The Eighteenth Letter

In His Name, be He glorified!

And there is nothing but it glorifies Him with praise.

[This Letter consists of ‘Three Important Matters.’]

THE FIRST IMPORTANT MATTER

Famous saints like Muhyi’l-Din al-‘Arabi (May his mystery be sanctified), the author of al-Futuhat al-Makkiya, and Sayyid ‘Abd al-Karim (May his mystery be sanctified), the author of a well-known book entitled Insan-i Kamil, speak of the seven levels of the globe of the earth and the white earth beyond the ‘Kaf’ mountain, and strange things which in Futuhat are called ‘mashmashiya.’ Are these true? But these places do not exist on the earth. Furthermore, these things that they say are not accepted by geography and science. And if they are not true, how can they be saints? How can people who say things contrary to reality and the truth in this way be ‘people of reality’?

T h e A n s w e r : They are the people of truth and reality. They are also saints and those who witness the realities. They saw correctly what they saw, but since they were not correct in declarations they made while in the state of illumination and witnessing, which is without comprehension, and in their interpretations of their visions, which were like dreams, they were partially incorrect. People of illumination and witnessing of that sort cannot interpret their own visions while in such a state, just as a person cannot interpret his own dream while dreaming it. Those who can interpret them are the exact scholars of the legacy of prophethood, called ‘the purified ones.’ For sure, when they rise to the rank of the ‘purified ones,’ the people of witnessing of that group understand their errors through the guidance of the Qur’an and the Sunna, and they correct them; and they did correct them.

Listen to this story which is the form of a comparison and will illustrate this truth. It is like this:

One time, there were two shepherds who were from among those who approach reality with their hearts. They milked their sheep into a wooden pail and put the pail beside them. They laid their shepherd’s pipe on the pail, then one of them stretched out, overcome by sleep. He slept for a while. The other shepherd was watching him carefully when he saw something like a fly emerge from the sleeping man’s nose, look at the pail of milk, enter the pipe at one end, emerge from the other, then disappear into a hole under a bush. Some while later the thing emerged again, passed down the shepherd’s pipe, entered the sleeping man’s nose, whereupon he awoke. He exclaimed: “I had an extraordinary dream!” His friend replied: “May God make good come of it. What was it?” The other man said: “I saw a sea of milk stretching over which was a strange bridge. The upper part of the bridge was closed and contained windows. I passed through the bridge. I saw a grove of oaks, the tops of which were all pointed. Beneath them was a cave; I entered it, and I saw some treasure full of gold. How can this be interpreted, I wonder?”

His alert friend said to him: “The sea of milk you saw was this wooden pail, and the bridge, our shepherd’s pipe. The pointed oak trees were this bush, while the cave was this small hole. Get the pickaxe and I’ll show you the treasure.” He brought the pick and they dug under the bush, and there they found gold enough to make them both prosperous in this world.

Thus, what the sleeping man dreamt was right, and what he saw, correct, but because he had no comprehension while dreaming and no right to interpret the dream, he could not distinguish between the physical world and the non-material world and his assertions were partially wrong; he said: “I saw an actual physical sea.” But since the man who was awake could distinguish between the physical world and the World of Similitudes, he had the right to interpret the dream; he said: “What you saw in the dream was right, but it wasn’t an actual sea; our milk pail appeared to your imagination as a sea, and our pipe as a bridge, and so on.” That means the physical and spiritual worlds have to be distinguished from one another. If they are combined, the assertions appear wrong.

For example, you have a small room the four walls of which have been covered with four large mirrors. When you enter it, you see the small room to be as broad as a large arena. If you say, “I see my room to be as large as a broad arena,” what you say is correct. But if you assert, “My room is as large as a broad arena,” you would be wrong, for you are confusing the World of Similitudes with the actual world.

Thus, not having weighed them on the balances of the Book and Sunna, certain of the people of illumination’s descriptions of the seven levels of the globe do not comprise only its physical state from the point of view of geography. For instance, they said that one of the earth’s levels is that of the jinns and demons, and that it has a breadth of thousands of years. Whereas those strange levels are not situated on our globe, which revolves every one or two years. But if we suppose the globe to be like a pine-seed in the World of Meaning, the World of Similitudes, the Intermediate Realm, and the World of Spirits, the similitude of the tree that would be formed from it would be like a huge pine-tree in relation to the seed. Thus, in their spiritual journeyings, some of the people of witnessing have seen some of the earth’s levels in the World of Similitudes to be extremely extensive; they have seen them to stretch over a distance of thousands of years. What they saw was right, but because superficially the World of Similitudes resembles the physical world, they saw the two worlds blended together, and interpreted them thus. When they returned to the world of sobriety, since they lacked balance, and since they wrote exactly what they witnessed, it has been considered to be contrary to reality.

