THE MOHAMMEDAN PHILOSOPHER.
Translated from the Turkish, By HENRY A. HOMES, LIBRARIAN, STATE LIBRARY.
ALBANY, N. Y.: J. MUNSELL, STATE STREET. 1873. In advance of the Transactions of the Albany Institute, vol. VIII.
|On Knowledge of the Soul,||13|
|On Knowledge of God,||41|
|On Knowledge of the World,||65|
|On Knowledge of the Future World,||74|
|On the Love of God,||104|
The remarkable treatise, which I introduce to your notice, is a translation from one of the numerous works of the Arabian Philosopher, Abou Hamid Mohammed ben Mohammed al Ghazzali, who flourished in the eleventh century. He was born about the year A. D. 1056, or 450 of the Mohammedan era, at Tons in Khorasan, and he died in the prime of life in his native country about the year 1011, or 505 A. H. Although educated by Mohammedan parents, he avows that during a considerable period of his life he was a prey to doubts about the truth, and that at times he was an absolute sceptic. While yet comparatively young, his learning and genius recommended him to the renowned sovereign Nizam ul Mulk, who gave him a professorship in the college which he had founded at Bagdad. His speculative mind still harassing him with doubts, in his enthusiasm to arrive at a solid foundation for knowledge, he resigned his position, visited Mecca and Jerusalem, and finally returned to Khorasan, where he led a life of both monastic study and devotion, and consecrated his pen to writing the results of his meditations.
Mohammedan scholars of the present day still hold him in such high respect, that his name is never mentioned by them without some such distinctive epithet, as the ” Scientific Imaum,” or “Chief witness for Islamism.” His rank in the eastern world, as a philosopher and a theologian, had naturally given his name some distinction in our histories of philosophy, and it is enumerated in connection with those of Averroes (Abu Eoshd) and Avicenna (Abu Sina) as illustrating the intellectual life and the philosophical schools of the Mohammedans. Still his writings were less known than either of the two others. His principal work, The Destruction of the Philosophers, called forth in reply one of the two most important works of Averroes entitled The Destruction of the Destruction. Averroes, in his commentary upon Aristotle, extracts from Ghazzali copiously for the purpose of refuting his views. A short treatise of his had been published at Cologne, in 1506, and Pocock had given in Latin his interpretation of the two fundamental articles of the Mohammedan creed. Von Hammer printed in 1838, at Vienna, a translation of a moral essay, Eyuha el Weled, as a new year’s token for youth.
It has been reserved to our own times to obtain a more intimate acquaintance with Ghazzali, and this chiefly by means of a translation by M. Pallia, into French, of his Confessions, wherein he announces very clearly his philosophical views; and from an essay on his writings by M. Smölders. In consequence, Mr. Lewes, who in his first edition of the Biographical History of Philosophy, found no place for Ghazzali, is induced in his last edition, from the evidence which that treatise contains that he was one of the controlling minds of his age, to demote an entire section to an exhibition of his opinions in the same series with Abelard and Bruno, and to make him the typical figure to represent Arabian philosophy. For a full account of Ghazzali’s school of philosophy, we refer to his history and to the two essays, just mentioned. We would observe, very briefly however, that like most of the learned Mohammedans of his age, he was a student of Aristotle. While they regarded all the Greek philosophers as infidels, they availed themselves of their logic and their principles of philosophy to maintain, as far possible, the dogmas of the Koran. Ghazzali’s mind possessed however Platonizing tendencies, and he affiliated himself to the Soofies or Mystics in his later years. He was in antagonism with men who to him appeared, like Avicenna, to exalt reason above the Koran, yet he himself went to the extreme limits of reasoning in his endeavors to find an intelligible basis for the doctrines of the Koran, and a philosophical basis for a holy rule of life. His character, and moral and intellectual rank are vividly depicted in the following extract from the writings of Tholuck, a prominent leader of the modern Evangelical school of Germany.
“Ghazzali,” says Tholuck, “if ever any man have deserved the name, was truly a divine, and he may justly be placed on a level with Origen, so remarkable was he for learning and ingenuity, and gifted with such a rare faculty for the skillful and worthy exposition of doctrine. All that is good, noble and sublime, which his great soul had compassed, he bestowed upon Mohammedanism; and he adorned the doctrines of the Koran with so much piety and learning, that, in the form given them by him, they seem in my opinion worthy the assent of Christians. Whatsoever was most excellent in the philosophy of Aristotle or in the Soofi mysticism, he discreetly adapted to the Mohammedan theology. From every school, he sought the means of shedding light and honor upon religion; while his sincere piety and lofty conscientiousness imparted to all his writings a sacred majesty. He was the first of Mohammedan divines.” (Bibliotheca Sacra, VI, 233).
Sale, in the preliminary discourse to his translation of the Koran, shows that he had discovered the peculiar traits of Ghazzali’s mind; for wherever he gives an explanation of the Mussulman creed, peculiarly consonant to universal reason and opposed to superstition, it will be found that he quotes from him.
