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Studies in Islamic Mysticism

By Reynold A. Nicholson

The Descent of the Absolute

Pure Being, devoid of qualities and relations, is called by Jílí "the dark mist" or "blindness" (al-‘Amá), a term which the Prophet is said to have used in answering the question, "Where was God before the creation? 2" Dr Iqbal remarks that al-‘Amá, translated into modern phraseology, would be "the Unconsciousness," and that our author here anticipates the theories of Schopenhauer and Von Hartmann 3. The parallel seems to me little more than verbal. Jílí's ontology is based on logic, and in developing it he follows a method which curiously resembles the Hegelian dialectic. According to Hegel,

the Absolute Idea itself is the resolution of the antithesis of Nature and Mind. The Idea is articulated as abstract, self-identical unity, negation of this by a plural "other" of particularity and differences, and as concrete identity-in-difference and unity-in-plurality, wherein it affirms itself with a richer content.…The "result" in question, however, must not be expressed amiss. It does not occur at the end of a time-process. "Moments" severed for us are together for the Absolute Idea, the conscious Reason, the Notion which knows all as itself. The tail of the serpent is in the serpent's mouth. This self-sundering of the Idea is the Hegelian form of the mystic Jacob Böhme's view that "without self-diremption" the being of the Eternal would be not-being. Conscious knowledge, it is urged, implies antithesis within the Spiritual Ground 4.

Similar principles determine Jílí's line of thought, although he never states them formally.

The ‘Amá, as he describes it, is not a blind unconscious power, but it is the absolute inwardness (bu?ún) and occultation (istitár) in which the opposite concept of outwardness (?uhúr)—i.e., all relations of the Essence to itself as "other "is somehow absorbed and negated, like starlight in sunlight 1. Jílí compares the ‘Amá, as the eternal and unchangeable ground of Being, to the fire which, in a sense, is always latent in the flint whence it flashes forth 2. Thus the ‘Amá may be regarded as the inmost self, the "immanent negativity" of the Essence; as such, it is logically correlated with A?adiyya 3, in which the Essence knows itself as transcendental unity; and both these aspects are reconciled in the Absolute, "whose outwardness is identical with its inwardness 4."

A?adiyya, the abstract notion of oneness, although nothing else is manifested in it, marks the first approach of the Essence to manifestation 5. Its nature is analogous to a wall viewed from a distance as a single whole without reference to the clay, wood, bricks, and mortar of which it is composed: the wall is "one" in respect of its being a name for the "murity" (jidáriyya) 6. In the same way A?adiyya comprises all particulars as negated by the idea of unity. This absolute unity in turn resolves itself into a pair of opposites in order to become re-united in a third term which carries the process of individualisation a stage further. Thus we arrive at Wá?idiyya  or relative unity, i.e., unity in plurality. The intervening thesis and antithesis are named Huwiyya (He-ness) 1 and Aniyya (I-ness) 2. Huwiyya signifies the inward unity (al-a?adiyyat al-bá?ina) in which the attributes of the Essence disappear; Aniyya, the obverse side or outward expression of Huwiyya, is that unity revealing itself in existence. Clearly, then, external manifestation is the result of a "self-diremption " which lies in the very nature of the Essence as Pure Thought 3. The discord of Huwiyya (the Many submerged in the One) and Aniyya (the One manifested in the Many) is overcome in the harmony of Wá?idiyya (the Many identical in essence with each other and with the One) 4. In Wá?idiyya "essence is manifested as attribute and attribute as essence," so that all distinction between the attributes is lost: one is the ayn (identity) of the other, Mercy and Vengeance are the same. We shall see that from this point of view the plane of Divinity (Iláhiyya) is a descent from Wá?idiyya, in so far as in the former the attributes, which were identical in the latter, become distinct and opposed. Before passing to theology, let me put the author's scheme of ontological devolution in the form of a table.

A. Absolute Being or Pure Thought (al-Dhát, al-Wujúd al-mu?laq).

(a) Inward aspect: "the dark mist" (al-‘Amá). Being, sunk in itself, bare potentiality.

