Wednesday, January 31, 2007

125)Another one of those off-topic posts.

Every once in a while I deliberately go off topic to remind myself that there is a world out there outside the heady realm of science and religion in Islam. This post is one such venture out into the crispy fresh air to take a deep breath and re-energize. I did this once before with the story of my good friend Bryan and our lottery ticket capers(see blogpost 101).

About 1-2 weeks ago I was surfing a website I visit often, called Ismaili Mail,

This, IMHO, is a fast-moving, dynamic, very impressive and very popular website worldwide(see the number of hits it has received in its relatively short time of existence). There is a large variety of articles posted on this website that deal with anything Ismaili, especially those related to our Imam's activities world-wide. I came accross an article related to the cuisine of Ismaili groups in Hyderabad, India and enjoyed it very much. This prompted me to recommend another article about a recipe book authored by an aunt of mine(my late father's cousin), called "Mamajee's Kitchen", by Lella Umedaly of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Ismaili Mail Web Administrator graciously accepted my submission and it was posted on the website on January 25th 2007. To everyone elses surprise(but not to mine) it shot to the top-visited post and stayed there for 3 days(In a microcosmic way thats like being number one on the New York Times bestseller list for 3 weeks). As of today, January 31st 2007, it is still in the top half of the top-ten most visited articles on the Ismaili Mail website.

For selfish reasons I am posting a link to one section(called "My Life") of the "Mamajee's Kitchen" website, relating to the rich and diverse family history of this author, a good portion of which also happens to be my own family history. If you want to know something about easynash other than what you see on my blogsite profile, visit the following link:

To situate me in that family pedigree, I am the grandson of Rajabali Velshi(Keshavjee), "Uncle Rajabali" in the quoted text, the eldest son of his eldest son Rehmtulla Velshi.

To read the article as it appears on the Ismaili Mail website, visit

and find it under the Top Posts heading.

I highly recommend that you visit the Ismaili Mail website, which appears on the suggested links section on my blogsite. You will be hooked!


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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

124)Tawhid, Unity or Oneness, in the realms of both matter and spirit.

The Economist's most recent article in the Science and Technology discusses the continuous and relentless effort, begun during the 20th century, of trying to harmonize Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity, which applies well to large objects like planets, stars, galaxies and black holes, with Quantum Physics, which describes most accurately the sometimes strange behaviour of microscopic and sub-microscopic matter like atoms, protons, electrons, quarks, etc. Latest research has shown that Einstein's general relativity, which ushered in a new era in physics in the early 20th century, may not be as solid a theory as once thought, that its description of the macro-universe may only be approximately correct, not totally correct. Experiments currently underway and being planned for the future are well described in the article below. This is a good example of the dynamic and open-ended nature of science, which always sniffs in the direction that empirical research takes it.

The most cutting edge mathematical and scientific research, involving, among other things, String theory, is part of an attempt to unify Einstein's general relativity theory with Quantum physics to give us an intellectually and esthetically pleasing theory of everything, a unified theory that accurately describes how all matter, from the most miniscule size(called 1 Planck length, which is ten to the power minus thirty five meters in length) to the entire universe(thought to be at least 156 billion light years wide(156,000,000,000 multiplied by 10,000,000,000,000, or 156 times ten to the power 22 kilometers wide, and expanding), operates in the cosmos.

Of course, a totally unified rational explanation of how the material universe operates would be precisely in keeping with Islam's most fundamental principle of Tawhid, applicable at all levels of reality from matter to spirit, and then to the unified whole as well. I am, once again, reminded about key utterances of our 49th and 48th Imams:

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(Aga Khan 3, Memoirs, 1954).

Above all, following the guidance of the Holy Quran, there was freedom of enquiry and research. The result was a magnificent flowering of artistic and intellectual activity throughout the ummah(Aga Khan 4, 16 March 1983).

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 4, 2006)

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(Aga Khan 3, 1952).

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 4, 1983).

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(Aga Khan 3, Memoirs, 1954).

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 3, Memoirs, 1954).

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(Aga Khan 3, Memoirs, 1954).

This is a good article; its worth a read:

Weighing the universe
Jan 25th 2007
From The Economist print edition
How scientists are trying to find where Einstein went wrong:


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

Monday, January 29, 2007

123)A physics experiment with a prism we all did as children.

The person who was able to take this picture must have a remarkable knack for astrophotography. Click on the large arrow at the bottom right hand corner of the photograph to see the quick sequence of the breakup of white sunlight into some of its component colours(green in particular) of the spectrum. Anyone who has taken science at junior or high school will remember doing the same thing using a prism. Rainbows we have all also seen operate on the same scientific principle, where visible light of different wavelengths also has different frequencies of speed corresponding to the unique colours of the spectrum(red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet), which can be seperated out by the process of refraction or bending of normal or white light:


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

Sunday, January 28, 2007

122)A vote of appreciation to my many blogreaders.

I want to express my appreciation to the many people who have visited this new personal blogsite since I created it in December 2006. As you know, the first 78 posts were made on the FIELD Ismaili Net website between March and December 2006(see blogpost no. 78 for more details). Since December 10th 2006 all posts of mine have been cross-posted to the vast FIELD website, under the Doctrines section, as well. I am actually very overwhelmed by the tremendous response to my blogsite from people in every continent on planet Earth. I am even more pleased at the large numbers of repeat visitors to the site. Thank you to everyone from around the globe for your vote of confidence.

While this blogsite discusses much in terms of the details of scientific discoveries ranging from the macroscopic(stars, galaxies, planets, etc) to the microscopic and sub-microscopic(molecules, atoms, protons, electrons, quarks, etc), it is important to remember that these ayats(signs) of nature are always looked at from within the tradition of Shia Ismaili Islam and, in particular, from within the rich tapestry of cosmological doctrines developed in the Ismaili muslim firmament over a thousand years ago. My signature post, consisting of utterances from each of the 49th and 48th Ismaili Imams, serves as a constant reminder after each post that we are looking at knowledge of nature with an Ismaili muslim spin on it. Hence an object or event or ayat(sign) in nature is seen to be equivalent to an ayat or verse of scripture as the cosmologist-philosopher-theologians see it, and both are seen to come from exactly the same source of divine inspiration, the Intellect. There is, therefore, a cascading sequence of knowledge from the Intellect downwards to tiniest matter. More importantly, one can invoke the same cascading sequence in reverse to find ones way back up to the Intellect if one is interested in such things.

In concluding, I firmly beleive that an intellectual alliance between the powerhouse of rational knowledge that is the West and the well-aged doctrines of wisdom of the cosmologist-philosopher-theologians of, in particular, Shia Ismaili Islam, would be a far better and more mutually meaningful alliance in the long term than what is currently on the table.


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

Saturday, January 27, 2007

121)Medieval castles, the Moon and lessons from bright planet Venus.

A brilliant night-time scene of our Moon and the planet Venus, the 2nd rocky planet from the Sun(planets Mercury, Earth and Mars are, respectively, the 1st, 3rd and 4th rocky planets from the Sun. This picture is interesting also for its backdrop, which is the Castle Almodovar in Almodovar, near Cordoba, built during the muslim Ummayad era in Spain during the 8th century:

Rocky planet Venus is the brightest planet in our night sky in the Northern Hemisphere. However, while this is certainly beneficial for our viewing pleasure, the only reason Venus is so bright is because it is surrounded by very thick clouds made of carbon dioxide, which reflect sunlight very well. What we see when we look up at Venus, then, is not the planet's surface but the thick clouds of carbon dioxide that completely shroud the planet's surface from view. Contrast that to the brilliantly azure mixed with wispy white clouds picture of our planet earth as taken by the Apollo astronauts from the Moon in the late 1960s(Earthrise, the picture that made people fall in love with Astronomy):

The temperature on earth-sized Venus is about 485 degrees C day and night and this is directly the consequence of the greenhouse effect, where UV rays from sunlight stream onto the planet, change to infrared waves after hitting the surface, causing tremendous heat generation, and are prevented from escaping by the thick carbon dioxide cloud cover that makes up the planet's atmosphere. The resulting global warming is what causes Venus's around the clock surface temperature to be so high:

Now, where else have I heard the phrase Global Warming before?


