The Theory of the Unity of Being and its Demonstrability in Mullà Sadrà

and Ibn Arabí


Qasim Kaka'i


1- Introduction


            The theory of the unity of being (wahdat al-wujud) as viewed by Ibn ‘Arabí and Mullà Sadrà is, before being a philosophical approach to the world of being, is a special interpretation of religious texts concerning God and His attributes. It is also a conceptual interpretation of mystical unveilings. The people of knowledge themselves have subcategorized this theory under the most fundamental religious principle of tawhíd (the Unity of God) and referred to it as tawhíd al-khass, or even tawhíd  al-akhass al-khawass.[1]

This theory has found its way from mystics’ books into philosophers’ works, and if we are to convey the real sense of the word in philosophy, we have to discuss it in relation to metaphysics in its particular sense (ilàhiyyàt bil mana al-akhass) rather than its general sense. As the name of this theory suggests, it conceives of only one existent and even one existence as being real all through the world of being. This theory holds that all observable plurals in the world have originated from a pervasive unity embracing all of them. In other words, it sees in this plurality a kind of unity whose relation to plural things is like the relation between the limited and the absolute. However, this theory is drastically different from other monistic and reductive theories such as materialism. Materialism, too, sees a kind of unity beyond plural things, so that it regards the whole being to be restricted in one existence, namely, matter, and conceives of the whole world, even mind, reason, and the soul, as the manifestations of matter in various forms. The difference here is that in the theory of the unity of being the “One” from whom all plural things have originated is a holy and sacred entity, subject to religious experience and worthy of worship. According to Ibn ‘Arabí, this “One” is what every community calls with a specific name; Arabs call it Allah, Persians call it Khuda, Romans call it Isha, Armenians call it Astwath, Turks call it Tankari, Westerners call it the Creator, and Abbissiniyans call it Waq.[2]  This indicates that the only world which possesses life is one with the knowledge of the unity of being or the “One”, and it is the “One” which is the soul of the world. 

The theory known as pantheism in the West is also based on these two fundamental principles. First, it agrees with the existence of a kind of unity behind plurality, and second, it attributes divinity to the “One”.[3] This similarity has misled some people to equate the “unity of being” with pantheism. The term pantheism has been defined in different ways so that all the philosophers before Socrates, ancient Indian religions, Spinoza, Hegel, Bradley, Whitehead, and even Tilich have been called pantheists. In other words, pantheism has been regarded as both a religious and a philosophical approach. However, there are a lot of ambiguities concerning what pantheism really is.[4]

The term “pantheism” consists of two Greek morphemes: Pan (All) and Theo (God), and refers to a belief indicating that the entire world is, in a sense, divine.[5] Pantheists believe that there is only one being and that all other forms of reality are either its manifestations or are identical with it.[6] There are some other definitions for this word as follows:

1- Believing that “God is everything and everything is God… The world is either identical with God or, in some way, a theophany of His essence.”

2- Believing that all beings comprise a “unity” and this inclusive unity is, in a sense, divine.[7] According to this idea, God is not the creator of things but is identical with them,[8] and that everything in the world is one and that is the most universal one.[9]

Clearly, there are certain similarities between pantheism and the “unity of being” (wahdat al-wujud). Several instances can be found both in the West and in the Islamic world, where these two theories have been confused with each other. To clarify the fundamental differences between these two theories, we will first review Ibn ‘Arabí’s view of the “unity of being”.

2- Ibn Arabí and the Unity of Being

According to William Chittick, Ibn ‘Arabí has never used the expression of the “unity of being” In his works, [10] and has just once referred to it implicitly.[11] However, after his death, the opponents of this theory called him an advocate of the “unity of being” to excommunicate him (Ibn Taimiyah was probably the first who made such a claim).[12] On the other hand, to bring Ibn ‘Arabí’s views closer to the philosophers’ teachings and terminology, his disciples employed terms such as “existence” (wujud) and “unity” (wahdat), which are more familiar to philosophers, and coined the expression  “the unity of being” to signify Ibn ‘Arabí’s mystical view. It was since Ibn Sab‘in’s time onward that “the unity of being” became a particular expression.[13]

However, apart from the expression itself, the concept of “the unity of being” or restricting existence to God and denying the existence of other than Him comprise the main themes of Ibn ‘Arabí’s all works. Some examples are given below:

Phrases such as “Verily existence is reserved for God” (innal wujud huwallah)[14] or “Verily existence is reserved for the Truth” (innal wujud huwal haqq)[15] have frequently appeared in Futuhàt al-makkiyah (Meccan Openings). In one place in Futuhàt, after interpreting the common meaning of “There is no god save Him”, he defines it in relation to particular tawhíd  (al-khass) as follows: What great mystics understand from “There is no god Save Him” is other than what may be understood rationally. They maintain that existence is only for God.[16] Or, “whatever there is other than God has no way out of the dominion of the Truth; He is not only their Maker but also their being. All things owe their existence to Him. However, existence is not something against the Truth or out of Him so that He may give it to other than Him. Rather, He is the same as existence and all entities have appeared through Him.”[17]

