Monday 19th of August 2019

On the Indescribability of God

It should be known that the indescribability of God, the Exalted, mentioned in this tradition refers to the characteristics of God given by some victims of ignorance and disputation from among the theologians (mutakallimun) and others, whose statements implied finitude (tahdid) and anthropomorphism (tashbih) or rather the very denial of the Divine Attributes (tatil). That such is the case is indicated by this phrase in the noble tradition, . Some traditions of the nobleal-Kafi, in the chapter concerning prohibition on characterization (nahy 'an al tawsif), also affirm this:

In al-Kafi (al-Kulayni reports) with his isnad from 'Abd al-Rahim ibn 'Atik aIl-Qasir that he said. "I wrote a letter to Abu 'Abd Allah, may peace be upon him, which I sent through 'Abd al-Malik ibn A'yan, informing him that there are some people in Iraq who characterize God with form and features (takhtit). I wrote, 'May God make me your ransom, if you consider it fit, write to me the correct doctrine of Divine Unity.' He wrote back to me: 'May God be merciful to you, you have questioned me concerning tawhid and the belief held by a bunch of people over there. Exalted is God, and there is nothing like Him, and He is the All-hearing and the All-seeing. He is above the descriptions of the anthropomorphists (mushabbihah) who liken God to His creation and ascribe falsehoods to Him.

May God have mercy upon you, know that the right doctrine of tawhid is that which has been revealed in the Qur'an concerning the Attributes of God, the Almighty and the Glorious. Negate ta'til (the negation of Attributes) as well astashbih in relation to God, the Exalted. Hence neither the Attributes are to benegated, nor God is to be likened to anything. He is God, the Self-Subsisting (al thabit) and the Existent (al-mawjud), exalted is He above what the describers attribute to Him. Go not beyond the Qur'an, or you will go astray(wander away) after the clear exposition [of the truth)." ' [6]

If one reflects properly on the contents of this noble tradition and its earlier and latter parts one comes to know that the prohibition concerning the characterization of God does not mean, as stated by some eminent traditionists, [7] that one should refrain absolutely from reflecting on the Attributes or describing the Attributes of God, because this tradition, like some others, [8] directs one to negate ta'til and tashbih-something which is not possible without reflection on the Attributes and a complete knowledge of them. That which the Imam wants to say is that one should not attribute to God, the Exalted, anything that is not worthy of His sacred Essence, such as the attribution of form, features, and other characteristics of the creatures, which entail imperfection and contingency (imkan), and God is above these.

However, as to describing God, the Exalted, by attributes that suit Him, it has a sound discursive basis in the transcendental sciences ('ulum-e 'aliyah). Hence it is something desirable, and the Book of God, the Sunnah of the Messenger, may God bless him and his Household, and the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt are replete with it. The Imam himself has made a brief reference in this noble tradition to that right discursive approach, though any elaboration of it is outside the scope of our discussion.

As to the statement of al-Imam al-Sadiq, may peace be upon him, that one should not go beyond the Divine Scripture in one's descriptions of God, it is a prescription for those who are ignorant of the criterion concerning [metaphysical speculation about] the Attributes. It does not mean that it is impermissible to ascribe an attribute that is not mentioned in the Book of God. Accordingly that master, despite prescribing this for his addressee, mentions two Attributes and Names of God, "Self-subsisting" (al-thabit) and "Existent" (al-mawjud), which as such do not occur in the Divine Scripture.

True, if someone with an undeveloped intellect, full of conjectures and imaginings and unilluminated with the light of gnosis (ma'rifah) and hidden Divine assistance, were to describe God with some attribute, he would inevitably fall either into the error of ta'til and negation [of the Attributes] or into the perdition of tashbih. Hence it is essential for persons like us whose hearts are covered with thick veils of ignorance and self-love and perverse habits and dispositions to refrain from reaching out toward the world of the Hidden and abstain from carving out deities for ourselves, for whatever we may conceive in our imagination would be no more than our own creation.

However, it should not remain unsaid that when we say that such persons should not extend their hand towards the world of the Hidden we do not mean to recommend that they continue to remain in ignorance and egoism, nor,na'udhubillah, we call them to blaspheme His names, [regarding which it has been said

.... And leave those who blaspheme His Names... (7:180)

Nor do we stop them from learning the transcendental teachings (ma'arif) which are the apple of the eye of the awliya' of God and the basis and foundation of religion. Rather, this is itself a call for the removal of these dark curtains, and a warning that as long as man remains a victim of self-attention and the love of the world, a captive of mundane ambition, love of wealth and the self, and, like this author, a prisoner within the walls of nescience, error, egoism and narcissism, which are the thickest of all darkening veils, he would remain deprived from knowing the true teachings (ma'arif) and attaining to his real goal. If, God forbid, there were no hidden succour from God, the Exalted, and His perfect awliya', one would not know where his matter would ultimately(in the long run) end and to what destination his movement and journey would lead him.

My God, I address my complaint to Thee and seek Thy help! [9]

We, wanderers of the realm of ignorance, lost in the wilderness of error, and self-seeking and self-centered amusements, who came into the dark world of mulk and nature and, like bats, did not open the eye of real vision to behold the fair reflection of Thy Beauty in the mirror of things, big and small, nor the manifestations of Thy Light throughout the levels of the heavens and the earths! Blind of eyes and insensate of heart, we have passed our days and spent a lifetime in ignorance and self forgetfulness. Should Thy unbounded grace and Thy infinite and effulgent mercy assist us not by lighting a spark(flash) within the heart and infusing a passion within the soul, we would languish for ever in this perplexity of ours and get nowhere! But-such is not what we expect of Thee!! Thy favours preceded any worthiness [on our behalf) and Thy mercy is [ever] unearned. O God, out of Thy kindness succour us and guide us to the lights of Thy Beauty and Majesty and illuminate our hearts with the radiance of Thy Names and Attributes!


Impossibility of Knowing the Reality of the Names and the Attributes:

It should be noted that the knowledge of the reality of the Divine Attributes and their encompassment as well as their nature is something whose summits lie beyond the reach of metaphysical proof (burhan) and whose kernel is beyond access to the yearning of the gnostics. That which has been said from the viewpoint of metaphysical proof in the speculative thought of scholars of formal metaphysics or in the discussions of the adept in the terminology of gnosis concerning the Names and the Attributes is correct and well-reasoned in accordance with their approach. However, learning ('ilm) itself is a thick(dense) veil, and as long as it is not pierced with the succour of the All-Glorious and in the shadow of perfect piety, intense mortification, complete dedication and sincere supplications to the Lord, the lights of Divine Beauty and Glory do not appear in the wayfarer's heart, and the heart of the emigrant towards Allah does not succeed in attaining to the witness of the Unseen (mushahedeh-ye ghaybiyyeh) and the manifest presence (hudur-e'ayani)of the manifestation of the Names and the Attributes, to say nothing of the manifestations of the Essence. These statements should not deter one from research and study, which are themselves reminders of the Truth, for it happens only rarely that the sacred plant of ma'rifah grows and reaches fruition in the heart without the seed of the true sciences and their customary conditions. Hence one should not abstain at the outset from the pursuit of the sciences with due observance of all its prerequisites and auxiliaries, for it has been said:

The sciences are the seed of (gnostic) disclosures. [10]

And should the sciences fail to produce for one a complete result in this world on account of certain obstacles, they would inevitably bring the desired fruits in the other worlds. But the main thing is the observance of their prerequisites and conditions, some of which were discussed in the exposition of certain foregoing traditions.

