“Religion with God is Islam” (cf. Qur’an), and its meaning, or the literal meaning of the word “Islam”, is obedience. Whoever has something sought from him and obeys the seeker in what he sought is a “Muslim”, So understand, for this principle pervades all the creatures (i.e. all creatures are obedient to God and therefore “Muslim”), whether they are in agreement with or opposed to the divine command (or what God has “sought” from them). As for the extension of this principle to those creatures who are in agreement with and obey the divine commands and prohibitions, the reason is obvious and needs no explanation. But as for those who are opposed to and do not obey God’s commands and prohibitions, the reason is that the Divine Command is divided into two parts: the “volitive” and the “prescriptive”. So if certain people are opposed to God and do not obey the prescriptive command (according to which through religion God prescribes what the creatures should and should not do), they do obey the volitive command (or what God wills for them). Verily God has an obligatory command and an ontological command; therefore that which cannot be disobeyed is the ontological command.
And religion is two religions: a religion commanded by God, which is what the prophets have brought; and a religion deemed valid by God in the same way that He deems the religion He has sent valid, for the aim of this second religion is in agreement with what God has desired from the Law established by Him, i.e., the perfection of souls in both knowledge and works. The latter is an invention (al-ibtidl0) within which is the glorification of God. So whoso observes it as it should be observed, seeking the good-pleasure of God, has attained salvation.
And the divine command is two commands: a command through an intermediary, or the intermediary of the prophets and messengers; so inasmuch as it is command through an intermediary and does not take into account the ontological command, it contains nothing but its grammatical, i.e., imperative, form; and command without an intermediary. It is the latter command, the ontological command, which is actualized by the word “Be!” and which pertains to the coming into being of that which possesses no external existence but is known in the divine Knowledge. So it is this command whose disobeyal cannot be imagined because it is impossible for the desired thing to contradict His will, as He says, Our only command “to a thing when We desire it, is that We say to it ‘Be’, and it is” (cf. Qur’an), while that command through the intermediary may be disobeyed, or it may be disobeyed by him who is commanded to do something. And that would be when it is not in accordance with the command without an intermediary.
Just as the existence of the servant is caused by God’s bestowing existence upon him, in the same way, the existence of the act which has been commanded is also by His bestowal. So as long as the ontological command does not attach itself to the commanded act, it is impossible for the servant to obey the prescriptive command. Indeed, how can a thing which does not possess existence in itself bestow existence upon another nonexistent entity and bring it from the concealment of nothingness to the wide-open plain of being? My friend, read the verse, “And God created you and what you do” (cf. Qur’an), and know that your being and acts come from the ineffable One.
If someone asks what profit there is in God’s commanding the servant to do something and not wanting that thing to come to pass through him, we would answer that prescription is one of the states of the immutable archetype of the servant, and the servant has a particular preparedness vis-a-vis the prescription which is opposed to the obeying of that command. So the archetype of the servant asks God according to its special preparedness to prescribe for it something the possibility of whose acceptance He has not placed within its preparedness. So God prescribes for it according to the wish of the special preparedness. He does not want the servant to perform the thing which he has not been commanded, for He knows that in reality, he does not possess the preparedness to accept that thing. Therefore He expects, to perform the opposite of what he has been commanded. And the profit and wisdom in this is the distinguishing of him who has the preparedness to accept the command from him who does not have it. And God knows best.
And that which is commanded without intermediary is nothing but the thing nonexistent in the external world but known in the divine Knowledge and existent with Him who commands in a particular manner (pertaining to the divine Knowledge), not that which exists (in the world) before the issuing of the command, for obviously, it is impossible to bring into being that which (already) exists. This is in contrast to that which is commanded through an intermediary, for this is nothing but that which exists in the external world, since it is impossible to prescribe commands and prohibitions for that which does not exist externally.