[, Islam may be said to have three levels of meaning. All beings in the universe, to begin with, are Muslim, i.e., “surrendered to the Divine Will.” (A flower cannot help being a flower; a diamond cannot do other than sparkle. God has made them so; it is theirs to obey.) Secondly, all men who accept with their will the sacred law of the revelation are Muslim in that they surrender their wdl to that law. When 'Uqbah, the Muslim conqueror of North Africa, took leave of his family and mounted his horse for the great adventure which was to lead him through two thousand miles of conquest to the Moroccan shores of the Atlantic, he cried out: “And now, God, take my soul.” We can hardly imagine Alexander the Great having such thoughts as he set out eastward to Persia. Yet, as conquerors, the two men were to achieve comparable feats; the “passivity” of 'Uqbah with respect to the Divine Will was to be transmuted into irresistible action in this world.
Finally, we have the level of pure knowledge and understanding. It is that of the contemplative, the gnostic ('arif), the level that has been recognized throughout Islamic history as the highest and most comprehensive. The gnostic is Muslim in that his whole being is surrendered to God; he has no separate individual existence of his own. He is like the birds and the flowers in his yielding to the Creator; like them, like all the other elements of the cosmos, he reflects the Divine Intellect to his own degree. He reflects it actively, however, they passively; his participation is a conscious one. Thus “knowledge” and “science” are defined as basically different frorn mere curiosity and even from analytical speculation. The gnostic is from this point of view “one with Nature”; he understands it “from the inside,” he has become in fact the channel of grace for the universe. His islam and the islam of Nature are now counterparts.