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January 28, 2021

The Great ‘Other’

The Great ‘Other’The ancients philosophers thought creative principle in the universe consisted of ‘love and strife’[1]. That is, through the causes of love and strife all motion and change came into being.

And through this motion and change came birth and decay. Love pulled things together and strife separated things from each other. According to them, this is the cosmic principle that keeps the universe in motion. by Motiur RahmanPlato, who came after them, thought of love as the highest principle in the universe.

Implicit in his writings are the forms of love, each having its own beauty and perfection, raised on ranks, based on different categories. Therefore, love is of different types: physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, rational and so on.

Beauty of a thing, for Plato, is the coinciding of it with its ideal or perfect form – but a circle may appear to be perfect circle, however, on close scrutiny it is never perfect – and is relative to it. Love seems to be, then, the drive of a thing towards its ideal type or form! Human art and the concept of beauty has always been towards this perfect ideal, which none can define, neither have seen, and so the quest goes on!

And it must remain this way, for if the quest for perfection is accomplished then what is the meaning and purpose of future endeavours? And anyway, it is not possible in this imperfect world of human beings with its imperfect conditions to accomplish perfection. Levels of happiness, according to him, consists attaining the degrees of perfection in the different categories. For example, modern Child Development theorists will tell us that as human beings we go through a series of developments:- physical, emotional, mental, ethical, rational, social, spiritual and so on! This leads us to speculate that each of these concepts have an ideal form belonging to it, and the levels of happiness lies in the achievement of the degree of resemblance of it towards its ideal type, where total resemblance is the perfection. Love, which is to most, the ultimate principle, and so the cause for ultimate happiness, is the ultimate human endeavour! And we can safely say people are unanimously agreed on this.

The young of every species is protected by and raised through love, young of each species bond with its mother through love, whether this is rationally justifiable is another matter. This is an instinctive behavior found in the species of all animals.

So, all are born and raised through love, and so during their lifetimes seek out the love through the different objects in which the various degrees and categories of it are manifested. And since happiness is the measure of relativity – the measure of the extent of resemblance between the ideal form and actualisation of it – its opposite is absolutely necessary for human understanding.

That is, in the language of the ancients, strife. Among the Sufis, some have said, “we have attained the truth through the [relation of the] opposites”. And among the philosophers some have gone on to say that all knowledge and values are relative. It is an undoubted fact that opposites attract, and for attraction to happen opposites are required. The magnetic poles of the North and the South are in opposition otherwise there would have been a problem in the alternation of the day and the night.

All creatures are born out of the union of the opposite sexes – the male and the female. Union is only possible after separation. Without separation there is no love, hence no longing, no desire, no satisfaction, and no concept of happiness, no creativity, no strife. Let me mention that all human reality is based on experience before it is pointed out to me, and so our understanding of it is anthropomorphistic.

Kant has pointed this out very well that we can only know as we perceive and not as things as they really are. Therefore, what difference does it make whether man was created in the God’s image or image of God as man’s construct? For man can only know through his attributes while God knows through His.

The Absolute One willed to be known, and out this desire arose the light, and from this light arose the whole of creation, and Adam (peace be upon him) was made the seal of the creation, the summary of all knowledge, the intermediary and representative of all creation. It is reported that when Adam (peace be upon him) was in paradise he felt unfulfilled and that something was missing but did not know what it was. So he went to sleep sad and dejected, and woke up find Eve (peace be upon her) sleeping next to her.

On asking God Almighty who she was he was informed that she was created from the bones of his left rib for his happiness and fulfilment. She is an innate part of him and he of her, the potentiality for separation, possibility for union, the actualisation of love, and the synthesis of the whole. She is not the ‘other’, in fact she is him and he is her in this great synthesis.

The physical, biological, psychological and emotional natures need to be contrasting in order to complement each other. In other words, the ‘other’ is required for the ‘other’ for the survival and wellbeing of the species, this is repeated time and again in the design of nature, the natural order. “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman”[2], is a self-manifesting multifaceted truth all round, both from the needs of the species as well as social conventions. She is the foundation of the house of humanity without whom civilisation is not possible at all.

The masculine nature is aggressive, daring, arrogant and proud in line with the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest. While the feminine nature is contrasting as required for the survival of the species: kind, caring and compassionate. In the grand designs of the manifestations of the Absolute Perfection all possibilities, potentialities, colours, lights, shapes and sizes must be displayed. And the collective synthesis ontologically is perfection, a paradox of condition.

The ‘other’ in itself implies and entails the other. Without a point of reference there is no ‘other’. The ‘other’ is a relationship and a point to the One. Without the One there is no ‘other’. Hence, the universal whole consists of dialectical pairs: night/day, good/bad, male/female, hot/cold, wet/dry, heavy/light. These opposites acts as points of reference for each other, without the one the other has no existence, at least for the purpose of human understanding. Looking at it this way, the ‘other’ is nothing but a relation of itself to itself. That is, the ‘other’ consists of three aspects – of it, for it and through it.

These are the three aspects of the ‘other’ that are required for self-recognition, for the affirmation of the ‘I’. “Men are the managers [qawwamun] over women”[3]. The self-cognition of each consciousness is the totality of relations through and for others towards itself.

The positing of identity is negation of all that is not ‘I’.

“Made beloved to me from your world are women and perfume, and the coolness of my eyes is in prayer.” (saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, narrated by Ahmad and An-Nasa ‘i) [1] See the works of Empedocles of Acra, D.430 BC [2] See Simone De Beauvoir [3] Qur’an 4:34 The root of the key word, qawwamun (pl. of qawwam), is qama which means “to stand or to make something stand or to establish something”.

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