The relationship between faith and society has always been a matter of keen debate. There are those that have valued faith for the ethical and moral authority it yields, while others have singled it out as a source of conflict and bloodshed.
Using the definite article, the author asserts that, according to Fatimi philosophy, the spiritual and temporal worlds are like twins. In order to understand this relationship, it is first necessary to comprehend what dīn is, and how it differs from sharia. Imam Ahmed al-Mastur AS writes, ‘Dīn is for a group of people to obey one leader.’ Obedience requires directives that either prescribe or proscribe an act, which in turn necessitate codes of conduct, laws and statutes. These directives and the laws upon which they are based constitute sharia. Thus, although the sharia of various prophets may differ, their dīn has always remained one. Regardless of the variations between sharias due to the needs of the day and age, respective prophets laid them down with the ultimate intention of bringing about the betterment of both dīn and dunyā and to secure the salvation of souls from the hardships they face in this world. Therefore, a reluctance to comply with the tenets of dīn would invariably compromise the functioning of dunyā.
There are two parts to dīn. The first, and most important, is the set of beliefs which one subscribes to. The second, an extension of this belief, are the words and actions which manifest themselves as a result of these beliefs. Imam Mohammed al-Baqir AS captures the essence of these beliefs, words and actions by stating, ‘Dīn is nought but love.’ It is love that drives one’s commitment to adhere to the directives and tenets laid down by sharia which in turn leads to prosperity and harmony prevailing in the world. Likewise, another Fatimi source lists 18 meanings of dīn, by virtue of which it is considered the fountainhead of all that is good. Finally, it is also stated that the prevalence of good in this world is due to two traits: dīn and having a sense of shame.
Dunyā, the temporal world, is likened to a place that one passes through. It is not a permanent residence, but is similar to a mother’s womb where a child remains until his or her organs and limbs have developed and the child is ready to enter the outside world. In other metaphors, the body is likened to a ship, vessel or bridge that brings the soul to the shores of the hereafter. The soul’s time in this world is only so that it attains perfection and is able to ascend to a higher plane of existence. Due to dunyā’s potential in affording man an eternal life in the hereafter, its spatial and temporal values are unmatched and is thus given the privilege of being deemed as dīn’s twin. This status of dunyā has been expounded upon by Amirul Mumineen AS in one of his sermons and is dealt with by the author in subsequent verses of this book.
The word, ‘twins’, instantly conveys to the reader a sense of exactness and equal importance. Descriptions of the spiritual and temporal realms often refer to various pairs. For instance, the corporeal body is often linked to the immaterial soul and temporal wealth is often juxtaposed with spiritual knowledge. However, the word ‘twins’ has been reserved for the relationship between these two realms. The use of a simile encourages one to contemplate the dimensions of this comparative relationship and the parallels which exist between the two. This commentary focuses on three aspects: the common origins of dīn and dunyā, similar or identical features between the two and sibling relationships.
The fact that all twins have a shared parentage alludes to the fact that the Creator of dīn and the Creator of dunyā is one and the same. He sent various prophets with their respective sharias in order to secure the betterment of both dīn and dunyā. Fatemi philosophy clearly delineates that ʿibāda is not restricted to namaz and sawm, but encompasses the betterment of both the spiritual and temporal worlds. Whoever perseveres for the betterment of both or even one of the two will be duly rewarded by Allah, for He is the benefactor of both realms. The dearest of His servants is the one who strives for the advancement of his fellow beings and the development of both worlds. It is inconceivable that a guardian or anyone entrusted with the care of twins would neglect one and attend only to the other, likewise neglecting dīn and focusing solely on dunyā, or vice versa, is equally unthinkable.
A second feature of twins, especially identical ones, is their likeness to one another. Likewise, the bearers of various sharias were aware that humankind will never be able to find respite from the need to fulfil their physical requirements, such as satisfying hunger and quenching thirst. Therefore, in order to distinguish man from other living organisms that also seek such gratification, they subsumed these acts under the canopy of sharia by outlining directives and prohibitions. Acts and deeds which are considered wordly become acts of ʿibāda when carried out in accordance with sharia. The spiritual and temporal worlds do not run parallel to each other in the manner in which railway tracks do, but in fact are one. An entrepreneur who is sincere in his trade, receives the divine reward reserved for the one who undertakes haj and umrah.
Likewise, the Prophet Mohammed SAW has stated that the Almighty has based His faith upon the fundamentals of His Creation. In the case of identical twins, being familiar with any one of the two allows a person to recognise the other even if they may have never previously met. In this manner, the one who enhances his understanding of the tangible dunyā will be able to comprehend the relatively abstract functioning of dīn. For example, knowing the importance of the heart in the human body or the role of the sun in the cosmos allows one to comprehend the role of the imam in both the figure and sphere of faith.
A third similarity between the two is that despite two siblings being twins, one is always born before the other and is therefore senior to him. The Sasanian king, Ardashir I, as well as Persian intellectuals, considered dīn and the sovereign state as twins, with one unable to function without the other. A state requires dīn for people to adhere to, while dīn requires a state to enforce its tenets. However, they also maintained that dīn is the foremost of the two, it is the foundation for the state and the state is its protector. He further added that any entity which does not have someone protecting it will inevitably waste away. Therefore there is no alternative but for a state to have a foundation and for a faith to have a protector. In the instance of Prophet Mohammed SA, when the Almighty bestowed him with sovereignty, He did not do so with the intention of fulfilling any worldly desires and aspirations, but so that his umma enjoys the best of both worlds. The primary intention was dīn, with the state being secondary. Another reason for the bestowal of temporal sovereignty is that the populace have a tendency to embrace the culture and faith of their sovereigns.
Describing dīn and dunyā as twins highlights the special relationship that exists between the spiritual and material realms and also defines the nature of our societal interactions and personal relationships. On his deathbed, an Indian king once counselled his heir to ensure that he appoints a vizier that is ‘the loftiest of his populace in both spiritual and temporal matters’ suggesting that politics should not be void of spirituality. In a similar vein, true friends are those who help one advance in matters of dunyā, as well as in those pertaining to dīn; such companions are dearer than the most exquisite of jewels. One of the most important relationships and social contracts for a man or woman is arguably their relationship with their spouse. Since dīn is the primary of the two, sharia encourages one to resist the temptation of marrying for beauty or wealth, i.e. prioritising temporal matters, and to instead seek out a partner based on his/her adherence to dīn.
Understanding the purpose inherent in the origination of dīn as well as that in the creation of dunyā, gives way to a correct understanding of the relationship between the two. Fatimi philosophy does not advocate hermetism nor does it condone materialism. It clearly stipulates that both realms go together. However, attaining prosperity in both hinges on the recognition that ultimately it is dīn which is the foremost of the two.