Monday 27th of May 2019

Knowledge is not extensive learning

Every soul that establishes a connection with the higher realm of malakut and the angelic sphere, receives such inspirations as are angelic in character and the knowledge that is cast into it is true knowledge from the angelic realm. Also, every soul that establishes a connection with the lower malakuti realm, the realm of the jinn, Satan and evil spirits, receives inspirations that are satanic in character of the order of compound ignorance and obscuring veils. This is why the 'urafa' and the people of true knowledge consider spiritual purification, the purgation of intentions and motives and the rectification of one's goals to be the first step in the path of acquisition of sciences, especially the Divine teachings and the sciences of the Shari'ah. Accordingly, they give the relevant advice and warnings to the students, for the link with the higher sources is strengthened(toughened) through the purification of the soul. And that which the holy Lord, Exalted and Glorious, says in the noble verse:

...And fear God, and God shall teach you..., (2:282)

linking the Divine teaching to taqwa (God-fearing) is for this reason that taqwa purifies the soul and connects it to the invisible sacred realm. This is followed by Divine teaching and the rahmani inspirations, for there is no niggardliness in the higher realms, which are bounteous by necessity, in the same way as the Necessary-Being-by-Essence is Necessary in all aspects.

However, if the soul engages in acquiring the sciences due to attention to selfish motives, for better food and drink and for egoistic reasons, its goal becomes non-divine and the inspirations it receives are satanic in character. This is one of the foolproof criteria - which I think has not been mentioned by the `urafa' - for differentiating between rahmani andshaytani inspirations and most of the times one is aware of this fact. The inspirations received by the impious soul full of impurities and obfuscations belong to the category of compound ignorance (i.e. to be ignorant and be ignorant of one's ignorance), which is the incurable malady of the souls and the main impediment on their path. That is because the criterion in knowledge is not acquaintance with general concepts and scientific terms. Rather, the criterion is the removal of veils from the soul's eye and opening of the door of the knowledge of God. The real knowledge is the guiding spiritual lamp that shows the straight path of nearness to God and to the abode of His bliss.

Everything other than this is vanity, though in the world of mulk and prior to the removal of the veils of carnal nature those conversant with it should be reckoned as scholars, gnostics and jurisprudents by those used to learned controversies and disputes(bickers)  But once the blinds are removed from the eyes of the heart, once the curtains of the world of malakut are raised and once one wakes up from the heavy slumber of mulk and corporeal nature, that (which once appeared to be knowledge and learning) will be found to be the darkest of veils. It will be found that all those branches of formal learning were all in all thick spiritual curtains each of them separated from the other by vast distances and we were ignorant of this fact.

The people are asleep and they wake up on death. [3]

It is then that the real nature of our learned preoccupations is revealed to us. But that which is shameful and scandalous is that even after fifty years, or more or less, of learning and study we remain mistaken about ourselves, at times imagining that our studies are for the sake of God. We remain unaware of the ruses of Satan and the self, for self-love is a thick veil that conceals our defects from ourselves. Hence the chaste awliya' and the noble Imams, may Allah's peace be upon them, have mentioned certain signs and marks of identification so that we may know and evaluate ourselves by their means without entertaining a baseless good opinion about ourselves. Later on in this exposition we will refer to the signs and marks mentioned in this noble tradition.

We came to know that in a primarily classification the seekers of knowledge fall into two groups: those who have a divine aim and those who have a mundane one. It may be said that the ultimate goal of the latter group is ignorance(jahl), for the seeming knowledge that they is compound ignorance in reality and a spiritual veil. The two groups mentioned by al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) in the tradition that we are expounding both belong to this class, for the seekers of domination as well as the impostors dwell in ignorance and misguidance. Hence it may be said that the ignorance mentioned by the Imam as a sign of the first group is something different from the ordinary meaning of ignorance. Rather, it either means muddling up issues and keeping people ignorant or it means the ignorance of one who pretends to be ignorant of the truth or is not ready to accept it. Both of these characteristics are also present in the group afflicted with mira' and jidal. They deny facts and well-established truths and adhere to ignorance for the sake of promoting their own opinions and marketing their spurious and little in demand merchandise.

Although in one classification(categorization) the seekers of knowledge do not constitute more than two groups- that is, on the basis of a preliminary classification based on an affirmation or negation of the divine goal of knowledge - a further classification will show them to be more than three groups. As to their division into three groups by the Imam, it may be said that he wished to mention two major groups consisting of most of the victims of ignorance and misguidance. Thus in another tradition we find that he considers the seekers of knowledge as constituting two groups:

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said: "He who seeks (to learn) hadith for worldly benefit has no share in the Hereafter, and he who seeks it for a benefit in the Hereafter, God grants him benefit both in the world and the Hereafter." [4]


Section II:

We have mentioned the evils of mira' and jidal earlier in the exposition of one of the holy traditions. However, it is also proper here that we mention some relevant traditions and describe a little of their evil effects. In the noble al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad the following tradition on the authority of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

Amir al-Mu'minin (A) said: "Beware of dispute and controversy, for they infect with enmity the hearts of brethren. They are the roots of hypocrisy (nifaq), out of which hypocrisy grows." [5]

There are other traditions in al-Kafi narrated from al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A):

Abu `Abd Allah (A) said: "Beware of controversy, because it discomfits the heart, gives rise to hypocrisy, and creates ill will within the heart." [6]

Abu `Abd Allah (A) said: "Gabriel said to the Prophet (S): `Beware of getting entangled in dispute and acrimonious debate with people.' " [7]

Now let us take up the explanation of the fact that dispute and acrimony in talk sicken the heart, create ill feeling between friends and make hypocrisy grow(boomed) within the heart. It was mentioned earlier that outward actions leave certain effects on the inner self and the heart that are in accordance with their character. Here we must say that vicious actions have a more immediate and stronger impact on the heart. That is so because man is the offspring of the world of nature and the faculties of lust (shahwah), anger (ghadab) and diabolism (shaytanah) accompany him and are active in him, as has been mentioned in a tradition:

Satan circulates in mankind like the blood in veins. [8]

Hence the heart is directly confronted with corrupting elements and matters acclimatized to physical nature. Even a slight external assistance, either from one of the bodily organs or in the shape of an immoral and vicious companion, produces a strong effect on the heart. Therefore, there are warnings in the noble traditions against keeping company with such persons:

Al-Kafi reports on the authority of al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) from Amir alMu'minin (A) that he said: "It does not behoove a Muslim to be on fraternal terms with an immoral person, for he makes his own acts appear fair to one and likes one to become like himself. He is of no assistance to one either in the matters of the world or the Hereafter and it is a matter of disgrace for one to have social intercourse with such a person." [9]

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) said: "It is not proper for a Muslim to fraternize with an immoral person, a fool or a liar." [10]

An important point behind the prohibition on keeping company with sinful persons, or on presence in a gathering where God is sinned against, or on befriending and mixing with the enemies of God, is the influence of their morals, states and acts on a person. More important from the viewpoint of such influence are one's own acts and their effect upon the heart, so that the perpetration of vicious acts even for a brief period produces a strong influence on the heart, freedom and relief from which is not possible or attainable even after many long years. This indicates that should one indulge in dispute(bicker)   and hostile debate, not much time would pass before a terrible darkness and obfuscation appears in the heart, the outward verbal hostility soon leading to an inward hostility that is itself the greatest cause of hypocrisy, two-facedness and duplicity. Hence the evils of hypocrisy may be recognized through a recognition of the evils of mira' and jidal. Earlier, in the course of exposition of one of the traditions we have described the evils of hypocrisy and two-facedness and there is no need to repeat that here.

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) mentions certain signs and symptoms of the victims of ignorance and disputatiousness, one of which is causing harm to the people and being a vicious presence, which by itself is a vice and evil that is sufficient as an independent cause of one's destruction. It is mentioned in a noble tradition of al-Kafi:

(God Almighty says:) Whoever torments a friend of Mine has challenged Me to battle. [11]

The causing of harm and tormenting of the faithful has here been equated to declaration of war against God and hostility against His Sacred Being. The traditions relating to this topic are too many to be included in this brief exposition.

Another of the signs of this group has been mentioned to be mira', contesting of opinions and engagement in learned debates for the sake of domination and proving one's merit. As to making mira' the consequence of mira' in the tradition, it is possible that the first mira' is an inner quality and a vicious trait of the heart and the mira' that has been mentioned as its consequence is its outward manifestation and symptom.

Another of the symptoms of this group is its pretence of being forbearing while it is devoid of this quality. This is itself hypocrisy and two-facedness and involves riya' and shirk. Similarly, the pretence of humility (khushu') while being devoid of piety (wara') is also another clear manifestation of shirk, riya', hypocrisy and two-facedness.

This shows that this characteristic is possessed of great vices each of which is fatal and destructive. It is necessary that we undertake any kind of effort and hardship to deliver ourselves from this shameful, faith-killing and destructive malady of the heart and purge it of its darkness and filth, purifying it and burnishing it with the sincerity(frankness) of intention and inner truthfulness. In this regard there is a point here which is enough to shatter one when one reflects upon it for a while. It is that which al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A) mentions after describing the signs of this group. The Imam (A) says:

As a result God crushes his nose and severs his waist (it may- also be translated: to mean: `Hence, may God crush his nose and sever his waist').

This is either a du'a (prayer or curse) or an indicative sentence (ikhbar). Whatever it should be, it is bound to take place. For should it be an indicative sentence, the reporter is a truthful speaker of attested veracity (sadiq-e musaddaq). Should it be a du'a', it is the du'a' of a Ma'sum and a wali of Allah and is certain to be granted. Hence it is indicative of the certain humiliation and disgrace to befall such a man, and perhaps in both the worlds: in this world in front of those whose respect he wished to earn through ostentation and pretence of merit and which produce an opposite result by bringing him disgrace, reducing his worth, and earning him the contempt of those whom he sought to dominate and impress; and in the next world were he shall be humiliated and brought to shame in the presence of the archangels, prophets, apostles, the infallible awliya' and God's righteous servants.

So woe to us, the victims of mira' and jidal, of carnal desires and hostilities! How great is our affliction at the hands of this vicious, heartless self which would not leave us alone unless it has brought us damnation in all the stages of life and existence, and yet we never bother to reform it! Our ears are closed with the stoppers of neglect! We refuse to awake from the heavy sleep of nature! O God, Thou art the reformer of Thy servants and the Master of their hearts. The being of all the existents lies in Thy power and the hearts of Thy creatures lie under the total influence of Thy will. We are not our own masters and have no power over our own benefit or harm, life or death. Do illuminate our dark hearts with the light of Thy grace and correct(accurate) our vices with Thy magnanimity and mercy and help these powerless and weak creatures of Thine!

Section III:

We said concerning the mention of mira' in the first part of the noble hadith that mira' has an inner spiritual being as well as is an outward phenomenon that is the product, sign and symptom of the first kind of mira'. Similarly we may say concerning the second part of the description given by the Imam (A) that istitalah and khatl have an inner existence as a spiritual habit and quality, as well as an outward manifestation which is the result of that habit. . Similarly, in most of the activities of the heart there are various levels: the level of enduring trait (malakah), the level of state (hal), and the level of outward behaviour, which is the product of the inner trait. Thus those who have in them the trait of istitalah, the urge for domination and ambition as well as that for deception and imposture, they also carry its outward signs and symptoms, some of which have been mentioned in the tradition by al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A). One of them is deceit and imposture which make one present himself as pious and righteous while he is not such inwardly. This group of people are wolves in the garb of sheep and devils in the form of men. They are the worst of God's creatures and their harm to the people's faith is more than that of armies of opponents(rival).

