“The whole spiritual journey of the human being towards the Truth, Allāh, is a journey made by human will.”
A Study of the Fixed Entities in Islamic Mysticism
“The whole spiritual journey of the human being towards the Truth, Allāh, is a journey made by human will.”
The discussion of The Fixed Entities, A’yān ath Thābita, is one of the most important topics in mysticism. This study is an effort to delve into this topic and get introduced to one of the most important topics within mysticism. The writer of this article has comprehensively studied this topic, and tried to write about this theory in a simplified language that is comprehensible for the common reader.
Among the questions that will be answered in this article are the following:
- What are the five different realms within mysticism or ‘Irfān?
- What are the Fixed Entities or Archetypes?
- Is there any proof in the two main sources within Islam -the Noble Qur’ān and the honorable sunna – which accept and reinforce the theory of the Fixed Entities?
- Why and how did Muḥyiddῑn Muḥammad ibn ‘Arabῑ come up with the theory of The Fixed Entities?
- What role does the Fixed Entities have in Ibn ‘Arabῑ’s mysticism?
- What is the relationship between the Fixed Entities and human free will?
These are some of the questions that will be answered in this article.
A’yān ath Thābita, the Fixed or Permanent Entities, Muḥyiddῑn Muḥammad ibn ‘Arabῑ, Mysticism, ‘Irfān, the First and Second Entification (Ta’ayyunāt), The Realm of Intellect/ Noetic (‘Aql), the Imaginal Realm (Mithāl), the material realm/ the universe.
The subject matter and the core of all discussions in mysticism is Allāh and how to reach Him. The fixed Entities are the essence and divine eternal information of All Things. They do not have an external creation yet are not nonexistent either but are rather “in the Knowledge of Allāh”. Hence, the Entities are eternal like Allāh.
The Fixed Entities are the intermediates (within the Knowledge of Allāh) between Him and His creation. When Allāh decided to create the different realms, both the visible (the material universe), semi-visible (the Imaginal Realm), and non-visible (the Noetic/ Intellectual Realm), it was first originated and issued in the Fixed Entities, and hence the different realms and the creatures (angels, Jinn, human beings etc.) were created and came into existence.
The discussion of The Fixed Entities is one of the most important topics in mysticism. One of the main reasons for the choice of this topic has been that although much work has been done on this topic in the English language, yet they have mainly been written in a very technical language making it hard for the common reader to comprehend. Thus, the aim has been to use a language and approach which has been simplified so as to make it comprehensible to a wider audience.
Another reason for the choice of the topic is that this subject matter has not been studied (in English) as a separate topic per se, but rather scattered in different books by prominent western scholars, making it hard to comprehend for the beginner studying mysticism.
This work begins by introducing the different realms of existence. Then, a historical background of the formation of this theory is presented. In the next step the term The Fixed Entities, A’yān ath Thābita, is explained. Later, the requirements of The Fixed Entities are mentioned followed by whether or not the concept of man’s free will and belief in The Fixed Entities are contradictory. To further support and confirm this thought of “The Fixed Entities”, records from the Noble Qur’ān and narrations have been provided.
There are different terms in English for the A’yān ath Thābita such as the Fixed Entities, the Permanent Entities, or the Permanent Archetypes. It is noteworthy to mention that all of the above expressions can be used interchangeably and have the same meaning. In order to avoid confusion, the term Fixed Entities will be mainly used in this study when discussing A’yān ath Thābita.
The Five Different Realms or Dimensions
According to al Qayṣarῑ (d. 1350), there are five different realms within mysticism. However, scholars who came prior to al Qayṣarῑ such as Ṣadr ad Dῑn al Qūnawῑ (d. 1274) and Sa’ῑd ad Dῑn al Farghānῑ (d. 1300) believed that al Qayṣarῑ’s two first realms or Entifications are one and not two. They argue that there are two perspectives in the First Entification namely al Aḥadῑya (Exclusive Oneness) and al Wāḥidῑya (Inclusive Oneness).
But according to al Qayṣarῑ, these two perspectives are separate Entifications and that the Fixed Entities exist in the Second Entification. But all of them had a unanimous view on the First and the Second Entification, Ta’ayyun al Awwāl wa Ta’ayyun ath Thānῑ, being or coming after the Status of the Essence, Maqām adh Dhāt. More about these realms will be explained shortly.
