Mawlana Thanawi on Wahdat al-Wujud

Mawlāna Ashraf ‘Alī Thānawī on the Meaning of Wahdat al-Wujūd

Some nefarious groups allege that the Akābir ‘ulamā’ of Deoband held the corrupt belief that nothing besides Allāh exists, and they claim that this is the meaning of the concept of “Wahdat al-Wujūd” which the ‘ulamā’ of Deoband supported.

In the following, we quote a passage written by Hazrat Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Alī al-Thānawī (1280 – 1362 H) rahimahullāh, in which he explains what the ‘ulamā’ of Deoband understand from the term, “Wahdat al-Wujūd.”

The term, to the illustrious ‘ulamā’ of Deoband, does not describe a belief per se, but a subjective spiritual state of the Sālik in his spiritual journey. They do not deny the reality that other entities besides Allāh Ta‘ālā enjoy true existence.

Hazrat Mawlānā Thānawī writes:

“Although mumkināt (possible entities) are mawjūd (existent) – since Allāh (Exalted is He) granted them existence, why should they not exist?! –, but their existence in relation to the existence of Haqq is extremely deficient, weak and base. This is why, although it will not be said that the existence of a mumkin is non-existent in relation to the existence of Haqq, but it will certainly be said that it is like a non-existent [entity]. Since it is like a non-existent [entity], the existence that is taken into consideration remains [only] One. This is the meaning of ‘Wahdat al-Wujūd,’ because the literal translation of this is that there is only one existence. Thus, the meaning of there being only one is that although others exists, it is as though they do not. However, it is called ‘Wahdat al-Wujūd’ as a proposition.

“In the capacity of academic investigation, this issue is called ‘Tawhīd,’ to acquire which is no perfection. When this becomes the state of the Sālik, this position is called Fanā’ (annihilation). This, however, is sought after and is an objective [of Sulūk].

“This [meaning] is the upshot of ‘Wahdat al-Shuhūd,’ the indication of which is absolutely clear to this meaning, because its translation is that only One is seen. That is, although in reality there are multiple existents, yet the Sālik sees only One, and everything comes to be regarded as if non-existent. Thus, there is [only] a semantic difference between Wahdat al-Wujūd and Wahdat al-Shuhūd, as my guide [Hājj Imdādullāh Muhājir Makkī] said. Because mistakes have become popular amongst the public in the meaning of Wahdat al-Wujūd, this is why some muhaqqiqīn changed its terminology [from Wahdat al-Wujūd to Wahdat al-Shuhūd].” (Kalīd e Mathnawī, quoted in Tasawwuf Kiyā Hey, pp. 102-3)[1]

This explanation of the Deobandī understanding of “Wahdat al-Wujūd” can also be found in the celebrated fatwa-collection, Ahsan al-Fatāwā[2], of the great Hanafī Deobandī jurist, Muftī Rashīd Ahmad Ludhyānwī (1341 – 1422 H).

[1] گو ممكنات موجود ہیں، کیونکہ اللہ تعالے نے ان كو وجود ديا – موجود کیوں نہ ہو تے؟ – مگر وجود حق کے روبرو ان كا وجود نہايت ناقص وضعيف وحقير ہے، اس ليے وجود ممكن كو وجود حق كے روبرو گو عدم نہ كہيں گے مگر كالعدم ضرور کہيں گے، جب يہ كالعدم ہوا تو وجود معتد بہ ايک ہى رہ گيا – يہى معنى ہيں وحدت الوجود كے، كيونكہ اس كا لفظى ترجمہ ہے ايک ہونا وجود كا – سو ايک ہونے كے معنى يہ ييں كہ دوسرا گو ہے سہى، مگر ايسا ہى ہے جيسا نہيں، مگر اس كو ادعاء وحدت الوجود كہا جا تا ہے –

اس مسئلہ كو مرتبہ تحقيق علمي ميں توحيد كہتے ہيں جس كى تحصيل كوئى كمال نہيں اور جب يہ سالك كا حال بن جائے تو اس مرتبہ ميں فنا كہلاتا ہے، يہ البتہ مطلوب ومقصود ہے

اور يہى حاصل ہے وحدة الشہود كا جس كى دلالت اس معنى پر بہت ہى ظاہر ہے كيونكہ اس كا ترجمہ ہے ايک ہونا شہود كا كہ واقع تو ہستى متعدد ہيں، مگر سالك كو ايک كا مشاہده ہوتا ہے اور سب كالعدم معلوم ہوتے ہيں – پس وحدة الوجود اور وحدة الشہود اختلاف لفظي ہے – كما قال مرشدي مگر چونكہ وحدة الوجود كے معنى عوام ميں غلط مشہور ہو گئے تهے اس ليے بعض محققين نے اس كا عنوان بدل ديا (كليد مثنوي)

[2] أحسن الفتاوى، سعيد، ج.١ ص٥٥٣-٤

Mawlana Zameelur Rahman

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