Another of the characteristics of this group is that they behave with humility and in a sychophantic manner with those who are the object of their greed. They spread their nets of imposture, sychophancy and false humility to trap poor, weak people, to benefit from the sweetmeats of their love, admiration and worldly respect. For this purpose they exploit their own religion, sell their faith and make use of the mundane benefits that are available. This is the group of people about whom a tradition says that when some people in paradise see them they will say: "How is it that we came to paradise as a result of your teaching while you yourselves have been confined to hell?" They will answer, "We did not act according to what we spoke." [12]

Another of their signs is that they behave haughtily with their likes who do not attract their greed and whom they consider as impediments in the way of their own advancement. They treat them with vanity and try as far as they can to humiliate them through words and deeds, for they are afraid that anyone of them can cause him trouble which can lead to a slump in their credibility.

One should know that it is a most difficult thing to remain pious when one is in the formal dress of learning, zuhd andtaqwa and to preserve the purity of one's heart in the clerical profession. That is why if someone from this class should act according to his duties and go through its phases with sincerity, correct himself, and after reforming himself engage in reforming others, and protect the orphans in the descent of the Messenger (S), such a man is reckoned among the Outstrippers and the Near Ones (muqarrabun wa sabiqun). Such a thing has been said of four disciples of al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) by al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A). The following tradition is reported in al-Wasa'il from Rijal al-Kashshi with an isnad reaching up to Abu `Ubaydah al-Hadhdha':

Abu 'Ubaydah says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah, may peace be upon him, say: 'Zurarah, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Abu Basir and Burayd (ibn Mu'awiyah) are amongst those concerning whom God, the Exalted, said: "The Outstrippers, the outstrippers- they are the Near Ones."'" [13]

There are many traditions relating to this topic and the excellences of the learned (ahl al-'ilm) are more than can be expressed. It suffices to cite the following tradition of the Noble Prophet, may God's benedictions be upon him and his family, about them:

When death comes to one who is seeking knowledge to revive thereby Islam, there will be only one degree between him and the prophets in Paradise. [14]

Later on, insha' Allah, there will be occasion to describe their excellence. However, if, God forbid, should the seeker of knowledge depart from the path of sincerity and take the road of unrighteousness, he will be reckoned among the worst of God's creatures about whom there are strong and strange (condemning) expressions in the traditions.- The first thing that the learned in religious sciences and the seekers of this perilous road must take into consideration is self-reform during the period of studies, counting it as far as possible to be the foremost of their duties, for this is harder and more obligatory than all the duties and obligations dictated by Shari`ah and reason.

O seekers of knowledge and spiritual excellences and teachings! Rise from your sleep and know that you have lesser room for excuse before God, and God Almighty shall call you to a tougher account. The level of your knowledge and works is very different from that of other people.

Your path (sirat) is sharper and narrower and there will be a great scrutiny of the record of your life. Woe to the student and seeker of knowledge in whose heart learning creates darkness and 'obscurity! And we see in ourselves that if we have learnt some inadequate concepts and some futile terms, it has kept us from treading the divine path. Satan and the self have dominated our being and turned us away from the path of humanity and guidance. These absurd and senseless concepts became our biggest hindrance and there is no remedy except to seek refuge in the Sacred Being of God Almighty.

O God, we confess to our shortcomings and plead guilty to our sins! We did not take even a single step in the path of Thy good-pleasure nor did we perform a single act of worship and obedience with sincerity. Yet treat us with Thine all-inclusive mercy and Thine unbounded grace. In the same way as Thou concealed our inadequacies in this world, do cover them with Thy forgiveness and covering grace in the other world, where we need it more!

Here, too, it is essential to remember the point that we mentioned while expounding the earlier part of the noble tradition. That point concerns this utterance of the Imam (A):

As a result God blinds his vision and wipes out his traces from the record of the learned.

That which is denoted by this statement, whether it be du'a' or ikhbar, is certain to happen. One must be very fearful of this inner blindness of vision which is the main source of all kinds of darkness and wretchedness. The blindness of the heart is the source of all misfortunes. Similarly, to be purged from the effects of the learned and to be deprived of their merits and gifts, apart from this deprivation itself, will be followed by an unimaginable humiliation and disgrace in the presence of God's elect on the Day of Resurrection.

Section IV:

As to the men of understanding and intellect - that is those for whom the goal of seeking knowledge is to become learned in Din and to know its truths - there are certain signs of which the main ones have been mentioned in the tradition. One of them is that knowledge creates grief, pain and dejection. To be sure this grief and dejection is not for the sake of the base and transitory worldly matters, but from the fear of the Return and the terror of falling short in the performance of duties and service. This grief and dejection, besides(alongside) illumining the heart, gives. it a purity and burnish. It becomes the original impulse for self-reform and commitment to the duties of servitude and creaturehood. The light of knowledge takes away quiet from the heart of the devotee, introducing him to God and the abode of His bounties. He derives great pleasure from praying to God Almighty and spends his nights in wakefulness and in performing the duties of devotion. Hence the Imam (A) says:

The first sentence apparently indicates engagement in worship. Another sign of this divine man of knowledge is that though fully attentive to the duties of servitude he is still in a state of trepidation. The light of knowledge reveals this to him that however much he may attend to his duties his efforts are still inadequate and wanting, that he cannot entirely fulfil the requirements of gratitude and true worship. This realization fills his heart with terror and it is about such people that God has said:

Even so only those of His servants fear God who have knowledge. (35:28)

The light of knowledge brings trepidation and grief, and though such a person is cognizant of his commitment to self-reform, the fear of the Return does not let him rest. He beseeches God to reform him and is afraid of becoming preoccupied with other-than-God. He shuns the people, fearing lest they should keep him from the path of God and the journey towards the world of the Hereafter, by making the world and its pleasures appear glamorous to him. Thereupon God confirms such a person and strengthens the supports that sustain his being, and grants him amnesty on the Day of Resurrection.

Oh, would that we had been with them, then should we have achieved a great success! (see 4:73)

And all praise is ultimately God's, at the beginning and the end, and may God's benedictions be upon Muhammad and the Pure Ones of his progeny.

[1]. Al-Kafi, "kitab fadl al-'ilm", "bab al-nawadir", hadith 5.

[2]. Bihar al-'anwar, i, 225.

[3]. Ibn Maytham al-Bahrani, Sharh-e sad kalimeh-ye qisar, 54.

[4]. Al-Kafi, i, "kitab fadl al-ilm", "bab al-musta'kil bi- ilmih", hadith 2.

[5]. Ibid., ii, "kitab al-'iman wa al-kufr", "bab al-mira' wa al-khusumah", hadith 1.

[6]. Ibid., hadith 8.

[7]. Ibid., hadith 6.

[8]. Sunan al-Darimi, ii, 320.

[9]. Al-Kafi, "kitab al-'ishrah", "bab man tukrahu mujalasatuh", hadith 2.

[10]. Ibid., hadith 3.

[11]. Ibid., "kitab al-imnan wa al-kufr", "bab man adha al-Muslimin", hadith 8.

[12]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, xi, 420.

[13]. Ibid., xviii, 105.

[14]. Sunan al-Darimi, i, 100.

With my chain of transmission reaching up to the best and the earliest of traditionists, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni-may God be pleased with him-from Muhammad ibn al-Hasan and 'Ali ibn Muhammad, from Sahl ibn Ziyad, from Muhammad ibn 'Isa-, from 'Ubayd Allah ibn 'Abd Allah al Dihqan, from Durust al-Wasiti, from Ibrahim ibn 'Abd al-Hamid, from Abu al-Hasan Musa (A) that he said: "The Messenger of Allah, may God's benedictions be upon him and his family, once entered the mosque where there were a group of people surrounding a man. 'Who is that?', inquired the Prophet (S). He was told, 'He is an 'allamah', (i.e. a very learned man). 'What is an 'allamah?' asked the Prophet (S). They told him, 'He is the most learned of men regarding Arab genealogies, past episodes, the days of the Jahiliyyah and Arabic poetry'. The Prophet (S) said, 'That is a knowledge whose ignorance does not spoil one nor is its possession of any benefit to one'. Then the Prophet, may God's benedictions be upon him and his family, declared, 'Verily knowledge consists of these three: the firm sign, the just duty and the established sunnah. All else is superfluous.' " [1]


There is (Who is he?) instead of (Who is that?) in some manuscripts. might have been said to express contempt.`Allamah is a derivative (sighah) that expresses extremeness (mubalaghah) and its ta is for the sake of (further) exaggeration. It means 'very very knowledgeable'.

You should know that in logic the word who) is used for questioning concerning a person and the word (what) for questioning concerning a given reality or for explaining an abstract noun. Since they told the Noble Messenger (S) that this man is an `allamah, that master questioned them concerning the meaning of `allamah in relation to the character and content of the knowledge that they attributed to him. Hence he put the question with the word . Epithets are at times made a means for questioning concerning essence, for instance, where the meaning of an attribute is known but not the person to whom the attribute relates. In that case the question is nut by using the word and it becomes . But if the person be known and the attribute be unknown, or when the purpose be only to know the attribute, the question is put with the word and the question then relates to finding out the attribute, not the person attributed with it, nor the attribute and the person attributed with it as well. In this noble tradition, since it was remarked that this man is an'allamah, the Prophet's purpose behind the question was to find out the meaning of the attribute that they ascribed to the man. Hence he asked, `What is an `allamah?' and not, `Who is an 'allamah?' or `Why and for what reason is this man an 'allamah?'

The explanation given above is clearer than what the authority (muhaqqiq) among the philosophers and the philosopher among the authorities, Sadr al-Muta'allihin-may Allah sanctify his soul-says in his exposition of this noble tradition, which we shall refrain from citing due to fear of prolixity and for its being outside the scope of our discussion.

Section I:

We have mentioned earlier that man, to put it briefly, is confronted with three worlds, stations and phases of life: first, the world of the Hereafter, which is the hidden world (`alam-e ghayb) of spirituality and the intellect; second, the phase of Barzakh, which is the world of khayal lying between the other two worlds; third, the phase of this world, the domain ofmulk (corporeality) and the world of appearance ('alam-e shahadat). Each of these phases has its own special perfection and training and requires action appropriate to it. The prophets, upon whom be peace, have been encharged to instruct the people concerning those actions. Hence all beneficial sciences are divisible into these three 'ulum (sciences): the `ilm(science) that relates to the excellences (kamalat) of the intellect and spiritual duties, the science that relates to the acts of the heart and its duties, and the science that relates to bodily acts and the duties of the self's outward life.

As to the sciences that play a strengthening and educative role in the sphere of the spirit and immaterial intellect, they consist of the knowledge of the sacred Essence of God and that of His attributes of Beauty and Majesty, as well as the knowledge of the immaterial hidden spheres, including the angels of all kinds, from those of the higher levels of the higher jabarut and higher malakut to the lower levels of the lower malakut and the earthly angels and the armies of God, Glorious and Exalted, in addition to the knowledge of the prophets and the awliya' and their stations and degrees, the knowledge of the revealed scriptures, the character of the descent of revelation (wahy), angels and the Spirit, as well as the knowledge of the world of the Hereafter and the character of the Return of the creatures to the world of ghayb, the reality of the world of Barzakh and Resurrection with their details, and, in a word, the knowledge of the origin (mabda') of existence, its reality and degrees, with its expansion (bast) and contraction (qabd), and its manifestation (zuhur) and return (ruju'). The bearers of this knowledge, after the prophets and the awliya', upon whom be peace, are the philosophers and the masters among the hukama', the `urafa' and the mystics.

