

His Command, when He desires a thing, is to say to it, 'Be! – it is.' (Qur'an 36.84)

Note that this is not some magical fiat from some exterior Being. We have established that He cannot be associated with the universe of forms, and that at the same time He governs the world from the inside of the world, through the source-forms. He says 'Be' to it. It is there in the realm of source-form. It brings itself into being and actuality according to the potentiality of the locus and the source-form unity. We then say that the 'breathing out' of the Command is the coming into phenomenal reality of the thing, from the Hidden to the Manifest. It follows that the breath itself is a substance. Nature precedes what comes from her, but Nature is no other than the Breath of the Merciful. So, as the breath spreads through all the forms both physical and luminous, its life-giving, form-giving activity takes place. So everything in Nature is of the Breath, and this includes not only the physical, but the Angelic, for the creational reality is dependent on the four matrices for existence. So knowledge of the world is knowledge of this Divine Breath. The coming into existence of the Universe from non-existence into existence is an action, through the Divine Command there is a movement from repose into the activity of creation. This movement, this outflowing – we call love. This is the longing referred to by Allah-ta-'ala in the Hadith Qudsi which describes the Creation. Since the movement is love itself, the world also loves to regard itself in existence, for its very existence is a love activity.

Now just to make more vivid in our minds what this activity is – and also to establish the truth of what is being described, let us look at how the nuclear physicists themselves regard the process of existence within the disciplines and limits of their science. Again, this is not to 'prove' anything – Wisdom-teaching has no proofs but experience – but simply to clarify what is being said by the vividness of the physicists' grasp of the baffling nature of the creational process. Here is a description of the constant movement of matter by high-energy physicist, Fritjof Capra:

The 'restlessness' of matter implied by the uncertainty principle is a fundamental feature of the atomic and subatomic world. In this world, matter is never completely quiescent, but always in a state of motion. The molecules in solids move and vibrate due to their thermal energy. The nuclei of the atoms inside the molecular structure vibrate because they are confined to this structure. The electrons in the atomic shells are bound to a region of similar size, but being much lighter than the nuclei they move much faster and we have seen that they achieve, in fact, enormous velocities. And finally, as we shall see, the protons and neutrons inside the nucleus are confined to an extremely small volume by the strong nuclear forces and consequently they race about with fantastic velocities.

We see that modern physics pictures matter not at all as inert, but as being in a continuous dancing and vibrating motion whose rhythmic patterns are determined by the molecular, atomic and nuclear structure.

Addressing the I.C.A. in London the same physicist said:

At the beginning of our century, the experimental investigation of atoms gave sensational and totally unexpected results. Far from being the hard and solid particles they were believed to be since antiquity, the atoms turned out to consist of vast regions of empty space in which extremely small particles – the electrons – moved around the nucleus. With quantum mechanics – the theoretical foundation of atomic physics – as worked out in the 1920's, it became clear that even the sub-atomic particles, i.e. the electrons and the protons and neutrons in the nucleus, were nothing like the solid objects of classical physics. The sub-atomic units of matter are very abstract entities. Depending on how we look at them, they appear sometimes as particles, sometimes as waves.

This dual aspect of matter was extremely puzzling and gave rise to most of the koan-like paradoxes which led to the formulation of quantum mechanics. The picture of a wave which is always spread out in space is fundamentally different from the particle picture which implies a sharp location. The apparent contradiction between these two pictures was solved in a completely unexpected way which gave a blow to the very foundation of the mechanistic world-view, to the concept of the reality of matter. At the sub-atomic level, matter does not exist with certainty at definite places, but rather shows 'tendencies to exist'. These tendencies are expressed, in quantum mechanics, as probabilities, and the corresponding mathematical quantities take the form of waves. This is why particles can be waves at the same time. They are not 'real' three-dimensional waves like sound or water waves. They are 'probability waves', abstract mathematical quantities with all the characteristic properties of waves which are related to the probabilities of finding the particles at particular points in space and at particular times.

