SA Tawhid

The Tafsīr sūrat al-tawḥīd

(Commentary on the Surah of the Divine Unity)

of

Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsā’ī (d.1241/1826)

Stephen N. Lambden 

In progress  10-05-2014.

This Tafsīr sūrat al-tawḥīd (Commentary on the Surah of the Divine Unity) of Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ahsā’ī was originally written in reply to Sayyid Muhammad Bakā'  and printed within vol.1 of the Jawāmi` al-kalim  as part of the Tafsīr Sūrat al-tawhīd wa āyat al-nūr. The second printing (see scans at URL below) was in the volume  Majmū`a al-rasā'il al-ḥikma'  (2nd printing) Kirmān: Maṭba`at al-Sa`āda, 1379/ 1960. pp.1-16. The Qur'anic surah  commented upon (Q. 112), the Sūrat al-Tawḥīd ("The Divine Unity") or Surat al-Ikhlās (Sincerity) reads as follows: 

 

Qur'an Surah 112 :

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

[1]

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَد

Say: `He is God, One.

[2]

اللَّهُ الصَّمَد

God, the Eternal (al-ṣamad)

[3]

وَلَمْ يَلِد  لَمْ يُولَد

He neither begetteth nor is He begotten.

[4]

وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ

And none is comparable unto Him.

 

 The Commentary of Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ahsā’ī (d. 1826)

Translation Stephen N. Lambden 2013-4.

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

In Him do we seek succor

        Praised be to God! the Lord of all the worlds and the blessings of God be upon Muhammad and his purified family.  And now speaks the tranquil servant, Aḥmad ibn Zayn al-Dīn al-Aḥsā'ī. He who had indeed dispatched something unto the glorious Sayyid of noble ancestry, one preeminently unique, the illustrious Sayyid Muhammad, in response to an enquiry he had made of me. The reply [which I shall give] is other than what has been outwardly set down by the various [Muslim Qur'ān] commentators (al-mufassirūn). ...

        He says, may God, exalted be He, give him peace:   بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم    "In the Name of God, the merciful, the Compassionate". Praised be unto God who does not intend that his questioner should have his hopes dashed, but [that he] be his guide through the key of his tongue and be the cause of the uplifting of his veil... the blessings of God be upon the key to the treasuries of His mysteries, [namely] Muhammad and his purified family, the Sayyids of the denizens of His earth and His heaven...

    And now as for what I [the questioner] communicate, `O [Shaykh Ahmad, the] key to the treasuries of the mysteries of the people of infallibility (ahl al-`iṣmat), our master, our Qibla (Point of Adoration) and the Solace of our eyes, our instructor and the enlivener of our beings  beyond errors and doubts, the very sun of the heaven of excellence (al-ḥusn), disclosure (al-kashf), bounty (al-faḍl), glory (al-majd) and bountiful graces (al-fuyuḍāt),  the most noble of the foremost and uppermost among the divines (`ulama')...

 Now do I [Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ahsā'ī] say:

Relative to its [Q. 112] exposition, the reality of the Sūrat al-tawḥīd  (Surah of the Divine Unity, Q. 112) has numerous facets, the stronghold of which can hardly be penetrated outside of [assistance through] our knowledge. Wherefore do we discourse upon whatsoever is presented to us of the implications of the text; relative that is, to what we have realized in line with what is authorized [for us to communicate] of [the secrets of] its exposition.  Wherefore do we say that ..

     

This is in line with what has been relayed from [the 6th] Imam [Ja`far] al-Ṣādiq (d. c. 143 / 765) -- upon him be peace --- [ to the effect] that "The  [letter] "B" (al-bā') is bahā’-Allāh  ("the Splendour/Glory/ Beauty of God"), the [letter] "s" (al-sīn) is sanā'-Allāh  ("the Brightness of God") and the [letter] "m" (al-mīm) is the majd-Allāh  ("the Radiance of God")". It is [normally] relayed [in the tradition] that it [the letter "m"]  is the mulk-Allāh (the Dominion of God) for [in reality]  this corresponds to His (God's) Logos-Self (nafs) for such is indeed  possessed of bahā' (Glory-Splendour-Beauty...) which is [also expressed as the Divine] Luminary [Splendor] (al-ḍiyā').

