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Ahadiya and Wahidiya (Uniqueness or Absolute Oneness and Unity)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism-3

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Ahadiya literally means oneness, or singleness, without having a second or like. It denotes oneness in order to emphasize uniqueness, or that God is One Who has no like. Because of this, when we say that God is Ahad (Unique, Absolutely One), we mean God's Uniqueness, or that there is none comparable to or like Him. And we use the term Wahid in order to emphasize the Divine Being's Unity. In other words, Ahadiya denotes God's having no like and is used to reject any claim of likeness unto Him; while Wahidiya (Unity) is used to emphasize or confirm His Oneness or Unity.

Ahad is a word signifying a quality that belongs to a single being exclusively. There is no other word that has the same meaning. Therefore, it is an attribute particular to the Unique, Eternally-Besought-of-All. The Realm of Ahadiya (Uniqueness or Absolute Oneness) is the horizon of the manifestation of this Attribute. While Wahidiya negates the existence of any attribute that is comparable to the Attributes of the Divine Being, Ahadiya indicates that the Divine Being has absolute freedom or exemption from having any likeness or resemblance. In short, Ahadiya denotes a sacred reality which has nothing to do with multiplicity, and which encompasses all existence, contains all the truths pertaining Divinity, and is absolutely free from any restrictions of time and space.

Some assert that Absolute Oneness or Uniqueness means that God cannot be qualified with any attributes or names, or that any attribute or name is annihilated in the Divine Being. This is wrong and God is exalted above such assertions. Uniqueness or Absolute Oneness means that we are focusing only on the Divine Being or Essence as being absolutely free from having any like or resemblance—without, however, denying Him Names or Attributes that are particular to Himself. By saying, "God is the Unique," or "God is the Absolutely One (Ahad)" we stress that nothing exists by itself, for everything exists only as a mirror of the absolute Divine Existence, that the Divine Being bears no resemblance to any other thing or being, and is infinitely beyond all conceptions. God's Unity (Wahidiya) calls to mind the fact that like a sun, the Divine Names and Attributes shine on and in everything—or that whatever exists is a result of the manifestations of those Names and Attributes.

While God's manifestation of His Unity denotes the annihilation of all existence in the light of the Divine Names and Attributes—without, however, ignoring the fact that things have an established, real essence (appointed for each by Divine Knowledge)—God's Absolute Oneness, or Uniqueness, encompasses all the Names and Attributes, without calling to mind the existence of these Names and Attributes. The Absolute Oneness, or Uniqueness, refers to the Divine Being exclusively. Those who are annihilated in the consideration of the Divine Essence close their eyes to His Names and Attributes—and since it is impossible for any created beings to perceive or comprehend the Divine Essence, they only feel wonder and amazement. Considering the Divine Essence with His Names and Attributes leads us to see that whatever exists is a mirror where those Names and Attributes are manifested or is a result of their manifestations.

The Realm of the Manifestation of Divine Uniqueness or Absolute Oneness is also the Realm where Divinity is manifested beyond all perception and all concepts of modality and comparison. In this respect, the absolutely pure, sacred Realm of the Transcendental Manifestation of Divinity is identical with the Realm of the Transcendental Manifestation of Divine Uniqueness. This Manifestation is the initial manifestation of the "All-Hidden Treasure" (the Divine Being) with His Majesty and Grace in order to be known. For this reason, all the instances or manifestations of honor, grandeur, and power, as well as those of grace, benevolence, and particular favor, are distributed from or have their source in this realm. This is also the realm "where" the Divine Being manifests His all-sacred love for His Essence, His Acts, His Art, and His Works, and makes our spirits familiar with this love, arousing our consciences with love and yearning. In addition, this Realm is an all-comprehensive mirror to God's being the Eternally-Besought-of-All and is the first step toward the manifestation of His Unity.

The Realm of Divine Uniqueness or Absolute Oneness can also be viewed as a mysterious expression of the truths of Divinity and the mysteries of His All-Glory before the Sphere of Divine Unity. The expression of these truths of Divinity is most briefly or most succinctly embodied in, In and with the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate and, Say: He: He is God, the All-Unique or the Absolutely-One. That is, as God is One with respect to His Divinity or as the Divine Being, He is also One as the Lord. In addition, He is One, or incomparable, with respect to His Attributes and Names; He is One with respect to His Essence and Existence; and He is One as the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate, the All-Providing, and the Creator.

