The essential insight and consistent point of
view of Islam is tawhid: the fundamental Oneness underlying all of
existence. From the perspective of tawhid, everything is emerging
from God, being sustained by God, and ultimately returning to God.
This has profound significance for all of our experience within this
existence. All areas of human knowledge are related to this
fundamental, unifying Truth.
Establishing the Truth of Tawhid in Our
Minds and Hearts
by Kabir Helminski
courtesy: Threshold Society
The hatred, fear, and violence that we see manifesting in the world
will cause us to ask many questions. What meaning shall we read in
these events? What are the root causes of evil? What should our
response be? Where shall we turn to find answers and guidance?
Anyone who takes Islam seriously can expect to be stigmatized in the
eyes of many in the prevailing society. The current situation
presents us with a challenge.
What wisdom and guidance can we receive from the Qur’an and the
words of the Prophet? How can we deal with the reactivity now
directed toward Muslims and Islam itself? How do we avoid adopting
reactive or defensive postures? And how can we protect ourselves
from the contagion of ignorance and human negativity?
The essential insight and consistent point of view of Islam is
tawhid: the fundamental Oneness underlying all of existence. From
the perspective of tawhid, everything is emerging from God, being
sustained by God, and ultimately returning to God. This has profound
significance for all of our experience within this existence. All
areas of human knowledge are related to this fundamental, unifying
Sufism is the science, the objective knowledge, of the soul’s
relationship to God. This science describes an Origin, a downward
arc of manifestation, and an upward arc of return. In the arc of
manifestation, everything is coming down from God into successive
levels of ever denser realities. In the arc of return, we recognize
our Origin and begin the journey back toward its light. This
essentially means that we ourselves must become more conscious of
the light within ourselves.
Another fundamental proposition of Islam is that of Prophet hood, or
Messenger ship. Namely that God, through the manifestation of Divine
Intelligence symbolized by the Archangel Gabriel, has communicated
countless times the principles of self-perfection to humankind.
>From the perspective of Islam, the Qur’an is the earthly
reflection in human language of a heavenly Book. This revelation
contains the objective principles and guiding insights by which our
humanness can reach its fulfillment, both on a personal and on a
universal scale. In other words, the revealed book offers guidance
not only in metaphysics and cosmology, but in social justice,
economics, psychology, and spiritual practice, as well.
To summarize, so far, we are saying that the Divine Intelligence has
communicated to humankind through revelation. The core of this
revelation emphasizes an underlying Oneness which is of more than
theoretical importance in all areas of life. The soul’s
relationship to God and the journey of return are the most
fundamental and important matters before us.
The Qur’an, as final revelation to mankind, acknowledges previous
revelations to every community and in every language, although it
also proposes that what we inherit from these earlier revelations is
received in distorted form to varying degrees, and even including
the Holy Books explicitly referred to in the Qur’an: namely the
Torah, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus. While these and
other divine revelations, which theoretically include even the
teachings of various native peoples, contain shreds of truth, no
other revelation has occurred so definitively in the clear light of
This brings us inevitably to the possibility of understanding and
acting upon this revelation. We have as our models some of the
greatest human beings of all time, people, such as Muhyiddin Ibn al
Arabi and Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, whose hearts and minds became
luminous reflectors of the Divine Truth. These two spiritual giants
alone have together contributed tens of thousands of pages of
spiritual reflection of the highest order, all of it testifying to
an organic relationship with the Quran and hadith. We have in hand
an immense stream of literature, all of it unified in itself, as the
Qur’an can be seen to be a unified metaphysical, spiritual, and
The significance of this fourteen centuries long tradition of
unified spiritual reflection cannot be overestimated. Its breadth
and depth overwhelms all merely self-serving, parochial, and
fundamentalist uses to which this revelation had been degraded.
The real and engaging questions will be seen to lie in the area of
honest differences of interpretation and their resulting religious
orientations. There are hard and soft interpretations, stringent and
There are various positions (makams) and the Truth may appear in
different aspects from these different perspectives. The Qur’an
itself warns us, I believe, that we are in danger if we fixate upon
any single interpretation, or absolutize a single approach or point
On the one hand, what we mean by Islam is far removed from the
"anything goes" relativism of the post modern age. It is a
razor thin straight path, demanding fastidious awareness. On the
other hand it is not an exclusive, legalistic, preoccupation with
form at the expense of meaning. The Quran itself continually asks us
to reflect on the signs of nature. It points to an essential
proposition within a very wide context. Islam presents itself as the
Way of Surrender, a way of being in harmony with the natural order
of the universe:
Do they seek something other than the religion of God,
While all creatures in the heavens and earth submit,
Willingly or unwillingly, and to Him will be brought back.
Say: We believe in Allah and in what has been revealed
To Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes,
And in the books of Moses, Jesus, and the prophets,
From their Lord.
We make no distinction between one and another
And to God do we surrender our will.
If anyone desires a religion other than surrender,
It will never be accepted, and in the hereafter
Such a person will be in the ranks of those at a loss.
It would seem clear that we are being invited to a kind of
submission which is the message brought by previous prophets and as
broad as the natural order itself. It is telling us that religion
cannot be an expression of our individual ego. In other words, true
religion does not serve anyone’s exclusive sense of entitlement or
superiority, nor can it be motivated by any hatred or fear, nor any
of the forces of separation. The authentic, primordial religion can
only be about perfecting our human nature (fitra), becoming
conscious of God, and
not allowing ourselves to be dispersed into following the false gods
which are the creations of human negativity. The idols of
self-righteousness, power, and greed are what corrupt our human
Turn your face toward the primordial religion (Dini Hanifaa),
according to the innate nature (fitra) with which He has made
humankind; do not allow what God has made to be
That is authentic religion (Dinul Qayyim),
but most people do not understand.
Turn in repentance to Him and remain conscious of Him:
sustain prayer (salaah)
and do not be among those (mushrikin) who worship false gods in
place of God,
those who split apart their religion
and create sects—each group separately rejoicing in what it has!
The perspective of Islam is the perspective that
puts the Divine Reality, not the human ego, at the center. We live
within a reality that is sustained by God, and our own human nature
will find its fulfillment only in relation with God. We are asked
simply to turn and remain conscious of God, establish regular
prayer, and not promote divisiveness in the name of religion.
The arc of return calls us to make a journey from darkness and
toward the light. The immediate darkness we face around us is the
imaginary world created by human ignorance, fear,
self-righteousness, and hatred. We must not succumb to the mass
heedlessness and self-hypnotism which presents itself to us, mostly
through the mass media, as the so-called real world.
It is our responsibility to find and act upon the knowledge that can
guide us in that journey. This means establishing the truth of
tawhid within our own minds and hearts.