 And the intention of the above is what precipitated its [the Logos-Self's] genesis (ibtida') from existence by means of His Divine Will (min al-wujūd bi-mashiyyatihi).  On this level it is allusive of the Universal Intellect (al-`aql al-kullī) as is indicated in His [God's] -- exalted be He-- [Qur'ānic] saying,  مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاح  "The likeness of His Light is as [light streaming from] a Niche (mishkat) containing a Lamp (al-miṣbāḥ), etc." (= Q. 24:35a) as is also [indicated by] this verse from its outset.

On the level of its Intellect related senses (al-wujūh al-`aqliyya) it is indicative of the intellectual hypostases (al-aqūl) of all the levels of existence (al-mawjūdāt). They are the radiant beams of His Essence (ashi``at al-dhāt) which are expressive of brilliance (dhū’l-sanā’). They are the very Light of [the Divine] Radiance (nūr al-ḍiyā’) the significance of which is such that it cannot possibly be purposefully envisioned. Indeed! it is thus allusive of the Universal Intellect (al-nafs al-kulliyya) as is indicated by his saying, “I do not know what is in Thy Logos-Self (nafsika)”. It is the Preserved Tablet (al-lawḥ al-maḥfūẓ).

  Relative to what is without precedence on the level of the soul related senses (al-wujūh al-nafsiyya), it is indicative of the souls [persona] on every level of existence (al-nufūs jamī` al-mawjūdāt) which are the radiant beams of His Essence (ashi``at al-dhāt) expressive of [the Divine] Majesty and Nobility (dhū’l-majd wa’l-karam). The two [Attributes], that is, as well as Dominion (al-mulk) according to what has, furthermore, been [previously] transmitted. Thereby is indicated what is intended by the [aforementioned Divine] Majesty (al-majd) according to what is destined relative to its limits in the spheres of activity (min al-maf`ūlāt bi-qadrihi).  It thus alludes to the world of the [earthly] dominion (`ālam al-mulk) relative to bodies (al-ajsām), things contingent (al-a`rāḍ) or that which is relative and conditional [customary] (al-nasb wa’l- awḍā`) and more besides.

Thus it is that the worlds (al-`awālim) are [fundamentally] three: [those which have] a purpose (nasb) in that they express modes of His Activity (āthār  fa`ālihi) for the intention of the purpose (al-nasb) is expressed through a [Divine]  Attribute (ṣifat). In other words [we have] a depiction of His Self (al-waṣf nafsihi) through a [Divine] Attribute expressive of His activity or its [outward] consequence [effect] (ṣifat fa`ālihi wa āthārihi). And this since that mode of [Divine] Activity (al-fa`l) is an attribute [expressive] of His Action (al-fā`il) and its effect (al-āthār); it is an Attribute expressive of what is realized thereby (ṣifat al-ma’thūr).  

Now the letter “B” [= the 1st letter of the basmala ] (al-bā’) is is allusive of the modes of Intellectual realization [activity] (al-ma`fūlāt al-`aqliyya) while the letter “S” (al-sīn) is allusive of Soul-generated modes of realization [activity] (mafūlāt al-nafsaiyya). The letter “M” (al-mīm) is [furthermore] allusive of “[supra-] body” generated modes of realization (mafūlāt al-jismāniyya). Such are thus the three levels [modes] indicative of the outward expressions of what is purposed (ẓawāhir al-nasb) and  the vehicles of their inner dimensions (marākib al-bawāṭin).

The [Divine] Names (al-asmā’) [in this connection] are thus three, finding their nomenclature through the [three letter word] Bism. This is thus expressive [of the following threefold Qur’ānic basmala phrase] [1] Allāh (God), [2] al-Raḥman (the Merciful) and [3] al-Raḥīm (the Compassioante). These [three words] are its modes of expression (maqūmāt) as well as its inner dimensions (bawāṭin).  Such is the case since the Name Allāh (God) is the object (al-murād) of the [letter] “B” (al-bā’) and is specified thereto; it is indicative of it and points thereto. The Name al-Raḥman (“the All-Merciful”) is indicative of the [letter] “s” (al-sīn) and is specified thereto; it is indicative of it and points thereto. The Name al-Raḥīm (“the Compassionate”) is indicative of the [letter] “m” (al-mīm) and is specified thereto; it is indicative of it and points thereto. Such is clarified [for example] when we proclaim, `Allāh subḥānuhu (God, praised be unto Him!) since He is the specified object and the Divinity (al-ilāhiyya) is its intention.  

