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The Doctrine of Absolute Unity as Expounded by Abdul Karint al-Jilana

The Doctrine of Absolute Unity as Expounded by Abdul Karint al-Jilana*





While European scholars have investigated ancient Hindu Philosophy with an unflagging enthusiasm, they have, as a rule, looked upon Muslim Philosophy as only an unprogressive repetition of Aristotle and Plato. Although during recent years some attention has been paid to this part of Arabic literature, yet the work achieved by reapers in this field bears no proportion to the harvest that may yet be reaped. This comparatively indifferent attitude towards Arabic philosophy was, perhaps, due, to a great extent, to the fascination that Indian speculation has exercised over the mind of Europe ever since the discovery of Sanskrit literature. We admit the superiority of the Hindu in point of philosophical acumen, yet this admission need not lead us to ignore the intellectual independence of Muslim thinkers. The post-Islamic history of the Arabs is a long series of glorious military exploits, which compelled them to adopt a mode of life leaving but little time for gentler conquests in the great field of science and philosophy. They did not, and could not, produce men like Kapila and Sankaracharya, but they zealously rebuilt. The smouldering edifice of Science, and even attempted to add fresh stories to it. Their originality does not appear at once because the unscientific condition of the age led them to write in the spirit of expositors other than that of independent thinkers.

We wish here to illustrate their originality by considering that portion of the Islamic philosophy, which had generally been condemned under the contemptuous name of mysticism. We believe, however, that mysticism is but metaphysics hidden under the veil of religious phraseology and that the super-structure of mysticism is impossible without a system of metaphysics serving as its foundation. It is, in our opinion, essentially a system of verification—a spiritual method by which the ego realizes as fact what intellect has understood as theory. We know much in theory and our belief in this kind of knowledge depends on the force and the number of arguments advanced in its support. The detection of some logical flaw in our argument, or the force of the arguments in favour of the opposite view, may at once induce us to abandon our theory, but if the ego has “realized” the theory, if the theory in question has been a spiritual experience on our part, no argument, however forcible, no logical flaw, can dispose us to abandon our position. Hence, mysticism appeals to a standard higher than intellect itself. This standard, waiving the question of its objective existence is, according to the mystic, قلب or heart, the meaning of which will he explained later on. I shall not dwell here upon the scientific necessity of mysticism for the solution of human enigma[1] , but shall contend myself with a brief statement of the Islamic Metaphysical Mysticism as represented by- Shaikh Abdul Karim al-Jilani in his famous work, Al-Insan-al Kamil (The Perfect Man).

This deep thinker was born at Juan in 767 A.H. as he himself says in one of his verses, and died in 811 A.H. He was not a prolific writer like Shaikh Muhy-ud-Din ibn ‘Arabi’[2] , whose mode of thought seems to have greatly influenced his teaching. He combined in himself poetical imagination and philosophical genius, but his poetry is no more than a vehicle for his mystical and metaphysical doctrine. Among other works, he wrote a commentary on Sheikh Muhy-tid-Din ibn ‘Arabi’s Futuh Al-Makkiyah, a commentary on Bismillah, and Al-Insan-al Kamil, which we propose to consider here.

This famous work comprises two volumes: the first may he looked upon as a treatise on his metaphysical opinions while the second attempts explanations of terms current in popular Muhammadan theology. In order to make his doctrine easy of understanding, he enters into certain preliminary explanations and declares that in speaking of the ultimate realities we must come down to popular language—a vehicle quite insufficient for the purpose. He avows that the enigma of existence is too high for common phraseology, and that his statements must necessarily he “broken lights” of the great truth. After this brief apology, he goes on to relate a personal anecdote showing how he once felt intense thirst for truth and how at last he learnt it from a person endowed with “all the attributes of spiritual glory”. The introduction ends with a condensed statement of his doctrine, which he puts in this way: “Divine nature soars upwards, human nature sinks downwards; hence perfect human nature must stand midway between the two; it must share both the Divine and the human attributes in one word perfect man must be the god-man.”

