Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Absolute, Infinite, Perfection

Commentary on Surah al-Ikhlas by Seyyed Hossein Nasr excerpted from The Need for a Sacred Science, p. 10-11

The metaphysical doctrine of God as absolute and infinite is contained in an explicit fashion in the Quranic chapter called Unity or Sincerity, al-Tawhid, or al-Ikhlas (CXIII), which according to Muslims summarizes the Islamic doctrine of God.

In the Name of God - Most Merciful, Most Compassionate
Say: He is God, the One (al-Ahad)!
God, the eternal cause of all beings (al-Samad)!
He begeteth not nor was He begotten.
And there is none like unto Him.

The "Say" (qul) already refers to the source of manifestaion in the Divine Principle, to the Logos which is at once the Divine Instrument or Manifestation and the source of manifestation in the Divine Order. He (huwwa) is the Divine Essence, God in Himself, God as such or in His suchness. Al-Ahad attests not only to God's oneness but also to His absoluteness. God is one because He is absolute and absolute because He is one, al-ahadiyyah or quality of oneness implying both meanings in Arabic. Al-Samad, a most difficult term to render into English, implies eternal fulness or richness which is the source of everything; it refers to Divine Infinity, to God being the All-possibility. The last two verses emphasize the truth that God in His Essence is both above all realtions and all comparisons. The chapter as a whole is therefore the revealed and scriptural counterpart of the metaphysical doctrine of the Divine Nature as it issues from the inner revelation which is the intellect.

There is, however, one more statement in this Quranic chapter with which in fact the other chapters of the Quran also open and which is related to the third aspect of the Divine Nature referred to above, namely goodness. God is not only absolute and infinite, but also goodness and perfection. To use the Quranic terminology, He is al-Rahmah, mercy in Himself, and being mercy and goodness cannot but manifest Himself. The expansive power of the Divinity, which "breathing upon the Divine possibilities" manifests the world, issues from this fundamental aspect of the Divine Nature as goodness or mercy. That is why the Sufis consider the very substance of the universe to be nothing other than the "Breath of the Compassionate" (nafas al-rahman). If God is both absolute and infinite, goodness or mercy also reside in His very nature for as Ibn 'Arabi has said, "Mercy pertains to the essence of the Absolute because the latter is by essence 'Bounteous.'"

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