Sunday, December 10, 2006

65)Tapping into the diverse intellectual traditions in Ismailism.

Ways in which some of the different traditions in Ismailism can be tapped into in order to seek the highest knowledge and wisdom:

Firstly, I should make clear that I am not suggesting some type of a hybrid be created that is composed of a fusion of ginanic wisdom and philosophical Ismailism. Ginanic knowledge is a stand-alone gem of wisdom: it needs nothing to be added to it or taken away from it. While it deals with and teaches about a number of issues, its main emphasis, by my understanding, is to commiserate about transcendental reality and give individual humans a methodology on how to reach an understanding of this reality and knowledge.

In talking about philosophical Ismailism I am referring mainly to the eastern Iranian cosmology promulagted by Al-Nasafi, Al-Sijistani and later, Nasir Khusraw. My particular attraction to this way of thinking stems directly from the fact that this cosmology has a definite slot within it for the composition and workings of the material creation,ie, the objects and events found in the material universe. In using the image of the Christian cross to explain his synthesis, Al-Sijistani outlines one unique function of each of the four wellsprings that make up the structure of truth. He places the speaking-Prophet(Natiq) and Universal Soul(aka Al-Tali, Tablet, Moon in Quranic language) on each end of the horizontal bar of the cross to emphasize their equivalence in each of their unique functions that he identifies. The top and bottom of the vertical bar of the cross are occupied by Universal Intellect(aka Al-Sabiq, Pen, Sun in Quranic language) and Founder(Asas), respectively. Both the Natiq and Universal Soul are infused with the inspiration or 'tayyid' of the Universal Intellect and each incorporates a composition of structure around the intellect it receives, the Natiq by a process called 'talif' and the Universal Soul by a process called 'tarkib'. The speaking-Prophet composes a scripture made up of words and sentences, The Universal Soul composes a material universe made up of multi-dimensional objects, phenomena and structures that move and have processes. Our 48th Imam has said that the language of the Quran uses the same arabic word 'Ayat'(sign) to describe each of these compositions. While the top three corners of the symbolic cross of Al-Sijistani display a downward movement from the world of unity to the world of multiplicity in terms of the unique functions Al- Sijistani chooses to describe, the bottom corner of the cross displays an upward movement back up from the world of multiplicity to the world of unity and that is why the Founder(also infused with the inspiration or 'tayyid' of the Universal Intellect), who, by the process of 'tawil', unincorporates or 'uncomposes' the composed structures to reveal the hidden 'batin' or intellect, occupies this bottom corner of the cross. Whether we use phrases like Suprarational Reality, Divine Intellect, Divine Essence, Universal Reason, Universal Intellect, Noor of Ali, Absolutely Transcendant Reality, Divine Command, Instantaneous Intellect and other similar phrases, I don't think we should let semantic differences among these obscure the fact that they all generally represent the highest forms of knowledge well beyond the cogitative, sequential knowledge of rational intellect but connected to it nevertheless. Philosophical Ismailism is also one of the few (maybe the only one) among Islamic ideologies to show a pluralistic outlook and use some aspects of ancient Greek wisdom in creating its unique syntheses to elaborate its theology. Interestingly, medieval Christianity and Judaism also used the same Neoplatonic and Aristotelian ideas to inject some rationality into their respective theologies. There is therefore this common ground among philosophical Ismailism, Christianity and Judaism which the Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Ismaili Studies(the Imam) may instruct the people on his payroll to exploit in trying to build bridges among the three monotheistic religions. There is also the issue of the past 500 years of western scientific endeavour, which has made astounding discoveries about the material universe that fit very neatly into the doctrine of Universal Soul in Al-Sijistani's cosmology. This would be another way to build a bridge between East and West, to fuse the strong tradition of the acquisition of rational intellect that the West has displayed with the sublime traditions of the acquisition of suprarational intellect so well developed and not forgotten by the East.

While the doctrines of philosophical Ismailism talk in broad strokes about the four wellsprings of wisdom making up the structure of truth, I think they are a little short on the details and methodology on how to seek the higher knowledge. I think this is where the gems of wisdom portrayed in the wonderful tradition of ginanic knowledge can be of great help to those interested in learning about such things. In this way the 'signs' or 'ayats' in the Quran, the 'ayats' in the Universe and the 'ayats' in the Ginans can all be drawn upon by us in our climb up the ladder to the highest knowledge and salvation.


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