If you have followed all the articles thus far and understood them… congratulations… you are a student of Islamic Philosophy. If you haven’t… observe…
We spoke of the Origins of Humanity in the previous article, but we haven’t quite uncovered the whole picture yet. The reality always being that the truth of anything can never be uncovered by a single, isolated study. Observe the Qur’an, for instance. One might isolate an Ayah and understand it by its lonesome, but to truly uncover the entirety of its knowledge all the Ayaat must be studied like one would study the night sky.
Similarly, trying to uncover the truth of human existence by only studying the biology of it will only avail the biologics of the body. What of the rest? Is this it? Or is there more?
There are many ways, many different methods of approach, when studying creation, and all will agree that the best method is to study from the creator’s perspective. Let us take the example used in the previous article, ‘the computer’.
While the outward study will provide some knowledge of its peripheral existence, such as the components and how they operate, the best and only way to uncover its truth is by studying it from the inventor’s perspective. The architect’s eye. The builder’s skill. And the foremost question a student of philosophy will always ask is…why? Why was it invented? Why was it built?
Why were we created?
We can only answer this question from the Creator’s perspective and to search the answer is neither forbidden nor concealed. The Creator Himself wants us to discover His reasons, to understand them and appreciate them, and in the Qur’an He has scattered the Signs, the clues, the codices, just like He has scattered the stars in the night sky.
Now, this is not a topic that can be covered in a few hundred words of an article. Can any one individual fully encompass into words the existential truth of man and his purpose? It is not possible in the limitation of our creation. So what I will do here, and the next couple of articles, is highlight a handful few points that will enable you, the student of Islamic Philosophy to explore further. As I said before, if you have followed along and understood everything so far, then you already have the tools to venture forth. For further reading, I would direct you to the second-half of my book, The Divinity of Time and Cosmology.
Almighty Allah declares;
وَمَا خَلَقۡتُ ٱلۡجِنَّ وَٱلۡإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعۡبُدُونِ (Ad-Dhariyaat 51:56)
And not have I created the Jinn and the Man, but to serve me
The Ayah is self-explanatory, but I do want to draw attention to the philosophical meaning of the word specifically used, Liya’abudun لِيَعۡبُدُونِ . The morphology of the word is such that the additional symbols are inserted at the beginning (ل ي) and the end (و ن) which leaves the root word intact. When examining the meaning of a word through morphology and etymology, it is vital to note that if the word retains, within itself, the source root عبد, it will always be closer to the root meaning even though the morphed word has a different definition. In our case, if one were to examine the numerous English translations of the Ayah, it always ends in “except to Worship me”. This is accurate in the religious context as the exaltation of God Almighty. But there is also a relationship between God and His Creation, which is to be found in the essence of the word itself. In examining the root meaning, we find something different ‘except to Serve me’. This is because the root meaning is that of servitude. An ‘Abd عبد is a ‘servant/slave’. ‘Abada عبد is ‘he served’ (as a verb) and servitude is entwined with worship by virtue of obeying and fulfilling command.
It is in this context that when Nabi Muhammad was asked by Jibril (Hadith Bukhari/Muslim),
“What is Ihsaan?”, he replied; أَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ (To serve Allah as though you can see him). Note again, the word used عبد, unbroken in its root.
Now, we need to pair the above Ayah and Hadith with the Ayah from Surah Baqarah cited in the previous article, and ask the questions;
Why did Allah say ‘I will place on earth a Vicegerent’ and not ‘a servant’ or ‘a worshiper’?
Is there are difference? If there is, is the Qur’an contradicting itself?
Does a vicegerent enact his own laws and doctrines?
Does a servant rule his master?
Or are they one and the same?
How, and why?
Only one conclusion can be drawn; The vicegerent, man, has been created to serve the master, Allah, by following and enforcing the creed and structure that Allah Himself has ordained.
If this is true, how can both the roles of Khalifah and ‘Abd be fulfilled?
Allah Himself explains the process within which is contained the purpose; (Baqarah 2:31)
وَعَلَّمَ ءَادَمَ ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءَ كُلَّهَا
And He (Allah) taught Adam the names of all
Let us break it down;
He taught - عَلَّمَ - is a F’il in its root of ‘Ilm علم which denotes knowledge. The act here is that of conveying knowledge by teaching it, or passing it on to another. Note that knowledge was taught by speech and action, by the virtue of ‘teaching’, not imprinting or instilling. What it means is that there was effort, and always has been an effort, on the part of man to learn and discern, and fully understand. Adam - ءَادَمَ - is an Ism and the name of the first man, Adam. But it is not a name if it has no meaning. The root of the word stems from دم (Blood). It signifies the very definition of the creation of man, the first man, to the minute organism of a single clot of blood as defined by the first revelation unto Nabi Muhammad, Surah Al‘Alaq. The Names - ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءَ - this is where all manner of misconceptions are drawn. Names. I will, InshaAllah, cover a separate module on the Philosophy of Names, but for now, understand that ‘names’ does not mean ‘vocabulary’. It refers to an ‘ability’ of ‘attribution’. In language, every Actor (Ism), Action (F’il), and designation (Harf), all have a title and definition. Without these titles and definitions—meanings— knowledge cannot be conveyed. Speech becomes limited to hand gestures and sentences filled with “urm, er, thing, other thing, you know…”. This is paired with; All - كُلَّهَا - not ‘everything’. The word ‘everything’ is actually a morphology of two words ‘every’ and ‘thing’, and in Arabic it is denoted as كل شيء where كل is ‘every/each’ (singular), and شيء is ‘thing’ (also singular). In the context of the Ayah, the word كُلَّهَا is the plural connotation of كل ‘each’, meaning ‘the whole/entirety/all’. Not ‘everything’. Just ‘all’. Now, if we put all the pieces back together, we can interpret it as follows; That Almighty Allah gave knowledge unto man by virtue of giving him the ability to identify, name, and define whatever he meets and experiences. Adam was not given a vocabulary of names or a dictionary of sorts that contained the names of everything in existence from then till the end of time.
