There are 36 attestations of tawhîd in the Qur’ân. This takes place by means of a dhikr, which is in this case the tahlîl. The basic shape is well known to you: “no god but God!” This is the recitation wherein God is declared one, by negating what is other than Him and by affirming Him.
O Lord! Light the eternal fire in my heart!
Turn every breath into a messenger of Your compassion!
1-36: The first attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 2:163. It is a tawhîd by means of the Divine name ar-Rahmân:
Wa ‘ilâhukum ‘ilâhuñw-wâhidå: lââ ‘ilâha illâ huwa-r-rahmânu-r-rahîm
And your God is one God, no god but He, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî presents his commentary on all the 36 attestations of tawhîd in the very long chapter 198 of his The Openings revealed in Mecca. Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Razzâq Yahyâ has written a book in French, dealing only with the part of this chapter that comments on the 36 attestations. The ‘breath of the Compassionate‘ (nafas ar-Rahmân) is the immediate principle of the universal manifestation. This compassionate respiration of the One is the origin of what we, with our ordinary ‘worldly’ consciousness, however may perceive as duality in the cosmos.
2-36: The second attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 2:255, which is the famous Throne verse. It is a tawhîd of the beginning:
‘Allâhu lââ ‘ilâha illâ huwa al-hayyu’l-qayyûm
God, no god but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting.
Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Razzâq Yahyâ explains that mubtadi’ means ‘the one who begins‘. God is He with Whom the beginning is made. You may know that al-Badî‘, the Commencer, is one of the most beautiful names of God. According to the Chishti pir, al-Badî‘ is the One Who creates things without a parallel, i.e. objects that do not exist.
3-36: The third attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 3:1-2:
Alif lâm mîm, ‘allâhu lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ huwa al-hayyu’l-qayyûm
A L M, God, no god but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting.
This is the tawhîd of the letters A, L and M of the creative breath of ar-Rahmân. This is also a tawhîd of beginning. He is al-Badî, the Commencer, who begins the creative process without a template.
Next to the creative process, there is the inspirational process, depicted by A, L, and M. Revelation descends from the Divine world, to the angelic world to the human world. From another point of view shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî states that Alif is a name of an angel, Lâm is the name of an angel and Mîm is the name of an angel.
The Living is said to be the leader of 7 very important Divine names, while the Chishtî shaykh Bâbâ Farîd considers the Living, the Self-Subsisting to be the Supreme Name.
4-36: The fourth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 3:6. This is the tawhîd of ‘will’ (mashî’a):
Lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ huwa-l-‘azîzu-l-hakîm
No god but He, the Incomparable and Unparalled One, the Wise One.
The Chishtî pîr comments that al-‘Azîz is the One Who does not depend upon anyone or upon anything. He is beyond comprehension and understanding. The Wise One is endowed with utmost knowledge and profound proficiency & perfection in knowledge and learning. Real wisdom lies in the gnosis of God.
The above Qur’ânic sign is preceded by a sentence stating that ‘He is the one, Who forms you in the womb, however He wills’. This explains why the fourth attestation is called the tawhîd of ‘will’.
The Arabic text uses a word that is read aloud as yashââ’. In the commentary by shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî this is explained by means of another word arâda. Both verbal forms can be translated as respectively He wills and He willed, but they refer to nuances in regard to ‘will’.
The noun ‘will’ – when translated as mashî’a – is a direct hypostasis of the Essence, dealing with the common principle of manifestation and non-manifestation. The other noun for ‘will’ in Arabic – i.e. irâdah – has to do with the Divine will in a purely ontological sense. According to the Belgian shaykh ‘Abd ar-Razzâq Yahyâ it is the immediate principle of the manifestation of things by means of the creative word kun (Be!).
5-36: The fifth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 3:18. It is the tawhîd of Him and of the testimony about the Divine name al-‘Adl, the Just, the Equitable One. God testifies that
‘Annahû lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ huwa – no god but He and the angels and those possessed of knowledge, upholders of justice.
The Chishtî pîr says that al-‘Adl is the One Who is ever just and equitable. Justice implies to give everything its proper place. God gives all and everything its characteristic creation. He describes Himself as the One Who realizes the balance in tawhîd. He testifies that this tawhîd has to do with the rule of justice.
6-36: The sixth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 4:87. This is also a tawhîd of beginning, like some of the preceding ones. It is his word:
‘Allâhu lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – God, no god but He, Who will gather you together for the Day of Resurrection.