Section: The Knowledge of the Spiritual Reality of the Prophets and the Awliya' is Unattainable through Rational Thought:

It should be known that the knowledge of the spirituality and the station of perfection of the major prophetic figures and the infallible awliya', may peace be upon them, in general, and those of the Seal of the Prophets, may God bless him and his Household, in particular, is not attainable by means of thought or journey through the `horizons and the souls'(afaq wa anfus; 41:53). That, because those venerable personages belong to the Divine lights of the Unseen and are the complete manifestation and the manifest signs of Divine glory and beauty, having reached, in the spiritual journey towards God, the ultimate extremity of self-annihilation (fana'-e dhati) and the ultimacy of ascent, to the point of 'two bows length or nearer' (qaba qawsayn aw adna; 53:9), though the latter station belongs [specifically] to the Seal of the Prophets and other wayfarers in their ascension are followers of his sacred being. Here we do not intend to describe the nature of the journey of that sacred personage and the difference between his spiritual ascent (mi'raj) and the ascents of other prophets and awliya', may peace be upon them. For the sake of the present discourse we shall confine ourselves to mentioning one tradition pertaining to their luminosity, for the perception of their luminosity also requires an inner light and a divine gravitation:

[In al-Kafi (al-Kulayni reports) with his isnad from Jabir, from Abu Ja'far, may peace be upon him. Jabir says: "I asked him concerning the knowledge of the Knowing One (al-'Alim, i.e an Imam). He replied saying, 'O Jabir, verily, there are five spirits in the prophets and the awsiya': the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Faith, the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Power, and the Spirit of Appetite. By the means of the Holy Spirit, O Jabir, they know everything from the Throne to underneath the earth.' Then he added, 'O Jabir, all the four spirits are subject to vicissitudes, but not the Holy Spirit, which does not engage in diversion or play."' [11]

[(In al-Kafi al-Kulayni reports) with his isnad from Abu Basir that he said, "I asked Abu 'Abd Allah, may peace be upon him, concerning the statement of God, the Blessed and the Exalted, 'And thus have We inspired in thee (O Muhammad) a Spirit of Our Command. Thou knewest not what the Scripture was, nor what the Faith' (42:52). He replied, '(The Spirit mentioned in the verse) is one of the creatures of God, the Blessed and the Exalted, greater than Gabriel and Michael, that was with the Messenger of God, may God bless him and his Household, and which used to inform and guide him, and after him it is with the Imams, may God bless them." [12]

From the first tradition one comes to know that the prophets and the awsiya', may peace be upon them, possess a sublime spiritual station which is called the Holy Spirit (ruh al-qudus; lit, `the Spirit of Holiness'). By the means of that station they encompass all the particles of the universe epistemically and ontologically (ihateh-ye 'ilmi qayyumi). In that spirit there is no negligence, sleep, error, forgetfulness and other vicissitudes associated with contingency or any of the changes and deficiencies pertaining to the realm of mulk. Rather, it belongs to the world of the immaterial Unseen and the greater Jabarut. From the second tradition, one comes to know that that spirit is perfectly non-material and greater than Gabriel and Michael, who are the greatest inhabitants(residents)  of the station of proximity of the Jabarut.

Yes, the awliya', whose natural form (tinah) has been fashioned by God, the Exalted, with the mighty hands of His own Beauty and Majesty, and manifested Himself, in the first manifestation of the Essence (tajalliye dhati-ye awwali), with all the Names, Attributes and the all-inclusive station of Unity (maqam-e ahadiyyat-a jam') in their perfect mirror, and initiated them into the reality of the Names and the Attributes in the Unseen privacy (khalwatgah-e ghayb) of the Divine Ipseity-the majesty of their glory and beauty is beyond the reach of the aspirations of the gnostics, and the summit of their perfection is beyond access to the gnostic endeavours of the people of the heart. And it is mentioned in a tradition of the Prophet, may God bless him and his Household:

'Ali is immersed in the Essence of God, the Exalted." [13]

In former days, this author, like a bat describing the world-illuminating sun, has described a modicum of the station of prophethood and wilayah in a separate treatise named Misbah al-hidayah. [14]

Section: On the Waiting of `the Seven Hijabs' Mentioned in Relation to the Prophet:

Several probable meanings have been suggested for these words of the noble tradition:nd here we shall mention some of them.

First is the one suggested by the perfect gnostic and traditionist, the marhum Fayd, may God have mercy upon him. It is narrated in a tradition that there are seventy thousand veils of light and darkness for God, the Exalted; were He to remove them, the lights of Divine Beauty will burn down everything that His sight falls upon. Accordingly, it is probable that means that [for the Prophet, most of] all those veils have been removed so that out of the seventy-thousand only seven remain. [15] According to this interpretation, the phrase involves an ellipsis and means with God, the Glorious, as the active subject [of the verb ].

Although this interpretation is perhaps more appropriate than the other probable meanings, it is not indisputable. From the viewpoint of wording, a more appropriate expression for the description to convey such a sense would be: or . As in accordance with this interpretation, the perfection of the Messenger and the impermissibility of describing him relates not to the presence of the seven veils but to the absence of the other veils, it would have been more appropriate to mention them. Moreover, from the viewpoint of meaning, since, apparently, these veils of light and darkness that belong to God, the Exalted, pertain to creation and not to the Names and the Attributes, it entails that there is a creature nearer [to the Divine Essence] than the sacred light of the Noble Messenger, may God bless him and his Household, whereas it has been established that his being is the nearest veil and the first creature and there are not even any veils of Names and Attributes for that master, as has been proved in its own proper place, and the sevenfold stations and mysteries of that master are also not a veil for himself.

A second interpretation is the one proffered by the erudite traditionist, the marhum Majlisi, may God elevate his station in the realm of sanctity, which he also narrates from some others. According to this interpretation, this sentence is mentioned in the way of introduction and intended to describe the Prophet through later sentences. [16] That is, it means to say: `How could be described a servant, for whom God, Who is concealed from the creatures with seven veils, has made obedience in the earth like obedience to him in the heaven-like a king who is situated beyond seven curtains for his subjects, who cannot have access to him except through the mediation of a vezier appointed for them, and who sends a decree declaring that his command is mine.' And that which is meant by the sevenfold veils are the seven heavens from beyond which the revelations of God reach us through the Messenger. He has also mentioned another possible interpretation close(nearby) to this one wherein the sevenfold veils are identified as the luminous veils of the Names. [17] Although this interpretation, like the former, is not contestable from the viewpoint of meaning, it is inadequate or rather more farfetched from the viewpoint of wording and description.

There is another probable interpretation of it which is much sounder and convincing and ample appropriate to the occasion. However, the correctness of this interpretation depends on one of two things: either that has been used in a transitive sense in the sense of or that it be permissible to make it transitive with a ba; and in both the cases there be an ellipsis involving the object (maf'ul). Assuming the propriety of one of these two matters mentioned, this is what is meant in accordance with this interpretation: `How could a creature be described whom God, the Exalted, has concealed with seven veils, and for whose beauty and spirituality, which are on a par with the Divine will (mashiyyah), He has assigned seven veils extending from the plane of corporeal nature to the plane of the absolute mashiyyah, or from the plane of the corporeal realm of mulk of that master to the Unseen station (maqam-e ghayb) of his ipseity (huwiyyah). I could not find any instance in the lexicon and usage for the transitive meaning of although some scholars state that there is no impediment to making it transitive with a ba'. (`And all knowledge is with God, and perchance He may make something to come about hereafter').

