wisdom. Then, while scattered through that world, you observe that they group together in extraordinary fashion and become sperm. Then through a series of revolutions they become clinging blood-clots, then lumps of flesh, then flesh and bone, and so on and so forth. Although in each of these stages [the particles] are more perfect than in the previous one, they are relatively dead and lifeless compared to the subsequent one.
• If you were to ask: Death is the absence of life and its cessation, and [the particles] had no life that it should cease?
You would be told: Death here is metaphorical, to prepare the mind to accept the third and fourth ‘nodes’.
The Second Matter, concerning “and He gave you life (fa-aḥyākum).” Consider this: life is the most wondrous and subtle miracle of [divine] power. It is also the greatest of all bounties and the clearest of all proofs of the first creation and the resurrection of the dead (al-mabda’ wa’l-ma‘ād).
Its finest and most obscure aspect is this: the lowest form of life is plant life, and its first level is the awakening of the embryo or vital cells (al-‘uqdat al-ḥayātiyya) in the seeds. Despite being so obvious, widespread, and familiar, this awakening has remained a mystery to human science from the time of Adam till the present.
The aspect of its being the supreme bounty: The only relations a lifeless body has are with the place it is located and the things that befall it; it is single, alone, even if a mountain. But you see that the moment life enters a tiny body like a bee, the bee can form relations with the whole universe and may do trade with all species [of beings]. It may then say: “The universe is my home and it’s just like my property.” For on passing to the level of animal life, you see that it roams with its senses and by means of them has disposal over [other beings] in all parts of the universe. Particular relations, commerce, and love are established between it and other species [of beings]. Especially if it rises to the level of human life, you see that it travels through the worlds through the light of intellect. It has disposal over the corporeal world and roams in the spiritual world and makes peregrinations through the world of similitudes. And as it journeys to those worlds, so they travel to him by being reflected in the mirror of his spirit. He then has the right to say: “The world was created for me through the grace of Allah the Most High!” Thus, his life becomes multiform and expands [to include] physical life, and moral life, corporeal life, and spiritual life, each of which embraces many levels. In fact, it might well be said that just as light makes colours and bodies visible, so life reveals beings and makes them evident.