Friday, July 6, 2007

213)The Creation according to Quran, Prophet Muhammad, Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan III, Imam Jafar As-Sadiq, Al-Kirmani, Al-Sijistani, Nasir Khusraw et al.

According to a famous hadith of the Prophet Muhammad: The first thing created by God was the Intellect ('aql).

Mowlana Hazar Imam recently(October 9th 2006) made the following statement to the German newspaper '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."(Aga Khan IV)

The Divine Intellect, Aql-i Kull, both transcends and informs the human intellect. It is this Intellect which enables man to strive towards two aims dictated by the faith: that he should reflect upon the environment Allah has given him and that he should know himself. It is the Light of the Intellect which distinguishes the complete human being from the human animal, and developing that intellect requires free inquiry. The man of faith, who fails to pursue intellectual search is likely to have only a limited comprehension of Allah's creation. Indeed, it is man's intellect that enables him to expand his vision of that creation. - (Aga Khan IV, AKU Convocation Speech, Karachi, Pakistan, November 11, 1985)

God – may He be Glorified and Exalted – created Intellect ('aql) first among the spiritual entities; He drew it forth from the right of His Throne, making it proceed from His own Light. Then he commanded it to retreat, and it retreated, to advance, and it advanced; then God proclaimed: 'I created you glorious, and I gave you pre-eminence over all my creatures.'( Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, (Al-Kulayni, Usul, vol. 1, pp. 23-24))

The beginning of all things, their origin, their force and their prosperity, is that intellect ('aql), without which one can profit from nothing. God created it to adorn His creatures, and as a light for them. It is through intellect ('aql) that the servants recognize God is their Creator and that they themselves are created beings …It is thanks to intellect ('aql) that they can distinguish what is beautiful from what is ugly, that they realize that darkness is in ignorance and that light is in Knowledge.( Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, (al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, Vol. 1, pp. 34))

The Intellect is the substance of (God's) unity and it is the one (al-wahid), both cause and caused, the act of origination (al-ibda) and the first originated being (al-mubda al-awwal); it is perfection and perfect, eternity and eternal, existence and that which exists all in a single substance.( Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani,Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist (Kitab al-Riyad, pp. 221-222))

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 III, November 9, 1936 London, United Kingdom.)

Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth; (Here) indeed are Signs for the people of intellect(Quran)

Here is a relevant verse from the Qur'an, cited by Nasir-i Khusraw, hujjat-i Khurasan in his Khawaan al-Ikhwaan : "It is He who created you from dust, then from a sperm drop, then from a blood clot, then He brings you forth as a child, then lets you reach your age of full strength, then lets you become old - though some of you die before - and then lets you reach the appointed term; and that haply you may find the intellect (la'allakum ta'qilun)."(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet)

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 (Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954).

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. (Aga Khan IV,Speech, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

Quote from a letter written by Our 48th Imam to a friend in 1952 under the title: "What have we forgotten in Islam?":
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 is 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 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……(Aga Khan III, 1952)

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. (Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954).

'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 Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist, from the book, 'Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary', by Paul Walker).

In fact this world is a book in which you see inscribed the writings of God the Almighty"(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet).

Kathalika yubayyinu Allahu lakum ayatihi la'allakum ta-'aqiloona: Allah thus makes clear to you His Signs that you may intellect.(Holy Quran 2:242)

Thus there was an absolute need for the Divine Word's revelation, to Mohammed himself, a man like the others, of God's person and of his relations to the Universe which he had created. 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 is, as much of it as we perceive with our limited visions, 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 (Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

Quran Symposium:
....a reflection of how Islam's revelation, with its challenge to man's innate gift of quest and reason, became a powerful impetus for a new flowering of human civilisation.This programme is also an opportunity for achieving insights into how the discourse of the Qur'an-e-Sharif, rich in parable and allegory, metaphor and symbol, has been an inexhaustible well-spring of inspiration, lending itself to a wide spectrum of interpretations.
In this context, would it not also be relevant to consider how, above all, it has been the Qur'anic notion of the universe as an expression of Allah's will and creation that has inspired, in diverse Muslim communities, generations of artists, scientists and philosophers? Scientific pursuits, philosophic inquiry and artistic endeavour are all seen as the response of the faithful to the recurring call of the Qur'an to ponder the creation as a way to understand Allah's benevolent majesty. As Sura al-Baqara proclaims: 'Wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah'.
The famous verse of 'light' in the Qur'an, the Ayat al-Nur, whose first line is rendered here in the mural behind me, inspires among Muslims a reflection on the sacred, the transcendent. It hints at a cosmos full of signs and symbols that evoke the perfection of Allah's creation and mercy. (Aga Khan IV,Speech, 2003, London, U.K.)

