The Meaning of Dying Before Dying

He who thinks of himself as other than Allah is certainly not other than He, because Allah Most High is free of all existence except His Divine Essence. All, visible and invisible, that exists in Him, with Him, apart from Him, is not other than He, for the other itself is He. Whoever sees himself thus and is endowed with these qualities has neither bounds nor end.

One dies when, by Allah’s will, one’s borrowed time ends. One’s material being—which is called life—ending at an appointed hour, loses all its character and qualities both good and bad. One who dies a spiritual death while his material life continues also loses his characteristics whether good or bad, and nothing of him remains. In their place Allah comes to be. His self becomes Allah’s self, his attributes become Allah’s attributes.

That is what our Master, the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.s.) meant when he said:

mutu qabla an tamutu

“Die before dying,” meaning, “Know yourself before you die.”

Allah, speaking through His Prophet, said:

la yazalul‑‘abdi yataqarraba ilayya bi‑nawafili hatta ahabbahu fa‑idha ahbabtuhu kuntu lahu sami’an wa basaran wa yadan ....

“My servant comes close to me with the worship of good works until I love him, and when I love him, I become the hearing in his ears, I become the sight in his eyes, I become the words on his tongue, I become the hands with which he holds, I become the strength of all the part of his being.”

With these divine words the Messenger of Allah indicates that the one who dies before dying realizes his whole being as Allah’s being and sees no difference between himself and Allah, between his attributes and Allah’s, nor does he see any necessity for, nor possibility of any change in his state. For if his being were not already Allah, he could not even know himself.

Thus when you know yourself, your self and selfishness will leave you, and you will know that there is nothing in existence but Allah.

The condition for self‑knowledge is to know that if you had a being of your own, independent of other being, then you would neither have needed to annihilate yourself in Allah nor to know yourself. You would have been, yourself, a god, self‑existent, and without any other existence but you—while it is Allah Most High who is free from the existence of any other god but Himself.

And when you come to know yourself, you will be sure that you neither exist nor do not exist, whether now, or before, or in the future. Then the meaning of la ilaha illa Llah –”There is no god but Allah”—there is no being but His, nor any other except Him, and “He is the Only One”—will become clear to you.

Do you think it possible to interfere with the sovereignty of the Lord? How could the Absolute Sovereign over all and everything be constrained? He has ruled forever, He is God; He is the Ruler, not the ruled. He is the Eternal Creator, not the created, and is now as He ever was. He does not need His creation to be Creator, nor does He need the ones He rules to be Lord. He possessed all the attributes before He manifested them in the universe He created, and as He was, He is.

The manifestation of His essence does not differ in any way from His being as it was before. The manifestation of His oneness requires His having been First. He is hidden in being visible; His secret is manifested in what is seen. His before is His after and His after is His before. His multiplicity is in His oneness and His oneness is in the multiplicity. He is One and all is One.

His quality is His appearance at every moment in a different form and a different state. In His Blessed Qur’an, in the chapter ar-Rahman, The Beneficent, He says:


“All those who are in heaven and on earth ask of Me. Say that He manifests Himself at every moment in another glorious state.”  (ar‑Rahman, 29)


Nothing existed nor does anything exist; yet at every moment He manifests Himself in another glorious state. There was no first nor was there a before; there is no more manifestation now. In truth, there is no being other than Him: For what only appears to exist, existence and nonexistence are the same. If one conceives it otherwise, one must conceive that a thing may appear from nothing, which negates the oneness of Allah, and that is a defect—while His oneness is free of and above all defects.

The only existence is Allah’s existence. If you know this and do not consider yourself to be the same as, or other than, or together with Him—then truly you know yourself. That is why our Master the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who knows himself, knows His Lord,” and not, “He who annihilates himself knows his Lord,” for he saw and he knew that there is nothing but Allah. And that is how he knew himself.

Know yourself; know your being. Certainly you are not you, yet you do not know. Know that this existence is neither you nor other than you. You do not exist, yet you are also not a nonexistence. Your existence is not someone else nor does your nonexistence make you someone else. Without being and without not‑being your existence and your nonexistence is Allah’s being, because it is certain that the being of the truth is the same as your being and your not‑being: and at the same time the truth is you and the not-you.

Then when you see what is around you as not other than you, and all and everything as the existence of the One—when you do not see anything else with Him or in Him, but see Him in everything as yourself and at the same time as the nonexistence of yourself—then what you see is the truth. Then indeed, truly, you see yourself and you know yourself. When you know yourself with these qualities, you know your Lord without being in Him, with Him, or united to Him.


“The knower and the known and the one who joins with the one joined are one.”


Someone might ask, “How then is one to be with Allah, when there is none other than He? One cannot be united with oneself!”

The answer is, there is no union nor being with Him, because to be with someone or to be united with him is only possible when there are two entities. As there are not two, as there is only one, there is neither being with Him nor uniting with Him. Unification may occur between two things which are either the same as or different from each other. If the two are not the same, then they are the opposite of each other. Allah Most High is exempt from having another the same as, different from, or opposite to Him.