The sciences that deal with the discipline and education of the heart and its esoteric actions consist of the knowledge of moral dispositions that lead to salvation (munjiyat) or perdition (muhlikat). That is the knowledge of moral virtues, such as forbearance (sabr), ness (shukr), shame (haya'), humility (tawadu'), resignation (rida), courage (shuja'ah), generosity(sakhawah), piety (wara`) God-fearing (taqwa) and other moral excellences and the knowledge of the ways and means of acquiring them and their related causes and conditions, as well as the knowledge of moral vices, such as envy (hasad),pride (kibr), enmity (hiqd), deceptiveness (ghishsh), the love of position, the love of the world and the self, etc., and the knowledge of their causes and the ways of obtaining freedom from them. The bearers of this knowledge, too, after the prophets and their designated successors (awliya'), may peace be upon them, are the experts in the science of ethics and the learned in the spiritual disciplines and mystic teachings.

The science that deals with the education of the exoteric being and its disciplining consists of the science of fiqh, its preliminaries, and the science of etiquette (adab), social intercourse (mu'asharat), management of home (tadbir-e manzil), and politics or civic administration (siyasat-e mudun). The bearers of this knowledge are the learned in the exoteric (ulama'-e zahir), the fuqaha' (legists) and the muhaddithun (traditionists), after the prophets and the awsiya', may peace be upon them.

You should know that each of these threefold human spheres mentioned are interrelated in such a manner that the influence of each of them-whether it is positive or negative-percolates to the others. For instance, if one takes upon himself the performance of the duties of worship and exoteric rites as one should perform them in accordance with the prescriptions of the prophets, that will produce effects in his spirit and his heart, improving his moral character and perfecting his beliefs and convictions. Similarly, if one should engage in his moral improvement and the beautification of his inward being (batin), that will produce a positive(approving) effect in the other two spheres. 5o also the development of one's faith and the strengthening of beliefs is effective in the other two stations. This is on account of the very intimate connection between these different stations. In fact (they are so closely related that) the word `connection' also fails to express it fully. Hence one must say that they are a single reality with (different) manifestations and aspects.

Thus development and perfection in each of the three stations is interlinked. Hence no one should imagine that he can a perfect faith and a refined moral character without performing exoteric works and bodily worship, or that when his moral character (khulq) is defective and unrefined(ucultivated) his conduct can be complete and whole and his faith perfect, or that without faith in his heart his exoteric acts can be complete and his moral excellences can be perfect.

When one's bodily (exoteric) actions are defective and not in conformity with the prescriptions of the prophets, that gives rise to obfuscations within the heart and obscurities in the soul which obstruct the light of faith and conviction. Similarly, if one has base moral dispositions in the heart, they obstruct the light of faith from entering it.

Hence it is essential for the wayfarer of Hereafter and the straight path of humanity to pay an acute care and attention to each of these three aspects and to reform and exercise himself in their regard and not to neglect any of the theoretical and practical excellences. He should not imagine that sole refinement of moral character or sole strengthening of beliefs or sole conformity to the exoteric aspect is sufficient for him, as believed by some experts of each of these three disciplines. For instance, the Shaykh-e Ishraq, at the beginning of his work Hikmat al-'ishraq, divides the perfect into these three categories: those who are perfect in knowledge and action, those who are perfect in action, and those who are perfect in knowledge. This suggests as if perfection of knowledge can coexist with inadequacy of action or vice versa. Moreover, he considers those who are perfect in knowledge to be the felicitous sincere linked with the world of ghayb and immateriality, treading the path of the highest heavens ('Illiyyun) and associating with the archangels. There are some scholars of morals and esoteric science who consider the attainment of moral moderation(self-control) and the refinement of the heart and esoteric acts as the source of all excellences and attach no worth to intellectual truths and exoteric rules. On the contrary, they even consider them as thorns on the wayfarer's path. There are some scholars of the esoteric aspect who consider the intellectual and the esoteric sciences and mystic teachings as perfidy and infidelity and are hostile to their scholars and students.

Each of these three groups, who hold these false beliefs, are withheld(detained) from each of the three spiritual stages and all the three spheres of genuine human existence. They have not rightly reflected concerning the sciences of the prophets and the awliya' and hence there has always been antagonism between them. Hence each of them attacks(raids) the others considering them as pursuing falsehood, although it is incorrect to separate the stages. In a sense, each one of them is right in repudiating the others, not because their learning or action is wholly invalid, but because the limits set by them for the various human levels and their confining of human knowledge and excellences exclusively to their own discipline is contrary to fact.

The Noble Messenger, may God's benedictions be upon him and his progeny, has in this noble tradition divided the sciences into these three parts, and there is no doubt that these threefold sciences pertain to these threefold planes. This claim is testified to by the divine scriptures, the traditions of the prophets and the Infallible Imams-may peace and benedictions be upon them-for their teachings are classifiable into these three classes. One of them consists of the knowledge of God, angels, scriptures, the Messengers and the Last Day, and the heavenly scriptures-especially the all-inclusive divine scripture, the Lord's Holy Qur'an-are all full of it. Rather, it may be said that that which the Book of God teaches more than anything else is this class of knowledge. It consists of the call to God as the origin and end (mabda' wa ma'ad) of all creation through valid rational arguments and with perfect clarification, as pointed out by the authorities. In fact the other two aspects occupy a somewhat lesser position in the Book of God in comparison to this aspect, and the ahadith of the Imams, upon whom be peace, too, are full of it and beyond enumeration, as will become clear by a reference to reliable books which are accepted by all the `Imams-may God be pleased with them-such as the noble al-Kafi and al-Saduq's Kitab al-Tawhid.

Similarly the attention given to spiritual refinement and moral reform and moderation in the Book of God and the traditions narrated from the Ahl al-Bayt (A) is beyond what one would expect. However, these books and these chapters have remained in oblivion, without receiving the due attention and credence by us, unfortunate ones in the bondage of futile hopes and expectations! The day will come when God Almighty will question us and establish His accusation against us on the basis of their evidence and the Immaculate Imams (A)-may God be our refuge-will dissociate themselves from us due to our abandoning their traditions and sciences. I seek refuge in God, the Exalted, from wretchedness of the ultimate outcome and an evil end.

As to the. traditions relating to fiqh and exoteric rites, it need not be said that all our books are full of them. Thus we come to know that the sciences of the Shari'ah are confined to these three kinds in accordance with the needs of man and the threefold human aspects. None of the scholars of any one of these sciences has a right to find fault with the others. It is not right to repudiate a science if one is ignorant of one of these sciences and to be irreverent towards one who is learned in it. In the same way as a sound intellect considers the affirmation of something that one does not know as an ethical vice, so also is the denial of something one has no conception of; rather the latter attitude is worse and more vicious.

If God, Blessed and Exalted, should ask, for instance, "You did not know the meaning of the unity of being (wahdat al-wujud) in accordance with the doctrine of the hukama' and neither did you receive instruction concerning it from those adept in it, nor did you study that science and its preliminaries. Then why did you blindly accuse them of unbelief and insult them?" What answer shall one have to give in God's sacred presence except bending down one's head in shame? Of course, a pretext such as "I thought it to be so" will not be acceptable. Every discipline has certain essentials and preliminaries, without whose knowledge it is not possible to understand its conclusions. This is especially true of such a subtle issue as this whose actual reality and meaning is not well understood even after a lifetime of effort, and here you are who want to apprehend with your inadequate intellect after reading, for instance, a book or two or some verses out of al-Rumi's Mathnawi something the philosophers and the hukama' have been discussing for several thousand years and dissecting its issues. Obviously you will not make anything out of it:

May God have mercy upon the man who knows his own worth and does not transgress his limits. [2]

Similarly, if a pseudo-philosopher or mystic were to be asked, `On what religious basis did you call the fuqaha' superficial and extroversive, finding fault(offense) with them or, rather, with a branch of religious sciences brought by the prophets (A) from the Lord of all lords for the perfection of human souls, denying its worth and insulting them? On what rational and shar'i grounds did you consider affront towards a group of scholars and legists as permissible?" What answer will he offer in the presence of God, Blessed and Exalted, except bowing his head in shame and discredit? In any case let us leave this irksome part to pass on to the rest of the discourse

Having known that the threefold sciences referred to by the Noble Messenger (S) are the same as the three mentioned above, the question remains as to how does each of these expressions correspond with each of these sciences. Although this matter is not of much importance -for that which is important in this regard is the understanding of the principles of these sciences themselves and the effort to learn them but it is essential for the exposition of the noble tradition.

The eminent `ulama', may God be pleased with them, who have undertaken the exposition of this noble tradition have differed among themselves, and to preoccupy ourselves with the differences of their opinions and their examination will needlessly prolong our discussion. Hence I will confine myself in this regard to what appears to me, with all my inadequacy, to be correct, citing such supporting evidence as has not been mentioned (by anyone). Thereafter I will mention an important point mentioned by our revered shaykh, the perfect `arif, Shahabadi, may his shadow over our heads endure(withstand) forever.

You should know that the expression `firm sign' (ayatun muhkamah) implies the rational sciences and the true doctrines and divine teachings. `Just duty' (faridatun 'adilah) implies the science of ethics and self-purification. `Established sunnah' (sunnatun qa'imah) refers to the science of the exoteric aspect and the bodily conduct (i.e. involving some kind of physical activity ). The reason for this correlation is that the word 'ayah' means `sign' and is appropriate for the rational and doctrinal sciences, for they deal with the signs of the Divine Essence, Names, Attributes and other matters, and there is no precedent of the use of the word ayah for other sciences. For example, in the Book of God, in many cases, after offering proofs for the sacred existence of the Creator or the Names and Attributes of His sacred Essence, or for the existence of Resurrection and its characteristics, or the world of Ghayb and Barzakh, such a statement as this follows as a reminder: "This is a sign" or "These are signs for those who think" or "These are signs for those who have intellects". Ayah is a word whose use in relation to these sciences and teachings is quite common. But should the sentence "This is a sign" be mentioned following the mention of a legal or ritual issue or after an ethical principle, that would obviously not be devoid of impropriety. Hence we learn that ayah, sign and mark is something that is appropriate for and special to the (intellectual and spiritual) sciences related to doctrine (`ulum-e ma'arif). Similarly, the characterization of ayah as muhkam (firm, unambiguous, precise) is also in conformity with these sciences, for these sciences are subject to intellectual criteria and based on firm rational proofs (burhan-e muhkam ). However, the other sciences, in accordance with their character, do not possess firm and steady rational proofs.

The reason for considering the expression faridatun `adilah (just duty) as referring to the science of ethics is the characterization of duty as `adilah (lit. just, moderate, balanced). That is because virtue (khulq-e hasan), as established in that science, consists of keeping distance from either of the two extremes of excess and neglect (ifrat and tafrit) and each of the two extremes of excess and neglect is blameworthy, and justice ('adalah), which signifies the golden mean and the point of moderation between them, is praiseworthy. For example, courage (shuja'ah), which is one of the principal virtues and a moral excellence, is represented by the middle point and moderate position between the extremes of rashness (tahawwur, which is absence of fear in situations where fear is proper) and timidity (jubn), which amounts to being afraid in situations where fear is improper. So also wisdom (hikmah), which is also a principal moral virtue, consists of the middle point between the vice of cunning (jurbuzah), which is the use of the thinking faculty in matters it is improper to use it, and the vice of stupidity, which is suspension of the thinking faculty in matters where it should be used. Similarly, continence (`iffah) and generosity (sakhawah) are virtues represented by the middle position between the vices of covetousness (sharah) and apathy (khumud) and between prodigality (israf) and stinginess (bukhl)respectively.