As is indicated by the fact that the Proper Name of the Divine Being— Allah (God)—contains all of His other Names, the Sphere or Realm of Divinity is the realm that encompasses all other realms and which contains all Divine Names and Attributes. All other realms have their source in this realm. So, Divine Uniqueness or Absolute Oneness refers to a realm that is "continuously" and infinitely expanding and designates or appoints identities, while Divine Unity signifies another realm where everything is particularized and clothed in an identity. For this reason, Divinity manifests Itself as an all-encompassing Grace that bears Itself with Majesty; Divine Uniqueness or Absolute Oneness embodies both Grace and Majesty to the same degree, while Divine Unity reveals itself as the Majesty from which Grace develops. Nevertheless, Uniqueness, or Absolute Oneness, and Unity change places in the eyes of some who see the characteristics of each in the other. This approach seems to be more compatible with the meanings expressed by the Essence, the Attribute, and the Name in the phrase, In and with the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

With the consideration of the Divine Essence alone, or of the Divine Essence together with God's Names and Attributes, after the manifestation of Divine Uniqueness comes the manifestation of the Divine Names and Attributes. Divine Names and Attributes and similar titles and nominations are not considered within the Sphere or Realm of Divine Uniqueness. Since this Sphere is the meeting point of the inward and outward, it is also known as the Broadest Intermediate Realm. "The First Identification or Determination" is another used to describe this realm, while "the Truth of Muhammad" or "the Truth of Ahmad" is the most widely used designation. (Just as Divine Uniqueness, or Absolute Oneness, and Unity change places in some eyes, so too are the Truth of Ahmad and the Truth of Muhammad used one in the place of the other by some.) As for the realm where the Names and Attributes are initially manifested, it is the starting point of the classification of the realms into the incorporeal and corporeal. In this realm, or in this second stage of the manifestation of Divine truths, there is no room for multiplicity in the face of the initial manifestation of the Divine Names and Attributes. This realm, or sphere, is also called, "the Second Identity or Archetype," while it is generally known as "the Origin of All Else save God," and it is qualified as "Holy Absorption."

God's Unity signifies that the Divine Being is absolutely free from anything or any attribute that belongs to the created, such as composition or decomposition, multiplicity, possessing a body, having a like or resemblance, or a form, or being contained in time and space. The Divine Being's manifestation of Unity is His manifesting Himself with His Names and Attributes, as well as the Source of all beauties, favors, and rewards. This can also be considered to be the perfect manifestation of Divine Majesty as Divine Grace. All instances of grace and perfection and of majesty and grandeur are then only shadows of the shadows of the manifestation of His Grace and Majesty.

Divine Uniqueness, or Absolute Oneness, refers to the Divinity of the Divine Being and His being the All-Merciful (ar-Rahman), though there are many who ascribe the Divinity and All-Mercifulness of the Divine Being to His Unity. So the Divine Uniqueness is beyond all perception and concepts. This is why we cannot perceive the manifestations of Divine Majesty caused by His Uniqueness, for they relate to the Divinity, All-Mercifulness, Honor, and Grandeur of the Divine Being and, therefore, they are all-comprehensive and limitless—so intense and dazzling that they cannot be comprehended. For this reason, we need another manifestation that considers our capacity of perception and experience. The noble Qur'an is such a manifestation of Divine Speech according to our horizon of understanding. The Qur'an is so compassionate that it considers all levels of understanding from the highest to the lowest, holding binoculars or lenses of comprehensibility on the most profound truths at the same time that it takes us around the layers of the universe. It enables us to see and read everything accurately, and it does not leave us in bewilderment at the incomprehensibility of that which is all-encompassing.