Section: On the Delegation (tafwid) of the Affair to the Messenger of God (S), as indicated by this and many other traditions:

It should be known that the term tafwid is used in a special sense in discussions on jabr and tafwid (predestination and total human freedom).

According to this sense of tafwid, it means that God, the Exalted, has na'udhubillah, dissociated Himself in some respect from making any kind of dispositions in the world, right from the remotest extremity of creation pertaining to the Unseen immaterial spheres to the other end of the realm of creation and [corporeal] existence and delegated its administration to a being which is either a perfectly and completely spiritual and immaterial being possessing will and freedom of action, or a physical existent devoid of will and consciousness, which has a complete freedom of independent action therein.

"Tafwid" in this sense of delegation of Divine functions to someone, either in the matter of creation (takwin) or that of legislation (tashri') or on the plane of administration of the affairs of the creatures and their instruction (ta'dib), is impossible, and it implies the affirmation of deficiency and contingency in relation to the Necessary Being and negation of contingency and need in relation to contingent being.

Opposed to it is jabr, which means negation of causal efficiency in relation to the various planes of existence and an outright negation of the entire system of causes and effects. This notion is also absolutely false and contrary to firm metaphysical proofs. This is not restricted to the acts of legally responsible persons (mukallafun) as is generally known. Rather, the negation of jabr and tafwid in this sense is the operating sunnah of God in all the planes of being and in all the spheres of the Seen and the Unseen. However, the proof of this matter lies outside the scope of these pages.

The traditions negating jabr and tajwid are to be taken to apply to these meanings of the terms. [The term tafwid] has some other meaning in those traditions which do affirm tafwid [such as the following tradition of al-Kafi from al-Imam al-Baqir concerning the legislation of certain laws by the Prophet himself], or those which mention the delegation of all the affairs of the creatures [to the prophet], like the [second] tradition of al-Kafi given below.

In the first noble tradition of al-Kafi it is narrated with isnad from al-Imam al-Baqir, may peace be upon him, that he said: "The Messenger of God, may God bless him and his Household, prescribed the damages (diyah) for loss of an eye and life, and he forbade nabidh and every intoxicant." Someone asked him, "Was that without anything being revealed to him?" The Imam replied, "Yes. That was in order [that God may] know those who obey the Messenger of God, may God bless him and his Household, and those who disobeyed him." [18]

In other such instances, the Prophet (S) added a number of rak'ahs to the daily prayers [19] and made fasting during the month of Sha'ban and on three days of every month mustahabb. [20]

The second tradition is as follows:

[(Al-Kulayni reports) with his isnad from Zurarah that he said, "I heard Abu Ja'far and Abu 'Abd Allah, may peace be upon them, say: `Verily, God, the Almighty and the Glorious, has delegated the affair of His creatures to His Prophet, to see how they obey him' Then he recited this verse: Take whatever the Messenger brings you and refrain from whatever he forbids you. " [21]

Eminent scholars have mentioned certain probable meanings and interpretations. One of them is that which the erudite traditionist al Majlisi, may God's mercy be upon him, relates from Thiqat al-Islam al-Kulayni and most of the traditionists and which he himself favours. The gist of it is that God, the Exalted, after that He made the Messenger so perfect that he would not opt for anything that is not in conformity with what is true and correct and nothing would enter his blessed mind which is opposed to God's will, delegated to him the determination of some matters, such as adding to the number of rak'ahs in obligatory prayers, the determination of supererogatory matters relating to prayer and fasting and so on. This delegation (tafwid) was to make manifest the dignity and majesty of the station of that Master near God, the Glorious. However, his determinations and choices are not without inspiration and revelation, and after that Master prescribed something, the matter was affirmed by revelation? [22] Marhum Majlisi, may God elevate his station, also mentions other matters similar to this one, such as the matter of teaching, instructing, and administering the creatures, which has been delegated to him, or that of proclaiming and expositing of the ahkam, or refraining from that, in accordance with the exigencies of time-such as while observing taqiyyah-which have been delegated to him and the other Ma'sumun? [23] However, in any of the two interpretations offered by these revered scholars the scope of tafwid has not been explained as a rational principle consistent with established principles. Moreover, the distinction between this tafwid and the tafwid which is impossible remains unexplained. Rather, that which is implied by their statements-especially those of marhum Majlisi, may God's mercy be upon him-is that it would be [affirmation of impermissible]tafwid to believe that someone other than God, the Exalted, can create, cause death, provide sustenance and give life, that one who holds such a belief is an unbeliever (kafir) and no rational person would doubt its being tantamount to apostasy. Moreover, they have considered the matter of miracles (mu'jazat) and miraculous feats (karamat) as being totally a result of answered prayer, wherein God is the agent of the occurrences. However, the tafwid of the teaching and instruction of creatures and the bestowal and withholding of anfal and khums and the laying down of certain laws is considered correct and proper. This topic is one of those which have rarely been clarified and hardly ever brought under a correct criterion. Mostly what they have done is to take an aspect of the matter and discuss it. This author, too, with his inadequate capacity and ineptitude and the poverty of his equipment and means cannot enter this perplexing valley by starting from the preliminaries. However, he is compelled to make a brief allusion in the way of a metaphysical conclusion, for the disclosure of truth is unavoidable.

Concerning a Brief Allusion to the Meaning of Tafwid:

It should be known that there is no difference whatsoever between big and small matters in regard to the impossibletafwid, in the sense of total suspension of Divine Activity (maghluliyyat-e yaddullah) and independence of the efficiency of any creature's will and power. In the same way as the giving of life, the causing of death, creation, annihilation, and the transformation of one element into another cannot be delegated to any being, so also the delegation of the movement(mobility) of a piece of straw to any creature is impossible, though it be an archangel, an apostle, or any other being from the non-material intellects and inhabitants of the highest jabarut to the realm of primal matter. All the particles of the universe are subject to the perfect Divine will and have no independence whatsoever of their own in any respect. All of them are needy and poor in their being, as well as in their ontic perfections, movements and pauses, power and will, and all their functions. Rather, they are sheer poverty and absolute need. Similarly, there is no distinction between major and insignificant matters in respect of God's sustaining power over being and the negation of independence of creatures and the manifestation and influence of the Divine will and its all-pervasiveness. In the same way as such weak creatures as we have the power to carry out feeble actions, such as our [bodily] movements and pauses and all the other activities, the elect of God and the non-material angels are capable of performing such great acts as giving life, causing death, providing sustenance, creation, and annihilation. The Angel of Death is encharged with taking life and his taking of life is not something like the fulfilment of prayer, and Israfil is encharged with the giving of life, which is not of the nature of a prayer answered, and these actions do not fall under invalid tafwid. In the same way, if a perfect wali and a potent pure soul-such as the spirits of the prophets and the awliya' are-were to have the power to annihilate and create, to cause death and give life, a power given to them by God, the Exalted, it would not be an instance of impossible tafwid and should not be considered invalid. The delegation of the affair of the creatures to a perfect spirit whose intention is annihilated in the Divine intent and whose will is an image of the Divine will, and which does not will anything except what God wills and makes no move except that which is in accordance with the best system (nizam-e aslah), whether in creation and bringing into being or in legislation and instruction, that is not only not impossible but quite proper. In fact, this is not tafwid, as pointed out in the tradition narrated by Ibn Sinan to be cited in the next section.