Thus the attachment of the adjective `adilah to faridah indicates that the expression faridatun `adilah corresponds to the science of ethics (akhlaq). Moreover, the term faridah by itself affirms such a connotation, for since faridah here-which has been put here in opposition to sunnah, signifying the third part of knowledge-is something which can be known by the means of the intellect, as is the actual case in the science of ethics (`ilm al-'akhlaq), contrary to sunnah which refers to matters where the criterion is pure obedience (ta`abbud) and which the intellect is incapable of apprehending. And that is why we have said that the expression sunnatun qa'imah refers to the science which deals with the acts of obedience and the rites of the Shari'ah, which have been called 'sunnah' here. Their general nature is such that the intellect is incapable of apprehending their rationale and the Sunnah is the only means of proving and apprehending them. So also the use of the adjective qa'imah in characterizing sunnah here is also congenial to the obligations (wajibat) of the Shari'ah, for it is common, as well as correct, to speak of the iqamah (establishment) of wajibat and the iqamah of salat, zakat and so on. This word (i.e. iqamah) is not used in the other two sciences and its usage therein would be incorrect. This is all that can be said in regard to correlation on the basis of congenialities. , (And all knowledge is with God).

Section III:

Now we shall mention the point that we promised to discuss. It is this that in the noble tradition the science of doctrines and ma'arif has been referred to as ayah and ayah means sign, symbol and mark. The point that relates to this term is that if the doctrinal sciences and doctrinal truths are studied for their own sake and if all the related concepts, terms, high-sounding expressions, and embellished juxtapositions of terms be learned for the sake of showing off to feeble minds and for the sake of obtaining worldly status, then they cannot be called ayat muhkamat; rather they must be named obscuring veils and hollow fantasies. That is because if one's purpose in learning the sciences should not be to reach God, the Exalted, and to realize the Names and Attributes and to mould one's self in accordance with the Divine character (takhalluq bi akhlaq Allah), each of such acquisitions of his is a dungeon of hell and a black veil that darkens his heart and blinds his insight, making him one of those to whom this noble verse applies:

But whosoever turns away from My remembrance, his shall be a life of narrowness, and on the Resurrection Day We shall raise him blind. (20:124)

Then he will find himself blind in that world and will complain to God saying, "O my Lord, why hast thou raised me blind, while I was blessed with sight in that world?" The answer will come: "You were blind in that world too, for you did not see Our signs and you neglected them." The criterion for sight in the world of the Hereafter is the vision and insight of the heart; the body as well as its faculties there are totally subject to the heart and the intellect (lubb ). (The body being an image of the soul in that world), the conformity of an image to its object shall be complete and the image of something deaf, blind and dumb is such.

Hence one should not imagine that those who are well-versed in concepts, terms and expressions and have books and writings by heart are those who have the knowledge of God, the angels and the Last Day! If their learning is a sign and mark, why has it not produced its luminous effect in their own hearts? Why has it even increased the darkness of their heart and the corruption of their morals and conduct? The Noble Qur'an has mentioned the criterion for identifying the genuine Mama' when it says:

Even so only those of His servants fear God who have knowledge .... (35:28)

The fear of God is the specific characteristic of the 'ulama' (the learned) and every one who does not possess the fear of God, the Exalted, is outside the ranks of the 'ulama'. Now let us consider ourselves. Is there any trace of that fear in us? If there is, why does it not show any effect in our outward personality?

In the noble al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad the following tradition on the authority of Abu Basir:

(Abu Basir) says: "I heard Abu 'Abd Allah (A) (Abu Ja'far, according to another manuscript) say : 'Amir al-Mu'minin (A) used to say: "O seeker of knowledge, knowledge has many merits. (If you imagine it to be a human being then) its head is humility, its eye is freedom from envy, its ear is understanding, its tongue is truthfulness, its memory is research, its heart is good intention, its intellect is the knowledge (ma`rifah) of things and matters, its hand is compassion, its foot is visiting the learned, its resolution is integrity, its wisdom is piety, its abode is salvation, its helmsman is well-being, its mount is faithfulness, its weapon is softness of speech, its sword is satisfaction (rida), its bow is tolerance, its army is discussion with the learned, its wealth are refined manners, its stock is abstinence from sins, its provision for journey is virtue, its drinking water is gentleness, its guide is Divine guidance, and its companion is the love of the elect. [3]

These are the signs of the `ulama' and the effects of `ilm mentioned by Amir al-Mu'minin (A). Hence if one is learned in the traditional sciences but is devoid of these things, he must know that he has not partaken of knowledge. Rather he is one of the ignorant and lost ones and in the other world his concepts and his wares of learning, each of which embodies compound ignorance, will become darkening blinders for him and his regret on the Day of Resurrection shall be the greatest of regrets.

Hence the criterion in knowledge is that it should be sign, symbol and mark (of the Divine), and there should be no ego or egoism in it. Egoism gets dissolved and obliterated in knowledge, instead of it itself becoming a cause for vanity, narcissism, ostentation and arrogance. The noble tradition further characterizes the ayah as muhkamah, because true knowledge with its light and luminosity creates conviction in the heart and wipes away doubt and uncertainty. It may happen that a man spends all his life in the study of the preliminaries and proofs and commits to mind several proofs and numerous arguments in support of each of the divine doctrines and overwhelms his associates in debates and controversies, without that knowledge producing any effect in his heart. Such a man not only does not achieve conviction, even his learning multiplies his doubts, uncertainties and ambiguities. Hence the mere collection of concepts and abundance of terms has no benefit. Rather it makes the heart preoccupied with non-God and the learned man forgetful and negligent of God's Sacred Being.

My dear, the remedy-or rather the complete remedy-is that if one wants his learning to be divine he should purify his intention and purpose with all the seriousness and effort that he can muster while entering upon the study of any branch of knowledge. The capital of salvation and the fountainhead of all grace lies in the purification of intent and the sincerity of purpose:

Whoever devotes himself in sincerity to God for forty days, the springs of wisdom flow out from his heart to his tongue.[4]

Such are the effects and benefits of forty day's sincerity (ikhlas)! But here we are with forty years or more spent in the effort at collecting terms and concepts related to every discipline. You consider yourself to be an `allamah in the sciences and count yourself among the army of God, yet you do not find any trace of wisdom in your own heart nor a drop of it on your tongue. You should know that your learning and labour have not been with a sincerity of intention. Rather, you have laboured for the sake of Satan and selfish desire. Now that you see that these sciences have not produced any spiritual quality or state in you, make an effort to cultivate sincerity of intention and purify your heart from obscurities and vices. If you see any result, go on. And even though the mere motive of experimenting is inimical to sincerity, it is possible that the effort may open a window and the incoming light may guide you.

In any case, my dear, you stand in need of the true divine doctrines and the veritable sciences as well as good morals and righteous works. At whatever level you may stand, endeavour to increase your sincerity(frankness) and purge the egoistic fancies and satanic insinuations from the heart. Of course, that will produce results for you and you will find the way to the reality, and the path of guidance will open for you. May God, Blessed and Exalted, succour you. ('rod knows, if we should depart from this world with this false and futile learning, these degenerate fancies and depraved morals of ours to the next world, what tribulations and calamities will await us and what narrow passages and what dungeons of hell we shall have to encounter and what darkness, what terrors and flames this learning and morals of ours shall prepare for us!

Section IV:

The authority amongst philosopher, Sadr al-Hukama' al-Muta'allihin (`Head of the philosophers and theosophers', viz. Mulla Sadra)-may God sanctify his soul and reward him abundantly-in Sharh Usul al-Kafi gives a long quotation from Shaykh Ghazali in which the latter has classified the sciences into `worldly' and `Hereafterly' ones, putting the science of fiqh amongst the `worldly' sciences and dividing the sciences of Hereafter into the sciences of mukashafah (mystic intuition and apprehension) and mu'amalah (social intercourse, conduct, transactions; in Ghazali, the science of moral purification and spiritual cultivation).

He considers the science of mu'amalah as the knowledge of the states of the heart and the science of mukashafah as a light that is attained in the heart after it is purified from blameworthy characteristics. Through that light realities are discovered, to the extent that true knowledge of the Divine Being, Names and Attributes as well as Acts and the wisdom underlying them is d and other truths are known. Now since this authority (i.e. Mulla Sadra) accepted this classification, he says in the exegesis of the hadith under exposition that "Apparently this classification and limitation made by the Noble Messenger (S) pertains to the sciences of mu'amalat. For it is these sciences that most of the people derive benefit from. But the sciences of mukashafah are attained by a small number of people and they are rarer than the philosopher's stone (kibrit-e ahmar), as is also indicated by the ahadith of "Kitab al-'iman wa al-ku'fr that will come hereafter." This was a condensed translation of his statements.

This writer says: There is an ambiguity in Shaykh Ghazali's statements, and if they be presumed to be admissible then there remains another thing objectionable in the statements of the Akhund (i.e. Mulla Sadra), may God's mercy be upon him. As to the objection pertaining to his statement-on the basis of assumption of validity of Ghazali's statements-it lies in this that Ghazali has considered the science of mu'amalat as pertaining to the states of the heart; that is, those qualities which result in redemption, such as patience(stamina), gratitude, fear, hope and so on, as well as those which lead to perdition, such as malice, envy, deceptiveness, imposture and so on. Accordingly, the threefold sciences mentioned by the Messenger of God (S) cannot all pertain to the sciences of mu'amalat; rather only one of them, i.e.faridatun 'adilah, as explained in detail earlier, corresponds to them. However, there are two objectionable things in Shaykh Ghazali's statements. Firstly, he has considered 'ilm al-fiqh as belonging to worldly sciences and the fuqaha' as worldly scholars, whereas it is one of the most valuable sciences of the Hereafter. And this ambiguity arises from self-love and the love of the discipline one of whose experts he imagines himself to be, i.e. the science of ethics, in the commonly used sense. Accordingly, he has repudiated the other disciplines, including the rational sciences (such as philosophy). Secondly, he conceives mukashafat as forming a part of the 'ulum and includes them in his classification(categorization) of them. This is contrary to fact, for that which is right is to consider as 'ilm that which is subject to inquiry, thought and proof and wherein ratiocination has a role. The mukashafat and mushahadat are at times the result of the study of the sciences of doctrines ('ulum-e haqiqiyyah) and at times the consequence of spiritual acts(a'mal-e qalbiyyah). To be brief, mushahadat, mukashafat and realization of the realities of the Names and the Attributes should not be included in the classification of science. These and the 'ulum are separate things, and this is quite plain.