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

Thursday, January 25, 2007

120)One of the better pictures of the Orion nebula, a place where new "heavens" and "earths" are formed.

One of the better pictures of the Orion nebula, a prolific star-forming region a mere 1500 light years(15 thousand trillion kilometers!) away from planet Earth:

The two contiguous well-lit areas in the center of the hydrogen-soaked nebula get their light from new stars being formed in the vicinity as well as old stars like the three that form the belt of Orion:


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

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

119)Which planet was made first in the grand scheme of things, planet Mars or planet Earth?

From the same Economist article I quoted in my previous post(No.118) comes the knowledge that, based on isotope studies, planet Mars was formed before planet Earth when our Solar system was being created. This, despite the fact that planet Earth is the 3rd planet from the Sun and planet Mars is the 4th planet from the Sun:

"Isotopes can even indicate the order in which the planets formed. The decay products of a short-lived isotope called hafnium-187, also suspected of being formed in the supernova that brought aluminium-26 to the solar system, are rare on Earth. On Mars they are more abundant. This indicates that Mars formed before Earth, trapping hafnium-187 while there was still some around."

Fire from heaven
Dec 19th 2006From The Economist print edition
Meteorites are made up of evidence about how the solar system was born:


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

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

118)A snapshot of matter that went into the creation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

"Astronomy, the so-called “Science of the Universe” was a field of particular distinction in Islamic civilization-–in sharp contrast to the weakness of Islamic countries in the field of Space research today. In this field, as in others, intellectual leadership is never a static condition, but something which is always shifting and always dynamic."(Aga Khan 4, Convocation, American University of Cairo, June 15th 2006)

Fire from heaven
Dec 19th 2006
From The Economist print edition
Meteorites are made up of evidence about how the solar system was born

"Meteorites fascinate scientists because they are the smashed-up remnants of asteroids—the tiny wannabe planets that orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Because asteroids never got it together to form a larger planet, a lot of what they are made of was formed in the solar system's earliest days. So meteorites are tangible evidence of what was happening when the solar system was born."


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

Monday, January 22, 2007

117)Astronomical potpourri.

The Sombrero galaxy in infrared:

The Sombrero galaxy(shaped like a Mexican hat or sombrero) ,

is 50,000 light years in diameter. That would be approximately 500,000,000,000,000,000 or 500 thousand trillion kilometers just to get from one end of the galaxy to the other, to give you an idea of the unimaginable sizes and distances involved in space. The galaxy is 28 million light years away from planet earth. Try figuring that out in kilometers!

What is a light year in kilometers:

The magnificent tail of Comet McNaught as seen in the southern hemisphere:


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

Sunday, January 21, 2007

116)Impending and exciting advances in Science.

The following three articles speak to a very exciting time in scientific discovery now and in the near future. Their significance goes to the very heart of the title of my blogsite, The Link Between Science and Religion in Islam. More significanly, the two utterances that make up my signature post reveal unequivocally how the material universe forms one critical component of the structure of truth, the ultimate nature of which it is the goal of religion to reach:

"The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being"(Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan 3, April 4th 1952, 'What have we forgotten in 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."(Mowlana Hazar Imam, Shah Karim Al-Husayni, Aga Khan 4, October 9th 2006, Interview with 'Spiegel' newspaper)

Physicists closing in on mysterious missing Higgs particle:

A possible particle of dark matter, the Axion:

Building bigger telescopes:


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

Friday, January 19, 2007

115)Comet McNaught's farewell to skies in the Northern Hemisphere.

More amazing pictures of Comet McNaught, including some seen during broad daylight: One interesting aspect of the comet is the composition of the tail. The caption below the first picture in the following series has a description of the composition of the 'ion tail':


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

Thursday, January 18, 2007

114)'Intellect and Faith' as expounded in the preamble of the website of the Aga Khan Development Network.

Intellect and Faith

The intellect plays a central role in Shia tradition. Indeed, the principle of submission to the Imam's guidance, explicitly derived from the revelation, is considered essential for nurturing and developing the gift of intellect whose role in Shiism is elevated as an important facet of the faith. Consonant with the role of the intellect is the responsibility of individual conscience, both of which inform the Ismaili tradition of tolerance embedded in the injunction of the Quran: There is no compulsion in religion.

In Shia Islam, the role of the intellect has never been perceived within a confrontational mode of revelation versus reason, the context which enlivened the debate, during the classical age of Islam, between the rationalists who gave primacy to reason, and the traditionalists who opposed such primacy without, however, denying a subordinate role for reason in matters of faith.
The Shia tradition, rooted in the teachings of Imams Ali and Jafar as-Sadiq, emphasizes the complementarity between revelation and intellectual reflection, each substantiating the other. This is the message that the Prophet conveys in a reported tradition: "We (the Prophets) speak to people in the measure of their intelligences". The Imams Ali and Jafar as-Sadiq expounded the doctrine that the Quran addresses different levels of meaning: the literal, the alluded esoteric purport, the limit as to what is permitted and what is forbidden, and the ethical vision which God intends to realise through man, with Divine support, for an integral moral society. The Quran thus offers the believers the possibility, in accordance with their own inner capacities, to derive newer insights to address the needs of time.

An unwavering belief in God combined with trust in the liberty of human will finds a recurring echo in the sermons and sayings of the Imams. Believers are asked to weigh their actions with their own conscience. None other can direct a person who fails to guide and warn himself, while there is Divine help for those who exert themselves on the right path. In the modern period, this Alid view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith continues to find resonance in the guidance of the present Imam and his immediate predecessor. Aga Khan III describes Islam as a natural religion, which values intellect, logic and empirical experience. Religion and science are both endeavours to understand, in their own ways, the mystery of God's creation. A man of faith who strives after truth, without forsaking his worldly obligations, is potentially capable of rising to the level of the company of the Prophet's family.

The present Imam has often spoken about the role of the intellect in the realm of the faith. Appropriately, he made the theme a centrepiece of his two inaugural addresses at the Aga Khan University: "In Islamic belief, knowledge is two-fold. There is that revealed through the Holy Prophet and that which man discovers by virtue of his own intellect. Nor do these two involve any contradiction, provided man remembers that his own mind is itself the creation of God. Without this humility, no balance is possible. With it, there are no barriers. 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".

Muslims need not be apprehensive, he said, of these continuing journeys of the mind to comprehend the universe of God's creation, including one's own self. The tendency to restrict academic inquiry to the study of past accomplishments was at variance with the belief in the timeless relevance of the Islamic message. "Our faith has never been restricted to one place or one time. Ever since its revelation, the fundamental concept of Islam has been its universality and the fact that this is the last revelation, constantly valid, and not petrified into one period of man's history or confined to one area of the world."

Crossing the frontiers of knowledge through scientific and other endeavours, and facing up to the challenges of ethics posed by an evolving world is, thus, seen as a requirement of the faith. The Imam's authoritative guidance provides a liberating, enabling framework for an individual's quest for meaning and for solutions to the problems of life. An honest believer accepts the norms and ethics of the faith which guide his quest, recognises his own inner capacities and knows that when in doubt he should seek the guidance of the one vested with authority who, in Shia tradition, is the Alid imam of the time from the Prophet's progeny.


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

113)The material universe as a part of the structure of truth.

This is a cutting edge article that talks about an invisible scaffolding(dark matter) that gives shape and form to the visible universe that our telescopes see out there. The visible universe makes up only 5% of the total picture. About 25% is made up of invisible dark matter and the rest(70%) is made up of dark energy, also invisible. Dark matter and dark energy are made up of fundamental particles as yet undiscovered by science but their presence in the universe can be inferred by ingenious experiments, some of which are detailed in the article below.

Of what interest is this to an Ismaili drawn towards cosmology-philosophy-theology? Lots, because the Ismaili worldview insists that the material universe(whether visible or invisible) is a critical component of the structure of truth and the goal of religion in the life of an individual Ismaili is to discover the ultimate nature of truth.