In this work, however, the argument is based on Al Qayṣarῑ’s view of the realms which is the more accepted and taught theory in Muslim Seminaries. According to Al Qayṣarῑ, three of the five realms have an external creation whereas the other two have an interior creation. We will begin here by explaining the first three exterior created realms.
- The material universe populated by man, including all the estimated four hundred billion galaxies or more which exist in it.
- The realm of Barzakh (The Intermediate Realm) or Mithāl (The Imaginal Realm). This realm enjoys some features of the material universe and some of the realm of Intellect/ Noetic. In other words, while this realm is nonphysical, like the realm of Intellect, it enjoys some of the features of the material universe such as color, length, and form. The parable which mystics provide for better comprehending this realm is the parable of dreams; Just as in dreams one sees a person they know, one sees desert or mountains, they can see colors and forms, all of these are the characters of the material realm, but one can also soar in the skies and go through walls, be in different places at the same time, moving instantly from one place of the earth to another and be nonphysical, doing all of this while being sound asleep and laying still in their bed, these are the characteristics of the Noetic/Intellect Realm.
- The realm of ‘Aql (Logic, Reason, Intellect or Noetic) has a couple of names, except being called Noetic it is also called the realm of Angels or the realm of the Spirit. This third dimension is entirely non-material, nonvisible, has no form or color and all other attributes of the material universe are non-existent in it.
To further clarify the dimension of these realms, the example of Russian dolls (Matryoshka dolls) can be given. Each one of these dolls are placed in another, such that when you take one of them, another one is inside it and when you take the second one there is a third one inside. One can imagine the scope of these three different realms or dimensions in the same way. These dimensions exist simultaneously and are interconnected to one another.
The realm of the Intermediate or the Imaginable Realm is the “inner truth or layer” of the material universe and its cause of existence while the realm of Intellect is the “inner truth or layer” of the Intermediate and its cause of existence and simultaneously it is also the “inner, inner truth or layer” of the material universe. From another angle, the material universe would be the exterior layer of the Intermediate/Imaginable Realm and the Imaginable Realm in its turn the exterior layer of the realm of Intellect.
The “size” of these realms are also different. Our material universe is like a small ring in a vast desert compared to the Imaginable Realm, while the Imaginable Realm is like a small ring in a vast desert in comparison to the realm of Intellect. Bear in mind that the Imaginable and the Noetic Realms are nonphysical, hence the use of the word “size” was for the sake of making it tangible for the reader and the same goes for the parable of the desert.
The Two Entifications or Determinations, Ta’ayyunāt
Now that the first three realms have been discussed, the last two of the five realms will be mentioned. These realms are called the two Entifications or Determinations, Ta’ayyunāt. These two realms do not have an exterior creation but rather exist in the “Knowledge of Allāh” or in “The Realm of Knowledge”. They are also called the Aḥadῑya, Exclusive Oneness (The First Ta’ayyun) and Wāḥidῑya, Inclusive Oneness (The Second Ta’ayyun).
1. Aḥadῑya: On this level are the Divine Names of Allāh not separated and are all in one single incorporated essence. These names are all incorporated in the Name of Allāh. That is the reason behind the name of Aḥadῑya which means Exclusive Oneness.
2. Wāḥidῑya: In this realm, we also have the Divine Names, but here they are separated from each other. The Divine Names of Allāh which are sometimes called the ninety-nine Names of Allāh, depending on how you count the Names, are all separated in this level, thus the name of Wāḥidῑya, which means Inclusive Oneness. In this realm, we also have the Fixed Entities, A’yān ath Thābita.
The realm of Aḥadῑya or the first Entification is the highest level with no realm being above it. What is known in Mysticism or ‘Irfān as Maqām adh Dhāt, “The Status of the Essence”, is Allāh’s Essence which no one has any access to, and thus not counted in the category of the five realms. Yet at the same time, all five realms are “within” Allāh’s Essence and from another perspective they are “external” to Allāh’s Essence.
Shaykh al Akbar, Muḥyiddῑn Muḥammad ibn ‘Arabῑ (d. 1240), may Allāh’s mercy be upon him, was the first person in the Muslim umma, nation, who came up with this word and theory of “The Fixed Entitites” or A’yān ath Thābita. He might have derived the word, but not the theory, from previous thinkers within the Mu’tazila school of thought where you can find words like: Shay’uth Thābit, Ma’dūmuth Thābit, Thābitun Azalῑya and Ma’dūmun Azalῑ (Qūnawῑ, Risāla -tun- Nuṣūṣ, p. 74).