Like the similitudes of a large palace and large garden are situated in a small mirror, so similitudes and non-material realities of the extensiveness of thousands of years are situated in a single year’s distance of the physical world.

Conclusion: It is understood from this matter that the degree of ‘witnessing’ is much inferior to that of belief in the Unseen. That is to say, the uncomprehending illuminations of some of the saints relying only on ‘witnessing’ do not attain to the statements about the truths of belief of the purified and exact scholars, who are the people of the legacy of prophethood and who rely on the Qur’an and Revelation, not on ‘witnessing’ — which are about the Unseen but are lucid, comprehensive, and right. That is to say, the balance of all illumination, mental states, visions, and witnessings are the Book and Sunna. And their touchstone are the sacred principles of the Book and Sunna, and the conjectural rules of the purified and exacting scholars.

SECOND IMPORTANT MATTER

Q u e s t i o n : The Unity of Existence is considered by many people to be the most elevated station. But the way of the Unity of Existence in this form was not seen explicitly in the Companions and foremost the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, who were at the level of ‘the greatest sainthood,’ or in the Imams of the Prophet’s Family and foremost the five ‘People of the Cloak,’ or the great interpreters of the Law and the generation following the Companions and foremost the founders of the four Schools of Law. So did those who emerged subsequently to them advance further than them? Did they find a better highway on which to proceed?

T h e A n s w e r : God forbid! Nobody at all has the ability to advance further than those purified ones who were the stars and heirs closest to the Sun of Prophethood; the highway is indeed theirs.

As for the Unity of Existence, it is a way and a state, but it is a deficient degree. However, because it is illuminating and pleasurable, most of those who have reached that degree on their spiritual journeyings have not wanted to leave it; they have remained there and supposed it to be the ultimate degree.

Thus, if one who takes this way is a spirit who is divested of materiality and intermediaries and has rent the veil of causes, and is immersed in a state of witnessing, then an experiential —not pertaining to knowledge— unity of existence which arises not from the Unity of Existence but from the Unity of Witnessing, may obtain for him a certain attainment, a spiritual station. He may even reach the degree of denying the universe for the sake of God. But if he is submerged in causes and preoccupied with materiality, the term Unity of Existence may go so far as meaning denying God on account of the universe.

Yes, the great highway is the highway of the Companions, those that followed them, and the Purified Ones. Their universal rule is, “The reality of things is constant.” And in accordance with the sense of There is nothing that resembles Him,1 Almighty God has absolutely nothing that resembles Him. He is utterly beyond being comprehended in place or class and being divided into parts. His relation with beings is Creativity. Beings are not imaginings or fancies as those who follow the way of the Unity of Existence said. Visible things too are Almighty God’s works. Everything is not ‘Him,’ everything is ‘from Him.’ For events cannot be pre-eternal. We shall bring this matter closer to the understanding with two comparisons:

T h e F i r s t : For example, there is a king. Through his name of Just Judge he has a Ministry of Justice which shows the manifestation of that name. Another of his names is Khalifa, and the Shaykh al-Islam’s Office and learned institution are the manifestations of that name. He has also the name of Commander-in-Chief, through which all the offices of the army display activity; the army is the manifestation of that name. Now, if someone was to appear and say: “The king is only the Just Judge, he has no office or ministry other than that of justice,” then the attributes and states of the religious scholars in the Shaykhul-Islam’s Office would have to be applied —not actually but theoretically — to the officials of the Ministry of Justice; a secondary and shadowy Shaykh al-Islam’s Office would have an imaginary existence within the actual Ministry of Justice. And again in hypothetical fashion, the dealings and states of the Army Office would be supposed in the officials of the Judiciary, an unreal Army Office would be imagined there, and so on. And so, in this situation, the king’s true name and true sovereignty is the name Just Judge and his sovereignty in the Ministry of Justice. His names like Khalifa, Commander-in-Chief, and Sultan are not actual, but hypothetical. However, the nature of kingship and reality of sovereignty demand all the names in actuality. And actual names require and necessitate actual offices.