In fine, tafwid in the first sense is not permissible in any matter and is contradictory to firm metaphysical proof. In its second sense, it is permissible in all matters. Rather, the system of the universe is not realized without the order of causes and effects:

God does not make things happen except through their means and causes. [24]

It should be known that that which has been said here briefly is rational and in accordance with sound metaphysical proof and mystic teaching as well as in conformity with tradition. And God is the guide.

Section: Concerning the Station of the Imams, may peace be upon Them:

Know that the pure and infallible Ahl al-Bayt, may peace and blessings be upon them, have certain lofty spiritual stations on the spiritual journey towards Allah whose epistemic apprehension is beyond human capacity and above the intellects of the people of reason and the intuitions (shuhud) of the gnostics. As is apparent from the noble traditions, they share the spiritual station of the Noble Messenger, may God bless him and his Household, and their immaculate lights were engaged in the glorification and praise of the Sacred Essence before the creation of the worlds.

In al-Kafi [al-Kulayni reports] with his isnad from Muhammad ibn Sinan that he said: "I was with Abu Ja'far, the Second, may peace be upon him, when I mentioned before him the disagreement amongst the Shi'ah. Thereat he said, 'O Muhammad, verily God, the Blessed and the Exalted, is ever unique in His Unity. Then He created Muhammad, 'Ali and Fatimah. They remained for a thousand eons, then He created all the things and made them witness their creation and decreed them to obey them, delegating their affairs (i.e. of the creatures) to them. Hence they permit whatever they will and forbid whatever they will and they will not anything except what God, the Exalted, wills.' Then he said, 'O Muhammad, whoever goes beyond this creed transgresses the bounds [of right doctrine] and whoever lags behind perishes, and whoever adheres to it attains [to the truth]. So hold on to it, O Muhammad!' " [25]

[In al-Kafi al-Kulayni reports] with his isnad from al-Mufaddal that he said: "I said to Abu 'Abd Allah, may peace be upon him, 'How was your state when you were in the 'Shadows'?' He replied, 'O Mufaddal, we were with our Lord and there was none else except us in 'the Green Shadow': we glorified Him, called Him Holy and One and extolled Him. Besides us there was neither any archangel nor any spirit, until when it appeared to God to originate the creation. Thereupon, He created whatever He will and howsoever He will of the angels and the other creatures. Then He gave the knowledge of that to us.' " [26]

The traditions relating to the nature (tinah) of their bodies and the creation of their spirits and hearts, and those which speak of their having been given [the knowledge of] the Greatest Name (ism-e a'zam) and the sciences-bestowed upon them from the Unseen divine stores-of the prophets and the angels and what is above that and that which does not enter into the imagination of you and me, and that which is mentioned of their other excellences in the various chapters of reliable works of our associates(acquaintance), especially in the Usul al-Kafi, are such as to confound the intellect. No one can apprehend their mysteries and realities except their own sacred beings. In this noble tradition in whose exposition we are presently engaged, there is a reference to one of their excellences, which is the Verse of the Purification (al-ayat al-tathir; 33:33), which, in accordance with mutawatir traditions narrated through Sunni and Shi'i chains of transmission, was revealed concerning the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt. Those who are meant by "ahl al-bayt" in the noble verse, as affirmed by the consensus of the Shi'ah and abundant or mutawatir traditions narrated through non-Shi'i ('ammah) chains of transmission, are the Household of infallibility ('ismah) and purity (taharah). This is a point whose elaboration would be explanation of what is evident.

On the Reality of 'Ismah:

In this, as well as other noble traditions, rijs [in verse 33:33] has been interpreted as doubt (shakk), and in some traditions it is interpreted as freedom from all defects. A study of the exposition of some of the earlier traditions shows that the negation of doubt implies the negation of all inward and outward defects and, in fact, implies infallibility (`ismah). That is because infallibility is not something contrary to free will, as in the case of matters relating to nature and instinct. Rather it is a spiritual state and a light d by means of the perfect light of certainty (yaqin) and total tranquillity (itminan). The errors and sins that are committed by human beings are due to inadequate conviction and faith. The degrees of conviction and faith are so various as to be beyond description. The perfect certainty of the prophets and their complete tranquility(peacefulness), d through unmediated knowledge (mushahedeh-ye hudariyyah),makes them immune to error. The conviction of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, may peace be upon him, had brought him to the station that he declared: "Even if I were to be given the whole world in order to unjustly deprive an ant of a grain, I would not do it. " [27]

In any case, by God's pre-eternal design, they have been cleansed of shirk and doubt, purified from the impurities and defilements of the world of physical nature ('alam-e tabiat) and the darkness of attachment to other than God, the Exalted, freed from the obfuscations of the ego and the thick sheaths of egoism and attention to other [than of God], becoming sacred divine lights and complete signs of the Lord, Who has made them purely and sheerly His own. Hence their stations are such as cannot be properly described and explained and, like the phoenix of the ghayb of Divine Ipseity, the peaks of their glory are beyond the reach of [gnostic] aspirations:

Take thy net away for none can ever catch the phoenix. [28]

Concerning the Indescribability of Faith:

It should be known that iman (faith) is also one of the spiritual perfections whose radiant reality can rarely be known by anyone. Even the faithful, so long as they remain in the world and in the darkness of nature, are unaware of the radiance of their faith and the dignity they have before God.

As long as man remains in this world, he becomes so accustomed to its conditions and habits that when he hears anything about the nobilities and bounties of the other world and its punishments and disappointments, he immediately compares them to a similar form in the realm of mulk. For instance, he compares the nobilities promised by God, the Exalted, to the faithful and the bounties He has prepared for them and whose news has been conveyed by the prophets, may peace be upon them, to the gifts and honours received by men from princes and suzerains or something better and higher. He assumes the bounties of that world to be like those of this world, though somewhat plentiful refined and superior. Such a comparison is altogether invalid. The bounties of that world, its delights and fragrance cannot be truly imagined by us, and anything like them does not enter our minds. We cannot conceive how a drink of the water of Paradise can possess all the imaginable and possible pleasures, each of which is distinct from the other, for the quality of any delight [of that world] has no similarity to the pleasures of this world.

In this noble tradition, there is a mention of one of the nobilities of the faithful which, in view of the people of gnosis and the people of the heart, are incomparable to anything and cannot be measured by any measure, and that is the statement of the tradition where it says: "Indeed, when the believer takes his brother with the hand on meeting him, God looks at them and sins are shed from their faces in the manner leaves fall from a tree." The same theme recurs in many other traditions, such as the following one:

In al-Kafi [al-Kulayni reports] with his isnad from Abu Ja'far, may peace be upon him, that he said: "When the faithful meet and take one another by the hand, God, the Exalted, turns to them with His face, and their sins fall from them in the manner leaves fall(avalanche) from a tree."' [29]

God only knows what inner luminosity and nobility is associated with this look of God, the Exalted, and this attention of His with His noble face, and what veils are removed from between the faithful servant and the lights of the Beauty of the Sacred Essence and what succour it provides to the faithful. However, one should know the reality and actual secret behind these nobilities and one should not be heedless of it. The heart's attention should be turned so that the act attains its perfect luminosity and a divine breath is blown into the act's body. That reality and secret truth lies in strengthening the bond of love and cordiality and renewal of the covenant of love and brotherhood for the sake of God. A great significance is attached to this point in the noble traditions and is also hinted at in traditions relating to this topic:

In al-Kafi [al-Kulayni reports] with his isnad from Abu Ja'far, may peace be upon him, that he said: "When the faithful meet and take one another by the hand, God places His hand between their hands and shakes hand with the one who has greater love for his companion." [30]

It is stated in another tradition that when the faithful meet and shake hands, God, the Exalted, sends His mercy down upon them; nine-tenths of it belong to the one who has greater love for his companion, and if they should be equal [in love], the mercy envelopes them. [31] There are many traditions on this topic and that which have been cited will suffice. And all praise is God's, at the beginning and the end.

