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Complex-Time Geometry and Perpetual Creation of Space

by Mohamed Haj Yousef

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4.1.3  Unicity of God and His Names

According to Ibn al-Arabi, and more generally to Islam, and also some other religions, Allah is both One and (indivisible whole) Unit, or Unique. The first attribute means that He is one God, not many or multiple in any way, and the second means that He is not divisible into other entities that He is otherwise somehow composed of. Moreover, as indicated by the more metaphysically problematic second attribute of “Unity”, or “Unicity”, we can’t describe Him as a single entity, like other ordinary entities, with specific dimensions that are placed somewhere in space or began at a point of time. Allah is simply uniquely different from whatever we may know or imagine, because He is incomparable to any creation. Therefore, we can’t achieve full knowledge or awareness of the Essence of Allah, because this is beyond our human limited perception. It is, however, possible to describe Him and speak about His Attributes and divine Names, for example as they are mentioned in the Quran and Hadith. We may attain knowledge about the divine Names and descriptions of Allah, but not about His Essence Himself. As Chittick has pointed out, for Ibn al-Arabi: “God is known through the relations, attributions and correlations between Him and the cosmos. But the Essence is unknown, since nothing is related to It” Chittick (2010).

Therefore, whatever the human being may know about Allah is in the end partial and incomplete. No one can ever achieve full knowledge or awareness of Him; the best knowledge one might gain of the Essence of Allah is to know that He is different from anything [IV.301.17]. Ibn al-Arabi expressed this lack on knowledge nicely in his prayers by saying: “it is enough for me that You know my ignorance. You are as I know, but beyond what I know to a degree that I do not know.” This is because, being some individuals of His creation, we may know Allah only through His manifestations in us and in our limited view of the world, and His manifestations are never exactly repeated the same for any one person, nor the same for any two. This means that knowing Allah is an infinite process for us, because Allah Himself is not finite, in the sense that He never manifests in the same form twice [I.266.10], and also because His manifestations reveal some of his attributes and descriptions, but don’t fully reveal His ultimate Essence or Identity. Ibn al-Arabi summarizes this again by saying, in one of his many elaborations of the famous divine Saying of the “Hidden Treasure”, quoted at the beginning of this chapter, that: ‘Allah, the Exalted, “loved to be known” in order to grant the world the privilege of knowing Him, the most Exalted. But He knew that His Identity (or Essence) can’t be (completely) known, and nobody can ever know Him as He knows Himself. The best knowledge that can be achieved about Him, His Highness, in the world is that the knower knows that he doesn’t know. And this (human inability to know the Essence) is (also) called knowledge, as the Righteous (Abu Bakr al-Siddiq) said: “(knowing) the incapacity to attain (full) realization is realization.”.’ [III.429.7]

Nevertheless, the (Perfect, and to lesser extents, any) Human Being, is the creature most capable of knowing Allah, the Exalted, because when He created Adam (the first Perfect Human Being), He taught him all the Names [Quran 2:31], thus ordered the angels to prostrate before Adam out of respect and acknowledgment [Quran 2:34, 7:11, 17:61, 18:50, 20:116, II.46.33]. As Ibn al-Arabi also notes elsewhere, the Prophet Muhammad (as the Perfect Human being) has also clearly expressed this same recognition by saying: “I can’t enumerate the ways of praising Thee: Thou art as Thou has praised Thyself” [I.126.15, I.271.5], and Allah also said in Quran: (they do not encompass Him with knowledge) [20:110].

Ibn al-Arabi also says that the divine Names of Allah are countless, and that, in fact, everything in the cosmos is a divine Name. Moreover, although each Name of the divine Names is different from others, Ibn al-Arabi repeatedly cautions his readers that all Names are intrinsically implicit in each one of them, which is to say that each Name can be described by all the other Names [I.101.5]. This key insight is extremely important to cosmology, and it is equivalent to saying: “in everything there is everything!” as we shall explain further in section 2.3.

However, despite the multiplicity of these Names, they all refer to the same One Absolute Essence of Allah, while conveying different Attributes of Him due to His various infinite manifestations and relations [I.48.23]. Multiplicity is not an intrinsic property of Allah Himself, since Allah has many different Names only when considered with relation to His creation:

‘The Names of the Real become plural and multiple only in manifestations, but with respect to Himself, the property of number has no rule, not even its root, which is (the number) one (since we only describe Him as One to distinguish Him from multiplicity). So His Names, in respect to Him, may not be (exclusively or restrictively) described by unity or multiplicity.’ [II.122.19]

In this regard also, we should take all divine descriptions and Names as mere approximations, because they are words spoken in our own language: the Names (as spoken or inscribed words) that we know are actually the names of the Names, and not the Names themselves [II.56.33]. Although we may know about Allah by knowing His Attributes and Names, those outward verbal Names are words in our language so that we may, for example, look up their meanings in the dictionary, or even use them to name and describe people and things. So although those same familiar words are Names of Allah, their actual meanings are quite distinct when Allah is called by them. For this reason, one of the Names of Allah is the Singular, because He is distinct, or singled-out, from the creation [IV.276.33]. Similarly, all His Names are described by their “singular uniqueness”. The Names that are revealed to us in everything in the cosmos are the outward forms, while the inner meaning of those forms is Allah’s own knowledge of Himself.

Again this important insight is also extremely important in physics, because it can be related to the uncertainty principle and the observation problem in Quantum Mechanics as we have explained in chapter III and will be applied in chapter V when we explain the Duality of Time interpretation.

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As a result of the original divine manifestation, all kinds of motions are driven by Love and Passion. Who could possibly not instantly fall in love with this perfect and most beautiful harmony! Beauty is desirable for its own essence, and if the Exalted (Real) did not manifest in the form of beauty, the World would not have appeared out into existence.
paraphrased from: Ibn al-Arabi [The Meccan Revelations: II.677.12 - trsn. Mohamed Haj Yousef]