Sunday, March 23, 2008

336)Nasir Khusraw's poetry reflecting Intellect and Soul in the Al Sijistani-Khusraw cosmological doctrine; link between science and religion in Islam

In an online discussion two friends of mine quoted two poems written by Nasir Khusraw and one of the poems described, in a poetic fashion true to this cosmologist-philosopher-poet, a cosmological and philosophical doctrine that became commonly accepted during the 9th century Shiite Renaissance in the Islamic world and subsequently in the early to mid Fatimid period of the Shia Ismaili Muslims:

1)….Time had countless ruses and pretexts to entrap me; I became caught in such a pretext, such a deception

I found help against the devil’s persecution and cunning when I entered the sanctuary of the Imam of mankind.

When the light of the imam shone upon my soul, even though I was black as night, I became the shining sun.

The Supreme Name is the Imam of the time, through him, Venus-like, I ascended to the heavens.

(Shimmering Light, translated by Faquir M. Hunzai, pp 60-61)

2)The Sovereign of the Time
By Nasir-i Khusraw

The Soul of the universe
is the sovereign of time,
for God has raised up
the body through the Soul.
When the auspicious Jupiter
saw his face, it became
the source of munificence,
the mine of good fortune.
As long as the clouds
of Navroz wash all quarters
of the garden with
showers of lustrous pearls;
and the nightingale laments
the rose at the break of dawn,
like a grieving soul
separated from its lover:
may the authority of
the Sovereign of time
prevail over space and time
and the denizens of the world!

Nasir Khusraw certainly has a way of taking the most complex and "dry" cosmological and philosophical exposition and poetising it: He was particularly eneamoured by the cosmological doctrine of Yakub Al-Sijistani(died 971CE), who lived during pre- to early Fatimid times whereas Khusraw himself lived during mid- to late Fatimid times(1004-1060CE). Al-Sijistani was the only cosmologist who expounds the case of a single Universal Intellect emanating the Universal Soul, which is the creator of the universe, of time and the soul of man(as opposed to Al-Kirmani, who espoused, along with Alfarabi the series of Ten Intellects).

In poem no.2 above he talks about "The Soul of the universe is the sovereign of time, for God has raised up the body through the Soul"(Soul in this poem refers to the Universal Soul as espoused by Al-Sijistani).

In the following poem(taken from Dr. Azim Nanji's article "Ismaili Philosophy") Nasir Khusraw talks about the first two of four wellsprings of knowledge that make up Al-Sijistani's structure of Truth, namely, Intellect(Universal Intellect), Soul (Universal Soul), Natiq(Speaking Prophet) and Asas(Founder):

As Nasir Khusraw, the best known of the Ismaili writers in Persian, states in a passage paraphrased by Corbin:

Time is eternity measured by the movements of the heavens,
whose name is day, night, month, year.
Eternity is Time not measured, having neither beginning nor end…
The cause of Time is the 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 to say of the Intelligence and of the Soul":

Interestingly, Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah, His Highness Aga Khan III, in his Memoirs of 1954, makes reference to the same Universal Soul as espoused in the Al Sijistani-Khusraw cosmological doctrine:

"Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

All of the above is very relevant to me because the Al Sijistani-Khusraw cosmological doctrine provides the easiest to understand template upon which I have structured my blog on the link between science and religion in Islam. The preamble to my blog states the following:

This is what drives my blog: The Prophet Mohammed said that the first(and only) thing that was originated, through the Divine Command or Will, by the Absolutely Transcendent God, was Intellect(Aql). Intellect(from which all else emanates) provides 'tayyid' or inspiration to Natiq(Speaking Prophet, of whom there were six great ones) and Soul; Natiq composes('talif') a scripture made up of words and sentences from this inspiration, and Soul composes('tarkib') a universe made up of matter from this inspiration. This is what forms the basis of the link between science and religion. The compositions of Natiq and Soul are equivalent(both called 'ayats' or 'signs') and each contains Intellect wrapped within it. The Asas(Founder) interprets('tawil') the compositions of the Natiq and Soul, unincorporating them to uncover Intellect in its pure glory.

In a letter to a friend entitled "What have we forgotten in Islam?", Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah, His Highness Aga Khan III, makes a clear connection of equivalence between objects and events in the Universe and the verses of the Noble Quran, calling them both Ayats or Signs:

"Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God's signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order. Islam is a natural religion of which the Ayats are the universe in which we live and move and have our being………..The God of the Quran is the one whose Ayats are the universe……"(Aga Khan III, Karachi, Pakistan, April 4th 1952)

In a Quran Symposium at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in 2003 Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Aga Khan IV, stated in eloquent and alluring language:

"In this context, would it not also be relevant to consider how, above all, it has been the Qur'anic notion of the universe as an expression of Allah's will and creation that has inspired, in diverse Muslim communities, generations of artists, scientists and philosophers? Scientific pursuits, philosophic inquiry and artistic endeavour are all seen as the response of the faithful to the recurring call of the Qur'an to ponder the creation as a way to understand Allah's benevolent majesty. As Sura al-Baqara proclaims: 'Wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah'.The famous verse of 'light' in the Qur'an, the Ayat al-Nur, whose first line is rendered here in the mural behind me, inspires among Muslims a reflection on the sacred, the transcendent. It hints at a cosmos full of signs and symbols that evoke the perfection of Allah's creation and mercy"(Aga Khan IV,Speech, 2003, London, U.K.)

Related posts:

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)