When we are gathered in the place of affirmation of Him, then this is a dhikr of goodness for us.
7-36: The seventh attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 6:102, which is a tawhîd of being. It is His word:
Dhâlikumu-llâhu rabbukum lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – ‘That is God, your Lord, no god but He, Creator of everything, so worship Him’.
We are asked to worship Him, and this is possible, because He has created us. Our being is dependant on the necessary being of our Lord.
8-36: The eighth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 6:106. It is a tawhîd of following, which is part of the tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘Follow what is revealed to you lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – No god but He, and turn away from the idolaters’.
This is the tawhîd of blind following (taqlîd). It is a tawhîd of faith and not of the intellect.
The Ipseity (huwiyya) appears in these lines attributed to Khwâja Mu’inuddîn Chishtî:
Agar to kherqa-ye-hastî-ye-khîsh pârah konî
Nazar konî ke dar în zîr-e-pîrâhan hama ûst
If you’d tear into pieces the dervish mantle of your own existence,
Then you’d see about all things underneath it: All is He!
When ‘you’ disappear, ‘He’ appears. This experience can also be found in the lines of shaykh Ibn Mashîsh:
Plunge me in the oceans of unity (al-ahadîya),
Pull me back from the sloughs of tawhîd.
In unity all traces of a human being (the servant) are effaced.
Titus Burckhardt comments:
‘Since at-tawhîd normally signifies the attestation of unity, or by extension, union with God, Ibn Mashîsh petition is paradoxical; what he has in view in this petition is the confusion of the created with the Uncreated; it is as if he said: preserve me from the pitfalls that the doctrine of unity, improperly understood, extends towards the ‘drunken’, who no longer know how to distinguish between Lord and servant’.
Shaykh Ibn Mashîsh continues:
And drown me in the source of the ocean of oneness,
So that I neither see, nor hear, nor am conscious, nor feel,
Except through it.
In oneness (wahidiyya) the human being appears in God; multiplicity in oneness and oneness in multiplicity. He is the hearing whereby you hear, He is the sight whereby you see, etc.
These lines are attributed to Khwâja Mu’inuddîn Chishtî:
Ta’în ast gar az ‘itibâr mâ o man ast
Zi ‘itibâr gozar kon ki mâ o man hama ûst
If you hold the conviction that there is the duality of ‘you and I’,
Then say goodbye to this conviction about ‘you and I’: All is He!
The term ta’în is a contraction of ta’ayyon (lit. specifying, fixing, determining, assigning, appointing, deputing, establishing; appointment, establishment, etc.) This implies the first act of God of naming Himself. By naming Himself, by again and again eternally all things come to be. This is the passage from the presence of unity (ahadiyya) to the presence of oneness (wahidiyya).
The Qur’ân refers to God by using several personal pronouns. The Ipseity (huwiyya) has been derived from the pronoun ‘He’ (huwa). It implies the Absolute Mystery, because this pronoun is that of the absent person.
9-36: The ninth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 7:158. It is the tawhîd of the Ipseity with the name of the Sender of Messengers (fî-l-ism al-Mursil), which is the tawhîd of the Kingdom:
‘Truly I am a Messenger of God to you all, Him to Whom belong the dominion of the heavens and the earth. Lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ huwa yuhyî wa yumît – No god but He, giving life and giving death’.
Giving life and death is the traditional power of a king. The Sender of Messengers states however in Q. 21:107 that: ‘We have only sent you as a compassion to the worlds’. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qâdir from Algeria says that this refers to Muhammad (s.a.w.) who is considered to be as-Sûrah ar-Rahmâniyyah – the Form of the Universal Compassion.
10-36: The tenth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 9:31. It is the tawhîd of a command (amr) to worship:
Wa mââ ‘umirûû ‘illâ li-ya’budûû ‘ilâhañw-wâhidâ: lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – ‘and they were commanded only to worship one God: no god but He. Glorified is He above what they associate with Him’.
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî comments that a command to worship appears to be strange. According to him worship is intrinsic to a human being.
The word amr has received ‘command’ as its translation. It also means ‘reality’ or, to be more specific, ‘manifested reality’. He was a hidden treasure and He has created us so that we would recognize Him. The command only to worship one God, implies to recognize the reality that there is no god but the one God: Hû.