Section V:

You should know that many of the sciences, from a certain aspect, fall under one of the categories mentioned by the Noble Messenger (S). For instance, the sciences of medicine, anatomy, astronomy, astrology and the like, when looked upon as Divine signs and symbols, and the science of history and the like, when looked upon as a means for drawing lesson, are included in ayatun mukhamah, for by their means the knowledge of God or the knowledge of Resurrection is attained or confirmed. At times, the learning of the sciences falls(spills) under faridatun 'adilah and at times undersunnatun qa'imah. But if their pursuit should be for their own sake or for other purposes and if they should lead us to neglect the 'ulum of the Hereafter, they become blame worthy by-accident (madhmum bi al-'arad) on account of this neglect. Otherwise (in themselves) they are neither lucrative nor harmful, as pointed out by the Noble Messenger (S). Thus all the sciences are divisible into three kinds: first, those sciences which are beneficial to man in view of the other stages of existence, success wherein is the ultimate purpose of creation. This is the category which the ultimate Prophet has considered as 'ilm, dividing it into three parts. The second kind consists of those which are harmful for man and lead him to neglect his essential duties. This kind consists of the blameworthy sciences-such as magic, jugglery, alchemy and the like- and one must refrain from their pursuit. Thirdly, there are those which are neither harmful nor beneficial, like those which one pursues in his hours of leisure for amusement's sake, such as mathematics, geometry, astronomy and the like. It would be much better if one could relate the pursuit of these sciences to the threefold 'ulum(mentioned by the Prophet), otherwise it is better to refrain from, them as far as is possible. That is because when a sensible person knows that he cannot all the sciences and achieve all the excellences due to shortness of life, scarcity of time and abundance of obstacles and accidents, he would reflect about the sciences and devote himself to the acquisition of. those which are more beneficial for him. Of course, amongst the sciences that which is better than all the rest is that which is beneficial for man's eternal and everlasting life and that is the science which the prophets, upon whom be peace, have commanded and encouraged man to seek. That science consists of the threefold 'ulum, as mentioned. And all praise belongs to Allah, the Exalted.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, i, "kitab fadl al-'ilm", "bab sifat al-'ilm wa fadluh", hadith no. 1.

[2]. Al-'Amili, Ghurar al-hikam, "bab al-ra'."

[3]. Al-Kulayni, op. cit., "bab al-nawadir", hadith no. 3.

[4]. See 'Allamah Bahr al-'ulum's Risalah f'i al-sayr wa al-suluk, 22-23, footnote.

Through my continuous chain of transmitters reaching up to the shaykh of the traditionists and the best of them, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni-may God, the Exalted, have mercy upon him-who reports from Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from Ibn Mahbub, from 'Abd Allah ibn Sinan, who said: "I mentioned to Abu 'Abd Allah-may peace be upon him-a man who was troubled by waswas in his wudu, and salat, adding that he is a man of intelligence. Thereupon Abu 'Abd Allah-may peace be upon him-said: `What kind of intelligence has he, when he obeys Satan?' I said: `How does he obey Satan?' The Imam replied: 'Ask him regarding its cause and he will tell you that it is a work of Satan'."' [1]


You should know that waswasah (or waswas, pl. wasawis; means satanic insinuations, obsessions and suggestions), doubt, lapse of faith, shirk and the like pertain to satanic insinuation and devilish promptings, which Satan puts into the hearts of people. So also, certainty, conviction, tranquility(peacefulness), steadiness and sincerity of the heart and the like are caused by divine inspiration (ifadat-e rahmaniyyah) and angelic suggestions (ilqa'at-e malakiyyah). To explain this with brevity, the human heart is a subtle reality that is interjacent to the realms of mulk and malakut, the realms of the world (dunya) and the Hereafter. One of its aspects faces the realm of mulk and the (mundane) world, and it is with this aspect that it pursues the corporeal aspect of life. The other aspect faces the realm of Hereafter, malakut and ghayb, and with that it pursues its spiritual (malakuti) life.

Hence the heart is like a two-faced mirror. One of its sides is turned toward the world of ghayb, and in it the ghaybi forms are reflected. The other side faces the world of shahadah, and in it the mulki and worldly (mundane) forms are reflected. The mundane forms find their reflection in the outward senses and some of the inner cognitive faculties such as khayaland wahm (imagination). The hereafterly forms find their reflection in the inward intellect and the inner core (sirr) of the heart. Should the worldly aspect of the heart preponderate and its attention be wholly absorbed by the pursuit of the mundane, becoming its sole concern, the hidden side of khayal becomes attuned to the realm of lower malakut (malakut-e sufla) which is the dark reflected image of the world of mulk and corporeal nature (in the realm of malakut)-the realm of the jinn, devils and evil spirits. The suggestions induced in it due to this attunement (with the realm of lower malakut) are satanic insinuations, which are the source of baseless thoughts and unwholesome imaginings. The soul develops an eagerness for these unfounded fancies due to its absorption with the mundane, and its will and faculty of decision-making also become subject to them. As a result, all one's spiritual and bodily conduct becomes satanic in character, as is the case with waswas, doubt, uncertainty, unfounded thoughts and hallucinations. As the will in its bodily activity becomes attuned to them, bodily actions too assume the character of the inward forms; for one's acts are the image of one's will, which in turn is the image of one's thoughts. which are a reflection of the heart's orientation. Hence, when the heart be oriented toward the satanic realm, the suggestions it receives are of a satanic character, involving compound ignorance. As a result, waswas, doubt, .irk and ambiguities emerge from the inner core of one's being and pervade to the domain of the body.

In accordance with the same analogy, if the heart be oriented toward the pursuit of the Hereafter and the higher truths, its attention is directed towards the world of ghayb and it s an attunement with the higher malakut, the realm of the angels and blessed and pure spirits, which is a luminous image of the world of nature. The knowledge imparted to it, then, is of a divine and angelic character, as constituted by true doctrine, and its thoughts are induced by divine inspiration, being free from the contamination of doubt and shirk. As a result, a state of stability and bliss is created within the soul. Its desires and inclinations fall into conformity with that knowledge, and its will into conformity with those inclinations, and, as a result, its inward and outward, spiritual and bodily conduct takes shape in accordance with the criteria of reason and wisdom. There are certain stages and stations associated with these satanic, angelic and divine suggestions whose description is not suitable here. Some of the noble traditions, like the following one reported inMajma` al-bayan from al-`Ayyashi, bear out the validity of what has been said:

Al-Ayyashi reports with his chain of transmission from Aban ibn Taghlib from Ja'far ibn Muhammad-may peace be upon the two of them-that he said: `The Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his family-said: "There is no believer whose heart does not have two ears: an angel whispers into one of them and into the other the Slinking Whisperer (al-waswas al-khannas). God confirms the believer with the means of the angel and that is what is meant by this statement of His, subhanahu: "And He confirms them with a spirit from Him" ' "(58:22). [2]

This is another tradition from Majma' al-bahrayn:

He (i.e. the Prophet) said: "Satan lays his snout, which is like the snout of a pig, on the heart of the son of Adam, and instigates him to turn towards the world (dunya) and that which God has not made lawful. But when he remembers God, Satan slinks away." [3]

There are other traditions of this kind.

2. A Simpler Explanation of the Character of Waswas:

Having known through the teachings of the urafa' that waswas is the work of Satan, as mentioned in the noble tradition being expounded here and other traditions of the kind, we are compelled to explain this matter in a way that is closer to the minds of ordinary people and more appropriate for them. Although the above description is in accordance with the rational and philosophical criteria as well as in conformity with the mystical experience of the `urafa', `the people of the heart', as it is based on certain principles whose discussion lies outside the scope of these pages, we shall abstain from pursuing it any further. That wasawis and acts resulting from them are a handiwork of Satan, insinuated by that accursed creature, and that there is therein no religious or pious motive involved-although the person afflicted may mistakenly believe that he possesses it-is borne out by their being contrary to the laws of the Shari'ah and the traditions of the pure and infallible Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt.

For instance, it has been mentioned in mutawatir traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them-that the wudu' of the Messenger of God-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Household-consisted of single washings (of the face and the forearms). It is an established fact in fiqh that it is sufficient to wash the face, the right and the left hand each with-a single ghurfah (handful) of water. There is however disagreement among the legists concerning the permissibility of using a second ghurfah. It may even be inferred from the statements of the author of al-Wasa'il that he believed in its impermissibility or at least doubted its permissibility. Although some have held a contrary opinion, the permissibility of two washings is not open to doubt. There is a heavy preponderance of legal opinion in its favour and many traditions indicate its istihbab. However, it is not improbable that a single washing that thoroughly wets the parts washed is preferable. But there is no doubt that three washings-that is, washing the parts each time in such a way that the parts are thoroughly moistened with water-is haram and a bid'ah that invalidates the wudu' when the moisture remaining from it is used for mash. It is mentioned in the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them-that a third washing inwudu` is bid'ah and that every bid'ah is in Fire.

In this case, the ignorant man afflicted with waswas washes the parts ten times during wudu', every time drawing water over the whole(intact) part washed most meticulously, or rather he first wets the whole(intact) part so well that water spreads thoroughly and a valid washing is achieved, and then repeats this action again and again. On what criterion is his action based? To which tradition and to what fatwa of a jurist does it conform? Such a wretch may offer invalid salatwith such a wudu' for twenty years and consider himself to have appeared to be most pious and pure in the eyes of the people. While Satan goes on playing with him and his carnal self goes on deceiving him, he finds fault with others and considers himself to be in the right.

Should something that is opposed to mutawatir explicit dicta (nass) and consensus of the `ulama' be considered as perfect personal purity and piety or a work of Satan? If it is something that is inspired by utmost God-fearing and caution in religion, why is it that most of those obsessed by waswas and given to ignorant sanctimony do not exercise caution in matters where caution is necessary or preferable? Have you seen any waswasi who has waswas in dubious matters of a financial character? Has anyone ever come across someone affected with waswas who pays khums five times instead of once, or goes to Hajj several times instead of once? Or one who refrains from food of a doubtful(dubious) character? Why is it that the rule of asalat al-hilliyyah [4] applies in such cases whereas the rule of asalat al-taharah [5]does not hold good even in a matter related to taharah itself? That, although in regard to things that are lawful there is greater reason to exercise abstinence in a doubtful matter as indicated by some noble traditions, like the hadith al- tathlih [6] whereas the case is quite the opposite in matters of taharah.

One of the Infallible Imams (A) used to sprinkle water with his blessed hand on his blessed thighs at the time of answering the call of nature so that any trace of splashing that might occur would not be visible. Yet this poor fellow, who considers himself a follower of this Infallible Imam and follows him in the precepts of his religion, does not abstain from anything in matters involving wealth and its consumption. He eats his food (without any qualms about its lawfulness) by relying on the principle of asalat al-taharah and having eaten cleanses his mouth and hands. While eating, his justification is asalat al-taharah, but after eating he declares that everything is ritually unclean (najis). Should he, in his fancy; count himself among the learned, he would say that I want to offer salat with real taharah , whereas the advantage of salat with real taharah is something that remains unknown and the fuqaha'-may God be pleased with them-do not know of it. Such a person should be asked, if you are so keen about real taharah, then why aren't you as keen about real hilliyyah (lawfulness)? Even if, supposedly, he were keen to achieve real taharah, what purpose is served by his washing ten times with kurr or jari water? (Although to obtain taharah it is sufficient to wash once with jari water and once with kurr water when the contamination is due to urine and certain other impurities. Even when it is due to urine, it is sufficient, in accordance with the mashhur opinion, to wash once with kurr water, and washing twice is considered sufficient by consensus.) These several washings are inspired(promoted) by none other than the deceptive Satan and the tricky self which make an inconsequential matter appear as an asset to the sanctimonious.

Worse and more shameful than this is the waswasah of some in regard to niyyah and takbirat al-'ihram, for therein they commit several muharramat while they consider themselves to be among the pious and this act as bringing them some kind of merit. Niyyah (intention) in something without which man cannot perform any of his voluntary acts and it is something which necessarily accompanies all volt vary actions. Man cannot carry out any of his ritual or non-ritual acts without it. Notwithstanding it, in proportion to their devilishness and the degree of Satan's domination over them, they waste an entire hour and sometimes several hours in order to obtain what is an inescapable necessity, which in the end remains unachieved! Should this matter be regarded as a result of Satanic insinuation and the work of the accursed Ibliswho has put his reins on this wretch and concealed an obvious necessity from him, involving him in many muharramatsuch as breaking the salat, neglecting it, and allowing its time to elapse, or as something that is inspired by inner purity, sanctity and God-fearing?

