Know that the truth is found in every religion and is current in every tongue. What you should do, however, is to take best and to transfer yourself to it. Do not ever occupy yourself with imputing defects to the religions of people; rather try to see whether your religion is free from them.” – The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity
When one seeks only the truth and engages with the wide range of religious experience in the world, one can hardly fail to see a grand unity. Prior to encountering either the Brethren of Purity or the Din I Ilahi, I had formulated for myself a similar position which I dubbed “Syncretic Existential Mysticism”. The goal was to produce a very high-level theology which would provide a framework by which all religions of the world could be judged and within which those truly valuable offerings interpreted and their precious sentiments enjoyed.
But slowly, I found that our ancestors had not infrequently committed themselves to similar projects. There is great inspiration to be had in them, and therefore, I present the following to the reader as an example of that insight which is generated by this practice. Let the reflections of a superbly honest and learned scholar encourage you in your studies, for this is the fruit which grows from that holy labor of religion.
“God is great;” this is the patent of the Ilahí faith…in all transactions, they may endeavor to deserve the divine favor, by their usages and pious practices; and that, humbly suppliant in the court of God, without partial complacence to themselves and to others, they may execute the law in their proceedings.
I could write endlessly in praise of the material I am about to introduce. Hardly any summary could suffice in place of its readership, so I beseech you to read at a minimum Chapter 10 of the Dabistan and Book 5 of the Ain I Akbari without my mediation.
A man is the disciple of his own reason. If it has naturally a good lustre, it becomes itself his director, and if it gains it under the direction of a higher mind, it is still a guide.
And, as is made abundantly clear, that forceful and beautiful passage of the Koran remains at the forefront of those considerations necessary to religious pursuit:
No compulsion is there in religion. – The Holy Koran
For insofar as it is valuable, religion is the Mindful veneration of Mind, accomplished only by that natural, spontaneous autonomy itself.
In these sources is such a wellspring of divine inspiration and wisdom that it can hardly be discussed respectfully in any brevity. But let it be known: from the Dabistan and the Ain I Akbari (written by the illustrious Abul Fazl Allami), one can read of the most excellent conclusions reached by Akbar the Great. It is the fruit of a great religious scholar’s decades of labor, and in it one finds a wonderful confidence.
There is a marvelous sense of kinship when one happens upon those same thoughts and considerations borne of one’s own existence in the words of another. Through this body have passed those same sentiments, and in another it witnesses the greatest evidence that the same force of Mind steers all creation; that one’s brothers and sisters are so in spirit. In a decade of seeking, I have come across no other single person whose treasury of wisdom so thoroughly held those most precious stores I had gathered of my own. As my eyes passed over the choicest of contents, I could hardly restrain myself from racing to the next fruit, that I might confirm upon its inspection even further the windfall which I had happened upon. Such confidence of faith is inspired in my heart by these words, though I cannot here present them justly, I must point to them and urge that you consider their worth.
There exists a bond between the Creator and the creature which is not expressible in language.
Being that all virtue can be understood in reference to one simple injunction of autonomy, that one’s purposes be adopted autonomously and one’s actions guided by that incomparable holy power is the sole commandment of life, it can be known that from this ground grows every virtue. It is from this ineffable connection to divinity which mankind knows as freedom of will that the righteous life proceeds. From this ground, made apparent to every creature as an undeniable matter of experience and existence itself, flowers religion, and the faithful forever tend the garden.
Whosoever habituates himself to preserve this sacred relation, will be withheld from it by no other occupation.
Those principles understood as virtues are known by simple deduction; if beneficent, aiding in the growth and exercise of autonomy, who can deny that it is virtue? In any way that the holy flow of autonomy is abetted, be it in an individual body caring for itself or others so that the will of God may be done through them all, it is clear that this is God’s doing.
The heart of a just man is the heart of the all-just God
So those principles which are most useful to finite and rational beings of thought are those which most concisely and elegantly capture the guidance offered by wisdom to the entirety of human life. Though all may be inferred from that one injunction of autonomy, this can be an interesting and trying process, and so it is most beneficial to compose for oneself a map of principles which one may follow more easily in reflection and action.
To begin with a nameless philosopher’s formulation of the main tenets of the Din I Ilahi, therefore, is to introduce it well:
- liberality and beneficence
- forbearance from bad actions and repulsion of anger with mildness
- abstinence from worldly desires
- care of freedom from the bonds of the worldly existence and violence, as well as accumulating precious stores for the future real and perpetual world
- piety, wisdom, and devotion, with frequent meditations on the consequences of actions
- strength of dexterous prudence in the desire of sublime actions
- soft voice, gentle words, and pleasing speeches for every body
- good society with brothers, so that their will may have the precedence to our own
- a perfect alienation from the creatures, and a perfect attachment to the supreme Being
- purification of the soul by the yearning after God the all-just, and the union with the merciful Lord, in such a manner that, as long as the soul dwells in the body, it may think itself one with him and long to join him, until the hour of separation from the body arrives.
These principles are expounded upon to glorious degree, avoiding all manner of stereotypical or obvious error in the texts to which I have directed readers above. In them one finds a wealth of wisdom which draws one’s attention to God and the union of the righteous with the divine source of creation.
