40:1 Ḥāʾ Mīm
The previous prophets were eager and yearning for you. Abraham said, ‘Make for me a tongue of truthfulness among the later folk’ [26:84], and Moses said, ‘Make me one of the communities of Muhammad.’ This was not because We explained your acts to them, for if We had talked about your acts to them, all would have pulled back from you. It was because I explained My bounteousness and beneficence toward you. Before you, I chose everyone I chose one by one. Thus, ‘Surely God chose Adam and Noah and the House of Abraham and the House of Imran’ [3:33]. When your turn came, I spoke generally and inclusively: ‘You are the best community [3:110]. All of you are My chosen ones.” In another place, He says, “The ones We chose from among Our servants” [35:32]. Included in this address are worshippers, wrongdoers, and disobedient.
40:3 Forgiver of sins and Accepter of repentance, Intense in punishment, Possessor of boons.
Bounty and generosity demanded that repentance be posterior and forgiveness prior: “If I had said that I accept repentance, then I forgive sins, people would fancy that God would not forgive until the servant repented. But first I forgive, then I accept repentance so that the world’s folk will know that just as I forgive through repentance, so also I forgive without repentance. If repentance were prior, forgiveness would be posterior and repentance would be the cause of forgiveness. But Our forgiveness has no cause but person’s will psych and Our act have no contrivance. First I forgive and make the servant pure with the clear water of bounteousness so that, when he steps onto My carpet, he will step with purity. When he comes to Us, he comes with the attribute of purity.” This is just what He says in another place: “Then He turned toward them so that they would repent” [9:118]. “I am Forgiver of those disobedient acts of which he did not repent, and I am Accepter of him who repents.”
What is meant by the forgiveness of sins here is the forgiveness of the sins of those who have not repented, because He brought the conjunction “and” in the middle. The first phrase is one thing, and the phrase added to it is something else, though they have the same ruling property. Thus you say, “Zayd and ʿAmr came to me.” Zayd is one person, and ʿAmr is someone else, but the two have the same ruling property in their coming. If the ruling property were different, that conjunction would be a mistake, and if the two were identical, mentioning both would be a mistake.
Listen to a beautiful subtlety concerning the forgiveness of sins and the acceptance of repentance: First He mentioned His own attributes and said, “Forgiver of sins and Accepter of repentance.” His attributes are not the locus of intervention, nor do they accept change and alteration. Then, when He spoke of punishment, He said “Intense in punishment.” He made intense the attribute of punishment, and punishment is a locus of modification, so it accepts change and alteration. He is saying: “I am hard in punishment, but if I want to be, I am soft and I change it, for it has room for modification and it accepts change and alteration.”
It has also been said that Intense punishment alludes to the kingdom. If He should eliminate the entire kingdom of the cosmos, His majesty and perfection would receive no deficiency or incapacity. Forgiver of sins and Accepter of repentance alludes to the attributes, and there is never any change or alteration in His attributes. It has also been said that Forgiver of sins is for the wrongdoers, Accepter of repentance is for the moderate, Intense in punishment is for the associaters, and Possessor of boons is for the preceders.
The Lord’s custom is to strike fear into the servants through verses of threat so that the servants therein will be broken and pounded and will show burning and need in servanthood and put weeping and lowliness into themselves. Then the Exalted Lord, in the attribute of clemency and mercy, attends to their hearts with verses of promise and gives news to them of His bounty and mercy. Do you not see that He says Intense in punishment so that the servants will come to weeping and pleading, and He joins it with Possessor of boons to bring the servants to joy and rest? The servants burn and melt when they hear Intense in punishment and say with the tongue of brokenness, “My eyes full of water, my liver full of fire, my hands full of wind, my head full of dust!”
What does the Throne do that it does not carry my saddlecloth?
In my heart, I carry the saddlecloth of Your ruling and decree.” [DS 933]
One day Abū Bakr Shiblī was walking like a strutting warrior and saying, “‘If there were between You and me oceans of fire, I would dive into them.’ If in this road there were a hundred thousand oceans of fire, I would pass them over my eyes and have no fear.” The next day he was seen coming with his head cast down like one helpless and deprived and saying softly, “‘Help from You in You!’ I lament at Your decree, I ask protection from Your severity! I have no repose with You, and my work has no order without You. I have neither the cheek to return to You, nor the gall to flee.
