Let us now have a look at some of the reasons why the universe has been defined as an illusion or a dream…
The single unified existence, which we call the universe, is constantly and systematically manifesting its infinite intrinsic qualities in new ways. Hence, in relation to this primary luminous structure of the universe, our assumption of being material and our seemingly material world has been called an illusion. Indeed, Rasulullah (saw) asserted that this apparently physical world is only an assumption and that the actual structure of the universe is ethereal. Stressing that this material state of existence is only a dream, he said: ‘People are asleep, with death they will awake!’
One way of understanding this is: when man, living in a physical body, and limited by the five senses, makes the transition to the state of existence beyond matter, he will feel as though he has woken up from a dream, hence the world and all that he has lived in the world will be like a dream. In contrast, the radial state of existence he enters will become the real world. This will go on until Doomsday. After Doomsday, he will be resurrected for the third time into a new body, which he will use throughout the period after doomsday (mahshar).
The second way of understanding this statement is: based on the hadith “die before you die”, man must prepare himself for an immaterial state of existence by abandoning the belief that he is a physical being and adopting the idea that he is an intelligible being. For, after the physical body and brain becomes inoperable, the spirit will no longer be able to acquire the things it has the chance to acquire during worldly life.
Yet another way of construing this hadith is: Die in terms of your illusory self, that is, by recognizing the imaginary and fictional nature of your seeming self, so that you may be enlivened by uniting with the Absolute Self who comprises your essence. For, ‘I’-ness is exclusive to Allah alone!
Allah is the only One who can truly claim I am, as there is no other existence but He. If there were, then Allah would have been a god, whereas the Quran asserts: “There is no god. There is only Allah.”
Thus, Allah, the One and Only, in a manner of speaking, contemplated the corporeal worlds, or in other words, imagined them.
I repeat, using words such as contemplate and imagined in reference to Allah is inappropriate and inadequate in reflecting the reality of Allah; however, in order to expound and aid the understanding of the topic I have no other choice but to use them.
The universe and everything in it has been created in compliance with the unified assertion of all the enlightened beings who have attained and experienced the highest degrees of reality, and claimed ‘the essence of the world is an illusion.’
Abdulkarim al Jili, an invaluable scholar with incredibly extensive knowledge pertaining to Allah and the dimensions and beings of the universe, quite comprehensively affirms the truth about the imaginary nature of the worlds in his book The Perfect Man.
So what is an illusion?
What does this word illusion exactly mean?
How is it formed? And why do we perceive illusions as reality?
The Ever-living One (Hayy) is, in simple terms, aware (or conscious) of His infinite qualities with the knowledge attribute denoted by His name al-Aleem.
Allah knows the infinite and limitless qualities He possesses. Al-Aleem, who knows His infinite qualities, wills to manifest and observe these qualities with the qualities of His name al-Mureed, and creates them with the power denoted by His name al-Qadir, and observes them through countless forms of words (manifestations) with His name al-Kalim.
Power is the ability to observe the inherent, implicit meanings! To encompass with knowledge all of one’s intrinsic qualities!
If the seven oceans and the like were ink, it would still not suffice to write the words of Allah! How could it? It is infinite!