The Quest for Meaning in Islam

The Quest for Meaning in Islam

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The quest for meaning in Islam therefore corresponds to elevation and interiorization. It will also be said that it is a “verticalization of knowledge”, that is to say that it relates knowledge to a transcendent principle which, although inexpressible (in this respecting the rules of apophatic or negative theology, tanzih). s negatives” (278, n°4), can be “seen” in the cosmos. It should be remembered that it is the same term in the Arabic language, ayat, which designates the verses of the Koran, the interior states of the soul and the phenomena of the cosmos. The verses, like the phenomena, are Signs which, precisely, are the signatures of this ineffable principle.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr further writes: “(…) the Koran is the cosmos, this vast world of creation in which man lives and breathes. It is not by chance that the verses of the Koran are called signs, or wonders (ayat), in the same way as the phenomena of nature and the inner events of the human soul. According to the well-known Qur’anic verse: “We will cause our signs to burst upon the horizons and within them until it becomes clear to them that it is the Truth” (XLI, 53).

God manifests His “signs”, the Vestigia Dei, on the horizons, that is to say in the cosmos and, more especially, in the world of nature but also within the soul of men, until they realize that it is the Truth. It is precisely these signs that appear in the Quran. This correspondence between the verses of the Koran and the phenomena of nature is essential because it determines the Muslim conception of nature and the direction taken by Islamic science.

The Koran corresponds in a certain sense to nature, to the creation of God. This is why contemplating a phenomenon of nature must lead the Muslim to remember God, his Power and his Wisdom. Man should be attentive to the “marvels of creation” and constantly see the “signs” of God on the horizons. This attitude, which is one of the essential traits of Islam, is intimately linked to the correspondence that exists between the Koran and the Universe. (pp. 66-67). With this long quotation from the Iranian thinker, we better understand the transdisciplinary dynamics which cohere in the same process the theological, the cosmic and the anthropological. Here we come to the problem of tawhid, which founds the unity of all that exists.

The theme of tawheed does not relate solely to the theme of the unity of a God who is external to us. God is not primarily external. God “is” an absolutely unspeakable, indeterminate, ineffable principle, a principle which escapes all human attempt to say it definitively. But this principle “is” also transcendence and immanence, non-manifestation and manifestation, essence and existence.

Far from the three Aristotelian rules of logic – identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle – Muslim logic, and particularly in the Koran, takes pleasure in being “complementarist”, paradoxical. There would be a useful comparison to be made with the Tao of the Chinese tradition or even the coincidence oppositorum of Nicolas de Cuse. Tawhid is part of this logic that challenges binary mental structures. Thus, we should be aware that a significant part of the Muslim tradition rejects the ontological dualism between a creator God and a created cosmos (and humanity). The real tension is within the divine, between its essence (dhat) and its existence (wujud). Now, the Cosmos is the very existence of God. There have been many controversies about this issue and we would like to make a contribution.

To say that we must go beyond the ontological God/Creation dualism in no way means that we “reduce” God to His Creation. Contrary to the summary “analysis” of some, there is no trace of pantheism in the non-dual approach of which we speak, and which is ours. On the contrary, we consider that there is a third way which allows us to escape both from the ontological God/Creation dualism and from the pantheism which establishes a relationship of identity-confusion between God and Creation. This third way is based on a logic, not Aristotelian!, of mutual inclusion: God is inside Creation, through His signs, His ayat, and Creation is inside God, through His existence, His wujud.

It is, moreover, in this non-dual approach that divine transcendence is most respected because it cannot be appropriated. The essence (huwa of tasawuf) of God is out of reach. The great spiritual Junayd said: “The most sublime word on the knowledge of Unity is that which was pronounced by Abû Bakr the Just (al-Siddîq): “Glory to Him who did not grant to His creatures any other way to know Him than the impotence to know Him. “. He is also said to have said, “Know that the worship of God begins with knowing that the foundation of knowing God is to confess His Unity, and that the rule to be observed in confessing His Unity is to deny of Him any description answering the questions ‘how?’ “, ” where is he from) ? and “Where (is he)?” » »

In the technical language of Ibn ‘Arabi, any reflection on tawhid must start from the distinction between two modes of divine unity, the first is the ineffable, absolutely transcendent, indeterminate, unmanifest unity; the second is the unity which is said, which shows itself through the triple revelation, the triple manifestation of its Signs, ayat, unveiled in the Koran, Nature and depth, the interiority of humans. The first is called ahadiyya, the second wahdaniyya.

Unfortunately, it is the non-awareness, or the ignorance, of this fundamental distinction which has led some to the accusation of pantheism whereas we are in a panentheism, that is to say in an inclusion, an integration of the cosmos, of the created in the unity of manifestation of God, while safeguarding its unmanifested, transcendent unity.

The Islamologist Roger Arnaldez specifies: “The wahdâniyya therefore comes, from an ontological point of view, and not temporal, after the ahadiyya which is the pure unity of the Essence absolutely indeterminate by any qualification whatsoever, such as the One of Plotinus, which cannot be qualified by any attribute. » (« Ibn ‘Arabi and the Sufi gnosis », Hérésis, n° 24, 1995, p. 47). It is not illegitimate to say that if the Koran is like a Cosmos, we should do everything to avoid any kind of “conquest of space” to prefer “an exploration of the universe”.

Thus, a theology is respectful of the Koran, not when it tends to “conquer” the Koran, in particular by quoting wrongly and through its verses in order to legitimize any human position, but, on the contrary, when it invites to “explore” it, in order to be seduced by the new, the new, which arises at the bend of the verses. The poet Salah Stétié writes: “Earth and cosmos are a panoply of ayat, but the Koran is also a fabric of radiant ayat. To go by the path of the ayat that the world carries, by that of the ayat that language supports, is to define and strengthen a convergence; it is to plead for a correspondence, for a coincidence of being and words. » (« The Koran and the ”divers”, Dédale, n° 1-2, autumn 1995, Paris, ed. Maisonneuve and Larose, p. 154)

Our theologies must be paths of wonder and not pretexts for juridico-moralizing reductions. Faced with the guilt-inducing disenchantment of literalisms, the quest for meaning leads us to re-enchant, not the Koran, but our ways of reading and living the divine Word.