Saturday, December 9, 2006

29)No. 2, 'Ayats'(Signs) in the Universe series: The miniscule universe inside a living cell.

Ayats(Signs) in the Universe series, no. 2
The miniscule universe inside a living cell.

May 2006. This morning, mother's day, I was woken up early by our 13 year old daughter who surprised my wife, her mother, with a superb breakfast in bed, lovingly made, along with the sunday New York Times newspaper. To watch the bond of love between mother and daughter was very inspiring to me. It got me thinking about the cosmos around us and that, while I have posted much on the macro universe of the vastness of space, let us not forget that there are just as fascinating universes that exist at the microscopic level, where the human eye cannot see without the aid of powerful microscopes and brilliant imaginations. There is a treasure trove of knowledge about things microscopic that make up our cosmos. How can I use this knowledge to link up with and strengthen my faith in God? It would be very much in keeping with the Ismaili tariqa, which our Imams keep reminding us is one that places the greatest emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge to strengthen one's faith.

My thoughts turned to the smallest known unit of life, the cell. Invisible to the naked eye, the living cell is nevertheless a universe unto itself. How such a small entity can have so many moving parts has boggled my mind for as long as I can remember. And I thought, what if I picked up a cell at the top and just held it there and looked at it; would all the contents of the cell just fall to the bottom of the bag because of the force of gravity?

They do not and I ask, why is that? If you look at an electron microscopic picture of the inside of a cell, you see a a very organised place with numerous structures called organelles. These have different shapes, sizes and functions. Holding them all in place so they don't all sink to the floor of the cell is a delicate but strong skeleton(called a cytoskeleton), like a scaffolding, made up of protein filaments shaped like long tubes. All the organelles are kept in place by being attached to these tube-like structures. All these organelles in the cell are bathed by an enabling, nourishing fluid. Some key reactions essential to the survival of the cell occur in this fluid. Other key reactions occur inside the organelles at different locations.

Within cells there are also structures that serve as transportation hallways, where new products like proteins, carbohydrates and fats are transported from one part of the cell to another after they have been produced. It is all a very orderly process. The nucleus is usually at the center of the cell and this is where information that is coded in the genetic molecules is copied onto other molecules, then transferred out of the nucleus to be used in the main body of the cell to create new proteins and other substances. The process of the synthesis of proteins using information coded in genes is truly something to marvel at.

In the picture of philosophical Ismailism created for us by the Al-Sijistani-Khusraw duo, the 'Pen' referred to in the Quran, provides 'tayyid' or divine inspiration to the 'Tablet' mentioned in the Quran. The 'Pen' is the celestial blueprint which provides the enabling environment for the 'Tablet' to compose('tarkib') the material structures of the universe at all levels. There is therefore a direct connection between the material universe and the 'Pen' that is ultimately responsible for its fashioning. The 'Asas', 'Natiq' and 'Tablet' are all different facets of the 'Pen', different in manifestation but united in essence. All four are the wellsprings of knowledge referred to in philosophical Ismailism and make up the structure of truth that was originated by the Absolutely Transcendent Originator through the Divine Command.

Ultimately, looking at how the material creation functions allows us to marvel and cultivate admiration for the maker of it. Through admiration one can develop love and a greater desire to know the maker. By using one's rational intellect to appreciate and understand the creation, one can perhaps, with the help of the 'Asas' and 'Natiq', create a path to the timeless, instantaneous intellect that is the 'Pen'.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4.
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3