Interestingly, our 48th Imam tells us in his legendary 'Usul-e-Din' farman of Bombay, 1899:

"My task is to show you the way to the Truth so that you may reach your ultimate destiny, which is Fanafillah"

The article:
Science & Technology

I spy with my little gravitational lens
Jan 11th 2007
From The Economist print edition

How to map the invisible

SEVENTY years ago Fritz Zwicky, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology, discovered that galaxies are not big enough. The visible matter they contain (stars, gas and so on) does not have enough gravity to hold them together. To explain this bewildering missing mass—a result verified independently by many of Zwicky's colleagues—he suggested that galaxies (and therefore, by extension, the universe) contain a lot of additional, invisible matter.

Dark matter, as the invisible stuff is now referred to, has turned out to be one of the most mysterious things around. Subsequent work has shown that it cannot be composed of the same particles (ie, protons, neutrons and electrons) as the visible stuff. But its gravity not only holds galaxies together, it controls their distribution in space—as a study announced in Seattle at this week's meeting of the American Astronomical Society, and published simultaneously in Nature, confirms.

The Cosmic Evolution Survey is the single largest project yet undertaken by the Hubble space telescope. It spent over 1,000 hours of the instrument's valuable observing time examining a section of the firmament about nine times the size of a full moon. Richard Massey, one of Zwicky's successors at Caltech, and his colleagues have used the data collected by the survey to draw the most extensive map of dark matter yet attempted.

They did so by employing a technique called gravitational lensing. This exploits one of the predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity: that the path of a beam of light (which is a straight line in empty space) is bent inwards by the gravity of a massive object. The result is that such objects act as lenses, distorting the images of anything behind them.

Since dark matter is very massive indeed (there is about six times as much of it around as there is visible matter) it makes good gravitational lenses. Dr Massey and his colleagues were able to map the matter (both dark and visible) in the bit of the firmament covered by the Cosmic Evolution Survey by looking for characteristic distortions in the shape of distant galaxies that only Hubble, which is beyond the image-blurring effects of the atmosphere, can see. Regions rich in distorted galaxies were assumed to be places where large amounts of matter were present between the distorted galaxies and Earth.

That, however, only provided the researchers with a two-dimensional map of such concentrations of matter. Two further refinements were necessary: to work out the third dimension—distance from Earth—and to subtract the effect of visible matter in order to be left with the distribution of dark matter pure and simple.

The trick they used to perform the first refinement was a piece of basic optics. This is that a lens produces its biggest effect when it is halfway between source and observer. The most distorted galaxies, therefore, were those twice as far from Earth as the gravitational lens distorting them. And the distance of such galaxies from Earth can be measured.

That measurement uses another sort of optical distortion—this time of the wavelength of light. The expansion of the universe causes galaxies to recede from one another, and light from a receding object appears redder than that from a stationary object. The farther away a galaxy is, the faster it is receding and the bigger this red shift will be. Measure the distance to the most distorted galaxies and halve it, and you know roughly where your lenses are.

The result is a three-dimensional map of matter. To see which bits of it are dark matter simply requires superimposing the known pattern of visible matter.

Doing so is instructive, as Dr Massey's colleague Nick Scoville reported to the meeting. Dark and visible matter usually coincide. Their overlap confirms the hypothesis that dark matter is the skeleton upon which visible matter is supported, and also lends weight to a second idea—that galaxies form where dark matter accumulates at high densities, pulling visible matter with it. This study, then, has cast light on the darkest of matters and promises a far better understanding of the structure of the universe.


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

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

112)The cascading upward sequence of knowledge from matter to spirit.

This is an excellent article, from the website of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, U.K., which describes the rich desire of people in medieval Muslim civilizations to avail themselves of the cascading sequence of knowledge, ranging from rationally-acquired knowledge about the material universe to transcendental knowledge about the divine and everything in-between:


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

Monday, January 15, 2007

111)Tiniest matter: The strange world of the Quantum. Harbinger of the world of spirit?

Instant Expert: Quantum World
11:18 04 September 2006 news service
Maggie McKee

If successful scientific theories can be thought of as cures for stubborn problems, quantum physics was the wonder drug of the 20th century. It successfully explained phenomena such as radioactivity and antimatter, and no other theory can match its description of how light and particles behave on small scales.

But it can also be mind-bending. Quantum objects can exist in multiple states and places at the same time, requiring a mastery of statistics to describe them. Rife with uncertainty and riddled with paradoxes, the theory has been criticised for casting doubt on the notion of an objective reality - a concept many physicists, including Albert Einstein, have found hard to swallow.
Today, scientists are grappling with these philosophical conundrums, trying to harness quantum's bizarre properties to advance technology, and struggling to weave quantum physics and general relativity into a seamless theory of quantum gravity.

The birth of an idea

Quantum theory began to take shape in the early 20th century, when classical ideas failed to explain some observations. Previous theories allowed atoms to vibrate at any frequency, leading to incorrect predictions that they could radiate infinite amounts of energy - a problem known as the ultraviolet catastrophe.

In 1900, Max Planck solved this problem by assuming atoms can vibrate only at specific, or quantised, frequencies. Then, in 1905, Einstein cracked the mystery of the photoelectric effect, whereby light falling on metal releases electrons of specific energies. The existing theory of light as waves failed to explain the effect, but Einstein provided a neat solution by suggesting light came in discrete packages of energy called photons - a brain wave that won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

Quantum weirdness

In fact, light's chameleon-like ability to behave as either a particle or a wave, depending on the experimental setup, has long stymied scientists. Danish physicist Niels Bohr explained this wave-particle duality by doing away with the concept of a reality separate from one's observations. In his "Copenhagen interpretation", Bohr argued that the very act of measurement affects what we observe.

One controversial experiment recently challenged this either/or scenario of light by apparently detecting evidence of both wave- and particle-like behaviour simultaneously. The work suggests there may be no such thing as photons - light appears quantised only because of the way it interacts with matter.

Other interpretations of quantum theory - of which there are at least half a dozen - deal with the measurement problem by suggesting even more far-fetched concepts than a universe dependent on measurement. The popular many worlds interpretation suggests quantum objects display several behaviours because they inhabit an infinite number of parallel universes.

Uncertainty rules

For about 70 years, this wave-particle duality was explained by another unsettling tenet of quantum theory - the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Formulated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927 and recently made more precise, the theory puts an upper limit on knowledge. It says one can never know both the position and momentum of a quantum object - measuring one invariably changes the other.

Bohr defeated Einstein in a series of thought experiments in the 1920s and 1930s using this principle, but more recent work suggests the underlying cause of the duality seen in experiments is a phenomenon called entanglement.

Entanglement is the idea that in the quantum world, objects are not independent if they have interacted with each other or come into being through the same process. They become linked, or entangled, such that changing one invariably affects the other, no matter how far apart they are - something Einstein called "spooky action at a distance".

This may be involved in superconductivity and may even explain why objects have mass. It also holds promise for "teleporting" particles across vast distances - assuming everyone agrees on a reference frame. The first teleportation of a quantum state occurred in 1998, and scientists have been gradually entangling more and more particles, different kinds of particles, and large particles.

Secure networks

Entanglement may also provide a nearly uncrackable method of communication. Quantum cryptographers can send "keys" to decode encrypted information using quantum particles. Any attempt to intercept the particles will disturb their quantum state - an interference that could then be detected.

In April 2004, Austrian financial institutions performed the first money transfer encrypted by quantum keys, and in June, the first encrypted computer network with more than two nodes was set up across 10 kilometres in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US.

But keeping quantum particles entangled is a tricky business. Researchers are working on how to maximise the particles' signal and distance travelled. Using a sensitive photon detector, researchers in the UK recently sent encrypted photons down the length of a 100-kilometre fibre optic cable. Researchers in the US devised a scheme to entangle successive clouds of atoms in the hopes of one day making a quantum link between the US cities of Washington, DC, and New York.