Another kind of waswas has to do with the refusal to join the congregation prayer led by someone who is 'adil in accordance with nass and fatwa due to the righteousness of his outward conduct and his dutifulness in regard to the Shari`ah, whereas only God knows his inner character, regarding which it is neither necessary nor permissible to investigate. Notwithstanding it, since the person afflicted with waswas has his reins controlled by Satan, he draws himself away from the jama'at of Muslims and prays individually in a corner of the mosque. He offers such justifications as, `I have qualms' and `It does not satisfy me' and so on, while he himself has no qualms about leading others in prayer, despite the fact that the job of imamate is more difficult and is more open to qualms. However, he does not have any doubts or qualms here because that is in agreement with his self-seeking motives.

Of the forms of waswas that is more prevalent is the one that relates to qira'ah in prayer, wherein due to repetitive(boring) and excessive effort in gutturalization the sounds of letters often violates the rules of correct recitation or the shape of the word is totally changed(altered). For instance, the word, dallin is pronounced by some in such a way that the dad sounds like qaf. The guttural ha' of rahman, rahim and other words is turned around in the throat in such a manner that a strange sound is produced and the letters of a word are so separated from one another that the very form, and root of the word is totally altered and distorted out of its original shape. Ultimately, all the spiritual aspects and divine secrets of salat, which is the spiritual ascension (mi'raj) of the faithful, the agent of nearness (to God) for the pious, and the pillar of the faith, are neglected, with all attention given to the `niceties' of recitation. And yet despite it all, the pronunciation of words is so corrupted that the recitation fails to meet the literal dicta of the Shari'ah. In view of this, should this (perverse obsession with qira'ah) be considered as satanic waswas or as a divine inspiration on the part of the sanctimonious person afflicted with waswas? Despite all these traditions relating to the presence of attention and attentiveness of the heart during worship, all that this poor fellow has understood concerning the theory and practice of the presence of heart is either to be obsessed with waswas concerning niyyah or and to twist(wrench) to extend inordinately the long vowel (madd) of his mouth, eyes and other facial features while vocalizing words.

Is it not a misfortune that one should remain for years negligent concerning the presence of heart and the remedy of his disturbed(interrupt) mind, without ever thinking of taking a step in this regard, without regarding it as one of the significant aspects of worship and without learning the way of acquiring it from those learned in the matters of the heart? Is it not a calamity that by the side of this neglect he should be obsessed with this kind of absurdities, and consider as being essential to piety and inner purity what are a `work of the accursed Slinker' according to the express texts of the Noble Scripture and a `handiwork of Satan' according to the express traditions of the Truthful Ones-may peace be upon them-and acting upon which makes one's works invalid according to the verdicts of the fuqaha'?

At times waswasah is originated or heightened in one because other ignorant persons like himself consider it as one of his virtues. For instance, they extol his piety, religiosity and sacred character by remarking that `This person is so religious and pious that he is given to waswas', although waswas has not only no relation to religiosity but is contrary to it and is due to ignorance and absence of understanding. But since they do not tell him the truth and do not regard him with repulsion and disapprobation, but on the contrary praise and extol him, he pursues this vicious conduct to its extreme, making himself a plaything in the hands of Satan and his task force and banishing himself from the sacred company of those near to God.

And therefore, my dear, now that it is known through reason and tradition that these are satanic wasawis and that these obsessions are a handiwork of Iblis that invalidate our works and turn our hearts away from God, the Exalted, beware of them, for this waswas may not remain confined to your acts and may affect your belief and creed and thus expel you from the religion of God. By making you uncertain(undecided)  in your faith in God and Resurrection it may lead you into everlasting wretchedness. Since Satan cannot mislead the like of you into immoral and profane conduct, he approaches you by the way of worship and rites. First he makes your works and deeds, which should be a means of attaining divine nearness and of ascending into the proximity of God, the Exalted, to go waste and become invalid, and turns them into a means of remoteness from the proximity of the Sacred Lord, the All-Glorious, and of nearness to Iblis and his troops. Ultimately, it is feared, he may make a plaything of your beliefs. Hence, take steps for its remedy by all means and through any kind of exercise that may be necessary.

3. The Remedy for Waswas:

You should know that this malady of the heart, which like other diseases of the heart can lead man to everlasting perdition and endless wretchedness, can be cured very easily and simply by the means of beneficial knowledge and action. But first one must know himself to be sick, for only then can he take a step to cure his illness. But the difficulty is that Satan has so driven home his arguments that he does not consider himself to be sick. Rather, he considers others to be wayward and negligent of their religion.

As to the theory of remedy, it lies in contemplating about these matters as mentioned. It is good for a human being that his acts and deeds be based on reflection and thought. He should think about an action that he wishes to perform for the pleasure of God, the Exalted, as to from where and from whom he has derived its details. It is known that the common people learn them from the fuqaha' and their maraji taqlid (authorities on Law), who derive the manner of performing an act from the Book and the Sunnah by the means of ijtihad. Now when we refer to the works of the fuqaha, we find that they repudiate the conduct of one obsessed with waswas and consider some of his acts as invalid. When we refer to the noble traditions and the Book of God, we see that his conduct is ascribed to Satan and the perpetrator is considered to be devoid of intelligence. Hence when the case is such, an intelligent person should reflect and think for a while if Satan has not taken control of his mind. Then he must commit himself to setting aside this kind of conduct and correct it, for therein lies God's good pleasure.

Whenever someone finds a trace of this obsession in himself, he should turn to other ordinary people or question the `ulama' and fuqaha' about his own conduct to see whether he is suffering from waswas or not. That is because most of the time the one suffering from waswas is unaware of his own condition and considers himself as quite balanced and others as negligent. But if he should do some reflection he would find that this belief too is a satanic suggestion, for when he sees that the practice of the ulama' and the great scholars in whose knowledge and practice he has faith, or rather that of the legal authorities (maraji' taqlid) from whom all Muslims derive the issues of halal and haram, is contrary to his own practice, he cannot say that the entire class of `ulama', the leaders(director) of the faith and its adherents are not committed to the religion of God and it is only the waswasi person who is committed to piety.

After that he has come to know in theory that he is ill, it is necessary to take remedial action. The main point that relates to action is that he should not pay attention to the satanic waswasah and the whims that it insinuates. For instance, if he is suffering from waswas in the matter of wudu', he should make use of a single handful of water despite Satan's protestation. His Satan may say that this act is not valid. To this he should reply by saying that `If my act is not valid, then the practice of the Messenger of God (S) and the Pure Imams (A), as well as that of all the fuqaha' was invalid too. The Messenger of God (S) and the Imams (A) performed wudu' for nearly(virtually)three hundred years and the manner in which they performed it was like this according to mutawatir traditions. So if their wudu' was invalid, let mine also be such." If you are muqallid of a mujtahid, you may tell Satan: "I am acting in accordance with the ruling of amujtahid. If my wudu' is invalid, God shall not consider me responsible, and He has no incriminating grounds (hujjah)against me." Should the accursed one cast doubt concerning the ruling of the mujtahid, saying that he did not give such a ruling, fetch his book, which is accessible, open it and show it to him. If you ignore his insinuations several times and act contrary to his suggestions, he would take his hands off you in desperation, and it is hoped that you will obtain a definite cure of your illness, as mentioned in some noble traditions:

In al-Kafi (al-Kulayni reports) with his isnad from Zurarah and Abu Basir that they said: "We asked him (i.e. al-Imam al-Baqir or al-Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon them) about a man who had frequent doubts in his salat, to the extent that he wouldn't know how much he has offered and how much remain to be offered. He said, 'He shou!d repeat (thesalat)'. We said to him, 'That happens to him a lot and wherever he repeats his doubt also recurs.' The Imam said, '(In that case) he should ignore his doubt: Then he added, 'Don't let the Evil One get accustomed to haunting you by tempting him by breaking the salat. For Satan is wicked and gets accustomed to that which he is allowed to get used to. So when one of you does not pay attention to his doubt and does not break his salat frequently, and this is done a number of times, the doubt will not recur to him'." Zurarah says: "Then the Imam added: 'The Evil One wants to be obeyed, and when he is disobeyed he will not return to any of you.' " [7]

(Al-Kulayni) reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far-may peace be upon him-that he said: "When sahw (i.e. forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, lapse of attention) occurs often to you during salat, disregard it, for that will make Satan leave you. Indeed sahw is due to Satan." [8]

Certainly, when you oppose his insinuations and do not pay attention to them, Satan will give up his hopes and the state of steadiness and certitude will return to your soul. But while you oppose him you must tearfully(sentimentally beseech God, the Exalted, and seek the refuge of His Sacred Essence from the evil of the Accursed One and from the evil of the carnal self. Of course, He shall help you. In the following tradition of al-Kafi too, we have been commanded to seek God's help against the evil of Satan:

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-said: "A man came to the Messenger of Allah (S) and said: 'O Messenger of Allah, I complain to you concerning the waswasah that so troubles me during salat that I don't know how much of my prayer I have offered.' The Prophet said to him, 'When you enter your salat, strike your left thigh with the forefinger of your right hand, then say: "In the Name of God and by God, I put my trust in God, I seek refuge in God, the All-hearing, the All-knowing from Satan, the Stoned One." You will exorcize him and drive him away'." [9]

And all praise is God's, firstly and lastly, outwardly and inwardly, and may benedictions and peace be upon Muhammad and the Pure Ones of his progeny.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, i, "kitab al-'aql wa al-jahl," hadith no. 10.

[2]. Al-Tabrisi, Majma' al-bayan, x, 571.

[3]. Majma' al-bahrayn, under "kh.n.s.," p. 305.

[4] Asalat al-hilliyyah means the rule that every thing is permissible unless there is evidence of its being forbidden.

[5]. Asalat al-taharah means the rule that when a doubt occurs concerning the ritual purity of something which was known for certain to be pure before the occurrence of the doubt, the doubt is of no consequence and is to be ignored.

[6]. Hadith al-tathlith refers to the following hadith recorded in Wasa'il al Shi'ah, xviii, 114: Al-Kulayni (in al-Kafi, i, 67, hadith no. 10) narrates from Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Muhammad ibn al-Husayn, from Muhammad ibn 'Isa, from Safwan ibn Yahya, from Dawud ibn al-Husayn, from 'Umar ibn Hanzalah that al-'Imam al-Sadiq (A)said (in a long hadith): "Matters fall into three categories: those whose rightness (or lawfulness) is evident and hence they are followed; those whose wrongness (or unlawfulness) is evident and hence are to be avoided; and those which are doubtful(undistinguished), regarding whose knowledge reference should be made to God and His Messenger. The Messenger of Allah (S) said: There is that which is evidently lawful (halal bayyin) and that which is evidently unlawful(haram bayyin), and between these there are things which are doubtful(dubious)  and suspect (shubuhat). One who abstains from doubtful(dubious)  things is saved from falling into unlawful things, and one who takes recourse in doubtful things falls in unlawful things and perishes without knowing it." At the end of the hadith the Imam remarks: "Abstaining from doubtful things is better than plunging into that which ruinous." The same tradition has been narrated by al-Saduq in Man la yahduruh al-faqih iii, 5, hadith no. 2 with his isnad from Dawud ibn al-Husayn, and by al-Shaykh al-Tusi in al-Tohdhib, vi, 301, hadith no. 52. It is called "hadith al-tathlith" because of the mention therein of the "three matters" (umur thalathah).

