Monday 17th of June 2019

May God have mercy upon the man who knows his own worth

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!

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