In the oneness with Allah that we describe, coming close has no nearness and being far has no distance, for there is no space or time.

Someone might ask, “What is being close without nearness and being far without distance?”

The answer is that in one’s state of closeness or farness one must realize that there is nothing but Allah. Yet you do not know yourself, because you do not now that you are naught but Him. You are He without yourself.

It is only when you are He without the letters and the words of knowledge that you know yourself; you know that you are the Truth.

You were not aware that you were the Truth, that there was nothing else but the Truth and that the Truth was you. When the knowledge comes, through the understanding of the One and Only, then you will know Allah by Allah, not by yourself.

To give an example: Suppose that your name is Mahmud, yet you do not know that, and you think that you are called Mehmed. One day you learn that you are Mahmud. You continue being what you were, yet when you learn that you are Mahmud, the name Mehmed is taken away from you. Your realization that you are not Mehmed has not made you cease to be Mehmed, [because you never were Mehmed]; the disappearance of a thing requires its preexistence.

The one who knows and the thing known, the one who joins and the thing joined, the one who sees and the thing seen are all one. The Knower is His attribute. The Known is His essence. The Joiner is His attribute. The Joined is His essence. The Seer is His attribute. The Seen is His essence. The one who assumes the attribute is the same as the attribute. This is what is meant by the words of our Master the Messenger of Allah:

“He who knows himself knows his Lord.”

When one understands this, then one knows that there is neither union nor separation. He is the one who knows, He is the one who is known. He is the one who sees, He is the one who is seen. He is the one who joins, He is the one joined. Nothing unites with Him but Him.

Someone who is aware of this is free of the unforgivable sin of attributing partners to Allah. Otherwise he has not breathed a breath that will save him from past sin. For whoever believes that anything other than Allah exists is attributing partners to Him.

When Mahmud finds that he is not Mehmed, nothing is subtracted from him. Mehmed is not annihilated in Mahmud, nor does he become a part of him, nor does he become other than him, nor does Mahmud enter into Mehmed. Mahmud simply knows himself as Mahmud. Thus he knows himself by himself, not by the name Mehmed, for the name Mehmed never existed. How could one know something by means of something that never existed?

Many of those who think they know themselves and their Lord and have freed themselves from the delusion of their own existence say that the only way to the true path is through nothingness and the nothingness of nothingness, and that to know God is only possible for one who annihilates himself.

They have fallen into error because they have not truly understood the Prophet’s words: “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” He says about them:

wa yazunnuhum annahum tamhu ash‑shirk

“Their delusion is their belief that by annihilating themselves they have annihilated the attributing of partners to Allah.”

First, they believe that it is necessary for them to efface their own being in order to avoid setting themselves up as partners to Allah. Second, they feel they must annihilate even the concept of annihilation, so as to achieve the total extinction of all other existence.

However, all these activities are nothing but polytheism, the attributing of partners to Allah! For one must fundamentally believe in the possibility of other existences if one believes their annihilation to be necessary. Without doubt, doing this is trying to affirm that there is another god besides Allah, and is thus attributing partners, at the core. May Allah guide and lead such people and ourselves to the true path.

If someone asks, “You have demonstrated that if one knew oneself, one would know one’s Lord. Yet the one who knows himself is other than Allah. So how can someone other than Allah know Allah?”

Our answer is that the one who knows his Lord through the knowledge of himself knows that his being exists neither by its own existence nor by the existence of anything other than himself. Perhaps his existence is the existence of Allah without his being either within or without, either together with, or from, Allah. But his being is as it always was, nothing—without annihilation or extinction. For a thing to annihilate itself and become nothing presupposes its existing by its own power, not even having been created by the power of Allah and that is an impossibility.

So the knowledge of oneself is nothing other than Allah’s knowledge of Himself, for the self of such a knower is nothing other than the truth. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who knows himself...” by the word “self” he meant one’s being, and whoever reaches that level does not exist either outwardly or inwardly except by the existence of Allah. His being is Allah’s being, his word is Allah’s word, his action is Allah’s action, his knowledge of himself is Allah’s knowledge of Himself. Yet you see him as other than Allah, for you see yourself as other than Allah. “The believer is the mirror of the believer.”

The Truth is both the eyes and the mirror and the vision in the mirror. For the eyes of the believer are the eyes of Allah and the vision he sees is Him, within the mirror of truth. For He is not that which reflects in your eye, nor a knowledge in your mind, nor in your thoughts, nor a figment of your imagination, nor a feeling within you. But He is your eye, your knowledge, your vision.

If someone says, “I am the Truth,” do not hear these words from some man, from someone other than He, but hear it from Him, from Allah. For only Allah says, “I am Allah.”