The [letter] “B” (al-bā’) [of the basmala] is its locus (maḥal) and its form (ṣūrat) while the All-Merciful [God] (al-raḥman) – exalted be He – is the specified object  and Mercifulness (al-raḥmaniyya) is His [its] intention for it is that Mercy (al-raḥmat) which encompasses all things (kulli shay’).

The [letter] “s” (al-sīn) is [thus, furthermore, also] [His] its locus (maḥal) and its form (ṣūrat) and the Compassionate [God] (al-raḥīm) – exalted and glorified be He - is the specified object while Compassion (al-raḥīmiyya) is His [its] intention for it is compassion (al-raḥīmat) which written down (maktūba)        

 The [letter] “m” (al-mīm) is [again, also] its [His]  locus (maḥal) and its [His]  form (ṣūrat).  

 So [it follows that] the [letter] “b” (al-bā’) is the form [image] (ṣūrat) of Divinity (al-ulūhiyya) which is an Attribute of God (ṣifat Allāh), glorified be He!  He is the All-Comprehensive One (al-jāmi`a) relative to the [Divine] Attributes (al-ṣifāt) which are sanctified (al-quds), including, [for example], al-subḥān (the Praised One), al-quddūs (the Holy One), al-`azīz (the Mighty), al-`aliyy (the Elevated).  In this respect there is none that resemble Him!

With respect to the [Additional] Auxiliary Attributes (al-ṣifāt al-iḍāfa), such as [for example], al-`alīm (the All-Knowing), al-ṣamī` (the All-Hearing), the al-baṣīr (the All-Seeing [Insightful]), al-qādir (the Potent / All-Powerful) and al-mudrik (the Intelligent), there is [also] none that can [possibly] resemble Him!

 With respect to the Attributes pertaining to the created things (al-ṣifāt al-khalq), such as [for example], al-khāliq (the Creator), al-rāziq  (the Provider) and al-mu`ṭī (the Bestower),  there is [again] none that can [possibly] resemble Him!    

Now the letter “s” (al-sīn) is the form [image] of Compassion (al-raḥīmiyya) which is an Attribute of the All-Compassionate One (al-raḥīm) – exalted be He. [In this respect] He  is the All-Comprehensive One (al-jāmi`a) relative to the [Divine] Auxiliary Attributes (al-ṣifāt al-iḍāfa) and the Attributes of creation (ṣifāt al-khalq).     

Now the letter “m” (al-mīm) is the form [image] of Mercifulness (al-raḥmaniyya) which is an Attribute of the All-Merciful One (al-raḥman) – exalted and glorified be He. In [this respect] He is the All-Comprehensive One (al-jāmi`a) relative to the [Divine] Auxiliary Attributes (al-ṣifāt al-iḍāfa) and the Attributes of creation (ṣifāt al-khalq). He is indeed the One – glorified (subḥan) be He – Who hath described His-Logos Self (hafaihi) unto His servants (`ibād) for they become aware of these [Attributes] though His relationship (nisba) expressed in His [Divine] Attribute (ṣifat) just as we might allude thereto. Hence He says: “Bismillāh al-Raḥman al-Raḥīm (“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate) whereupon Divinity (al-ulūhiyya)  is expressed through the realm of Jabarūt  (“the Empryean”) in the elevated realm of time (al-dahr al-`alawī). The letter “B” (al-bā’) [of the basmala] is thus the form [image] (ṣūrat) pertinent to its [particular] level (ruṭba) and its [specified] locale [locus] (maḥall) while the upright letter “A” (al-alif al-qā’im)  in Allāh (God) is the form [image] pertinent to its [implied] meaning (ma`anā’ihā).  And [furthermore] Mercifulness (al-raḥmaniyya) is [the realm of] al-malakūt (the Kingdom [of God] in the lowest realm of time (al-dahr al-suflā). The letter “s” (al-sīn) [of the basmala] is its form [image] (ṣūrat) pertinent to its [particular] level (al-ruṭbat) and its [specified] locale [locus] (maḥall).

