by Mahmoud Mostafa
When Kabir asked me to share something about our theme of Divine Sovereignty and Personal Sovereignty, a particular Zhikr appeared immediately in my conscience it is one that is fairly well-known:
“La Illaha Illa Allahu Al Malik-ul Haqq-ul Mubeen. Muhammad Rasulullah Sadiq-ul Wa’d-il Ameen.”
“No god but God, the Sovereign, the evident Truth. Muhammad, messenger of God, true to the promise, the trustworthy.”
I reflected upon this Zhikr for days feeling its meanings within me and trusting that it held guidance about sovereignty of God and of Adam.
I started reflecting on verses of the Quran that have to do with Sovereignty which is Mulk in Arabic. There are many such verses in the Quran, here are some of them:
Furqan 25:2 “The sovereignty of heavens and earth are His. He has taken no offspring, nor does He have any partner in sovereignty. He created all things and apportioned it in perfect measure.”
Fatir 35:13 “He entwines night into day and day into night. He made the sun and moon inclined to follow an appointed time. This is God, your Sustainer to whom belongs sovereignty. And those you call upon other than Him do not have sovereignty over a husk of a date stone.”
Anaam 6:73 “It is He who created the heavens and the earth by Truth. Whenever He says ‘Be!” it is. His saying is Truth and Sovereignty is for Him…”
Mu’minun 23:116 “Exalted is God, the Sovereign, the Truth. No god but He, the Sustainer of the Noble Throne.”
Mulk 67:1 “Blessed is the one in whose hands is the sovereignty. He has ability over all things.”
Taghabun 64:1 “What is in the heavens and the earth is immersed in glorification of God, for Him is the sovereignty and gratitude and it is He who has ability over all things.”
Nisaa 4:53 “Do they have a share of the sovereignty? If they did, they would not bring to people as much as the groove of a date stone!”
And there is a well-known, long Hadith Qudsi in which God says:
“My servants, you can neither harm Me nor benefit Me. My servants, if the first and last of you, human and jinn, were as conscious of Me as the most God-conscious among you, this would not increase My Sovereignty one bit. My servants, if the first and last of you, human and jinn, were as iniquitous as the most iniquitous among you, this would not decrease My Sovereignty one bit. My servants, if the first and the last of you, human and jinn, were to stand in one plain and ask of Me, and if I were to give each one what he asked, that would not diminish what I possess any more than a needle would when put into the sea.”
One can understand from these Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions that Divine Sovereignty has to do with the intrinsic nature of Being and Its manifestation in the world. The nature of the world as it is, is The Sovereignty of God. The right measure of things, their balance and interrelationship is His Mulk. Spiritual and physical laws that must hold and cannot be violated are His Mulk. The intricate weave of life, the multi-layered, complex, non-linear, nuanced relationships that define and determine the nature of our existence, this is the Divine Sovereignty. It is indivisible, it is the sole domain of God’s creative power, and it is the ground and structure of existence. Life is God’s Mulk.
For the human being there are two sovereignties, one is in competition with Divine Sovereignty and the other is in alignment with it.
The first kind is known in the story of the Adam and Eve. They were tempted by Iblis’ promise of never-ending sovereignty and immutability and this was their downfall.
Two of the greatest compulsions of the ego are the desire for control, which has to do with our sense of self-importance, and wishful thinking, which has to do with our persistent hope that life turns out according to what we want. Our Nafs is relentless in wanting to establish itself as the sovereign of life. This leaves us fragmented, discontent, ungrateful, untrusting, and withholding. When this condition continues for a long period of time our hearts become dominated by fear and sorrow. Our Nafs objects and resists living with the natural flow of life, it is not content with life as life wants to flow, it is frustrated with life’s seasons, with the irresistible cycles of existence. We do not learn how to live the seasons of our lives. We imagine that life is a line from point A to point B. Life is more like a helix, more like a spiral that has unpredictable movements.
The other kind of sovereignty has to do with the realization of our humanness. This too begins with Adam and Eve who immediately sought forgiveness for their mistake, repented and turned back to their Rabb. The sovereignty of the human being that is aligned with God’s sovereignty is servanthood. The relationship of our servanthood to God’s Lordship is the relationship of unconditional love. Our real sovereignty has to do with understanding the capacity we’ve been given to reflect God’s sovereignty. It is in our humility and commitment to servanthood that this capacity can be brought to fruition.
I will share with you some selections from the Mathnawi that may take us deeper into this matter and hopefully unfold different layers of meanings and understanding of this relationship.
III:2240 “Since servitude to the Beloved has not been granted to you, from where has arisen from you the desire for sovereignty? In your desire that they should applaud you, you have tied a bowstring on the neck of your soul. O heart you will be seen by Truth at the moment you move, like a part, towards your whole. Every desire you have of this world produces intoxication in you, and when you do not attain it, it inflicts grief upon you. This grief is the evidence that your intoxication was caused by that desire you could not attain. Only take from this world your necessity and not more lest it overpower you and become your lord.”
III:4720 “Then what is love? The ocean of non-being, there the foot of the intellect is shattered. Servitude and Sovereignty are known, Loverhood is concealed by these two veils.”
V:410 That which is worth pursuing is love alone. Love is saying softly to be a prey is better than to be a hunter. Make yourself my fool and be a dupe, renounce the estate of the sun, become a speck. Become a dweller at my door and be homeless. Do not pretend to be a candle, be a moth that you may taste the savor of life and contemplate the sovereignty hidden in servitude.
V:525 The desire for control and authority is a dragon. Animal greed is from the stomach and genitals while greed for sovereignty is twenty times more. The one who wants importance pretends to divinity, how can one whose ambition is to be equal to God be saved? The human’s fall was from the stomach and genitals, while Iblis’ fall was from arrogance and status. Adam immediately sought forgiveness while Iblis was too proud to repent.
There is room for a hundred people around a table, but no room in the world for two seekers of sovereignty. The seeker of sovereignty cuts off his relationships because of fear. Like fire having kinship with no one.
VI:2155 He made a Khalifa, one with a heart that he maybe a mirror of His sovereignty. He endowed him with boundless purity and then established as his opposite a darkness. He made two banners, white and black, one Adam and the other Iblis
And this brings us back to the beginning to the Zhikr that I mentioned. It is a reminder that God is the only sovereign, the Truth and that this is evident and beyond contesting. And Muhammad, who is the metaphor of the complete human is the one who is true to the promise, to the covenant, the one that can be entrusted with this great divine gift of servanthood, of being the mirror of God’s sovereignty on earth.