16 June 2019  Hijri Date: 13 شوال 1440
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6. Does Islam have a spiritual dimension for the spiritual perfection of humanity?

Our situation has not changed at all as regards birth and death. Although contained by infinitude, we are still finite beings who cannot escape being stirred by our very nature to try and understand the Infinite and Absolute. With regard to the Absolute and all states of being comprising the universe, we are what we have always been and always will be: the fairest creatures and the highest point of creation, yet possessing the potential to fall to the lowest point.

The Qur’an states that the process of creation is circular: As He brought you forth in the beginning, so unto Him shall you also return (7:29). Thus creation ends at the point from which it started. Atheists believe this as well, but conceive of matter, space and time, or something presentable in terms of four dimensions as the process’ starting and ending points. Matter has the least degree of perfection, and yet atheists hold it, in its most chaotic condition, to be the beginning and end of creation, which they consider accidental and purposeless. The Qur’an, however, says that existence starts with the highest state of perfection, proceeds downward to matter, and then turns upward to the point from which it started:

He regulates the affair from the heaven to Earth, then shall it go up to Him in one day the measure of which is a thousand years of what you reckon. (32:5)

Since existence manifests God’s Grace or Compassion, creation’s order and hierarchy begin with the highest and most comprehensive created entity. This being is the compassion unto all worlds or beings, the possessor of all excellences in their highest degree of perfection. This entity, the most comprehensive in perfection and embodiment of God’s Compassion, is presented in various terms. However, the most appropriate ones are the Muhammadan Light or the Muhammadan Reality. Like sunshine radiating through everything that exists, the Muhammadan Light is actually the theater of the theophany of all Divine Names and Attributes, as well as the archetype of the cosmos.

The hierarchy of creation unfolds itself in countless spheres of intellectual and angelic beings. The Qur’an calls these malakut, realms of unseen active spiritual and psychic entities. Each sphere is held by the one above it and holds the one below it, ending in the four dimensional sphere known as material being. Our world, the ‘alam-i mulk or ‘alam-i shahadat (the held-world or seen-world), is the lowest sphere, for it is held but cannot hold. It forms the hierarchy’s base, whereas the first and most perfect and comprehensive entity is its summit.

The Qur’an defines our situation in a way that is at once perennial and universal: We created humanity of the fairest creature, and then reduced it to the lowest of the low (95:4-5). Created in the fairest stature, we nevertheless fell into separation and withdrawal from our celestial prototype—a condition the Qur’an calls the “lowest of the low.” Concerning this, a Sufi commentator writes that God created us as the most complete and perfect theophany, the most universal and all-embracing theater of Divine Names and Attributes, so that we might bear the Divine Trust and become the source of an unlimited effusion of light. He identifies the “lowest of the low” with the World of Natural Passion and Heedlessness. The grandeur of the human state, its great possibilities and perils, and the permanent nature of our quest after the Divine therefore lie at the very root of human existence.

Islam is the religion of unity, and all aspects of its doctrine and practice reflect this central and cardinal principle. The Shari‘a is a vast network of injunctions and regulations that inwardly relate the world of multiplicity to a single center and, conversely, is reflected in the multiplicity of the circumference. Islamic art seeks to relate the multiplicity of forms, shapes, and color to the One, to the center and Origin, and thereby reflect tawhid in its own way in the world of forms with which it is concerned.

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