In the first chapter, the author explains the meaning of the word ذات or Essence. Essence, pure and simple, he says, is the thing to which names and attributes are given, whether it is existent or non-existent like عنقا. The existent is for two species:

(1) The Existent is Absolute or Pure Existence—Pure Being—God.

(2) The existence joined with non-existence——the Creation - Nature.

The Essence of God or Pure Thought cannot be understood; no words can express it, for it is beyond all relation, and knowledge is relation. The Intellect flying through fathomless empty space pierces through the veil of names and attributes, traverses the vast sphere of time, enters the domain of the non-existent and finds the Essence of Pure Thought to be an existence which is nonexistence—a sum of contradictions[3], It is interesting to compare this passage with Hegel whose speculations have exercised such vast influence on the methods of modern scientific investigations. It will appear how strikingly he anticipates the conclusions of modern German philosophy without seeking the help of the Hegelian method—a fact, which makes his teaching appear rather dogmatic. After this confession of ignorance, the author goes on to say that pure being has two عرض (accidents); eternal life in all past time and eternal life in all future time. It has two وصف (qualities) God and Creation. It has twoلغت  (definitions) uncreatableness and creatableness. It has two اسماء: God and Man. It has  وجہان, (two faces): the manifested (this world and the unmanifested (the next world). It has حکمان (two effects): necessity and possibility. It has اعتباران (two points of view): from the first, it is non-existent for itself but existent for what it is not itself; from the second it is existent for itself, and non-existent for what is not itself. With these bits of Hegelianism, the author closes the difficult speculation, and begins his second chapter on the name.

            Name, he says, fixes the named in the understanding, pictures it in the mind, presents it in the imagination and keeps it in the memory. It is the outside or the husk, as it were, of the named, while the named is the inside or the pith. Some names do not exist in reality; but exist in name only as عنقا (a fabulous bird). It is a name, the object of which does not exist in reality. Just as عنقا is absolutely non-existent, so God is absolutely present, although it cannot be touched or seen. The عنقا exists only in idea while the object of the name اللہ exists in reality, and can be known like عنقا only through its names and attributes. The name is mirror, which reveals all the secrets of the Absolute Being; it is a light through the agency of which God sees Himself.

In order to understand this passage, we should bear in mind the three stages of development of Pure Being, enumerated by the author in his chapter on the Illumination of the Essence. There he propounds that the Absolute Existence or Pure Being, when it leaves its absoluteness, undergoes three stages: (1) Oneness, (2) He-ness, and (3) I-ness. In the first stage, there is absence of all attributes and relations, yet it is called one, and therefore oneness marks one step away from the absoluteness. In the second stage, Pure Being is yet free from all manifestation, while the third stage I-ness is nothing but an external manifestation of the He-ness or, as Hegel would say, it is the self-diremption of God. This third stage is the sphere of the name اللہ (Allah); here the darkness of Pure Being is illuminated, nature comes to the front, the Absolute Being has become conscious. He says further that the name of Allah is the stuff of all the perfections of the different phases of Divinity, and in the second stage of the progress of Pure Being, all that is the result of Divine self-diremption was potentially contained within the titanic grasp of this name which, in the third stage of development, objectified itself, became a mirror in which God reflected Himself, and thus by its crystallisation dispelled all the gloom of the Absolute Being.

In correspondence with these three stages of the Absolute Development, the perfect man has three stages of raining, but in his case the process of development spiritual must be the reverse, because his is a process of ascent while the Absolute Being had undergone essentially a process of descent. In the first stage of his spiritual progress, he meditates on the name, studies nature on which it is scaled; in the second stage, he steps into the sphere of the Attributes and in the third stage he enters the sphere of ذات (the Essence). It is here that he becomes the God-man; his eye becomes the eye of God; his word the word of God and his life the life of God— participates in the general life of Nature, and “sees into the life of things”. It will appear at once how strikingly the author has anticipated the chief phase of the Hegelian Dialectic and how greatly he has emphasised the Doctrine of the Logos; a Doctrine which has always found favour with almost all the profound thinkers of Islam, and in recent times re-advocated by M. Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, probably profoundest theologian among modern Indian Muhammadans. The chapter ends with a fanciful discussion about the meanings of the different letters of the world ‘Allah’; each letter of the word, he says, marks a separate illumination.