Lightning-fast computers

Quantum computers are another long-term goal. Because quantum particles can exist in multiple states at the same time, they could be used to carry out many calculations at once, factoring a 300-digit number in just seconds compared to the years required by conventional computers.

But to maintain their multi-state nature, particles must remain isolated long enough to carry out the calculations - a very challenging condition. Nonetheless, some progress has been made in this area. A trio of electrons, the building blocks of classical computers, were entangled in a semiconductor in 2003, and the first quantum calculation was made with a single calcium ion in 2002. In October 2004, the first quantum memory component was built from a string of caesium atoms.

But particles of matter interact so easily with others that their quantum states are preserved for very short times - just billionths of a second. Photons, on the other hand, maintain their states about a million times longer because they are less prone to interact with each other. But they are also hard to store, as they travel, literally, at the speed of light.

In 2001, scientists managed to stop light in its tracks, overcoming one practical hurdle. And the first quantum logic gate - the brains behind quantum computers - was created with light in 2003.

Quantum gravity

While three of the four fundamental forces of nature - those operating on very small scales - are well accounted for by quantum theory, gravity is its Achilles heel. This force works on a much larger scale and quantum theory has been powerless so far to explain it.

A number of bizarre theories have been proposed to bridge this gap, many of which suggest that the very fabric of space-time bubbles up with random quantum fluctuations - a foam of wormholes and infinitesimal black holes.

Such a foam is thought to have filled the universe during the big bang, dimpling space-time so that structures such as stars and galaxies could later take shape.

The most popular quantum gravity theory says that particles and forces arise from the vibrations of tiny loops - or strings - just 10-35 metres long. Another says that space and time are discrete at the smallest scales, emerging from abstractions called "spin networks".
One recent theory, called "doubly special relativity", tweaks Einstein's idea of one cosmic invariant - the speed of light - and adds another at a very small scale. The controversial theory accounts for gravity, inflation, and dark energy. Physicists are now devising observations and experiments that could test the competing theories.

Economies of scale

Quantum physics is usually thought to act on light and particles smaller than molecules. Some researchers believe there must be some cut-off point where classical physics takes over, such as the point where the weak pull of gravity overwhelms other forces (in fact, gravity's effect on neutrons was recently measured). But macroscopic objects can obey quantum rules if they don't get entangled.

Certainly, harnessing troops of atoms or photons that follow quantum laws holds great technological promise. Recent work cooling atoms to near absolute zero have produced new forms of matter called Bose-Einstein and fermionic condensates. These have been used to create laser beams made of atoms that etch precise patterns on surfaces, and might one day lead to superconductors that work at room temperature.

All of these hopes suggest that, as queasy as quantum can be, it remains likely to be the most powerful scientific cure-all for years to come.


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

110)Comet McNaught over Catalonia, Spain.

Comet McNaught(see also blogpost no 107) is now considered to be the brightest comet visible in the sky since 1965. Today, January 15th 2007, it is seen in the skies over Catalonia, Spain. Pictures taken earlier showed the comet over Poland and Germany as well:


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

Saturday, January 13, 2007

109)Stellar nurseries in the cosmos; Ayats(Signs) in nature.

These are just a few of the billions and billions of star-forming regions in space. Powerful telescopes have revealed(during the 20th century) the formation of stars at different stages of the process, from the pinching off of a sliver of gas and dust from a nebula, to its coalescence into a baby star, to young stars with and without orbiting planets, to old and very old stars( red giants and white dwarfs), some of which are about to become supernovae and explode, others of which are destined to become black holes from which even light cannot escape. The creation of new "heavens" and "earths" has been shown to be a routine and orderly occurence in the cosmos, though no less enthralling, magical and exhilirating for us to witness:

Quranic ayats(from the 7th century):

"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, Chapter 21, Verse 30: "Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together before We clove them asunder, and of water fashioned every thing? Will they not then believe?"


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

108)More about Ibn al-Haytham(965-1039), or Alhazen, from the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Facts About Ibn al-Haytham

Ibn al-Haytham was a prolific writer who composed no less than 44 treatises on physics, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, medicine and other subjects. Many of these works were produced from a modest room in the college-mosque of al-Azhar provided to him by the Fatimid state. One of Ibn al-Haytham’s remarkable achievements was a detailed description of the human eye and the functions of its various parts. He also wrote on the propagation of light and colours, optical illusions and reflections, spherical and parabolic mirrors, shadows and eclipses, the rainbow and the halo. He was one of the earliest scholars to recognise gravity as a force and knew correctly the relations between the motion, space and time of falling bodies. Most of his scientific writings are of a highly mathematical character and based on his own experiments and calculations.

Ibn al-Haytham was a genuine scientist who made new discoveries in the physical universe. His greatest contribution was in the field of optics, for which he is called the “father of optics”. All the current ideas about light, optics and ophthalmology are founded upon his observations and findings. According to the historian of science, George Sarton, Ibn al-Haytham is the greatest Muslim physicist and one of the great opticians of all time. By his emphasis on precise observation and experimentation, he anticipated the empirical approach of European scientists in the modern era.

The complete article here:


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

107)A Comet, with its tail made of ice and dust, on its way towards the sun.

Comet McNaught, discovered in August 2006 by a man called McNaught, is seen from three different cameras in places like Krakow, Poland and Mergentheim, Germany between January 5th and 13th 2007:

For more information on comets in general, visit:

Mowlana Hazar Imam, in his convocation address to the American University of Cairo on June 15th 2006, said:

"Astronomy, the so-called “Science of the Universe” was a field of particular distinction in Islamic civilization-in sharp contrast to the weakness of Islamic countries in the field of Space research today. In this field, as in others, intellectual leadership is never a static condition, but something which is always shifting and always dynamic."


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

Friday, January 12, 2007

106)Symbolism, Allegory, Esoteric interpretation, Spiritual hermeneutics at its loftiest.

The Days of Creation in the Thought of Nasir Khusraw

Dr Shafique N Virani

This is an edited version of an article originally published in Nasir Khusraw: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, Khujand, 2005, Publishing House “Noshir”, pp.74-83.


This article explores the symbolic meaning of “the day of creation” in Ismaili thought with a particular emphasis on Nasir Khusraw’s interpretation of the phrase. The days of creation, were considered the great cycles of prophecy and Ismaili scholars always endeavoured to focus on the esoteric meaning of the expression. In referring to Al-Mu‘ayad fi’l Din Shirazi and Abu Ya’qub al-Sijistani, the work elaborates how Nasir Khusraw developed this notion further, suggesting that the symbolic meaning of the creation of the Universe refers to seven prophets that were sent to guide mankind. It succeeds in building an entire doctrine around “the creation of the earth in seven days” by putting strong emphasis on the role of Imam and hujjats in guiding people.

Download PDF version of article (88 KB)

Key words

al- Mu‘ayyad fi’l-Din Shirazi, creation, ta’wil, qa’im-i qiyama, Sabbath, cycles of prophecy, natiq, asas, adhan, haqiqat, Universal Intellect, Universal Soul, Ramadan, wasi, hadd, tawhid, laylat al-qadr, qibla, rak‘at, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Jami‘ al-hikmatayn.

Table of Contents:

Place of Ta’wil in the Doctrine of Sabbath
The Spiritual and the Physical Part of the World of Religion
Universal Intellect and Universal Soul

Place of Ta’wil in the doctrine of Sabbath

Lo! Your Lord is God Who created the heavens and the earth in six days.Then He ascended the Throne... (Qur’an 7:54)And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy... (Genesis 2:3).