11-36: The eleventh attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 9:129. It is the tawhîd of the deliverance of worry (istikfâ) and is part of the tawhîd of the Ipseity. He is sufficient to offer help:
‘If they turn away, then say: Hasbiya-llâhu lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – Sufficient for me is God; no god but He. On Him I put my trust and He is the Lord of the Great Throne’.
There are several levels of tawhîd. The first level is that of faith, the second level is that realised by the knowledge of certainty, the third by spiritual state and the fourth only by God. Shaykh ‘Abdullâh Ansârî explains about this final stage:
‘To the innermost consciousness of a group of His favourites, He displays a flash of it, striking them mute in terms of its description and rendering them unable to convey it to others. This tawhîd has been alluded to by the masters of the Path… But in it, all allusions are extirpated; no tongue speaks of it, and no expressions do justice to it, for tawhîd lies beyond that which created beings can grasp or time englobe or causes and reasons express’.
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî presents us with this anecdote:
‘One of the strangest things I have seen, came from one of the teachers among the family of God, someone who was like Abû Yazîd in regard to his spiritual state (hâl) and perhaps even stronger than him in it. I was sitting in the Friday mosque in Damascus. He was citing his state with God to me and what took place to him, during an encounter with Him, while receiving spiritual experiences (waqâ’i’). He told me that God (al-Haqq) had spoken to him about the immensity of His Kingdom’.
‘The shaykh said:
‘I told Him, O Lord (Rabb), my kingdom is greater than your Kingdom!’ He answered: ‘How can you say that?’ He knows better, but I said to Him: ‘O Lord, my case is that Your exemplar [referring to the Perfect Human being who is a symbol par excellence – al-mathal al-a’lâ] is in my kingdom. And You are mine, responding to me when I call on You and You give to me, when I ask of You. In Your Kingdom there is no one like You who is Your exemplar’. He replied to me: ‘You are right!’
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi adds that Hakîm at-Tirmidhî was somewhat similar to this shaykh. This Sufi from Tirmidh had realised a spiritual station (maqâm) of the Realm of the Kingdom (mulk al-mulk). Hakîm at-Tirmidhî was after all the first one who asked this question:
‘How many assemblies are there in the Realm of the Kingdom, until you are conveyed to the Possessor of Sovereignty (mâlik al-mulk)?’
This realm is located above God’s Throne and consists of Light. Upon entering the Divine realms of Light, i.e. the Divine sphere, the friend of God (walî Allâh) leaves behind the created world.
12-36: The twelfth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 10:90. It is the tawhîd of a call for help (istighâth). It is also a tawhîd of a description that is relative (sila):
‘When drowning; he said (qâla):‘âmañtu ‘annahû lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ alladhîî ‘âmanat bihî banûû ‘isrââ’îla – I believe that there is no god, but the One Whom the children of Israel believe in’.
The appeal for help comes from Pharaoh. It is a relative description, because of mentioning alladhîî – the One Whom -thus bringing about a relative description to the Lord of Moses and Aaron. This is a connective (mawsûlin) faith, i.e. the faith that Moses has.
13-36: The thirteenth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 11:14. It is the tawhîd of the response and a tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘If they don’t respond (yastajîbû) to you, then know that what was sent down is with knowledge of God, and that ‘al-lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – no god but He, so will you then submit?’
Imâm al-Ghazzâlî has this to say about the invocation of God:
‘Loving God and loving to invoke Him are indissolubly linked, because the invocation makes present the Invoked’.
Concerning this subject, al-Junayd has said:
“The sign of perfect love of God is the continuous invocation in the heart accompanied by joy, delight, ardent desire (shawq) and contentment in spiritual intimacy (uns)”.’
14-36: The fourteenth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 13:30. It is the tawhîd of the return and a tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘And they deny the Most Compassionate (ar-Rahmân); say: Huwa rabbî lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – He is my Lord, no god but He. On Him I put my trust and to Him is my return’.
As a large part of the commentary by shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi focuses on the meaning of the name Rahmân, let’s continue with what a prominent member of his school states in this respect. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Karîm al-Jîlî mentions in his Insân al-Kâmil the seven leading qualities of God, Who is Living, Knowing, Willing, Powerful, Speaking, Listening and Seeing.
These seven qualities are symbolised, according to Titus Burckhardt, by the seven letters of the Divine name ar-Rahmân:
The a corresponds to Life (hayâh).
The l (transcribed as ‘r’) corresponds to Knowledge (‘ilm).
The r corresponds to Power (qadr).