With this brief prelude, the Fixed or Permanent Entities will now be explained, which exist in the second realm of Wāhidῑya, Inclusive Oneness.
Why did Muḥyiddῑn Muḥammad ibn ‘Arabῑ Come Up with this Theory of a Fixed Entity in the First Place?
The answer to this question lies in the fact that in the religion of Islam, Allāh is seen as the All Knowledgeable while his knowledge has no time, past, present, or future. Allāh is the creator of time and space and is not limited between these two. He has knowledge of all things before, during, and after their creation. Because His divine knowledge is eternal so should His information be. Ibn ‘Arabῑ calls this divine eternal information or Knowledge of Allāh, Fixed Entities.
This Intellectual perspective is further supported with Ibn ‘Arabῑ’s shuhūd or “spiritual witnessing”, where he has visions of the Second Entification and also sees the rulings of that realm. For the logical reasons of the Fixed Entities please see the chapter “Reasons for the Proof of the Fixed Entities”, below subsection number 3.
Definition of The Fixed Entities (A’yān ath Thābita)
A’yān is the plural form of ‘ayn, and ‘ayn, in this context, means Dhāt, which is translated to Essence in English. The plural of dhāt is dhawāt, which gives us another translation of the entities which would be The Fixed Essences. A question may arise here that why these entities are called “fixed”? The reason is that because Allāh knows all the things that have existed in any mode for all eternity, and because the objects are known to Allāh, they are fixed in His knowledge.
In other words, the divine knowledge is fixed in Allāh. As previously said, the first person who coined this term was “the Great Shaykh”, Shaykh al Akbar, Muḥyiddῑn Muḥammad ibn ‘Arabῑ (d. 1240) who used the term A’yān ath Thābita when discussing “the Eternal and Divine knowledge of Allāh”. The Fixed Entities peer or equal in Islamic philosophy would be Quiddities, Māhiya. The what-ness of everything, the inner nature or truth of objects, and that has been discussed before the appearance of Ibn ‘Arabῑ.
What are the Fixed Entities?
The fixed Entities are the essence and divine eternal information of All Things. They do not have an external creation yet are not nonexistent either but are rather “in the Knowledge of Allāh”. Hence, the Entities are eternal like Allāh. The example given to explain the Fixed Entities in a better way is usually the example of “the engineer and his mind”. The experienced engineer has a road map and the picture of a house or building in his mind before he actually sketches a map of the building (The translation of “Ibn ‘Arabῑ, the inheritor of the prophets, by William Chittick”, by Dehqān, p. 70).
The mystics say that every creation, based on its capacity which it gets from its own Fixed Entity, is bestowed by Divine Grace. Thus the Fixed Entities are all things which Allāh has eternal knowledge of before their external creation, like the different realms, the universe, the earth, the human beings, animals and plants. An important point which should be made here is that the external creation of these objects is based on this eternal knowledge of Allāh (Dahbāshῑ, The Interpretation of Mystical Rubā’ῑyāt p. 40 and Ibn Sῑnā, Shifā, vol. 1. P. 32).
Everything existing in all realms is eternally and permanently determined by its own entity. These entities are part of the Divine Consciousness and can only be seen (in different levels) through spiritual vision by people with a very exceptionally high level of spirituality. These people who enjoy unusual spiritual abilities are given the chance to have a glimpse and witness their own entity, and by doing so they are witnessing their own destiny.
The Fixed Entities are the essential forms and limits of Allāh’s Names in the Divine Essence. They are the manifestation of the Names of Allāh in the Second Entification. When Allāh “appears” or “disclosure” Itself in the Names, He finds different Entifications. Thus, the manifestations in creation (the three realms) by Allāh and the limits of the Names are called the Fixed Entities.
The Fixed Entities in ‘Irfān are called the quiddities, Māhῑyā, in Islamic philosophy. Quiddity means “the true nature of the matter”, or the “what-ness of a thing”. Whenever the quiddities are in the realm of the Divine Presence or in the Divine Knowledge of Allāh, which is the Second Entification, and their existence has not yet descended to the realms of creation, they are referred to as the Fixed Entities within mysticism.