[7]. Al-Kulayni, Furu' al-Kafi, iii, 358.

[8]. Ibid., iii, 359.

[9]. Ibid., iii, 358


With my chain of transmitters reaching up to the thiqat al-'Islam Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, from Muhammad ibn al-Hasan and 'Ali ibn Muhammad, from Sahl ibn Ziyad and Muhammad ibn Yahya, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from Ja'far ibn Muhammad al-'Ash'ari, from 'Abd Allah ibn Maymun al-Qaddah; and from 'Ali ibn Ibrahim, from his father, from Hammad ibn 'Isa, from al-Qaddah, from Abu 'Abd Allah (A) that he said, "The Messenger of Allah-may God's benediction be upon him and his Family-said: 'One who proceeds on a path in the pursuit of knowledge, God makes him proceed therewith on a path to the Garden (Paradise). And, verily, the angels spread their wings for the seekers of knowledge out of delight. Verily, every creature of the heaven and the earth asks forgiveness for the seeker of knowledge, even the fish in the sea. The merit of the `alim (the learned) over the 'abid (the devout) is like the merit of the moon over the stars on a full-moon night. The learned are the heirs of the prophets, for the prophets did not leave behind a legacy of wealth but that of knowledge. So whoever partakes of it derives a plenteous benefit.' " [1]


Know that the words of the noble tradition do not need an explanation. However, in the course of a few sections we shall expound the qualities ascribed by the Noble Messenger-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-to the learned and the seekers of knowledge. And in Allah is my trust and reliance.

1. Section: Concerning the Path of Knowledge and the Way to Paradise:

At the outset it should be known that the sciences are absolutely divisible into two kinds. One of these are the worldly sciences, whose ultimate purpose is to achieve worldly aims. The other are the sciences of the Hereafter, whose ultimate purpose is attainment of malakuti stations and degrees and reaching the other-worldly stations. Earlier it was pointed out that the distinction between these two kinds of sciences depends for the most part on the distinction between intentions and purposes (behind their pursuit), although they in themselves are divisible into the two kinds. From the viewpoint of appropriateness, the effects described in the noble tradition in relation to the pursuit of knowledge and the learned evidently correspond to the second type of knowledge, the knowledge of the Hereafter.

It was also mentioned earlier that all the sciences of the Hereafter are included in three categories. They either pertain to the knowledge of God and doctrines (ma'arif), or to spiritual instruction and wayfaring towards God, or to the laws and precepts of servitude. Now we say that the development (ta'mir) of life in the Hereafter depends on these three aspects, and hence there are three kinds of paradise: the Garden of Essence, which is the ultimate goal of the knowledge of Allah and the divine doctrinal truths; the Garden of attributes, which is the goal of self-purification and the disciplining of the soul; and thirdly, the Garden of acts, which is the (other-worldly) form of the observance of the duties of servitude as well as its result. Moreover, these gardens are not in a developed state (at the beginning).

Hence, the ground of the Garden of acts is a plain land, like the ground of the soul at the beginning. Their development is subject to the cultivation and flourishing of the soul. Therefore, should the soul in its Hidden aspect be not developed by the means of the divine teachings and the Hidden attractions of the Essence (jadhadt-e ghaybiyyeh-ye dhatiyyeh), man shall not attain to the Garden of the Essence and the Paradise of Tryst (jannat-e liqa'). Should the inner self be unrefined(uncultured) and the soul be unadorned, should the will and determination be not strengthened(toughened) and the heart not receive the radiance of the Names and the Attributes, man will not attain to the Garden of the Names and

the Attributes, which is the middle paradise. Should one fail to observe the duties of servitude, and his acts, works, movements and pauses be not in accordance with the precepts of the divine Law, one will not attain to the Garden of Acts, concerning which this has been said:

Therein being whatever the souls desire, and the eyes delight in. (43:71)

On the basis of these preliminaries, which are in accordance with philosophical proofs, the experience of the gnostics, and the traditions of the prophets and the awliya'-may peace be upon them-in addition to being inferable from the Noble divine Scripture, the sciences-whatever their level, whether they pertain to the ma'arif or something else are a path for reaching the Garden appropriate to each of them, and the wayfarer of each of the paths of knowledge is a traveller on one of the paths of Paradise. We have said earlier that knowledge is absolutely the way to action, even the knowledge of the ma'arif; which, however, involves the actions of the heart and inward gravitations, the result and inward forms of which are the Garden of the Essence and the Paradise of Tryst. Hence the pursuit of the path of knowledge is the pursuit of the way leading to the path of Paradise, and the way to a path is also part of the path.

An Important Point:

That journey on the path of knowledge has been ascribed to the creature and the movement towards the Garden to the Sacred Divine Essence (in the phrase) is for the reason that on the level of multiplicity the acquisitive aspect of the creature has been given predominance, whereas on the level of return to unity the Divine aspect has been made to prevail. From another viewpoint it may be said that the wayfaring towards the Garden is also ascribable to the creature:

And (in the Hereafter) they shall find all they wrought (in the present life) present. (18:49)

...And whoso has done an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whoso has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it. (99:7-8)

The authority amongst the philosophers and the pride of the righteous sect, Sadr al-Muta'allihin-may God be pleased with him-has made statements in this regard indicating that the perception of favourable and repulsive things is by itself heaven and hell, and the `knowledge' pertains to things favourable to the soul and `ignorance' to those which are incompatible with it. This contradicts his own view as expressed in his philosophical works, where he has refuted the belief of Shaykh Ghazali-as is narrated from him-that holds paradise and hell to be the pleasures and pains felt by the soul and denies their objective existence. This belief, besides being contrary to the proofs of the philosophers, is against the traditions of the prophets and the celestial scriptures, as well as the teachings of all the religions, and that great philosopher has himself refuted it and shown its invalidity. But that honoured personage has himself made similar statements in this relation, although he basically rejects Ghazali's belief. In any case, these statements do not appear to be appropriate in my humble opinion, though any further elaboration of this matter is not appropriate for these pages.

2. Section: Concerning the Angels' Spreading their Wings for the Seekers of Knowledge:

Know chat the angels are of various kinds and species, and no one has the knowledge of them, who are God's hosts, except the sacred Essence of Him Who knows best the Hidden:

...And none knows the hosts of thy Lord but He. (74:31)

One of their kinds consists of those angels who are totally absorbed in the love of God (muhayyamin-e majdhubin), who have no awareness of the world of being; they know not whether God has created the world or not, and are immersed in Divine Beauty and Glory and are absorbed in the Majesty of His sacred Essence. It is said that the blessed letter Nun' in the noble verse:

Nun. By the Pen, and what they inscribe, (68:1)

is a reference to them.

Another group of them are the archangels and the inhabitants of the higher jabarut, their being many species of them, each of which has its own specific work and administrative role in the worlds. Another group are the angels of the spheres of the higher malakut and the Upper Gardens (jannat-e `aliyah) and of them there are varied and different kinds. Another group consists of the angels of the spheres of barzakh (the interworld) and mithal (the world of analogies). Another group consists of the angels charged with the affairs of the spheres of nature and mulk, each of whom is encharged with a particular affair and managing function. This group of angels that administers the world of mulk is different from the angels existing in the worlds of barzakh and mithal, as has been established in its proper place and as can also be inferred from traditions.


One should know that wings, feathers and other like members are not common to all the kinds of angels. Rather, from the angels absorbed in Divine love to the inhabitants of the higher malakut-all of them are free and devoid of such members and extended parts. They are free from all forms of matter, its properties, essentials, and all that is necessarily associated with it. As to the angels of the worlds of mithal and the malakuti beings of barzakh, it is possible for them to possess parts, members, wings, feathers and the like. Since they pertain to the spheres of barzakhi quantitiesand the mithali analogies, each of them is characterized by a particular quantity, members and organs specific to itself. The verses:

By the rangers ranging ...(37:1)

(Praise belongs to God, Originator of the heavens and earth, who appointed the angels to be messengers) having wings two, three and four... (35:1)

refer to this kind of angels. But as to the archangels (mala'keh-ye muqarrabin) and the inhabitants of the higher jabarut,they can embody themselves in any world in accordance with its form and appearance, due to their encompassing ontic and sustentative character (ihateh-ye wujudiyyeh-ye qaymumiyyeh). Hence Gabriel, the Trustworthy, who is one of the Near Ones to God and the bearer of the divine revelation and amongst the highest of the beings inhabiting the jabarut, incarnated himself continuously for the sacred essence of the Noble Messenger-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny--in the world of limited mithal, twice in the world of absolute mithal and occasionally in the world of mulk.Sometimes he would even appear in the form of Dihyah al-Kalbi, who was the foster brother of the Noble Messenger--may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-and was the most handsome of men.

One must know that the assumption of mulki form by the angels is not something at the level of the mulki beings, which can be seen by anyone with a sound visual sense. Rather, even then their malakuti aspect prevails over their mulkiaspect, and that is why people could not see them with their corporeal eyes even after their assumption of mulki form. Rather, only some of the Companions could see Gabriel when he appeared in the form of Dihyah al-Kalbi, and then only with God's approval and the leave of the Seal of the Prophets-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny.

Hence all the angels of God are benignly disposed towards those of the spiritual progeny of Adam-the elect of God, may peace be upon him, to whom the angels prostrated and whose command was obeyed throughout the realms of being-who seek knowledge and gnosis and, having turned toward God and the truth, tread the path of God's good pleasure, and they (i.e. the angels) are charged with helping and training them. And when this mulki being becomes malakuti, and when this terrestrial creature becomes a celestial one, he walks on the wings of the angels; and should the eyes of hismalakuti and mithali vision open, he would see himself standing on the wings of angels and walking on his path with their assistance. This was concerning those who travel from mink co malakut, though they are still on the way.

As to those who are mulki and have not entered the malakut, it is possible that the inhabitants(residents) of the malakutmay come to their help and, out of humility for them, spread their wings under their feet out of their delight on account of their conduct, as is indicated by this noble hadith from Ghawali al-la'ali:

It is narrated from Miqdad-may God be pleased with him-that he said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah-may Allah's peace and benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-say: 'Verily, the angels spread out their wings for the seeker of knowledge out of their delight for him, so that he walks over them.' " [2]

From this, we come to know that one who takes the first step towards God and His good pleasure, stands over the shoulders of the angels and sits on their wings and this celestial carpet remains until the ultimate stages of acquisition of knowledge and learning. The levels, however, differ, and the angels who are the helpers of this wayfarer change, until he reaches a stage where he puts his feet on the middle of the heads of archangels, and then traverses certain worlds and ascends through certain levels where the way is closed to the archangels and where Gabriel, the one entrusted with delivering Divine revelations, confesses his inability and declares:

Should I approach to the extent of an inch I will be burnt down. [3]

The above description not only does not conflict with philosophical proofs but is in conformity with them and does not stand in need of any interpretation (ta'wil), as has been offered by the sublime philosopher, Sadr al-Muta'allihin, although he himself affirms (the existence of) the angels of the world of mithal and their incarnation in mulk and malakutin his philosophical books and scientific works, with expositions that are unparalleled and exclusive to that honoured personage.





                                    3. Section: On the Inhabitants(residents)  of the Heaven and Earth Asking Forgiveness for the Seeker of Knowledge:

Know that it is established in its proper place that the reality of being is in toto the Excellences, Names and Attributes of God. Pure existence is pure excellence, and hence God, the Glorious, being pure existence, is the totality of all excellence and all the Names and Attributes of Beauty (jamal) and Glory (jalal). And it is mentioned in hadith that:

Knowledge in its entirety is power in its entirety.