The h corresponds to Will (irâdah).
The m corresponds to Hearing (sam)
The a corresponds to Sight (basar).
The n corresponds to Speech (kalam; nutq).
15-36: The fifteenth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 16:2. It is the tawhîd of warning and a tawhîd of the I (anâ):
‘He sends down the angels with the spirit by His command on whom He wills among His servants that they should warn them that lââ ‘ilâha ‘’illââ ‘anâ – no god but I, so be mindful of Me’.
A certain man was asked if he wanted to see Hadhrat Abû Yazîd Bastâmî. He answered:
‘Why should I want to see him, when I’ve seen Allâh?’ It was then said to him: ‘In case you’d see Abû Yazîd only once, it would be better than seeing Allâh a thousand times’.
Some time later, Hadhrat ‘Abû Yazîd happened to pass them and it was said to this man: ‘This is Abû Yazîd!’ The man looked in his direction and fell down and expired there and then. Hadhrat Abû Yazîd confirmed what the man had experienced, but added:
‘He has seen Allâh to the extent of his capacity [i.e. related to his specific anâna – personal ‘I’]. When he saw me, then Allâh manifested Himself to him to the extent of my capacity. This was too much for him to handle, and he died’.
16-36: The sixteenth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 20:8. It is the tawhîd of substitution:
‘Allâhu lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû- no god but He. He has the most beautiful names’.
This is a tawhîd of substitution, because He substitutes Allâh for ar-Rahmân. Ar-Rahmân receives a mention in the beginning part of this chapter. In case ar-Rahmân would be mentioned in this tawhîd, the most beautiful names would be attributed to ar-Rahmân. This is quite possible of course, because Q. 17:110 informs us:
‘Invoke Allâh or invoke ar-Rahmân, He has the most beautiful names’.
The whole chapter 198 deals with the breath of ar-Rahmân, causing an exteriorising journey of creation. In reality, this takes place by means of the direct intervention of Allâh.
This tawhîd is a substitution in the meaning dimension, because the name Allâh has a more comprehensive meaning than ar-Rahmân.
17-36: The seventeenth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 20:-14. It is the tawhîd of audition, i.e. listening and of inna (‘truly’; shaykh ‘Abd ar-Razzâq Yahyâ in his French translation probably refers to anâ – ‘I’):
‘And I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed. ‘Innanîî ‘anâ-llâhu lââ ‘ilâha ‘illââ anâ – Truly I am God, no god but I.
Listening can help you to return to the root of roots. The opening lines of the Masnawî – known among the Sufis as the Qur’ân dar zabân-i-Pahlawî – the Qur’ân in the Persian language, not for nothing start with the word: Listen!
18-36: The eighteenth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 20:98. It is the tawhîd of the encompassing vastness (sa’a – amplitude), which is part of the tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘Innamââ ‘ilâhukumu-llâhu’l-ladhî lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû, wasi’a kulla shay’in ‘ilmâ – Truly, your God is Allâh, no god but He, Who encompasses all things with knowledge’.
Amplitude (sa’a) has a similar root in Arabic as Wâsi’. Al-Wâsi’ is one of the 99 most beautiful names. Dr. Sharib translates it as the All-Embracing, the One Whose Capacity is Limitless, the Extensive, etc.
Al-Wâsi’ is the One Who encompasses everything. There is nothing, which is beyond His knowledge. It means the One Whose Person, name, attributes and authority cannot be circumscribed, unlike the limited nature of human knowledge and morality.
According to imam al-Ghazzâlî, al-Wâsi’ – translated by David B. Burrell and Nazih Daher as the Vast –
‘derives from expansiveness, and expansiveness is sometimes linked to knowledge, when it extends to and comprehends a multitude of objects; and at other times it is linked to charity and widespread blessings, extending as far as possible to whatever they descend upon’.
I remember walking with a 3 year old child to the sea. This child had never seen the sea. We had to cross a high sand dune. When the sea became visible at the top of the dune, the child, in its amazement, put its arms wide as if to embrace the vastness of the sea.
19-36: The nineteenth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 21:25. It is the tawhîd of emulation (iqtidâr) and explication (ta’rîf), while it is also a tawhîd of the ‘I’:
‘We didn’t send any messenger before you, except We revealed to him that lââ ‘ilâha ‘illââ ‘anâ – no god but I, so worship Me’.
