This verse draws attention to a hadīth of the Holy Prophet Mohammed SAW. He says, ‘What Allah created first was al-ʿaql.’ He then ordered al-ʿaql to come forth, and He came forward. Then Allah said, turn, and he turned. Then Allah declared, by my power and majesty, I have set you at the peak of Creation. Through you shall I reward and through you shall I punish.’
In this second verse, the subject of ʿaql in man leads on to the supreme one, al-ʿaql al-awwal. This is natural, as in the ultimate analysis ʿaql in man derives light from al-ʿaql al-awwal, the first of Allah’s creation.
The command here signifies, that al-ʿaql al-awwal who, by virtue of being the first to exercise tawhīd, becomes the first in Creation, is ordered to come forward, that is, realise the highest perfection. He is then ordered to turn around so that his radiant grace may flow to the second, the third and so forth.
The question may be posed, as to how the concept of ʿaql used in this verse differs from that as set out in the first verse. The explanation is found in the fact that, according to Fatimi philosophy those beings from and out of the first Creation who did not realise the highest perfection became tainted and degenerated. The original immaculate attributes of those beings, as a result of tainting and degeneration, become subdued and submerged in them. Then later, these attributes find manifestation in man. Thus, al-ʿaql in man amounts to and connotes the potentiality existing in him, capable under proper conditions of receiving the radiant grace from al-ʿaql al-awwal. Al-ʿaql in man, through training and discipline and the absorption of the radiant grace of al-ʿaql al-awwal, has the capacity to rise and ultimately attain the highest perfection.