Why is today so much confusion about religion? Why anxiety to prove one’s sect or school the best? Why declare others somehow inferior, misguided? What is misguidance, anyway? Why use this as a whip to beat whatever we don’t like? Let me assert that the essence of religion, which saves, is simple to comprehend and universally known and agreed upon by the best minds of every tradition that what we need is to start action or following the well-known Way. No books, no complicated commentaries, no elaborate polemical theses are needed to be consulted before one convinces oneself regarding this essential point. What is this essence of religion, mysticism, traditional philosophies?
The following famous passage of Ibn Arabi is particularly detailed and important expression of this essential point. In this passage is summed up essential Ibn Arabî (I would claim, essential Rumi, essential Ghazzali, essential Ibn Taymiyyah, essential Sheikh-ul-Alam, essential Iqbal) and the central message of all integral traditions as great masters of traditions formulate it. Here is the basis for ethics on which all traditions are united i.e., transcendence of lower self to subsist in the divine self. Here is his formulation of the theory and objective of mystical discipline. Here is also a manifesto for coexistence of traditions or plurality of modes of experiencing or relating to the divine.
Now you must know that if a human being (al-insān) renounces their (own personal) aims, takes a loathing to their animal self (nafs) and instead prefers their Sustainer/Teacher (rabb), then the Real will give (that human being) a form of divine guidance in exchange for the form of their carnal self… so that they walk in garments of Light. And (this form) is the sharī‘a of their prophet and the Message of their messenger. Thus that (human being) receives from their Lord what contains their happiness–and some people see (this divine guidance) in the form of their prophet, while some see it in the form of their (spiritual) state.
Ibn Arabî says in The Kernel of the Kernel, “You will be all when you make nothing of yourself.” This is the golden rule that allows to know all truths and achieve all perfections and absolute certainty. Modern man, especially the academician, the philosopher of religion, the phenomenologist is more interested in speculation about Truth or God or neutral “objective” idle inquiry than without being prepared to sell everything including the dearest self, as Jesus would say, or make nothing of himself for the sake of Truth. That explains why there is so much knowledge and so little wisdom today and why he is farther from God and nearer to dust. It is only by becoming nothing, by absolute detachment or poverty of spirit that one can attain the central point, the still centre of existence where lasting peace and felicity lie. The Friend doesn’t tolerate duality as Ibn Arabî reminds us and comes to live in the sanctuary of a perfectly polished mirror of the heart.
Ibn Arabi speaks for all men–nay for all creatures–as they stand, as he is an “unlimited mercifier.” He vindicates man qua man without feeling any need to qualify him with this or that attributes or predicate as he sees God vindicated and His plan being worked out this very moment by everyone. Addas aptly states the Akbarian view:
Because all men worship God whether they know it or not, because it is the Sigh of the Merciful who has brought them into existence, because each of them bears within him the imprint of one of the infinitely multiple Faces of the One, it is to eternal bliss that they have been and are being guided from the beginning of eternity. (Addas 1993: 293)
Ibn Arabî gives the most universal definition of Muhammadan where this becomes, in the words of Twinch,
not a designation of a particular historical community but the very name of universality and perfection. It is the name of a station, theoretically available to everyone, attainable to the select few who travel on and on, perfectly realizing all stations until he arrives at the station of no station in which one has nothing of one’s own and therefore mirrors the Real most perfectly and is not defined by any particular divine name or attribute but brings together all standpoints or stations.
Realizing Muhammadan station of no-station, the station of faqr, sabr and raza is a life long struggle against all kinds of temptations and distractions that love of ego and world constitute. Here all of us fall short. We have no points to score against fellow believers but our guilt to proclaim, if we keep in mind the essence. It is right action that saves and confirms our real faith. Let us judge ourselves but not others in light of this. We will not get time for religious debate, for sectarian ideologies. We will begin to see why religion demands humility as the key virtue.