But as soon as their existence descends to the realms of creation, they are referred to as the “External Entities”, A’yān al Khārijῑya. The equal to the External Entities in Islamic philosophy would be wujūd, existence. In other words, as soon as the Fixed Entities reveal themselves in creation, they are called the External Entities. Therefore, according to Islamic mysticism, ‘Irfān, all of creation are External Entities. All the creation, before their creation, were and existed in the form of knowledge in the Second Entification.
To better understand the Second Entification, the parable of “The Mind or Knowledge of Allāh” can be put forth. The Knowledge of Allāh is such that He knows everything about creation and the different realms and what will happen in them, from small to great. From a leaf falling down in a forest in autumn, to a drop of water falling down in a dark cave, to the motion of the greatest galaxies in the universe and even greater than that, what occurs in the Imaginal Realm and in the Realm of Intellect. All of this is in the Fixed Entities which we translated to the Information/ Knowledge of Allāh or the “Mind of Allāh”.
The Relationship between the Divine Names and the Fixed Entities
As was mentioned earlier, in the Second Entification, we have both the Fixed Entities and the Divine Names. A question that arises here is that what is the relationship between these two? The parable that is given here is that of the spirit and the body.
The Divine Names are the spirits in relationship to the body, and the bodies are the Fixed Entities in relationship to the spirits. The Fixed Entities are also the limits of the Divine Names.
The Requirements and Requests of the Fixed Entities
Every single Fixed Entity which is in the Knowledge of Allāh, has a requirement. For example, “the fixed entity of a stone” requires the collection of all the attributes which exist in a stone; nothing more, nothing less. The same goes for plants, animals, human beings, planets, galaxies, the Imaginal Realm, and the realm of Intellect. All of these have their Fixed Entities in all their attributes. These requirements are the innate and natural demands of all things.
A human being demands something verbally at one time, and non-verbally at another. For example, when one sees a person who looks very poor and weak, they feel the demand for help within their heart without the need for the poor person to express need. These innate requests from things are called “the requirements of the Fixed Entities”.
Allāh who is the Most Generous and has Knowledge and Power within Himself, grants all the innate wishes and requests of the Fixed Entities. Some of the Fixed Entities want to descend to the realms and have an external existence (could be material or non- material) and appearance, thus Allāh grants them their requests. And said previously, as soon as the Fixed Entities appear in creation they are called the External Entities, A’yān al Khārijῑya.
The Conceivables, Mumkināt, and the Abstainers, Mumtani’āt, in Islamic Mysticism, divide the Fixed Entities into two groups. The ones who request to descend to the different realms are called the Conceivables (the External Entities or Wujūd in philosophy), and those who request to be hidden and never appear in the created realms are called the Abstainers (the quiddities/ māhiya in philosophy). (Amῑnῑ Nejād, An Introduction to the Collection of Islamic Mysticism, p. 326- 329)
What is the Difference between the Knowledge of the Mystic and the Knowledge of Allāh?
The differences are as follows:
1. The mystic has to, first of all, reach the level of the Second Entification.
2. The Second Entification in turn has different levels. One mystic may be able to only see his own entity, others may see some of the other people’s entities in addition to their own, and the highest status belongs to the mystic who can see the Fixed Entities of the entire creation.
To reach one’s own entity means to become aware of one’s own destiny. This could be done in a general or a specific way. The one who has reached the level of the specific way is on a higher level than the one on the general way. Muḥyiddῑn ibn ‘Arabῑ (d. 1240) argues that the one who has reached the specific and concrete way of knowing his destiny enjoys a higher rank, because he knows everything about his destiny in detail. The knowledge this mystic has about himself is the same as that of Allāh’s Knowledge about him; for both derive their knowledge from the same source, the Fixed Entities.
3. Another question that may arise here is: What is the difference between the mystic who has reached the peak and acquired access to the divine knowledge and the Knowledge of Allāh? In addition to the point mentioned above, Allāh has and always had this knowledge in his Essence. The entities in His Essence are the manifestations of Allāh which no one has access to (Jandῑ, Sharḥ Fuṣūṣ al Ḥikam, p. 234). This means that the greatest of all men and creation which is the prophet Muḥammad (S) does not have identical knowledge with Allāh. For the knowledge of a man about his own entity is conditioned by the actual forms or states in which the entity is manifested. Though he looks into the content of his own entity, he has no access to the entity as it was in the original state prior to existence. It must thus be concluded that although the knowledge between man and Allāh is derived from the same source, yet they are different in that the human knowledge about the entity concerns it only in its state of existence whereas Allāh’s Knowledge concerns it before and after its existence.