In many cases,[18] Ibn ‘Arabí regards the existence of the world the same as the existence of the Truth. “Concerning the knowledge of God we must say that the highest level of Oneness (ahadiyyat) is that the existence of the world is the same as the existence of the Truth and that of other than Him. And if there were no limits, there would be no differences and distinctions.[19] One whose eyes have been opened by God will see Him in all things and even the same as all things.[20] Mystics believe that He is the same as all other things.[21] In Ibn ‘Arabí’s eyes, the difference between tawhíd  al-àmmah, which is a product of reason, and particular tawhíd  (al-khass), which is granted by intuition, is that the former finds unity in the origin of things and says that in every thing there is a sign indicating God’s oneness; however, the latter sees the Truth the same as creatures and, unanimous with Ibn ‘Arabí, declares that: “In every thing there is a sign indicating that God is the same as that thing”, thus there is nothing in existence other than God; that is why Bàyazíd and some of the earlier people of Allah said: “I am god” and “I am glorified.”[22]

3- Mullà Sadrà and the Unity of Being

The “principiality of existence” (asàlat al-wujud) and the “gradation of existence” (tashkík al-wujud) are among Mullà Sadrà’s innovations and distinguish his philosophy from those of earlier philosophers; nevertheless, they do not mark the end of his philosophical attempts. His aim all through al-Asfàr has been to promote the status of conventional philosophy over time and to bring it at the service of mysticism and the interpretation of the Holy Qur’an. Thus, right at the beginning of al-Asfàr and at the outset of the discussion of the “principiality of existence”, he says:

 It should be noted that demonstrating the various levels of existential plurals and choosing plurality as the topic for discussion or as the subject of teaching is not against what will be stated later. Elsewhere, we will prove that existence and existents are in fact essentially one as acknowledged by the friends of God (awliyà) and mystics who represent the great figures of intuition and certainty. [23]

At the end of the discussion of “cause and effect”, he fulfills his promise and considers God as his guide in this task: “With an illuminating argument from the highest point of heaven, He guided me to the straight path leading to the belief that all existence and existents are gathered in a personal Truth that has no partner in His existence and comes second to none in His reality, and that there is no one save Him in the world of being.”[24] In his al-Shawàhid al-rububiyyah, he states: “The reality was unveiled and the sun of truth rose, and it came to light that what is called existence is nothing but a mode of the modes of that ever-lasting One and a ray of the Light of Lights (nur al-anwàr).”[25] In his Mafàtih al-ghayb, he also emphasizes that: “In the world of being there is nothing save His ipseity, and the possible things are rays of His light and a drop of His ocean of being. Thus there is nothing in the world of being but Him.”[26]

4- The Difference between Pantheism and the Unity of Being

So far, it has been tried to clarify the similarities between pantheism and the unity of being. However, there are some fundamental differences between the well-known versions of pantheism and the “unity of being” as posed by Ibn ‘Arabí and Mullà Sadrà. Pantheism has been defined as follows: “A religious belief or philosophical theory to the effect that God and the universe are identical.”[27] If the identity of God and the universe means that God is nothing but the universe, and that the word “God” is simply another name for the universe, the proposition of “God is the universe” is firstly a tautology, totally lacking scientific sense, and secondly, it is equal to pure atheism and represents just another version of the attempts to reject God. Therefore, it inevitably means that God is no different from the world, is lacking in transcendence, and is perfectly immanent in the universe. Accordingly, it has been said: “One of the most important differences between pantheism and traditional theism is that pantheism does not believe in God’s transcendence of the universe.[28] “Despite the differences among them, pantheists unanimously reject the theistic claim of the distinction between God and the world.”[29]

This pantheistic view is identical with the view that Mullà Sadrà has attributed to ignorant Sufis. He severely criticizes it and, at the same time, defends the domain of mystical thoughts as being clear from this view, for mystics believe in hidden ipseities (huwiyyah ghaybiyyah) and a station of oneness which is far from the manifestations of the visible world. Some exoteric Sufis believe that the essence of Oneness (ahadiyyah), which is called the station of oneness, the unseen ipseity, and the unseen of unseens (ghayb al-ghuyūb) in mystic terminology, has no actual realization other than manifestations. They also think that it is only the world of forms, with all its spiritual and sensual faculties, is real and that God is nothing but the collection of all these forms and faculties. This is a purely blasphemous and atheistic idea, and not a single soul, no matter how limited his knowledge might be, will ever acknowledge it.[30] In other words, pantheists and this group of Sufis, although confirming the existence of plurality in unity, have never gone beyond the station of similarity (tashbíh) and the visible world; neither have they perceived the station of “plurality in unity”, nor the station of the incomparable (tanzíh), nor the unseen of unseens.[31]