At the sub-atomic level, then, the solid material objects of classical physics dissolve into wave-like patterns of probabilities. But this again seems paradoxical. How can the physical world consist of mere probabilities? Well, it turns out that the patterns, ultimately, do not represent probabilities of things, but rather, probabilities of correlations. A careful analysis of the process of observation in atomic physics has shown that the sub-atomic particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but can only be understood as correlations between the preparation of an experiment and the subsequent measurement. This implies, however, that the Cartesian division between the I and the world, between the observer and the observed, cannot be made while dealing with atomic matter. In atomic physics we can never speak about nature without, at the same time, speaking about ourselves, or – as Heisenberg has put it – 'Natural Science does not simply describe and explain nature, it is a part of the interplay between nature and ourselves.'

Quantum mechanics thus reveals a basic oneness of the Universe. It shows that we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units. As we penetrate into matter, nature does not show us any isolated basic building blocks, but rather appears as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of the whole, and these relations always include the observer in an essential way.

Fritjof Capra goes on to expound the Relativity Theory of Einstein relating it to the picture he had given of Quantum Mechanics:

Relativity theory, so to speak, has made these patterns come alive by revealing their intrinsically dynamic character. In a 'relativistic' description of the sub-nuclear world, i.e. in a description which takes relativity theory into account, space and time are fused in a four-dimensional continuum, and this means that we have to visualise the particles as four-dimensional entities in space/time. Their forms are thus forms in space and time. The particles are dynamic patterns which have a space aspect and a time aspect. Their space aspect makes them appear as objects with a certain mass, their time aspect makes them appear as processes involving a certain energy, and the two are related by Einstein's famous equation E=mc2.

Relativity theory thus gives the constituents of matter an intrinsic dynamic aspect. It shows that the activity of matter is the very essence of its being. The objects of the sub-nuclear world are not only active by moving around very fast, they themselves are processes. The being of matter and its activity cannot be separated. They are but different aspects of the sub-nuclear space-time reality.

Before continuing this beautifully lucid description of existence, let us return to our sufic perspective of the Breaths of the Merciful.

In one chapter of the Shaykh al-Akbar's 'Seals of Wisdom', he makes a long analysis of a passage in Qur'an that recounts the meeting of the Prophet Sulayman, peace be upon him, and the Queen Bilqis, or Sheba. It is presented as the meeting between a woman who was a great heirophant of knowledge coming to her goal in encountering the Prophet who could complete her knowledge by opening to her the secret of Unitary teaching. The Prophet had sent a letter to Bilqis saying: 'In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, rise not up against me, but come to me in surrender.' (27.30-31). Her followers suggested to her that they should fight, but she declared, 'Kings, when they enter a city, lay waste to it.' (27.34). To the People this means in one of its meanings, the annihilation of the nafs on the arrival of the King of Creation, but Allah knows best.

The Prophet, on hearing that the Queen was coming to visit him, asked that her throne be brought to him so that on her arrival he could show it to her and thus demonstrate the superior nature of his knowledge.

An Ifrit of the jinn said: 'I will bring it to you before you rise from your place: I have strength for it and I am to be trusted.' Said he who possessed knowledge of the Book, 'I will bring it to you, before even your glance returns to you.'


He said: 'Disguise her throne for her, and we shall behold whether she is guided or if she is of those who are not guided.' So when she came it was said: 'Is your throne like this?' She said: 'It seems the same.' And we were given the knowledge before her, and we were in surrender, but what she served apart from Allah barred her, for she was of a people who covered-up. It was said to her: 'Enter the pavilion.' But when she saw it, she supposed it was a spreading water, and she bared her legs. He said: 'It is a pavilion smoothed of crystal.' She said: 'My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, and I surrender with Sulayman to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.' (Qur'an 27.39-44)

Commenting on the superiority of the sage over the jinn, the Master says:

This superiority is by the degree of time. For the return of the glance to the looker is quicker than rising from one's place because the movement of the eye in perceiving what it perceives is quicker than the movement of the body when it moves. So the time in which the eye moves is the same time which connects it to the object in spite of the distance between the viewer and the object. So the time of the opening of the eyes is the time of its connection to the heaven of the fixed stars. The time of the return of its glance is the same as the absence of its perception. Rising from one's place is not like that. It does not have this speed. So Asaf ibn Barkhiya was more perfect in act than the jinn. The source-form of the word that Asaf ibn Barkhiya spoke was the source-form of the action at one and the same time. So Sulayman, peace be upon him, saw at the same time the throne of Bilqis 'settled before him' so that one must not imagine that he perceived it while it was in its place without moving. With us, displacement does not exist by the unity of time, but it is a going into non-existence and return to existence, inasmuch as the only one conscious of that is the one who has gnosis of it. It is His word, may He be exalted, 'But they are in uncertainty as to the new creation.' (50.15). Not a moment passes them but that they see what they saw. Since it is as we have mentioned, the time of its non-existence, i.e. the absence of the throne from its place, is the same as its existence with Sulayman from the renewal of creation by breaths. No-one knows this power, rather, man is not aware of it from himself, that it is in each breath. It was not, then it was. Do not say that and imply a delay, for that is not true. This demands a real knowledge of Arabic, – for example, the poet says: 'He brandished the Rudaini spear and it shook.' The time of brandishing of the spear is undoubtedly the same as the time of the shaking of the thing brandished. There is no gap. It is the same with the renewal of the creation with breaths. The time of the non-existence is the same as the time of the existence of the mithal. So the question of the moving of the throne of Bilqis is one of the most difficult of problems except for the one who has gnosis of what we have mentioned. So Asaf did not have any merit in the matter except for the transposition of the renewal of the assembly of Sulayman, peace be upon him. So the throne was not moved from a place to a place, nor did it rise above the earth, nor break the laws of space, for the one who understands what we have mentioned ...

When Bilqis saw her throne, and she knew the distance and the impossibility of moving it in that space of time, she said: 'It seems the same,' and she spoke truly through what we have mentioned of the renewal of creation by amthal [pl. of mithal]. It is it. It was true, just as you are the same at the time of your renewal as you were in 'past time'.

The Master notes that in her surrender to how-it-is, she surrendered to the Lord of the Universe, placing herself along with Sulayman, peace be upon him, as part of the creation. So their Islam was the same:

This is how we are on the Straight Path which the Lord, may He be exalted, is on, for our forelocks are in His hand, and it is impossible for us to separate from Him. So we are with Him implicitly and He is with us by open declaration. He said, may He be exalted, 'He is with you wherever you are,' (57.4), and we are with Him as He takes us by our forelocks. So He, may He be exalted, is with Himself wherever He goes with us on the Path. So everyone in the world is on a Straight Path, and it is the Path of the Lord, may He be praised and exalted. It is this that Bilqis learned from Sulayman, so she said: 'To Allah, the Lord of the Worlds,' without referring to a particular world.

This teaching of the Breaths opens to us the dynamic nature of existence. The creation is constantly in renewal – AL-KHALQ AL-JADID – the ever-new-creation. This overwhelming vision of creation as endlessly being destroyed and endlessly being renewed, as never existing and never ceasing, is the vision of the seekers before they in turn experience their own annihilation. The Shaykh says:

This fire is the fire of love for the Light of the splendour of His Face, which consumes all the determined forms and individual essences in the very midst of the ocean of knowledge of Allah and true life. And this true life is of such a nature that everything comes to life with it and yet is destroyed by it at the same time. There can be no greater bewilderment than the hayrah caused by the sight of drowning and burning with life and knowledge, and simultaneous self-annihilation and self-continuance.

Let us return to the description of the physicist. He had outlined the new classical theory of how-it-is. He continued with a new model of particular interest to us for the features which we will immediately recognise. This is not offered as a proof, but as a clarification. The model about to be described is known as the Hedron bootstrap model.

The basis of the bootstrap model is the idea that nature cannot be reduced to fundamental entities, like fundamental building blocks of matter, but has to be understood entirely through self-consistency. All of physics has to follow uniquely from the requirement that its components be consistent with one another and with themselves.