[1]. The Qur'an, 6:91; 22:74; 39:68.

[2]. Ibid., 59:7.

[3]. This is a reference to verse 4:80 of the Qur'an: "Whoso obeyeth the Messenger, obeyeth God."

[4]. Al-Majlisi, Mir'at al-'uqul, vol. ix, p. 71, "kitab al-iman wa al-kufr" "bab al mussfahah" hadith 16.

[5]. Al-Fayd al-Kashani, al-Wafi, vol, v, p. 613.

[6]. Usul al-Kafi, vol. i, p. 100, "kitab al-tawhid", "bab al-nahy 'an al-sifah bi ghayr ma wasafah bihi nafsahu ta'ala" hadith 1.

[7]. See al-Majlisi, Mirat al-'uqul, vol. i, p. 346, "kitab al-tawhid", "bab nahy 'an al tawsif" hadith 1.

[8]. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Kitab al-tawhid, p. 31 ff., bab 2, in particular hadith 37.

[9]. Al-Shaykh al-Tusi, Misbah al-mutahajjid, "Du'a Kumayl," p. 587.

[10]. Sadr al-Muta'allihin, al-Asfar al-arba'ah, vol ix, p. 123; see also his Tafsir al-Quran, the exegesis of 87:17.

[11]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, vol. i, p. 272, "kitab al-hujjah" "bab fihi dhikr al-arwah al-lati fi al-A'immah" hadith 2.

[12]. Ibid., vol. i, p. 273, "kitab al-hujjah" "bab al-ruh al-lati yusaddidu Allah biha alA'immah" hadith 1.

[13]. Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. xxxix, p. 313, "Ta'rikh Amir al-Mu'minin" bab 88, hadith 5.

[14]. Misbah al-hidayah ila al-khilafah wa al-wilayah, written in 1349 H.

[15]. Al-Fayd al-Kashani, al-Wafi, vol. v, p. 614, "kitab al-iman wa al-kufr" "bab al musafahah" hadith 16.

[16]. Al-Majlisi, Mir'at al-'uqul, vol. ix, p. 71, "kitab al-iman wa al-kufr" "bab al musafahah" hadith 16.

[17]. Ibid.

[18]. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, "kitab al-hujjah" "bab al-tafwid ila Rasulillah (S) wa ila al-A'immah fi amr al-din" hadith 7.

[19]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, vo4 iii, "kitab al-salat" "abwab a'dad al-farid" bab 13, hadith 12, 14.

[20]. Wasa'il al-Shi'ah, vol vii, p. 361, "abwab al-sawm al-mandub" bab 28, hadith 5:

[21]. Usul al-Kafi, vol. i, p. 266, "kitab al-hujjah"bab al-tafwid ila Rasulillah wa alA'immah fi amr al-din" hadith 3.

[22]. Mir'at al-'uqul, vol iii, p. 144, "kitab al-hujjah"bab al-tafwid ila Rasulillah (S)" hadith 1.

[23]. Ibid.

[24]. Usul al Kafi, vol. i, p: 183, "kitab al-hujjah" "bab ma'rifat al-Imam wa al-radd ilayh":

See also al-'Saffar, Basa'iral-darajat, p. 26, juz' 1, bab 4, hadith 2.

[25]. Usul al-Kafi, vol. i, p. 441, "kitab al-hujjah" "bab mawlid al-Nabi (S) wa wafatuh" hadith 5.

[26]. Ibid., hadith 7.

[27]. Nahj al-balaghah, Khutbah 215.

[28]. Hafiz:

[29]. Usul al Kafi, vol. ii, p. 180, "kitab al-iman wa al-kufr" "bab al-musafahah" hadith 4 

[30]. Ibid., p. 179, hadith 2.

[31]. Ibid., p. 181, hadith 14.


With my continuous chain of transmission reaching up to the Thiqat al- Islam Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, may God's good pleasure be with him, from a group of our companions, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid, from his father, from Harun ibn al-Jahm, from al-Mufaddal, from Sa'd, from Abu Ja'far, may peace be upon him, that he said: "Verily, the hearts are [of] four (kinds) the heart that has [both] faith and hypocrisy in it, the heart that is inverted and upside down, the heart that has been sealed and is darkened, the heart that is clear and luminous (al-azhar)." [Sa'd], the narrator, says: "I asked him, "What is meant by `al-azhar'?" He replied, "it is a heart that has the likeness of a lamp. As to the heart that has been sealed, it is the heart of a hypocrite. The heart that is luminous is that of the believer, who is thankful when God gives him and is patient when subjected to tribulation. As to the heart that is inverted, it is the heart of the polytheist." Then he recited this verse: What, is he who walks prone upon his /ace better guided or he who walks upright on a straight path? (67:22) [Then he added]; "As to the heart wherein is faith and hypocrisy-they were a people who lived in Ta'if; so if one of them should die in the state of hypocrisy, he would perish, and should he die in the state of faith he would attain salvation." [1]


Mankus means `inverted' (maqlub). [The lexicographers] explain: 

(i.e. `I inverted something' or `I put it means upside down'). According to al-Sihah, means a baby

whose feet (at birth) come out before its head Closely associated is the meaning of in the noble verse cited by the Imam, for ikbab means falling on one's face, and therein is a figurative indication of the fact that the hearts of the polytheists (mushrikun) are inverted and their course of spiritual movement is other than the Straight Path, as will be elaborated later on, God willing.

Matbu` means `sealed' (makhtum), and tab` with sukun (of the ba'), means `sealing' (khatm), and with its harakah (i.e.taba`) means impurity (danas, wasakh). If it be taken in the sense of `sealed,' it would figuratively mean that the word of truth and Divine truths do not enter such a heart and it does not accept them-not that God, the Exalted, deprives it of His special grace, although this sense is also true. However the aforementioned sense is more appropriate.

'Azhar' means `white' (abyad) and `luminous' (mustanir), as mentioned in al-Nihayah. [2] According to a!-Sihah `azhar'means `bright' (nayyir), and the moon is called `azhar.' Ibn al-Sikkit says: `al-azharan' means the sun and the moon.`Azhar' [when spoken of a man] means a white man, of a bright face, and such a woman is zahra'. To sum up, azharmeans luminous and white; hence the sun and moon are called azharan; a white and luminous man is called azhar and a white and luminous women is zahra'.

`Ajrad' is someone who has no hair on his body, and according to al-Sihah, al-jurd means a treeless (open) space. And this figuratively implies the absence of attachment to the world, or freedom from impurity and defilement. We shall expound that which needs explication in this noble tradition in the course of a preface and a few sections.