Ta’rîf designates – according to al-Jurjânî – that the knowledge about something depends on something else. In this case it implies indirect speech, telling that the way it is for someone else, that way it should be for you, like Q. 41:43 announcing that ‘nothing is said to you except what was already said to the messengers before you’.
20-36: The twentieth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 21:87. It is the tawhîd of distress, the tawhîd of the one who is speaking, and the tawhîd of relief (tanfîs):
‘Remember Jonah, the one of the fish, when he went away in anger and imagined We had no power over him. Then he called out from the darkness: Al-lââ ‘ilâha ‘illââ ‘añta – no god but You’.
The Chishtî Sûfîs describe the spiritual path in 15 stages. The seventh thereof, the stage of asceticism, corresponds to the prophet Jonah.
Jonah thought that he would not be tested by God with distress. He is the one saying the above words. God eased (naffasa) him by means of delivering him from the belly of the whale.
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî writes that he saw the traces of someone belonging to the community of Jonah:
‘I saw his footprints on the shore. He was in front of me, but I didn’t catch up to him. I measured the length of his stride in the sand to be about 70-75 cm’.
‘He was one of the people of Jonah. He was sent to us with a message (kalâm) about events that were to happen in Andalusia, where I would be, in the years 1189-1190. He never mentioned anything that I had not seen happening just as he said’.
21-36: The twenty-first attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 23:116. It is the tawhîd pointing to the haqîqa muhammadiyya – the Muhammadan Reality – and a tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘So elevated is Allâhu’l-maliku-l-haqqu, lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû, God, the King, the Truth, no god but He, the Lord of the most honoured throne’.
Fateme Rahmati in her study Der Mensch als Spiegelbild Gottes in der Mystik Ibn ‘Arabîs’(= ‘The Human Being as Mirror of God in the Mysticism of Ibn al-‘Arabî’) mentions three aspects of this Muhammadan Reality. The first one is that the haqîqa al-muhammadiyya is the link (das Bindeglied) connecting God and the world. The two other aspects are the ‘antropological’ aspect of the Perfect Human Being (insân al-kâmil) and the mystical aspect as the ‘word’ (logos) of God.
This tawhîd can be seen as the immediate principle of universal manifestation. This is because of the expression ‘the Lord of the most honoured throne’. This is combined with the mentioning the Divine name al-Haqq – The Truth, the Reality.
He is the True, the Lord of the Throne, Who provides the encompassing shape, because this shape encompasses all creation. That is why shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî speaks of al-Haqq al-makhlûq bihi – the Reality by means of which things are created.
22-36: The twenty-second attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 27:26. It is the tawhîd of that which is hidden (al-khab’) and a tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘Allâhu lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ huwa rabbu’l-‘arshi’l-‘adhîm – God, no god but He, the Lord of the magnificent throne’.
This tawhîd is called ‘hidden’, because of the preceding Q. 27:25, which mentions that He ‘brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth and knows what they are hiding and what they are revealing’.
The commentary of shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi regarding this tawhîd incorporates alchemical aspects. He mentions elements that appear to oppose one another, but in fact work together. He refers to the story of Solomon in this chapter 27. The hoopoe became an informant for Solomon about a people from the queen of Sheba. This bird has received the ability to perceive hidden fluids. The hoopoe is of the opinion that water is the dominating element over the rest of the elements. The throne of ar-Rahmân is said to be above the waters. The hoopoe has likewise a panoramic view of things during its flight.
The hoopoe became an informant for Solomon about a people from the queen of Sheba, who were worshipping the sun. The sun has the state of hiding and revealing. By means of the sun night and day are defined.
The sun is the opposite of the natural element of water from which God made everything alive. The people from the queen of Sheba knew that because of the heating of the sun, the hidden seed would emerge: The oven (at-tannûr) fired and the sun revealed that what was hidden.
At-tannûr is mentioned at several places in the Qur’ân, like e.g. Q. 11:40. This word is the origin of the alchemical symbol of the Athanor. Titus Burckhardt dedicates a complete chapter in his Alchemy to the Athanor. According to him it ‘is the word used by the alchemists to designate the oven in which the elixir is prepared’. By means of the elixir, the ‘copper’ of the heart of the heart of the traveller along the Sufi path, gets transformed into ‘gold’.
23-36: The twenty-third attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 28:70. It is the tawhîd of preference and choice (ikhtiyâr), which is part of the tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘And huwa-llâhu lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû, lahu’l-hamdu – He is God, no god but He. To Him is the praise in the first and the last’.
