Islam on Creation, the Sacred Cosmos and the Ground of Being

The Qur’an offers respect to God as Creator and calls humans to our responsibility for creation.  We read:

Greenery in the desert: an oasis in Tunisia. Photo by Janosi Attila on Unsplash

O mankind, worship your Lord who has created you and created those who were before you, that you may be shielded against all ill; Who has spread out the earth like a bed for you and has made the heaven like a canopy, and has caused water to come down from the clouds and has therewith brought forth provisions for you in the shape of fruits.

For desert people in particular, the emphasis on the earth to lie on, water from the clouds, fruits to eat all amount to elements and gifts for survival itself.

The Qur’an celebrates the Creator’s gifts further.  

In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternating of the night and the day, and in the vessels that sail in the sea carrying that which profits people, and in the water that Allah sends down from the clouds and quickens therewith the earth and scatters therein all kind of beasts and in the course of the winds, and the clouds pressed into service between the heaven and the earth, are indeed Signs for a people who understand. 

A Shu’ai (medium-sized dhow, used for fishing or trading) in the Persian Gulf, 2015. Photo by Shane T. McCoy on Wikimedia Commons.

Notice how fascinated the writer is by ships serving the people and how naturally, as in the Hebrew Bible, human creativity and technology are wrapped in the form of ship-making into the overall cosmology of God’s creation.  Humans are nature.  What they give birth to is creation also.

The medieval Sufi master Ibn Al Arabi finds the Divine in all of creation. 

In every abode [of being, becoming] the Unique, the Merciful has forms, whether hidden or manifest….His determination applies in every abode equally.  Indeed, he is [ever] unfolding his Reality to creation.

Rumi (1207-1273) offers a simple poem about Sufihood that echoes the teachings of Meister Eckhart about God as “the ground of being.”  And from Hildegard about Mary as the “ground of being.”  Says Rumi:

Rumi Poem (English) – The Ground Cries Out. Voiceover and video by Adam Siddiq; translation: Coleman Barks.

Destroy your house, and with the treasure hidden in it
You will be able to build thousands of houses.
The treasure lies under it; there is no help for it
Hesitate not to pull it down; do not tarry!

The message to seek and find a treasure is also Jesus’s message–Seek the Kingdom of God.  Yet the treasure is hidden below, under the house.  It takes work to uncover, and it is in the ground.

Idris Shas described Rumi’s “house” this way:

“Solitary” Sketch by ja’s ink on paper on Flickr.

Within mankind is a ‘treasure,’ and this can be found only by looking for it.  Here treasure is as it were, inside a house (fixed thinking-patterns) which has to be broken down before it can be found…Man sees only pieces of things because his mind is fixed in a manner designed to see things piecemeal. 

It is our “fixed thinking patterns” we need to let go of, our idols, our frozen mind-sets, which include seeing the world only through anthropocentric, not cosmic glasses. 

Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells, p. 38. 

And Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 181.

Banner Image: “The Herb Garden on the SOI – Toronto Abode Main Campus is still pretty green even though it’s late October.” Photo by Sufi Order International, Toronto Centre on Flickr

Ibd Arabi reminds us that the divine is present in every modality of being. Is that your experience also?   Is this different from Eckhart saying every being is a word of God? 

Recommended Reading

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward


Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.

Join us for a Virtual Teach-in with Isa Gucciardi and Matthew Fox, hosted by Rev. Cameron Trimble.
August 13-14, 2021 (Fri-Sat)
Shamanism in Buddhism and Christianity
Session 1: Friday, August 13 at 4pm-6pm PT
Session 2: Saturday, August 14 at 9am-12pm PT
Session 3: Saturday, August 14 at 12:30pm-2:30pm PT

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5 thoughts on “Islam on Creation, the Sacred Cosmos and the Ground of Being”

  1. Avatar

    One of the things I like the most with these meditations is discovering new pearls or treasures of wisdom( that are more like ancient or pre modern rather than new, they just feel new, fresh and alive).
    Using the house or home metaphor perhaps I viewed my foundations too shallow?…
    When in fact all our homes are built on much deeper foundations whose roots go 13.8 billion years deep, where all healthy spiritual traditions intersect.
    Yes, a great question about how this is like Meister Eckhart, “God IS a great underground river…!”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Steve, And when you quote Eckhart as saying, “God IS a great underground river…” this quote is where Matthew got his title for the book, ONE RIVER, MANY WELLS–one of my personal favorites of his books!

  2. Avatar

    When we finally realize that the religions of man are merely an incomplete, inadequate expression of Divine LOVE, we will have come a long way on the Journey—a long obedience in the same direction toward our true Home in the Lover our soul and within Their unforced rhythms of grace. }:- a.m.

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    In today’s DM, the words… it takes work to uncover the treasure hidden within… capture my attention. For me personally this inner work is about being self-reflective… becoming contemplatively aware… awakening the gift of spiritual discerment through relationship with… not only with the different aspects of my human and divine nature, but also with the Great Mystery, the Great Spirit… with whom I am deeply grounded and connected to, through the intimacey of friendship. The teachings of St. Ignatius, taught to me through Father Timothy Gallagher, has become a tool of spiritual practice that has helped me awaken to these gifts freely offered to all, whom choose to respond. Another tool I use in the work of uncovering the treasure hidden within, is Lectio Divina and the various expressions of this, which I learnt first from Eugene Patterson and then in various forms from Christine Valters Paintner, which have for myself creatively expanded this christian contemplative spiritual practice. The latest tool I am exploring is what is called proprioceptive writing, which is a method for finding your authentic voice. All of these spiritual practices are my tools that I use in what I like to call Spiritual Journaling. They have become the methods of experiencing and encountering the sacred space of communion and union… the ground of being and living in relationship and friendship with the Holy Spirit of the Divine essence and presence of God… which for me is the treasure hidden within, that desires to be found by all, in many diverse and unique ways… which over time when engaged with establishes a deep faith and trust in the grounded reality of God’s unconditional love, infinite mercies and amazing grace embracing all.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, thank you as always for your thoughts. You mention a number of spiritual practices that work for you, I like Lectio Divina for my own practice. But besides this I would like to comment on something you said at the beginning of your comment: “For me personally this inner work is about being self-reflective…” I have used this idea of being self-reflective a lot lately in my assessment of the lack of spirituality in so many people. We have to reflect on our lives and our relationships in life and the things we think and believe–these all take for granted the act of self-reflection. Without self-reflection one does not even begin to get to a spiritual place…

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