Mujadddid on the World of the Images and the World of the Bodies

Original: The Great Mujaddid Ahmad Sirhindi Translation and Notes: Irshad Alam June 27, 2009

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Introduction
The Great Mujaddid Ahmad Sirhindi i.e. Imam al-Rabbani, describes his ideas on the ”world of the images” (‘alam-i mithal ) in this epistle or maktub written to his disciple Mulla Badruddin in Maktubat-i Imam-i Rabbani, volume 3, maktub 31. And he compares and contrasts it with the ”world of the bodies” (‘alam-i ajsad ). The knowledge about the world of the images that the Mujaddid expounds here is his experiential knowledge. However, the Mujaddid studied the writings of both Shihabuddin Suhrawardi and Ibn Arabi and the idea of world of the images is found there as well. Suhrawardi experienced a world of unstable images (suwar-i mu‘allaqa) which he named the ”world of the images” (‘alam-i mithal ). He declared that the bliss and the punishment of the last world will take place in this world of the images. Ibn Arabi adapted this idea probably from Suhrawardi. And from there this idea became commomplace in sufism. This writing has been translated from the original text Maktubat-i Imam-i Rabbani, volume 3, edited by Nur Ahmad Amritsari (Quetta: Maktaba-i al-Quds, 1999), pp.76-78 that refers to maktub 31.

The Maktub
The Mujaddid starts his maktub by invoking God. [Amritsari, p. 76] All praise is for Allah and peace towards His chosen servants (Alhamdu li-’Llahi wa ’l- salamu ‘ala ‘ibadihi ’llazina ’stafa)! Many sufis had the idea that the punishment in the grave would be in the world of the images and the pain that punishment would be like the pain that one feels in a dream. The Mujaddid is asked for his comments on this idea by his disciple Mulla Badruddin and his reply is as follows. You [the Mujaddid’s disciple Mulla Badruddin] have written that before attaching itself (ta‘alliq) to the body (badan), the spirit (ruh) used to be in the ”world of the images” (‘alam-i mithal ). And after separating from the body, it [the spirit] will go there, [the world of the images, again.] Therefore, the ”punishment in the grave” (adhab-i qabr ) will be in the world of the images.

2 And the pain [from that punishment would be like the pain] that one feels in dreams [which also take place] in the world of the images. You have also written that this idea has many corollaries (furu‘ ). If you accept this, then [it can be presumed that] the many corollaries of this idea will branch out further into many more sub-corollaries. The Mujaddid answers that that idea is unlikely to be true. You should know that it is very unlikely that this sort of idea is at all true. Do not let this [false idea of yours] misguide you away from the established path. So despite it being a daunting task, I’ve written a few words on the verification of this idea, as it’s critical. The Exalted Allah is the guide towards the straight path (Wa ’Llahu subhanuhu ’l-hadi ila sabil al-rashad)! The Mujaddid discusses on what the sufi masters have understood about the world of the images. Brother! They [the sufi masters] have divided the contingent (imkan) domain into three sub-domains 1. The world of the spirits (‘alam-i arwah) 2. The world of the images (‘alam-i mithal ) 3. The world of the bodies (‘alam-i ajsad ) They [the sufi masters] have said that 1. The world of the images is the barzakh or the intermediary domain between the world of the spirits and the world of the images 2. The world of the images is like the mirror [onto which appears] the meanings (ma‘ani ) and the essences or realities (haqa’iq) of both of these two worlds. It means that 1. The meanings and the realities of the world of the spirits and the world of the bodies appears in the world of the images in the subtle form as there are many forms and figures (hi’at) appropriate (munasib) for all the forms and the realities.