It was said to him, “O Shiblī! What was that yesterday, and what is this today?”
He said, “Yes when an owl has never seen a peacock, it brags about beauty. But an owl is an owl, and a peacock, a peacock.”
40:15 Uplifter of degrees is He, Possessor of the Throne.
He uplifts the degrees of the disobedient to salvation, of the obedient to rewards, of the possessors of needs to sufficiency, of the friends to charismatic gifts, and of the recognizers to states of watchfulness and encounter. He lifts up the degrees of the servants. He keeps each in a station and gives to each of them what is suitable for him. To the disobedient, He gives salvation, to the obedient rewards, to the requesters’ sufficiencies, to the friends’ charismatic gifts, to the recognizers’ states of watchfulness and encounter. The degrees of the faithful and the friends are first today and then tomorrow. Today they are in knowledge and faith, as He says, “He will lift up in degrees those among you who have faith and those who have been given knowledge” [58:11]. Tomorrow they will be in the garden of approval with repose and ease [56:89] in the neighborhood of the All-Merciful, as He says: “They are degrees with God” [3:163].
As for the degrees of the folk of form tomorrow in paradise, they are one thing, and the degrees of the folk of attributes is another thing, for the folk of form are one thing and the folk of attributes are another. The folk of form is in the valley of dispersion, the folk of attributes in the center point of togetherness. “The faithful indeed are siblings” [49:10]; this is in the world of form. As for what Muṣṭafā said, “The faithful are like one soul,” that is in the world of attributes. One of the nomad leaders came before Muṣṭafā and asked, “What has been put away for us in paradise, and how high will be our degrees?” This man was one of the folks of form. God’s Messenger replied, “‘Therein are rivers of water unstaling’ [47:15], and therein are such and such and so on.” He counted out the flowing water, the roasted fowl, the various sorts of fruit, just as the Qur’an speaks of them. Someone else, one of the folks of attributes, asked him about this meaning. God’s Messenger knew he was a man of attributes, not a man of form, so he said, “Within it is what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what has never passed into the heart of any mortal.”
Wait, O heart-rent dervish, until this bodily mold is broken apart by death and is turned into specks in the dust of the grave. It will be placed in the crucible of hell, from there taken to the River of Life and made pure, and from there to Firdaws and perfumed. It will be clothed in seventy robes. That robe will have one collar and seventy skirts, like a hundred-petalled rose. From it will come forth an emerald box. The collar will be one, the skirt one-hundred. Then the exalted embroidery of subsistence will be pulled over the clothing of your exaltedness. Sometimes the drink of ginger [76:17] will be given, sometimes the drink of camphor [76:5], sometimes the drink of Tasnīm [83:27]. The outward will have become inward and the inward the outward. The form will have become the heart, and the heart the form. Just as you know the Real today without suspicion, tomorrow you will see without ambiguity.
Little remains before what has been reported becomes a face-to-face vision. The sun of union will shine from the rising place of finding, the water of contemplation will flow in the stream of gentle favor, the story of water and clay will be concealed, the beginningless Friend will appear face-to-face, and the eyes, heart, and spirit, all three, will gaze upon Him. It has also been said that Uplifter of degrees is He means that He is high in attributes and majestic in measure. No one reaches His core, no one recognizes His measure, and no one perceives His extent. He took away His measure and kept His attributes in the veils of exaltedness so that no one exalted would reach His exaltation, no understanding would perceive His extent, no knower would know His measure, no one’s attribute would be placed next to His attributes, no one would know His knowledge, no one would have His ability, and no one would reach His measure: They measured not God with the rightful due of His measure [22:74], which is to say that they did not show reverence with the rightful due of His reverence.
What familiarity has water and dust with Him who always was and always will be? What affinity has eternity with the new arrival? How can the subsistent Real join with the trace of what undergoes annihilation? How can the prisoner of variegation reach the guise of stability? When He gives vision tomorrow, He will give it as a bestowal, not as is worthy. No eye is worthy of seeing Him, no ear is worthy of His speech, no heart is worthy of His recognition, no foot is worthy of His road, and no one is worthy of His path.
40:64 God is He who made the earth for you a settledness and the heaven a building. And He formed you, so He made your forms beautiful, and He provided you with the goodly things.