What Role do the Fixed Entities have in Ibn ‘Arabῑ’s Mysticism?
No one before the Great Shaykh, Muḥyiddῑn Muḥammad ibn ‘Arabῑ (d. 1240), has mentioned The Fixed Entities the way ibn ‘Arabῑ has mentioned it, and this topic was not the focus of many mystics prior to him. One reason for that may be that they did not reach the same lofty station of spirituality and vision as he did. But the Divine Names which also exist in the Second Entification together with the Fixed Entities have been mentioned before ibn ‘Arabῑ.
Some consider this thought of ibn ‘Arabῑ to be his greatest contribution to mysticism. The Fixed Entities play a fundamental role in ibn ‘Arabῑ’s mysticism and are among the pillars of his thought. They play such a huge role that ibn ‘Arabῑ’s theology, cosmology, and anthropology is based on it (Dr. Jahāngῑrῑ, Tehran University publications year 2007).
Thus, without this very important pillar, all his theoretical mysticism would not last and would fall apart.
It is in the second Entification, according to the mystics, the Fixed Entities and the Divine Names exist. These two are two of the most important pillars of theoretical mysticism. And as was said previously, the Entities are the Divine Eternal Information of Allāh’s knowledge.
The mystics divide the realms as previously said into the Five Presences, Haḍarāt al Khams, but on this level, we will introduce it from another angle, the angle of Allāh Himself, according to al Qayṣarῑ’s model and view.
The first two are called the First and the Second Entification, Determination, Presence or Domain. The next three are in the realm of the external creation. In sum, the five realms are:
- The first Entification (Al Aḥadῑya- Exclusive Oneness), Allāh looks only upon Himself without looking at His attributes. A parable that could be given is for example that a person by the name of “Waḥῑd” looks upon himself only as Waḥῑd and nothing else, he doesn’t look at how many languages he knows, that he is a father, a husband, a Ph.D. student, that he knows how to sing, swim, play different sports, which country his from and etc. He is just Waḥῑd and nothing else.
- The Second Entification (Al Wāḥidῑya- Inclusive Oneness), Allāh looks at all His attributes and the Divine Names. He looks at all His perfection, and thus came the Fixed Entities into being. And it’s here that we have the Divine Knowledge and Eternal Information of Allāh (The Fixed Entities). Let’s go back to the previous parable, to the person called “Waḥῑd”. This Waḥῑd that we have on this level looks at all his skills, attributes, character, and perfections that were mention earlier.
In the next three exterior realms, Allāh disclosure Himself for the creation.
- The realm of ‘Aql, (Intellect/ Noetic, Angel or Spirit).
- The Intermediate state, Barzakh or The Imaginal Realm, Mithāl.
- The realm of the material universe, al Kawn, Dunyā or ‘Ᾱlam al Mādda.
Reasons for the Proof of the Fixed Entities
1. Reasons from the Qur’ān and the narrations, aḥādῑth:
There is a famous Ḥadῑth al Qudsῑ which many of the ‘urafā, mystics, refer to when it comes to the Permanent Entities. The ḥadῑth is as follows:
The Prophet Muḥammad says on behalf of Allāh that: “I was a hidden treasure which was unknown, and I loved to be known. So I created the creation and introduced Myself to them.”
From the perspective of the science of ḥadῑth, this quoted ḥadῑth is known as a “weak” hadith, but it is still quoted because the content is seen as correct and goes well with Islamic mysticism. Muḥyiddῑn ibn ‘Arabῑ gives his interpretation of this narration saying that “the hidden treasure” mentioned in the ḥadῑth are the “Fixed Entities” which are in their turn the pictures of the Divine Names and the Perfection of Allāh.
Another ḥadῑth which is mentioned in this discussion comes from the Prophet Muḥammad where he says:
“Most surely did Allāh Create the creation in darkness and then sprinkled it with His Light. (Qūnawῑ, Al Fakūk, p. 228)”
The creation of all things in the darkness refers to the Fixed Entities. Some of the aḥādῑth mentioned by the Imams also refers to existence as shadows. There is for example a ḥadῑth, referred to Imam Ja’far aṣ Ṣādiq (d. 765), where he is asked about Tawḥῑd or Allāh’s unity, to which he replies:
“No shadow can grasp (and get hold of) It, but It gets hold of all things with Its shadow. (Shaykh Ṣadūq, Tawḥῑd, Ḥadῑth Masandῑ.)”
