by Ustadha Umm Sahl
The first issue that we'll look at, inshallah, is the "doctrine of the unity of existence (wahdat al-wujud)". I would rather translate this as "oneness of being" as I believe this more accurately represents what is meant by this concept. Akram wrote the following after translating one of the poems of Sheikh `Abd al-Ghani from his Diwan al-Haqa'iq (Collected Poems of Higher Spiritual Realities), "Notice the doctrine of "unity of existence (wahdat al-wujud)", which is to believe that the existence of all things is one and that existence itself is Allah. Exalted is Allah Most High above their Satanic heresy". Akram has made the common mistake of taking this concept of "oneness of being" in its ostensive sense, as would be expected, as this is what comes to mind from the literal meaning of the words and he hasn't been exposed to any other definition.
In order to understand this concept we will first have to look at how existence
is defined by the Imams of tenets of faith (`aqida). In the Ahl al-Sunna
schools of `aqida existence or being is divided into three categories.
The first is necessarily existent (wajib al-wujud ), which defines the existence of Allah Most High. Allah Most High exists independently through Himself and His existence is necessary for the existence of all other things. None of His creation share in His existence. It is to this category of being that the Sufis are referring when they say "oneness of being (wahdat al-wujud)".
The second category is contingent existence [possible ~] (al-wujud al-mumkin ). This defines the existence of created things that may or may not exist. Created things have no independent being and their existence is not necessary. Allah Most High brought them into being through His will, power and knowledge and if He willed they would have no existence. Creation only exists through Him giving it being, so in this sense it exists through Him, but doesn't share in His independent, necessary being.
The third category is impossible being (mustahil al-wujud ), which includes the existence of a co-sharer in Allah's entity, attributes or actions, which is impossible both according to revelation and the intellect.
If the difference between necessary existence (wajib al-wujud ) and contingent existence (mumkin al-wujud ) is clearly understood, then a lot of difficulty in Sufi literature is explained. When the Sufis such as `Abd al-Ghani refer to "oneness of being", they are referring to the existence of Allah Most High. Creation is not what is intended. Created things have no being in themselves in the sense that the movement of a puppet points to the presence of the puppeteer, or a shadow that something is making the shadow. If the puppeteer stopped pulling the strings the puppets being would come to an end. Is the puppet the same as the puppeteer and share in his existence? No. Could the puppet exist without the existence of the puppeteer? No. Does the puppet have a true existence that is in any way parallel to or comparable to the existence of the puppeteer? No. If not that Allah created us and sustains every moment of our life, we would have no life. Does this mean that we are Allah? Certainly not. Is our existence independent of Allah? No. Does our appearance of being in any way resemble the independent being of Allah Most High? No.
That what Sheikh `Abd al-Ghani meant when referring to "oneness of being" was the necessary existence of Allah and not creation is verified in the following poems also taken from the Diwan al-Haqa'iq. On page 44:
The Oneness of Being that we maintain is none other than
the Oneness of the Truth (al-Haqq ), so understand what we say,
The Oneness of Allah, the sole Unity, which the pre-eminent
luminaries have witnessed,
And there is no difference with us, O ignoramus, whether we say
"Being (wujud )" or "The Truth (al-Haqq )",
Don't imagine that the Being (wujud ) that we mention is
creation according to us.
Also, in vol.1, Page 22:
Truly, Being is unseen by eyes,
In respect to what the beholder sees;
Eyes perceive nothing of it besides "what is besides",
Namely, contingent things, a collection of shadows;
A shadow but shows that there is something standing,
That controls it, beyond any doubt;
So beware of thinking that what you perceive
Is that Being: be one of those who know;
For all of what you perceive is but what "is there (al-mawjud)",
Not this True Being, He of Glorious Signs;
Of a certainty, Being is completely debarred from you,
In its majesty, elevation, and exaltedness;
For all you see is contingent and perishable,
and you too, are bound to perish.
It should be obvious that Sheikh `Abd al-Ghani was not a pantheist and I think that if Akram had not been hasty, but rather made an objective investigation, he would have reached the same conclusion and absolved himself the responsibility of accusing a Muslim of a doctrine that has no resemblance to that Muslim's belief.