Thus, the sovereignty of Divinity necessitates in actuality numerous sacred Names like All-Merciful, Provider, Bestower, Creator, Doer, Munificent, and Compassionate. And those true and actual Names require actual mirrors. Now, since the people of the Unity of Existence say: “There is no existent but He,” they reduce the reality of beings to the level of imagination. Almighty God’s Names of Necessary Existent, Existent, One, and Single have true manifestations and spheres of application. For sure, if their mirrors and spheres of application were not real and were imaginary and non-existent, it would not harm them. And perhaps if there was no colour of existence in the mirror of true existence, they would be purer and more brilliant, but the manifestations of Names like Merciful, Provider, Subduer, Compeller, and Creator would not be real, they would be hypothetical. However, those Names are realities like the Name of Existent, they cannot be shadows; they are essential, not secondary.

Thus, the Companions and great interpreters of the Law and Imams of the Family of the Prophet said: “The reality of things is constant;” Almighty God has a manifestation through all His Names in actuality. Through His creativity, all things have an accidental existence. For sure, in relation to the Necessarily Existent’s existence their existence is an extremely weak and unstable shadow, but it is not imagination, it is not fancy. Almighty God gives existence through His Name of Creator and He continues that existence.

S e c o n d C o m p a r i s o n : For example, on the four walls of this house are four full-length mirrors. However much the house is depicted together with the other three mirrors in all the mirrors, each holds the things in itself in accordance with it own make-up and colour; it is like the similitude of the house particular to itself. Now, two men enter the house. One of them looks at one of the mirrors and says: “Everything is within it.” When he hears of the other mirrors and images within them, he applies what he hears to a tiny corner of the one mirror whose contents are shadows twice over, whose reality has shrunk and has changed. He also says: “I see it thus, in which case reality is thus.” The other man says to him, “Yes, you see it like that and what you see is true. But in actuality and reality the true form of reality is not like that. There are other mirrors besides the one you looked at; they are not the shadow of shadows and as tiny as you saw.”

And so, each of the Divine Names requires a different mirror. And, since Merciful and Provider, for example, are real and fundamental, they require beings worthy of them who are needy for sustenance and compassion. Just as All-Merciful requires real beings with spirits needy for sustenance in a real world, so too, All-Compassionate requires a Paradise which is thus real. If only the Names of Existent, Necessarily Existent, and Single One of Unity are held to be real and the other Names considered to be shadows within them, it is a sort of injustice towards those other Names.

It is due to this mystery that the great highway is surely the highway of the Companions, the Purified Ones, the Imams of the Prophet’s Family, and the great interpreters of the Law and founders of the four schools of law, who possessed ‘greater sainthood’, and were directly the first class of the Qur’an’s students.

Glory be unto You! We have no knowledge save that which You have taught us; indeed, You are All-Knowing, All-Wise.2

O our Sustainer! Do not cause our hearts to swerve now that You have guided us, and bestow mercy on us from You; for You are the Bestower of Gifts.3

O God! Grant blessings to the one whom You sent as a Mercy to all the worlds, and to all his Family and Companions.

AN ADDENDUM TO THE SECOND MATTER

Q u e s t i o n : Muhyi’l-Din al-‘Arabi considered the Unity of Existence to be of the highest level. Likewise, some of the great saints who took the path of love followed him. However, you say that this matter is not of the highest level, and is not real; that it is rather the way, to a degree, of those who become intoxicated and immersed in the Divine, and of the people of love and ecstasy. So what, briefly, is the high level of the affirmation of Divine Unity pointed out by the clear verses of the Qur’an, through the mystery of the legacy of prophethood? Can you explain it?

T h e A n s w e r : It is a hundred times beyond the ability of an utterly powerless unfortunate like myself to judge these elevated stations with his limited thought. I shall just explain one or two extremely brief points proceeding from the effulgence of the All-Wise Qur’an. Perhaps they will be useful in understanding the matter.

FIRST POINT

There are numerous reasons for the way of the Unity of Existence, and for becoming enmeshed in it; one or two of them shall be described:

The First Reason: Because they could not squeeze into their brains the maximum degree of the creativity of dominicality, and could not entirely establish in their hearts that everything, through the mystery of Divine Oneness, is held directly in the grasp of dominicality and that all things have existence through Divine power, choice, and will, those who took that way were obliged to say that everything is either Him, or does not have existence, or is imaginary, or is His manifestation or emanation.

The Second Reason: The mark of passionate love is to want never to be separated from the beloved and to flee desperately from such separation; to tremble at the thought of parting, to fear distance from the beloved as though fearing Hell, and to abominate transience; to love union with the love of one’s own spirit and life, and to yearn for closeness to the beloved with the longing for Paradise. Thus, through adhering to a manifestation of Divine immediacy in all things, those who took the way of the Unity of Existence disregarded separation and distance; supposing union and meeting to be permanent, they said: “There is no existent but He;” through the intoxication of love and as demanded by the ecstasy of permanence, meeting, and union, they imagined that in the Unity of Existence was a most pleasurable way of illumination whereby they could be saved from the dreadfulness of separation.

