THE NATURE OF MATTER
Creation of the Universe
and Evolution of Life
It is a well-known fact that Muslim scholars have made a significant contribution to science, philosophy, mathematics and medicine, etc. during the last few centuries. As a matter of fact, they began to take active interest in all the branches of learning from the beginning of the Abbasid caliphate (750-1258 ad) of Baghdad. Thus Baghdad of those days became the central point for the scholars of the Muslim world. Among those scholars, Ibn-i-Sina is very famous for his work on philosophy and medicine. His work attained worldwide recognition, some of them were translated into Latin and taught as textbooks in Europe.
Ibn Sina, known in Europe as Avicenna, was a celebrated central Asian Philosopher, scientist and physician. His full name was Abu ‘Ali al-Hussain bin ‘Abdullah bin Sina. This great encyclopaedist, poet and critic was born at Khormethan near Bukhara in ad 980/370. But according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam,1 he was born in Afshana near Bukhara which was his mother’s home. His father ‘Abdullah had migrated from Bulkh of Bukhara where he became an official of the Samanid administration. His father paid full attention to his education. At the age of ten years, he attained a good knowledge of the Qur’an, general literature, Indian calculus (Arithmetic) and algebra. His extraordinary intelligence and memory helped him in overtaking his teachers at the age of fourteen. He did not learn natural sciences or medicine from any teacher, in fact, famous physicians were working under his direction when he was only sixteen. He felt some difficulty in grasping Aristotle’s Metaphysics which he overcame only with the help of al-Farabi’s commentary. He was called on by the Samanid Prince Nuh bin Mansur for his treatment who was suffering from a severe illness. At this time he was hardly seventeen. Having cured the Prince he was allowed to make use of the splendid library of the Samanid princes in Bukhara which benefitted him immensely. He consulted there many books which he could not study before. At the age of eighteen he had mastered all the then known sciences. He was only twenty-one when he wrote his first philosophical book which established his reputation as an outstanding thinker. His father died soon after and he was forced to enter the administration to earn his living.
He was a minister several times and his advice was always listened to. Political intrigues and court rivalries forced him to go into hiding on several occasions. In this period he earned his living by medical consultations.
He was imprisoned, escaped from the prison and then lived the last fourteen years of his life in relative peace at the court of Asfahan, and died at Hamadan during an expedition of Prince ‘Ala’ud Daulah in 428/1037. He was buried there and a monument was erected on his grave when (Hijri) millenary of his birth was celebrated in Iran in the year 1331 Shamsi/1952-53.
The UNESCO had taken decision to observe during 1980-81 the 1000th birth anniversary of this great intellectual giant of the Orient.
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The treatise entitled Dar Haqiqat wa Kaifiyat-i-Silsilah-i Maujudat wa Tasalsul-i-Asbab wa Musabbat was written by Ibn-Sina in Persian language in the form of question and answer, so that, according to the author, it may be easily understandable. It consists of nine questions which have been answered in detail. The manuscripts of the treatise are known to be extant in the following libraries/private collections.
Further I would like to mention here that Dr. Musa ‘Amid, a professor in Tehran University edited this treatise in 1331 Shamshi/1952-53 ad providing valuable information about the author and his work in hand. However it needs more comprehensive preface on the original text.
In this treatise the author describes how the creation of the universe started, how the sun, the moon and other planets came into existence, what the reality of fire, air, water and the earth is, what the process of the production of minerals was; what the substance was which converted into a plant; how the process of evolution reached to the stage of a monkey and then a man. The author has belief in the existence of God who created all things but not in the direct way but he adopted for it a procedure with which I would deal in the following pages but first of all contents of the book is being given:
In the forthcoming pages we shall discuss the last question No. 9 which in fact is relevant to our subject. The author says that before the creation of the world there was nothing but one point, comprising four things, viz., the elements, the reason, the nature and the psyche. These were in their simple (uncompounded) form. All heavenly and earthly bodies were concentrated at one place and there was no separate existence in any form in the universe. The first thing to appear from this point (Nuqta) was reason (‘Aql), which aroused nature (Tabi‘at). At this juncture, the nature (Tabi‘at) set in motion which created the units of space, i.e., length, width and depth, and surface and body also came into existence. Then the sensation (His) appeared in entity.
Though the elements get the above three units and motion from the nature and its movement, yet the main function is performed by psyche because the nature has no power of understanding. Had the psyche not joined it, it would neither have divided into the three units nor have remained in a fixed quantity, it would rather have been in the shape of a large lump with no end. In other words, the work of the nature was to set motion in the point. The nature also aroused the psyche and other things which were in a dormant and constant condition. Now began the work of psyche. It was the psyche which started division and seperation.
The author goes on to say that from the purest part of the point the body of the uppermost heaven came into existence and that the substance of reason and psyche were combined with it according to its purity (Safa). Similarly the other heavenly bodies came into existence combined with reason and psyche until there appeared the moon, the lowest heavenly body.
Now the remaining matter was dominant with impurities which could not form any other heavenly body. The nature joined this matter and set it in motion. The motion produced utmost heat in it, and the heat created porosity. When the porosity reached its utmost limit, it produced a hot and dry substance called fire.
The portions of matter which had fallen at the farthest distance from the moon remained motionless. Thus due to the maximum immovability coldness was produced and the utmost coldness led to the creation of density and density produced a substance cold and dry, called Earth.
Then there was something between these two substances fire and earth. Some was semi-adjacent to fire and some was semi-adjacent to the earth. And the one adjacent to the fire became hot but porosity was not produced in it because it was not a great heat rather it was a hot substance which was moist and it is called ‘air’. The other half which was adjacent to the earth got cold by the coldness to earth, it could not become dense because there was no great cold, thus the substance formed was cold and moist. It is called water. These are the four natural elements.
Here completes the creation of the uncompounded world and begins the process of reversion (development) leading to the stage of change in the Earth.
The first change brings about act of mixing in the four elements. The characteristic of Psyche is that it appears in the matter only when the process of motion and change begins. Thus psyche was not perceptible in the first stage of the creation of skies and appeared at the later stage. In the same manner, psyche is not perceived in the very beginning of the process of reversion, and it appears in the brightest or purest thing that evolves from the mixing of elements and the stabilization of the mixture. Likewise began the creation of minerals. As the process of reversion (development) advances, this matter becomes brighter and brighter so much so that it becomes gold and ruby (jewels). The addition of psyche is more than clay and stone in it. When this process reaches its last stage, coral comes into existence, which is the best kind of minerals. The creation of minerals reaches its perfection here and the creation of plant begins with coral which was in water.
It is the coral which leads to the beginning of the world of plants, as stated above. When the purity and brightness of coral increased, psyche joined it at this stage and spirit of developing psyche appeared in it. First of all there appeared wild vegetation, or the process of plant development continued and culminated in the formation of palm or date tree which is the only tree having animal characteristics. It became brighter and purer until the effect of psyche produced the spirit of feeling in it. The first creature which came into existence as the result of this development was shell and mother of pearl. It had some sort of feeling and mostly the feeling of touch. It would drift away from its place no sooner than it is touched. Thus began the animal kingdom from here. Its inner purity and brightness increased with the development of its creative stage. This development increased gradually and attained the form of monkeys which is the most perfect form of animals. The monkey shares numerous characters with Man. Reversion or development process continued until man comes into existence. This is the real description of the earthly creation.
1. See Vol. III p. 941.
©1995 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi