Isma'ili Muslim

I have waited years to connect with those having an esoteric view of the Quran so that we may work towards unity rather than division. I have inserted comments using my understanding of biblical symbolism, revealed over  seven years (1998-2005), preceded by thirty-three years of revelatory and scholastic teachings (1960-1993).

Esoteric Apocalypse (Qiyamah):
Isma'ili' Muslim Perspectives on the "End of the World" (Part 1).

EsotericApocalypse

“The Qiyāmah is true and will happen, but a full explanation of it, either in theory or in common doctrine, is not easy.”
– Paul Walker, (Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary, 73)

“We, the Imāms in descent from Imām Husayn, are present until today and we shall remain until the Qiyāmah and even after the Qiyāmah.”
- Imām Shāh Āgā Shāh ‘Alī Shāh

In Islamic thought, the ideas and themes relating to the “end of the world” fall under the doctrine of qiyāmah (“rising”, “resurrection”).  The Qur’an contains hundreds of references to qiyāmah under various names including:  the Day of Resurrection, 2:85; the Day of Mutual Disillusion, 64:9; the Day of Mutual Calling, 40:32; the Day of Decision, 37:21; the Day they are raised up, 7:14; the Day of Judgement, 1:4; the Day of Gathering together, 50:44; the Day they come forth [from the tombs], 70:43; the Day of Imminence, 40:18; the Day when the Hour comes, 30:12; the Day of Reckoning, 14:41.

For the people of the exoteric (ahl al-ẓāhir), qiyāmah is when physical world comes to an end and all things return to God for the final judgment.  They expect qiyāmah to be preceded by a series of natural disasters and physical events including earthquakes, disasters, wars, the opening of the heavens, and other such things.

However, the esoteric (bāṭin) perspective views qiyāmah in an entirely different sense.  In this sense, Abū Ya‘qūb al-Sijistānī writes that the real meaning of qiyāmah is hidden from the masses and only available to the People of the True Realities:

“Among the greatest of matters in which the People of Realities (ahl al-ḥaqā’iq) take pride is the recognition of qiyāmah, its causes, and the tokens and signs that follow these, about which the people of the exoteric (ahl al-ẓāhir) are in the dark.”
- Abū Ya‘qūb al-Sijistānī, (Kitāb al-Iftikhār, 181)

The “end of the world” would be what the Bible calls "the end of days," when a spiritual (“rising”, “resurrection”) is to take place. "The Day of Judgement" is a spiritual judgment, through which one is purified. These have understanding, which is to have spiritual light ( Daniel, Chapter 12), as opposed to those who are in the dark because of an exoteric perspective. We are in "the Day of Resurrection" and "the Day of Gathering together."

"And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob: and hearken unto Israel your father." Genesis 49:1,2

The 49th Chapter of Genesis reveals the spiritual judgment through which one is purified in mind and heart, which is the purification or salvation of the soul.

The sons of Jacob are the twelve tribes of Isarel (Genesis 49:38), the number 12 representing judgment:

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:28

"The People of True Realites" are those that have experienced a spiritual resurrection through this spiritual judgment, which takes place before the physical "Day of Judgement," "the tokens and signs that follow these" being a purified mental and emotional state.

In the esoteric perspective, qiyāmah is not a physical event, but rather, it is a spiritual or soul-related event which has effects and manifestations in the physical world.  This is because qiyāmah is related to creation (khalq).  Imām Sultān Muhammad Shāh explains that “the creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time, but a perpetual and constant event” (Memoirs of the Aga Khan).  Similarly, qiyāmah is an event that occurs in every moment and instant – although it is hidden and not perceived by most people.

The soul consists of thought and emotion, which are purified through a spiritual resurection (of truth), a "spiritual or soul-related event which has effects and manifestations in the physical world. This is because qiyāmah is related to creation (khalq)." Jesus said, "cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may become clean," which is to say, purify the thoughts of the mind and the emotions of the heart, that the actions may become pure, which is a spiritual creation, that of "a new heaven and a new earth," symbolizing a new mind and a new heart (Revelation 21). This creation process is encoded in the book of Genesis, which means creation.

