Creation and Knowledge of cosmos according to Ismail

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Among the most serious charge laid against doctrine of “creationism” –i.e., the assumption of a Creator as the ultimate cause, through a special act of creation- is a view, based on that one wishes to explain, organized complexity. It is this relationship between Creator and creation, and the transformation that is implied in the former by the very occurrence of change that constitutes the greatest intellectual knot that a religious philosophy must tackle.

Ibda and manifestation of transcendence
It has been argued that Ismaili cosmology, particularly as expressed in the work of al- Sijistani, integrates a manifestation 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 from 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. By making creation emerge as a result of a process of origination, Sijistani hopes to maintain his distinction between God and creation by making amr, God’s eternal expression of His Will, the ultimate point of origin. In this sense, to quote Corbin: “Ia philosophie premiere del l’ismaelisme n’est une metaphysique ni de l’ens, ni de l’esse, mais de l’esto” (Henry Corbin, Nasir-e Khosraw: Kitab jami. al- hikmatayn (Paris, 1983): “Etude Preliminaire”, 45.) It can be said to express the distinction between God creation even more sharply than the schema of emanationism associated Plotinus, and, as with other Muslim ontological formulations, does not confuse the act of being with the state of being.

Relationship between tawhid (oneness of God ) and creation from Kermani point of view
Al- Kirmani attempts to distance the Ismaili view from a purely emanationist out look and to resolve what he regards as the ambiguities in Sijistani’s formulation by arguing that the process of emanation and its source cannot, strictly speaking, be differentiated. He cites as an analogy the light emanating from the sun, which, issuing from the fountain of the sun, partakes of the essence out of which it emanates, since at the point of emanation it is no different from the essence of the sun, its source. They are thus linked, though not identical, by being together in existence, and they could not logically be conceived of, one without the other. Such mutuality cannot be associated with God, for to conceive of existence as emanating from Him necessitates multiplicity in its source, which is its very essence. For al- Kirmani, then, the only absolute way in which creation and tawhid can be distinguished is through a mush sharper definition of that which is originated through ibda, namely the First Existent or the First Intellect. He states: “It did not exist, then it came ito existence via ibda and ikhtira, neither from a thing, nor upon a thing, nor a thing, nor by a thing, nor for a thing and nor with a thing.

Like the number one, it contains all other numbers, which depend on it for their existence. Yet it is independent and separate from them, and it is the source and the cause of all plurality. In order to establish the singularity of the First Intellect, he refers to what the ancient sages (hukama) have said: “From the First Existent, which is the First Cause, nothing comes into existence but a single existence …or the Prime Mover moves only one, even though by it many are moved.

The First Intellect as the synthesis of the one and many ( Jami -e wahdat wa kasrat)
Having used the arguments of the ancients for the purpose of validating his point, al- Kirmani, is nevertheless quick to separate himself from the view that all these attributes can then be applied to God, for that would compromise his insistence on absolute transcendence. They can only apply to First Intellect, which in his scheme now becomes the Source, that which is inherently the synthesis of the One and many (jami li’l – wahdah wa’l –kathrah). At this stage, anterior to time and space, the two qualities were in the First Intellect, but they comprise the dual dimension that relates First Intellect to tawhid, as well as to the role by which its generative capacity can be manifested, With respect to God, the First Intellect exists to sanctify Him. Such sanctification (taqdis) on the part of the First Intellect reflects the nobler aspect of its dual dimension, where it is an affirmation of its own createdness and distinction from God. On the other hand, the sanctification generates a state of happiness and contentment within it, which produces actual and potential intellects, which in turn become the cause for the creation of the subsequent spiritual and material realms. Al- Kirmani distinguishes in the First Intellect between multiplicity and diversity. Though the forms within the Intellect can be said to be multiple, they do not yet possess this aspect, since no diversity or differentiation exists within the Intellect. His analogy for the actual intellect is the Qur’an symbol of the “Pen”. And of the potential intellect, the “Tablet”, which represent from and matter, respectively.

In attempting to resolve the problem of explaining the First Intellect’s dual capacity for form and multiplicity, Sijistani argues for a distinction between the concepts of multiplicity (kathrah) and diversity (tafawut) Extending the analogy of the Pen, which contains all the subsequent forms of expression in writing –letters, words and names –before they appear in the differentiated form, he tries to argue they are all one within the Pen. Also, this singularity does not resemble any of the expressed forms as they appear subsequently in written form. Thus, each letter, prior to its manifestation, cannot be distinguished from the rest of the letters “pre-existing” inside the Pen.

