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Wednesday 26th of June 2019
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The reality of the world of Barzakh

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]

Exposition:

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]

Exposition:

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]

Exposition:

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.

With my chain of transmitters reaching up to the most venerable(dignified) shaykh and the trustworthy authority Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni-ridwan Allah 'alayh-(who reports:) from a group of our companions, from Ahmad ibn Muhammad, from Ibn Mahbub, from 'Umar ibn Yazid, from Abu 'Abd Allah-may peace be upon him-that he said: "It is written in the Torah: 'O son of Man, if you "empty" yourself (i.e. disengage yourself from all other preoccupations to make yourself available) for My worship, I will fill your heart with richness and I will not abandon(desert) you to what you seek and long for. And it will be upon Me to close the door of poverty upon you and to fill your heart with awe for Me. And if you don't "empty" yourself for My worship, I will fill your heart with preoccupation with the world and I will not close upon you the door of poverty and will abandon you to what you seek.' [1]

Exposition:

Tafarrugh belongs to the verbal form tafa'ul, and tafarragha li kadha means `he has devoted all his time to such and such a thing without being occupied with anything else.' The tafarrugh of the heart for the sake of worship (`ibadah) means `emptying' it for the sake of worship of attention to anything else. The lexicographers explain the verb mala'a (filled) as follows:

He 'filled' the vessel with water, i.e. he put in it a quantity that it can hold.

Akilu is a variant in the first person of yakilu. The lexicographers explain its usage as follows:

He 'entrusted' him with the matter, means, he turned it over to him, delegated it to him, left it to him, and put it completely in his charge.

Asuddu, a verb in the first person derived from sadda, yasuddu saddan, means closing, and is the opposite of al-fath, opening. Faqah means hajah and faqr, i.e. poverty and need. As to, apparently it (i.e. the verb ) represents the first person in the imperfect tense and its being in the imperative case in conjunction with the first clause is unlikely. We shall, God willing, expound that which needs explanation in the noble tradition in the course of a few sections.

1. The Significance of Prayer:

Know that freedom from other preoccupations for the sake of absorption in worship (`ibadah) is obtainable through possessing unoccupied time and an unoccupied heart. And this is one of the most important points regarding worship, without which the presence of heart cannot be realized, and a worship performed without an attentive heart is devoid of value. That which brings about attentiveness of the heart consists of two matters. The first of these lies in possessing unoccupied time and an unoccupied heart, and the second lies in making one's heart understand the importance of worship. That which is meant by `unoccupied time' is that one should set aside a certain time out of his day and night hours exclusively for the sake of worship wherein he should devote himself solely to worship without engaging in any other preoccupation. If one were to understand that worship is an important thing whose significance is greater than any other activity, or, rather, that it is something of incomparable significance, he would allocate a certain time to it and be careful to observe its timings. In the following we shall try to cast some light on this matter.

A devout person should be observant of the times of his worship under every circumstance. Of course, he should observe the timings of salat, which is the most important of the acts of worship, and carry it out in the most meritorious part of its time, refraining from engaging in any other work during those times. In the same way as he assigns a certain time to making an earning and for study and debate, he should do the same in respect of these acts of worship, in whose time he must be free from other preoccupations, so that he can achieve concentration of the heart, which makes up the quintessence and kernel of `ibadah. But should he, like this author, offer his prayers out of compulsion and consider the performance of the worship of the Lord as a superfluous matter, he would, of course, delay it as long as it can be delayed and when he offers it offer it in a perfunctory manner, considering it as an impediment in the way of what he imagines to be important tasks. However, such a worship has not only no spiritual brilliance, it deserves Divine wrath, and such a person is one who makes light of salat and neglects it as something trivial. I seek refuge in God from making light of salat and not giving it its due importance. These pages cannot contain all the traditions that exist in this context, and sere we will mention a few of them for the sake of lesson.

Muhammad ibn Ya'qub (al-Kulayni) reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far may peace be upon him-that he said to Zurarah-may God's mercy be upon him: "Don't be negligent in regard to your prayers. Verily, the Prophet may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-said on his death-bed: 'The one who makes light of his prayers does not belong to me, nor the one who takes intoxicating drinks, and, by God, he will not return to me at the Pond (of al-Kawthar).' " [2]

Al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu Basir that Abu al-Hasan al'Awwal (al-'Imam al-Kazim)-may peace be upon him-said: "At the time of his death my father said to me, 'My son, the one who makes light of salat will not receive our intercession.' " [3]

