Sujjawal Ahmad: Origin of Life: An Isma’ili Muslim Perspective

The perspective of Ismailism essentially looks forward to a future of reconciliation between religion and science where faith and reason are no longer in opposition to each other. What’s striking, therefore, for the medieval time’s Ismaili philosophy is that individuals in that domain developed an approach of faith that was more nuanced, because, for them, faith and reason could be reconciled.

For Ismailis, religion is manifested in the garb of allegories and symbols, and an Eternal Reality veils behind those symbols, unraveling of which is possible through exegesis (or Tawil). Likewise, the physical world displays its reality covered in an outward garb. Religion applies to human society, not the working of physical beings like plants and animals. However, since, the Soul (Holy Spirit) regulates the law of physical beings, and an outward manifestation does not reliably indicate interior mechanism, therefore, to unlock the mystery of how the Soul creates and sustains nature should require an approach quite similar to Tawil. Understanding the mechanics of nature is of as much importance as is the case of religious obligations.  

What then does the Ismaili philosophy say about evolution and creation?

Many spiritual paths, most of us would be familiar with, have taught the idea omnipresence of God. God is everywhere and in everything. This idea is generally referred to as pantheism. As it assumes God does not transcend creation but is all-pervasive. God is in the universe, and indeed, in everything, and everything is part of God. Classical theism, on the other hand, characterizes God as transcendent and extra-mundane — standing outside of space-time. 

Nature and all created things are the manifestation of God’s will. 48th Imam of the Ismailis, Sultan Mohammad Shah Aga Khan III has a great deal to say about this:

 “The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allāh alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine will.” 

 Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III, Islam: The Religion of My Ancestors, extract from The Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time

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Author: Sujjawal Ahmad

Sujjawal is an invited blog author at Ismailimail. In his professional life, with his true passion for molecular medicine, he has realized how efforts to make a positive impact at multiple scales, personal, local, and global, are all intertwined. Sujjawal finds it extremely exciting to develop a deep love of cultures around the world. The stories that are about humanity, emotion, that compel us as individuals, connect our hearts and minds are the kinds of stories Sujjawal has always gravitated to, and the kinds he tells. Reach out to him via email:

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