Divinity manifests an overwhelming majesty, and this majesty reveals itself as being surrounded by a profound grace, for the sphere of Divinity is the source of all the Attributes of Perfection and the Names of Glory. For this reason, the sphere of Divinity has grandeur and uninterrupted majesty, as well as favor and endless grace, so that all the manifestations of the Attributes and Names have their source in it. Any radiance in the stage of identification and determination, any effusion toward expansion and growth, or any manifestation in the sphere of development and extension all issue from the encompassing throne of Divinity.

The manifestation of Majesty, which is considered to be the manifestation of infinite Honor and Grandeur, is also mentioned with the of "Absolute Identity." In order to emphasize this Grandeur and Honor, Which are indispensable to the Divine Being, the blessed word of Allah (God), the Proper Name of the Divine Being, has always been mentioned as the Word of Majesty, while God Himself is known as the One of Majesty. From another perspective, while God Almighty's manifestation with His Grace and Favor according to the capacity, merit, and need of every being is called the manifestation of Grace, His all-overwhelming, all-encompassing, and dominating manifestation of His Attributes and Names is mentioned as the manifestation of Majesty.

The Absolute Essence, whom some call the "Absolute, Pure Uniqueness," is also the source of majesty-predominating manifestations that issue from the Sphere of Divine Uniqueness or Absolute Oneness. In this Sphere, all the Names, Attributes, and Reputations are considered subordinate to the Divine Essence. This consideration causes the concept of God, the Ultimate Truth, to embrace all of existence with its all-encompassing nature and His Oneness becomes apparent with all its clarity and comprehensibility to those who are able to feel it. Those who feel His Oneness find themselves in the state of wonder and amazement that is caused by the all-overwhelming, imperceptible manifestation of Majesty. In the face of this manifestation, they cannot help but utter, "God is the All-Great in His incomparable, incomprehensible Greatness, and all glory be to Him in the morning and evening (i.e., at all times)." The All-Compassionate One's manifestations of favor, help, and observation are the manifestations of Grace, and they cause those who can feel them deeply to express their joy and thrills with the utterance, "All praise be to God forever!" The manifestations of Majesty are felt but cannot be comprehended or encompassed and therefore they cause constant wonder and utmost astonishment, while those manifestations of Grace are felt, perceived, and tasted, providing standards to interpret the mysteries that are related to the sphere of the other manifestations.

According to verifying Sufi scholars, Majesty is an overwhelming and all-encompassing Attribute of Honor and Grandeur, and it relates to His Absolute Oneness or Uniqueness—or, according to those in whose approach Uniqueness and Unity change places, to His Unity. As for the Divine Unity, it is both a to and the realm of the manifestations of the Divine Being's Attributes and Names.

Majesty gives rise to fear, awe, respect, and reverence in hearts, and with its works and imprints causes amazement and utmost astonishment. However, with respect to consequences, the manifestations of Majesty are extraordinarily warm, gentle, and exhilarating. Just as some who have the necessary capacity can observe the imprints of Unity in Absolute Oneness or Uniqueness, so too can the breezes of Grace be experienced on the horizon of Majesty; however, everyone can perceive them according to their capacity. This can also be described by saying that Majesty changes into Grace at the highest point of its perceptibility, and when experienced in the perfect degree, Grace becomes Majesty to a certain extent.

When we mention God's Face or God's Grace, we always consider the manifestations of the all-sublime Attributes and All-Beautiful Names in the mirrors of existence, for we are unable to study and describe the Divine Essence, Essential Qualities, or Attributes. We look at the works, ponder the acts, reflect on the Names, and think about the Attributes. In other words, we try to study the mysteries, grace, harmony, and meanings that are beyond the corporeal realm in the exhibition of nature, or in the book of existence, or in the dictionary of the universe, and we are content with the messages which are intended to be experienced by our spirits, and we should endeavor to understand well and correctly. Provided we can read things and events well and accurately, we might not need to be occupied with epistemological theories, something some of us attach great importance to.

