Presentation on theme: "Say (O Muhammad): "He is God, (the) One, The Self-Sufficient Master, He begets not, nor was He begotten; And there is none co-equal or comparable unto."— Presentation transcript:
Say (O Muhammad): "He is God, (the) One, The Self-Sufficient Master, He begets not, nor was He begotten; And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him."
The Cosmology of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims Descent from perfection, return to perfection
THE TRANSCENDENT GOD A discussion between a father and his son, concerning the nature of God, whether it is proper to say that He is One, or that He created the world.
What can you say of God? My son asked me, “Father, when he said in the market, ‘God is One’, you shook your head. Can you not say that God is One? Does al-huda not say ‘He is God, One, the Self-Sufficient Master’?” I was proud of his question, because it meant that he thought. I could not dismiss it out of hand, so I asked him: “Is God wahid? Can you count Him? Is he a species, found in a genus, amongst other things like Him?” “Of course not Father, for is it not written that “there is none co-equal or comparable to him’?”
“If, my son” I replied “there is nothing comparable to Him, then how is it you can say ‘He is One’?” He sat quietly a moment and pondered the question. I did not interrupt, for who am I to stop the work of the intellect? My son was reaching up, ascending to- aha. I step too far ahead of myself. After a time he sighed deeply and looked at me with a troubled face. “But Father, if God is not one, then is it possible he could be two or three? For if He is not One, then it is open for Him to be many.” “I see you have thought hard on this, and I do not wish to be a hindrance to your mind as it reaches beyond the stars. You tell me why God is not two or three or many, simply because He is not One.”
God cannot be signified, and He is beyond all categorization His mind worked and I could see its working in his face. I sat patiently, waiting for him to ask me another question. Instead, I was surprised when he said “I have already given the answer. God is not a member of a genus- there is no specific difference. He cannot be One or Two or Three because there is nothing close enough to Him to be counted.” I did not want to look at him with too much approval, lest I cause his pride to swell beyond what it should. Then, he surprised me further. “Father, how can we say God is not one?” I answered him “my son, I thought you already had the answer to this conundrum.” But his response showed a depth for which I was unprepared: “No, father. Confusion came from saying ‘God is not One’. By saying that, we leave it open that God is like one. If God is not a number and God cannot be counted, then God is not “ …he paused… ” not one.” God is not [one] God is not [not one] God is not [incorporeal] God is not [not incorporeal] God is not [in time] God is not [not in time]
God is not like creation, nor is He changed by relationships with it Weeks passed and my son asked me no new questions. I cannot say how my heart pounded forth from my chest with desire to continue our talks, but I knew that I must let him be, that I must let him soak in ta’yid in his own time, to his own ability. He had surp- what is ta’yid? Shh… Don’t interrupt now. Give me time and I will teach you. Where was I? Oh yes; I waited in anticipation, heart bursting from my chest with desire to speak of truth with the son in whom I held my dearest hopes. My patience was rewarded when he came to me one day, pick in hand, seemingly lost in his work. “Father, “ he said, “we cannot signify God because we cannot comprehend Him.” I replied that it was just so. “In other words, nothing is like Him and all of our analogies do nothing but bind our minds from understanding His transcendence.” I told him again that it was just as he said. “I assure you father that I mean no irreverence with my question, but it has been eating at me, this one question for which I have no answer.” “Ask then my son, and know that I will judge your question as honest. You have nothing to fear from curiosity.” He nodded and set his pick next to the plate he was carving, settled down onto his elbows, and turned to face me. After a deep sigh and a time studying my face he asked, and again, the depth of the question resonated in my soul. “The world is full of change, father. People die, children are born, the earth quakes, and ships sink. If God is changeless, how can he have any part in this? And finally, what of this? I cannot speak of God because nothing is like Him, yes?” I answered that he had it right again. “Then answer this riddle father, for I cannot understand- if God created the universe, if He spoke it into being, surely the mountains echo Him as al-kitaab says!”
“My son, “ I said “you cannot ask easy questions, can you?” He smiled and returned to his work, knowing that I would answer him in time. We worked the rest of the day, stopping to eat before I said to him “You have found, my son, a great truth. One which will begin a journey for you that will end only when you have come to share, as much as possible, in the life of the originated.” He ate in silence for a few moments, then set down his plate with a deep sigh. “You are saying that the great truth I found is that God did not create the world? That it is eternal?” I shook my head and looked into his eyes in the evening light. “No, my son- the world is not eternal. That is the folly of the philosophers, not the truth of our great faith.” He asked me “what then, father? I say with no disrespect that you are making no sense to me.” “Remember, son, that we can signify only what we can comprehend. Only with that in your mind can you make sense of what I am going to say.” He nodded his assent to my condition, “God in His unknowable way, originated the first being. It is, in fact, the form of His origination.” He frowned and asked me if it was not mere wordplay that I was partaking in. “No, my son, ‘aql is God’s will taken form, perfect form. It is the ordering of the cosmos, within it, all things that will be, and all things that have been are. From it poured all creation, from nafs to nature, to the material world to man.” “Then what is it, father? To say ‘aql is meaningless to me. It resides in me, controls my thoughts? I exercise it?” I could not help laughing, much to my earnest son’s consternation. “No, my son- take no offense. Your question was honest and I should not have made light of it. What I have called ‘aql is the first being, the logos, perfect created being, the form of God’s ibda’, the source and summit of all creation. It is pure spirit, living, timeless, and knowing all things that can be known.” God is al-mudbi, the Originator – ‘aql is al-ibda’, the Originated
God is completely transcendent. He is unknowable, unable to be signified by language, outside of the created world, and completely outside of human comprehension. God’s generative act was the creation of ‘aql through a process called origination, which is unique to God. ‘aql or Intellect (al-ibda’) is not an abstraction but is a real spiritual being, and is the form of God’s origination or command. The Transcendent God