This idea constitutes a radical departure from the traditional spirit of basic research in physics which had always been bent on finding the fundamental constituents of matter. At the same time it is the culmination of the quantum mechanical conception of particles as an interconnected web of relations. But the bootstrap philosophy goes even further. It abandons not only the idea of fundamental building blocks of matter, but accepts no fundamental entities whatsoever – no fundamental laws, equation, or principles. The only requirement is that everything has to be self-consistent É

The idea of the bootstrap model is that everything in the Universe is connected to everything else and no part of it is fundamental. The properties of any part are determined, not by some fundamental law, but by the properties of all the other parts. Therefore, in order to really understand any phenomenon we have to understand all the others. This is obviously impossible, and here physics and Eastern philosophy take different attitudes.

The teaching of the Way is simple. It is enough that a man understand himself to have understanding of all. He cannot have discreet knowledge of all the forms in the space/time continuum since the 'beginning' to the 'end' as we already had noted, which is what Dr. Capra is saying. What is intriguing is that it is here being suggested that there are no discreet parts to know. However since what follows remains the context of the model, there can be no argument between us, for our concern is our own, and his is that of the model. We nevertheless recall that the Shaykh al-Akbar had said that if you make a model in the Universe you can in the end only make a model of yourself. To continue:

What then is the picture of particles in the bootstrap model? Well, it can be summed up in the provocative phrase: every particle consists of all other particles. Like all other scientific models, the bootstrap model can only be approximate, and its main approximation consists of the fact that it describes only certain kinds of particles, the so-called 'hedrons' or 'strongly interacting particles'. These are particles like the proton and the neutron which interact through strong nuclear force. In the bootstrap model, then, all hedrons are composite structures whose components are again hedrons. The essential feature of the model is the picture of the binding forces holding these structures together. The forces between the constituent particles are pictured as the exchange of other particles. This is a general feature of sub-nuclear physics: the forces between particles – i.e. their mutual attraction or repulsion – manifest themselves as the exchange of other particles. This concept is extremely hard to visualise. It is a consequence of the four-dimensional space/time character of the sub-nuclear world and neither our intuition nor our language can deal with this image very well, but it is crucial to the picture of the particles in the bootstrap model. The constituents which make up, for example, a proton, are particles, but the forces which hold them together are also particles, and therefore the distinction between the constituent particles and the particles representing the binding forces becomes blurred. The whole notion of an object consisting of constituent parts breaks down.

Each hedron therefore plays three roles: it is a composite structure, it may be a constituent of another hedron, and it may be exchanged between constituents and thus constitute part of the forces holding the structure together. Each particle thus helps to generate other particles which in turn generate it. The whole set of hedrons generates itself this way, or 'pulls itself up by its own bootstraps', which is the origin of the model's name.

You will realise that this concept of every particle containing all other particles is extremely hard to visualise. This is because it is a relativistic concept. The hedrons are dynamic space/time patterns which do not contain one another, but rather 'involve' one another in a certain way which can be given a precise mathematical meaning, but cannot easily be expressed in words. The bootstrap model is a relativistic model of the inter-connected web of relations which I have mentioned before in connection with quantum mechanics.

At one point in 'The Makkan Revelations' the Shaykh refers to one of the Qutbs of the world in ancient times, and of his knowledge of how things come into being. His name was the Qutb Mudawi'l-Kulum and he said about matter:

The universe exists on what is between the circumference and the dot, on ranks, and the smallness and greatness of their spheres. The one nearer to the circumference is wider than the one which is inside it, and so its day is larger, its place wider, and its tongue more eloquent. All things look at the point of their essences: and the point, despite its smallness, looks at every section of the circumference by its essence. So the epitome is the circumference, and its epitome is the point, and the opposite, so look!

In 'The Seals of Wisdom' the Master is even more explicit. He says:

Every particle of the world is from the whole of the world. That is – every single particle is capable of receiving into itself all the realities of all the single particles of the world.

The Qutb Mudawi'l-Kulum also said:

Man is the sum of all the 'flakes' of the world. And from man to everything in the world is a flake extending from that flake. There is nothing in the universe but that it has an effect in man, and man has an effect in it. And these flakes are light-rays-of-light.

