Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Qur'an: The Word of God

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Qur'an: The Word of God

Article excerpt

is He Who made of the sun a brightness and of the moon a lamp, and Who determined the phases of the moon so that ye may know the number and the count of the years."

Direct allusions to the creation in the Qur'an must be considered primarily as "signs" of God's omnipotence. Their fragmentary nature and the mysteries they conceal are typical of Qur'anic predication, for "God conceals what He will" and "alone knows the unknowable".

So is all speculation forbidden in Islam? Certainly not: the signs must be deciphered and their true meaning understood. According to All, the son-in-law of the Prophet, "there is no Qur'anic verse that does not have four meanings: the exoteric, the esoteric, the limit and the divine project". We need, therefore, to go beneath the surface of the facts. The quest for God's truth calls for reflection on this miracle" of the creation of a diverse sensory world, while God is spirit pure and unique.

[Avicenna.sup.1] made a major contribution to Islamic cosmogony. In his metaphysics, he classifies beings according to whether they are necessary or possible. In essence, the necessary being is by its nature unique; it has no cause nor does it consist in multiplicity. As First Principle, Pure Intelligence and Pure Truth, the necessary being is God. Creation is an intellectual act. It is the knowledge that God has of Himself; it is the Primary Emanation or Primary Intelligence. From this primary creation new entities emerge. After a series of contemplations and intelligences the Tenth active) Intelligence is reached, from which springs a flux of sublunary matter and the multitude of human souls. This is "our" world-the world of the senses and corruptible matter.

Avicenna's theory of emanation, with its continuous creation of differentiated and hierarchical beings, has been the subject of lively debate in Islam, Christianity and judaism. Thus, [Averroes.sup.2], who wished to restore a cosmogony which conformed to Aristotelian concepts, rejected the notion of hierarchy between separate intelligences. He considered the idea of successive emanations from a single Being as fundamentally absurd. According to him the cosmos proceeds from an "eternal beginning" of which the manifestation, without creative cause, is simultaneous and continuous, with God as Prime Mover.

For [Al-Ghazali.sup.3], all these contortions were simply metaphors for establishing the necessity of the Demiurge and the reality of creation. Rejecting philosophical speculations, he considered that only the way of the heart-for God is pure love-can lead to knowledge. By seeking communion with God it becomes possible for some to raise themselves from the "lower world"-that of the sun, moon and stars-to the "upper world" wherein dwell the "luminous substances", the angels.

Several schools of thought reject emanationism, which appears to limit and even exclude God's freedom in the act of creation. To uphold the idea of divine omnipotence, the [Ash'arites.sup.4], for example, go so far as to deny intermediary causes and the universal cause. They consider that matter is indivisible, and reduce its multiple differentiations to a transcendent principle, which is God the Creator. The idea of the indivisibility of matter leads to the recurrence of creation. In each of its parts and at any given moment the universe is, or can be, subject to modification. Furthermore, it cannot be eternal: its cohesion and duration are matters for the free will of God.


and philosophy Nevertheless, many currents of Islamic thought, including hermeticism, Shi'ite speculation (and its Ismaeli variants), and some mystics, have given Avicenna's cosmogony a better reception. In such thinking, modes of philosophical and theosophical knowledge, visionary and prophetic perceptions often merge in a single theory. …

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