Just as time is continuous, it can be felt, measured and aggregated in certain intervals – seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, decades, etc, in the same way, the qiyāmah which is ever-occuring can be experienced in intervals.  When a being fulfills and actualizes the limit (hadd) of its own existence, this is the “metamorphosis of being which esoteric parlance designates as qiyāmah, resurrection.” (Henry Corbin, Temple and Contemplation). Thus, qiyāmah is a direct culmination and the recompense (i.e. reward, punishment) of the previous actions and events in the life of a particular being.  All human beings undergo qiyāmah as they ascend from one level of consciousness to the next – such as the progression through the mineral, vegetable, animal, and rational souls in earthly life.

This spiritual creation is the spiritual birth, which like the qiyāmah is "experienced in intervals, the metamorphosis of being, a spontaneous occurance that cannot be limited to a fixed period of time, the qiyāmah being the resurrection of truth from within the heart, which is necessary because of the many false perceptions and beliefs we took on throughout our life due to the things we saw, heard, felt, and experienced. Eliminating these impurities of the mind and heart is a process, a metaphorical climb up Jacob's ladder (Genesis 28:12), the ladder symbolizing this spiritual ascension process.

Thus, we can speak of involuntary qiyāmah – when the human soul experiences the death of the physical body and is resurrected in the astral or imaginal body.  There is also the voluntary qiyāmah – when the human soul undergoes the final death and attains union with God – such as the spiriual mi‘rāj of the Prophet Muhammad.  A collective qiyāmah is something experienced by a group of human beings – such as a community, a nation, a civilization, or even humanity as a whole.

The Holy Bible refers to the voluntary qiyāmah as "the second death," which is to take place before our physical death.

When qiyāmah is understood as “the end of the world” – it is referring to a collective qiyāmah. This qiyāmah is foremost a spiritual event which has consequences and effects in the physical world – as manifested in human history.  However, the term “world” in this expression “the end of the world” cannot be understood as the planet Earth or the physical universe as a whole.  A “world” (‘ālam) refers to the entire way of life, sets of conventional beliefs, paradigms of understanding, and discourses of knowledge (‘ilm) that subsist amongst human beings in a particular period of human history – called a cycle (dawr).  The “end of the world” refers to the conclusion (“death”) of one such historical cycle (dawr) and the beginning (“birth”) of a new cycle.  This transition – from one historical cycle (dawr) to the next cycle – is the qiyāmah or the “end of the world”.  The great Ismā‘īlī Muslim philosopher Sayyidnā Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī explains as follows:

 “Amongst these [worlds] is the revolution that takes place when one cycle changes to another, when one prophetic tradition (sunnat) and custom changes to another, and one religion (millat) changes to another.  Each one of these is a world, each of these is a separate world, and when each changes, one may say that such and such a cycle, a prophetic tradition and a religion, which did not exist and then came into existence, was a separate world which underwent non-existence and then existence… Thus, when one cycle, which is another world, begins, the founder (wādi‘) of the religion of that cycle is made manifest, and his appearance, form, language, dialect, speech, behavior, deeds and spiritual path, both in whole and part, are completely different [from the previous cycle].” - Nasir al-Din Tusi, (The Paradise of Submission, 68-69)

"The end of the world" takes place to the individual, when his world (the negative and destructive energy associated with his "first heaven and earth" passes away, followed by the birth of " a new heaven and a new earth," symbolizing a new mind and a new heart. Those engaged in this creation process contribute to positive changes in the world by transitioning from the mockery of the carnal mind (demonstrated through physical works or rituals) to the reality of the spiritual mind, (demonstrated through spiritual works) by "the People of the True Realities".