Preface: On Reforming the Heart:

It should be known that the term 'heart' has various meanings in the terminology of the Shari'ah, and that of philosophy and 'irfan. To discuss that and the related terminological differences, as well as the ranks and degrees of the hearts, is outside the scope of this discourse and is not very gainful for us. Therefore, it would be better to take the matter in its unexplicated simplicity, as is done in the noble tradition, and discuss that which is important and essential for us.

It should be known that the endeavour to reform the 'heart,' on whose wholesomeness and corruption depends one's felicity and wretchedness, is more essential than an inquiry into its meanings and delving into the technical jargon. [3]In fact, it often happens that intense attention to terms and preoccupation with words and that which relates to them make one totally oblivious of the heart and its reform. [As a result] one may complete mastery in expounding the meaning and essence of the heart and the terminology of the metaphysicians (hukama') and the mystics ('urafa) while one's heart, na'udhubillah, is one that is either inverted or sealed, like someone who knows well the beneficial and harmful properties of medicines and is able to describe them with expertise(skillfulness) without himself refraining from poisonous medicines or making use of the beneficial ones. Such a person perishes despite all his knowledge of pharmacology, which is unable to rescue him.

We said earlier [4] that all the sciences are absolutely practical and even the transcendental sciences have a practical aspect in them. Here that which we have to say is that the science of the states of the heart and that which relates to their health and sickness, reform and corruption, is something which is purely a preliminary step to action and the way of its reform and remedy. Its mere knowledge and understanding is not considered a human perfection. Hence one's main attention and goal should be the reform and refinement of the heart so that one may attain to ultimate spiritual felicity and to the higher transcendent stations. And even if one were well adept in the sciences, the subtleties and the realities, during the course of his journey through 'the horizons and the souls', his main concern should be the discovery of his own spiritual states, so that if it were ruinous he should try to remedy it, and if oriented towards salvation, try to make it complete and perfect.

Section: The Basis for the Classification of the Hearts:

One should know that this classification of the hearts made in this noble tradition is one that is non-detailed and general. Every heart has a different rank and degree, whether it is from the viewpoint of shirk and hypocrisy or that of faith and perfection. Apparently, this classification of the hearts is subsequent to acquisition and spiritual conduct, not one based on the nature and constitution of different souls, so as to conflict with traditions concerning fitrah, which state that all people are born with the nature of tawhid and that shirk and hypocrisy are accidental [and not innate in human nature]. However, even if it were on the basis of nature, that would be correct in accordance with one explanation which removes the contradiction and does not lead to predestination, which is something impossible. Nevertheless, that which is closer to metaphysical proof and plentiful conducive to education is the first probability. And we said earlier [5] that as long as man remains in this world, which is the source of the tree of primal matter with its substantial, formal, and accidental changes and transformations, he can deliver himself from all levels of deficiency, wretchedness, shirk, and hypocrisy and attain to the higher levels of perfection and spiritual felicity. And this is not contrary to the famous hadith that states:

The wretched one is wretched in his mother's womb. [6]

for the meaning of the tradition is not that felicity and wretchedness are innate and incapable of change. Rather, this tradition accords with metaphysical proof, which has been set forth in clarity in its proper place, that wretchedness is derived from deficiency and non-being, and that felicity derives from being and its perfection. That which belongs to the immaculate tree of being is the sacred Divine Being in accordance with the ranks of causes and means-which is the way of the best of the latter generations and the most perfect of the early ones, the Nasir of the millah and din (i.e. Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi), may God sanctify his soul-or on the basis of manifesting and being manifested (zahiriyyah andmazhariyyah), unity and multiplicity-which is the way of the greatest of philosophers, Hadrat Sadr al-Muta'allihin. And that which derives from deficiency and non-being pertains to the vicious tree of quiddity, which is not the object of creation because of its being below creation (ja'l).

It may be said that the when the noble tradition says that felicity and wretchedness accompany one in the `mother's womb' that which is meant is the world of corporeal nature ('alam-e tabiyyat) which is the absolute mother, the womb and the cradle wherein nature nurtures its offsprings. That is, the expression `mother's womb' is not to be taken in its ordinary sense, because felicity, being perfection and actuality, cannot belong to the primal souls (nafus-e hayuliyyah)except potentially. Since the literal import is that the felicitous are felicitous in act in the mother's womb, the contrary of the literal meaning has to be adopted. And since that which has been said is in accordance with metaphysical proofs, the noble tradition has to be interpreted solely in this sense or something equivalent to it. In any case any elaboration of this matter and discussion of its proof is outside the scope of this discourse, though at times the pen rebels and runs contrary to the set aim.

The Reason why the Kinds of Hearts are Confined to the Four:

Some [scholars] have said that the reason for confining the kinds of hearts to four is that the hearts either possess faith or they don't. In the first case, the faith possessed pertains to all that the Messenger has brought or only to a part of that. The first is the heart of the believer (mu'min) and the second is a heart wherein faith and hypocrisy are both present. In the second case, there is either an outward confession of faith or there isn't. The first is the heart of the hypocrite and the second that of a polytheist (mushrik).

This interpretation does not accord with the noble tradition, which implies that at times there is real faith in all that the Prophet, may God bless him and his Household, has brought and at times there is hypocrisy. Hence, if one were forced to interpret, it would be better to say that the heart either has faith in all that the Prophet, may God bless him and his Household, has brought or it doesn't. In the second case, there is either a pretence of faith or there isn't. In the first case, the faith is either stable and established in it or [it is unstable], believing at one time and disbelieving at other times, making a pretense of belief in the state of disbelief also. The concluding part of the tradition shows that the repentance of those who apostatize after belief, to revert to unbelief and hypocrisy, is accepted, even if it should occur repeatedly.

In another tradition of the noble al-Kafi, Imam Baqir, may peace be upon him, divides the hearts into three kinds: (1) the inverted heart (qalb-e mankus), wherein there is no good; that is an unbeliever's heart; (2) the heart wherein there is a black spot, in which there is a conflict(warfare) between good and evil, each of which seek to overcome the other; (3) the 'open heart' (qalb-e maftuh) wherein are lamps whose lights will not go out until the Day of Resurrection; that is the heart of the believer. [7] This [division] does not conflict with the noble tradition [under exposition], for the first category mentioned in the above tradition includes the two kinds mentioned by the hadith, that is, the hearts of the polytheist and the hypocrite. That is because the hearts of all those three groups (i.e. unbelievers, polytheists and hypocrites) are inverted, and no inconsistency would be involved if inversion be [considered] the salient characteristic of the hearts of an unbeliever and polytheist and being seated the salient characteristic of the hypocrite's heart, and accordingly each of them is ascribed to either of them in the tradition.



We shall begin with the believer's heart so that the state of the other hearts be known in contrast. It should be known that in the transcendental sciences and the true teachings it has been clearly(unmistakably)   established that the reality of `being' is the reality of 'light.' These two terms signify one simple reality without being attributable to any separate multiple aspects. It is also known that that which pertains to perfection and completion derives from being itself. This is one of the noble principles, and to anyone who has the honour to apprehend it the door to the higher teaching is opened. Our feeble(flimsy) spirits are unable to apprehend the reality of that Being without a help from the Hidden and a success predestined from eternity. It is also known that faith in God belongs to the category of knowledge and is one of the absolute perfections. Hence, being a perfection, it belongs to being itself and the reality of light and manifestation. And that which is other than faith and all that relates to it, is outside the category of the perfections of the human spirit, belonging to the darkness of non-being and quiddity.

