وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَنِي آدَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتَ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُواْ بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَن تَقُولُواْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِين
And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” (7:172)
The Covenant of Alast
The covenant that Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, took from all of us in our pre-existence life or before coming to this world’s life has not been erased from our memory, and not one of the sons of Adam has forgotten it. It is the fitrah (natural inclination/sound human nature) that is instilled in our souls and hearts, that drives us to believe in Allah and long to know Him, may He be glorified. In fact, it reaches the level of urgency that pushes and compels us to acknowledge that the Creator, may He be glorified and exalted, is the only, perfect Lord Who bestows His blessings upon us and upon all other created beings.
‘Am I not your Lord? ‘ They said:
‘ Yes! We do bear witness. ‘
God gathered all human beings, divided them into different groups, granted them human form and the faculty of speech, made them enter into a covenant, and then making them witnesses against themselves He asked them: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They replied: ‘Assuredly you are Our Lord.’ Then God told them: ‘I call upon the sky and the earth and your own progenitor, Adam, to be a witness against you lest you should say on the Day of Judgement that you were ignorant of this. Know well that no one other than Me deserves to be worshipped and no one other than Me is your Lord. So do not ascribe any partner to Me. I shall send to you My Messengers who will remind you of this covenant which you made with Me. I shall send down to you My Books.’ In reply, all said: ‘We witness that You are Our Lord and our Deity. We have no lord or deity other than You.’ (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, p. 135 – Ed.). Thus, human beings can observe the sense of theism in the depth of their own selves, since they have confessed it in the world of preexistence.
“No individual is lost and no nation is refused prosperity and success if the foundations of their thoughts and actions rest upon piety and Godliness, and upon truth and justice.“
‘Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib (PBUH)’
Truth is the Discernment of Reality
Let us talk about some of the constitute studies of the scheme of creation bearing witness to Divine creativity and wisdom. Here, with due respect, Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib (Peace be upon Him) addressed the whole system of the heavens and the earth. To give an example, quoting a passage regarding the ant:
“Have you observed the tiny creatures that He has created? How He has made them strong and perfected their constitution and shaped their organs of hearing and sight, and how He has styled their bones and skin? Observe the ant with its tiny body and delicate form. It is so small that its features can hardly be discerned by the eye and so insignificant that it does not enter our thoughts. See how it roams about upon the ground and arduously collects its livelihood. It carries the grain to its hole and deposits it in its store. It collects during the summer for the winter and, when winter arrives, it foresees the time to reemerge. Its livelihood is guaranteed and designed according to its built. The Benefactor and the Provider do not forget or forsake it. He does not deprive it, even though it should be in hard and dry stones and rocks. You will be amazed at the delicate intricacy of its wonderful constitution if you investigate the structure of its alimentary canals, its belly, and its eyes and ears which are in its head.”(Sermon 185, The Peak of Eloquence)
It is absolute simplicity of the Divine Essence and negation of every kind of multiplicity, divisibility in the Godhead, and refutation of separability of the Divine Attributes from the Divine Essence. God is the First while also being the Last; His being simultaneously the Manifest and the Hidden; His precedence over time and number, i.e. His pre-eternity is not temporal and His Unity is not numerical; His Supremacy, Authority, and Self-sufficiency; His Creativeness; that attendance to one affair does not prevent Him from attending to other affairs; the identity of Divine Word and Act, the limited capacity of human reason to comprehend His reality.
Reality be known
Before one poses any questions about the nature of reality, it becomes necessary to consider an epistemological question: “How can reality be known?” Common experience teaches us about the reliability of the five senses, and a moment’s reflection makes it clear that discursive reason cannot yield any answers to questions about the ultimate nature of reality, which is transcendent. Nature is truth and it makes you think through five Neo-senses given to you. Without these instruments, you are unable to sense anything. These senses reside with you every time to provide you thinking process in life. In them, you live.
The answer provided by traditional metaphysics is simple: truth, being of universal order, is inscribed within our deepest self — that within us which is transcendent and universal, our primordial nature, the core of our very being. Knowledge of reality is therefore equated with self-knowledge or prognosis, and can at one level be understood as the centripetal and radial interconnection of the circumference with the Center through the grace of the primordial intelligence that constitutes our very being.
That faculty which is capable of discerning reality in its most subtle nature — bearing in mind that the merely human is not privileged to know the Divine—is not the human faculty of the common senses or of the discursive reason, but the transcendent faculty of the supra-rational Intellect, the core of our discerning self, which is sometimes labeled the “Heart”.
The Islamic response to the epistemological question is completely in accord that true knowledge resides in the “Heart” or spiritual core of our being. Muslim theosophy starts with the Qur’anic teaching that the divine breath is the very spirit that is infused into our Adamic clay:
“Then He fashioned him in due proportion and breathed into him of His Spirit.”
This divine spirit is our fitrah — our primordial and innate spiritual nature — which pre-existentially affirms and testifies to its Origin in the Qur’anic episode of the Covenant of Alast, and is endowed with an innate knowledge of its fiduciary obligations — the Amanah or Divine Trust, the duties entrusted to humanity and to each of us individually and which constitute our society.
“The world is a mirror, open to empirical experiment, only to the extent that it points towards something that lies beyond nature and discloses the existence of a Mighty Hand that runs nature’s cosmic wheels.“