The main three realms of unity relate to the zones of action, attribute and essence. Action and manifestation are based on causality, reasoning and intellect. The reflective believer will soon discover that all experiences are balanced by their opposites. There is no pleasure without displeasure, no health without illness, and the root of these realities lies in their opposite. Higher attributes reflect the divine qualities and are most desirable for us as they are doors to inner happiness. Essence is the indiscernible and hidden root – the Light of lights. When one is illumined, the state of excellence (ihsān) is experienced and tasted. Then the All-Merciful appears and you will see His light in every situation.
The highest and subtlest realm of creation is called the Jabarūt, and it is the realm of essence, of pure light, primal energy and power. The Malakūt is the realm of attributes, of angels, devils (shaytan) and other invisible entities. The realm of the Mulk is the phenomenal world of action and manifestation – our discernible universe.
As life in our discernible world is based on action, it means we live with constant change; hence we are always seeking a reliable zone of reference so that we can understand change and deal with it with a sense of priority. We may desire a beautiful object, for example, but it can deteriorate and become ugly in time or under certain circumstances. Thus, what we really desire is the attribute of beauty, and not the object itself.
The realm of attributes is subtler than that of the realm of action and manifestation. Even subtler is the essence of Allah which is hidden in His attributes, which themselves are behind the actions and manifestations of physical existence. Therefore, witnessing and understanding the unity of action and manifestation comes before realising the unity of attributes, all of which meet in the one essence. The Prophet (pbuh) said,
“I take refuge in Your forgiveness from Your punishment
[unity of actions]
and I take refuge in Your mercy from Your anger
[unity of attributes]
and I take refuge in You from You
[unity of essence]
Oh Lord, do not let me rely upon myself,
not even for a blink of an eye.”
Its meaning is that there is only ‘You’ behind all that appears, and within all that there is. ‘You’ are the outer and the inner.
By Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri from the book “Calling Allah By His Most Beautiful Names”