There are a large number of traditions concerning this matter, but these that have been cited are sufficient for those who will take a lesson. God knows what a great calamity it is to be separated from the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-and to be deprived of the support of that master! What a great humiliation is it that is entailed by deprival from the intercession of that master and his majestic Household! Don't imagine that anyone will receive Divine forgiveness and enter the promised Paradise without the intercession and protection of that noble personage. Now see for yourself whether preferring every trivial matter, or rather something which is of imaginary benefit, to prayer, which is the apple of the eye of the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-and a great means of Divine mercy, and treating it with negligence, delaying it without any excuse until the end of its time and not observing its prerequisites is not equal to-slighting it and making light of it. If it is, know that you have, in accordance with the testimony of the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Family-and that of the immaculate Imams-may peace be upon them-gone out of their wilayahand will not attain to their intercession. Now if you stand in need of their intercession and wish to belong to the ummah of the Noble Messenger-may God's benedictions be upon him and his Progeny-then treasure this divine trust and give it importance, or face the consequences of your neglect. God, the Most Exalted, and His awliya' have no need of the works of yours and mine, but it is feared that if you fail to give it its due importance, it will lead you to abandon(desert) it altogether and that will ultimately lead you to deny it as duty, bringing you to certain damnation and everlasting wretchedness.

More important than finding free and unoccupied time for salat is possessing a free and unoccupied heart. Rather, the former is a prerequisite for obtaining the latter. Having an unoccupied heart means that at the time of worship one must disengage himself from mundane engagements and cares and turn his heart away from all kinds of matters and cares and make it entirely empty and unencumbered for attending to worship and supplication with God Almighty. As long as one cannot purge his heart of these matters, he cannot obtain the necessary state of extrication for himself and his worship. But our misfortune is that we store up all the various kinds of stray thoughts and cares for the time of worship. As soon as we say the takbirat al'ihram of salat, it is as if we have opened a shop or a ledger of accounts or an album. Our heart wanders away to other matters and we become totally oblivious of worship. When we come to ourselves, it is when we have reached the moment of salam, having passed through the salat as a matter of habit! Truly, this kind of worship is a disgrace and this mode of supplicating with the Lord is shameful.

My dear, consider the prayers you offer to God by comparing them with talk and conversation with one of His insignificant creatures. When talking to a stranger-to say nothing of a friend you attend to him with all your attention and are oblivious of anyone else as long as you are engaged in conversation with him. But why is it that while engaging in communication and prayer with your Provider and the Lord and Sustainer of the worlds you are totally heedless of Him and attentive to other matters? Is the station and worth of creatures greater than that of the Sacred Essence of the Lord? Is conversation with them more valuable than supplication with the Fulfiller of needs. Yes, I and you do not know the significance of supplication with God. We consider these divine duties as a cumbersome burden, and, of course, a matter that is a cumbrous weight on one will not be significant for him.

Hence that which needs correction is the source of this stream. We must obtain faith in God and the exhortations of the prophets so as to reform our sorry state. All our misfortunes arise from the weakness of our faith and the shaky character of our conviction. The faith of Sayyid ibn Tawus-may God be pleased with him-had brought him to such a point that he used to celebrate every year the anniversary of the day of his becoming mukallaf, for on that day God had bestowed upon him the permission to engage in His worship and had dressed him in the robes of taklif. Really, just imagine, what purity and brilliance that heart of his had!

And if the practice of that glorious Sayyid is 'tot it binding proof (hujjah) for you, the practice of the Master of Monotheists (Sayyid alMuwahhidin, i.e. the Prophet [S]) and his infallible descendants is, of course, a hujjah for you. Study the condition of those noble souls and the character of their worship and prayers. At the time of salat the colour of their blessed faces would pale and their bodies would tremble(shake) with the fear lest there should occur some lapse in the course of this divine observance, although they were infallible.

It is well-known concerning the Mawla ('Ali) that ail arrow that had pierced his blessed foot and removing which was intolerably painful for him, was taken out when he was engaged in salat and he did not even notice its removal.

My dear, such a thing is not impossible. Such things occur quite often for people in the ordinary course of life. At times a man becomes totally oblivious of everything in the state of anger(frenzy) or love. One of our reliable friends used to narrate that "Once during a fight with a group of ruffians in Isfahan, I noticed that some of them struck me with their fists and I did not know what kind of blows they were. Later when the fight was over and I came to myself, I realized that. I had several wounds made by a knife with which they had struck me. I was bedridden for several days before I recovered(regained)  from those wounds." Of course, the reason behind it is obvious: when the total attention of the soul is concentrated on a certain matter, it becomes totally oblivious of the body and insensitive to its feelings. All its attention is absorbed by that single thing. In our own fights, encounters or heated(stowed) debates in a gathering-may God be our refuge from these-we have often noticed that we become totally heedless of everything else that takes place around us. However, regrettably, everything absorbs our total attention except the worship of the Lord, and that is why we tend to regard such episodes (as that of Imam 'Ali) as improbable(incredible)(unbelieavable)

In any case, detachment of the heart from everything except God is an important matter and one must try to attain it at all costs. The means of achieving it is also possible and attainable. It can be achieved with the exercise of some care and vigilance. One should make effort for some time to bring the flights of the bird of his thought under control and restrain it whenever it wishes to fly from one branch to another. After a period of watchfulness, the mind becomes tractable and docile and refrains from engaging in random(unreliable) thoughts. In accord with the aphorism -goodness becomes a habit with it and, attaining detachment from other preoccupations, it becomes attentive to God and His worship.