Please, let’s be serious.
No, what mankind has been given is an ability so unique that neither the Angels nor the Jinn had ever witnessed before. Visualize the dramatics of all the events. Allah Himself puts on a display of His power;
ثُمَّ عَرَضَهمۡ عَلَى ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنۢبِـُٔونِى بِأَسۡمَآءِ هَـٰٓؤُلَآءِ إِن كُنتُمۡ صَـٰدِقِينَ
Then He exposed unto the Angels (this Knowledge) and said, ‘Inform me of these attributions (titles, definitions, explanations) if what you say (of the Vicegerent - previous Ayah) is true.
Or rather ‘show Me your own capabilities (Iblees included) in knowledge if your claim about a corrupt and bloodthirsty vicegerent is true’.
To which the Angels, with utmost sincerity, responded; (Baqarah 2:32)
قَالُواْ سُبۡحَـٰنَكَ لَا عِلۡمَ لَنَآ إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمۡتَنَآۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَلِيمُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ
They said ‘Glory be unto you. We have no knowledge save what you have given us. Verily, you are most Knowledgeable most Wise.
And then, He Allah, gave the command to Adam so that He could reveal the mother of all Revelations; (Baqarah 2:33)
قَالَ يَـٰٓـَٔادَمُ أَنۢبِئۡهُم بِأَسۡمَآٮِٕهمۡ فَلَمَّآ أَنۢبَأَهُم بِأَسۡمَآٮِٕهمۡ قَالَ أَلَمۡ أَقُل لَّكُمۡ إِنِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ غَيۡبَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَأَعۡلَمُ مَا تُبۡدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمۡ تَكۡتُمُونَ
He said ‘O’ Adam, inform them of these attributions (show them the knowledge I have given you),’ and when he informed them, He Allah said, ‘Did I not tell you… I know the unseen of the Heavens and the Earth, and I know that which you disclose and that which you conceal.’
We will elaborate this Ayah deeper in the next two articles, but essentially what we find here is truly a remarkable statement. That Almighty Allah magnificently discloses, with clear and irrefutable evidence and testimony, that the chief attribution of the human Vicegerent, of the Khalifah, is not ‘rule and governance’. It is Knowledge.
The ability to acquire knowledge. To comprehend knowledge. To relay knowledge. Whether by deduction or induction, through observance or thought, we human beings are a creation unlike anything else produced on this earth, and the testament of our civilization is our ability to think with intellect and understand.
All this is elaborated in the conjoining of three key symbols; عَلَّمَ ‘Knowledge relayed’ ءَادَمَ ‘unto mankind’ ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءَ كُلَّهَا ‘through an ability to name and define’.
I am of this opinion, and remember, this is just my own opinion to which I have presented my thoughts and relative arguments. Above all, only Allah truly knows best. I believe, that the ultimate purpose of creating mankind is defined in three empyrean characteristics as such;
The Vicegerent - خليفة - by fulfilling the creed of Islam اسلام, both in ritual accomplishment as well as the advocacy of Just Law, Worthy Structure, and Fair Governance. The complete structure of Islam is not only in the enforcement of Sharia and its compliance, but by its advocacy in the entire sense of purity and sincerity that above all, Sovereignty is Allah’s.
The Knowledgeable - علم - by fulfilling the tenets of Imaan ايمان, both in emotional belief and in the thirst to know and understand more. Faith without Knowledge, is Ignorance. And Knowledge without Faith, is pointless. It is fulfilled with the conscious affirmation, that All Knowledge comes from Allah, as attested by the Ayaat above, and only by trusting and believing in Him can man truly ascend to enlightenment.
The Servant - عبد - by fulfilling the rites of Ihsaan احسان, in the servitude of Allah as though you can see Him, and if you cannot see Him, know that He can see you. This is the spiritual ascension of man, from the lowest of the low in the material realm, to the highest of the high in the spiritual realm. It is not, crudely put ‘the perfection of worship’ by Shahaadah, Salaat, Saum, Zakaat, or Hajj. No, those are the pillars of Islam. Ihsaan is embracing spirituality in every aspect of one’s life, with conscious awareness that Allah knows all that is unseen as well as what we ourselves reveal and conceal in act and action (Ayah above - Baqarah 2:31). It is accurately placed as ‘servitude through righteous conduct,’ by following the guidance of Allah and His Messengers and Prophets.
This is my understanding. My purpose, and the purpose of all mankind, as a creation of Allah.
Or perhaps I am mistaken?
Perhaps our purpose is to go to school and be indoctrinated with ambition. To have wealth, jobs, careers, degrees, properties, investments, vacations, and to eventually leave everything behind and die.
This is the question we need to ask ourselves. You, the human being, here on earth.
Who are you?
Where have you come from?
Where are you going?
What is your purpose?