At the end of his commentary shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî refers to a somewhat earlier Qur’ânic sign in the same chapter 28, i.e. Q. 28:68 that states: ‘And your Lord creates what He wants and chooses. The choice is not up to them’.
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî states that ‘no station is more wondrous than this tawhîd for the one who sees it’. He ‘saw comparative preference and choice occurring in the universe’.
He experienced a strange vision (wâqi’a), while making notes for this tawhîd:
‘I was given a parchment […]. It was a single sheepskin, looking at it, you saw white when reciting and when not looking at it during recitation it saw green […]. I was told that this is a Divine dowry for your wife [Maryam…]. Then there came to me long pieces of green silk […], in them one thousand dînâr of solid gold […] and the dowry from the first to the last of it was in rhyming phrases, ending with the rhyme rah’.
When the shaykh returned to his senses, he found himself having written the above.
24-36: The twenty-fourth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 28:88. It is the tawhîd of the wise decision (hukm) by means of a tawhîd to which the multiplicity returns, because He is the Essence thereof. It is the tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘And do not call on any god apart from God. Lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – no god but He. Everything will perish, but His Face’.
This Qur’anic sign continues thus: ‘The wise decision (hukm) is His and to Him you’ll be returned’. The many will return to the One. This tawhîd thus stresses the ultimate experience – the ‘finding’ – of the Oneness of Being (wahdat al-wujûd).
25-36: The twenty-fifth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 35:3. It is the tawhîd of the cause (‘illa) and effect, and is part of the tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘Is there any creator (khâliq) other than God, giving nourishment to you from the heaven and the earth? Lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – no god but He’.
He should be worshipped (effect), because He nourishes us. This takes place by means of the heaven (spiritual food) and the earth (nourishment for the body). We are utterly dependent on Him, but many people only see the nourishment and not the Nourisher.
26-36: The twenty-sixth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 37:35. It is the tawhîd of amazement and not of the Ipseity:
‘When it was said to them: Lââ ‘ilâha ‘illa-llâhu – no god but God, they thought themselves grand (yastakbirûna)’.
His word yastakbirûna means, according to shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî, that they thought themselves grand and that they were amazed. How can it be correct, they were thinking, that there is no god but God in existence?
None will know the explanation of these attestations of tawhîd properly, except the people of effacement. The Egyptian Sufi poet Ibn al-Fârid therefore says:
You don’t really love Me,
Unless you are effaced within Me.
And you’ll not be effaced within Me,
Until I appear within you.
The usual translation of yastakbirûna is that they were arrogant. In his commentary to this tawhîd the shaykh doesn’t forget this point of view, but proceeds rather into the direction of ‘jealousy’ towards the Prophet who claimed to be chosen by God.
27-36: The twenty-seventh attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 39:6. It is the tawhîd of subtle indication (ishâra):
‘That is God, your Lord, to Him belongs sovereignty. Lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – no god but He’, so why are you turning away?’
There is in existence no indicator of Him, but He, so why are you turning away?
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî has dedicated chapter 54 of his The Openings revealed in Mecca to the true knowledge of subtle indications (ishârât). The Arabic word ishâra means ‘to point to’ or ‘to give a sign’. It is possible that a sincere seeker is not acquainted with the technical terms of the Sufis. God however, may open the eye of his understanding:
When the dust clears you’ll see,
If you sit on a mare or an ass.
28-36: The twenty-eighth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 40:3. It is the tawhîd of becoming and its end (sayrûra) and it is the tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘Severe in retribution, limitless in His bounty, lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – no god but He; to Him is the return’.
According to its essential truth (haqîqa), this is the station of faith (maqâm al-imân), because the faithful maintain fear of retribution and hope of bounty in balance. Hope and fear are for the faithful the two wings of a bird, helping it to fly straight to its destination.
29-36: The twenty-ninth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 40:62. It is the tawhîd of favour (fadl) and it is the tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘That is God, your Lord, Creator of everything. Lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – no god but He; so how then do you turn away?’
The preceding Qur’ânic sign, Q. 40:61, states: ‘God is full of favours for the people’. God is Fâdil, the One with excellence, the One full of favours.
Al-Jurjânî defines fadl (favour, grace, excellence) thus: ‘It implies to be rewarded with a blessing without apparent cause (‘illa)’.