The Abrahamic faiths share a belief in the completion of creation in six days, with the seventh day, or Sabbath, having a hallowed aura of particular veneration and sanctity. Reflecting on this notion, the prominent Ismaili dignitary, al-Mu‘ayyad fi’l-Din Shirazi, observes that the exoteric expositors of this doctrine are completely befuddled in their explanations of it. By confounding scriptural statements which, in his view, are clearly symbolic, with crude speculations about the creation of the physical universe in six twenty-four hour periods, they have completely misunderstood the sacred texts. Al- Mu‘ayyad reasons that time itself is marked by the movement of the celestial spheres, with the rising and setting of the sun indicating to human beings the passing of the days. Now, if creation had yet to occur, if God had yet to fashion the sun, the earth and the planetary bodies, how then could these verses refer to the passage of time, as it is conventionally understood? The sage is even less impressed by those who claim, citing a Qur’anic verse, that the creation of the heavens and the earth takes God six days, each spanning a thousand years.1 Certainly, he opines, the Creator, whose power is infinite, is not limited by time in his creation; as He says in the Qur’an, ‘Ours is but a single Command, like the twinkling of an eye’ (54:50).2 There must therefore be a deeper meaning to the six days of creation, he asserts, and it is the place of ta’wil, of esoteric exegesis, to unveil that meaning.3

In his masterpiece of ta’wil, the Wajh-i din, al-Mu‘ayyad’s colleague Nasir Khusraw expounds on the ideas behind the spiritual hermeneutics of this tradition as follows:

It is mentioned in the traditions that God, may He be exalted, commenced the creation of the world on Sunday, completed it on Friday and rested on Saturday. The import of this tradition has been hidden from the people since the dawn of time. All have accepted it according to the capacity of their intellects. The Jews revere the Sabbath and do not work on it because God rested on this day. However, they are unaware that when the Prophets said this, they meant people to know that, by the Command of God, six Prophets would come to this world to command people to work. When the seventh came, he would not command in this manner. Rather, he would reward them for their labours. They called it the Sabbath and declared it sacred.4

Thus, according to the ta’wil, these days do not concern the creation of the physical universe. They refer to the creation of a spiritual cosmos, a creation that commenced with Adam, who represented the first day of the week, Sunday, and continued with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, who represented Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Muhammad, who is represented by Friday, brought this creation to its completion.5 Yet, to come was the last and final day, which would consummate the entire spiritual creation; a day not meant for the commandment of work, but rather for the allocation of reward and retribution. This was the Sabbath, or Lord of the Resurrection (qa’im-i qiyama).6 People await the advent of the Sabbath, for there will he repose on that day for those who have recognised the reality of these days and who laboured in fulfilment of (the Prophets’) command and with knowledge. Those who toil physically in this physical world and know the esoteric meaning of this with their souls today, will be rewarded for it tomorrow in the spiritual world.7

The days of creation, in Ismaili thought, were considered the great cycles of prophecy. God’s meaning in these verses concerned not the dense world of earthly phenomena, but a world of far greater import, that of religion. In the former, the movement of the celestial spheres marks time, while in the latter, it is marked by the coming of God’s messengers, the lords of the cycles (sahiban-i adwar). The structure of these cycles of prophecy was of tremendous interest to the Ismaili savants. This paper will explore Nasir Khusraw’s exposition of these cycles, the days of creation, and their consummation in the advent of the Sabbath.

The Spiritual and the Physical Part of the World of Religion

To our author, the world of religion is composed of two parts, one spiritual and one physical. The spiritual world, which is beyond time and space, consists of the Universal Intellect and the Universal Soul. It precedes this lower, physical world and its temporal cycles. The two great angels of the spiritual world are called into existence from nothing and are simple.8 Paralleling these two angels in the physical world are the natiq and the asas, the Enunciator (of the divine revelation) and the Foundation (of its esoteric interpretation).9 The natiqs, of whom there are six, the qa’im being the seventh, are the lords of the major cycles, or what may be referred to as the greater days. These days are themselves divided into seven days, the minor cycles, which are the cycles of the Imams.10 The periods are sometimes differentiated by referring to the major cycle of the natiq as dawr, while referring to the minor cycle of the Imam as ruzgar or zamana.11 Nasir Khusraw’s predecessor, Abu Ya’qub al-Sijistani, traces six imams between every two natiqs, but states that in the period of the sixth natiq, there will be numerous imams until the coming of the lord of the Sabbath, the qa’im.12 In this regard, he must have had in mind the well-known prophetic tradition, equally cited by Nasir, ‘If there were to remain of time but a single day, God would prolong that day until there would come a man from among my descendants who would fill the earth with equity and justice even as it has been filled with oppression and injustice.’13 That final day, which is prolonged until the coming of the qa’im, is the day of Muhammad.

Each of the seven lords of the major cycles is a link between the spiritual world and the physical world. Their bodies are earthly, but their subtle spirits belong to the celestial realm. It is through their subtle spirits that they accept the bounties of that realm, and through their physical bodies that they convey these bounties to the physical world. However, Nasir asserts, human speech can never capture the reality of the spiritual world, but can only hint at it.14

In the minor cycle, the Imam and his hujjat, or proof, are the parallels of the natiq and the asas in the major cycle. Hence, in ta’wil, the symbols associated with the natiq and the asas in the major cycle, are often related equally to the Imam and the hujjat in the minor cycle. Nasir Khusraw’s ta’wil of the adhan, or call to prayer, may be taken as an example. When proclaiming the adhan, the muezzin turns his face to the right while announcing ‘come to prayer’ (hayya ‘ala’l-salat) and turns his face to the left while announcing ‘come to salvation’ (hayya ‘ala’l-falah). According to Nasir, the right hand signifies the natiq and the left, the asas. Similarly, the right hand signifies the imam and the left, the hujjat. By saying ‘come to prayer’ and turning his face to the right, the muezzin indicates, ‘you should accept the natiq and the imam who are the lords of the zahir, the exoteric, by performing the exoteric prayer.’ By saying ‘come to salvation’ and turning his face to the left, the muezzin indicates, ‘by listening to the knowledge of reality (haqiqat) you should accept the asas and the hujjat, who are the lords of the batin, the esoteric.’15

Universal Intellect and Universal Soul

Nasir Khusraw explains that just as the human body is sustained by the four elements, earth, air, fire and water, the human soul is nourished by the four hadds, or spiritual dignitaries, the Universal Intellect, the Universal Soul, the natiq and the asas. Two of the four elements, air and fire, are subtle, while two, earth and water, are dense. Similarly, two of these hadds, the Intellect and the Soul, are spiritual, while two, the natiq and the asas, are physical. With respect to the body these latter two are human beings, but with respect to intellect and soul, they are archangels.16 As in a day the brightness of the moon succeeds that of the sun, in the major cycle, the natiq is represented by the sun and the asas by the moon, while in the minor cycle, the Imam is represented by the sun and the hujjat by the moon.17

The Universal Intellect, the Universal Soul, hadd, fath and khayal, also known as the Pen, the Tablet, Seraphiel, Michael and Gabriel,18 are the five spiritual hadds who are eternal and unchanging. They are ontologically beyond the world of cycles. Paralleling these five spiritual beings in the physical world are the natiq, the asas, the imam, the bab (gate)19 and the hujjat. These are the five physical hadds, whose status continues in every cycle, or day.20 It was in reference to these five spiritual and physical entities that the Prophet said, ‘I received it [i.e., the divine message] from the five and conveyed it to the five.’21 The five earthly hadds are the recipients of ta’yid, or spiritual inspiration, from the celestial hadds (hudud-i ‘ulwi), while the ranks below them, i.e. the da‘i, the greater and lesser ma’dhuns (the licentiates) and the mustajibs (initiates), do not have access to this direct spiritual inspiration and are thus the recipients of ta’wil.22 Every rank acts as the Imam, or guide, of the rank below it. The ma’dhun is the imam of the mustalibs, the da‘i is the Imam of the ma’dhuns, the hujjat is the Imam of the da‘is and so on. It is in this light that Nasir understands the Qur’anic dictum, ‘The day when we shall summon all humankind through their Imam’ (17:71).23