3 2. The world of the images, by its intrinsic limitation, (be-haddi dhatiya) never contains forms (suwwar ), figures (hi’at) or shapes (ashkal ). Forms or shapes are reflected therein from other worlds, and they appear in that [world of the images]. It is analogous to the mirror. 1. The mirror, as a part of its intrinsic limitation, never contains a form. 2. The forms that are there [on the mirror] come from the outside [the mirror]. [The forms that are in the world of the images, they come from the other worlds in the same way.] The Mujaddid now explains the mystery behind mystic visions and dreams. When you will be able to understand it [that what has been narrated in the above paragraph], you will understand the following. 1. Before its attachment to the body (jasad ), the spirit used to be in the world of the spirits. That is above the world of the images. 2. After its attachment to the body, when the spirit descends, it comes down to the world of the bodies due to its connection of love (be-‘alaqat-i hubbi ) [to the body]. 3. It [the spirit] has nothing to do with the world of the images; neither before its attachment to the body, nor after its attachment to the body. 4. Except that sometimes, when the Exalted Lord has provided him with the opportunity, he sees (mutala‘a) some his own states in the mirror of that world of the images and learns what is good and what is bad about those states (husn va qabih-i ahwal ). So this is the explanation for the [unveiled] mystic visions (waqi‘at) and dreams (munamat).

4 The Mujaddid explains that the world of the images is ”for seeing, not for being”. He stresses that it is the intermediary realm that is the ”mirror” between the world of the spirits and the world of the bodies. [Amritsari, p. 77-] Sometimes, he [the sufi] can sense this meaning even when being devoid of any sense perception (hiss). 1. After separation from the body, if the spirit eyes the sublime heights then it looks above [towards the world of the spirits]. 2. On the other hand, if it [the spirit] eyes the lowly things then it is captivated by the lower realm [the world of the bodies]. However, [in both cases] it [the spirit] has nothing to do with the world of the images. The world of the images is for seeing not for being. The place for being is either the world of the spirits or the world of the bodies. The world of the images is nothing except the mirror of these two worlds. It has been narrated before as well. The Mujaddid explains that the pain felt in dreams is only a reflection of the true punishment of the last world. So he argues that punishment in dreams cannot be compared with the punishment of the grave, which is a last-worldly punishment. There are some sufis who claim that the pain felt in the punishment in the grave will be like the pain felt in a dream. However, the Mujaddid opposes them. He notes the following. 1. The pain that is felt in dreams in the world of the images is only the form and apparition of the punishment that the dreamer deserves. As a warning, he sees the dream. 2. The punishment of the grave is not of this type that is the true punishment, not merely the form and apparition of that punishment. He also notes, 1. Additionally, the pain felt in dreams, even if it were a true [pain, in some way, still], it would not be as true as the pain of this world.

5 2. On the other hand, the punishment in the grave is [truly] a punishment of the last world. How different are they! What comparison is there between last-worldly punishment may Exalted Allah deliver us from it! A‘azana ’Llahu subhanuhu! and this-worldly punishment! There is no comparison! If a mere spark from hellfire fell on the earth, it would burn and destroy (pak, mutlashi ) everything. To know the punishment in the grave as a dream is the result of not realizing (ittila‘ ) the difference between the ”form” of the punishment and the ”reality” of the punishment. The source of the error (ishtebah) is also the illusion (tawahhum) that the punishment in this world is similar (mujalast) to the punishment in the last world. The Mujaddid now discusses a Koranic verse. Question: The Koran says, Allah takes the souls [of men] during their death and for them who do not die, during their sleep (Allahu yatawaffa ’l-anfusa hina mawtiha wa ’llati lam tamut fi manamiha) (Koran 39:42). From this, it’s understood that just like God may take someone’s soul during death, He may also take someone’s soul during sleep. So how can you consider one [punishment felt in a dream] as punishment of this world and the other [the punishment of the grave] as the punishment of the last world, [since in both dream and death, Allah has ”taken” (yatawaffa) the man’s soul]? Interpreting the verse, the Mujaddid explains that ”taking someone’s soul” in sleep and after death are totally different. Answer: God taking someone’s soul during sleep is of the type that someone comes out (berun) of his familiar territory (watn malawf-i khod ) in the spirit of tasting (dhawq) and longing (raghbat) for travelling (sayr ) and sight-seeing (tamasha) until he attains fun and joy (farha va surur ). Then he again returns home cheerfully and joyfully (khurram va shademan). The realm wherein he travels (sayr gah-i u) is the world of the images and it contains many amazing (‘aja’ib) kingdoms and dominions (mulk va malakut). [Amritsari, p. 78]

