Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Magpie and Ibn Arabi, Wahdatul Wujud and Wahdatul Shuhud

MAGPIE. I am the Magpie of Stories. Welcome to my nest. Here you shall find an assortment of stories, parables and whimsical thoughts and feelings that I collect on a daily basis. Like all magpies, I have an eye for the shiny bling-bling. But to quote J.R.R. Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings trilogy (Book 1, Fellowship of the Ring)...

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

VALUABLE? I therefore cannot guarantee the quality of my writings, some may be worthy of my weight in gold of about 2.75 million Pound Sterling (My writing isn't that good, I am just fat), while some compositions tend to be fluffy white marshmallows - You know, like clouds in the sky. Interesting, but distant and intangible.

KNOWLEDGE OR PERCEPTION? Driving this morning, one of those cloudy thoughts strayed into my head. The world really is based on perception. Good and bad luck, misfortune or a cosmic lottery, sweetness and bitterness, all these values by which we judge our lives are essentially based on perception. In as far as we say we know something (or even someone), we are akin to a stranger, standing at the edge of a huge sea, saying, “Yea, I know you.” We don’t really. We say we ‘know’ but when you go to the root of what is truly being said, what you actually mean is “Yea, I perceive you.”

SNOW WHITE AND THE APPLE. If you notice in the previous sentence, the word ‘perceive’ begins with the word ‘I’. For the mystical aspirant, ‘I’ is a poison – the accursed apple offered to Snow White by the wicked Queen! The saints say that ‘I’ is intended only for God. Only He is the true ‘I’, the One, the Eternal and Absolute (Ahad and Samad). Therefore the ‘I’ in me is the human ego, which desires to be the master, and in its almost infinite disguises, it will claim credit in everything that I do, think and desire. It is the Bitter Enemy to the first wing of the Muslim declaration of faith - “I bear witness that there is no god but God.”

WHAT?! Hehehe. Yes, smarty-pants, you noticed the contradiction in my story above. After all, if the ‘I’ in you cannot exist, then how will you ever go about witnessing anything, what more God? The state of witnessing which some refer to as ‘Wahdatul Shuhud’ (State / Unity of Witnessing) exists – but only as a necessary condition to bear witness on the Almighty Beautiful and Absolute nature of God. We are like mirrors. And we are suppose to reflect the infinite loveliness of our Creator. And this analogy goes bouncing back to the Sufi fans of old Ibn Arabi who says that the entire reason for Creation was given when God said that...

“I am a Hidden Jewel and I wanted to be known”.

IBN ARABI. The poor old Andalusian Saint. He was much criticized for what he taught and wrote in his life time. Even nowadays, there are many people who just don't get him*. The wise and learned says that his exposition on the mirror image of Wahdatul Shuhud, which is called Wahdatul Wujud (State /Unity of Creation or Oneness) is an aberration, an innovation (read heresy) of traditional Islamic lore. They say that the poor guy got all messed up in his head reading the totally 'unIslamic' tomes and manuscripts of Greek knowledge, reintroduced back to Europe by the Andalusian Umayad Caliphate – via Arabic translations of Greek books in Baghdad (capital of the co-existing Abbasid Caliphate), then transported thousands of miles back to Europe through Andalusia and Cordoba. I suspect however, that his critics are not so much concerned by the theological aspect of his pronouncements, but rather the practical implications. People will get confused, they say. Anything can be proven right and wrong. Good and evil loses all meaning, and everyone can have a one-way ticket into the asylum. In a manner of speaking, they are right. But that doesn’t mean that Ibn Arabi was wrong. Oh no.

BACK TO THE MAGPIE. I am told by a saint that dear Ibn Arabi got a lot of grief simply because he was talking about stuff not intended for his time. You know, he’s that kid in school, who wants to share (or show off) his profound understanding of applied physics that you will only learn when (and if) you are smart enough to apply into rocket science college. And Ibn Arabi was not just studying the rocket science of God, but he is right up there sitting on the pointy end of the rocket cone! Is it then a wonder that scholars of his time were scratching their head at the sight of him flying into the stratosphere and breaking away from the earth’s orbit, while muttering “What the…!?”

Ibn Arabi and the ‘I’ in the Sky
O’ seekers!
O’ aspirants of the divine!
If I have become like a bird
With the sky, the stars and the moon
As my constant companions,
Do not then wonder and ask of me
What I perceive.
For what I am looking at is the same thing
That you all are looking at,
But my view and perception is
Very different!
For I do not see with the eye in my body,
I have seen the ‘I’ in Truth, Love and Mercy.

WHATEVER... Well, that’s it, my friends. I started this posting with a magpie who changed into Aragorn son of Arathon, thereafter amending into ol’ Arabi and then transmogrified into the ‘I’ in the Sky. Is it transcendental wisdom? Or is it simply a fairy tale widowed of any sense of reality? All I can tell you is "Nuts, I am hungry!’"... Ah, so much for Wahdatul Wujud. Back to being the regular ol’ witness. And no operatic audience of the Divine, just acknowledging that I am just me as another hungry magpie in a world of hungry magpies.

Have a nice day, sunshine.

Pax Taufiqa.

Related Posting – Please see Wahdatul-Wujud (Click Here) and Ground Zero Mosque and the Ornament of the World (Click Here)
Caveat - * I am not saying I get Ibn Arabi. I don’t get him at all. But as a magpie I spied him to be a shiny golden ring on the dressing table of Saints. And as per my nature, I stole him away and flew him back here to my nest. I am sure I am not supposed to be stealing, but I cannot deny my nature - I am a thieving old magpie!
Poems – Ibnu Arabi and the ‘I’ in the Sky is freshly recorded today.

Toons - The swag carrying magpie is from sbritt!

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