None except God, the all-mighty, is the wish of the godly man, that is, whatever the godly undertakes, the object of his wish in it is God; for instance, he takes some food, that he may be able to perform the service of God; performs that service, that he may not be slack and deficient in his duties to God; desires a wife, that he may give existence to a virtuous son, worshipper of God; pays veneration to the lights of the stars, because they are near God the all-just; and abandons himself to sleep, that his soul may ascend to the upper world. Finally, the godly man is at all times in the service and obedience of the all-just, and at no moment is he negligent in pious practices.
It is a beautiful summary of one’s adherence to that sole injunction placed at the feet of every creature by the all-just creator, but to take my heart even further:
Moreover, he thinks himself bound to abstain from hurting living beings, and he respects all the creatures of God. He does not cut grass and green trees without necessity, nor pollute the ground wantonly…he dwells with veneration upon the image of the lord of fires (the sun), until he had carried this exercise so far that, by merely covering his eyes, the great object is present to him; then, whichever of the illustrious and mighty personages of Hind, or Iran, or Greece, or any other place, he wishes to see, that person presents himself to his view, and he sees lights, explores many ways, and makes himself master of the temporary and the eternal. The lord vicar of the all-just is called Ilahí, “divine,” by his followers, because in all their actions the object of their wishes is God; and the lord has received the divine mission to establish the worship of the stars, which are to be the Kiblah of the pious. In the ancient books of the Hindus and Parsis, without number, the excellence of the constellations is affirmed.
Finally, I have found a man who had not only reached the foundation of religious knowledge (an act in which he by no means stands alone), but with seemingly unparalleled excellence sought and tended to those flowers growing in that common ground; together, these words are a colourful bounty to behold.
He ought not to oppose the creed and religion of the creatures of God: inasmuch as a wise man chooses not his loss in the affairs of this perishable world, how in those of religion, which is permanent and eternal, should he knowingly tend to his perdition? If God be with his faith, then thou thyself carriest on controversy and opposition against God; and if God fails him, and he unknowingly takes the wrong way, then he proves to himself a rule of erroneous profession, which demands pity and assistance, not enmity or contradiction. Those who act and think well, bear friendship to every sect.
In these few records we possess of his thoughts, I find confirmation of my dearest of beliefs. I find a genuine, original, rational voice which brings forth in me such an upwelling of happiness that no words seem adequate for its conveyance.
And whatever the understanding does not comprise within the extent of reason, the truth of this remains hidden; and to assent thereto is silliness; because the doctrine of other wise men may be of a higher value than the tradition or the book of that prophet. Besides, if the maxim were inculcated that prophets must be right, any body who chose could set up the pretension of being one; as silly men will always be found to follow him, saying: ‘His reason is superior to ours, which is not equal to such things.’ Hence have arisen among the Muselmans and other nations so many creeds and doctrines, as well as practices without number.
To have such depth of faith, asserting so clearly its mystic presence in the lives of creatures, and yet to grasp so forcefully the role of reason in its consummation is a rarity in my experience. Nearly every great work has seemed at the minimum ever so slightly lacking, and here, I find so little want for more that I balk at its further consideration.
For, in the interior of our soul resides the true agent, the unparallelled God, and raises tumultuous strife for the sake of provoking the investigation of truth.
What more must I add to this great faith?
The legend of Satan is an old-world notion. Who has the power to oppose the will of God?
Even the insight that there is no substantive evil force, but rather, the absence of God’s guidance is the sole cause of “evil” is captured herein. The command of virtue is opposed only by its absence, and as such, Ilahists are instructed to do no more than be as the wise, forged by the will of God, shall be:
They are enjoined to venerate those who are distinguished by devotion to the incomparable God; to take the habit of vigilance in the morning and evening, and particularly at midnight; and at all times, when they are free from the affairs of God’s creatures, to occupy themselves with perusing the books of the masters of purity and sanctity, and the books of moral philosophy, which is the medicine of spirituality and the essence of all sciences…so that having attained the highest degree of religious knowledge, they may not be liable to be moved from their station by the fictions of the masters of deceit and falsehood; as in this state of dependence the best sort of worship is, after all, the most important concern of creatures
Though I have found what seems penultimate, I am spurred onwards in my studies thereby! Truly, there can be no surer sign of excellence. And yet, bearing this great fruit, the tree is never proud, and the forest is exalted thereby:
Acknowledging that the bounty of the incomprehensible God embraces all religions, let us entirely devote ourselves to the culture of flowers in the rose garden of the perpetual spring of peace, and unceasingly attend to the Nas eb ul âyín, “establishment of the thing itself,” as to the study of promoting one’s happiness; as the Almighty God, opening the door of his bounty to the different religions* in their various means of salvation, maintains them; so, in imitation of him, it is incumbent on the powerful Kings, who are the shades of divine providence, never to desist from this rule, because the Creator of the universe confided to them this vast population for the sake of directing the state of the apparent world, and of watching over all mankind, not without preserving the good name of exalted families.
To be an Ilahist, to adhere to the instruction taking the name of the Din I Ilahi, is to do no more than be the constant student of God with that force of Mind provided thereby. To simply live as one is made by one’s Creator, to embody that truly Hebrew sense of righteousness, is to accomplish that injunction of autonomy.
All that is left is to see to the accomplishments of Mind. Life, free of confusion, focused upon that radiant Over-Soul of God, brings about a beautiful harmony. These bodies, viceroys of God, freely contribute of their abilities.