Sunday, December 10, 2006

72)Sirat al-Mustaqim: 'Zahir' harmonizing with 'Batin'.

How does Ismailism encourage us to look at objects, events and people in the material universe?:

Ismailism, by my understanding, encourages us to look at material objects and beings in the universe and see the essence behind them. It encourages us to always search for the 'batin' within the 'zahir'. This is the magical and mysterious endeavour that we are encouraged to embark upon as we study rationally the world around us and use it as a springboard to melt ourselves into the suprarational reality encompassing it. This is what I think is meant by the phrase "Sirat Al Mustaqim" being sharper than a sword and finer than a hair. There is this intimate and intense interplay between the 'zahir' and the 'batin' that applies to everything in the perceptible universe and no less to the religious hierachy in the perceptible world. If we only look at the Imam in his zaheri sense and leave it at that, then we only look at the oyster shell but forget to search for the pearl inside it; we end up forsaking the more important half of the Ismaili worldview, namely, the 'batin'.

So it is that when we look at how the material universe operates in the minutest detail and at the tiniest, most microscopic levels, we are enthralled at how "God reveals to us the marvels of his creation"(Aga Khan IV) and we remember that, "in fact, this world is a book in which you see inscribed the writings of the Almighty"(Nasir Khusraw). We also do not forget that "Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God."(Aga Khan III).

We also learn that the 'zahir' is nothing when compared to its corresponding 'batin': "Allah is the sun; and the Universe as we know it in all its magnitude, and time, with its power, are nothing more than the reflection of the Absolute in the mirror of the fountain"(Imam Hasan, as quoted by Aga Khan III in his 'Memoirs'). The matter is finally put to rest in the reassuring words of a renowned sufi poet: "Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world. The forms may change, yet the essence remains the same. Every wonderful sight will vanish, every sweet word will fade. But do not be disheartened. The source they come from is eternal, growing, branching out, giving new life and new joy. Why do you weep? The source is within you and this whole world is springing up from it"(Rumi).


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