That is why the “unity of being” gets far from pantheism and comes closer to another theory called Panentheism. Panentheism consists of three Greek morphemes: pan- (all), -en (in), and Theo (God). According to this theory, “the existence of God both includes the whole universe and is immanent in it, so that every part of the universe exists in Him.” Unlike pantheism, panentheism conceives of “the existence of God as being beyond the universe, and does not see the universe as being equal to the whole existence of God, although there is no existence in the universe save that of God.”[32] That is why some writers emphasize that the difference between panentheism and pantheism is that the former believes that only those things that are transcendent and independent from the universe belong to the essence of God.[33] Panentheism holds that the universe is the theophany of God and, at the same time, there is one aspect of Divine life which is completely independent and separate from the world.[34] Panentheism is more consistent with traditional theism; it is the midway between pantheism and theism, and as some say, it is a combination of the two.[35]

Nevertheless, unlike pantheism, Ibn ‘Arabí’s school, and following it Mullà Sadrà’s philosophy, have never merely dealt with similarity (tashbíh) and, while taking it into account, they have purified God from worldly affairs. As Ibn ‘Arabí has clearly emphasized: “At the station of self-manifestation, He is the same as all things; however, in the essence of things, He has no unity with them; He is incomparable with and higher than such a thing. He is God and things are things.”[36] Elsewhere, he refers to two stations and two statements for the Truth; one of which being the station of tanzíh and the incompatibility of the Truth with creatures and the other being the station of tashbíh and the compatibility of the two. There are two statements concerning the Truth: one pertains to His station of ipseity and Essence, implying the absence of any relationship between the Truth and the creatures, and the other pertains to His station of Lordship, implying the existence of relationship between Him and His creatures.[37] In His Fusus al-hikam (Bezels of Wisdom), he has written: “In a sense, the Truth is the same as creatures, then learn a lesson; and in another sense, the Truth is not the same as creatures, thus be ware. It is the cause of both combination and separation, for it is both one and many and leaves nothing but Himself.”[38]

5- The Demonstrability of the Unity of Being in Ibn Arabí’s View

Ibn ‘Arabí is bewildered and his logical paradoxes arise when he comes to combining and differentiating between the stations of unity and plurality, the Truth and creatures, existence and nonexistence, the manifest and the loci of manifestation, inward and outward, the named and the name, and tashbíh and tanzíh.

Evidently the proposition that “the creature is the Truth” is neither a tautology nor a primary predication. The common predication is also a predication of the “it is it” kind so that the subject and the predicate are unified in one aspect and different in another. Here the aspects of unity and difference should be different so that no contradiction might arise. However, if, like Ibn 'Arabí, we believe in unity and not in union, and maintain that “the creature is the Truth” and “the creature is not the Truth”, and at the same time admit that nothing exists but the Truth, there would be no predication of the “it is it” kind, but a predication of the “it is not it” kind. According to Ibn 'Arabí, it is here where the servant of God discovers that the Truth is him and is not him.[39] Elsewhere he regards mysticism to be based on He/not He (huwa là huwa): “Divine matters are always based on “He/not He”, and if you fail to perceive it as such, you will never understand it.”…And thou (Muhammed) threwest not when thou didst throw, but Allah threw…” (8:17). This verse refers exactly to what we said about He/not He. Here, those who have not perceived the truths (as they are) through intuition will be bewildered.[40] Thus the truth is that when you see or understand any thing through any of your faculties, you should acknowledge what you have understood as being He/not He.[41] It is this very “He/not He” issue that causes bewilderment: “And if you contemplate the relation between the universe and the Truth, you will find out that the point of bewilderment is “He/not He,”[42] for here “there is nothing but Him and there is no ipseity but Him. In terms of existence He is the same as existents in his existence…thus you may say about Him that He is not He, Thou are not Thou.”[43]

This is the significant issue pinpointed by Ibn 'Arabí; however, he does hope that reason can understand it. “I granted you the knowledge of a great mystery, provided that you can bear the knowledge. At the station of manifestation, He is the same as every thing, yet he is different from them in their essence.”[44] This great issue does not only appear contradictory; it is truly contradictory, for if its contradiction was a superficial one, after removing the contradiction, it would lose its significance and there would be no place for bewilderment. The contradiction arises out of saying that the Truth Almighty is the gathering place for all opposites, and even He is the same as opposites. He is the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward.[45] The coincidence of opposites inevitably leads to the gathering of contradictory things; and since the basis of reason is the “impossibility of the gathering of opposites”, then this will be beyond the scope of reason. The only mystic who can perceive this issue is one who has been realized through the Truth, is the loci for the gathering of opposites like Him, and is present in stations of both negation and affirmation, and tashbíh and tanzíh. Abu Sa'íd Kharràz says that God cannot be known unless through His being the gathering of opposites[46] and that no one in the world can bring the opposites together except Allah, since One through Whom they are realized is the gathering place for opposites, and mystics are known through Him.[47] Mystics understand this through their heart and unveiling and not through reason,[48] for it is a stage beyond reason. One who has not perceived the theophanies in his heart will deny them, for reason and other faculties are limiting, but the heart cannot be limited and accepts the change very fast. Thus heart is that very faculty which is beyond the scope of reason. Every man possesses reason; however, the faculty which is beyond the stage of reason has not been granted to all people.[49]

