By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam
08 June, 2014
In many verses the Quran speaks of the omnipotence, pervasiveness and immanence of God. It says that God is everywhere and with everyone all the time. Man cannot see him but He can see everyone and everything. He listens to the call of His servants and is closer to him than his jugular vein. These are the essence of the Quran and so there is no need to quote the verses that exponent this message.
These messages are not present only in the Quran but the nature of God has been described in all monotheistic religions and all the divine scriptures. Therefore, verses describing God’s pervasiveness, omnipotence and immanence are found in all the religions scriptures. Particularly, in the Quran, in Bible and in the Vedas verses of such an import are present. The verses in the Quran ask the people to try to come close to God through meditation, remembrance and spiritual concentration. The Quran asks the followers of Islam to feel the closeness of God, the omnipotence and pervasiveness of God and thus remove the barriers between God and man. A verse tells Muslims that if man does not fill his heart with God’s remembrance, the heart is occupied by Satan who leads him astray. This means that God wants Muslims or devotees to not allow Satan come between Him and man.
The Sufis, the Sadhaks and spiritually inclined persons have tried to remove Satan from their hearts to come closer to God.
This practice and this perception led them to the feeling that God is present in their heart and around them and that God is the essence of all the existence in the universe. They felt this unity of existence both metaphysically and visually. This gave birth to the philosophy of Unity of Existence and Unity of Perception (Wahdat ul Wujud and Wahdat us Shuhud).
The greatest exponent of the philosophy of Wahdat ul Wujud was Ibn-e-Arabi while the greatest exponent of the philosophy of Wahdat us Shuhud was Hadhrat Mujaddid Alf-e-Sani. There are some verses in the Quran that support these philosophies.
One verse is:
“Nature of God is the same on which God has created man.”(Al Rum: 30)
Iqbal has translated the word Fitrat Allah as Habit of God. Another verse that strengthens this philosophy is:
“It is God who has created Man with one breath.” (7:189)
The former verse is a very critical one as explaining it in simple terms may mean that God and Man are similar in nature which the verse dose not actually imply. If we explain the verse in this way, we will violate Quranic verses that say that God is unique and he cannot be likened to anything.
“The example of God is above everything.” (Al Nahl: 60)
‘Do not liken God to anything” (Al Nahl: 74)
Then what may the verse mean? It may mean that God has created man from His own self as it has created everything in the universe from His own self. In this way, there is a kind of unity between God and man which God does not want man to violate or break by allowing Satan to come between the two. Unity can exist between to unequal persons, between the big and the small, the powerful and the weak and so on. The Vedanta philosophy is also based on the same belief that God can take many forms according to His will. Therefore, Hindu philosophy of Reincarnation says that when evil dominates the earth, God reincarnates Himself as Man or even animals to destroy the evil on earth. In Semitic religions, the belief is a little different. Here God reincarnates himself into prophets who are sent down to destroy evil on earth and to restore Faith. They are not God.
According to Nath and Siddha philosophy, the Supreme Being is called Shiva. Shiva is a formless Being which has the power of creativity called Shakti. When Shakti exerts itself, Shiva reduces His formlessness in different phases as Apar, then Param, then Shunya, then Niranjan, then Paramatma and in the next about 25 phases finally takes material form (man, animal, plants etc.)This creativity does not mean creating something new but to turn Himself into different forms. This is Wahdat ul Wajud in Sufism. When this opaqueness of form reduces its opaqueness in different stages of spiritualism, the Sufi or Sadhak will meet his original Shiva (God).
Another philosophy, Wahdat us Shuhud (Unity of Perception) is different from the philosophy of Unity of Existence only in perception. It identifies the entire visible universe with God as is the case with Pantheism. According to this philosophy, everything in the universe is the manifestation of one Supreme Being. In the primitive society, this belief led man to worship all the phenomena and objects of nature, particularly powerful ones, in reverence and in fear. In this way, the whole universe became a big pantheon. The Quranic verse:
“God is the light of Heavens and earth” is the basis of the philosophy of Wahdat us Shuhud. Here light is not treated as a material or physical substance but in metaphorical sense to denote the absoluteness and pervasiveness of God. Disputing the view of Quranic scholar Maulana Aslam Jairajpuri on the verse, Iqbal writes to Nazir Neyazi in his letter dated 9 Dec 1930:
: .. but this verse should not be seen from historical point of view. Verses of this import are present in almost all ancient divine scriptures. It does not mean that God is light dealt with in physical sense. Light is merely a metaphor which is used in ancient divine books for pantheistic purposes to stress on the pervasiveness of God. In my humble view, the Quran has used this ancient metaphor to show the absoluteness of God because in the material world, according to recent researches, only light is relatively absolute.”
Therefore, from the discussion carried out, it can be concluded that the philosophy of Wahdat ul Wujud and Wahdat us Shuhud are not an innovation of the Muslim Sufis but have their roots in all divine scriptures right from the Vedas to the Quran.
Aftab Ahmad is a columnist for New Age Islam. He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time.