Abu Ya-qub al-Sijistani explains that everything in creation has a quintessence (maghz). Among animals, the quintessence is the human being, the rational animal or natiq-i zinda. He is the fruit of all creation; every proceeding form having appeared in anticipation of his advent. As reasoned speech is the distinguishing characteristic of humankind, the thoughts enunciated by human beings in the course of a cycle resemble milk that may be churned to produce cream, which is hidden in the milk. The summa of these subtle thoughts is given a form and is bestowed upon a single individual, who can give voice to the cream or quintessence of all human reason. This individual is the one invested with the prophetic mission. The words of the prophet implant themselves in the hearts of his people, because his words are palatable to them, as they represent the pinnacle of human wisdom.24 As Nasir Khusraw explains, the prophet received a complete share of knowledge from the Universal Intellect, so that he would be able to convey to the innate, but incomplete, intellects of human beings that which they lacked, and hence bring them to perfection.25 Unlike other human beings, the prophet is not dependent on deficient human reason, but is inspired by Gabriel, ‘the trusted spirit,’ who in turn is inspired by the Universal Intellect.26

As mentioned above, the lords of the cycles are distinguished by the ta’yid, the spiritual inspiration that they receive from the Universal Soul through jadd, fath and khayal. In Nasir Khusraw’s ta’wil, the evening prayer is a symbol of the Universal Soul. After the farida or obligatory portion of this prayer, there are six sunnat rak‘ats.27 This signifies that the Universal Soul inspires the six natiqs under him, so that they may convey his light to the people.28 Similarly, the afternoon prayer is the symbol of the natiq. In Arabic, it is known as zuhr. This is because the natiq is charged with bringing the zahir (a word derived from the tri-letterl root, za’, ha’, ra’, which is also the root of zuhr), the exoteric revelation, to the people. Furthermore, the time of this prayer commences six hours after sunrise; that is, the advent of the current natiq, Muhammad, comes after the passing away of six Imams from the cycle of Jesus, who was the sun of his cycle.29

In relation to each other, the lords of the cycles resemble the days of the week, each succeeding the next, with Adam being the first day and the qa’im being the Sabbath. However, between every two natiqs are six imams or lords of ta’wil. In relation to the lords of ta’wil, the natiqs were like the Fridays that occur in the cycle of seven days.30 In Arabic, Friday is known as yawm al-jumu‘a, the day of assembly or gathering, because on that day all the people of the community assemble in one place. Similarly, the Friday prayer signifies the natiq, because the natiq is the seventh imam, who gathers within himself the ranks of his six predecessors.31 Before reaching his position, the natiq first passes through the ranks of mustajib, ma’dhun, da‘i, hujjat, etc., finally attaining the station of a nabi, or prophet.32

The natiqs are the lords of the revelation (tanzil), who convey the light of the Universal Soul in a physical form, i.e., the parables and symbols of the holy books. But each of the natiqs has a wasi, a legatee, who begets a line of imams. These imams are charged with the ta’wil, the spiritual interpretation, of these parables and symbols back to their primordial form as pure light. Hence, Nasir Khusraw explains, when God speaks of the Prophets in Qur’an 35:25, he speaks in the plural. This is because the tanzil, the exoteric revelation, may take different forms. However, when he speaks in the same verse of the imams, the lords of ta’wil, addressing them as the Luminous Book, he uses the singular. This is because the meaning of all the revelations is one, regardless of the variety in their modes of expression.33 Adam’s wasi was Seth, Noah’s was Shem, Abraham’s was Ishmael, Moses’ was Aaron, Jesus’ was Simon Peter and Muhammad’s was Ali.34

Every Prophet, wasi and Imam has twelve hujjats, who are what are sometimes called the hujjats of the day. One among the twelve hujjats of the prophet is his wasi, one of the wasi’s twelve hujjats is an imam, and one of the imam’s twelve hujjats will be his future successor.35 It is through this lens that our author understands the tradition of the Prophet, ‘the Month of Ramadan (shahr ramadan) is one of God’s names.’ As the prophets, awsiya’ (pl. of wasi) and imams of the religious hierarchy are the ‘names of God,’ i.e., those through whom God is recognised, the month of Ramadan must refer to a hierarch.36 The word for month, shahr, also means renown, so this hierarch is one who is well known to God. The Qur’an states, ‘The Month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance and the Criterion [of right and wrong]’ (2:185). Accordingly, this hierarch is the one in whom God revealed the Qur’an, and who removes the ambiguity of the Holy Book’s parables. He is thus none other than the wasi, ‘Ali, the lord of the ta’wil. Hence, the asas or wasi holds a position among the twelve hujjats parallel to that held by the month of Ramadan among the twelve months.37

In his cycle, the natiq appoints one hadd, the asas, who is the foundation of the esoteric interpretation. The asas then appoints seven hadds, the seven Imams who will be the lords of the minor cycle. Every imam appoints one imam, who will be his successor.38 The imams succeed each other like the days of the week. Just as the days of the week have twenty-four hours, the imams have twenty-four hujjats. Twelve of these are hujjats of the day, and represent the exoteric or zahir, while twelve are hujjats of the night, and represent the esoteric, or batin.39 The Imam dispatches the twelve hujjats of the day to the twelve climes, which are known in Ismaili parlance as the jaziras, or islands.40 It is through these twelve hujjats that the light of tawhid, of God’s unity, reaches the world.41 Each of these twelve hujjats has thirty da‘is, just as each of the twelve months has thirty days.42 Nasir also distinguishes a special class of four hujjats, who are never separated from the imam. People must go through the mediation of these hujjats to receive a word from the imam, just as pilgrims who wish to reach the holy sanctuary, the Ka‘ba, must pass through one of its four miqats, or entranceways, and don the ihram, the pilgrimage garb, symbolising the assumption of a consecrated state.43

Before the advent of the seventh cycle, governed by the qa’im, comes the lahiq or hujjat of the qa’im.44 This is noteworthy, as the hujjat of an Imam is generally his contemporary. The hujjat of the qa’im, however, is the harbinger of the advent of the Sabbath. The Qur’anic verse, ‘The night of power (laylat al-qadr) is better than a thousand months’ (97:3), is said to refer to him, and indicates that his knowledge is superior to that of a thousand imams, though of course, collectively, their rank is one.45 It seems that Nasir considers the successors of the qa’im to be his khalifas, and he assigns a special rank to this function.46 Thus, he explains that the current cycle of Muhammad is composed of two parts – that of the awliya’, or the imams, and that of the khalifas.47 At the same time, he also alludes obliquely to the seventh imam, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, having the rank of qiyama, although the name of this imam is not explicitly mentioned.48

The reference to the throne in the well-known Qur’anic verse, ‘Lo! Your lord is God who created the heavens and the earth in six days; then he ascended the Throne...’(7:54) is interpreted by Nasir as symbolic of the qa’im, who is God’s throne. God’s sitting upon the throne is the fulfilment of his command regarding the qa’im-i qiyama, who appears after the passing of the six days. It is in this context that God declares, ‘Whose is the kingdom today? God’s – the One, the Subduer!’ (40:16).49

According to Nasir Khusraw, the world was generated by the activity of the Universal Soul for the sole purpose of giving birth to a perfect child, the qa’im.50 The Qur’an describes six stages in the birthing process of human beings:

We created man of an extraction of clay
then we set him, a drop (of sperm), in a receptacle secure
then we created of the drop a clot
then we created of the clot a tissuethen we created of the tissue bones
then we clothed the bones in flesh
Then, we produced him as a new creation — blessed by God, the best of creators! (23:12-14).