Shaykh Dârâ Shikôh states in his The Compass of Truth that there are two ways one can reach the presence of God. One way is through struggle and exertion, but he starts with describing the other way, which is by fadl, i.e. undeserved favour. This means that God leads you to a spiritual guide and teacher, who raises the veil from your sight and wakes you up from the daze of negligence and opinion. He shows you the beauty of the Divine Beloved without any struggle. He releases you from the bonds of your ego.
30-36: The thirtieth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 40:65. It is the tawhîd of life and of pure universality:
‘Huwa’l-hayyu lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû – He is the Living, no god but He; so call on Him, professing sincerely the religion to Him. Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the worlds’.
Life is the precondition for everything that breathes. The universe lives, because of al-Hayy, the Living. The tawhîd of life is the universal tawhîd, according to shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî, because there is nothing but the Living. There is nothing but al-Haqq (the True, the Reality).
Qur’ân 17:44 makes it clear that everything exalts Him with His praise (bi-hamdi-hî). There is no praise more perfect than by means of unity (ahadiyya), because there is no association with anything but God therein. So tawhîd is the most excellent kind of praise and it is no god but God. It is a purification of the tawhîd for God.
31-36: The thirty-first attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 44:8. It is the tawhîd of blessing:
‘Lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ huwa yuhyî wa yumît – no god but He, Who gives life and death, your Lord and the Lord of your ancestors’.
This is the tawhîd of blessing, because this attestation appears in the chapter wherein the descent of the Qur’ân in a blessed night, i.e. Night of Power, is being mentioned. Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi has written about the Night of Power and its timing. He writes this about his father: ‘My father, may God rest his soul, informed us about the coming of this blessed night by the virtue of [recognising] special signs (‘alâmât)’.
The shaykh describes one of these signs thus:
‘The dawn at the end of the Night of Power is not from the light of the sun; it is the light of the Night of Power itself, which manifests in the body of the sun, just as with the light of the moon, it is the light of the sun, which appears in the body of the moon. If the light of the moon came from itself, it would emit rays of light. Thus, as the Night of Power effaces the rays of the sun, the sun remains like the moon, shining on things and giving light without rays’.
The father of the shaykh has been important in several other ways as well. You may know that when the shaykh was still a young man, he became ill in such a severe way that his father thought he’d expire. His father, sitting near his bed, then recited sura Yâ Sîn, which however manifested itself in a certain way and brought him back towards the living. His father helped him also, later in his life, in following the path of spiritual poverty.
32-36: The thirty-second attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 47:19. It is the tawhîd of remembrance (dhikrâ) and it is a tawhîd of Allâh:
‘So know that He is (‘annahû) lââ ‘ilâha ‘illa-llâhu – no god but God, and ask forgiveness for your offences and for the believing men and the believing women, and God knows all your comings and goings as well as your stayings’.
Shaykh al-Qâshânî interprets the Divine command in this Qur’ânic sign as ‘seek knowledge and certainty in the tawhîd’.
Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabî says: ‘Know that human beings, as God has created them, have a natural inclination to be forgetful […]. This tawhîd follows the veil, which the remembrance (dhikrâ) lifts off, the result is that he (the Prophet) asks that the veil of God be over the believing men and women’.
The Prophet obeys the command given in Q. 47:19. He asks for forgiveness. Al-istighfâr means, according to al-Jurjânî, ‘asking for forgiveness’ as well as ‘veiling of offenses’. Both concepts happen to share the root Gh+F+R. The veil is the veil of God. The veil of God is a symbol of the Divine manifestation, because unveiling (kashf) implies that you – according to shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi – ‘know that He is the veil and nothing else. This gives an infinite joy, which is part of the gifts of God to His servants’.
33-36: The thirty-third attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 59:22. It is the tawhîd of knowledge and it is part of a tawhîd of the Ipseity:
‘Huwa-llâhu-l-ladhî lââ ‘ilâha’ ‘illâ hû – He is God, no god but He, Knower (‘ lim)of the unseen and seen and He is the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Knowledge makes ignorance disappear and gives life to the souls. This knowledge benefits a person. God said in Q. 18:65 about sayyidnâ Khidr: ‘We taught him knowledge directly from Our presence’. The name Khidr brings to mind the idea of ‘greenness’. Greenness symbolises life, freshness and tenderness.