The focal point of this universal reality which is nothing else than an endless fulgurating display of light upon light is man, not just the species man, but man at his apogee, the Perfect Man, himself Light and knowing himself to be Light, Al-Insanu'l-Kamil. The word for man has a root NAS, meaning: 'to be shaken to and fro', 'to hang suspended': INSAN has a parallel meaning which is: 'the pupil of the eye'. Man himself is a vibrating whirling activity of energy in endless movement – he hangs suspended in the cosmos on his small planet, and in the Unseen he hangs suspended between the tremendous efflorations of form that make up the Fire and the Garden. At the same time he is the eye of the universe with which his Creator contemplates His creation. He is a gathering-together of all the forms, a resumé of the whole creational process from the basic matrices up through the elements and plants to the highest complexification of aspects. And so he is also a small universe, just as the universe from what the Qutb said above, is nothing else but Al-Insanu'l-Kabir, the Big Man. We are of course speaking here in the language of the Sufis and not in the language of ignorance and literalism. This does not lessen the veracity of the assigning to the cosmos the name of the Big Man, it is simply that literalist thinking is too primitive a method of reflection to grasp these matters. The Perfect Man is utterly aware and awake, permeated by all the Names and all the perfections of the Divine Attributes.

The Shaykh al-Akbar said that the Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, is called al-Khalil, meaning the dear friend, because the word derives from a root meaning 'permeated', and so the Divinity permeates the existence of the form of Ibrahim – since this is what He does with all His creation, it must mean that the special rank is due to that penetration utterly absorbing his consciousness as well. It is his awareness, knowledge, and direct taste of permeation which marks him out as al-Khalil.

So he is man, both in-time and before-endless-time, a perpetual and after-endless-time organism. He is the word which discriminates and unites. The universe was completed through his existence. He is to the universe what the face of the seal is to the seal itself, for that is the place of the seal and thus the signature which the King seals on his treasures. He named him the Khalifa because of this, since he guards His creation as one guards treasures with the seal. As long as the seal of the King is on them, no one dares to open them without His permission. So He made him a Khalifa in safeguarding the universe, and it continues to be guarded as long as this Perfect Man is in it. Do you not see then, that when he disappears and is removed from the treasury of this world, nothing of what Allah stored in it will remain? What was in it will go out and each part will return to its own part, and everything will be transferred to the next world. Then he will be the seal on the treasury of the next world for endless-time and after-endless-time.

To achieve this perfection is the meaning and goal of our journey – fisabilillah – on the Way of Allah. 'The Way' is from the cluster SBL – and it has no verbal root, but it indicates 'the road': 'a way': 'a traveller': 'the Way of Allah': 'a necessity': – but its real meaning is 'rain'. There is no more perfect mithal than this of true submission and what it brings.

The goal we have said again and again is the annihilation of this illusory particularity that limits and encases one in the shell of the nafs. The opening of awareness expands the nafs until it recognises that it is indeed the whole Universe, then beyond that is the shattering, destroying power of the Divine Majesty revealing that all this splendour that is creation is of itself nothing, and there is annihilation, the seeker is uncreated. He is undone. He was a knot and the knot is untied, only the string remains, One, Timeless. The three stages of awakening to the Unity and being snuffed out are described in the 'Fanafillah' of the Diwan of the Shaykh al-Kamil:

Constantly cut through your illusion with a pure Tawhid to Allah.
So the oneness of action appears at the beginning of dhikr of Allah.

And the oneness of Attributes comes from love of Allah.

And the oneness of His Essence gives going-on with Allah.

He describes the Unitary experience in his 'Minor Song':

My beloved gave me a drink of the purity of love,

    and so I became the Beloved in every way.

He made me blind to myself so that I saw only Him,

    and He destroyed my secret in the manifestations of the Presence.

I shattered what was structured in me

    and joined what was separate: by the isolation of Unity I realised my Tawhid.

I attained my desires – directly to see His perfection and

    to experience His reality in every meaning and form.

I tore down the illusion of my self's existence,

    which is the greatest screen, and then I found Him, timeless, in every atom.

