Thursday, May 31, 2007

180)My brief tete-a-tete with hasand on the F.I.E.L.D. Heritage Ismaili Net website.

An interesting and informative exchange took place between blogger hasand, , and myself, on my sister blog at the vast F.I.E.L.D. website:


The infinite complexity of life, and the extreme rarity of the convergence of scientific material characteristics that describe Earth are no justification of the existence of the Divine. This argument of simple association is a gross representation of the true and real force of the Divine and it's forms of incarnation or manifestation in human experience.

In fact, this approach, it could be argued, imprisons the realization of, and relationship to, the divine onto a material and scientific domain.

One can extrapolate a whole range of bizarre explanations and justifications for why things are and why things happen from such an absurd (God at the control panel) premise.

There is no "Control Panel".

I believe that at the very core, the Fundamental Truth is this. There is only God. The universe, this world, the laws of quantum, particle physics, the laws of nature simply and spontaneously arise, like thoughts.

Just as our own thoughts, desires, wishes, fears, dreams arise in our conscious minds. The classification of belief systems and ideologies(social, philosophical, political, religious scientific, cultural, sexual politics etc) forms of Literature, music, art - are all attempts to define human experience. But the core of all faiths is devotion, full and constant commitment to the divine and the Teaching. Coupled with renunciate practice and discipline, such devotion is the one and only way to "Understand". Science can only explain the measurable, quantifiable, even if only in theory. It must presume objectivity. The Divine requires a relationship, a total surrender of the notion of "separation" and "individuation". That's the difference and that's why any model that proposes the linking of science and religion is vacuous. A man, or woman, who believes can practice a science with a full and intelligent awareness that they are simply applying a methodology - one which neither confirms or denies the existence of the Divine.

And it is through the relationship to the Divine, that one begins to understand the true nature of the Universe, human experience and all that arises. Anything else is just the mind playing games. That's Ok, it's fun it's creative and helps explain stuff, takes care of things like manufacturing, health, getting to the moon, but it's not Truth.


Dear Hasand,
Thanks for your thoughts on the matter. I almost fell off my chair when the F.I.E.L.D. Ismaili Heritage site sent me an e-mail that someone had replied to a posting of mine. Nice to get some feedback once in a while.

My view of the matter is that I support the argument as put forward by the Shia Ismaili Muslim Imams, in particular the 48th and 49th Imams(present Imam and his predecessor). The 48th Imam, Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III, wrote extensively about this subject in his 1954 book, 'Memoirs of Aga Khan". I quote a few passages in response to your posts on this thread:

"Once man has thus comprehended the essence of existence, there remains for him the duty, since he knows the absolute value of his own soul, of making for himself a direct path which will constantly lead his individual soul to and bind it with the universal Soul of which the Universe, as much of it as we perceive with our limited visions, is one of the infinite manifestations. Thus Islam's basic principle can only be defined as mono-realism and not as monotheism. Consider, for example, the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer: "Allah-o-Akbar". What does that mean? There can be no doubt that the second word of the declaration likens the character of Allah to a matrix which contains all and gives existence to the infinite, to space, to time, to the Universe, to all active and passive forces imaginable, to life and to the soul. Imam Hassan has explained the Islamic doctrine of God and the Universe by analogy with the sun and its reflection in the pool of a fountain; there is certainly a reflection or image of the sun, but with what poverty and with what little reality; how small and pale is the likeness between this impalpable image and the immense, blazing, white-hot glory of the celestial sphere itself. 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."

"There is a fundamental difference between the Jewish idea of creation and that of Islam. The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine will."

"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."

In a 1952 letter written to a friend, he also said the following:

"Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God’s signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order. Even in the Ayeh of Noor, divine is referred to as the natural phenomenon of light and even references are made to the fruit of the earth. During the great period of Islam, Muslims did not forget these principles of their religion. Alas, Islam which is a natural religion in which God’s miracles are the very law and order of nature drifted away and still drifting away, even in Pakistan, from science which is the study of those very laws and orders of nature."

"……Islam is a natural religion of which the Ayats(Signs) are the universe in which we live and move and have our being……"

"…..The God of the Quran is the one whose Ayats are the universe……"

I notice that you have started a blog of your own. I'll bookmark it and follow it.



I humbly agree with all your arguments as referred to in the writing of Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III. In fact the quotes were a breath of fresh air in a climate where as you say Islam is drifting away from science. If I am not mistaken, he is saying the same thing. There is only God, and 'nothing is separate from anything else in this universe and all others. But do you not think that the tacit recognition of the divine in everything sometimes slips into romanticism thus giving science a 'fuzzy' edge and so devaluing both faith and science? The cold and clinical nature of scientific thinking is to be respected for what it is with (from a spiritual point of view) all it's limitations. Scientific methodology is a tool, an instrument - that nowadays is used mostly for commercial gain - or a weapon against more restrictive religious doctrines.


I agree with you that science as perfected and practised in the west(the scientific or experimental method) is nothing more than a tool to investigate the universe(what is it made of?, how does it operate?). What people do with this information is another story altogether. Some behave nefariously with it, others see this knowledge as one component of total knowledge and perhaps a way to help create a pathway, one among many pathways, to ultimate knowledge or gnosis, which is the ultimate goal of religion. The Ismaili Muslim synthesis does not see a dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual, as this piece indicates:

"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.":

Other relevant quotes from our present Imam extol the virtue and value of disciplined and objective enquiry:

Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation. [Speech 16 March 1983]

The truth, as the famous Islamic scholars repeatedly told their students, is that the spirit of disciplined, objective enquiry is the property of no single culture, but of all humanity. To quote the great physician and philosopher, Ibn Sina: "My profession is to forever journeying, to travel about the universe so that I may know all its conditions." [Speech 16 March 1983]:



Another quote that is relevant to the blending and melting of matter into spirit is this one from our 48th Imam:

About Hafiz, the renowned Iranian poet:
“Then came Hafiz - by far the greatest singer of the soul of man. In him we can find all the strivings, all the sorrow, all the victories and joys, all the hopes and disappointments of each and every one of us. In him we find contact, direct and immediate, with the outer universe interpreted as an infinite reality of matter, as a mirror of an eternal spirit, or indeed (as Spinoza later said) an absolute existence of which matter and spirit alike are but two of infinite modes and facets.”

-Inaugural Lecture Before the Iran Society by Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, November 9, 1936 London, United Kingdom.

Other quotes, relevant but not part of my exchange with hasand, include:

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.(Aga Khan IV).

In fact this world is a book in which you see inscribed the writings of God the Almighty"(Nasir Khusraw).

'Tarkib' is composition as in the compounding of elements in the process of making more complex things, that is, of adding together two things to form a synthesis, a compound. Soul composes in the sense of 'tarkib'; it is the animating force that combines the physical elements of the natural universe into beings that move and act. Incorporating is an especially apt word in this instance. It means to turn something into a body, as in 'composing'. But it is actually the conversion of an intellectual object, a thought, into a physical thing. Soul acts by incorporating reason into physical objects, the natural matter of the universe and all the things composed of it(Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani, 10th century Ismaili cosmologist, from the book by Paul Walker).


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
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(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)