God has given us the miracle of life with all its attributes: the extraordinary manifestations of sunrise and sunset, of sickness and recovery, of birth and death, but surely if He has given us the means with which to remove ourselves from this world so as to go to other parts of the Universe, we can but accept as further manifestations the creation and destructions of stars, the birth and death of atomic particles, the flighting new sound and light waves. I am afraid that the torch of intellectual discovery, the attraction of the unknown, the desire for intellectual self-perfection have left us. (Aga Khan IV,Speech, 1963, Mindanao, Phillipines)

Several days ago, at a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia, it was pointed out that the only way the umma can work its way out of its present sad state is to harness the intellect.(Aga Khan IV, Speech,2003, London, U.K.)

It (Surah of Light from the Quran) tells us that the oil of the blessed olive tree lights the lamp of understanding, a light that belongs neither to the East nor West. We are to give this light to all. In that spirit, all that we learn will belong to the world and that too is part of the vision I share with you. (Aga Khan IV, Speech 25 Sept. 1979)

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." (Aga Khan IV, Speech, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

An institution dedicated to proceeding beyond known limits must be committed to independent thinking. In a university scholars engage both orthodox and unorthodox ideas, seeking truth and understanding wherever they may be found. That process is often facilitated by an independent governance structure, which serves to ensure that the university adheres to its fundamental mission and is not pressured to compromise its work for short-term advantage. For a Muslim university it is appropriate to see learning and knowledge as a continuing acknowledgement of Allah's magnificence.(Aga Khan IV, Speech, 1993, Aga Khan University)

That quest for a better life, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike, must lead inevitably to the Knowledge Society which is developing in our time. The great and central question facing the Ummah of today is how it will relate to the Knowledge Society of tomorrow.
The fundamental reason for the pre-eminence of Islamic civilizations lay neither in accidents of history nor in acts of war, but rather in their ability to discover new knowledge, to make it their own, and to build constructively upon it. They became the Knowledge Societies of their time.(Aga Khan IV, Speech, 2006, Aga Khan University)

Education has been important to my family for a long time. My forefathers founded al-Azhar University in Cairo some 1000 years ago, at the time of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt. Discovery of knowledge was seen by those founders as an embodiment of religious faith, and faith as reinforced by knowledge of workings of the Creator's physical world. The form of universities has changed over those 1000 years, but that reciprocity between faith and knowledge remains a source of strength. (Aga Khan IV, Speech,1994, Cambridge, Massachusets, U.S.A.)

The Muslim world, once a remarkable bastion of scientific and humanist knowledge, a rich and self-confident cradle of culture and art, has never forgotten its past.The great Muslim philosopher al-Kindi wrote eleven hundred years ago, "No one is diminished by the truth, rather does the truth ennobles all". That is no less true today.(Aga Khan IV, Speech,1996, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A.)

A thousand years ago, my forefathers, the Fatimid imam-caliphs of Egypt, founded al-Azhar University and the Academy of Knowledge in Cairo. In the Islamic tradition, they viewed the discovery of knowledge as a way to understand, so as to serve better God's creation, to apply knowledge and reason to build society and shape human aspirations.(Aga Khan IV, Speech, 2004, Matola, Mozambique.)

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
......Ismailism presents a cosmology within an adapted Neoplatonic framework but tries 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!'). The process of creation can be said to take place at several levels. Ibda' represents the initial level. The human intellect eventually relates to creation and tries to penetrate the mystery of the unknowable God.....
......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.(Dr. Azim Nanji, Director, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, U.K.)

The above 28 quotes and excerpts have been extracted from the following posts:


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)