These six stages are seen as parallel to the six natiqs preceding the arrival of the qa’im, who is ‘a new creation’, a natiq following upon his predecessors, but one who differs from them in his ushering in of the Great Resurrection.51 When the muezzin faces the qibla to call the adhan, it is symbolic of the natiqs summoning humankind to the Lord of the Resurrection, who is represented by the qibla.52 The afternoon prayer represents the asas. It commences when the shadows of things equals their height, demonstrating the equality of the exoteric and esoteric (zahir and batin) in the time of the asas. The waning of the sun at the end of this period represents the weakening of the zahir or the natiq, the end of the cycle of the asas, and the coming advent of the qa’im.53 The qa’im is represented by the witr prayer, which occurs in the middle of the night, after the completion of all the other prayers. This symbolises that on the Day of Resurrection, people will dispense with honouring all the physical hadds, except the qa’im himself.54 Interpreting a well-known tradition of the Prophet, ‘Goodness is knotted up in the forelocks of horses till the Day of Resurrection,’ Nasir Khusraw explains that the ta’wil of this is that the da‘wa, the summoning of humankind, will not be severed from the hujjats, symbolised by the horses, and the da‘is, symbolised by their forelocks, till the time of the qa’im’s manifestation.55 The witr prayer consists of three units or rak’ats, indicating that the qa’im has three ranks, those of prophethood (nubuwwa), legateeship (wasaya) and resurrection (qiyama). The fact that one of the rak’ats is recited separately from the other two indicates that the qa’im holds a rank that neither the natiq nor the asas held.56 Expounding on this difference in rank among the seven days, or lords of the cycles, Nasir Khusraw alludes to the Qur’anic notion of the seven heavens. He explains that the six planets57 that are visible to the naked eye – Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury and the Moon - are similar in that they have light. However, it is only the seventh, the sun itself, which has both light and heat. Moreover, in the presence of the sun, the other six disappear from view. Such is the place of the qa’im among the natiqs.58The qa’im is represented by the ‘Id al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice59 as well as by the prayer recited in this occasion.60 He is the lord of the two worlds, as the inner meaning of the Divine scripture is revealed through him and he delivers the believers from the torment of ignorance, extracting symbols from concealment and explaining them. The fact that the expression ‘God is Greater’ (Allahu akbar) is recited five times before the festival prayer indicates that during the cycle of the qa’im, the believers receive benefit directly from the five spiritual hadds, the Universal Intellect, the Universal Soul, jadd, fath and khayal.61 The ta’wil of reciting Allahu akbar before the festival prayer is that the divine unity and grandeur of God will be revealed to the people through the qa’im.62

The qa’im is from among the descendants of the asas63 and represents the pinnacle and purpose of creation. Because of him, the Universal Soul attains completion and reaches the rank of the Universal Intellect, leading to the annihilation of the physical world.64 This is why, in the sitting prayer after the witr, two rak’ats, representing the two spiritual hadds, are recited as one. This indicates that the qa’im has linked the two spiritual hadds such that there is no separation between them.

In Nasir Khusraw’s view, God accomplished the creation of the world of religion in six days, the cycles of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. However, the Sabbath, the seventh day, will be such that the wise will achieve felicity, truth will be eternally established, the darkness of ignorance shall be banished in the light of knowledge, ‘and the earth shall shimmer in the light of her Lord’ (39:69).65 However, he points out mindfully, this Qur’anic verse suggests that presently the earth is enveloped in darkness, or else what would be the point of illuminating it in the future? Surely, he declares, the Qur’an refers not to physical light, which is abundant, but to a spiritual light that will engulf the world of religion at the time of the qa’im’s advent. But, as he concludes his discussion of this matter in his Jami‘ al-hikmatayn, ‘this is a subtle allusion only for the wise.’66