The third chapter is a brief discussion of the nature of the Attribute. The author’s views on this interesting question are very important, because it is here that his doctrine fundamentally differs from Hindu Idealism. He defines Attribute as an agency, which gives us knowledge of the state of things.[4] Elsewhere he says that this distinction of Attributes from the underlying reality is tenable only in the sphere of the manifested because here every attribute is regarded as the other of the reality in which it is supposed to inhere. This otherness is due to the existence of combination and disintegration in the sphere of the manifested. But the distinction is untenable in the domain of the unmanifested, because there is no combination or disintegration there. It should be observed how widely he differs from the advocates of the Doctrine of Maya; he believes that the material world has real existence; it is the outward husk of the real being, no doubt, but this outward husk is none the less real. The cause of the phenomenal world, according to him, is not a real entity hidden behind the sum of attributes, but it is a conception furnished by the mind so that there may be no difficulty in understanding the material world. Berkeley and Fichte will so far agree with our author, but his view leads him to the most characteristically Hegelian doctrine — identity of Thought and Being.

In the 37th chapter of the second volume of his book, he clearly says that ldea is the stuff of which the universe is made; Thought, Idea, Notion is the material of structure of nature. While laying stress on his doctrine he says, “Dost thou not look to thine own self? Where is the reality in which the so-called Divine Attributes inhere? It is but the idea[5].” Hence nature is nothing but the crystallised idea. He would give his hearty assent to the results of Kant’s Kritik of Pure Reason but, unlike him, he would make this very idea the essence of the Universe. Kant’s Ding an sich to him is a pure non-entity; there is nothing behind this collection of attributes, the attributes are but the real things, the material world is but the objectification of the Absolute Being; it is the other self of the Absolute—another which owes its existence to the principle of difference in the nature of the Absolute itself. Nature is the idea of God, a something necessary for His Knowledge of Himself. While Hegel calls his doctrine the identity of thought and being, our author it the identity of attribute a d reality. It should be noted that the author’s phrase عالم صفات (world of realities), which uses for the material world, is slightly misleading. What he really holds is that the distinction of attribute and reality is merely phenomenal, and does not at all exist in the nature of things. It is useful because it facilitates our understanding of the world around us, but it is not at all real. It will be understood that the author recognises the truth of Empirical Idealism only tentatively and does not admit the absoluteness of the distinction.

These remarks should not lead us to understand that the author does not believe in the objective reality of the thing in itself. He does believe in it, but then he advocates its unity, and says that the material world is the thing in itself; it is the “other” the external expression of the thing in itself. The Ding an sich and its external expression or the production of its self-dirempion are really identical though we discriminate between them in order to facilitate our understanding. If they are not identical, he says, how could one express the other? In one word, he means by Ding an sich or ذات the Pure, the Absolute Being and seeks it through its manifestation or external expression. He says that as long as we do not realise the identity of attribute and reality, the material world, or the world of attributes, seems to be a veil; but when the doctrine is brought home to us the veil is removed. We see ذات itself everywhere and find that all the attributes are but ourselves. Nature then appears in her true light; all otherness is removed, and we are one with her. The aching prick of curiosity ceases and the inquisitive attitude of our minds in replaced by a state of philosophic calm. To the person who has realised this identity, discoveries of science bring no new information, and religion with her role of supernatural authority has nothing to say. This is the spiritual emancipation.