One such world should have begun two thousand years ago when Jesus brought the spiritual teachings to those of religion, which were rejected, the pseuso-religion formed from the perversion of these spiritual teachings no different than the religion that rejected them in that it too was exoteric (literal), assigning literal interpretations to what was intended to be spiritual. Had they eaten of "the spiritual drink" and eaten of "the spiritual meat" that was offered to them two thousand years ago we would all be "drinking of the new wine," thinking spiritually about the words written in the Book.

Different historical periods or cycles are marked by the appearance of God’s Messengers and each cycle (or “world”) lasts anywhere between five hundred or fifteen hundred years.  In the language of the Abrahamic scriptures, the cycles are referred to as the “Days of God” (Qur’ān 14:5) or the “Days of Creation” (Genesis): “Lo!  Your Lord is God Who created the heavens and the earth in Six Days. Then He established the Throne.” - Holy Qur’ān 7:54

There was fifteen hundred years between Moses and Jesus. There was one hundred and fifty years between the death of the esoteric teachings of Jesus (460 AD) and the Prophet Muhammad (610 AD), a tenth of a cycle. Egyptian time differs form our own by a factor of 10 to 1, revealing the time-line for important historical events, such as the arrival of the next Messenger – the Prophet Muhammad. There is also another fifteen hundred years between the death of spiritual truth in 460 and the foundation for spiritual truth that was laid in 1960 through a 14-year revelation, which exposed the error of this pseudo--religion formed over a period of fifteen hundred years. The heavens (plural) of the Holy Quran symbolize levels of self-awareness. The heaven (singular) of the Holy Bible symbolizes the mind, the new heaven and earth formed within through six metaphorical days of spiritual works.

According to the esoteric meaning (ta’wīl) of this verse, the six days in which God creates the heavens and the earth are six historical cycles of prophecy and religion.  The “world” created in during these six cycles is the “World of Faith” (‘ālam al-dīn).

“The Cycle of every prophet is his ‘day’.  The time in which we are now – I mean, the time after the Emissary, al-Mustafa, was sent forth up to the time of the Resurrection – is the ‘day’ of our Emissary.  The days of Moses, Jesus, and the other prophets are past… God the Exalted created the lifetime of this world during the span of the prophethood of six prophets, each of whom had his cycle (dawr) and his summons (da‘wat) in his ‘day’ (rūz), and during his day the Emissary summoned people to God… If people were to examine this interpretation, each prophetic community would occupy the position which it indeed occupies: the Christians established on the fifth day, the Jews on the fourth day, the Mazdeans on the third day.” - Sayyidnā Nāsir-i Khusraw, (Between Reason and Revelation, tr. Eric Ormsby, 152-153)

The “World of Faith” is the World of Religion, in which mankind worships God on a physical level, the number six pertaining to physical, the past six thousand years being six cycles, or six days, as "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years." The Christian religion was formed in the fifth day or fifth century. Isaac was the first Jew, but the Jewish religion would not be formed until the time of Moses thirty-five hunderd years ago, in the middle of the third and forth day.

In each cycle of prophecy, the Enunciating Prophet (Nātiq) reveals a Scripture and a religious Law (sharī‘ah).  Accompanying the Nātiq and later succeeding him is the person of the Foundation (Asās) – who is the first hereditary Imām of the cycle.  The Asās is succeeded by a lineage of Imāms until a qiyāmah – when the prophetic cycle comes to an end and the next Nātiq appears.  The institution of Imāmah continues throughout these prophetic cycles – serving as an arc of guidance, continuity and permanence (Click Here to Read our previous post on the continuity of the eternal Imāmat in history).  An overview of these six cycles is as follows:

CyclesOfImamat

When the Sixth Prophetic Cycle comes to an end, the Seventh Cycle begins.  The Seventh Cycle, in the Qur’anic verse above, is referred to as the establishment of the Throne.  This Seventh Cycle is the Cycle of the Great Qiyāmah.  This is because a cycle of prophecy consists of the dominance of the religious Law (sharī‘ah) in which spiritual truths (ḥaqā’iq) are concealed in symbols and only available to the initiates.  The Cycle of Qiyāmah is when the spiritual truths are unveiled to the public.  The meaning of qiyāmah is literally “rising” and the meaning of the word “apocalypse” is “revelation”.  Therefore, the qiyāmah or apocalypse is not the end of the physical world, but rather, the revelation, rising or unveiling of spiritual truths to humanity.