1 The reference here is to Qur’an 32:5, ‘He regulates the affair from the heaven to the earth; then shall it ascend to him in a day the measure of which is a thousand years of what you count.’ Cf.70:4.
2 In this regard, Nasir Khusraw is in full agreement with his predecessor, and is equally critical of such interpretations. See Jami‘ al-hikmatayn, ed. Henry Corbin and Muhammad Mo’in, Le Livre Reunissant les. Deux Sagesses (Tehran, 1953), pp. 163-164.
3Abu Nasr Hibat al-Shirazi, al-Majalis al Mu‘ayyadiyya, ed. Hatim Hamid al‑Din (Bombay, 1975), vol.1, pp. 358-359, al-majalis al Mu‘ayyadiyya, tr. Jawad Muscati and Khan Bahadur A. M. Moulvi, Life and Lectures of the Grand Missionary al-Muayyad fid-Din al-Shirazi (Karachi, 1950), pp. 123-124.
4Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, ed. Gholam-Reza Aavani (Tehran, 1977), p. 65.
5Ibid., Jami‘ al-hikmatayn, p. 163, p. 165. Cf. Henry Corbin, Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis (London and Boston, 1983), p. 97. Yves Marquet discusses some of al-Qadi al-Nu’man’s views in this regard in his Yves Marquet, ‘Le Qadi Nu’man a propos des heptades d’imams,’ Arabica, XXV (1978), pp. 225-232.
6Nasir vividly depicts the centrality of the qa’im and his identification with the Sabbath in an illustration of concentric circles to be found in his Khwan al-ikhwan, ed. Yahya al-Khashshab (Cairo, 1940), p.155.
7Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 65.
8Ibid., p. 72.
9Nasir Khusraw, Gushayish wa Rahayish, ed. and trans. F. Hunzai, Knowledge and Liberation: A Treatise on Philosophical Theology (London, 1998), p. 58 (ed.), p. 93 (trans.). Cf. Corbin, Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, p.184.
10In the cycle of prophethood, the seventh imam, however, rises to the level of natiq, and so is more commonly known by this title. Similarly, in the cycle of imamate, the seventh Imam rises to the level of qa’im, and hence is known as such.
11Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, pp. 13, 127, Khwan al-ikhwan, p. 86. This terminology, however, is not static. Cf. Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, pp. 43, 335. The asas is often given his own period in these passages, though one would assume that his time coincides with that of the natiq.
12Abu Ya’qub al-Sijistani, Ithbat al-nubu’at, ed. ‘Arif Tamir (Beirut, 1966), p. 193.
13Nasir Khusraw, Rawshana’ i-nama, ed. Tahsin Yaziji (Tehran, 1373), p. 80, Six Chapters or Shish fasl also called Rawshana’ i-nama, ed. and trans. Wladimir Ivanow (Leiden, 1949), p. 39 (ed.), p. 8l (trans.).
14Nasir Khusraw, Rawshana’ i-nama, pp. 76-77, Six Chapters or Shish fall also called Rawshana’i-nama, pp 37-38 (ed.), pp.78-80 (trans.).
15Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 149, cf. pp. 157-158, where the ta’wil of ruku' (genuflection during ritual prayers) is stated to be recognition of the asas in the major cycle and recognition of the hujjat in the minor cycle, while that of sujud (prostration) is stated to be recognition of the natiq in the major cycle and recognition of the Imam in the minor cycle. One may even say that the Imam is the natiq of the minor cycle. Nasir, in fact, states on p. 188 of this work that among the seven ranks of the minor cycle, the Imam is the sukhan-go, which is Persian for natiq.
16Ibid., pp. 60-61.
17Ibid.. pp. 195.
18See, for example, Nasir Khusraw, Khwan al-ikhwan, pp. 170-171, where Nasir elaborates on these latter three, and Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 232, 258, Jami‘ al-hikmatayn, p. 109, 138, 155, as well as Abu Ya’qub al-Sijistani, Kitab al-iftikhar, ed. Ismail K. Poonawala (Beirut, 2000), p. 116 ff. Cf. Paul E. Walker, Early Philosophical Shiism (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 30, 110, 119 and Heinz Halm, Kosmologie and Heilslehre der jriihen isma'diva: eine Studie fiber islarnischen Gnosis. (Wiesbaden, 1978), pp. 67-74, pp. 206-209, which draws heavily on the Kitab al-iftikhar.
19The question of the role of the bab is itself an interesting one. He is often considered the chief hujjat. Nasir explains that each of the six true Imams (i.e., apparently those prior to the rising of a natiq) has a bab ‘who succeeds him in religion and who is unique in accomplishing the command of God in his lifetime,’ Wajh-i din, p. 148. The question then arises as to whether ‘succeeds him in religion’ means ‘is his successor to the imamate,’ in which case the bab would have to be from among the Imam’s offspring. Of course, this interpretation is not necessarily the case, as the wasi is considered the successor or inheritor of the prophet, without succeeding to his position as prophet, or being from among his offspring.
20Nasir Khusraw, Khwan al-ikhwan, p. 174, Rawshana’ i-nama, pp. 72-73, Six Chapters or Shish fasl also called Rawshana’ i-nama, p. 34 (ed.), p.74 (trans.) Cf. Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 126, 198­-199. On p.126, the da‘i seems, unusually, to be referred to as lahiq, or adjunct, a term generally reserved for the hujjat. The term Janah, or wing, is more commonly used for the da‘i. It is possible that the word hujjat in this passage is a scribal error, and that the word bab should take its place. This would allow the term lahig to retain its more traditional meaning. Cf. Paul E. Walker, The Wellsprings of Wisdom (Salt Lake City, 1994), pp. 19, 177, and Walker, Early Philosophical Shiism, p.18.
21Nasir Khusraw, Rawshan’i-nama, p. 73, Six Chapters or Shish fasl also called Rawshana’i­-nama, p. 35 (ed.), p. 75 (trans.), Khwan al-ikhwan, p. 174.
22It may also be possible that the da‘i receives ta’ yid, but this is ambiguous. See Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, pp. 126, 198-199, which may he compared with Wajh-i din p. 247, Rawshana’i-nama, p. 73, Six Chapters or Shish fast also called Rawshana'i-nama, p. 35 (ed.), p. 75 (trans.). It must also be kept in mind that the da‘is themselves are divided into two groups, the limited da‘is and the absolute da‘is, and this distinction may be significant in the matter. Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 255. Cf. Sijistani, Kitab al-iftikhar, and pp. 224-225.
23Nasir Khusraw, Rawshana’ i-nama, p. 74, Six Chapters or Shish fasl also called Rawshana’i-nama, p. 36 (ed.), pp. 76-77 (trans.).
24Abu Ya’qub al-Sijistani, Kashf al-mahjub, ed. Henry Corbin (Tehran, 1949), pp. 69-70. Both Corbin and Landolt read mim, shin, kaf, lam in this passage as mushkil to arrive at their translations. While this is certainly possible, I have preferred the reading mushakkal, which appears to me to suit the context better. See Abu Ya’qub al-Sijistani, Kashf al-mahjub: Le Devoilement des Chases Cachets, trans. Henry Corbin (Lagrasse, 1988), pp. 103-104, Kashf al-Mahjub: Unveiling of the Hidden,’ trans. Hermann Landolt in An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia (Oxford, 2001), p. 108.
25See Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 61.
26Nasir Khusraw, Zad al-musafirin, ed. Muhammad Badhl ar-Rahman (Berlin, 1341/ [1923]), p. 27, quoting Qur’an 26:192-195. Compare, however, Nasir Khusraw’s assertion that when the Prophet’s nutq attains its completion upon the achievement of the spiritual mi’raj, he recognises the Universal Soul directly, and not through intermediaries; Wajh-i din, p. 138.
27A rak’at is a portion of the Muslim prayer ritual that involves a bending of the torso from an upright position, followed by two prostrations.
28Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, pp. 169-170.
29Ibid., pp. 171-172.
30Ibid., p. 64. Note, in line 16, read imam for payghambar, according to the variant noted from manuscript A.
31Ibid., pp. 186-188.
32Ibid., pp. 186-187.
33Ibid., p. 64. Nasir understanding of the word Imam, described above in relation to his ta’wil of Qur’an 17:71, should also be kept in mind in this context. Cf Walker, Early Philosophical Shiism, p. 115.
34Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 64. Cf. Corbin, Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, p. 184.
35Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i Din, pp. 251-252. Ibn Hawshab ‘Mansur al-Yaman’, in his Kitab al­-rushd wa’1-hidaya, generally refers to the twelve deputies of the natiq as the naqibs, though acknowledging that the wasi is the hujjat of the Prophet. The twelve naqibs of the natiq summon humankind to follow the exoteric teaching of the Prophet, while the twelve hujjats of the mutimm imam summon humanity to follow his esoteric doctrines. See Ibn Hawshab, Kitab al-rushd wa’l-hidaya, trans. W. lvanow, 2nd revised edition ed., Studies in Early Persian Ismailism (Bombay, 1955), pp 33-46. The same text also refers to the succession of the hujjat to the rank of imam. Cf. Nasir Khusraw, Khwan al-ikhwan p. 244, in which the term naqib is used in a similar manner.
36In this connection, see al-Mu‘ayyad fi’d-Din Shirazi, al-Majalis al-Mu‘ayyadiyya, p. 202.
37Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, 253-254. Nasir Khusraw furnishes an interesting, though somewhat enigmatic, example of this in his ta’wil of the Qur’anic story of Joseph, see Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, pp. 184-185, 252. Cf. Ja’far b. Mansur al-Yaman, al-‘Alim wa’l-ghulam, ed. and trans. James Winston Morris, The Master and the Disciple (London, 2001), p. 32 (ed.), p. 99 (trans.)
38Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, pp. 326-327.
39Ibid., pp. 225, 252, 259-260.
40Ibid., pp. 229, 275.
41Ibid., p. 331.
42Ibid., 178. Bayard Dodge, ‘The Fatimid Hierarchy and Exegesis,’ The Muslim World, 50 (1960), p. 133, mentions that each hujjat of a jazira has thirty naqibs, each of whom has twenty-four da‘is –twelve of the day and twelve of the night. Unfortunately, no location for this information is specified.
43Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i Din, p. 264. Ibn Hawshab, too, refers to ‘the four sacred luminaries’, citing the Qur’anic verse, ‘Indeed, the number of months in God’s view is twelve -so ordained by him the day he created the heavens and the earth. Of these, four are sacred...’ (IX: 36). See Ibn Hawshab, Kitab al-rushd wal-hidaya, p. 47. This reference to four miqats, rather than the traditional five, is unusual. al­-Qadi al-Nu‘man lists the traditional five, on the authority of the Imam al-Sadiq, see al-Qadi Abu Hanifa al –Nu‘man b. Muhammad, Da‘a'im al-Islam, ed. Asaf A.A. Fyzee (Cairo, 1951-1961), p.297. al-Qadi Abu Hanifa al-Nu‘man b. Muhammad, Ta’wil ad-Da‘a‘im, ed. Muhammad Hasan al-Ajami (Cairo, 1967- 1969), pp. 157-163 does not shed any further light on the issue, as the ta’wil offered is different from Nasir’s. Cf. A. J. Wensinck, J. Jomier, ‘ihram’, Encyclopaedia of Islam. CD-ROM version 1.0 (Leiden, 1999).
44Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 261.
45Ibid., pp. 176, 261.
46Ibid., pp. 153, 176.
47Ibid., p. 248, read khulafa’ in place of khalqan, as per the variant noted from manuscript A.
48Ibid., pp. 104-105, Abu Ya’qub al-Sijistani mentions a similar doctrine in his hitherto unpublished Kitab al-maqalid, see Walker, Early Philosophical Shiism, p. 140.
49Nasir Khusraw, Jami’ al-hikmatayn, p.165.
50Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 97. See also Corbin, Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, pp. 99- 100, 113.
51Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 256. This symbolism is echoed by Abu Ya’qub al- Sijistani; see Walker, Early Philosophical Shiism, p. 141. Cf. Sami Naqib Makaram, The Political Doctrine of the Ismailis (Beirut,1972), pp. 31-34.
52Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i Din, pp. 148-149.
53Ibid., pp. 172.
54Ibid., pp. 176.
55Ibid., pp. 276.
56Ibid., pp. 176.
57The word ‘planet’, of course, is used here in its traditional sense and not its modem meaning.
58Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p. 245, Jami’ al-hikmatayn, pp. 111-112.
59Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, p.192.
60Ibid., p. 152.
61Ibid., p. 193.
62Ibid., pp. 192-193.
63Ibid., p. 176.
64Ibid., p. 177, Nasir Khusraw, Rawshana’i-nama, p. 81, Six Chapters or Shish fasl also called Rawshana’ i-nama, p. 40 (ed.), p. 82 (trans.).
65Nasir Khusraw, Wajh-i din, pp. 165-166.
66Nasir Khusraw, Jami' al-hikmatayn, p. 166


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