Now the outstretched letter “A” (al-alif al-mubsūṭ) is [expressed] in [the Divine Attribute] al-raḥman (“the All-Merciful”) which is the form (ṣūrat) [expressive] of its [particular] significance [meaning] (ṣūrat ma`nā-ihā). The [Divine Attribute] al-raḥīmiyya (“Mercifulness”) signifies the mulk (“Dominion” or “Kingdom”) in the world of time (mulk fī al-zamān). The letter “m” (al-mīm) is its [particular] form [image] (ṣūrat) pertinent to its level (al-ruṭbat) and its [specified] locale [locus] (maḥall).   

Now the suspended [motionless] letter “A” (al-alif al-rākid) [1] is [expressed in] the [Divine Attribute] al-raḥīm (“the All-Merciful”) which is the form [image] (ṣūrat) of its meaning, and its outer sense (ẓāhir)  which is expressed through these three attributes (al-ṣifāt) [ism al-raḥman al-raḥīm?]   in the [realm of] al-sarmad (perpetuity) such that its outward manifestation is realized pertinent to its [specified] levels (al-marāṭib). So you should be aware through His [its three?] [Divine] attributes (bi-ṣifātihi) that are expressed in the totality of created things (bi-jamī` makhlūqātihi).

Thus indeed should you safeguard the Basmala (al-basmala) and thereby establish a link between Him – Glorified be He – and the servants [of God] by virtue of the intimation [of Him] (al-talwīḥ) just as we thereby allude unto Him [by reciting the basmala]. And [furthermore] by means of the [act of] the [explicit] declaration (al-taṣrīḥ) [of the basmala] in line with the fact that it is the outward expression of the three Names which are [1] Allāh (God) [2] al-raḥman (the Merciful) and [3] al-Raḥīm (the Compassionate). Through this [declaration] there is allusion unto that by means of which you safeguard Him through the form [image] (al-ṣurat) [of the basmala] since His [its] [God’s] Mystery (al-sirr) is in the Basmala. Thus He [Himself] declares Bism Allāh al-raḥman al-raḥīm (“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”) [in the Qur’ān]   and so describes Himself through (nafsahu) the elements (al-shay’iyya) [of the basmala ?].

It’s [the basmala] negation is [only] realized through [what is] other than Him, [an operation of what is an expression of] except through Him (illā bihi). Otherwise, you would witness how He made the three worlds (al-`awālim) which are designated al-Jabarūt (the Empyrean), al-Malakūt (the Kingdom [of God] and al-mulk, the [earthly] Dominion (al-mulk). In this [ statement] there is allusion unto the [three] letters (ḥurūf) of the al-bism (“In the Name” = the first word of the basmala = b+s+m) which is [also indicative] of a [Divine] Name (ism an) relative to His three Attributes (ṣifāt)  [found in the basmala]. This since the three Attributes (al-ṣifāt) are a [Divine] Name (ism an) for Him [God] in His [exteriority, theophanic] Manifestation (ẓuhūr) within it [the basmala?]. Wherefore it was “He is God, the One (al-aḥad), the Eternal (al-ṣamad). He neither begetteth nor is He begotton. None is comparable unto Him” (= Q. 112, Sūrat al-tawḥīd).  

Then know that the basmala is the Mightiest Name of God (ism Allāh al-a`ẓam). In the supplication (al-dū`a) we read, “I ask Thee by Thy Name, `Bism Allāh al-raḥman al-raḥīm (“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”) [p.6].  Note then that [the 9th Imam `Alī] al-Riḍā’ [d. XXX/XXX] stated, “The Bism Allāh al-raḥman al-raḥīm (“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”) is closer unto the Mightiest Name [of God (al-ism al-a`ẓam) than the black of the eye is unto its white”.

