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Sunday 17th of October 2021
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The Pursuit of Knowledge

 

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 quantities and 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 mulki aspect, 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 his malakuti 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 malakut may 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 malakut in his philosophical books and scientific works, with expositions that are unparalleled and exclusive to that honoured personage.

 

[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

 


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