Concerning the Luminosity of the Believer's Heart:

Hence it is known that the 'believer's heart is luminous. It is narrated in the noble al-Kafi from al-Imam al-Sadiq, may peace be upon him, that he said: "You see some people who are so perfect in eloquence that they don't err in [the use of a single letter like] lam or waw, while their hearts are darker than a gloomy night, and there are some people who cannot express what is in their hearts, yet their heart is radiant like a lamp." [8] Further, the believer's heart is on the Straight Path and his spiritual movement is on the middle path of humanity. That is because, firstly, he has not deserted his primal divine nature, fashioned in forty days by God, the Exalted, with the hands of His Beauty and Glory. Thus he walks on the path of the nature of tawhid, oriented towards absolute perfection and consummate beauty. Inevitably, this spiritual movement from the plane of innate nature to the ultimate point of absolute perfection is without any crookedness, being as it is the path of spiritual rectitude and the middle inner way. However, all other hearts deviate from nature and the straight path. It is narrated of the Noblest Messenger, may God bless him and his Household, that he drew a straight line on the ground drawing other lines on its either side. Then he said, "This one, the straight and middlemost line, is my path." [9]

Explanation of the Believer's being on the Straight Path:

Secondly, the believer is the follower of the Perfect Man, and since the Perfect Man is the manifestation of all the Names and the Attributes and subject to the Lordship of the Truth, the Exalted, by virtue of the All inclusive Name (ism-e jami),his being is not monopolized by anyone of the Names. Like his Lord, he is an all-inclusive being and in him the manifestation of any of the Names is not overshadowed by that of any other Name. He possesses the station of middleness (maqam-e wasafiyyat) and the major mediation (barzakhiyyat-e kubra). Hence his movement is along the straight and middlemost path of the All-inclusive Name.

All other beings are dominated by one of the encompassing or non encompassing Names of which they are manifestations. Their origin and return is from and to that Name. The Name opposite to it is latent in it and plays no active role in it except from the aspect of the unity of all the Names-something whose explanation is not appropriate here. Hence God, the Exalted, at the station of the All-inclusive Name and the Lord of Man (rabb al-insan), is on the Straight Path, as He says:

Verily my Lord is on the Straight Path. (11:56)

That means the station of middleness and all-inclusiveness (jami'iyyat) without the predominance of an Attribute over another and without the manifestation of one Name rather than that of another. A being subject to the Lordship of that Sacred Being at this station is also on the Straight Path, without any station or aspect overshadowing another station or aspect. Hence [the believer] in the course of his real upward ascension [i.e. prayer] and the ultimate point of proximity [to the Divine], after making an admission of servitude, after referring every worship and service by every worshipper to that Sacred Essence and ascribing all help in all stations of expansiveness and straits (qabd wa bast) exclusively to that Sacred Being, by declaring:Thee only we worship and Thee only we ask for help, (1:5)


Guide us to the Straight Path. (1:6)

This is the same path as that of the Lord of the Perfect Man, the former from the [active] aspect of manifesting(zahirriyyat) and Lordship (rububiyyat) and the latter from the [passive] aspect of being manifested [mazhariyyat] and creaturehood [marbubiyyat]. None of the other existents and beings in movement towards Allah are on the Straight Path, but are deviant, inclining either towards (Divine) Grace and Beauty or towards Might and Glory. The faithful (mu'minin),since they are followers of the Perfect Man and walk in his footsteps, they journey by the light of his guidance and the lamp of his knowledge (ma'rifah) in submission to the sacred being of the Perfect Man. They don't take any step by themselves and do not allow their intellect to meddle with the character of the spiritual journey towards Allah. For this reason, their path is also straight, and in the company of the Perfect Man their fufilment (wusal) is subordinate to the fulfilment of the Perfect Man, provided that they protect their clear hearts from the workings of the devils, the ego, and egoism, and submit themselves totally in the journey to the Perfect Man and the station of ultimate prophecy.

Concerning Some Stratagems of Satan:

One of the evil workings of Satan is to make man turn the face of his heart away from the Straight Path and towards some coquettish person (shukh) or guru (shaykh). One of the great masterpieces of Satan, who whispers into the hearts of men, is that he, with gay and nonchalant discourse and deceptive manipulations, makes some spiritual gurus(shuyukh) enamoured to some coquette, justifying this major sin, or an act of spiritual polytheism, on the pretext that if the heart were to have a singular attachment one can succeed faster in curtailing worldly attachments. At [other] times he turns some mindless coquette towards some demonic guru, one who seduces people or is rather a satanic highwayman. The pretext offered for this act of explicit polytheism (shirk-e jali) is that the guru is a Perfect Man and that only through the Perfect Man one can attain to the realm of absolute transcendence, which is not manifested except in the mirror of the guru. At the end of their lives, the two of them-that one with the memory of his favourite's cheek and this one with the inverted face of his guru-join the world of demons and satans, and neither the former gets rid of his bestial attachment nor the latter reaches the goal through this blind alley.

It should be known that since the believer's journey is on a Straight Path and his heart is upright(erect), his orientation is towards Allah and his way is the middle path. As a result, in that world too his path is clear and straight, his posture upright, and his appearance and character, his inward and outward, have a human form and shape. One can understand the character of the heart of the polytheists in contrast to this. As his heart deviates from the Divine nature, and strays from the central point of perfection and the hub of light and beauty, departing from submission to the absolute Guide and Guardian (Wali) and preoccupied with its own ego and egoism, the world and its ornaments(jewel), consequently in the other worlds also it is not resurrected with the straight human character and form but in the form of an animal with a head turned about. That is so because, in that world, form and shape are subject to the character of the heart and the outward reflects the inward and the shell is the image of the kernel. The matter of that realm is not averse to accepting the inward malakuti forms as in this world, and this thesis has been established in its proper place. Hence the hearts which are averse to the Truth and Reality and deviate from straight nature, oriented and directed as they are towards the world, their image too, like themselves, deviates from straightness, being inverted, facing the world and physical nature (tabi`at), which is the lowest of the low. Perhaps, in that world some would walk on their faces with their feet upwards, some on their bellies, and some on their hands and feet, like animals, the way they in fact walked in this world:

Is he who goes inverted on his face more rightly guided or he who walks upright on a straight path? (67:22)

It is possible that this metaphor in the metaphoric world becomes a reality in the realm of reality and manifestation of spirituality. In some noble traditions relating to the exegesis of this noble verse, the `Straight Path' is interpreted as referring to Hadrat Amir al-Mu'minin and the Infallible Imams, may peace be upon them:

In al-Kafi (al-Kulayni reports) with his isnad from Abu al-Hasan al-Madi (al-Imam Musa al-Kazim) that (Muhammad b. al-Fudayl) says: [When asked concerning the meaning of the verse], "Is he who goes inverted on his face more rightly guided or he who walks upright on a straight path?" The Imam replied, 'Verily, God has struck a similitude [in this verse]: one who deviates from the wilayah of 'Ali [may peace be upon him] is like one who walks on his face and is not guided, and He has made one who follows him as one who walks upright on a straight path, and 'the Straight Path' is Amir al-Mu'minin, may peace be upon him.' " [10]

In another tradition the `Straight Path' is explained as meaning 'Ali, may peace be upon him, and the rest of the Imams, may peace be upon them. [11]

Also, it is narrated in the noble al-Kafi from Fudayl that he said: "I entered the Holy Mosque (of Makkah) with al-Imam al-Baqir, may peace be upon him, and he was leaning upon me. Then he threw his blessed glance upon the people as we stood at the Door of Bani Shaybah. Then he said, `O Fudayl, they used to circumambulate in this manner [even] during the days of the Jahiliyyah! They neither recognized any truth nor followed any creed. O Fudayl, look at them, they walk inverted on their faces! May God damn them, they are a disfigured creation walking on their faces." Then he recited the noble verse, Is he who goes inverted on his face more rightly guided or he who walks upright on a straight path. Then he added, "By God, that means `Ali, may peace be upon him, and his awsiya', may peace be upon them." [12]

In the foregoing we have explained how the journey and the movement of the Perfect Man are on the Straight Path. However, the exposition of the matter that the Perfect Man is the Straight Path itself is beyond our purpose in this discourse.