 It is such since the articulation of the Basmala (al-basmala) is an expression of the Articulated Name (al-ism al-lafẓī) which is the “black of the eye” closest unto the [Divine] Name infused with Meaning (al-ism al-ma`nawī) which is the “white of the eye”. Now this comparison (al-tamthīl) is expressive of the outward [meaning] of the outward [meaning] (ẓāhir al-ẓāhir). So if [the image of] the “white” (al-bayāḍ) [of the eye] is indicative of simplicity (al-basāṭa) and [the image of] the “black” [is indicative] of composition (al-tarkīb) one should explicate the deep sense (al-bāṭin) relative to the reverse (al-`aks) for the light is in the “black” [of the eye] not in the “white” [of the eye]! And since his [Imam al-Riḍā’s] utterance –upon him be peace – is in what is articulated (al-lafẓ), it is fitting that he says “closest unto the Mightiest Name [of God]” (aqrab ilā al-ism al-a`ẓam) since the [Mightiest] Name [or the Basmala] is infused with meaning (al-ma`nawī) which is the [Divine] Attribute which is inclusive (al-ṣifat al-mushtamila) of [His being] the Apophatic  [Abstract, Isolated] (al-tajrīd), the Incomparable al-tafrīd), the Uniquely One [Divine Oneness] (al-tawḥīd), the Illustrious (al-tamjīd) and the One Highly Lauded [Praised] (al-taḥmīd).  

And since all of this derives from us relative to its being articulated and having meaning (fī’l-lafẓ  wa’l-ma`nā), it is appropriate that we say, “He is the Mightiest Name [of God] (huwa al-ism al-a`ẓam)” for the  Mightiest Name [of God] (huwa al-ism al-z`ẓam) has four pillars [foundations] (arba`a arkān). The first of them is al-tawḥīd (the Divine Unity) which is the Ultimate Reality (al-ḥaqq).[2] The second [Pillar] is the One All-Sustaining (al-Qā’im) through Him.[3] The third [Pillar] is what is All-Preserving on account of Him (al-ḥāfiẓ la-hu) while the fourth [Pillar constitutes what] is realized through [dependent upon] Him (tābi` fī-hī).

Thus [in reality] the first [Pillar] is [the Personal Name of God] Allāh (God), the second is al-Raḥman (the Merciful), the third [Pillar] is al-Raḥīm (“the Compassionate”) and the fourth [Pillar] is Bism (“In the Name of”) [the commencement of the basmala]. This is pertinent to [both] the [Divine] Attributes (al-ṣifāt) and to the [Divine] Essence (al-dhāt)   as was relayed from [the 7th Imam Mūsā] al-Kāẓim (d. 183/799) – upon him be peace :

 This the first [part of the shahada] is lā ilāha ilā Allāh (“There is no God but God”) while the second [part of the shahada] is Muhammad is the Messenger of God (rasūl Allāh). A third [related component] is “us” (naḥnu) [the twelver Imams] and a fourth “Our party (shi`atinā). 

 “There is no God but God”(lā ilāha ilā Allāh) expresses the Divine Unity (al-tawḥīd) which is the Ultimate Reality (al-ḥaqq) which is the Divine Unity of God [Himself] (tawḥīd Allāh) in His very Essence (fī dhātihi). Wherefore does he say –exalted be He – “Thou shalt not take for thy selves “two Deities” (ilahayn ithnayn) since He is [naught but] a single Deity (ilah wāḥid)!” His Divine Unity (tawḥīd) is expressed through His [Divine] Attributed (ṣifāt) [as it is said in the Qur’ān]: “There is nothing that is like unto Him for He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing” (Q. XX:XX). His Divine Unity (tawḥīd) is also expressed in His Activity (af`ālihi) : “He is the One Who created thee, then Provided for thee then caused thee to die and brought thee back to life ADD … Glorified be He and Exalted be He above whatever be associated with Him” And His Divine Unity (tawḥīd) is also expressed among His servants (`ibād) : “ADD

The Basmala (al-basmala) [thus] has four Pillars (arkān) relative to its exterior sense (al-ẓāhir) and Outward realization [the Theophany] (al-ẓuhūr) as well as its Manifestation (al-maẓhar). The first exterior sense (al-ẓāhir) is evident in Divinity (al-uluhiyya), the second exterior sense (al-ẓāhir) is expressed through Mercy (al-raḥmāniyya), while the third exterior sense (al-ẓāhir) is realized through Compassion (al-raḥīmiyya) and the  fourth exterior sense (al-ẓāhir) is apparent within the Bism (bi-bism, “In the Name” = the first word of the basmala).