Of foremost importance amongst the prerequisites of worship is the attention of the heart, on which depends the soul and essence of worship and without which it has no value and acceptability near God, the Exalted, as mentioned in sacred traditions.

In al-Kafi, al-Kulayni reports with his isnad from Abu Ja'far and Abu 'Abd Allah-may peace be upon them-that they said to Fudayl ibn Yasar: "The reward that you derive from your salat is limited to the extent that you offer it with an attentive heart. And if someone should vitiate all of it or neglect its etiquette, it is wound up and thrown at the face of its offerer." [4]

Al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (al-Tusi)-may God be pleased with him -reports in al-Tahdhibwith his isnad from Abu Hamzah al-Thumali that he said: "I saw 'Ali ibn al-Husayn (al-'Imam al-Sajjad) may peace be upon both of them-offering prayer, when the cloak slipped from his shoulders. The Imam did not arrange it until he had finished his prayer. When I questioned him about it, he said: 'Woe to you, don't you know before whom I stood? Nothing is accepted of a devotee's prayer except what he offers with the proper attention of his heart.' Thereupon I said to him, 'May I be ransomed for you, (if that is so) then we (i.e. the like of us) are doomed!' He replied, 'No indeed. Verily God compensates for that for the faithful by the means of supererogatory prayers.' " [5]

In al-Khisal, (al-Shaykh al-Saduq) reports with his isnad from 'Ali-may peace be upon him-that he said: "None of you should ever stand for salat in a lazy or drowsy state, nor should you let irregular(random) thoughts pass through your mind (in the state of salat). For, in that state, you stand before your Glorious and Almighty Lord. Verily, the reward a devotee derives from prayer is equal to the extent of it that he offers with an attentive heart." [6]

There are many traditions on this theme and concerning the merit of attentiveness. Here we will cite some of them which are sufficient for those who will take lesson.

Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn al-Husayn, the saduq of the community, reports with his isnad from 'Abd Allah ibn Abi Ya'fur that al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-said to him, "O 'Abd Allah, when you offer salat, pray like someone who bids farewell and fears that he will never return (i.e. pray in such a manner as if it were the last prayer of your life). Then fix your gaze on the point of your prostration. If you know that there is someone on your left or right, you take more care in offering your salat; then know that you stand in front of Someone Who sees you and you don't see Him." [7]

 

Al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him-said: "Dear to me is the believer from among you who attends to God with his heart at the time of prayer and does not preoccupy his heart with any mundane matter. For whenever a devotee turns with his heart to God, the Exalted, during prayer, God turns His face towards him, and turns towards him the hearts of the faithful who regard him with affection, following God's love of him. " [8]

Just reflect what kind of good news is this that the Truthful One (al-Sadiq) of the Family of Muhammad-may peace be upon them-gives to the faithful! Alas, we, poor folk, who dwell in nescience and are devoid of attentiveness to God, the Exalted, unaware of His friendship, and liken His love to that of His creatures! Those who possess gnosis (ma'rifah) state that God, the Exalted, removes blindfolds from the sight of those whom He loves, and God knows what nobilities lie in freedom from such a blindness. The ultimate hope and goal of the awliya' has lain in this freedom from nescience. And the Commander of the Faithful-may peace be upon him-and his noble descendants say in the supplications known as the Munajat-e Sha'baniyyah:

 

My God, grant me the utmost absorption in Thee and illuminate the vision of our hearts with the light of Thy Vision, until the sight of the hearts can penetrate the curtains of light and reach the source of Greatness and until our spirits get anchored to the threshold of Thy Sanctity. [9]

My God! What is this illumination of the heart's vision that Your awliya' beseech of You and seek to attain? O Lord, what are those concealing curtains of light that our Infallible Imams spoke about? What is that source of Greatness, Glory, Sanctity, and Perfection, reaching which is the cherished goal of those sacred souls and which for always lie beyond the ken of even our theoretical knowledge, to say nothing of our experiencing and witnessing it? O God, be gracious to us, wretched and fallen creatures that we are, who neither know anything beyond gluttony and slumber, hatred and lust, nor seek to discover anything beyond them! Awaken us from this waking slumber and this stupefied sanity.