That is to say, the source of the first reason was the hand of the intellect being unable to reach up to some of the truths of belief, which were extremely broad and elevated; its being unable to comprehend them, and not having developed completely in regard to belief. While the source of the second reason was the extraordinary unfolding of the heart from the point of view of love, and its wondrous expansion and breadth.

However, the supreme level of Divine Unity the Purified Ones—who were the people of sobriety and great saints of the legacy of prophethood —saw through the explicit expositions of the Qur’an is both extremely elevated, and shows both the maximum level of dominicality and creativity, and that all the Divine Names are real. It preserves its bases and does not spoil the balance of the decrees of dominicality. For they say that together with the Oneness of His Essence and His being free of space, with His knowledge, Almighty God encompasses and determines directly all things together with all their attributes, and through His will He chooses and specifies them, and through His power He creates them. He creates and directs the whole universe as though it were a single being.

He creates the huge spring with the same ease as creating a flower. Nothing can be an obstacle to anything else. There is no fragmentation in His regarding things; He is present everywhere at the same instant through the disposal of His knowledge and power. There is no division or distribution in His disposal. This mystery has been expounded and proved completely in the Sixteenth Word and in the Second Stopping-Place of the Thirty-Second Word. Since, according to the rule, “Comparisons are incontestible,” attention is not paid to defects in comparison and allegory, I shall set forth a very faulty comparison so that the difference between the two ways may be understood to a degree.

For example, let us imagine a huge, matchless, and wondrously adorned peacock which can fly from east to west in an instant, and opens and closes its wings, which stretch from north to south, are adorned with hundreds of thousands of fine patterns, and in every single feather of which are included brilliant arts. Now, there are two men observing it; they want to fly with the wings of the intellect and heart up to the elevated qualities of this bird; to its wondrous decorations. One looks at the peacock’s state and form and the marvellous inscriptions of power on all its feathers; he loves it with extreme passion and ardour; he in part abandons his attentive reflective thought, and adheres to love. But then he sees that every day those lovable decorations change and are transformed. Those objects of his love, which he worships, disappear and are lost.

While he should have said that through true Divine Unity, which he could not encompass with his mind, and absolute dominicality and the Oneness of the Divine Essence, they were the artistic decorations of an Inscriber possessing universal creativity, he said instead —in order to console himself— that the spirit of the peacock was so sublime that its maker was within it, or that the peacock had become Him, and that since its spirit had become one with its being, and its being combined with its outward appearance, its spirit’s perfection and being’s exaltedness displayed those manifestations, showing a different inscription and beauty every moment; it was not a true creation through its will, but rather a manifestation, an emanation.

As for the other man, he said that those harmonious and well-ordered decorations so full of art definitely required will, choice, intention, and purpose. It was not possible for there to be a manifestation without will, an emanation without choice.

Yes, the peacock had a beautiful and elevated nature, but it could not be the doer; it was passive. It could not become one with the active agent. Its spirit was fine and exalted, but it could not be the creator and disposer, only receptive and a means. For observedly in each of its feathers was an art performed with infinite wisdom and an inscription and decoration made through an infinite power. And these could not occur without will and choice. These arts showing perfect wisdom within perfect power, and perfect dominicality and mercy within perfect wisdom were not the work of some sort of manifestation. The scribe who had written that gilded notebook could not be inside it and be united with it. The notebook rather only had contact with the nib of the scribe’s pen. In which case, the wondrous decorations of the similitude of the peacock known as the universe were a gilded missive of the peacock’s Creator.

Now, look at the peacock and read the missive. Say to its Scribe: “What wonders God has willed! Blessed be God! Glory be to God!” One who supposes the missive to be the scribe, or the scribe to be inside the letter, or fancies the missive to be imagination, has surely hidden his reason in the veils of love, and been unable to see the true form of reality.

Among the varieties of passionate love, the one most giving rise to the way of the Unity of Existence, is love of this world. When it turns into true love, love of this world, which is metaphorical, is transformed into the Unity of Existence. A person loves a personal beloved with metaphorical love. Then, unable to accept with his heart his beloved’s transience and ephemerality, he consoles himself saying that he is a mirror to the True Object of Love and Worship, and attaches himself to a reality, so acquiring permanence for him through true love.