Now regarding the [sense appropriate to the] Outward realization of the Divine Theophany (al-ẓuhūr). The outward realization [of the Divine Theophany] (al-ẓuhūr) is outwardly expressed (al-ẓāhir) through His Divine theophany (ẓuhūr). This relative to [p. 7] every [single] Pillar (arkān) within [ the Basmala?].

Now regarding the [meaning appropriate to] Manifestation (al-maẓhar). It is the exterior theophany (ẓuhūr al-ẓāhir) through the Manifestation expressive of Him (maẓhar lahū). It is thus the Mightiest Name [of God] (al-ism al-a`ẓam). This just as the mystery of the [sacred] books (sirr al-kutub) is in the Qur’ān and the mystery (sirr) of the Qur’ān is in the [Sūrah of] al-Fātiḥa (“The Opening” = Q. 1) and the mystery (sirr) of the [Sūrah of] al-Fātiḥa (“The Opening” = Q. 1) is in the Basmala (al-basmala). Such is not rescinded [at this point] since the mystery of the Basmala is in the [opening Arabic letter] “B” (al-bā’) and the mystery of the [opening Arabic letter] “B” (al-bā’) is in the [Sūrah of] al-Fātiḥa (“The Opening” = Q. 1) at its very commencement [with the basmala].

And since the   reality   of the Mightiest Name [of God] (kawn al-ism al-a`ẓam) is the most noble (ashraf) of the [four?] Loci of Realities (al-akwān) [of the basmala] and all Being (al-wujūd) is clearly manifest relative to it (mubīn an `alayhi), it is evident that it is the first of the levels of existence (al-mawjūdāt) relative to His [Being the Primary] Causality (li-`iliyyatihi). And the Book which is written down (al-kitāb al-tadwīnī) corresponds to the Book which is written down (al-kitāb al-tadwīnī). It is thus [the case that] the Mightiest Name [of God] (al-ism al-a`ẓam) is the commencement of the [reality which is] written down   (awwal al-tadwīn) [and is thus] expressive of [Primary] Causality (li-`illat). The [status of the] “Bismillāh al-Raḥman al-Raḥīm (“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate) thus corresponds with what is requisite (muqtaḍī al-muṭābiqa).  And when He discloses Himself (tajalla) unto His [realm of] existence (bi-wujūdihi) and establishes a relationship between His Own Self (nafs) and such as are so authorized  (li’l-mukallifīn),  those singled out among the enquirers (khaṣūṣ al-sā’ilīn), it is such that allusion (al-ishārat) suffices to establish a relationship between His Own Self (nafs) relative to the foregoing. This inasmuch as He is made manifest through this phrase/ mode of expression [ = the basmala] (al-`ibāra) which is expressed unto the foregoing and through those aforementioned.

Wherefore did He command His Prophet (nabī) saying, “Say: O Muhammad!  Huwa (“He is”)”, that is to say, the Lord (al-rabb), is the One Petitioned (al-mas’ūl) about the nature of His manifestation (ẓāhir) [be it] before them (lahū) and unto [within] them (bihum). This to the end that persons might become aware of [this theophany] or that He might firmly establish the immoveable nature of [Himself as] the One [supremely] Veiled (al-muttaḥajibb) from the comprehension of those insightful (al-abṣār) and such as [attempt to] perceive through the senses (al-ḥawāss).

Alternatively, [the Divine utterance] “Say: O Muhammad! Huwa (“He is”)” [indicates Him as] the One Who commanded thee [Muhammad] or “He is God, the One Alone (huwa Allāh aḥad)” (Q.112:1) that is to say, the One Alone Who summoned thee [Muhammad] unto His servitude (`ibadat). He, in other words is One Complete (tamm) in His Unicity (wāḥidiyyatihi) and Perfect (al-kāmil) His Oneness (aḥadiyya), [which is] a Singularity (aḥad). That is to say that God is Unique (wāḥid) in His Essence (dhāt), Unique in His Attributes (sifāt) and Unique in His Actions (af`āl) and Unique in His [manner of] Servitude (wāḥid fī `ibādatihi). Thus, al-wāḥid (“the One Unique”) is a single [Divine] Attribute (ṣift al-aḥad) and al-wāḥid (“the One Unique”) exists according to the number of the [Basmala =] Bismillāh al-Raḥman al-Raḥīm (“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”) which is not complete except through al-aḥad (‘the One Alone”). Such/ “He is” [Huwa] is the meaning of the [Basmala =] Bismillāh al-Raḥman al-Raḥīm (“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”). Unto this there is allusion in His –exalted be He - statement [in Sūrat al-Isrā’) :