In any case, this single hadith is sufficient to induce those who are worthy of it and receptive to spend all their lives for attaining to God's love and to seek His Face. But as to the like of us, who don't belong to this field and valley, we would do better to stick to other traditions like the following ones:

In the Thawab al- a'mal, al-Shaykh al-Saduq reports with his chain of transmitters from someone who heard al-'Imam al-Sadiq-may peace be upon him -that he used to say: "One who offers tworak'ahs of salat with the knowledge of what he says therein, he does not finish them without God forgiving him every sin that there is between him and God." [10]

The Messenger of Allah-may Allah's benediction be upon him and his Family-said: "Two lightrak'ahs offered with contemplation are better than a whole night spent in worship. "[11]

2. The Various Levels of Concentration:

Having known that an attentive heart is the soul and heart of worship and that its luminosity and degree of excellence depend on the attentiveness of the heart and its degree, it should be known that there are different levels of the heart's attention. Some of these levels are special to theawliya' of God and others are incapable of climbing to those heights; but some of its levels are attainable for the common people. And it should be known that attention in worship is generally divisible into two main kinds: one of these is attention of the heart to worship and the other is attention of the heart to God.

Before explaining this issue, we are forced to mention one preliminary matter, which is this. The gnostics say that worship is, absolutely, glorification of the Lord. However, each of the various kinds of worship is a praise of God in accordance with one of His Names and Attributes, excepting salat which is glorification of God with all of His Names and Attributes. Earlier it was mentioned in the exposition of some traditions that praise of the Worshipped One is a proclivity ingrained in all human beings. It is a necessity(urgency)   demanded by nature that makes man submit in humility to the absolutely Perfect One, the absolutely Beautiful One, the absolute Provider and the absolutely Great. And since no one can discover the real significance of the praise of the Sacred Essence-for that depends upon the knowledge of the Essence and its Attributes and the reality of the relation between the Manifest and the Hidden it is impossible except through the means of revelation and divine inspiration. Accordingly, the acts of worship are absolutely prescriptive and laid down' by God, and no one has the right to legislate in this regard and innovate some rite of worship. The kind of ceremonies of homage and reverence that are in vogue in the courts of kings and princes have no worth or value before His Sacred Essence. Hence man should sit up and take notice, and learn the manner of worship or devotion through the agency of revelation and prophethood and refrain from making any kind of unauthorized dispensations in this regard.

Having known that worship is glorification of the Worshipped One, one should note, as pointed out earlier, that attention of the heart is of two main kinds: attention to worship and attention to the Worshipped One.

Attention to Worship:

There are various degrees of this kind of attention, which are divisible into two main levels. One of these is attention of an incomplete and summary character. In this kind of attention, while performing an act of worship-whatever that may be, whether related to taharah, such as wudu' orghusl, or to prayer, fasting, or Hajj pilgrimage or something else-one is attentive in a general way that he is magnifying the Lord, though he himself does not know the nature of his own glorification nor understands the significance of any of the Divine Names. Our shaykh, the perfect `arif that he was, and may my soul be his ransom, used to mention an analogy comparing this kind of worship to the recital of a child who is asked to recite a panegyric in the praise of someone. The child, who himself does not understand the panegyric, is told that it is meant to eulogize the person in whose presence it is read. As he recites it, the child knows summarily that he is eulogizing the person praised without knowing the character of the praise. We, too, who are children singing the praise of God, do not know the secrets that lie in these acts of worship. Neither do we understand the character of relation that each of these divine forms has to some Divine Name, nor do we know in what way it is glorification of God. However, we should at least be cognizant of the fact that each of those acts of worship is magnification of the absolutely Perfect One, of the One Who is absolutely worthy of all praise and worship, a form that the Sacred Essence Itself has prescribed for Its glorification and commanded us to magnify It through its means in Its sacred presence.

Another of the levels of attentiveness of the heart is its detailed attention to worship; its complete attainment is not possible for anyone except the sincere awliya' and the gnostics. However, some of its lower degrees are attainable for others, the first stage wherein is concentration on the meaning of the words during salat and prayer. The tradition cited earlier from the Thawab al-'a'malrefers to this stage. Another stage of it is that one should understand to the extent of his capacity the mysteries of worship and the character of glorification of the Worshipped One underlying each of the ritual forms. The gnostics have, to a certain extent, described the mysteries of salat and other forms of worship and have benefited to the extent of their capacity from the statements contained in the traditions of the Infallible One may peace be upon them. Although an understanding of the reality of the matter is rarely attained by anyone, whatever extent of it that has been mentioned is a free gift for those who have an aptitude for it.


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