6 [In contrast,] God taking someone’s soul during death is not at all the same. In that case, his homeland with which he is familiar (watn-i malawf-i khod ) is destroyed (hadm) and the building which he inhabits is devastated. (takhrib-i bina-i ma‘mur ) For this reason, there is no hardship and suffering (mihnat va kolfat) in the ”taking away of the soul” in sleep. Instead, it contains fun and joy (farha va surur ). And there is severity and suffering (shaddat va kolfat) in the ”taking of the soul” in death. [In contrast,] the familiar homeland of the person whose soul is taken away during sleep remains in this world and the treatment that he receives is the treatment of this world. However, in the ”taking of one’s soul” (mutawaffi ) during death, after the destruction of his familiar territory (watn-i malawf ), he moves away to the last world [permanently]. So he is treated the same way as he would be treated in the last world. You may have heard the hadith report, Whosoever dies, verily his doomsday (qiyamat) takes place (Man mata faqad qamat qiyamatuhu) [hadith: Sakhawiy, Dilmi] The Mujaddid cautions his disciple to follow the great masters of the mainstream Sunni community instead of unveiling-derived anti-sharia sufi ideas. Take heed! Don’t become enamored to beliefs that are opposed to the decided beliefs of the Sunni community (may praise be to Allah who has kept me with it) through illusory unveilings (kushuf-i khayali ) and manifestations of forms that are [merely] images (zuhur-i sur-i mithali ). Don’t be deceived (gharrah) by dreams and illusions. You cannot even conceive salvation unless you follow this ’faction of salvation’ (firqa’-i najiya) [that is the mainstream Sunni community]. If you desire salvation then you should turn away from fun and frolic and instead try to follow the masters [of the mainstream Sunni community] with your body and soul. This report is a report of stipulation. What is there incumbent on the Messenger but to proclaim the message (Ma ‘ala ’l-rasuli illa ’l-balaghu)? (Koran 5:99) Your expansive expressions have cast me into a rough idea that these imaginations of yours are taking you away from following these great masters [of the mainstream Sunni community] and instead making you follow your own unveilings. I’m seeking the refuge of Exalted Allah

7 from these and from the evil from us and from the evil from our deeds! Satan is our powerful enemy, so be aware that he does not take us away from the straight path and casts us into a narrow alley. The period of time that you have been away has not even stretched to as much as one year! How dangerous! You have been cautioned to commit to follow the sunna and to [the idea] that salvation is confined to the following of these masters. Still, you have forgotten all those. And instead you have made your own imaginations into your teachers. And branched out many branches out of the thicket of those imaginations of yours! In my opinion, the possibility of us meeting appears to be quite distant. So you should live in a way so that the string of hope for salvation (rishteh-i umid-i najat) doesn’t tear. Our Lord! Grant us mercy from Yourself and dispose of our affairs for us in the right way (Rabbana atina milladunka rahmatan wa hayyi’a lana min amrina rashada)! (Koran 18:10) Peace to them who follow guidance (Wa ’l-salamu ‘ala man ittiba‘a ’l-huda!) Bibliography 1. Sirhindi, Ahmad, Maktubat-i Imam-i Rabbani, edited by Nur Ahmad Amritsari (Quetta: Maktaba-i al-Quds, 1999) 2. Rahman, Fazlur, Selected Letters of Ahmad Sirhindi, (Lahore Iqbal Academy, 1984) 3. Steingass, F., A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2000) 4. Hava, J. G., Arabic-English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, (New Delhi: Goodword Books, 2001) 5. The Koran