What causes the reason’s bewilderment here is that it must acknowledge the unity of cause and effect: “There is no problem more complicated than this issue in divine sciences … There is none save God in the world of being and He is both the ruler and the receptacle.”[50] “And see how strange the issue of existence is, for One who is given existence is the same as the One Who grants existence.”[51]

It is this very contradiction that makes the issue inexpressible and indemonstrable. “It is very difficult to explain this issue since our tongue comes short of words in its expression and our imagination cannot record it due to its rapid change and the contradiction involved in its propositions. This is similar to God’s words: “And thou (Muhammad) threwest not when thou didst throw, but Allah threw”.”[52] Therefore, there remain only two ways to believe in this issue: one is through unveiling based on the Divine law and faith, as he has said:

And pay attention how strange this contradictory issue is. It is necessary to have belief in both sides of the contradiction. And gaining the knowledge of it through unveiling, along with believing in it, is a great victory for one to whom such a thing has been granted.[53]

The second way is reserved for those who are deprived of unveiling. They should first accept that there is a stage beyond the stage of reason and, second, be committed to the Divine law through something other than reason. It is through the Holy Prophet’s (s) confirmation that it is revealed to such a person that, beyond reason and what is perceived through thinking, there is something else which grants existence to anything that does not give way to rational proofs and which everyone regards as being impossible.[54] In other words, after understanding that reason is not capable of describing the Truth as He deserves it, one should listen to the description of the Truth by the Truth Himself:

From a mystical point of view, if the knowledge of God is obtained by reason, it will be based on conjecture, thus the related proofs will be prone to doubt. On the contrary, if it is obtained through the Divine law, it will be certain, and there will be no doubt for believers; in other words, it is God who reveals Himself to His servants, since He knows Himself better than His servants. And the Knowledge of God through the Divine law indicates that He is the loci for both tashbíh and tanzíh, and from a theoretical and rational point of view, this (the coincidence of opposites in subject) is not allowed. Thus, God’s creatures cannot judge Him. Reason, vision, and rational thought also are all among God’s creatures.[55]

Briefly speaking, mystics confirm “the unity of being” intuitively, and the Holy Qur’an does so on the basis of the Divine law. Nevertheless, demonstration does not support the “unity of being” on the basis of reason, but comes into harmony with heart and the Divine law on the basis of faith and submission.

It came to light that there is a station higher than the station of reason which grants certain things to the servant ('abd). For example, there are things that seem to be rationally impossible; however, the very reason that regards them as being impossible accepts them as being real if they are given by the Truth, while they are still judged as being rationally impossible.[56]

Elsewhere, he says:

When the station which is beyond the station of reason becomes clear through prophecy, and the people of mysticism act upon it out of belief, intuition will grant them what reason deems impossible through thinking.[57]

The question which might arise here is: What could we say about Ibn 'Arabí’s great emphasis on the point that the “unity of being” is a station beyond the stage of reason and that it is contradictory? There are a few comments in this regard:

1- To concede that Ibn 'Arabí has misinterpreted his mystical intuition and thus been caught in contradiction, while the unity of being is not a contradictory issue.

2- To consider what Ibn 'Arabí’s has said a kind of poetic indulgence in fantasy or even idle verbosity, lacking any real sense and, therefore, not following any logical constraints.

3- To conceive of the theory of the unity of being as a paradoxical theory, whose contradiction is only superficial, and through discovering the different aspects, one can omit the unity of aspects and remove the contradiction. This is what Ibn 'Arabí did not or could not do due to his indulgence in the station of unveiling and intuition, or because of his poor knowledge of philosophy.[58]

4- To regard the theory of the unity of being as a meaningful theory and concede that, according to Ibn 'Arabí, it is impossible to adduce a rational argument in favor of this theory; of course, it does not mean that it is possible to present one in favor of the impossibility of the “unity of being”.

5- To follow Stace’s line of thought and agree that mysticism is beyond the scope of reason and that every interpretation of the “unity of being” involves an explicit contradiction; however, the contradictions that Ibn 'Arabí has in mind are rationally insolvable. Ibn 'Arabí and the like are honest in what they say on the basis of intuition and the eye of certainty ('ayn al-yaqín). “And that their states or experiences are said to be beyond the scope of reason explicitly means that they are beyond the scope of demonstration and logic, and any attempt made to solve ecstatic mystical utterances through logical or linguistic recourses will result in degrading mysticism to the level of conventional reason, denying its unique features, and reducing it to our everyday experiences.”[59]

Nevertheless, some of Ibn 'Arabí’s followers adopted the third option. They tried to demonstrate the theory of the unity of being; however, most of their arguments suffer from a kind of fallacy between the concept and the referent. In fact, instead of proving the unity of the referent of existence, they have tried to prove the unity of its concept.[60] At last, none of them could gain complete success in demonstrating the “unity of being”, which, according to Ibn 'Arabí, is both Qur’anic and mystical, till it was Mullà Sadrà’s turn.

