February 17, 2009

Wahatul Wujud vs Pantheism!

Pantheism is against the essence (Tawhid) of Islam, so it also has no relation to the Islamic Sufism.

According to WordWeb dictionary, "The doctrine or belief that God is the universe and its phenomena...". At Wikipedia "it literally means "God is All" and "All is God") is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the Universe, or nature, and God are equivalent."

Wahdatal Wujud
"Wahdat-ul-Wujood or Wahdat al-Wajud (Arabic: وحدة الوجود) the "Unity of Being" is a(n Islamic Sufim) philosophy emphasizing that 'there is no true existence except the Ultimate Truth (God)'."

Wahdat-ul-Wujud vs Wahdat-ush-Shuhud
The word 'WAHDAT' is from three arabic alphabets 'W-H-D' ('whd' means One). The word TAWHID (which means, the concept that God is One/Oneness) is also originates from these three root alphabets. So, Wahdat-ul-Wujud & Wahdat-ush-Shuhud are two aspects or versions or explanation of WAHDAT or TAWHEED or Oneness of God. These theories were given by lateral Sufi philosophers to go further into the depth of the meaning of Oneness.

According to Wikipedia: "Two main Sufi philosophies prevail on this controversial topic. Wahdat-ul-Wujood literally means the unity of creation. As originally developed by Ibn Arabi, it does not, as sometimes believed, imply that God is present in everything, but rather that God's likeness can be observed in created things.[citation needed] Wahdat-ul-Shuhud (Apparentism, or Unity of Witness), on the other hand, holds that God and his creation are entirely separate. Some Islamic reformers have claimed that the difference between the two philosophies differ only in semantics and that the entire debate is merely a collection of "verbal controversies" which have come about because of ambiguous language. However, the concept of the relationship between God and the universe is still actively debated both among Sufis and between Sufis and non-Sufi Muslims." [1]

The theory of Wahdat-ul-Wujud was propagated by the state religionists to cultivate inter-communal peace and harmony in the India during the king Akbar's time. Though he did not proselytized people by force, the king formulated a new constitution (Deen-e-Illahi) which shunned(?) cow-slaughter etc, because cow is religious sanctity before the hindu community. But in my opinion, it seems to have some social and political usage in that time. And there was a threat that might this concept of Wahdat-ul-Wujud be given a pantheistic colour falsely or erroneously, in order to intermingle and harmonize the Muslim communities' mind with polytheism, or idol-worshiping by Hindus. So, Shaikh Ahmad of Sirhind brought an new constructive explanation of Oneness/Wahdat and this theory was named as Wahdat-ush-Shuhud. According to this theory, God is seperate from His creations. This concept was brought forward in order to save the basic essence of Tawheed or Oneness of God, and Negativity is its important part.

In short these two explanations have the same meaning and same essence, which has important part of Negativity. Wahdat-ul-Wujud was misinterpret by general public and commoners, so Sufis brought the other explanation in order to see the 'Oneness' while standing at a more careful angle, in order to save the thought from being lost into oblivion.

Scope & Nature of Wahdat-ul-Wujud
Wahdat-ul-wujud was wrongly perceived by majority that might intermingle it with the Pantheism. In order to understand the true distinction between these two philosophies, we need to know more clearly about the essence, purposes, nature and scope of this Islamic belief, and it can be done only by going back to the ancient Islamic culture, history, Sufis' work and Islamic teachings.

In (the Ibne-Arabi')s view, wujūd is the unknowable and inaccessible ground of everything that exists. God alone is true wujūd, while all things dwell in nonexistence, so also wujūd alone is nondelimited (mutlaq), while everything else is constrained, confined, and constricted. Wujūd is the absolute, infinite, nondelimited reality of God, while all others remain relative, finite, and delimited. [2]

If we go deep inside the depths of Wahdatalwujud, we shall find a 'Negativity' or 'Exclusiveness' in it, which differentiates it from pantheism. 'Negativity' (Laa) or Exclusiveness of God from His creation is the first most teaching of Islam. For example,
There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is his (last) prophet

There is no God.... but Allah... (or Allah is the only God)

Wahdatal Wujud is the further philosophical extension or constructive interpretation of Islamic fundamental principal 'that God is not creation'. The main line of ideal concept is that 'God is Omnipotent and All Powerful!'.

Hallaj was a great sufi mystic with ideas of Wahdat-ul-Wujud. His philosophical and constructive explanation of this theory were ahead of time and misunderstood by the people of his city, so he was murdered by the state. Hallaj's teachings were well understood by some of his contemporary Sufi mystics, but they kept silent to save the social peace, when he was being persecuted. I am putting here a masterpiece work of this great sufi philosopher, It can help us understand the negativity or exclusiveness in the concept Wahdat-ul-Wujud. Which implies that there is a separation between God and His creations.

Al Hallaj says about God:

"Before" does not outstrip Him,
"after" does not interrupt Him
"of" does not vie with Him for precedence
"from" does not accord with Him
"to" does not join with Him
"in" does not inhabit Him
"when" does not stop Him
"if" does not consult with Him
"over" does not overshadow
Him "under" does not support Him
"opposite" does not face Him
"with" does not press Him
"behind" does not limit Him
"previous" does not display Him
"after" does not cause Him to pass away
"all" does not unite Him
"is" does not bring Him into being
"is not" does not deprive Him from Being.
Concealment does not veil Him
His pre-existence preceded time,
His being preceded non-being,
His eternity preceded limit.
If thou sayest 'when',
His existing has outstripped time;
If thou sayest 'before', before is after Him;
If thou sayest 'he', 'h' and 'e' are His creation;
If thou sayest 'how', His essence is veiled from description;
If thou sayest 'where', His being preceded space;
If thou sayest 'ipseity' (ma huwa),
His ipseity (huwiwah) is apart from things.
Other than He cannot
be qualified by two (opposite) qualities at
one time; yet With Him they do not create opposition.
He is hidden in His manifestation,
manifest in His concealing.
He is outward and inward,
near and far; and in this respect He is
removed beyond the resemblance of creation.
He acts without contact,
instructs without meeting,
guides without pointing.
Desires do not conflict with Him,
thoughts do not mingle with Him:
His essence is without qualification (takyeef),

His action without effort (takleef). [3]

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wahdat_al-wujud (link)
2. Imaginal worlds, William Chiittick (1994), pg.53 , (wikipedia)
3. Arthur John Arberry, The Doctrine of the Sufis.
http://www.khamush.com/sufism/hallaj.html (link)


  1. Mashallah, thank you so much for this post. This is a well put text of such a difficult subject to talk about. Jazakallah.

  2. my dear :) thank you very much. May Allah show us the right path!