After these profound remarks the author proceeds to classify the different Divine Names and Attributes which have received expression in Nature or the crystallised الوہیت —a doctrine similar to that of the Vedanta. His classification is as follows:


الاسماوالصفات الجمالیہ (4)

الاسماوالصفات المشترکہ و بی الکمالیہ (3)

الاسماوالصفات الجلالیہ (2)

الاسماوالصفات الذاتیہ (1)

العلیم الرحیم

الرحمن المالک

الکبیر المتعال


السلام المومن

الرب المھیمن



الباری المصور

الخالق السمیع

الجلیل القہار















Each of these names and attributes has its own particular effect by which it illuminates the soul of the perfect man[6]. How these illuminations take place and how they reach the soul is not explained by the author. His silence about these matters throws into more relief the mystical portion of his views and implies the necessity of spiritual Dictatorship.

Before considering the author’s views of particular Divine Names and Attributes, we should note that his conception of God implied in the above classification is very familiar to that of Schleiermacher. While the German theologian reduces all the divine attributes to one single attribute of power, our author sees the danger of advancing a God, free from all attributes, yet recognises with Schleiermacher that in Himself God is an unchangeable unity and that His attributes “are nothing more than views of Him from different human standpoints, the various appearances which the one changeless cause presents to our finite intelligence according to how we look at it from different sides of the spiritual landscape.[7]” In his absolute existence He is beyond the limitations of names and attributes, but when He externalises Himself, when He leaves His absoluteness, when nature is horn, names and attributes appear sealed on her very fabric.

Let us now consider what the author teaches about particular Divine Names and Attributes. The first essential name is Allah or الوہیت (Divinity) which forms the subject of the fourth chapter; Divinity means the sum of all the realities of existence with their respective order in that sum. This name is applied to God as the only necessary existence. Divinity being the highest manifestation of Pure Being, the difference between them is that the latter is visible to the eye, but its where is invisible, while the traces of the former are visible, itself is invisible. By the very fact of her being crystallised divinity, Nature is not the real divinity; hence Divinity is invisible and its traces in the form of Nature are visible to the eye. Divinity, as the author illustrates, is water; nature is crystallised water or ice, but ice is not water. The ذات is visible to the eye (another proof of our author’s Natural Realism of Absolute Idealism), although all its attributes are not known to us. Even its attributes are not known as they are in themselves; their shadows or their effects only are known. For instance, generosity itself is unknown, only its effect or t-he fact of giving to the poor is known and seen. This is due to the attributes being incorporated in the very essence of ذات. If the expression of the attributes in its real nature has been possible, its separation from the ذات would have been possible also.

After these remarks on the Divinity, the author proceeds to explain the other Essential Names of God—the Absolute Oneness and Simple Oneness. The Absolute Oneness marks the first step of Pure Thought from the darkness of Cecity (the internal or the original Maya of the Vedanta) to the light of manifestation. Although this movement is not attended with any external manifestations, yet it sums up all of them under its hollow universality. Look at a wall, says the author, you see the whole wall but you cannot see the individual pieces of the material that contribute to its formation. The wall is a unity—but a unite, which comprehends diversity; so that ذات or Pure Being is a unity but a unity which is the soul of diversity.

The third movement ‘of the Absolute Being is واحدیت or Simple Oneness—a step attended with external manifestation. The absolute Oneness is free from all particular names and attributes, the Oneness Simple takes on names and attributes, but there is no distinction between them; one is the essence of the other. The الوہیت is similar to Simple Oneness, but its names and attributes are distinguished from one another and even contradictory; as generous is contradictory to revengeful[8]. The third step, or, as Hegel would say, Voyage of the Being, has another appellation, رحمانیت (Mercy). The first Mercy, the author says, is the Evolution of the Universe from Himself and the manifestation of his own self in every atom of the result of his own self-diremption. The author makes this point clearer by an instance. He says that nature is frozen water and God is water. The real name of nature is God (Allah); ice or condensed water is merely a borrowed appellation. Elsewhere the author calls water the origin of knowledge, intellect, understanding, thought and idea. This instance leads the author to guard against the error of looking upon God as immanent in nature or living through the sphere of material existence. He says that immanence implies disparity of being; God is not immanent because He is Himself the existence. External existence is the other self of God, it is the light through which He sees Himself. As the originator of an idea is existent in that idea, so God is present in nature. The difference between God and man (as one may say) is that His ideas materialise themselves, ours do not. It will be remembered here that Hegel would use the same line of argument in freeing himself from the accusations of Pantheism.

