The first thing created by God was the Intellect (‘aql).
A famous hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
Of the Abrahamic faiths, Islam is probably the one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge. The purpose is to understand God’s creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason.
Aga Khan IV to the German newspaper Spiegel
The Divine Intellect, Aql-i Kull, both transcends and informs the human intellect. It is this Intellect which enables man to strive towards two aims dictated by the faith: that he should reflect upon the environment Allah has given him and that he should know himself. It is the Light of the Intellect which distinguishes the complete human being from the human animal, and developing that intellect requires free inquiry. The man of faith, who fails to pursue intellectual search is likely to have only a limited comprehension of Allah’s creation. Indeed, it is man’s intellect that enables him to expand his vision of that creation.
Aga Khan IV, AKU Convocation Speech,
Karachi, Pakistan, November 11, 1985
God – may He be Glorified and Exalted – created Intellect (‘aql) first among the spiritual entities; He drew it forth from the right of His Throne, making it proceed from His own Light. Then he commanded it to retreat, and it retreated, to advance, and it advanced; then God proclaimed: ‘I created you glorious, and I gave you pre-eminence over all my creatures.’
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq,
(Al-Kulayni, Usul, vol. 1, pp. 23-24)
The Intellect is the substance of (God’s) unity and it is the one (al-wahid), both cause and caused, the act of origination (al-ibda) and the first originated being (al-mubda al-awwal); it is perfection and perfect, eternity and eternal, existence and that which exists all in a single substance.
Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani,
Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist
(Kitab al-Riyad, pp. 221-222)
Then came Hafiz – by far the greatest singer of the soul of man. In him we can find all the strivings, all the sorrow, all the victories and joys, all the hopes and disappointments of each and every one of us. In him we find contact, direct and immediate, with the outer universe interpreted as an infinite reality of matter, as a mirror of an eternal spirit, or indeed (as Spinoza later said) an absolute existence of which matter and spirit alike are but two of infinite modes and facets.
Inaugural Lecture Before the Iran Society
by Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III,
November 9, 1936 London,
United Kingdom on Hafiz,
the renowned Iranian poet.
Kathalika yubayyinu Allahu lakum ayatihi la’allakum ta-‘aqiloona: Allah thus makes clear to you His Signs that you may intellect.
Holy Quran 2:242
More quotes in sequence at The Link Between Science and Religion