(b) Outward aspect: abstract Oneness (A?adiyya). Being, conscious of itself as unity.

B. Abstract Oneness (A?adiyya).

(a) Inward aspect: He-ness (Huwiyya). Being, conscious of itself as negating the Many (attributes).

(b) Outward aspect: I-ness (Aniyya). Being, conscious of itself as the " truth " of the Many.

C. Unity in plurality (Wá?idiyya). Being, identifying itself as One with itself as Many.

94:1 "Descent" (nuzzúl, tanazzul) is equivalent to "individualisation" (ta‘ayyun) and denotes the process by which Pure Being gradually becomes qualified.

94:2 K I. 43, 2 foll. Cf. Lane under  and Nyberg, Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-‘Arabi, Introd., p. 154. Jílí says that the word signifies the Essence without its complementary attributes of ?aqq (Creator) and khalq (creatures), i.e., the Essence viewed apart from its "self-diremption."

94:3 Development of Metaphysics in Persia, p. 165 fol. I have assumed that Dr Iqbal is referring to these philosophers. His exact words are "anticipates metaphysical doctrines of modern Germany."

94:4 E. D. Fawcett, The World as imagination, p. 102.

95:1 K I. 43, 8 foll.; I. 44, 5 foll. Cf. 1. 61, 4 foll.—"The Essence (Dhát) denotes Absolute Being stripped of all modes, relations, and aspects. Not that they are outside of Absolute Being; on the contrary, they belong to it, but they are in it neither as themselves nor as aspects of it; no, they are identical with the being of the Absolute. The Absolute is the simple essence in which no name or quality or relation is manifested. When any of these appears in it, that idea is referred to that which appears in the Essence, not to the pure Essence, inasmuch as the Essence, by the law of its nature, comprehends universals, particulars, and relations, not as they are judged to exist, but as they are judged to be naughted under the might of the transcendental oneness of the Essence."

95:2 K I. 42, 23 foll.

95:3 Jílí says distinctly that the terms ‘Amá and A?adiyya are opposed to each other as inward and outward aspects of the Essence (K I. 43, 7 foll.).

95:4 K I. 45, 7.

95:5 K I. 61, 16 foll.

95:6 K I. 36, 9 foll.

96:1 See K I. 61, 20 foll. and 82, 11 foll. Huwa, the pronoun of the third person singular, is called in Arabic grammar "the absent one" (al-ghá’ib); therefore Huwiyya indicates the absence (ghaybúbiyya) of the attributes of the Essence (from manifestation and perception). It is the inmost consciousness of God (sirr Allah). Jílí demonstrates this (I. 82, 19 foll.) by analysing the name Allah, which in Arabic is written ALLH: take away the A, and there remains LLH = lilláh ="to God"; then take away the first L, and you are left with LH = lahú ="to Him"; remove the second L, and you have H = Huwa ="He" (cf. my ed. of the Kitáb al-Luma‘, p. 89, 1. 3 foll.). God is often described by ?úfís as the huwiyya or inmost self of man and the universe, while man and the universe are the huwiyya (?aqíqa, objectified idea) of God. God is the absolute Huwiyya (Individuality), and everything has its own peculiar huwiyya, which makes it what it is (Fu?ú?, 146, 8 foll.). Cf. Fu?ú?, 46 and 194.

96:2 K I. 61, 22; 83, 16. Aniyya, derived from Ana, "I," and indicating presence, is involved in the notion of Huwiyya as the rind is implied by the kernel.

96:3 Cf. E. Caird, Hegel, p. 149: "As the lightning sleeps in the dewdrop,. so in the simple and transparent unity of self-consciousness there is held in equilibrium that vital antagonism of opposites, which, as the opposition of thought and things, of mind and matter, of spirit and nature, seems to rend the world asunder."

96:4 Cf. K I. 37, 8-9: "Wá?idiyya is that (aspect) in which the Essence appears as unifying the difference of my attributes. Here the All is both One and Many. Marvel at the plurality of what essentially is One."



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