I made the Road my Wisdom-Guide as I approached

    His Attributes, and my Lord revealed to me the secret of my wisdom.

So sometimes I see creatures as the manifestation of

    Ahmad, and sometimes I see them as direct manifestations of Divine Power.

Sometimes my act of existing is obliterated by the sight of His Active Existence,

     and sometimes I see the Attributes appearing from Him,

And sometimes I withdraw from this metaphorical

   existence (the world) into the Unity of a Truth unconnected by shirk.

To anyone who withdraws into the Lights of the dhikr

   of the Truth, creation is nothing but particles of dust in space.

Sufism is not focussed on the goal of annihilation, for that is a gift from the Lord to the slave. What is longed for is something even more ravishing, hidden where fana is revealed, lasting where fana is a lightning that strikes. If you like, it is beyond the goal, for properly speaking, it cannot be a goal but merely what its name implies, BAQA, a going-on. Before we examine this final condition of the seeker, let us look at the journey to the goal of fana in its mithal-form in the Hajj. We have already spoken about the rites of tawaf and sa'ee, but after these the pilgrim moves on to the act of Hajj itself, 'Arafat. The Messenger said, 'Hajj IS 'Arafat.' It is a rite that takes man back to his origin, for 'Arafat is the meeting point, the point of the reunion on earth of Adam and Hawwa, peace be upon them. It is the source-point of the human situation. And when the pilgrim arrives there what is the rite?

'Amr bin 'Abdallah bin Safwan quoted a maternal uncle of his called Yazid bin Shaiban who said: 'We were in a place of standing of ours at 'Arafat,' which 'Amr indicated was very far away from where the Imam was standing, when Ibn Mirba' al-Ansari came to us and told us he had brought this message for us from Allah's Messenger: "Stand where you are, performing your devotions, for you are conforming to an ancient practice of your father, Ibrahim."' This is transmitted by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah.

So the meaning of the Hajj and its reality lies in this 'moment', this time at the source of life itself, and what the pilgrim does is stop. Stand on 'Arafat – it was for this that the journey was undertaken. Alone on a wide desert plain surrounded by a throng of others, identical to yourself, bare-headed and draped in two white cloths – many there will be buried in these same cloths – you just come to a halt – quite simply, exhausted, dazed, you stop. At that moment there is absolutely nowhere to go.

You are there.

With Allah.

The journey is accomplished.

After that everything is purification and supplication.

You move down again to Makka performing a series of rites which culminate in the return to Ka'ba for the farewell tawaf and the farewell stopping, the two raka's at the Maqam Al-Ibrahim, the Station of Ibrahim. The three great rites of the Hajj are simply to describe a circle, a straight line, and finally, a point. The Station of Ibrahim, al-Khalil, is the Station of qurb, nearness: uns, intimacy.

The goal.

Shaykh al-Akbar describes the difficult journey of which Hajj is the mithal:

The first degree is Islam, submission, and the last degree is fana, annihilation in the ascent, and baqa, continuation in the going-on. Between them is what remains. It is iman, ihsan, knowledge, pure oneness, tanzih, richness, poverty, humility, might, colouring, establishment in colouring, and fana if you are going-out, and baqa if you are going-on.

Dhu'n-Nun al-Misri, may Allah be pleased with him, was asked, 'What is the end of the gnostic?' He replied: 'When he is as he was where he was before he was.'

Abu 'Abdallah an-Nibaji said:

Sufism is like the disease of cancer: in the first stages the patient raves, but when the disease takes hold of him, it makes him dumb.

Describing this return from fana to baqa in 'The Robe of Nearness' (qurb) in his Diwan, Shaykh al-Kamil says:

Invocation of the Beloved clothed us in beauty,

    radiance, exaltation and joy.

In drawing near we threw off all restraint

    and proclaimed the One we love to glorify.

The Beloved gave us a draught of love to drink

     which forced all but the Beloved to vanish.

We saw created beings as pure particles of dust:

     we saw the Lights openly appear.

After having been obliterated and annihilated in a

     light-giving wine, we returned to the creation.

By an overflowing from Allah we were given going-on

    and with patience we concealed the One we love.

