Ibn al-‘Arabi and Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah on Continual Creation and Escaping from Boredom

“God does not become bored that you should become bored.”

Prophet Muḥammad 

“Never in my long life – I may say with complete honesty – have I for an instant been bored…”

Imām Sultān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III

Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Arabī, the great Sufi mystic and theosopher, explains how getting “bored” is the symptom of the person who fails to realize that God’s creative act is perpetual and renewed at every instant and that therefore, no moment or experience of the Cosmos is identical to another. If one realized that all things are anew at every instant, one would never experience boredom.

“Were it not for the renewal of creation at each instant, boredom would overcome the entities, since Nature requires boredom…But no one in the Cosmos becomes bored except him who has no unveiling and does not witness the renewal of creation constantly at each instant and does not witness God as Ever-creating perpetually.”

Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Arabī, (William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge, 105)

“In fact, it is like this in actual fact, even though not everyone recognizes it, nor does every eye and rational faculty witness it. For in actual fact, [existence] is renewed at each instant. But a person who is ignorant does not witness the renewal of bliss, so he becomes bored. Were this ignorance to be lifted from him, so also would boredom be lifted. Boredom is the greatest proof that man has remained ignorant of God’s preserving his existence and renewing his blessings at each instant.”

Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Arabī, (William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge, 106)

If a person is truly conscious of the renewal of things by God’s continuous creation, they will realize that no moment in time is the same as the one before and boredom would never be experienced. But only a fully conscious human being, who is ever-aware of God and His continuous creation of the Cosmos, can reach this station that is beyond all boredom. Most human beings are utterly unaware of the continuous nature of God’s creation – in the sense of the divine act of creation that perpetually nourishes, engenders, and sustains all being at every moment. As the Holy Qur’ān states:

“No, indeed, but they are in confusion as to a new creation (khalq jadīd).”

Holy Qur’ān 50:15

“Each Day He is upon a new task.”

Holy Qur’ān 55:29

Mawlānā Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh, the forty-eight hereditary Imām of the Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Muslims – in a statement that bears witness to his own degree of spiritual realization and witnessing – has described his total lack of boredom with both the mundane and spiritual dimensions of his life as follows:

Never in my long life — I may say with complete honesty — have I for an instant been bored. Every day has been so short, every hour so fleeting, every minute so filled with the life I love that time for me has fled on far too swift a wing. A mind that is occupied, in health or in sickness, with things outside itself and its own concerns is, I believe, a perpetual source of true happiness. In ordinary prayer, as we in Islam conceive it, adoration of the beloved fills up every nook and cranny of the human consciousness; and in the rare, supreme moments of spiritual ecstasy, the light of Heaven blinds mind and spirit to all other lights and blots out every other sense and perception.”

Imām Sultān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III, (Memoirs of the Aga Khan: World Enough and Time)

There are friends of mine, old and new, with whom I share this zest for life, this complete freedom from boredom… No one could be a better companion in joy or sorrow than Charles Grey, for he is another who realizes that friendship and social life are God-given, and that we ought to be thankful for them and accept them with joy and gusto and not with resignation or boredom. Elsa Maxwell, Charles Grey and I share one quality which I sincerely believe to be enviable: we don’t know what boredom is.”

Imam Sultān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III, (Memoirs of the Aga Khan: World Enough and Time)

The Imam’s statement that he has “never been bored”, of his “complete freedom from boredom”, is a subtle allusion (‘isharah) to the fact that he himself is a spiritually realized knower of God (al-‘ārif bi-Allāh), who is privy to spiritual unveiling (kashf) and a witness to God’s continuous creation of the Universe at all times.  Because creation is continuous, the state of the Cosmos is ever-changing and never identical to its previous state as a result of which one would never experience boredom.

The relationship between the Creator and His creation, far from being like that of a builder and a building or a watchmaker and his watch, is more akin to the relationship between a musician and his music, a speaker and his speech, or a thinker and his thinking. In the latter examples, the creation is dependent upon the Creation at all states of its existence and is never, for a moment, able to exist independently of the Creator. Thus, the Creator’s generation of the Cosmos is always occurring and renewing at all times.

Both Imām Sultān Muḥammad Shāh and Mawlānā Hāḍir Imām have also disclosed the fact that God’s creative act is a continuous, dynamic and perpetual event that occurs at every moment of existence. This is remarkably similar, if not identical, to the doctrine of creation described by Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Arabī.

“There is a fundamental difference between the Jewish idea of creation and that of Islam. 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. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine will.”

Imām Sultān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III, (Memoirs of the Aga Khan: World Enough and Time)

“My interpretation is that Allah’s message and His power is not limited. And in fact that modern science simply allows us to discover more and more of the miracles that He has performed, perhaps continues to perform, and we are blessed with the faculty of intelligence.”

Imām Shāh Karīm al-Husaynī Āgā Khān IV,(All India TV and Radio Interview with Rajiv Mehrotra, 1989)http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/4296/

“Islam’s message contains a central theme which is the total power of Allah and therefore my conviction is that the discoveries which the human mind can make are really simply a minute perception of Allah’s creation…The message of Islam with regard to Allah’s power and His creation is essential to our faith. We have everyday evidence of that and we must be thankful.”

Imām Shāh Karīm al-Husaynī Āgā Khān IV,(Pakistan and Gulf Economist Interview with Aftab Ahmad Khan, Karachi, Pakistan, 1983) http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/2799/

“[O]ne strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation.”

Imām Shāh Karīm al-Husaynī Āgā Khān IV,(Acceptance of the Charter of AKU, March 16, 1983)

“If the frontiers of physics are changing, it is due to scientists discovering more and more about the Universe, even though they will never be able to probe its totality, since Allah’s creation is limitless and continues.”

Imām Shāh Karīm al-Husaynī Āgā Khān IV,(Inauguration of the AKU Faculty of Health Sciences, November 11, 1985)

6 thoughts on “Ibn al-‘Arabi and Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah on Continual Creation and Escaping from Boredom

  1. More quotes by Their Highnesses the Aga Khans III and IV on the continuous, limitless nature of Creation and man’s relationship to Creation

    Posted by NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings on Thursday, February 28, 2013

  2. this piece of pearl lifted me up , so the message is to update your inner software “spiritually” , thank you so much ismaili brethren i’m sending you big thanks from Egypt , we are blessed by the holy body of mawlana agha khan III , i’m really respecting you and respecting your beliefs so much .you are the spiritual renewals of the whole ummah , there is a new faze for the ummah will be created soon and you will be the main builders the main renewals of the ummah’s spirituality , it’s the time for the hidden mysteries and wisdom of islam to be released to all muslims and all non muslims , you are one of the main keepers of the prophetic mysteries ,wisdom and secrets through your own unbroken chain of imams (all of them are the direct grandsons of prophet muhammad pbuh) God bless you ismaili brothers and sisters . salam alykom .

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