All beauties, perfections or excellences, attractions, instances of harmony, and splendor in the outer and inner dimensions of existence are the shadows of the manifestation of the Divine Beauty and Grace reflected through numerous veils. In the face of all existence, and in the countenances of human beings, in the depths of human nature, in mutual helping and solidarity among all parts of existence, and in instances of mutual love and embracing, and also in elevated characters, the standards of good morals and instances of good, altruism, and in all other merits and virtues—in all of these, which are all shadows of the manifestation of Divine Beauty and Grace, we observe dazzling beauty and harmony, perfection and extraordinariness, with which we are intoxicated and go into raptures and ecstasies. We feel elated to reach the source of all these beauties and excellences, and advance toward that source according to our degree of belief, the extent or capacity of our spirituality, and the profundity of our spiritual life. Initiation on the Sufi path is only one of the ways of such advancement. In accordance with our capacity, we understand that everything good and beautiful has its source in and depends on the Divine Attributes of Mercifulness, Compassionateness, Providing, and Creativity, as well as of Favoring, Munificence, and Benevolence. We obtain the opportunity to observe the mirrors where the Hidden Treasure is reflected with these and other Attributes from Which the Divine Names issue, and we find ourselves in the middle of exhibitions of endless, concentric spheres of beauty.

For those who see existence from this perspective and travel through it toward the sole Source of all beauties and excellences, the manifestations of Divine Absolute Oneness and Uniqueness become manifestations of Divine Unity, and Majesty becomes Grace. Just as in all acts from the creation of everything to giving it its perfect form, and in creating the most compassionate mirrors of His manifestations from clay, the name the Lord always manifests itself with grace, so too do the Names the All-Overwhelming and the All-Compelling continuously present to us bouquets of roses and clusters of fruits from the gardens and orchards of Grace in the horizon of Majesty by wiping out appearances and destroying the imagined power of physical forces in our views respectively.

All these beauties and excellences, which are reflected in the works from the First Identification or Determination through the Attributes and Names, have been considered and evaluated by people of insight as a book to be studied, an exhibition whose observation gives endless delight, and a palace that arouses in people irresistible feelings of pleasure. They provoke the thrilling desire to catch sight of their Owner. By virtue of such a view of creation or existence and life, instances of coming into the world and departure from it have gained a profound meaning, the former being considered as undertaking a sacred duty, and the latter as a discharge from this duty and union with the Beloved. Life has become a continuous journeying toward Him.

Those who make this journeying are always with Him, even while in the world. Every attempt and movement of theirs is toward Him. Although living in a world of multiplicity, their goal is unity. Despite the heavy load of corporeality they carry on their backs, they always fly toward Him in the horizon of their spiritual life.

Wherever they are, they always pronounce, "God is Unique, Absolutely One; God is the Eternally Besought of All." They fasten their heart to Him and pour themselves out only to Him. They solve the mysteries of God's Uniqueness with the lights of His Unity. In the face of the sounding blows of the manifestations of Majesty, they cool off with the breezes of Grace. They voice their wonder and astonishment with words of Divine glorification and exaltation, and the favors they receive with words of praise and thanks. They try to avoid ignorance of the Absolutely One, the Eternally Besought-of-All, changing the losses anyone might suffer into a trade which will never perish (35: 29), and the absolute distance from God into His continuous company by acting as described in the following lines:

O initiate! Flee the realm of multiplicity and advance;
Take your home in the shelter of the All-Independent Single,
The Unique One, and advance.
If you want to see the face of Unity amidst this multiplicity,
Purify and brighten the mirror of your heart and advance.
Some circumambulate the Ka'ba and some others, the Divine Throne,
But you prefer the privacy of Divine nearness, and advance.
Ismail Haqqi Bursavi[1]

Acting so, they continuously waft their way to the heavens of God's Absolute Oneness and Unity.

Our Lord, do not let our hearts swerve after You have guided us and bestow upon us mercy from Your Presence. Surely You are the All-Bestowing,

Our Lord, take us not to task if we forget or make mistakes.

Bestow Your blessings and peace, our Lord, on him who is himself rightly-guided and guides to the truth, our master Muhammad, and on his Family and Companions, altogether.

[1] Ismail Haqqi Bursavi (1653–1725) is one of the great Sufi guides and writers. He spent much of his life in Bursa, Turkey. His Ruh al-Bayan (a four-volume commentary on the Qur'an) is very famous. Kitab an-Natica ("The Book on the Result") is his last work. (Tr.)