How often have we looked on a Wayfarer so that

    he has risen to the Stations of those who have plunged into the seas!

We have healed the hearts of what had taken possession

    of them by sciences subtle in taste.

We concerned ourselves with something secretly,

     and so it was, and the One we have chosen to love has come to us.

We heard a secret from the Presence of the Unseen:

    'With us you are beloved, so be thankful.'

We have been given Idhn to quench the thirst of

    whoever comes to us longing for the encounter and not seeking for information.

If gifts are plentiful, still, avoid them and be poor.

Humble yourself to the People – and they will give you

    the drink. Draw near to them and have no fear of disgrace.

Strip yourself of every knowledge and understanding in

     order that you may obtain what the Great have obtained.

Offer up the nafs, oh lover of union,

     and follow the Shaykh in what he has advised.

Witness the Truth in him, in essence and heart, annihilate

     yourself in him, and you will be victorious through him.

He is the Light of the Messenger in every aspect,

    and he is the medicine of hearts, openly and in secret.

So look to him and exalt him greatly.

     Go to him and be abject.

Blessings be upon the Prophet and his Companions

     and whoever has directed people to follow him.

And peace, fragrant with musk and every scent,

    and beauty and unrivalled sublimity.

So fana, although it is itself neither light nor darkness, but the basis of these, having no opposite, in its tremendous annihilating power, releases a flood of lights and ecstasy. It is surrounded with miracles and bliss, and often when it occurs people are drawn to the recipient from the other side of the earth. It is so total in its impact that a man must be guarded and guided, and insulated in case the force of the experience, or let us say the cessation of experience, is too much for him, and he remain forever afterwards majdhub, drunk, mad-in-Allah. The science of our tariqa is however what our beloved Shaykh described in 'The Robe of Nearness' – it is also the way of Shaykh Junayd, may Allah be merciful to them both. For where the fana gives light, affirmation and joy, the going-on is hidden, humble and obscure. The going-on returns a man to creation for the service of his Lord. He is the last man, not the first. He is the least of men and not the ruler. Our Shaykh, may Allah cover him in mercy, signed himself, 'the slave of the slaves', as we noted at the start of our journey, and the answer of our Messenger, may Allah bless him and give him peace, when he was called, was: 'Labbayk!' – 'At your service!' – the call of the pilgrims on Hajj to their Creator.

Going-on – it is total and complete submission: it is in the words of the Shaykh Abu-Su'ud: 'What is it except for the five salat and waiting for death?' It is outwardly to be dust and inwardly to be gold. It is as Imam Junayd put it: 'To possess nothing and to be possessed by nothing.' When you get to such a man there is nothing to see. They are the Sadiqin, the Truthful Ones, for they know how-it-is. Qur'an commands: 'Be with the Truthful Ones.' (9.119). Asked how one would recognise them, the Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, replied: 'When you see them they remind you of Allah.'

When you finally get to such a man, you have only arrived at your own self. You have come to a mirror, for he has been polished away – all that remains is a clear surface in which you may recognise your own light beyond all the illusory darkness that so troubles you which so persistently seems to keep you from being at peace. You get to him, the slave of your own nafs, your desires, your fears, your past which you long to escape from, and your future to which you long to escape, and you find yourself facing a man who is both the slave of the instant – 'Abd al-Waqt', and the worshipper of the instant – 'Abid al-Waqt', for that is all there is, and it is Reality. 'Do not curse Time,' said the Messenger, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, 'for it is Allah.'

The Shaykh al-Akbar, the Reviver of the Din, and the illumination of our tariqa, said:

Whoever knows that Allah is the same as the Path, knows the matter for what it is. Then He, may He be glorified and exalted, is travelling on it since there is no known except Him, and He is the source-form of the Wayfarer and the Traveller, so there is no knower except Him. He is you. So know your reality and your Tariqa. The matter has been made clear to you on the tongue of the interpreter if you but understand. It is the true tongue, so the only one who will understand is the one whose understanding is Allah.

The End

Allah, bless and give peace to Muhammad and his family

according to the number of all created things.

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