Complimentary Note: The Hypocrite's Heart and the Difference Between it and the Believer's Heart:

The states of the heart of the believer and the polytheist-and even that of the unbeliever-became known from the exposition in the foregoing section. A comparison also discloses the state of the hypocrite's heart. That is because the believer's heart has nor departed from its original innocent and clear nature and it naturally accepts any truths relating to faith and the true teaching. The harmony and compatibility between the nourishment-which consists of the truths and the teachings-and the nourished one-which is the heart in its state of original nature-is preserved. Hence in another tradition of the noble al-Kafi, the believer's heart has been said to be `open' (maftuh), and although this `opening' may refer to one of the `threefold openings' (futhat-e thalathah), [13] this meaning is also appropriate.

However, as the hypocrite's heart has obscurities and darkness formed in it contrary to the human nature, such as ignorant prejudices (ta'assubhaye jahiliyyat), blameworthy moral traits, vanity, ambition, and other qualities contrary to the [primal] nature, it is closed and sealed. It is not at all receptive to the word of truth and its tablet is like a page of paper that is totally blackened, on which nothing can be inscribed. Its pretense of religiosity, arising from its satanic character, is a means to secure worldly benefit and advancement in mundane matters.

It should be known that the hearts of the polytheist and the hypocrite are both inverted and sealed, as is clear and evident. But the attribution of one of these qualities to each of them in particular is for the reason that, as the hearts of the polytheists are turned in worship towards other than That which is Absolute Perfection, they have two properties and characteristics: one is sincere humility [in front of the object of worship] and another is the deficiency and obfuscation created by this humility, which is diverted towards imperfect beings and creatures. Hence their hearts are inverted and this is their predominant characteristic(typical). As to the hypocrite, he is either a polytheist in reality-and in this respect he shares equally with the polytheists the quality of inversion of the heart-besides possessing an additional quality [i.e. hypocrisy], or he is an unbeliever in reality and possesses no religiosity. Although his heart too is inverted, it has another quality which is predominant. That additional quality is his outward pretense of following the truth. He enters the congregation of the followers of the Truth and hears all the truthful preaching that is heard by the believers. Yet, while the believer absorbs them due to his inner purity and open heart, the hypocrite fails to receive them due to the darkness and obscurities of his heart, which is closed and sealed.

The reason for singling out for mention from among the attributes of the believer the two characteristics, of gratitude on being favoured with gifts and patience in trials, is the salient character of these two among the believer's qualities. These are two of the major virtues from which other virtues branch out, and we have alluded to this in the exposition of some of the earlier traditions. [14] Further, the tradition refers to two of the Divine Attributes, of Glory and Beauty, or Might and Grace, each of which is manifested in the condition of tribulation and the condition of being well provided. And although tribulation belongs to the Attributes of Grace, but since it manifests through Might, it is reckoned as belonging to it, as mentioned in the discussions on Divine Names and Attributes. The believer always observes the duties of servitude between the two manifestations.

Conclusion: Neglect of the Truth Results in the Inversion of the Heart:

From the foregoing discussion it is known that the souls, though they should have belief in God and Resurrection, become inverted if they are totally absorbed by attention towards the world and preoccupied with mundane advancements while being neglectful of God. The criterion in respect of the inversion of the heart is the neglect of God and attention to the world and its cultivation. Such belief is either not faith, as mentioned in the exposition of some of the earlier traditions, [15] or is an insignificant and inadequate faith that is not inconsistent(erractic) with the inversion of the heart. In fact, one who makes a pretense of belief in transcendence and Resurrection but has no trepidation arising from such a belief and whom this belief does not lead to act with his bodily members, such a one is to be considered as belonging to the hypocrites, not as one of the believers. Possibly this sort of apparent believers, like the people of Ta'if, who in the noble tradition are mentioned as being typical of those who are believers at one time and hypocrites at another time, may altogether lose this hollow faith which has no sovereignty in the realm of their physical, bodily existence (mulk). They might leave this world in a state of complete hypocrisy to be resurrected amongst the hypocrites. This is one of the crucial matters to which our weak spirits must attach great importance, taking care that the effects of faith become established in our manifest and hidden, inner and outer, being. In the same way as we claim to possess faith in the heart, we should make our outward being also subject to its authority, so that the roots of faith become established in our hearts, not to be destroyed by any kind of obstacle or hindrance, transformation and change, so that this Divine trust of a celestial and pure heart, fashioned with its Divine nature, is returned to the Sacred Being unaffected and unsoiled by the workings of Satan and hands of treachery. And to Allah belongs all praise, at every beginning and end. '

[1]. Usul al-Kafi, vol. II, p. 422, "kitab al-Iman wa al-kufr" "bab fi Zulmah qalb al-munafiq" hadith 2.

[2]. Al-Nihayah, vol. ii, p. 321, under z.h.r.

[3]. Author's Note. It should be known that that which is meant here is not that the science of ethics and the things which lead to the salvation and damnation of the soul are not necessary. Rather, what is meant it that that science is to considered as a mere preliminary to action, not as something of independent worth is whose pursuit and in collecting whose technical jargon one should spend a lifetime and be kept from one's real goal. ,

[4]. See under the exposition of Twenty-sixth Hadith.

[5]. See Seventeenth Hadith.

[6]. Bihar al-anwar, vol. v, p. 153, "kitab al adl wa al-ma'ad' "bab al-sa'adah wa al shaqawah" hadith 1, with a slight difference in wording.

[7]. Usul al-Kafi, vol. ii, p. 423, "kitab al-iman wa al-kufr" "bab Zulmah qalb al-munafiq" hadith 3.

[8]. Ibid, vol. ii, p. 422, hadith 1:

[9]. Sadr al-Muta'allihin, Tafsir al-Quran al-Karim, vol. iv, p. 52, exegesis of 2:256 (ayat al-Kursi); See also al-Majlisi, 'Ilm al-yaqin, vol. ii, p. 967.

[10]. Al-Kafi, vol. i, p. 432, "Kitab al-hujjah" "bab fihi nukat wa nutaf min al-tamzil fi al-Wilayah" hadith 91.

[11]. Bihar al-anwar, vol. XXIV, p. 15, "kitab al-imamah" bab 24, hadith 17:

[12]. Rawdat al-Kafi, p. 288, hadith 434:

[13]. These are; al-fath al-qarib, al-fath al-mubin, and al-fath al-mutlaq.

[14]. See Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Twenty-first Hadith.

[15]. See Ninth, Twentieth and Twenty-sixth Hadith.


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