Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension)
The concept of Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) has been the subject much
research amongst the Muslim philosophers. If one attempts to read any
known Islamic philosophy text, one is hampered by the repeated usage of
this word and its derivatives, while there is no easy way to find the
meaning of the term.
In order to solve this problem both in the original text as well as the
translations and commentaries, I have proposed the usage of the term
Prehension. This would allow the Western readers to have a better grasp
of the ancient texts as well as the translators and commentators are
able to write more creatively.
We push this effort in to two distinct directions:
1. Provide metaphysical texts in both Farsi and
Arabic translated into English with the term Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension)
mapped into Prehension.
2. Provide the actual research done by Alfred North
Whitehead and his followers such that the latest ideas and concepts of
Prehension are supported or taken into accout.
Four categories of definition are found by Dr. Hasan Malakshāhi:
1. Some Muslim philosophers considered Idrāk (Grasp,
Prehension) as a characteristic of the Nafs (Self,
Psyche). Something of an image forms in the mind and that is how
something is grasped.
2. Some others believed that external entities would
affect the mind and this perturbation within the mind is how things are
3. Fakhred-din Rāzi, spokesperson for Ash’ari,
believed that Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) is something ‘Adhafa (Annexed)
to human being, there is no formation of external objects into internal
mental images. However Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) is a vector,
where one end-point is outside i.e. the object and the other end-point
the faculty of cognition within the mind. He believed in some duality
in the form of a vector.
4. Mullā Sadrā believed that Idrāk (Grasp,
Prehension) is not related to human faculties or anything else in the
universe, indeed Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) is a unique and peculiar
form of Wujud (Being-ness),
in and of itself.
For the purposes of my writings and translations of the Sufi
texts, I tend more towards the Mullā Sadrā’s understanding:
1. Wujud (Being): Idrāk
(Grasp, Prehension) is a vector-Wujud
end-point within the human being, be it within his heart or soul or
mind or Nafs (Self)
or Jism (Physiology or Physicality), and the other end-point ‘within’
or ‘pointing towards’ the other universe (for Eternal Object e.g.
Mercy) or within this universe (for Physical objects).
2. Atomic: Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) is incurably
atomic! In other words, we cannot analyzed it or find components for
it. It just is, it is within us, it is out there and it is within/from
the other universe.
3. Retarget-able: Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) is a
retarget-able i.e. it may point towards Divine Mercy or towards Divine
Beauty, yet it is the same vector,
in one occasion pointing to one Eternal Entity and in another occasion
pointing to another.
4. An Answer: Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) is also an
answer to a question, the very first primordial question; however we
shall come back to this later on INSHALLAH.
5. Line of Sight: What we call the eye of the heart
or the spiritual vision is when the human being glances along this vector
back to the other universe.
Now lets spend some effort to understand the term Prehension invented
by Alfred North Whitehead:
1. Prehension was apPrehension or comPrehension,
however the name was generalized to Prehension by Alfred North
Whitehead in his “Process and Reality” the speculative philosophy of
organism. Note that both apPrehension and comPrehension occur in
immediate past and Prehension indeed removes the time-factor and
removes the underlying processes such as mental faculties, thus
provides a more general terminology for the purpose of ‘Idrāk. ‘A
Prehends B’ means B was essential in
concrescence/formation/becoming/causation of A.
2. Prehension—Prehensions are defined as "Concrete
Facts of Relatedness. Prehensions are the vehicles by which one actual
entity becomes objectified in another, or eternal objects obtain
ingression into actual entities; they "are ‘vectors’;
for they feel what is there
and transform it into what is here".
3. Directly from the Categories of Explanation in
“Process and Reality”: x) That the first analysis of an actual entity,
into its most concrete elements, discloses it to be a concrescence of
Prehensions. xi) That every Prehension consists of three factors: a)
The ‘subject’ which is prehending, namely the actual entity in which
that Prehension is a concrete element; b) the ‘datum’ which is
prehended; c) The ‘subjective-form’ which is HOW that subject prehends
that datum. Prehensions of the actual entities—i.e., Prehensions whose
data involve actual entities—are termed ‘Physical Prehensions’ and
prehension of eternal objects are termed ‘Conceptual Prehensions’.
Consciousness is not necessarily involved in the subjective forms of
either type of the Prehension.
Lets work an example: “Human being Prehends the presence of Allah”. Human
being cannot comprehend anything of Allah or Allah’s presence. There is
no place or time where a court is held and human being can see Allah
and be present in physical form. However human being is able to ‘feel’
something within that points into the other universe and feels a
closeness and a friendship. Human being cannot comprehend this
closeness or cannot cause this friendship but feels it, or we say
Prehends the presence of Allah or human being has Idrāk (Grasp,
Prehension) for presence of Allah.
