June 21st is celebrated as the birthday of renowned literary genius and public intellectual of Kashmir, Professor Mohi ud Din Hajini (1917-1993). In the year of his 104th birthday, here is a translation of one of his essays, Aalam e Akbar, from Kashmiri into English.
Translated from Kashmiri by: Ameen Fayaz
About six-hundred eighty-six years ago, Maulana Rumi thus mused about human evolution:
Awwal jimad budi aakhir nabat gashti
Anngah shari tu hayawan aen bartu chu nihan ast
Gashti azan pasay insane ba ilm wa aql wa iman
Bangar ki kal shud uo tan ku juzwe khakdan ast
Bay ain zameen azan ja chi bar aasman ast
It means, “Oh man! You were initially the world of stones/ rocks (categorised and described by the Quran as salsal and as Inorganic Matter by science); then you evolved to become the world of plants (described (described by the Quran in these words: “wa anbatnakum nabatn hasana” and as Algae by science), and then you further evolved to become the world of animals (described by the Quran in these words: “summa sawarnakum” and as Amoeba by science). It looks like this whole evolutionary process is veiled from your eyes. It is after this whole process that you became a human being.”
According to the Quran, you became the object that angels bowed their heads before; according to science, you became Homo sapiens who is quite different and distinctive from other animals in terms of knowledge, reason and faith. If you would cast a deep look into your own self, you would find that the whole evolutionary process has been summed up in the construction of man as discussed in the Recapitulation Theory of Science and summed up by the Quran in these words: “wa khalaqnal insane fi ahsani taqweem”. When you would further evolve from this stage, you would enter the world of angels. With your evolution to the angelic stage, this earth would cease to be your dwelling place. Your dwelling place would then be the heavens above, which is referred to as the world of angels/spirits. In religious language, this very world of angels (aalam e malakut) is the macrocosm which is the destination of every firm believer’s spiritual flight. Logically speaking, it is just a hypothesis which could be rejected by materialists, atheists and by people who do not believe in the existence of soul.
Therefore, those people who do not believe in the existence of God, the soul, and the gradual development/evolution of the universe and do not feel the need to search for the macrocosm or aalam e akbar, landing on the moon or sending a rocket to Pluto would be of more interest than the discovery of the aalam e akbar. In the spiritual world, such people are just animals, rather worse than animals, as the Quran would have it (kal anaam balhum azzal).
In this brief analysis, I am going to remind that even materialist scientists of our age have started thinking about the aalam e akbar as a reality of which man himself is an example. Hazrat Ali (RA) has thus described/explained man:
wa tazamu annaka jirmun sager
Wa feek yatwee aalam ul akbar
“Oh man! You consider yourself one small body made of clay while the fact is that the macrocosm lives/exists in you.”
The exploration of this macrocosm (aalam e akbar) by a man who is yet to understand the microcosm (aalam e asgar) is an onerous task and an impossible wish on his/her part; as when somebody with a limited understanding of the world cannot explore the scope of an infinite universe, how can the inhabitant of the microcosm delimit the macrocosm? Why then did I choose this topic? The answer to this question is that whatever our sages and saints have experienced in the field of Tasawuf, modern science and psycho-analysis and reflections of different philosophers agree to the same. The only difference between the two is that the modern intellectual/scientist starts his/her journey with experiments of Physics for access to and understanding of Metaphysics; and while pondering on Nature, he/she states what Edington had proclaimed about the same: “Someone is doing something we do not know”. On the other side of the spectrum, the saints and sages of ancient times experience the rise to such a spiritual station through their religious practices where a spontaneous cry like this is made as an act of final submission: “subhanaka ma arafnak ka haqq e marifatika” (Glory be to you! We have not recognised you as it is Your right.)
It means that both sides of the spectrum conclude that they do not know anything despite knowing much because their three-dimensional consciousness cannot encompass the macrocosm. Even most of the great saints and sages could not witness/comprehend the macrocosm because of this fact. Regarding aalam e akbar, one can, at the outset, think of two assumptions: 1) whether we have to consider this aalam as temporal or spatial? In terms of spatial form of this aalam, one can say that glimpses of the infinite universe called the aalam e akbar can even be had through a grain of sand.
In 6th century AD, there was a philosopher in Greece by the name of Anaximender. He was most likely the first-ever philosopher to have used the term Infinite. It is since that day that researchers/philosophers consider infinity a term upon whose temporal and spatial explanations glimpses of the macrocosm (aalam e akbar) can be seen. Anaximender was actually pointing to the fact that the infinite space is visible proof of the aalam e akbar and rest all the creatures are actually the aalam e asgar in their own capacity as they are quite finite/limited in their domain/scope. Plato dragged this hint towards Sufism while as Fisagoras dragged the same towards Physics and Mathematics. In this way, the two groups continued their search for the aalam e akbar.
In the twentieth century, if, on the one hand, an atom was discovered to be the aalam e asgar, on the other hand, in astronomy a field like spectroanalysis made it quite clear there are beyond Andromeda Nebula hundreds of galaxies with their thousands of solar systems moving away from each other in their revolution. When Einstein made his entry with his revolutionary idea of relativity, he discovered a new signpost which indicates that no one single object/thing in the universe moves rectilinearly. Rather, curvature is the nature of time and space which means that every moving object reaches to the same point where from it originated. In other words, every receding universe is infinite by virtue of the natural characteristics of time and space. It has been, in fact, making rounds within a circle only. That is why it is said that the universe is closed but unbound or closed from one side but quite open from the other, which every common observer identifies/names as the aalam e akbar as it was postulated by Anaximender.
Plato, despite himself living in a finite world externally, would call man as the measure of the universe, and the prophets of Israel would refer to man as the Crown of the Creation. It is now being established by philosophers/scientists that man is by virtue of his/her structure/construction the crown of all creations and by virtue of his/her intellectual/spiritual potential is the measure of the whole universe.
The external universe, despite looking infinite, and according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, suffers total end while making circular rounds or reaches to the same state where it had begun its journey/originated in a broken/shattered manner. Nevertheless, ancient philosophy and modern science both assert that man is between the microcosm and the macrocosm, a creation in whose finite existence the infinite aalam e akbar can exist. At the end of the 19th century, when a German scientist, Earnest Heckle, published his world-famous book, The Riddle of the Universe, scholars, after feeling the infinity of the universe, would say that this riddle cannot be solved by anybody. More than hundred years after Heckle, this riddle has become more and more complex. Fifty years after Heckle when French intellectual Alexis Carrel published his book ‘Man, the Unknown’, scientists started saying that man is a much bigger riddle than the universe. After the publication of this book, when Europe devoted all its focus on biological studies, it was found that there is still an infinite world within man or what may be called the aalam e akbar about which (1) nobody can say anything for sure in terms of physical performance, structural construction, etc., and that (2) on the one hand, when some progress is made in terms of the human consciousness about some revelation made about the same, darkness engulfs, while on the other hand, a new uncertainty emerges about it which forces the researcher to accept humility in the same manner as he/she would do while researching the characteristics of light where two contradictory theories like Wave Theory and Corpuscular are both considered right.
In order to unravel all these unlimited/unbounded worlds of consciousness within man, scientists and philosophers who continue to research on the same finally connect this whole quest of knowledge/struggle with the fundamental nature of human consciousness. What is the nature of consciousness? This is a separate topic to deal with, before which the understanding of existence of material worlds within man is necessary.