Appearance of intellect in the historical and natural level
More interestingly, he illustrates the role of the intellect by using the analogy of a seed, out of which the cosmos, in its spiritual as well as material form, develops. This metaphor, drawn from biology, suggests a process where the intellect is manifested in the natural domain and participates in time. Such a view of creation seems to imply that the process of generation and development involves the Intellect’s participation as a “vital” principle in the cosmos progressively manifesting itself in both material and spiritual forms. The process by which this generation takes place is called inbi’ath. Al – Kirmani, for example, employs two similes to illustrate this process, one from the natural order, one relating to human relations: the reflection of the sun in a mirror, and the blush on the cheek of the lover at the sight of the beloved. Inbi’ath, manifestation, thus is contrasted with fayad, or emanation. The former, like the image of the sun in a mirror or a pool of water, is mere representation, it is from something and being figurative can permit one to retrace it to the original. Such symbolism is particularly suited to evoking the sense of religiosity so central to the Islamic affirmation of the distinction between God and creation. The rest of the intellects are manifested, one from the other, leading to the creation of the spheres, stars the material world, including human beings.

Chronological and non – chronological creation
In sum the process of creation can be said to take place at several level. Ibd represents the initial level, invi’ath, the secondary level-one transcends history, the creates it, The spiritual and material realms are not dichotomous, since in he Isma’ili 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 instruments for penetrating through history the mystery of the unknowable God implied in the formulation of tawhid.

The intellect and warders of Tawhid in Ismaili view
At the philosophical level, for al- Kirmani, an understanding of tawhid requires the believers to recognize that they must in some way “deconstruct” the First Intellect, divesting it of divinity, Ibda and then inbi’ath reflect the “descending” are of a circle, where God’s command creates the First Intellect, which is the manifested through successive existents down to the human intellect. The action of the believers can be seen to be the ascending are, where, each unit leading up to First Intellect is divested of divinity until the process is completed on reaching the One itself. It is in this particular context that he cites a tradition of the Prophet: “The believer is the muwahhid [literally, maker of the One] and God is muwahhid- the believer, because he or she divests the First Intellect of divinity, and God, because He originated the First Intellect as the symbol of the One. It is possible for the human intellect to comprehend this because God, provides assistance to the human intellect through His “dual” messengers, making accessible the tools formalized in religious language and ritual, which go hand in hand with the intellect and spiritual capacity for reflection and knowledge.

When al- Mu’ayyad fi’l Din al-Shirazi (d. 470/1077) interprets the Qur’anic verse “God created the heavens and earth in six days” (7:54), he is concerned to show that the “days” stand figuratively for the six major cycle of prophecy, each of which represents a journey to God (For a further discussion, see Nanji, “Toward a Hermeneutic”: 167-8) Their existence in time is not a function of priority or primacy; they merely succeed each other, like day and night. The believers in each of these cycles of prophecy are recipients of knowledge which assists in understanding tawhid. In Sijistani there is an elaboration of the two types of prophecy. The first relates to the human intellect, the second to human history embodies in the messages communicated through the various prophets. These messengers come to confirm that which human intellect already know, and human being appropriately by the acceptance of the message. Corroborate the validity of each historical messenger. The actual intellect thus corroborates that which the potential intellect brings to it.

History apparates cyclically
Human history, as conceived in Isma’ilism, 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 essence of governing in such a society is not mere juridical order but rather an integrated vision of equilibrium was individuals mature intellectually and spiritually, through right action and knowledge. The function of the Prophet is to imitate the cycle for human society and the Imams to complement and interpret the teaching to sustain the order at the social and individual levels. The metaphors of Ismai’li though evoke a qiyamah (from the Qur’an) (For a discussion of the ta’wil of the Qur’anic concept of Resurrection, see Nasir al- DinTusi, Tasawwurat, ed. and trans. W. lvanow (Leiden, 1950): 66-71.) not simply as the ultimate day of judgment or resurrection but also as the constantly recurring moment in history, which connects the cosmic, natural order with the social and with the individual’s pursuit of personal salvation.

As Nadir –i-Khusraw, the best known of the Ismai’li writers in Persian, states in passage paraphrased by Corbin: Time is eternity measured by movements of the heavens, whose names is day, night, month. year, Eternity is Time not measured, having either beginning nor end ..The cause of Time is Soul of the World…..it is not in time, for time is in the horizon of the soul as its instrument, as the duration of the living mortal who is “ the shadow of the soul”, while eternity is the duration of the living immortal –that is say of the Intelligence and of the Soul.( Corbin, Cyclical Time and Isma’ili Gnosis, trans. R. Mannheim and j. Morris (London, 1983):33.)

This synthesis of times as cycle and times as arrow, to borrow a phrase from the scientist Stephen Jay Gould, lies at the heart of an Isma’ili philosophy of active engagement in the world.

Sources

History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:149to153

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