  وَإِذَا ذَكَرْتَ رَبَّكَ فِي الْقُرْآنِ وَحْدَهُ وَلَّوْاْ عَلَى أَدْبَارِهِمْ نُفُورًا

 “And when you do make mention of thy Lord in the Qur’ān expressing His Singularity [being alone, One] (waḥda-hu ), they turn in their traces [or backs] (adbārihim) in aversion (nafūr an)” (Qur’ān17:46b).

Since He says here that [thy Lord is] Aḥad  (alone, singular, One,  cf. waḥda-hu, “an only One), [it is evident that] He does not say Wāḥid (“the One Unique”) for the [term] Wāḥid  (“the One Unique”) does not  encompass the four levels of the Divine Unity (marātib al-tawḥīd). This save as a result of its repetition for He does not say Wāḥid  (“the One Unique”) relative to the majority of the grades of the levels of the Aḥad  (the One alone, singular) (martaba min marātib al-aḥad) since  the Wāḥid  (“the One Unique”) is an Attribute of  the Aḥad  (alone, singular, One) (ṣifat al-aḥad). Wherefore do you assert, `Zaid is upstanding (qā’im), Zaid is inactive (qa`id), Zaid is in motion (rākib). [It follows then that oneness of essence (wāḥidiyyat al-dhāt) is other than oneness of attributes (al-ṣifāt) as well as other than oneness of action (wāḥidiyya al-af`āl) and other than the oneness of veneration [worship] (wāḥidiyya al-`ibāda).

Thus the [Qur’ānic] Aḥad  ([God the] alone, singular, One) is not subject to the alternation of its Attributes (ṣifāt) though the Attributes (al-ṣifāt)  may alter in their levels [modes] (marātib) just like Zaid. He was not subject to the alteration of his attributes (ṣifāt) such as [his being] upstanding (qā’im), inactive (qa`id), and in motion (rākib) though to [p. 8] the alteration of their modes [levels of expression] (marātib) by virtue of the divergent aspects of the Aḥad  ([God the] alone, singular, One) (bi-khilāf al-aḥad). This since the [Divine Name] Wāḥid  (“the One Unique”) tends to [unfolding] numeration (al-`adad) such that its termination may be [further] extended. Thus it was that the Amīr al-Muminīn (`Commander of the Faithful’ = `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, d. 40/661), upon him be peace, said, “al-Wāḥid (the One Unique) is not subject to [any] enumerative explanation (lā bi-ta’wīl `adad)”. This since the [Divine Name] Wāḥid (“the One Unique”) [only] becomes subject to enumeration in [connection with] certain of its conditions (al-aḥwāl).

Now, if one should desire to seek protection through His [Divine] Reality (ḥaqq) – exalted he He – one should take counsel respecting any constraint or should complete matters just as he [Muhammad] acted – upon him be peace – in connection with the divergent aspects of the Aḥad  ([God the] alone, singular, One) (bi-khilāf al-aḥad). And this inasmuch as the [Divine Name] Wāḥid  (“the One Unique”) does not  encompass any multiplicity in its oneness (fī waḥdatihi) hence you say [mā fī al-dār aḥad) `That which is in the Abode is wāḥid  (“one, singular,  unique”). Such is negated relative to its appropriation of fewness or multiplicity (al-qalīl wa’l-kathīr).        

 



[1] The intention here may be the elided letter alif (“A”) hidden after the letter “b” at the commencement of the Basmala.

[2] It is possible that  al-tawḥīd al-ḥaqq should be translated “The Ultinmate Reality of the Divine Unity”.

[3] Alternatively, “The second Pillar] is the [Divine] Attribute al-Qā’im (the Upholder / Upright/ Sustasiner/ Preserver through Him (bihi) (cf. Q.     ). As the first component of various  messianic titles Qā’im (“Upriser”) is also, of course, the title of the twelver Shī`ī messianic twelfth Imam.or Mahdī, etc.