We entered "the Seventh Cycle" or Seventh Day in the year 2000, a new millennium, entering into what was revealed to me to be the third and final "Era of Jacob," the era of Spirit and of spiritual awakening. The number seven pertains to spiritual. The World has entered what the Holy Bible calls "the time of transition" from worshipping God through the mind and body (exoteric); through "religious Law (sharī‘ah) to worshiping God through the Heart (esoteric), the "Throne" symbolizing the Heart. "The Cycle of Qiyāmah is when the spiritual truths are unveiled to the public" – a "lifting of the veil," the meaning of the word, "apocalypse." The veil symbolizes the carnal (flesh) mind, which cannot perceive of spiritual truth, symbolized by the veil over Moses' face, illustrating the children of Israel's inability to percevie of the spiritual law of God. It is time to remove the veil.

In the cycle of every Prophet, the period of the manifestation of the exoteric (zāhir) dimension of the religious law (sharī‘at) is called the cycle of concealment, and the cycle of every Qā’im, when the manifestation of the esoteric realities of the religious laws (haqā’iq-i sharī‘at) of the Prophets occur, is called the cycle of unveiling (dawr-i kashf).” - Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī, (The Paradise of Submission, 69)

"The Seventh Cycle" is associated with "the time of reformation" (Hebews 9:10), when the law is to give way to the spirit, giving one a spiritual perspective of the law, religious practices giving way to revitalization and regeneration of the soul.

The Seventh Cycle, which follows the previous Six Prophetic Cycles, is the Special Cycle of the Great Qiyāmah because it happens only once in every several thousand years.  This Cycle of Qiyāmah lasts for one thousand years and is marked by special conditions and events which are the culmination, fulfillment and apex of the previous Six Prophetic Cycles. When the Sixth Cycle – the Cycle of Prophet Muhammad – reaches its climax and conclusion, it is then that the Cycle of Qiyāmah begins:

“In the current cycle of human history, however, it was still expected, as with the earliest Isma‘ilis, that full qiyama, or the Great Resurrection (qiyamat-i qiyamat), would occur at the end of the final millennial era after Adam; that is, at the end of the sixth era initiated by the sixth law-announcing prophet, Muhammad.  The Great Resurrection, towards which all the partial consummation of the preceding cycles in history of mankind had been tending, would inaugurate the final, seventh era – the culmination of the ages in the history of mankind.” - Farhad Daftary, (The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines, II, p. 381)

"This Cycle of Qiyāmah lasts for one thousand years." This would be what the Holy Bible refers to as "the Reign of Christ," — a spiritual reign, those entering it ruled by the spiritual power that is "christ," their mind and heart ruled by love and truth through six metaphorical days of spiritual works, which is how Jesus said we are to worship— "in spirit and in truth." "The Great Resurrection" is the Resurrection of Truth, which is what the resurrection of Jesus symbolized.

The person who begins and initiates the Cycle of Qiyāmah is not a Prophet – since Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets.  Instead, the august personality who begins this Qiyāmah is called the Qā’im al-Qiyāmah (Lord of the Resurrection) and he is the Seventh Nātiq after the previous Six Messengers.  Sayyidnā Nāsir-i Khusraw (d. 1088) describes this as follows:

“The interpretation of ‘establishing Himself upon the Throne’ is the execution of the command of God by the Qā’im al-Qiyāmat (‘Lord of the Resurrection’), which is the Throne of God and which will be manifest after his Six Days have passed… ‘Tomorrow’ is the cycle to come.  That ‘tomorrow’ in which the wise take such delight is the day of True Resurrrection, when the shadows of ignorance will be lifted from humanity by the light of His knowledge, just as God says, ‘The earth will be illumined by the light of its Lord’.” - Sayyidnā Nāsir-i Khusraw, (Between Reason and Revelation, tr. Eric Ormsby, 153)

