Saturday, December 9, 2006

62)What is the extent of "God's creation"?

Mowlana Hazar Imam recently(October 9th 2006) made the following statement to the German newspaper 'Der Spiegel' about the religion of Islam:

"Of the Abrahamic faiths, Islam is probably the one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge. The purpose is to understand God's creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason.":,1518,442180,00.html

I wonder what Mowlana Hazar Imam means when he says that Islam's "... purpose is to understand God's creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason." Is the total extent of creation just the perceptible, physical, material universe that we see around us and live in or is there more to it? Professor Azim Nanji of the Institute of Ismaili Studies gives us a hint of what is the full extent of God's creation and, more importantly, how the full extent of creation can be used to come to a better appreciation of the Absolutely Transcendant God, who originates creation through the Divine Command:

"It has been argued that Ismaili cosmology, integrates a manifestational cosmology (analogous to some aspects of Stoic thought) within an adapted Neoplatonic framework to create an alternative synthesis. The starting point of such a synthesis is the doctrine of ibda (derived from Qur’an 2:117). In its verbal form it is taken to mean 'eternal existentiation' to explain the notion in the Qur’an of God’s timeless command (Kun: Be!). Ibda therefore connotes not a specific act of creation but the dialogical mode through which a relationship between God and His creation can be affirmed - it articulates the process of beginning and sets the stage for developing a philosophy of the manifestation of transcendence in creation.

In sum the process of creation can be said to take place at several levels. Ibda represents the initial level - one transcends history, the other creates it. The spiritual and material realms are not dichotomous, since in the Ismaili formulation, matter and spirit are united under a higher genus and each realm possesses its own hierarchy. Though they require linguistic and rational categories for definition, they represent elements of a whole, and a true understanding of God must also take account of His creation. Such a synthesis is crucial to how the human intellect eventually relates to creation and how it ultimately becomes the instrument for penetrating through history the mystery of the unknowable God implied in the formulation of tawhid.

Human history, as conceived in Ismailism, operates cyclically. According to this typological view, the epoch of the great prophets mirrors the cosmological paradigm, unfolding to recover the equilibrium and harmony inherent in the divine pattern of creation. Prophets and, after them, their appointed successors, the imams, have as their collective goal the establishment of a just society. The function of the Prophet is to initiate the cycle for human society and of the Imam to complement and interpret the teaching to sustain the just order at the social and individual levels.":

In the hierachical description of God's creation described above, the perceptible, physical, material "universe in which we live, move and have our being"(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) is on the lowest rung of the hierachy of creation. It, nevertheless, is a revelation just like all the other written revelations of God that have come down to mankind through different prophets. Our 48th Imam has said that, just as there are allegories and symbolisms that can be drawn from the written verses of the Quran so can one draw the same from the ayats or signs in the material universe. Indeed to know and learn how the material universe operates, using the correct attitude, can itself become a potent force of devotion to God, the maker of it all. The following well-authenticated hadith of Prophet Mohammed attests to this, as follows:

"One hour of contemplation on the works of the Creator is better than a thousand hours of prayer".

In the philosophical Ismailism of Yakub Al-Sijistani, an Ismaili dai who lived in the 10th century and whose writings had a deep influence on the future Fatimid empire, the material universe emanates from another created being, the Universal Soul, which itself emanates from the original created being, the Universal Intellect. The cycles of Prophethood and Imamat are there to inform humankind about this hierachy and help them to climb up the rungs of this created order. The Universal Intellect was the first and only created being to issue forth, by a process of origination, from the Absolutely Transcendant Originator(or 'Mubdi') through the Divine Command('Amr'), and all other created beings issued forth from the Universal Intellect by a process of emanation.

I beleive that it is important to know what the present Imam means when he says that the purpose of islam is to understand God's creation.To use the example of the lowest rung on the hierachy of created beings, the material universe, we see that the most efficient way that humans try to learn about what it is and how it functions is by using the experimental scientific method, which relies totally on the use of logic and reason. What then accrues from this effort is knowledge about the material creation. So far we have learned that the entire cosmos, from the tiniest piece of matter to the largest pieces of matter like galaxies and stars, operates according to a fixed rational law and that this law has as its celestial blueprint and inspiration the Universal Intellect. To move up the hierachy of created beings, then, is to move up the hierachy of knowledge and this is why our Imam describes Islam as eminently logical, a faith of reason, one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge and one that purports to understand God's creation.


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