Had we said: Human being comPrehends the presence of Allah, number
of problems would have risen:
1. Comprehension is a scalar concept in this world
i.e. it is localized to our brain or cognitive faculties, There is no
way such material process can be applied to Allah—The
Sanctified the Sublime.
2. Comprehension occurs in the immediate past i.e. we
comprehend or apprehend something that has already taken place, and
again this temporal transience does not apply to Allah Subhāna-Hu.
3. It is very arrogant of us to assume that we
possess something here in this world that enables us to comprehend Allah! Allah is
searchless! The better language is that there is something UNUSUAL
placed within us by Allah that
guides us towards Allah. Especially now that we know we are few DNA
strands away from a worm or a fly! That we are built from the same
atomic or molecular structures found in many inanimate objects.
4. If the entire process of cognition for Allah’s
presence was something within our minds then we should have all thought
or sense the same, as we all think or sense the same e.g. for the sun
or for an apple. But we have such incredibly complex concepts about
Allah’s presence and that indicates infinite complexity of something
'else' making it all so different. The equivalent example might be the
apple: I bite into an apple and I taste a fruity sweet aromatic taste
of an apple with fibre texture and then you bite into an apple, however
you taste a cheddar cheese steak and onions with flesh texture!
Now we are ready to embark upon the most incredible aspect of Idrāk
(Grasp, Prehension) which is a deviation from Alfred North Whitehead’s
For any object to become, it has to Prehend unnumbered Prehensions in
order to obtain all the necessary entities (datum) that concretes it
e.g. an apple in order to be, needs to Prehend sun-light, water, DNA,
soil and so on. But this is the view from the apple back into the past!
The reverse view from the other universe into the apple is a simplex:
“Be! and it is”—a vector
of becoming from the other universe pointing to this universe when and
where the apple is. This vector
can be represented by <Be, ‘it is’> or <Kun, Fayakun> or
Word, Being> or <Kalima,
You may say all the elements of the concrescence for the apple are
indivisible in this simplex view or you may say they are in
‘superposition state’ meaning they are all there but in-discernable and
indivisible. Only after the
object is objectified and then looking backwards in time we see
discernable elements of concrescence of the Prehension.
This solves number of problems in Sufism:
1. All the Sifāt (Divine
Attributes) are discernable because we are looking at them from
this universe into the other universe, but if we could look from the
other universe into here we see only One i.e. Allah: Say: "Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by
whatever name ye call upon Him: for to Him belong the Most Beautiful
Names.” Qur’an [17:110]
2. There are three versions of a similar Hadith
(Prophetic Narration), 1) First object Allah created
was ‘Aql (Intellect), 2) First object Allah created was Nur (Divine
Light), 3) First object Allah created was Qalam (Pen).
Every human being Prehends these three objects, sometimes consciously
and sometimes unconsciously, but these are three distinct objects since
we are looking into the past towards the other universe, however
looking from the other universe into here indeed your eye, any eye,
sees only one object! Meaning the ‘Aql and Nur
are indivisible in-discerable from each other, one way; and they are
three distinct objects the other way around (looking through the past).
3. The mercy within us is obtained via the Prehension
of Divine Mercy. However starting from our mercy to reach the
perfection, we need to traverse/glance-along this vector
of Prehension from here into the other universe! The same for the other
attributes e.g. beauty, generosity, justice and so on. So by looking
along the vector
of Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) we can see a path for perfection.
4. The vector
of Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) perpetually points towards Hu. Therefore
the concept of Hu is a fundamental concept of our Wujud (Being) i.e. we
tirelessly point at Hu in the other universe.
always wrote: There is nothing but Hu or in all things they only saw Hu
and so on. This could be said in another way: If we look along the vector
of Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) into the past we see many things e.g.
causation, time-space, objects and so on, however if we could look
along this vector
from the other universe into here we see only one thing: Hu pointing at
6. Human being Prehends the Kalima
or the Divine
Words including the Divine Edict of his own existence as was
mentioned above, and words of Qur’an and Dhikr (Remembrance)
and so on. Or we may say Divine Words such as Qur’an point at us or we
are able to point to them in the other universe via the vector
Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension). While other words like human words or
written words are indeed pointing only into this universe.
We can summarize as following:
1. There is a Primordial
with one-endpoint here and the other there in the other universe,
pointing at Hu or from Hu pointing at us.
2. There is no Wujud (Being) without
which we may call Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension), there is no cognizance
without Idrāk (Grasp, Prehension) either!
3. Looking along side this vector
into the past and towards the other universe, we see concrescence,
however looking from ‘there’ to this universe we see only One: Hu
pointing at the creation.
© 2005-2002, Dara O. Shayda