Shaykh Nazim: Unity Beyond Duality

The following excerpt, as transcribed in the book Ocean of Unity, originally published in 1987, is taken from the teachings and associations of Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani, the great teacher of Islamic Spirituality, also known as Sufism, and the Reviver of the the Way in the 20th Century.

Shaykh Nazim : Unity Beyond Duality

Shaykh Nazim: Unity Beyond Duality

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Does anyone think that the ocean is only what appears on its surface? By observing its hue and motion, the keen eye may perceive indications of that ocean’s unfathomable depth. The Lord’s mercy and compassion are an Ocean with no shore, providing endlessly varied vistas for those who sail its surface; but the greatest wonderment and fulfillment is reserved fro those “creatures of the sea” for whom that mercy has become their own medium.

The Lord beckons us  through a divine love and attraction which has been implanted in our hearts, a love that may be understood and felt consciously as divine by some, and only indirectly as love for His creatures or creation by others. In either case, the pull of our heartstrings draws us to those Mercy Oceans, just as our physical bodies feel drawn to a warm and gentle sea.

The Lord beckons us  through a divine love and attraction which has been implanted in our hearts, a love that may be understood and felt consciously as divine by some, and only indirectly as love for His creatures or creation by others. The pull of our heartstrings draws us to those Mercy Oceans, just as our physical bodies feel drawn to a warm and gentle sea.
— Shaykh Nazim

By means of the revelation of Holy Books and through the example set by Prophets and Saints, all human beings have been brought in contact with those Oceans. For humankind at large, these revelations serve as vessels, or as “instruction manuals” for building and maintaining vessels that ply those most spacious seas, but for those who have the means to read between the lines, a great revelation emerges: that we are of that sea, that our place, our home is in the depths of that sea, not on its surface.

The Holy Qur’an is an eminently unambiguous scripture, full of clear guidance for mankind at large, but there is much more contained in it than immediately meets the untrained eye. The discrimination to see into its depths is not only a matter of training, however, but a bestowal attainable only through sincerity and faith. There are endless levels of knowledge and wisdom through the depths of the Holy Qur’an, as it states:

“You shall surely ride stage after stage.”

And the attainment of each stage imparts great benefit, not only for the one who has attained it, but also for those around him, for mankind and for all creation.

One may ask, “To what ends so many hidden meanings?” Understanding these meanings is the key to deriving their “wisdom essence,” and it is that essence that is an inexhaustible fountain, an elixir of eternal life. We may summarize the essence of the wisdom our Lord seeks to impart unto us through all His revelations in one word: Unity.

We may summarize the essence of the wisdom our Lord seeks to impart unto us through all His revelations in one word: Unity.
— Shaykh Nazim

The dominating theme of the Holy Qur’an is the Uniqueness and Incomparability of God, and the weakness and utter dependence of all creatures upon Him. By thus stressing His Omnipotence and our powerlessness, He reminds us of our affinity with all creatures, and bestows upon us the humble but honorable cloak of servanthood.

Realize that you are no better than anyone else and that self-improvement may be attained through serving God and His servants, and you will have grasped the tools with which to shatter your idol of conceit, your egoism.

Realize that you are no better than anyone else and that self-improvement may be attained through serving God and His servants, and you will have grasped the tools with which to shatter your idol of conceit, your egoism.
— Shaykh Nazim

Having attained humility, the tribulations of life will propel you towards your goal, as they are a constant reminder of our weakness, and are received, if not with thankfulness, at least with patience, in the knowledge that they are drawing us ever closer to ultimate Unity.

Our journey towards that goal first brings us away from the illusion of multiplicity, the impenetrable veil of the common man. That is the vision of endless diversity, of apparently independent existences of billions of creatures each striving to improve its own condition and exert its willpower.

The next stage is the realization of God’s Omnipotence and our weakness. This realization inspires awe in the face of the majesty and might of Allah (Jalal), and one feels himself a most humble servant of a Most Transcendent Lord.

Beyond this stage is the stage of intimacy (uns) at which the imminence of the Lord is perceived:

“And I am closer to man than his jugular vein.”

At this stage one perceives His aspects of Love and Beauty (Jamal). But the ultimate goal is beyond even the intimacy of “I and Thou,” a Unity beyond duality, for He is All in All. That is the meaning of, “There is no god but He.”

As long as we cling to the separateness of our physical and spiritual existence, we are far from our goal. Why do we fear death? Because we are afraid of being non-existent. That is why the soul and body, which enable each other to exist in this realm, cling to each other so tenaciously. We may have to pay a high price to remain alive, but yet do we endure.

All of God’s Prophets had the same mission: To call people to divine existence in the Lord, and to a lifestyle conducive to the attainment of that end. What exactly does such a lifestyle entail, and what are its implications?

Once the idol of egoism is shattered, fulfillment is no longer found in self-aggrandizement. The emphasis shifts to seeking truth, purity and peace, to acquiring blessed attributes in the time allotted to us for preparing ourselves for that longed for reunion. Worldly cravings and desires are drastically reduced, and the pursuit of a decent livelihood to support a simple lifestyle replaces voracious egoistic striving.

Once the idol of egoism is shattered, fulfillment is no longer found in self-aggrandizement. The emphasis shifts to seeking truth, purity and peace, to acquiring blessed attributes in the time allotted to us for preparing ourselves for that longed for reunion. Worldly cravings and desires are drastically reduced, and the pursuit of a decent livelihood to support a simple lifestyle replaces voracious egoistic striving.
— Shaykh Nazim

Rich and powerful people were often at the forefront of opposition to the Prophets, as, lacking the spiritual training that might have enabled them to handle power and wealth with detachment, they saw their wealth as the essence and affirmation of their existence, and so vehemently opposed any change in the status quo.