The remarks on Mercy are followed by brief notice of the word ربوبیت (Providence). He defines it as the sum of all that existence stands in need of. Plants are supplied with water through the through the force of this name. The natural philosopher would express the same thing differently; he would speak of the same phenomena as resulting from the activity of a certain force of nature. Our author would call it a manifestation of ربوبیت, but unlike the natural philosopher, he would not advocate the unknowability of the force. He would say that there is nothing behind it, it is the Absolute Being itself. This brief chapter ends with some verses of his own composition, one of which is given here, though marred in the rendering:

All that is, owes its existence to you, and you owe your existence to all that is[9].

Another Sufi has expressed a similar thought still more boldly:

I owe to God as much as God owes to me. We have now finished all the essential names and attributes of God, and proceed to examine the nature of what existed before all things. The Arabian Prophet, says the author, was once questioned about the place of God before creation. He said that God, before creation, existed in عماُٰء (blindness). It is the nature of this void or primal darkness, which the author now proceeds to examine. The chapter is particularly interesting, because the word translated into modern phraseology would be “the unconsciousness”. This single word impresses upon us the foresightedness with which the author anticipates metaphysical doctrine of modern Germany. He says that the Unconsciousness is the reality of all realities; it is the Pure Being without any descending movement; it is free from the attributes of God and creation. It does not stand in need of any name or quality because it is beyond the sphere of relations. It is distinguished from the absolute Oneness because the latter name is applied to the Pure Being in its process of coming down towards manifestation.

This brief but very interesting chapter ends with a very important caution. He says that when we speak of the priority of God and posteriority of creation, our words must not he understood as implying time, for there can be no duration of time or separateness between God and His creation. Time, contiguity in space and time, are themselves creations, and how can one piece of creation intervene between God and His creation? Hence our words before, after, where, whence, etc., in this sphere of thought, should not be construed to imply time or space. The ذات  or the real Being is beyond the grasp of human conceptions, no category of material existence can be applicable to it, because, as Kant would say, the laws of phenomena cannot be spoken as obtaining in the sphere of noumena. It is a matter of regret that the author does not touch here upon the anthropomorphic conceptions of God inculcated by positive religion, but ends his chapter with some verses, which run as follows:

“O Thou who art one having the effect of two. Thou hast comprehended under thyself all the beauties of perfection, but owing to their being heterogeneous to one another, they became contradictories which became one in thee.” [10]

The 13th, 14th and 15th chapters are nothing but a jumble of metaphysical phraseology. We have already noticed that man in his progress towards perfection has three stages; the first is the meditation of the name, which the author calls the illumination of names. He remarks that “when God illuminates a certain man by the light of His names, the man is destroyed under the dazzling splendour of that name, and when thou calleth God, the call is responded to by the man.” The effect of this illumination would be, in because the individual goes on living and moving like the Schopenhauer’s language, the destruction of the individual will, yet it must not be confounded with physical death, spinning wheel, as Kapila would say, after he has become one with Prakriti. It is here that the individual cries in the pantheistic mood:

“She was I and I was she and there was none to separate us”. [11]

The second stage of the spiritual training is what the author calls the Illumination of the Attribute. This illumination makes the perfect man receive the attributes of God in their real nature in proportion to the power of receptivity possessed by him—a fact which classifies men according to the magnitude of this light resulting from the illumination. Some men receive illumination from the divine attribute of Life and thus participate in the soul of the universe. The effect of this light is soaring in the air, walking on water, changing the magnitude of things (as Christ often did). In this wise the perfect man receives illuminations from all the Divine attributes, crosses the sphere of the name and the attribute, and steps into the domain of ذات (Essence)—Absolute Existence.

