And Mulla Sadra

If Islamic philosophers point us towards a ''cause of being'', while later kalam thinkers, notably Ghazali, try to rescue that source-of-all from being enmeshed in causal necessities, what remains to be expressed is the utter uniqueness of the creator/creature relation. The Qur'an had insisted upon it; what idiom can help us to articulate its sui generis character? That will be the task of the thinkers who emerged, after the decisive accusations of Ghazali, to restore Islamic philosophy in the original heartland, the ''East'', hence its title, ishraqi, picking up the associations of sunrise with illumination. It fell to Shihib al-Din al-Suhrawardi (d. 1191) to introduce a new paradigm for the doing of philosophy.42 While it is accurate to call that paradigm Platonist rather than Aristotelian, one must also call attention to the way in which spiritual exercises came to be seen as integral to the philosophical inquiry, perhaps under the influence of Ghazali's Deliverer yet also consonant with that dimension of ancient philosophy underscored by Pierre Hadot.43 The metaphor of light allowed Suhrawardi to account for the emanation of all things from the One in such a way as to finesse the necessitarian implications of Avicenna's scheme while retaining his emphasis on essence. Mulla Sadra reoriented Suhrawardi's legacy so as to give primacy to existence, in the light of the reflections of Ibn 'Arabi, so that creation came to be recognised properly as the bestowal of existing. He puts it succinctly:

Now contingent beings, [that is, those not necessary in themselves], need something proper to them constituting what they are in themselves [huwiyyat], for should one consider them apart from the One who originates them by that very fact they must be considered to be empty and impossible. [That factor proper to them, then, must be] the act constituted by the One who originates them, much as the quiddity of a composite species is constituted by its difference. For the ratio [ma'na] of being an existence which is necessary is that it belongs to it properly to exist, without needing to be united with an originator nor have any receptacle to receive it; while the ratio of being an existence which exists [that is, contingent] is that it is something attained, either by itself or by an originator.44

It would be fair to say that existence (wujud) plays the role which light had played for Suhrawardi, yet by exploiting Avicenna's celebrated distinction of essence from existence in this way, Mulla Sadra moved the issue beyond the metaphorical, opening a way of seeing the relation of creator to creatures as the One who bestows existence to all-that-is, in such a way that God alone exists in Himself, while everything else which exists does so ''from God''. That emanation need not be ''necessary'', however, as it had to be for Avicenna, but can be thoroughly intentional; while the relation of everything-that-is to the originating One must be inherent to each thing, and so will be different from any relation within the created universe. The term of art, non-duality, seems best suited to express this unique ''non-reciprocal relation of dependence'', signalling Mulla Sadra's debt to Ibn 'Arabi as well as offering some suggestive connections with Shankara's Hindu idiom as well as that of Thomas Aquinas.45 Moreover, by moving us into the world of Shi'ite philosophical reflection, Mulla Sadra's suggestive focus on existence helps to round out our survey of models for creation in Islamic theology. If the relation of creator to creatures turns out in the end to escape conceptual articulation, and to require a set of spiritual exercises to move both mind and heart to further enlightenment, that would seem to reflect the nature of this inquiry more accurately.

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