This is another blessing and gentleness of which He reminds the servants, thus making the road of servanthood clear for them, showing them the traces of generosity and the indications of power, and placing a favor upon them. He is saying: “When I created heaven and earth, I created them for your sake. I made the earth your settledness, I built the heaven as your gazing place.” If from time to time there were no gazing on heaven, how would heaven have received this bestowal of eminence? We adorned the lowest heaven with lamps [41:12]. If earth were not the encampment of your majestic ruling authority, how would it have seen this caress? And earth, We laid it out—what excellent spreaders! [51:48]. The light of the moon, the brightness of the sun, the adornment of the stars—all is for you. The sun is your cook, the moon is your candle, the stars are your guideposts, heaven your roof, earth your carpet. Tomorrow when you are not there, the roof will be taken down, the carpet rolled up, and the stars will fall. When a carpet is spread for a friend and then the friend goes, the carpet will surely be taken away. “My servant, I created heaven to be your cupbearer: And We sent down from heaven pure water [25:48]. For today is the day of the veil, and there is no escape from the intermediary. But tomorrow will be the day of contemplation, and the intermediary will be of no use. The cupbearer will be My gentleness: And their Lord will pour for them a pure wine [76:21]. I built the earth as an intermediary to give you food: And therein We made grains grow, and vines and herbs, and olives and date-palms [80:27-29]. Tomorrow will be the day of contemplation, and the intermediary will be of no use. I Myself will say, ‘Eat and drink pleasantly’ [69:24]. I created the sun to give you light, for today in the world of form the light of recognition is hidden within the curtains of the secret cores of the lovers’ hearts. Tomorrow in the world of attributes the light of recognition will be apparent. Of what use will be the sun of form? What place will it have? The proof is needed when there is no face-to-face vision. When face-to-face vision has come, what can the proof do?”
And He formed you, so He made your forms beautiful. In another place, He says, “We created man in the most beautiful stature” [95:4]. None of the existent things and creatures was given the form and the beauty that was given to the Adamites. About them, He says, “Surely God is watcher over you” [4:1]. A possessor of beauty is wanted before a watcher is appointed over him. The Real did not say, “I am watcher over heaven and earth.” He did not say, “I am watcher over the Throne and the Footstool.” Concerning the Adamites, He said, “I am watcher over you.” This is because a watcher is a precondition for a possessor of beauty, and no created thing has the beauty of the Adamites.
He raised up the seven domes and painted them with the stars and planets. He spread out the seven dusty circles, He set up the firmly rooted, unshakeable mountains. He brought a hundred thousand wonders and artifacts out from the concealment of nonexistence into existence. He set in rotation the universe-decorating sun, He gave form to the heaven-traversing moon, and He illuminated the realm of being with their beauty. He addressed no existent thing and bestowed upon none of them the eminence of He formed you—except this handful of dust.
And He provided you with the goodly things. Since you know that the Real set out your provision before your existence, that He made its secondary causes, and that He Himself gave the assurance that He would convey it, it is not beautiful for you to debase yourself before the wishes of just anyone and to lift up your need to created things. Thus they say, “A created thing seeking aid from a created thing is like a prisoner seeking aid from a prisoner.”
Bishr Ḥāfī said, “I saw the Commander of the Faithful ʿAlī in a dream and asked him for advice. He said, ‘How beautiful it is for the rich to show tenderness toward the poor in seeking God’s reward! And more beautiful than that is for the poor to be haughty toward the rich by relying on God.’”
The master Abū ʿAlī Daqqāq said to someone, “Your belief is that you have no escape from your daily provision, but my belief is that your daily provision has no escape from you.” Ah, where is a dervish!—bound with the turban of disengagement, wearing the cloak of solitariness, breast cleansed of the dust of the others, quit of the realm of being, taken as a friend by the Creator of being. Then, from beneath the feet of his togetherness, by virtue of the eternal gentleness, the spring head of the goodly things of the provision will boil up. He will lift up these spirit-increasing drafts and drink them to the vision of the Friend.
40:65 He is the Living, there is no god but He.
Who is the painter of the forms of the Adamites, the shower of powers in earth and heaven, the conveyer of daily provisions to the servants? He is the Living: That living, lasting one who has always been, is, and will be. His being has no first, His existence no last, He subsists after the world and the world’s folk. The creatures’ work goes back to Him forever.