As we have already noticed, the Absolute Being, when it leaves its absoluteness, has three voyages to undergo, each voyage being a process of particularisation of the bare universality of the Absolute Essence. Each of these three movements appear under a new Essential Name, which has its own peculiarly illuminating effect upon the human soul. Here is the end of our author’s spiritual ethics; man has become perfect, he has amalgamated himself with the Absolute Being, or has learnt what Hegel calls the Absolute Philosophy. “He becomes the paragon of perfection, the object of worship, the preserver of the universe. He is the point where عبودیت (Man-ness) and الوہیت (God-ness) become one and result in the birth of the god-man.

Although the author devotes a separate chapter to the perfect man in the second volume of his hook, yet we will consider that chapter here in order to secure a continuous view of his doctrine. Here he unfolds his Doctrine of Self-diremption in a new dress. He says that the perfect man is the pivot round which revolves all the “heavens” of existence, and the sum of the realities of material existence corresponds to his unity. The عرش corresponds to his heart, the کرسی (the chair) to his I-ness, سدرۃالمنتھیٰ (the plum Tree) to his spiritual position, the قلم (Pen) to his intellect; the لوح محفوظ (the Preserved Tablet) to his mind; the elements to his temperament; matter to his faculty of perception, air to the space he occupies; the اطلس (Heaven) to his opinion; the starry heaven to his intelligence; the seventh heaven to his will; the sixth to his imagination; the fifth to his perseverance; the fourth to his understanding; the third to his fancy, the second to his reflection, and the first to his memory. Of the above-mentioned correspondence, the author has very obscure explanations and goes on to enumerate all the phases of material existence in order to explain the truth that the perfect man is truly a microcosm and moves in every sphere of thought and being.

His doctrine implies that angels have not a separate existence of their own; all have their source in the faculties of the perfect man; in one word they are personifications of his faculties. The قلب of the perfect man is the source of اسرافیل (the source of life), his intellect the source of جبراٰئیل (the source of revelation), that part of his nature which is subject to the illusions of fear, the source of عزرائیل (the angel of fear), his will the source of میکائیل and his reflection the source of the rest of the angels. The interpretation of these phrases is very doubtful, but it seems to me that what are called angels are nothing but different phases of the activity of the different powers of his nature. How the perfect man reaches this height of spiritual development, the author does not tell us, but he says that at every stage he has a peculiar spiritual experience in which there is not even a trace of doubt or agitation. The instrument of this experience is what he calls the قلب (heart), a word very difficult of definition. He gives a very mystical diagram ofقلب  and explains it by saying that it is the eye which sees the names, the attributes, and the Absolute Being successively. It owes its existence to a mysterious combination of soul and mind (نفس و روح) and becomes by its very nature the organ for the recognition of the ultimate realities of existence. Perhaps Dr. Schenkel’s sense of the word ‘conscience’ would approach our author’s meaning of the word. All that the قلب or the source of what the Vedanta calls the Higher knowledge, reveals is not seen by the individual as something separate from and heterogeneous to himself; what is shown to him through this agency is his own reality, his own deep being. This characteristic of the agency differentiates it from the intellect, the object of which is always different and separate from the individual exercising that faculty. But the spiritual experience, as the Sufis of this school hold, is not permanent; moments of spiritual vision, says Matthew Arnold[12], cannot be at our command. The god-man is he who has known the mystery of his own being, who has realised himself as god-man; but when that particular spiritual realisation is over ۔ man is man and God is God. Had the experience been permanent, a great moral force would have been lost and society overturned.

Let us now sum up the author’s Doctrine of the Trinity. We have seen the three movements of the Absolute Being, or the first three categories of Pure Being; we have also seen that the third movement is attended with external manifestation, which is the self-diremption of the Essence into God and man. This separation makes a gap, which is filled by the perfect man is a necessary condition for the continuation of nature. The author holds that the perfect man is the preserver of the Universe[13]; hence in his view the appearance of the perfect man is a necessary condition for the continuation of nature. It is easy, therefore, to understand, that in the god-man, the Absolute Being, which has left its Absoluteness, returns unto itself, and but for the god-man it could not have done so, for then there would have been no nature, and consequently no light through which God could have seen Himself. The light through the agency of which God sees Himself is due to the principle of differences in the nature of the Absolute Being itself. He recognises the principle in the following verses:

If you say God is one, you are right, but if you say that

He is two, this is also true.