‘Allāma Ṭabāṭabā’ῑ (d. 1981) says, regarding to this ḥadῑth: “To get hold of existence by Its shadow, is giving strength to it by Its essence and Its Entifications. (Ṭabāṭabā’ῑ, Rasā’il Tawḥῑdῑ, p. 10)”
Another narration reads:
“And then It prompted all things in their shadows. The narrator asks: What are their shadows? The Imam answers: Have you not seen your own shadow in the sun. It is something but from another angle it is nothing.”
‘Allāma Ṭabāṭabā’ῑ in his explanation about this narration says that this shadow is the level of taqdῑr, destiny or fate, and the fixed knowledge of all things before they become created. In other words, this shadow is The Fixed Entity of all things where they have a fixed existence (Ṭabāṭabā’ῑ, Rasā’il Tawḥῑdῑ, p. 11).
It can thus be inferred that no verse from the Noble Qur’ān was mentioned, and the only thing the ‘urafā, mystics, could refer to when it comes to textual proof was from the aḥādῑth.
At this point, another proof will be presented (which is only accepted among the mystics) and has to do with what the ‘urafā, mystics, have witnessed from their shuhūd, or spiritual witnessing/vision.
2. Spiritual Witnessing or Shuhūd:
This reason, more than any other, is the one most used for the proof of the existence of the Entities by the mystics. Many of the great mystics claim to have “seen” the different objects which later on is approved by rationality and philosophical argumentation, for example the first one who made the claim that he has “seen” the Imaginable Realm was the great mystic and philosopher Shaykh al Ishrāq (d. 1191), who was also the founder of the philosophical school of Ishrāqῑya, the Illuminators. Likewise Ibn ‘Arabῑ who claimed that he has gone through all the entifications and seen what only the greatest of prophets could have seen, and there are many more examples of these religious experiences or visions.
In the spiritual journey that the mystic embarks towards Allāh (the ascension journey or sayr aṣ ṣu’ūdῑ through all the mentioned realms) he witnesses his own fixed entity and sometimes the entities of others. He sees and witnesses his own reality and conditions in the divine knowledge of Allāh. If the mystic has reached the Second Entification, he can see the entities/ divine knowledge, or his condition in a general manner through inspiration, ilhām. Thus, the detailed version of the divine information is seen only when he reaches the First Entification (Qayṣarῑ, Sharḥ Fuṣūṣ al Ḥikam, p. 110).
To be able to witness the Fixed Entities, it is a necessity for the mystic to have reached a very high level of spiritual vision, shuhūd, which is required so that he or she can reach the level of knowledge about the “Truth of all Things”, and only when the mystic has reached this level of spirituality will he be considered the Vicegerent of Allāh on earth, Khalῑfa tullāh ‘alal Arḍ and it is on this level which he is also called The Perfect Human Being, al Insān al Kāmil. And only then will the mystic be able to bestow the “rights” and the “dues” of all the different creations according to their capacity.
3. The logical reason:
a. Everything in creation has to have a thubūt, an “existence” before its creation. If Allāh wants to create something, he will not create something from nothingness; rather, He will create it from one of His Perfections or from one of the forms and shapes of His Divine Names, which are The Fixed Entities. Muḥyiddῑn ibn ‘Arabῑ mentions this argumentation in his Futūḥāt, Openings (al Futūḥāt al Makkῑya, V. 1, p. 732).
b. To have knowledge about something which is Complete Nothingness is, according to the mystics and the philosophical school of Ḥusayn ibn Sῑnā (d. 1037), an impossibility (Ḥusayn ibn Sῑnā, Shifā, V. 1, p. 32). If Allāh has knowledge of something, that thing has to be in existence (in Allāh’s divine information) before its creation; otherwise, there is nothing to create. ‘Ilm and Ma’lūm, Knowledge and The Known, are concepts that go hand in hand and cannot be separated. Knowledge and information are inseparable and attached. To have knowledge of something which is not known and in the state of “complete nothingness” does not make sense, especially when one has accepted the argument that Allāh has knowledge of All Things in the Divine Eternal Information which He possesses (Yazdānpanāh, Mabānῑ wa Usūl ‘Irfān Naẓarῑ, p. 463). Thus, the Known or the Divine Information has also to be eternal.
