It was said:
When Imam Imam Al-Junayd was asked about Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) he said: “Yaqeen (Certitude).” He was asked to explain. He then said:
“Indeed nothing is brought into being, whether from the entities or their actions, except by the creating of Allah.”
—related by Al-Khatib al-Baghdadiyy in his book Tarikhul-Baghdad (The History of Baghadad)
The Islamic belief in God is predicated on absolute Divine Oneness—that no one or thing creates except Allah, and that Allah is Unique and has no comparison at all to any of the creations. No one or thing deserves to be worshiped except the Creator. Imam Al-Junayd is known as Ra’is as-Sufiyyah (The Master of the Sufis). It is important to note here that Sufism (tasawwuf) is a bona fide branch of the Islamic sciences. Sufism pertains to the rectification of the character and purification of the heart by making oneself conform to the Sacred Law by following the example of the Prophet Muhammad both outwardly and inwardly. This entails not only performing the outward manifestation of rituals, such as, prayer and fasting, but Sufism also entails purging the heart from base qualities, such as, greed, arrogance, stinginess, laziness, ostentation, licentiousness, and supplanting them with their opposites, such as, such as, detachment, humility, generosity, assiduousness and perseverance, modesty, and self-control. In essence, Sufism is the science of sincerity—that one obeys God with the purity of intention to earn the reward from his Lord alone, and does not do the good deeds with the desire to showoff and impress the creations.
As for Al-Junayd’s scholarly pedigree, he learned from: As-Sariyy As-Saqatiyy, who was a student of Al-Ma`ruf Al-Karkhiyy, who learned from Dawud At-Ta’iyy, who acquired his learning from Al-Hasan Al-Basriyy. Al-Hasan Al-Basriyy acquired his learning from the Prophet’s Companions, among them, `Ali ibn Abi Talib, and Ali acquired his knowledge, of course, from the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam. This holy lineage of scholarly transmission is called the “Sufi Golden Chain,” for this chain includes some of the most spiritually accomplished masters who have ever existed. Al-Junayd was not only an outstanding master in the matters of the heart and spiritual sciences, he was also a high ranking scholar of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Hadith, the Arabic language, and Islamic doctrine (`Aqidah). Among his sayings is: “We did not acquire this level of Sufism just by talking about it; but rather, we acquired it through spending the nights awake in prayer, experiencing hunger from fasting the days, and going against our worldly desires.”
It is also important to note that Sufism is not a “sect of Islam” or its own religion, but rather it is a branch of the Sunni Islamic sciences. Some people have tried to present Sufism as some type of “New Age hippie religion,” like what can be found in the books ascribed to Idries Shah and Inayat Khan. Others works, such as, those ascribed to Martin Lings and LeGai Eaton wrongly represent “Sufism” as a perrenialist philosophy. Some of those following the perrenialist philosophy claim that Sufism is the primordial religion, and that all religions, at their core, whether they be Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, shamanism, etc. are in reality “Sufism.” Al-Junayd, the Master of the Sufis, begged to differ with such a fraudulent claim, for he said: “All the paths to the acceptance and reward from God are blocked except for those who follow the footsteps of the Prophet [Muhammad].”
Also, genuine Sufism entails not only following the practices of the Sacred Law, but also holding the proper belief in Allah. Some pseudo-sufis follow the doctrine of “incarnation”—that a person may reach a spiritual state where he or his soul allegedly “unites” with Allah, or that Allah supposedly enters his body and he becomes “one with God.” Other pseudo-sufis believe in the doctrine of Wahdatul-Wujud (literally, “unity of Being”) with the understanding that Allah is everything and everything is Allah. This is the belief of pantheism, which is the doctrine of the Hindu yogis and Brahmins Pantheism is contrary to the teachings of Islam. Again, Al-Junayd made this clear when he said about Tawheed, that it is “the distinguishing of the Eternal One from the originated.” God alone is Beginningless and all else is a creation. Only Allah is uncreated. The Creator is not similar to what is created. God is not part of the creation and no creation is a part of God. From this, it is known that Allah is not a material or spiritual being. Allah existed before space, direction, or time. Allah’s Existence is not dependent upon space, direction, or time. Allah exists without a place and is not subject to change.
Returning to Al-Junayd’s statement about certitude, it is the Muslim’s conviction that Allah alone creates. No one or thing can create with the meaning of bringing from ex nihilo(out of nothing) into being except Allah. When a Muslim says the kalimah: Laa ilaaha illallah, he is saying that there is no Creator—no one or thing that can bring into being—except Allah. We as humans do not “create” in this sense—we merely manipulate. We can take the things that are furnished by the natural world (which is itself created by God) and manipulate them to a limited extent. We cannot, however, give a full account of how we perform even the most elementary physical acts, such as, the blinking of the eyes or the flexing of the hand. And all the more, we cannot know the reality of the workings of the mind. This all indicates that we are not actually “creating” our actions, but that someone other than ourselves is creating both our physical and mental actions. Muslims know that the only one creating those actions is Allah—for there is no Creator other than the Creator (Allah). And this is made abundantly clear in the Qur’an:
“You do not will for anything except what Allah wills.” (Al-Insaan, 87:30)
On the one hand we have a will. We witness that we do actions that we call “voluntary actions,” and at the same time, we cannot possibly be the “creators’ of those actions, for we cannot fathom the reality of how we do those acts. Instead, Muslims recognize—and submit to—the fact Allah is our Creator, the Creator of our actions, and Allah does with us whatever Allah wills. Allah owes us nothing.
A clear example of this “living by certitude” can be taken from the Sunnah (life example) of the Prophet. Once the Muslims were in a battle away from Medina. During a break from the combat, the Muslims dispersed under different trees to rest. The Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, sat alone under a tree. He hung his sword on that tree, and then went to sleep. One of the most dangerous of the pagans approached the Muslims and noticed that the Muslims were not near the Prophet, so he saw this as his chance to assassinate the Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam. He went to the tree and pulled the sword of the Prophet out of its sheath. He held it over the Prophet, and said “Now you are under my control. Who would save you from me?” The Prophet of God said: “Allah!” As soon as the Prophet said that, the sword fell from the man’s hands, and the Prophet took the sword, and said: “Now who can protect you from me?” The man said: “Treat me as the best person carrying a sword would treat someone like me,” (i.e., pardon me, for you are the best of the people.) The Messenger of God then told him: “Go away.” Prophet Muhammad let this man go without any harm. During that moment when a person would typically be confused and terrified, the Prophet displayed not only great magnanimity, but complete composure, for he knew that everything that occurs is by the Will of God. And this is what al-Junayd meant when he said “Al-Yaqeen”— “The Certitude: that nothing is brought into being, whether from the entities or their actions, except by the creating of Allah.”