6- Mullà Sadrà and the Demonstrability of the Unity of Being Arabí’s View

Mullà Sadrà firstly proves that demonstration (knowledge of certainty) can never be against mysticism (eye of certainty),[61] for certainty is light and light is never in contrast with light. Secondly, when dealing with the fact that the “unity of being” is beyond the stage of reason, he says that it is so due to its extreme exaltation and sublimity and not because of being contradictory.

Of course, there are certain levels of the perfection of knowledge that, due to their sublimity and exaltation, are not accessible to the common sense, which has its place in the world of nature and fails to fly to the world of mysteries. This simply means that our common sense is incapable of perceiving something, not that it denies it or deems it as being false.[62]

Here, quoting from al-Ghazzàlí, he makes a distinction between what is considered impossible by reason and what is out of its access.

Be ware that there is nothing at the stage of mysticism and wilàyah that reason judges as being impossible. Rather, there might appear a kind of knowledge at the stage of wilàyah that reason alone fails to perceive. One who cannot make a distinction between what reason regards to be impossible and what reason cannot perceive is not worth arguing with.[63]

Accordingly, the “unity of being” is a mystery whose perception is impossible for reason owing to its own imperfection and not because of the inherent contradictions in this theory. Reason, for example, cannot understand God’s infinity, for it is finite itself and, therefore, fails to dominate infinity. However, God’s infinity is not contradictory. On the other hand, reason is not able to understand the concept of a square circle and regards it as something impossible simply because this concept involves contradiction.

Thirdly, Mullà Sadrà believes that reason alone is not capable of understanding this issue; however, it will be able to do so with the help of Divine light, in the same way that prophets and the friends of God are capable of doing so.

The stage of tawhíd  al-khass, which is limited to the chosen people of Allah, is beyond the stage of those intellectual minds whose eyes have not been illuminated by the light of Divine guidance; it is difficult to them to interpret it in a way consistent with the hearings of the people of speculation and conventional thought.[64]

Fourthly, if one tries, he can demonstrate the “unity of being”. This will be possible provided that, first, reason is illuminated by the Divine light, and second, conventional thinking and common philosophy are developed to the extent to be capable of explaining the “unity of being”. Mullà Sadrà has been successful in both respects and, particularly, through founding the Transcendent Philosophy, he has had great success regarding the second condition. As we can see, from the beginning of his al-Asfàr , he has dealt with the problems of being and his only goal has been explicating and proving the “unity of being”.[65] Unlike Stace, he has never downgraded mysticism, but has tried to elevate the status of theosophy and philosophy. In his commentary on Hidàyat al-athíriyyah, he says:

It has been said that the perception of the “unity of being” is beyond the stage of reason; yet, I know of a poor man who believes that reason is capable of understanding this issue and has presented certain arguments in favor of it in some of his books and treatises.[66]

Of course, this poor man is no one but Mullà Sadrà himself. As we can see, at the beginning of the first volume of al-Asfàr, he promises to demonstrate this issue,[67] and he fulfills his promise at the end of the discussion of “cause and effect”.[68]

Fifth, Mullà Sadrà poses two arguments: one through analyzing the issue of causality, and the other through the principle of “The Truth in its simplicity contains all things”. In sum, according to Mullà Sadrà, the “unity of being” does not pertain to a stage beyond the stage of reason; rather, its perception is limited to a specific degree of reason, formal thought, and indirect reasons. Nevertheless, the perception of this theory can be accomplished at the stage of reason. Besides, we can say that its contradiction is only superficial and that it is possible to remove it through taking its several aspects into account.[69]

7- Mullà Sadrà’s First Argument

In the first argument, theophany (tajallí) replaces “causality” as follows:

1- The Truth Almighty is the only real cause in the world and the entire world and other than God are His effects.

2- Causedness is identical with the essence of effect (caused). If causedness and dependence were not the same as its essence, the dependence of effect would be accidental, and then it would not be dependent and caused in its essence. This is against our assumption.

3- Some thing whose causedness is the same as its essence has no identity by itself; in other words, it is nonexistent and is the same as dependence on cause. As a result, it will be the same as the self-manifestation of cause.

4- Thus all other than God are His self-manifestations and have no ipseity of themselves.

5- The self-manifestation of a thing is in a way that thing itself.

