Posted by: Dawud Israel | February 16, 2010

Ayat meets Inscape

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

I am putting the Quran first here out of honor and respect and the Literary ideas second.  Read the literary ideas and then come back to the Quranic verses again and read them in their entirety in light of the elaborations in the Christian/Romanticist literature you’ll realllly appreciate what I want you to get out of this post.  It’s like getting a really close and really vast vision of the beauties of the world at the same time.

Hopefully this will help you unravel and appreciate some of the secrets and transcendental meanings of the Quran and give you a whiff of the scent of divine wisdom. This discussion is essentially on the door to witnessing thousands of miracles. My description of this is basically when its as if you see the Earth or Sky or any thing really, a door, stairs, a new house breathing. I may in the future try to delve deeper into this but for now, I’ve just boldened to help you contemplate!

Quran-ayat (signs), hayba (awe), tafakkur (reflection, contemplation), lutf (subtleties), Jalal (majesty), jamal (beauty)

He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, and the Bestower of Forms. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

“He Who has created seven heavens in full harmony with one another: no incongruity will you see in the creation of the Most Gracious.  And turn your vision (upon it) once more: can you see any flaw? Yea, turn your vision (upon it) again and yet again: (and every time) your vision will fall back upon you, dazzled and truly defeated.” (Quran 67:3-4)

He created the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; He set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and He scattered through it beasts of all kinds. We send down rain from the sky, and produce on the earth every kind of noble creature, in pairs. (Surah Luqman:10)

“O my son!” (said Luqman), “If there be (but) the weight of a mustard-seed and it were (hidden) in a rock, or (anywhere) in the heavens or on earth, Allah will bring it forth: for Allah understands the finest mysteries, (and) is well-acquainted (with them). (Surah Luqman 16)

“It is He who sends down water from the sky.  From it you drink and from it come the shrubs among which you graze your herds.  And by it He makes crops grow for you and olives and dates and grapes and fruit of every kind. Therein is certainly a sign in that for people who reflect.  He has made the night and the day subservient to you, and the sun, the moon and the stars, all subject to His command.  Therein are certainly signs in that for people who use their intellect.  And also, the things of varying colors He has created for you in the earth.  There is certainly a sign in that for people who pay heed.  It is He who made the sea subservient to you so that you can eat fresh flesh from it and bring out from it ornaments to wear.  And you see the ships cleaving through it so that you can seek His bounty, and so that perhaps you may show thanks.  He cast firmly embedded mountains on the earth so it would not move under you, and rivers, pathways, and landmarks so that perhaps you might be guided.  And they are guided by the stars.  Is He Who creates like him who does not create?  O will you not pay heed?” (Quran 16:10-17)

Literature- Inscape, Instress of the Trappist monk Gerard Manley Hopkins

27:93 And say: “All the praises and thanks be to Allah. He will show you His Ayat (signs, in yourselves, and in the universe or punishments, etc.), and you shall recognise them. And your Lord is not unaware of what you do.”

[Hopkins] felt that everything in the universe was characterized by what he called inscape, the distinctive design that constitutes individual identity. This identity is not static but dynamic. Each being in the universe ‘selves,’ that is, enacts its identity. And the human being, the most highly selved, the most individually distinctive being in the universe, recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act that Hopkins calls instress, the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize specific distinctiveness. Ultimately, the instress of inscape leads one to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of divine creation on it.

The idea is strongly embraced by the famous Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton who admired both Scotus and Hopkins. In New Seeds of Contemplation Merton equates the unique “thingness” of a thing, its inscape, to sanctity. The result is that holiness itself is grounded in God’s idea of being. To the extent that any “thing” (include humans) honors God’s unique idea of them they are holy. Holiness thus connects to “vocation” (from the Latin vocare for “voice”) in two ways. First, God creates through the word; and second, when being responds rightly to God’s speech by expressing his unique word the result is Holiness.

Source: Wikipedia

By “inscape” he means the unified complex of characteristics that give each thing its uniqueness and that differentiate it from other things, and by “instress” he means either the force of being which holds the inscape together or the impulse from the inscape which carries it whole into the mind of the beholder:

There is one notable dead tree . . . the inscape markedly holding its most simple and beautiful oneness up from the ground through a graceful swerve below (I think) the spring of the branches up to the tops of the timber. I saw the inscape freshly, as if my mind were still growing, though with a companion the eye and the ear are for the most part shut and instress cannot come.

The concept of inscape shares much with Wordsworth’s “spots of time,” Emerson’s “moments,” and Joyce’s “epiphanies,” showing it to be a characteristically Romantic and post-Romantic idea. But Hopkins’ inscape is also fundamentally religious: a glimpse of the inscape of a thing shows us why God created it. “Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:/ . . myself it speaks and spells,/ Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. ”

His insistence that inscape was the essence of poetry (“Poetry is in fact speech employed to carry the inscape of speech for the inscape’s sake”)

Source: Hopkins on Inscape and Instress

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


  1. Hopkins was a Jesuit not a Trappist (Beneditine order)

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