Misfortunes and Attaining the Understanding of True Divine Unity
Answer: True tawhid, or Divine Unity, is to acknowledge that “God” is independent of all causes and to recognize His absolute Power and Will in everything that happens, in spite of living in a world of causality and being surrounded by apparent veils of causality. Until today, those who attained such a perspective were great personages who were heroes of the horizons of the heart and spirit. As they were absolutely humble and self-effacing, they always turned to God, may His glory be exalted, and were fixed on seeking in inner realms of reality. In the face of events, they did not see the causes, but the Causer of Causes.
Turning to Divine Unity as a Compulsory Blessing
To elucidate further, people live in the sphere of causes and most of the time they can find themselves in situations that make them feel dizzy with the influence of causes, which blur their vision. In spite of that, a believer must be oriented toward God, the Causer of Causes, without ever being shaken; like a never-moving compass needle. However, it is so difficult to attain the objective of being like a precise needle that always shows Him when buffeted by the normal flow of life. Consider the meaning of the verse: “Or He Who answers the helpless one in distress when he prays to Him, and removes the affliction from him…” (an-Naml 27:62). When people are shaken by troubles and misfortunes, when it turns out that causes are totally inefficient and that nothing remains to hang on to, people necessarily turn to God. So, people who are utterly helpless and in such a state of need grow profoundly aware of the fact that only the Omnipotent One with Infinite Power can help them; therefore they turn to Him in full concentration. In situations where causes come to an utterly dead end, when people listen to their consciences, they feel that Providence envelops them with beneficent manifestations of Divine Mercy and protects them against troubles. Such people comprehend that apparent veils are nothing but a veil before the operation of Divine Power, that there is an absolute Power and Will behind the veil; this means a window opening onto true Divine Unity.
The parable of Prophet Jonah is a good example to help us understand this subject. As you know, Prophet Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish. At this point, when all possible causes of salvation were impossible, he turned to God, petitioning Him: “There is no deity but You, All-Glorified are You (in that You are absolutely above having any defect). Surely I have been one of the wrongdoers (who have wronged themselves)” (al-Anbiya 21:87), and glorified Him thus. This became a means of salvation for him. Bediüzzaman made an excellent analysis of this issue at the beginning of The Gleams. While some people may view his explanations about the issue as “simple,” since familiarity breeds contempt, those explanations are actually very insightful, particularly in terms of the truth of Divine Unity and essentials of faith.
Prophet Jonah opened up to God Almighty about the situation he found himself in. He took into consideration the facts of his leaving Nineveh, abandoning his people without an explicit command, moving away by boarding the ship and the like. He thought that what befell him stemmed from his own faults. He was immersed in deep self-criticism and then knocked on the door of Divine Mercy. At a moment when all causes were lost from sight, only God could save him from the darkness of the night, the ominous state of the sea, and from the belly of the fish. Together with his humble entreaty to God in utter need, the mystery of God’s absolute Oneness was manifested in the sense of a particular grace bestowed on him by Divine Providence. Suddenly, all darkness was erased, the effect of causes disappeared, and Prophet Jonah was delivered to the shore of salvation.
Since he was one of God’s Prophets, Jonah may have received a particular instruction from God Almighty on how to act in such a case of misfortune. The event is already a miracle. In normal conditions, it is almost impossible for a person to survive in the belly of a fish. The human being is not adapted to living in an environment without oxygen. Due to a sign that he received from God however, Prophet Jonah never gave in to despair, but wholly turned to Him in perfect devotion, and found salvation with this pure consciousness of Divine Unity.
Melodies of Divine Unity Performed by Troubles
We might occasionally face troubles and misfortunes like Prophet Jonah did, at individual, familial, or communal levels. In some cases, even an entire nation might experience a state of constraint and privation and implore God, writhing helplessly. What really matters is filtering all of these troubles with a serious feeling of scrutiny and inquisition, discerning them correctly, evaluating them correctly and, by means of misfortunes, shedding light on the path leading to true Divine Unity. As God Almighty never manifests anything without wisdom, He may have created such a state of helplessness for individuals to make important gains. If this can be understood, troubles will be faced with resignation, and if it results in wholly turning to God because of the helplessness experienced, then it becomes possible to prosper in terms of this world and to gain eternal bliss. The troubles endured in this life will bring very different returns in the afterlife. There, drops will turn to seas, atoms will turn to suns.
Experiencing misfortune may outwardly appear as an evil for people who have adopted a certain thought pattern or who are included in a certain movement. However, God may have willed them to turn their faces to Himself by means of such trials. States of dire need may pave the way for them to attain true Divine Unity. It is for this reason that one should see troubles as no different than gifts from God and say: “Troubles sent by His Majesty, or graces from Divine Mercy, my soul welcomes them equally!” Given that a person realizes that troubles and misfortunes actually come from God and faces them with resignation, no matter whether what comes is a breeze or a storm, they are always welcomed with respect to their results.
Personal, familial, or social troubles may be a means of awakening and thus turning to God, but events must be viewed with this consciousness; or at least have the potential to be viewed with such a consciousness. Even if a patient is taken to the intensive care unit, as far as the death of the heart and mind has not been realized, it can be possible for that person to return to life with an electric shock. The lands where Muslims live today can be compared to a patient in intensive care who still bears the signs of life, or to a person who has suffered a terrible accident but whose heart and brain still functions. Therefore, it is still possible for them to rise, in spite of their presently disabled condition. Realizing this calls for applying a serious shock.
So many times from the past to present, God Almighty blessed people who wholeheartedly turned to him in the midst of troubles and misfortunes with extra graces and bestowals, and blessed them with a new revival. Today as well, He may make the present generation bound for such an awakening. This is as long as we correctly understand the meaning of troubles and misfortunes and turn to Him in utter devotion, in a spirit of destitute imploration and conscious of our state of impotence and poverty before Him.