6- Consequently, the universe has no ipseity other than that of the Truth Almighty, thus the universe is He Himself and the creatures are the Truth.[70]

In this argument, the contradiction or paradox appears only in the fifth premise stating: “the manifestation of A is A”. To remove the paradox, besides extending the domain of philosophy, Mullà Sadrà has revolutionized logic as the medium for expressing hikmah. In the proposition “The manifestation of A is A”, unlike Ibn 'Arabí’s view, we are not dealing with a predication of the “He/not He” kind; rather, we are dealing with a predication of “He is He” kind which is neither primary nor common; it is the predication of manifest on the loci of manifestation. In primary predication, union is based on the quiddity and concept, in the common predication it is based on existence, and in the above-mentioned predication it is based on manifestation or appearance, which is neither concept, nor quiddity, nor existence.[71]

However, Ibn 'Arabí, too, has approached the “unity of being” through “causality” and referred to this point in several places: “It is evident to researchers that in the world of being there is none save

Allah, and despite the fact that we exist, we owe our existence to Him. One whose existence depends on the other is in fact nonexistent.[72] The main problem here is that, unlike Mullà Sadrà, Ibn 'Arabí has failed to demonstrate the major premise of “one whose existence depends on the other is in fact nonexistent”. Besides, he sees reason entangled in perplexity and contradiction in reconciling the two premises of “The creatures is the Truth” and “The creature is not the Truth”. Mullà Sadrà, however, replies that there is no contradiction here, since there is no unity of predication involved and emphasizes that “The creature is the Truth” is based on the predication of manifest on the loci of manifestation and “The creature is not the Truth” is based on common technical predication.[73]

Some Western thinkers such as Levin have presented another version of this argument, called the Dependency Argument, to prove Pantheism and the “unity of God and the world”.[74] A summary of this argument is given below:

1- God is the cause of the universe and the universe is His effect;

2-   The effect depends on the cause both in its origination and its subsistence;

3- If X depends on C for its survival in all moments of existence, then X is nothing but a lower stage or level of C;

4- As a result, the universe is the self-manifestation and theophany (tajallí) of God and not something separate from Him.[75]

Of course, Levin has not demonstrated the third premise and has sufficed to explaining the issue through making a comparison of the relation between the soul and its faculties and the relation between the soul and its actions.

On the contrary, some have tried to alter the principle introduced in the third premise through bringing counterexamples: for instance, when we drink water from a water cooler, the water flows as long as we press the button; that is, pressing the button is the cause for the flow of water, but is the flow of water a manifestation of pressing the button?[76]  It is crystal clear that here the existence giving cause (divine agent) is confused with the natural cause (natural agent).

8- Mullà Sadrà's Second Argument

Mullà Sadrà formulated his second argument in favor of the “unity of being” at the end of the issue of “cause and effect” in a chapter entitled fi dhikr namat….[77] In this argument, he uses the principle of “The Truth in its simplicity contains all things”. The simplified version of this rule is as follows:

1-The Truth Almighty is the Necessary Being;

2- Every necessary being is “the simplest truth” and is existentially infinite;

3- No infinite thing allows any space for other than itself;

4-Thus the Truth Almighty existentially leaves no space for other than Himself. In other words, the Truth Almighty is existent and other than Him is nonexistent.

He has explained this argument in his al-Asfàr as follows: “Be ware that the Necessary Being is at the highest level of the simplicity of the simple truth, and every simple truth which is as such contains all things, thus the Necessary Being contains all things and nothing is outside His  Existence.”[78] In his Sharh Usul al-kàfí, he presents another version of this argument: “tawhíd  al-'arshí: Be ware that the essence of the Truth Almighty is the truth of the infinite and limitless existence that is not imbued with the truth of non-existential existence. Thus the existence of everything necessarily depends on Him, and He contains the existence of all things.”[79]

This argument has also been employed in different forms to prove pantheism and reject the distinction between God and the universe. Even Espinoza and his followers have taken this issue into consideration. As some Western thinkers maintain: “If God is an individuated existent like other existents, He will be limited, and as Espinoza says: 'If we make a traditional distinction between God and the universe and regard God as the Creator, and the universe as the creature, God’s infinitude will be questioned'.”[80] By the way, on the basis of God’s infinitude, an argument, called the Infinity Argument, has been presented to justify pantheism. This argument is quite similar to Sadrà’s argument.

This argument has been the target of many criticisms, including some counterexamples for disproving the major premise of the argument indicating: “No infinite thing leaves any space for other than its own kind”. Traditional theology, for example, regards God’s power and knowledge as being infinite, emphasizing that he possesses every possible power and knowledge; however, this does not necessarily mean that He is the unique potent and knower and that others lack power and knowledge.[81] In the same way, if we say that God possesses all the existential perfections of other existents, it does not mean that other existents lack any kind of perfection and that it is only God Who possesses them.

In reply it is said that it is the infinitude of existence which is at stake here. According to the principiality and simplicity of existence, if existence is infinitely simple and existential perfection is not separate from existence, there is no sense in saying that this infinite possesses the other perfections of things in a “It possesses” manner; rather, we must admit that He has those perfections in a “He is He…” manner.

According to the advocates of the Transcendent Philosophy, the principle of basít al-haqíqah may be interpreted in two ways:

1- The simplest Truth (basít al-haqíqah) contains the perfections of all other things and is free from their imperfections. This is in agreement with the gradation of existence.