The poor and powerless were generally more receptive, as they did not feel so threatened by the advent of a new spiritually oriented order. Certainly they also believed that money and power were the criteria of existence, but they figured, “We have nothing and are nothing anyway, so what do we have to lose by going and listening in?”

Then, when the Prophets called them to the Lord, they could easily renounce attachment to worldly values, and said, “We have left behind everything but ourselves.”

As for those who really meant what they said, from the poor who renounced little and from the rich who had to struggle hard to renounce attachment to worldliness, the essence of the message was then imparted: “Now, leave yourselves behind and approach the Ocean of Unity.”

Abu Yazid al-Bistami (one of the great masters of the Khwajagan line) approached the Divine Presence and “knocked on the gate.” He was asked, “Who is there?” “I have come, O my Lord,” replied Abu Yazid. He was told, “There isn’t any place Here for two. Leave your ego behind and come.”

When Abu Yazid once again approached the Divine Presence and was asked who it was, he said, “You, O Lord.”

The Lord is beckoning us to enter that Ocean of Unity while we are yet in this life, to dissolve as sugar dissolves in tea. When the sugar dissolves you can no longer say, “This is sugar and that is tea.”

Our Lord’s invitation to join in His Unity is always extended, and it is our fate to suffer until we respond to that invitation. As long as we cling to our claim of autonomy, we will have to bear the brunt of the hard lessons that this world has to offer us, and cry out in pain. Let go and nothing can harm you.

Our Lord’s invitation to join in His Unity is always extended, and it is our fate to suffer until we respond to that invitation. As long as we cling to our claim of autonomy, we will have to bear the brunt of the hard lessons that this world has to offer us, and cry out in pain. Let go and nothing can harm you.
— Shaykh Nazim

When a person attains the Station of Unity he leaves behind his own existence and is admitted to the Lord’s existence, so that Divine Oneness overtakes him.

We all stagger under the weight of the burden of this life, but we bear that burden only because we have not set it down. Some foolish people are not satisfied with carrying only their own loads but envy the loads of others. The result is this: That as long as you carry that weight of the ego, so many others attack you, and you are pierced by arrows and spears, slashed by swords of envy and enmity.

Attaining the gate of Oneness with the Almighty is the only way to be released from the sufferings of this world, and all of God’s Prophets have imparted methods for attaining this goal. However, man’s resistance is very great, and generally the larger our share of worldly fortune, the tighter do we grasp it.

That is one of the main reasons why Divinely Revealed Law, throughout the ages, has required the rich to give charity to the poor. Besides the obvious benefits of relieving the poverty of the recipient and keeping envy away from the threshold of the donor, the poor-due trains the well-to-do person to renounce some part of his wealth, and thus to purify it and himself. This is why the poor-due is called Zakat, or purification. Purification from what? From our attachment to separate existence.

By thus requiring people to relinquish at least one-fortieth of their wealth with every year, people are given a start on the path of renunciation, and renouncing even a few possessions is a struggle for man, who is born into this world clenched fists, but must leave it open-handed.

Nothing that you can collect from this world’s treasures will enable you to abide in it forever. So open your hands while they are yet warm. This is better for your soul, for the practice of open-handedness will train you to lay your existence down in the sublime Oneness of God.

Nothing that you can collect from this world’s treasures will enable you to abide in it forever. So open your hands while they are yet warm. This is better for your soul, for the practice of open-handedness will train you to lay your existence down in the sublime Oneness of God.
— Shaykh Nazim

That is the highest level of goodness in this world, for He Almighty promises a beautiful recompense:

“Shall the recompense of goodness be other than goodness?”

The Lord Almighty will accept your existence and give of Himself. That is the meaning of fana fillah (annihilation in God) and baqi billah (permanence in God), real existence in the Ocean of Unity of Allah Almighty. No one can anticipate the boundlessness of that pleasure, may Allah grant us that pleasure!

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Comments 3

  1. Salamalaikum Ihsan,

    I am confused with the concept of unity.

    Do we become God if we get absorbed in God ?
    Are you saying there is no difference between the Creator and creation?

    I am afraid of shirk.

    Please explain.

    Jazakallahkhair

    Riaz

    1. Post
      Author

      Dear Riaz, my apologies for the late reply. We must remember that in truth, in reality, nothing exists except Allah Almighty. Creation exists purely in His knowledge. Yet by transcending time and space, by transcending self and ego, and progressively awakening to pure consciousness is the key to true Life and Oneness in the Divine Presence.

      It is difficult for the mind to understand, for the mind and ego will always be separate from God. This is what distinguishes the principle of Oneness in Islam compared to for example New Age thoughts, ideas and beliefs.

      Only through transcendence of self can Truth be experienced. We were created for this. To dissolve the ego, the self, in the Divine Power and Light Oceans of Allah Almighty.

      Ultimately, Islam is about becoming self-less. Pure. Clean. Empty. So that nothing remains but the Presence of God.

      Then we become true servants, deputies, true khalifas of Allah Almighty, and serve not our own will, but divine will. This was the way and path of our blessed and noble Prophet, Sayyiduna Muhammad (saws).

      I cover this in more detail in the Islamic Meditation Program.

      Blessed regards.

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