If you say no but He is three, you are right, for this is

the real nature of man[14].

The perfect man, then, is the joining link. On the one hand he receives illumination from all the essential names, on the other hand all the divine attributes reappear in him. These attributes are:

     (1) Independent life or existence.

     (2) Knowledge which is a form of life, as the author proves from a verse of the Quran.

     (3) Will—the principle of particularisation or the manifestation of the Being.

The author defines it as the illumination of the knowledge of God according to the requirements of the Essence, hence it is a particular form of knowledge. It has nine manifestations, all of which are different names for love, the last is the love in which the lover and the beloved, the knower and the known, merge into each other and become identical. This form of love, the author says, is the Absolute Essence; as Christianity teaches God is love. The author guards here against the error of looking upon the individual act of will as uncaused. Only the act of the universal will is uncaused; hence he implies the Hegelian Doctrine of Freedom, and holds that the acts of man are both free and determined.

   (4) Power which expresses itself in self-diremption —creation.

The author controverts Shaikh Muhy-ud-Din ibn Arabi’s position that the Universe existed before its creation in the knowledge of God, as Hamilton holds. He says this would imply that God did not create it out of nothing, and holds that the universe, before its existence as an idea, existed in the self of God.

   (5) The Word or the reflected being. Every possibility is the word of God; hence nature is the materialisation of the word of God. It has different names—the tangible word, the sum of the realities of man, the arrangement of the Divinity, the spread of Oneness, the expression of the Unknown, the phases of Beauty, the trace of names and attributes, and the object of God’s knowledge.

   (6) The Power of hearing.

   (7) The Power of seeing.

   (8) Beauty—that which seems least beautiful in nature (the reflected beauty) is, in its real existence, beauty. Evil is only relative, it has no real existence; sin is merely a relative deformity.

   (9) Glory or beauty in its intensity.

   (10) Perfection, which is the unknowable essence of God and therefore Unlimited and Infinite.

We have now the doctrine of the perfect man completed. All through the author has maintained his argumentation by an appeal to different verses of the Quran, and to the several traditions of the Prophet, the authenticity of which he never doubts. Although he reproduces the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, except that his god-man is Muhammad instead of Christ, he never alludes to his having been influenced by Christian theology. He looks upon the doctrine as something common between the two forms of religion and accuses Christians of a blasphemous interpretation of the doctrine—of regarding the Personality of God as split up into three distinct personalities. Our own belief, however, is that this splendid doctrine has not been well understood by the majority of Islamic and even Christian thinkers. The doctrine is but another way of stating that the Absolute Unity must have in itself a principle of difference in order to evolve diversity out of itself. Almost all the attacks of Muhammadan theologians are directed against vulgar beliefs while the truth of-real Christianity has not sufficiently been recognised. I believe in no Islamic thinker will object to the deep meaning of the Trinity as explained by this author, or will hesitate in approving Kant interpretation of the Doctrine of Redemption. Shaikh Mahy-ud-Din Ibn Arabi says that the error of Christianity does not lie in Christ God but in making God Christ.