2-The simplest Truth (the Truth Almighty) possesses all perfections; in other words, all perfections belong to Him…

The version of the principle of basít al-haqíqah, introduced at the end of the chapter of “cause and effect”, is in agreement with the second interpretation; that is, the personal unity of existence … It is emphasized that this chapter involves another argument in favor of the individuation and absolute reality of the Necessary Being. Evidence shows that the inclusion of things in the Necessary Being makes it the same as Sàlibah bi intifà'-yi mawzu'. [82] In fact, on the basis of the second interpretation, the principle of basít al-haqíqah will change into basít al-haqíqah 'ayn al-ashiyà.[83]

It is worth mentioning that, according to the common interpretation of the infinity argument in the West, God is not a distinguished existent beside other things or even an individualized One. As they stipulate: “one of the key concepts distinguishing pantheism from traditional theology is that it maintains that God in not individualized, or better to say, not personal.”[84] It is here that the other important difference between Ibn 'Arabí’s school and pantheism becomes clear. As mentioned before, pantheists’ “One” or “Absolute”, which contains all things, is not individualized and personal at all,[85] while the “One” demonstrated by Mullà Sadrà is an individualized one, for here he talks of the restriction of existent and existence to one personal truth. Ibn 'Arabí’s God, too, besides being individualized, is extremely personal so that all through his works, he comes into mutual interaction and negotiation with Him and writes romantic verses in his glorification. His God is One Who, at the highest level of tanzíh, possesses all the attributes of creatures and addresses Himself by a word such as “I”, and even attributes to Himself qualities such as wrath, consent, astonishment, mockery, …[86] 



[1]. Sabziwàrí's footnote on al-Asfàr al-arba'at al-'aqliyyah fi'l hikmat al-muta'àliyyah, Mustafawi Publication, vol. 1, p. 71.

[2]. Ibn 'Arabi, al-Futuhat al-makkiyyah, Dar Ihya al-Thurat al-Arabi, vol. 2, p. 360. This doctrine, however, is other than the general tawhid, which seeks the “unity” and the “One” merely in the origin of the world, for here unity is in and with the world.

[3]. Levine, Micheal, P., Pantheism, Routledge, London and New York, 1994, p. 25.

[4]. Ibid., p. 1.

[5]. Owen, H.P., Concepts of Deity, Macmillan, London, 1971, p. 65.

[6]. Ibid., p. 65.

[7]. Levine, p. 1.

[8]. Ibid., p. 16.

[9]. Ibid., p. 17.

[10]. See, Professor Chittick's article published in the Journal of Pazhuhishgaran, no. 11, and Dr. Ibrahim Madkur's view in Jahangiri, Mohsen, Muhy al-Dín 'Arabí, 4th edition, Tehran University Press, 1375/1996, p. 263.

[11]. Ibn 'Arabí, al-Futuhàt, vol. 2, p. 502, Para. 5.

[12]. Jahangiri, Mohsen, Muhy al-Dín 'Arabí, 4th edition, Tehran University Press, 1375/1996, p. 263.

[13]. Chittick, William, “Wahdat-i wujud” (Unity of Being), Pazhuhishgaran, no. 11, p. 24.

[14]. Ibn 'Arabí, al-Futuhàt, vol. 2, p. 556.

[15]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 540, Para. 20.

[16]. Ibid., vol. 4, p. 89, Para. 15.

[17]. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 406, Para. 15.

[18]. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 475, Para. 21.

[19]. Ibid., vol. 4, p. 146, Para. 16.

[20]. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 247.

[21]. Ibid., vol. 4, p. 28 and vol. 3, p. 386; and Ibn 'Arabí, Fusus al-hikam, ed. by Abul 'Ala Mu 'irri, Beirut, 1365 A.H., Fass (bezel) Hudi, p. 111.

[22]. Ibn 'Arabi, al-Futuhàt, vol. 2, p. 272.

[23]. Mullà Sadrà, al-Hikmat al-muta'àliyyah, vol. 1, p. 71.

[24]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 292.

[25]. Mullà Sadrà, al-Shawàhid al-rububiyyah, second edition, University Publication Center, 1360/1981, pp. 50-51.

[26]. Mullà Sadrà, Mafàtih al-ghayb, Maktab al-Mahmudi, Tehran, 1391 A.H. (Printed with Sharh Usul al-kàfí), p. 556.

[27]. Sprigye, T.L.S., “Pantheism” in Monist, 80 (April 1997), p. 191.

[28]. Levine, p. 2.

[29]. Owen, p. 65.

[30]. Mullà Sadrà, al-Hikmat al-muta'àliyyah, vol. 2, p. 345.

[31]. Ibid., Sabziwàrí's footnote.

[32]. Owen, p. 74.

[33]. Ibid., p. 143.

[34]. Levine, p. 11.

[35]. Ford, Lewis, “Pantheism VS Theism” in Monist, 80 (April 1997), p. 295.

[36]. Ibn 'Arabí, al-Futuhàt, vol. 2, p. 168.

[37]. Ibid., vol. 4, p. 36, Para. 33.