"The Seventh Cycle of Qiyāmah" is spiritual. As is the Seventh Day, which the World entered with the new millennium. It was to be a Day of Rest, but man has not been doing the spiritual works for the past six thousand years (during "The Six Cycles"). Man has not been hearing the voice of the Prophets, but rather has beein stoning them through his refusal to change. There may be one "person who begins and initiates the Cycle of Qiyāmah." But in this spiritual era or cycle, the person is anyone that completes the spiritual works of a spiritual judgment, through which he becomes "'Lord of the Resurrection,' the ressurection of truth having taken place within his own Heart— in "the Throne of God" in " the Kingdom of God," which symbolizes the Realm of the Heart. "The earth will be illumined by the light of its Lord’.”The earth symbolizes the heart (the anagram is no coincidence). The Lord of the earth is the Ruler of the heart. And what is to rule the heart is truth— spiritual light.

It is true that within a single prophetic cycle, i.e. the Cycle of Prophet Muhammad, there are minor Qā’ims as well – approximately every seventh Imām in the chain of Imāmat is the Imām-Qā’im of the minor Cycle and brings a minor qiyāmah for the community of believers.  Each minor Qā’im reveals new esoteric teachings to the community of believers relative to his own age.  Some examples of the minor Imām-Qā’ims during the Cycle of Prophet Muhammad are Imām Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl, Imām al-Mu‘īzz, Imām al-Hakim bi-amr Allāh, Imām Hasan ‘alā dhirkihi al-salām, Imām Shams al-Dīn Muhammad, and others.  All of these minor Qā’ims serve as previews or foretastes of the actual Qā’im – the Qā’im al-Qiyāmah who is the Seventh Nātiq – while the minor qiyāmahs are foreshadowings of the Great Qiyāmah.  Henry Corbin explains that:

“The name of Qā’im, resurrector, is reserved par excellence for “he who will rise up”, the Lord of the Resurrection, at the close of the final Period of our Cycle. Yet each partial Qā’im at the end of each Period of the Septenary, as well as each Imām and each member of the Order, is also, potentially, Lord of the Resurrection, a limb of his mystical body, an oratory in his Temple of Light.”
- Henry Corbin, (Temple and Contemplation, 162)

Thus, the Qā’im al-Qiyāmah (Lord of the Resurrection) is not merely one of the seven Imāms, but rather, he is the Qā’im of the entirety cyclical history and his qiyāmah is the Great Qiyāmah.  Sayyidnā Nāsir-i Khusraw explains the difference between the Qā’im (Seventh Nāṭiq) and the previous Prophets as follows:

“The Jews respect Saturday and do not work on it because of this, i.e. God has rested on this day. But they do not know that when the Messengers told people this, they meant that the people should know that, by the command of God, there will come to this world Six Messengers who will instruct the people (to work). When the Seventh will come, he will not instruct, rather, he will give them the reward of their work. And they called it Saturday and said to respect it and that day is the day of the Lord of Resurrection (Qā’im-i Qiyāmat), may peace be upon him.” - Sayyedna Nasir-i Khusraw,
(Wajh-i Din, Chapter VII, tr. Faquir Muhammad Hunzai, ‘Ilm Magazine, Vol. 11, No. 4/3, December 1987 / March 1988, p. 36)

This is what I just spoke to. The Messengers and Prophets brought the instruction, but it was not followed. The instruction for our spiritual work is in the book of Genesis. Those that complete their six (metaphorical) days of (spiritual) work will receive "the reward of their work," which is " a new heaven and a new earth," symbolizing a new mind and a new heart. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." We keep this one-time spiritual Sabbath Day holy through the purification of our heart.

Part 2