After these remarks on the Doctrine of the Trinity let us-now review the remainder of the author’s treatise. His principal doctrine is complete before us, but he has got something more to say. He devotes a separate chapter to the He-ness, the second movement of the Absolute Being, but drops no new remark here. He then goes on to consider the I-ness, the third movement of the Absolute, and defines it as the contrast of God with what is His own manifestation and says that I and He are but the outside and the inside of the same thing. In the three succeeding chapters the author considers the words Eternity and Uncreatableness and guards against the error of understanding them as implying time. The 31st chapter goes under the heading of “The Days of God,” by which phrase the author means the different manifestations of the Absolute. The Absolute Being has two phases; in Himself He is one and Unchangeable, but in the second Phase He is the cause of all diversity—nay, is the diversity. That which appears is not unreal, it is the Absolute Being itself. It is interesting to observe that the author uses here the word تحول which exactly means Evolution implying the identity of the object under all its diverse forms. The first volume ends here with brief notices of the Quran, The Old Testament, the Book of Psalms and the Bible. The author’s remarks on the different books are very interesting, but are not directly connected with the main theory he propounds. We, therefore, proceed to estimate the value of his philosophical labour. While summing up his Doctrine of the Perfect Man, we have seen that, although he has anticipated many of the chief doctrines of modern German philosophy and particularly Hegelianism, yet he is not a systematic thinker at all. He perceives the truth, but being unequipped with the instrumentality of a sound philosophical method, he cannot advance positive proofs for his position, or rather cannot present his views in a systematic unity. He is keenly alive to the necessity of philosophical precision, yet his mysticism constantly leads him to drop vague, obscure remarks savouring of Platonic poetry rather than philosophy. His book is a confused jumble of metaphysics, religion, mysticism and ethics, very often excluding all likelihood of analysis. In his defence of the Islamic institutions, he implies that religion is something quite different from metaphysics, yet in his general treatment he is firmly convinced of their identity that he regards religion as applied metaphysics, and to a great extent anticipates the view of modern NeoHelegian school of England. Amidst the irregularity and general want of clearness, his chief doctrine, however, is sufficiently clear—a doctrine which makes the principal merit of our author, and brings him out as the triumphant possessor of the deep metaphysical meaning of the Trinity. In the garb of mysticism he has dropped remarks which might be developed so as to result in a philosophical system, but it is a matter for regret that this sort of Idealistic Speculation did not find much favour with later Islamic thinkers.

*Indian Antiquary, Bombay, September 1900, pp. 237-46 [Author’s foot-notes, omitted in the earlier editions, are added here from the text prepared by S.H. Razzaqi in his Discourses of Iqbal, Sh. Ghulam Au, Lahore, 1979, p. 117]


[1] Du Prel. In his Philosophy of Mysticism, shows with great force and clearness that an examination of Mysticism is necessary for a complete solution of the human enigma.


[2] Sheikh Muhiud-Din ibn ‘Arabi—the greatest of the Muhammadan Sufis was an astonishingly voluminous writer, lie believed in the revolution of the earth round the sun, as well as the existence of a world beyond ocean (468-548 All.) 3. Vol. 1, p. 10

[3] Vol 1, p. 10

[4] Vol 1, p. 22

[5] Vol 2, p 26

[6] The names and attributes of God as He is in himself (Allah, Tie One, The Odd, The Light. The Truth. The Pete, The living); the name of attributes of God as the source of all Glory) (The Great and High, The all-Powerful); The names and attributes of God as all-Perfection The Creator, The Benefactor, The First, The Last): The name and attributes of God as all Beauty (The Uncreatable, The Painter, The Merciful, The Origin of all)


[7] Matheson’s Aids to the Study of German Theology, p.43.

[8] This would seem very much like the idea of the Phenomena Brahniana of the Vedanta. Personal Creator or the Prajapati of the Vcdanta makes the third step of the Absolute Being or the Nauonienal Brahmana. Our author seems to admit two kinds of Brahmana—with or without qualities like the Samkara and Badarayana. To him the process of creation is essentially a lowering of the Absolute Thought which is Asat, in so far it is absolute and sat, in so far as it is manifested and hence limited. Notwithstanding the Absolute Monisnt, our author inclines to a vicw similar to that of Ramanuja. lie seems to admit the reality of individual soul and seems to imply, unlike Sam kara, that lswara and His worship are necessary even after the attainment of the higher knowledge—a remark which tends to-free our authors doctrine from the political and social dangers of Vendata.



[11] Insan –al-Kamil, Vol 1, p. 40

[12] “We cannot Kindle when we will. The fire which in the heart resides”

[13] Vol 1, p. 48

[14]  Insan Al Kamil, Vol. 1, p. 8