You have not attained that which came to the one who uttered these words. If you had reached the state that reached him, you would understand what he means, you would see what he saw and you would say what he said. For the existence of all and everything is not its own existence but His, without its existing at all.

After all that has been said, beware of falling into doubt and imagining that Allah is created like you and everything else. Know that the one who sees and that which is seen, the believer and that in which he believes, the one who knows and that which is known, the one who understands and that which he understands, the creator and the created, are all one. Without seeing, without knowing, without understanding, without words and without letters, without even His own being, the Lord knows Himself by Himself.

Know that Allah’s existence and His knowledge of His existence are without any quantity, quality, seeing, thought, knowledge, or other condition.

When one looks into a mirror one sees oneself.

Whatever appears on you appears on the image in the mirror. When you look upon your image in the mirror, your image is looking upon you. Naturally the eye that looks at you from the mirror is your eye. Then when the image in the mirror looks at you, is it not true that you are looking at yourself with your own eyes? If the name of the one who is looking in the mirror is Ahmad, and if the image in the mirror could speak and say, “I am Ahmad,” it would be telling the truth. Yet as the image is reflected, so would be the words. It would not be the image that calls itself Ahmad, but the one who is looking into the mirror.

So if someone says, “I am the Truth,” do not hear it from any other than from the Truth Himself, for it is not a man who says it, it is the word of Allah. That man who utters these words is nothing but an image reflected upon the mirror of void, one of the infinite attributes of Allah. The reflection is the same as that which is being reflected, and the words of the image are the reflected words of the Real One.

The void is a mirror; the creation is the image in it. Man is as if the eye of the image reflected in the mirror, the One who is reflected in the image is hidden in the pupil of that eye; thus He sees Himself. Then “He is the one who sees, He is the eye, He is the One who is seen.” (Sheikh Mahmud Shabustari Gulsheni‑Raz). Only the one who has the eyes of his heart open will understand these words.

Is one not to discriminate between the appearance of the beautiful and the ugly, of the good and the bad? Is one to consider a decaying corpse or excrement as God? Allah Most High is beyond and free from such associations. We address those who do not see a corpse as a corpse or excrement as excrement. Our words are for those whose eyes of the heart are not blind, whose ears of the heart are not deaf, and whose tongue of truth is not tied.

For the one who does not know himself is blind, deaf, and tongue‑tied. The one who is blind and whose tongue is tied can neither see nor understand when the meanings of things are made manifest. These words are for those who are with Allah, not for those who are blind and tongue‑tied in believing that things exist without Allah.

The ones who understand are the ones who have resolved to find themselves and to know Allah by knowing themselves, and who spend all effort, for they have the divine light of the love and the wish for Allah in their hearts. These are the ones who will know that there is no existence other than Him. The one who has neither the wish nor the intention for this will not understand.

Allah Most High says in the Holy Qur’an:

la tudrikuhul‑ahsaru wa huwa yudrikul‑absar

                                                    (An’am 104)

“The eyes cannot see Him but He sees all eyes.”

In other words, no sight can reach Him, while He is in all that sees. The truth of the matter is in this verse. No eyes can see Him, so no one can perceive Him. He is the only existence, and if no one can see Him, then there is no one besides Him. If there were other existences besides Allah, they should have been able to see Him.

So the meaning of, “The eyes cannot see Him...” is that there is no existence other than His. The Truth can only be conceived of by itself, which has no other identity except the Truth: Allah sees Himself by Himself and by none other than Himself. His Essence sees His Essence.

“The eyes cannot see Him...” because the eyes are created. They came to be after the One who is before the before and after the after. That which created and temporal and after cannot perceive the Creator who is before the before—permanent—and after the after—eternal.

There are no eyes, there are no things; there is only the One, the Truth. The one who does not reach this conclusion cannot possibly come to know himself. Allah sees Himself by Himself, without any form or quality or eyes or sight.

There is nothing except Allah; all else is nothing. There is only Him. Then what are all these things that we see around us? Nothing that is seen is other than Him.

The one who sees anything other than Him cannot see Him, for one does not see other than what he sees.

The one who does not know himself, who sees himself as other than Him, cannot see Allah. Every cup shows what is in it.

No words suffice to describe a thing to the blind. The blind man does not see, the one who does not understand does not understand. The one who sees, sees; the one who understands, understands. These are the signs of the ones who know Allah.

Those who do not know Him will not see Him, whether by teaching or by learning or by thinking. The one who knows only knows though service to a perfect guide. That one will be enlightened by his light and find the path to truth, find oneness and unity ...if it be the will of Allah.

May Allah Most High lead us in the straight path—by words and deeds and wisdom and enlightenment which please Him, and to realms and sates with which He is pleased.

Amin, wa anta arham ur‑rahimin. Wa salla Llahu `ala sayyidina Muhammadin wa `ala ahlihi wa ashabihi wa sallim. Wa salamun ‘alal‑mursalin wal‑hamdu li‑Llahi rabb il‑‘alamin.