Absorption can never mean the unity of being—the unity (union) of God and the universe or God’s being identical with the universe—in the sense that pantheists claim, nor is distinguishing totally its opposite. The One Who is the Eternal (beyond all time and space) is eternal, and the beings who are contained in time and come into existence within time are mortal and different from the Eternal One. The Creator cannot be and is not the same as the created. The relation between them is not that which comes from appearance; that is, the universe is not an apparent form of God. Rather, this relation is that between the Creator and the created. We can also see the creation as the totality of the manifestations of God’s Names. These manifestations are completely pure and transparent, while that which issues from the created is usually tangible. Human beings have both a pure, transparent aspect or dimension, and a dense/tangible one.
This is why, as declared in the verse (17:84), Each being acts according to his own standard of measure, they can display behavior either according to their bodily dimension or according to their spirit. As they are made up of a body and a carnal soul, they fix their eyes on nature and corporeality, while they carry inclinations toward spiritual, exalted worlds as well because there is an immaterial spirit in their composition. By means of the ways of rising which the Shari‘a has appointed and guaranteed, travelers on the way to God cut their relations with fleeting and decaying things and turn to eternity. As described in Is he whose breast God has expanded and opened to Islam, so that he follows a light from his Lord...? (39:22), when travelers to God turn to Him in submission, they travel in the exhilarating horizons with utmost self-possession and awareness under the guidance of the light of their Lord. Even though they may sometimes encounter confusion or bewilderment, they easily overcome these with the assistance of the never-deceiving leadership of the master of creation (Prophet Muhammad), upon him be peace and blessings. They always head for the sources of knowledge that God has determined and secured through Prophethood, and never err as some pantheists do.
From another perspective, absorption has been dealt with under the rubrics of “absorption with respect to knowledge,” “absorption with respect to existence,” and “absorption with respect to the (Divine) Being Himself.”
“Absorption with respect to knowledge” means that at the beginning of their journey, travelers to God base themselves on the knowledge that comes from, or that is obtained through, the proofs and indications of God. Then this knowledge develops from the certainty based on knowledge into a certainty based on observation and finally into a certainty based on experience. However, only a shadowy degree of certainty based on experience can be reached in the world. Ultimately, this knowledge becomes pure knowledge from His Presence. Although it is the result of following the way of inference, it is not the same as the knowledge acquired through proof originated in the outer world or in the human inner world. Not is it totally different either. It is a special gift of the Almighty to the proper use of the free will with which God has endowed human beings, and which is in fact a simple means given to them for the execution of the Divine commandments. However, like all other Divine gifts, this gift is never proportionate to our free will. Like it, all other gifts of God Almighty are many times greater than what we actually deserve.
“Absorption with respect to existence” is when the travelers to God are perfectly aware in their consciousness of how things and events occur and how they are maintained. All of existence disappears from their vision to the extent that they are no longer aware of which direction is right and which is left. Heroes of the spiritual life, who have stepped into this station, feel only the rays of the Eternal All-Holy Existence and Knowledge and see all else as the motions of these rays. Provided manifestation is not confused with appearance, and shadow with the original, those who have attained this horizon feel or hear innumerable things and/or beings in every part of the universe invoking His Name, saying, He is the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting (by Whom all subsist) (2:255).
“Absorption with respect to the (Divine) Being Himself” means that all the indications and proofs of God that originate in the outer and inner human world are no longer visible in the face of the light of knowledge of God and the spiritual pleasure that the Almighty lets flow into the hearts of travelers to Him. Some have regarded this rank as the final station of the spiritual journey. If they base this consideration on constant turning to God during traveling from wakefulness to self-possession and thence to repentance, penitence and contrition one after the other, and on the relation between God and humankind as being the relation between the Creator and the created, and the Sole Object of Worship and the worshipper, and the Lord and the servant, there can be no objection. But, if they imply by absorption that things have no reality at all, and it is of no use or significance to use one’s mental faculties to infer from things and events the existence of God and therefore to acquire certain knowledge about Him, and that people are no longer responsible for the fulfillment of religious obligations after reaching some point in the spiritual journey, and that there is essentially no difference between I and you and He, then this is most definitely a total deviation in conception and creed. This can be either a fantasy of those who are pursuing “originality” for the sake of fame or a view held by some self-conceited pantheists and monists.
As for the Prophets and the pure, saintly scholars, they have regarded the way leading to the Infinite One as endless, and have experienced the final station one can reach in the journey along this way according to their capacity with the same solemnity, wakefulness, and consciousness as they experienced in the beginning. They have always accepted that serving the Ultimate Truth with the utmost humility is the goal of their lives. The Almighty ordered the master of creation (Prophet Muhammad), the most perfect in servanthood to Him, Worship your Lord until certainty, which is bound to come, comes to you (15:99). By this, together with ordering him to worship Him until death comes to him, He both emphasizes that death marks the end of this responsibility and consoles the Messenger for the afflictions and tortures he was subjected to by reminding him of his meeting with God. Because meeting with God meant for him reaching certainty based on experience in his own, unique level.
O God! Include us among Your servants sincere (in faith and practicing the religion), and endowed with sincerity, and God-revering, pious, and abstinent from all forbidden things big or small, and among those of ascetism and those near-stationed to You, and who are pleased with You and pleasing to You. And bestow blessings and peace on our master Muhammad, the leader of the God-revering, pious and the leader of those endowed with sincerity, and on his Family and Companions, those of ascetism and those near-stationed to You, and who are pleased with You and pleasing to You. Amen!