The Nature of the Relationship between the Fixed Entities and the Free Will of Human Beings
A crucial question that arises in the topic of the Fixed Entities is the following: Is there any conflict between the free will of humans and the Fixed Entities? How does one deal with the fact that everything is “fixed and determined” in the Fixed Entities, yet it is a fact that man has free will? Does man have free will in the Fixed Entities and simultaneously here in the material realm or is everything determined? Is Allāh Himself forced to follow the Fixed Entities that He has ordained or should one look at this issue with two different spectacles and angles? Is it such that one must have different views, one from a terrestrial realm, and another from a divine realm? How can one explain free will in a world in which all phenomena are preordained in the Fixed Entities and even Allāh is forced to act in accordance with what is set firmly in them? These are some of the questions that will be answered.
The Fixed Entities are existing objects in their hidden forms before their appearance in the different realms of existence. In plain English, the hidden objects could be your coming deeds and actions on earth, with your own free will. Allāh knows about them through the Fixed Entities which were the Knowledge or Information of Allāh.
They determine the structure of everything, their essence, and their acts. Even Allāh’s Actions are determined by the human fixed entity/will. If a person wants and desires to do something, Allāh will give the permission to that person. Allāh’s Knowledge follows the content of the Fixed Entities, and so does His Will, which was previously conceived and comprehended by Allāh.
The result is that all human acts, and the time of their occurrences are decreed in the Fixed Entities. The human being’s will, which appears in his fixed entity, establishes the form of Allāh’s Self-Manifestation. Thus Allāh is forced to act in keeping with His own thought, which is expressed in the Fixed Entities (Abrahamov, ibn al ‘Arabῑ’s Fuṣuṣ al Ḥikam: An annotated translation of The Bezels of Wisdom, p. 10).
This explanation includes the possibility for human free will. From the view of Allāh, or the Fixed Entities, everything was already known, including one’s own free will and actions.
The prominent scholar within theoretical mysticism, Sayyid Yazdānpanāh, says that the human being has indeed a free will in the Fixed Entities and also on this material realm.
“The whole spiritual journey of the human being towards the Truth, Allāh, is a journey made by human will (Yazdānpanāh, Foundations and Principles of Theoretical Mysticism- Mabanῑ wa Usūl ‘Irfān Naẓarῑ, p. 496)”.
He further argues, that the will of humans is the will of Allāh, and that the actions of humans are the actions of Allāh, simultaneously (Foundations and Principles of Theoretical Mysticism- Yazdānpanāh, Foundations and Principles of Theoretical Mysticism- Mabanῑ wa Usūl ‘Irfān Naẓarῑ, p. 496). The verse in the Noble Qur’ān referrs to this point, when Allāh says:
وَمَا تَشَآءُونَ إِلَّآ أَن يَشَآءَ ٱللَّهُۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمً۬ا (٣٠)
“And you do not will except that Allah wills. Indeed, Allah is Ever-Knowing and Wise.” (Qur’ān, 76:31)
Even Allāh’s Actions are determined by the human fixed entity/will. If a person wants and desires to do something, Allāh will give the permission to that person. Allāh’s Knowledge follows the content of the Fixed Entities, and His Will follows this content, which was previously conceived and comprehended by Allāh. The result is that all human acts and the time of their occurrences are decreed in the Fixed Entities and Allāh knows about it and gives it to you as soon as you do the particular action.
Ibn ‘Arabῑ’s view about the divine eternal knowledge of Allah, or “The Book” (the Fixed Entities) where everything, small and great, about all human lives is written in, is that human beings should not escape their responsibilities and duties. There is nothing in that “Book” except the requirements and wishes of the person himself (Yazdānpanāh, Foundations and Principles of Theoretical Mysticism- Mabanῑ wa Usūl ‘Irfān Naẓarῑ, p. 497).
The issue that Allāh is forced to Act in accordance with what is set firmly in the Fixed Entities does not mean that the Fixed Entities contradict the will and the desire of Allāh, but they are the will of Allāh. For according to the theory of “The Unity of Existence”, al Waḥda- tul- Wujūd, there is nothing in existence except Allāh (Yazdānpanāh, Foundations and Principles of Theoretical Mysticism- Mabanῑ wa Usūl ‘Irfān Naẓarῑ, p. 500-501).