34-36: The thirty-fourth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 59:23. It is the tawhîd of qualifications (nu’ût) and it is part of the tawhîd of the all-encompassing Ipseity:
‘Huwa-llâhu-l-ladhî lââ ‘ilâha ‘illâ hû, ‘al-maliku-l-quddûs – He is God, no god but He, the King, the Holy’.
He possesses qualifications, which are all qualifications of majesty (jalâl). The Ipseity is a designation of the absolute non-manifestation or of the Supreme Essence and that is why He is too elevated and escapes all limitations and fixed definitions.
It is related from imâm Ja’far bin Muhammad that, concerning God’s words al-Quddûs, the Holy, he said: ‘The One Who is pure of every defect and who purifies of defects whom He wills’.
35-36: The thirty-fifth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 64:13. It is the tawhîd of aggravations and the end of suffering by means of a successful return to God when such things are experienced:
‘Allâhu lââ ‘ilâha illâ hû – God, no god but He, and on God let the faithful put their trust’.
The tawhîd of aggravations is the most beneficial of medicines to be taken. You call such experiences an affliction, but remember what ‘Umar, the second caliph, has said: ‘A misfortune was never experienced by me, except that I noticed that God gave me three favours:
It was never to the extent that my religion got impaired.
It could have been worse.
He promised a reward for this misfortune.
Dualistic fixation on impermanent things may cause suffering. The path towards the One consists of awareness of attachments and step by step getting rid of them. Shaykh Farîduddîn ‘Attâr lived in a time of extreme turmoil. He expressed this in his Book of the Disaster. He opens the door towards unity for us, by means of teaching stories like this one:
A perfect human being said:
‘There are many difficulties to be found on the path towards God. Alas, out of fear of this enterprise you hide yourself behind a wall. In case you wish to drink the wine of His compassion, you should cross in its entirety the valley of His wrath. There is no remedy, but to undergo this test and this suffering. But in case, out of goodness, He may look at you, then with every breath you’ll receive a new life’.
36-36: The thirty-sixth attestation of tawhîd can be found in Q. 73:9. It is the tawhîd of agency:
‘Lord of the East and the West, lââ ‘ilâha illâ hû – no god but He, so take Him as your Agent (Wakîl)’.
He asks you to take Him as your Agent. This tawhîd thus has to do with trust (tawakkul) in God.
This is the final of 36 attestations of tawhîd in the Qur’ân. Brief attention has been paid to their 36 stations.
The fourth caliph, ‘Alî, [according to a good (hasan) hadith, quoted by at-Tabarânî] narrated that he asked the Prophet (s.a.w.): ‘O Messenger of God, indicate to me the shortest way leading to God, the easiest for His worshippers and the most elevated one in the eyes of the Elevated One’.
The Prophet (s.a.w.) replied: ‘O ‘Alî, you have to practice the invocation incessantly, sometimes in silence and sometimes aloud’.
‘Alî asked: ‘How should I invoke?’
The Prophet (s.a.w.) told him: ‘Close your eyes and listen to me say three times [in Arabic] no god but God – then say this formula three times, so that I can hear you’.
Although this type of dhikr is a common one and is recommended for every believer, Hadhrat ‘Alî received it from Muhammad (s.a.w.) through a particular transmission, while he passed it on to several companions. This living transmission of the dhikr therefore turned into an initiatic practice.
Shaykh Sadruddîn needed to follow the path of initiation, because his road to union was not what he imagined it to be:
Ân nîst rah-e-wasl ke angâshta-îm
Wân nîst jahân-e-jân ke pandâshta-îm
n chashma ke khezr khorda z-u âb-e-hayât
Dar khâna-ye-mâ-st lîk anbâshta-îm
The path to union is not what I thought it to be.
And the world of the soul is not what I thought it to be.
The source from which Khidr drank the Water of Life,
Is in my own home, but has been buried by me.
A. Nooruddeen Durkee: The Tajwîdî Qur’ân; 2003.
Muhyîddîn Ibn al-‘Arabî: Ch. 198 of Al-Futûhât al-Makkîyah; 2017.
Charles-André Gilis: Les trente-six attestations coraniques de l’unité; 1994.
‘Abd al-Karîm al-Jîlî: Universal Man; 1983.
Toshihiko Izutsu: Sufism and Taoism; 1983.
Dr Zahurul Hassan Sharib: The Meditations of Khawaja Muinuddin Chishti; 2014.
Al-Ghazâlî: The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God – al-Maqsad al-asnâ fî sharh asmâ’ Allâh al-husnâ; 1992.