And it has been demonstrated that the mirrored reality of existence is the same as the totality of excellences, from which none of the excellences can possibly be separated. However, the manifestation of those excellences is in accordance with the extent of the vastness or narrowness of a being and the burnish or obscurity of the mirror. In this respect, the entire realm of being comprises the signs of the Essence, and beings are mirrors that reflect the Names and the Attributes. This matter is in conformity with philosophical proofs, or rather there are few issues ofhikmah that equal it in respect of the strength and firmness of its proof. It is also in accordance with the experience of the mystics and the apprehensions of the gnostics, in adding up(addition) to being in conformity with the noble verses of the Sacred Book and the traditions of the pure and infallible Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them. Hence, in several places in the divine Scripture all the existents are mentioned as being engaged in the glorification of God:

All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies God ....(62:1)

(The seven heavens and the earth, and whosoever in them is, extol Him;) nothing is, that does not proclaim His praise, but you do not understand their extolling. (17:44)

It is quite clear that extolling the perfection (tasbih) and sanctity (taqdis) of God, the Exalted, and praising Him requires the knowledge and gnosis of His sacred station and His Attributes of Beauty and Glory, and these cannot occur where then is no trace of knowledge and gnosis. This sublime fact has been so explicitly mentioned in the noble traditions that there is no room for any interpretation (ta'wil wa tawjih). However, those who dwell in nescience, from among traditional philosophers and dialecticians, from whom the divine truths are veiled, have tried to offer stale interpretations of the words of God which in addition to being contrary to their literal meanings (zawahir) as well as unambiguous verses, in some cases-such as in the story of the ant's speech in the Surat al-Naml-are opposed to many explicit statements narrated from the Infallible Imams-may peace be upon them-besides being against firm metaphysical proofs. However, to engage in the description of that proof and its preliminaries is not fit for these pages.

Hence the existents' extolling of God is on the basis of their consciousness. It is mentioned in a hadith that the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny--said: "Before my ministry there was a time when I used to look after the sheep and camels as a shepherd (and there has been no prophet who has not tended the sheep). As I watched them I noticed that all of a sudden they would get alarmed and take to flight without there being anything around that might agitate them. I used to wonder about its reason until Gabriel came to me. On my asking him about it, he said: `The unbeliever (after death) is dealt such a blow that everything that God has created, except mankind and the jinn, get terrified(frightened) on hearing it.' " [4]The `urafa' say that man is the most isolated(secluded) of beings from malakut as long as he is preoccupied with mulk and it cares, and since this preoccupation of his is stronger than that of all other beings, his separation and nescience, as well as his deprivation from attaining to malakut, is greater than that of all others.

Furthermore, all beings have a malakuti aspect by means of which they possess life, consciousness, and all other functions of life. The verse:

Thus We showed Abraham the malakut of the heavens and the earth, so that he might be o f those having sure faith, (6: 75)

also bears testimony to the fact that consciousness and life pervade all existents. Now that it is known that all existents possess knowledge and consciousness and that all of them have amalakuti aspect, since man does not stand with them on the same plane and is in addition veiled from malakut, there is no wonder if they should ask forgiveness for the human being pursuing the path of knowledge and moving towards God, Who is the Source of existence and the Provider of the realm of being, and implore His sacred Merciful Essence with their clear malakuti voices -which are audible to open malakuti ears-to immerse this total offspring of mulk and this pride of the children of nature in the ocean of His forgiveness and to cover all his shortcomings.

It is also possible that as all other existents know that it is not possible for them to attain to the courtyard of the Sacred Essence and to dive into the ocean of perfection except through the mediation of the sacred essence of the Perfect Man-who has the gnosis of God and knowledge of the divine teachings and unites knowledge and action within himself, as has been established in its proper place-for this reason they beseech of God, the Exalted, man's perfection, which is attained through immersion in the ocean of God's forgiveness, so that they, too, through his means, may attain to the excellences appropriate for them. And God knows best.

4. Section: The `Alim's Superiority over the `Abid:

Know that the reality of knowledge and of faith-whose strength is also based on knowledge-is light. This issue, besides being in accordance with philosophical proof and mystic experience, is also in conformity with unambiguous texts and traditions of the pure and infallible Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them. That is because the characteristic of `light', which consists of its being manifest in itself and its ability to make manifest other than itself, is also true of knowledge. Rather, its being true of the reality of knowledge is factual, whereas its ascription to sensible lights is more akin to figurative usage. That is because sensible light does not even possess self-manifestation in the real sense; it possesses quiddity and is one of the instances of that concept. However, the reality of knowledge is by essence existence itself; though in conception it is contrary to it, it corresponds and is associated with it in the context of objective reality. The reality of existence is identical with `light' and identical with consciousness:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. (24:35)

Hence knowledge is same as light and in the noble verses faith (iman) and knowledge have been referred to as `light'.

And to whomsoever God assigns no light, no light has he. (24:40)

In the noble Light Verse, 'light' has been interpreted (decoded) as `knowledge' . according to the exegesis of the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt-may peace be upon them:

(Al-Fudayl ibn Yasar says: "I asked) Abu 'Abd Allah al-Sadiq (A) concerning the meaning of `Allah is the Light o f the Heavens and the earth.' He replied, 'Such is Allah, the All-mighty and Glorious.' I asked him (about the meaning of the phrase) 'the likeness of His Light.' lie said, '(It means) Muhammad (S)'. I asked him, '(What is meant by) 'as a niche'? He said, 'The breast of Muhammad (S).' I asked him,'(What is meant by) 'wherein is a lamp'? He said, '(It means:) In it is the light of knowledge, that is prophethood.' I asked him, '(What is meant by:) 'The lamp is in a glass?' He said, '(It means:) the knowledge of the Messenger of Allah (S) emanated towards the heart of 'Ali' (A) .... " [5]

It is narrated from al-'Imam al-Baqir (A) that he said: "I am the guide of the heavens and the earth. The likeness of the knowledge that I have been given-which is the light wherewith they are guided-is as a niche, wherein is a lamp. 'The niche' is the heart of Muhammad-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-and 'the lamp' is the knowledge: that is, its light that is in it." [6]

In a tradition it is stated: "The man of faith moves in five lights: his entry is light; his exit is light; his knowledge is light; his speech is light; and his passage towards Paradise on the Day of Resurrection is light." [7]

And this is mentioned in a famous hadith:

Knowledge is a light that God casts into the heart of anyone that He wishes. [8]

There are various degrees of this light according to the different levels of the faith and knowledge of persons. It should be known that this real light that is in those who possess faith and knowledge, as it pertains to the lights of the world of the Hereafter, manifests itself in that world in the form of sensible radiance that varies with the soul's activity, and it is this light that shall illuminate the Sirat. Hence the light of a group is like the light of the sun, that of another like that of the moon, and so on until it is just-sufficient to illuminate the ground around one's feet.

Though, as we have known, knowledge is `light' and `manifestation', in their real sense and without any trace of metaphorical expression, we-poor folk-are veiled from the real sun of knowledge by the dark curtain of carnal nature and dwell in the gloomy night of the realm of mulk.We are veiled from the daily intensifying light of wisdom and insight and imagine that these are parables based on allegory(folktale) and metaphor and on surmise and reification. Yes, as long as we remain stupefied by the slumber of life and intoxicated by carnal nature, we cannot differentiate reality from allegory(fairy tale), and reality appears to be an allegory to our eyes, for, in fact, in the world of metaphors reality takes the form of allegory.

The people are asleep; when they die, they wake up. [9]

When our eyes are opened, we shall see that in the same way as the light of the sun and the moon is luminous and illuminating, so is the light of the man of knowledge. In this world he illuminates the gloomy hearts and brings to life the dead of nescience and ignorance by the light of his knowledge, and in that world, too, his light is encompassing; and by the means of that encircling radiance, he intercedes in favour of chose who derive light from the niche of his knowledge and are attached to the courtyard of his sanctity.

It should be known that `ibadah, too, cannot take place without knowledge, and hence the `abid too has a light that is particularly his. Rather, the essence of faith in God and worship of Him are light, with the difference that the `abid's light is confined to himself; it illuminates the path beneath his feet, but does not give light to others. Therefore, their likeness is that of stars on a full-moon night wherein their brilliance is dimmed due to the light of the moon. They shine for themselves and their light does not benefit others. Hence the similitude of the `abid in comparison with the`alim is that of a star, though not that of a star on a moonless night wherein it is a source of illumination to some extent, but of a star on a full-moon night when it just shines without illuminating other things.

Sadr al-Muta'allihin-may his soul be sanctified-says: "That which is meant by 'alim' in this noble hadith is other than the divine man of knowledge (`alim-e rabbani) whose knowledge is immediate (ladunni), obtained through Divine gift, like the sciences of the prophets and the awliya'-may peace be upon them-as is shown by the metaphor of moon; for otherwise the metaphor of sun would have been more appropriate, because its light is by Divine beneficence, without there being any intermediary belonging to the recipient's species or genus." Here ends his statement-may God elevate his station.

5. Section: On the `Ulama' Being the Heirs of the Prophets:

This inheritance is spiritual, for the descent of the `ulama' from the prophets is of a malakuti nature. In the same way as the human being is an offspring of mulk by virtue of his mulki life, he undergoes a malakuti birth under the rearing care of the prophets and after obtaining the station of the heart. As the source of the former birth is the physical father, the source of the latter birth are the prophets-may peace be upon them. Hence they are the spiritual ancestors; their inheritance(heritage) is spiritual and inward and the birth is a second, malakuti birth. After the prophets, the function of instruction and rearing lies with the `ulama', who are the real heirs of the prophets. The prophets-may peace be upon them- by virtue of this spiritual station, were not owners of wealth or concerned with the world of mulk and its corporeal affairs. Their inheritance, in virtue of this station, was nothing except knowledge and divine teachings, though by virtue of their corporeal birth and terrestrial life they possessed all the statuses associated with a human being:

Say: 'I am only a moral the like of you'... (18:110)

By virtue of this human status their heirs were not the learned but their own physical offsprings, and hence their legacy in respect of this bodily station can be material wealth.

This noble hadith clearly implies or rather categorically states the fact of spiritual inheritance(heritage) as explained. And that which the Noble Messenger-may Allah's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny meant by the words ascribed to that master, that:

We, prophets, do not leave any inheritance, [10]

-if we assume the authenticity of their ascription to him-is that the legacy of the prophets by virtue of their prophetic function and spiritual inheritance is not wealth and treasure; rather, it is knowledge, as is quite evident. Wa al-salam.

[1]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, i, kitab fadl al-'ilm, bab thawab al-'alim wa al-muta'allim, hadith 1.

[2]. Ibn Abi Jumhur, Ghawali al-la'ali, i, 106.

[3]. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-'anwar, xviii, 382.

[4]. This refers to the following hadith of Furu' al-Kafi, iii, 233:

[5]. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Kitab al-Tawhid, 157.

[6]. Tafsir nur al-thaqalayn, iii, 605.

[7]. Al-Bahrani, Tafsir al-burhan, iii, 135.

[8]. Author's Note: This is part of a long hadith that appears in the gloss on the Munyat al-murid of the blessed Shahid (al-Shahid al-Thani) which has been published together with the Ruwad al-jinan.(See also Bihar al-'anwar, i, 225, where it appears with a slight difference in wording.)

[9]. Ibn Maytham al-Bahrani, Sharh Mi'at kalimah, 54.

[10]. Musnad Ahmad, ii, 463.

source : Forty Hadith by Imam Ruhullah al-Musawi al-Khumayni
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