How do we explain the Problem of Evil?
If we have understood the previous answer, already given in the previous chapter, we would have no problems answering this one. But for the sake of making it plainer and because of the importance of the question, we will give another explanation.
The human free will is intact and untouchable in this life of ours, whatever she wants, or does happen according to the law of cause and effect. The “knowledge” and the “known”, ‘ilm and ma’lūm are interconnected. Allāh is the knowledge, and we and all creation are the known. The subtle difference between the Fixed Entities which were the Knowledge of Allāh and human free choice is that Allāh has the full knowledge of what will happen, and what the human being will do and accomplish and etc.
For example when an evil person desires to kill someone, to rob, to give orders of mass killings of Vietnamese, to drop the atomic bomb on the Japanese, to start a world war, to demolish cities and etc. all of these horrendous actions are made by human free choice. But the subtle point is here that they are made with the permission of Allāh. Allāh looks at your fixed entity and gives to you what you desire according to the law of cause and effect, may it be good or bad.
If you want to be evil, if you want to do evil acts, Allāh will give to you what you desire and will, but later on, on the Day of Judgment, you have to stand in the court of Divine Justice. The same goes for every good action human beings do. Allāh through the Fixed Entities knows that you will do good or that you will get children or get a Ph.D. or open a billion Euro company and etc. and when the earthly times come for you to do that, it happens with your effort and will.
We have in this article introduced and simplified the Fixed Entities as much as possible and tried to skip the technical jargon within mysticism. In the order of existence, according to mysticism, we start with the Status of the Essence of Allāh, where we have perfections, Kamālāt. These perfections reveal and manifest themselves in the Divine Names of Allāh. The Divine Names of Allāh in their turn have perfections which reveal and manifest themselves in the Fixed Entities. The Fixed Entities then have perfections which reveal and manifest themselves in the External Entities. In other words:
The Status of the Essence of Allāh/ Maqām adh Dhāt →The Divine Names of Allāh, al Asmā al Ḥusnā → The Fixed Entities/ A’yān ath Thābita or Quiddities/ Māhiyāt in philosophy → The External Entities/ A’yān al Khārijῑya or Existence/ al Wujūd in philosophy.
Thus, in order to summarize what was mentioned in this article in a few sentences, it must be said that Allāh has Information or Knowledge which are called the Fixed Entities, A’yān ath Thābita.
Another conclusion that we can take is that the human being has free will and that it is not contradictory to say that the actions of humans are made by the permission of Allāh and that everything a human being does eventually goes back to her Fixed Entities or the Mind and Knowledge of Allāh.
Another conclusion that was reached is that when Allāh Rules according to the Fixed Entities and cannot do otherwise, it does not mean that His wish or desire goes against the Fixed Entities, but that He actually is the Fixed Entities. The reason for that was that according to the theory of “The Unity of Existence”, al Waḥda- tul- Wujūd, there is nothing in existence, except Allāh. And with this, we end the article of “The Fixed Entities within Islamic Mysticism”. For further reading, the books in the reference section below are strongly recommended.
Wa Minallāhi Tawfῑq- And from Allāh is Success
This article was originally published on Iqra Online, found here.
- Yazdānpanāh, Foundations and Principles of Theoretical Mysticism- Mabanῑ wa Usūl ‘Irfān Naẓarῑ
- Amῑnῑ Nejād, An Introduction to the Collection of Islamic Mysticism.
- Al Futūhat al Makkiya, V. 1
- Qayṣarῑ, Sharḥ Fuṣūṣ al Ḥikam
- Ṭabaṭaba’ῑ, Rasā’il Tawḥῑdῑ
- Shaykh Ṣadūq, Tawḥῑd, Ḥadῑth Masandῑ
- Qūnawῑ, Al Fakūk
- Ibn ‘Arabῑ, The Inheritor of the Prophets, by William Chittick
- Jandῑ, Sharḥ Fusūs al Ḥikam
- Abrahamov, Ibn Al Arabi’s Fuṣuṣ al Ḥikam: An annotated translation of The Bezels of Wisdom
Honorable scholars who helped
- Shaykh Faḍlῑ
- Shaykh Ja’farῑyān
- Sayyid Ṣadrus Sādāt