[38]. Ibn 'Arabí, Fusus al-hikam, p. 79, Fass Idrísí.

[39]. Ibn 'Arabí, al-Futuhat, vol. 2, p. 168.

[40]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 243, Para. 29.

[41]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 379, Para. 6.

[42]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 144, Para 14.

[43]. Ibn 'Arabí, al-Fusus al-hikam, p. 76.

[44]. Ibn 'Arabí, al-Futuhàt, vol. 2, p. 484.

[45]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 476.

[46]. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 184.

[47]. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 369.

[48]. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 162, Para. 21.

[49]. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 289.

[50]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 216, Para. 1.

[51] . Ibid., vol. 1, p. 702, Para. 13.

[52] . Ibid., vol. 2, p. 216. Strangely enough, despite its inexplicability, Ibn 'Arabí wrote some thousand pages about this issue. Perhaps, it is another case where the mystic has dealt with the coincidence of opposites. Essentially, the mystic's being is itself a paradox, not to mention his words. Ibn 'Arabí's whole life is based on this very “He/not He”, and this can be seen even in his youth, at the time of his encounter with Ibn Rushd. In contrast to that great philosopher, whose philosophy is entirely based on “He/He”, Ibn 'Arabí introduces He/not He. This represents the conflict between mysticism and philosophy; Mullà Sadrà's approach to this paradox, however, will be discussed later.

[53] . Ibid., vol. 2, p. 635, Para. 31.

[54] . Ibid., vol. 1, p. 288.

[55]. Ibn 'Arabí, vol. 1, p. 597, Para. 31.

[56] . Ibid., vol. 2, p. 114. Here, Ibn 'Arabí again stresses on the indemonstrability of the unity of being and classifies the mystical issues into two groups: First, issues which can be expressed but cannot be demonstrated (for instance, the present case) and second, issues that cannot be even expressed.

[57]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 128.

[58] . Thus, Ibn 'Arabí can be regarded as a dumb who is not able to speak about what he sees in his dreams, while others are unable to listen and even to see.

[59]. Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy, trans. Baha al-Din Khurramshahi, Soroush Publication, 1375/1996, chapter “Mysticism and Logic”.

[60]. Jawadi Amuli, 'Abdullah, Rahíq-i makhtum, sharh hikmat muta'àliyyah (The Explication of the Transcendent Philosophy), part 1, vol. 1, Isra Publication Center, 1375/1996, p. 493.

[61]. Mullà Sadrà, al-Hikmat al-muta'àliyyah, vol. 2, p. 315.

[62]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 322.

[63]. Ibid.

[64]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 337.

[65]. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 71.

[66]. Mullà Sadrà, Shrah al-hidàyah al-athíriyyah, photographed of Mírzà 'Abdulkarím Shíràzí's manuscript, Bidar Publications, Qum, undated, p. 288.

[67]. Mullà Sadrà, vol. 1, p. 71.

[68]. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 292.

[69]. The author believes that the fourth option, that is, Stace's view, is more in agreement with Ibn 'Arabí's words.

[70]. Mullà Sadrà, al-Asfàr, vol. 2, pp. 299-300.

[71]. Jawadi Amuli, 'Abdullah, Rahīq-i makhtum, part 5, volume 2, pp. 65-68. This predication is not, of course, the predication of truth (the owner of shadow) on the shadow. For here, the predication is based on the subject and there is still a kind of dichotomy between cause and effect (predicate and subject) so that the cause possesses the perfections of the effect. Thus it can be said that the cause is the same as the effect and vice versa. And thus where there is the owner of the shadow, there is also the shadow. And thus the shadow can be predicated on the owner of the shadow. But this kind of predication, which is one of Mullà Sadrà's innovations, can be employed to explicate the gradation of existence and not the unity of being.

[72]. Ibn 'Arabí, al-Futuhàt, vol. 1, p. 279.

[73]. The author believes that even in this way, the paradox cannot be resolved, for it will lead to acknowledging the existence of an intermediary between existence and nonexistence. This issue will be discussed elsewhere.

[74]. Oakes, Robert, “Does Traditional Theism Entail Pantheism”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 20 (1983), pp. 167-73.

[75]. Levine, pp. 149-151.

[76]. Ibid., p. 50.

[77]. Mullà Sadrà, al-Asfàr, vol. 2, p. 368.

[78]. Ibid.

[79]. Mullà Sadrà, Sharh Usul al-kàfí, Maktabat al-Mahmudi, Tehran, 1391, A.H., p. 336.

[80]. Oakes, Robert, “The Divine Infinity”, Monist, 80 (April 1997), pp. 251-66

[81]. Ibid.

[82]. Jawadi Amuli, 'Abdullah, Rahíq-i makhtum, part 5, vol. 2, p. 336.

[83]. Ibid., p. 106.

[84]. Ford, p. 286.

[85]. Levine, p. 2.

[86]. Ibn 'Arabí, al-Futuhàt, vol. 3, p. 583.



 Print This Document

Save This Document on Your System