In the same way, when the strange love of one who takes the huge world and the universe in its totality as his beloved is transformed into true love through the constant blows of death and separation, he seeks refuge in the way of the Unity of Existence, in order to save that great beloved of his from death and separation. If he has extremely strong and elevated belief, it becomes a pleasurable, luminous, acceptable level, like with those resembling Muhyi’l-Din al-‘Arabi. However, there is the possibility of falling into abysses, embracing materiality, and becoming submerged in causes. As for the Unity of Witnessing, it is harmless; it is an exalted way of the people of sobriety.

O God, show us what is indeed the truth, and make us follow it!

Glory be unto You! We have no knowledge save that which You have taught us; indeed, You are All-Knowing, All-Wise.4



THIRD MATTER

An important matter that has not been solved by philosophy and reason.

Every day in [new] splendour does He [shine]!5 * Indeed, your Sustainer is Doer of what He will.6

Q u e s t i o n : What is the reason for and wisdom in the astonishing unceasing activity in the universe? Why do these fleeting beings not stop, but continuously change and are renewed?

T h e A n s w e r : To explain the wisdom in this would require a thousand pages. And so we shall leave aside a full explanation and squeeze an extremely brief summary of it into two pages.

If a person performs a natural function or social duty and works enthusiastically to do so, one who observes him carefully will certainly understand that there are two things that make him perform the duty:

The First are the benefits, fruits, and advantages which result from the duty, which are called ‘the ultimate cause.’

The Second: There is a love, a desire, a pleasure, which cause the duty to be performed enthusiastically, and these are called the ‘necessitating cause and reason.’

For example, eating food; the pleasure and longing arising from appetite drive a person to eat, and afterwards, the result of eating is nourishing the body and perpetuating life. In the same way, And God’s is the highest similitude,7 based on two sorts of Divine Names, the awesome and astonishing endless activity in the universe is for two vast instances of wisdom, each of which is also infinite:

T h e F i r s t : Almighty God’s Most Beautiful Names have incalculable sorts of manifestations. The variety in creatures arises from the variety of the manifestations. The Names require to be manifested in a permanent fashion; that is, they want to display their embroideries; that is, they want to see and display the manifestations of their beauties in the mirrors of their embroideries; that is, they want every instant to renew the Book of the Universe and missives of beings; that is, they necessitate the continuous meaningful writing, and to display each missive to the study and gaze of the the Most Pure and Holy Essence, the One signified, as well as to all conscious beings; they require to make each of the missives read.

T h e S e c o n d R e a s o n a n d I n s t a n c e o f W i s d o m : Just as activity in creatures arises from an appetite, a desire, a pleasure, and there is a definite pleasure in all activity, rather, all activity is a sort of pleasure; so too, in a suitable way and form appropriate to His essential self-sufficiency and absolute riches and in a manner fitting for His absolute perfection, the Necessarily Existent One has boundless sacred compassion and infinite holy love. And He has a boundless sacred ardour arising from that sacred compassion and holy love, and an endless holy joy arising from that sacred ardour, and, if one may say so, an infinite sacred pleasure arising from the sacred joy. And pertaining to that Merciful and Compassionate One, is, if the term is permissible, a boundless sacred gratification and infinite holy pride arising from the boundless feeling of compassion that springs from the sacred pleasure, sacred gratification and pride which arise from the gratitude and perfections of creatures which result from their abilities emerging from the potential to the actual and their developing within the activity of power. It is these which necessitate in boundless fashion, an endless activity.

Thus, it is because philosophy, science, and natural philosophy do not know this subtle instance of wisdom that they have confused unconscious Nature, blind chance, and lifeless causes in this utterly knowing, wise, percipient activity, and falling into the darkness of misguidance, have been unable to find the light of reality.

Say, “God [sent it down];” then leave them to plunge in vain discourse and trifling.8

O our Sustainer! Do not cause our hearts to swerve now that You have guided us, and bestow mercy upon us from Yourself; indeed, You are the Bestower of Gifts.9

O God! Grant blessings and peace to the Solver of the talisman of Your universe to the number of atoms of beings, and to his Family and Companions, so long as the earth and the heavens persist.

The Enduring One, He is the Enduring One!

S a i d N u r s i



FOOTNOTES

1. Qur’an, 42:11.

2. Qur’an, 2:32.

3. Qur’an, 3:8.

4. Qur’an, 2:32.

5. Qur’an, 55:29.

6. Qur’an, 11:107.

7. Qur’an, 16:60.

8. Qur’an, 6:91.

9. Qur’an, 3:8.