This treatise on the Alchemy of Happiness, or Kimiai Saadet, seems well adapted to extend our knowledge of the writings of Ghazzali and of the opinions current then and now in the Oriental world. Although it throws no light on any questions of geography, philology or political history, objects most frequently in view in translations from the Oriental languages, yet a book which exhibits with such plainness the opinions of so large a portion of the human race as the Mohammedans, on questions of philosophy, practical morality and religion, will always be as interesting to the general reader and to a numerous class of students, as the facts that may be elicited to complete a series of kings in a dynasty or to establish the site of an ancient city can be to the historian or the geographer. I translate it from an edition published in Turkish in 1845 (A. H., 1260), at the imperial printing press in Constantinople. As no books are allowed to be printed there which have not passed under the eyes of the censor, the doctrines presented in the book indicate, not only the opinions of eight hundred years since, but also what views are regarded as orthodox, or tolerated among the orthodox at the present day. It has been printed also in Persian at Calcutta.
In form, the book contains a treatise on practical piety, but as is the case with a large proportion of Mohammedan works, the author, whatever may be his subject, finds a place for observations reaching far wide of his apparent aim, so our author is led to make many observations which develop his notions in anatomy, physiology, natural philosophy and natural religion. The partisans of all sorts of opinions will be interested in finding that a Mohammedan author writing so long since in the centre of Asia, had occasion to approve or condemn so many truths, speculations or fancies which are now current among us with the reputation of novelty. Many of the same paradoxes and problems that startle or fascinate in the nineteenth century are here discussed. He came in contact, among his contemporaries, with persons who made the same general objections to natural and revealed religion, as understood by Mohammedans, as are in our days made to Christianity, or who perverted and abused the religion which they professed for their own ends, in the same manner as Christianity is abused among us. And he engaged with earnestness now truthfully, and now erroneously, in refuting these men. His usual stand-point in discussion is equally removed from the most extravagant mysticism, and literal and formal orthodoxy. He attempts a dignified blending of reason aud faith, requiring of his fellow men unfeigned piety in the temper and tone of an evangelical Christian. He reminds his readers, in these discourses, that they are not Mussulmans if they are satisfied with merely a nominal faith, and treats with scorn those who are spiritualists only in language and dress.
It is too narrow a view to adopt, in regard to a man of the sublime character of Ghazzali, that he obtained his ideas from any one school of thinkers, or that being in fellowship with the Soofies, that he was merely a Soofi. He was living in the centre of Aryan peoples and religions. He may have had his doctrine of the future life shaped by Zoroaster, and have been influeuced by the missionaries of the Buddhists.
The practical religion taught in these homilies will give a favorable opinion of the state of mind of the more intelligent Mussulmans. They contain not the Mohammedanism of the creed or the catechism, but of the closet and the pulpit. The tenor of the book establishes the truth of Ibn Khallikan’s remark in his Biographical Dictionary that “Ghazzali’s ruling passion was making public exhortations.”
While perusing these pages, and noticing how much of the language of Ghazzali corresponds in its representations of God, of a holy life and of eternity, with the solemn instructions to which we have listened from our infancy, we may think of the magicians who imitated the miracles of Moses with their enchantments. Yet assuredly a vivid and respectful interest must be awakened in our minds for the races and nations, whose ideas of their relations as immortal beings are so serious and earnest.
The translation I have endeavored to make a close transcript of the meaning of the Turkish; having especially sought to find appropriate equivalents for native idioms. I have designated the chapter and verse of nearly every passage quoted from the Koran. The omissions in the text, which are made apparent by signs, are limited to digressions of the author, to repetitions and to some of the illustrations; so that there is no interruption of the continuity of thought in the themes discussed. The Turkish edition itself was but a portion of the original work. Two or three notes are added, either explanatory of the text or illustrative of the author, from Oriental sources.
- Pallia, Mémoire sur le manuscrit Arabe de la Bibliotheque Royale de Paris, No. 884, contenant un traité philosopliique d’ Algazali. Mèm. de 1′ Institat de France. Tome I, Savants étrangers. Paris, 1841, 4°.
Smölders, Essai sur les écoles philosopliiques chez les Arabes et notamment sur la doctrine d’ al Ghazzali. Paris, 1843. 8°.
Sale’s Koran, vol. I, p. 336, and note.
On knowledge of the soul, and how knowledge of the soul is the key to the knowledge of God.
O seeker after the divine mysteries! know thou that the door to the knowledge of God will be opened to a man first of all, when he knows his own soul, and understands the truth about his own spirit, according as it has been revealed, “he who knows himself knows his Lord also.” And God proclaims in his holy book: “We will display our miracles in the different countries of the world, till it shall be demonstrated to them that the Koran is the truth,” that is, let us show men in the visible world, and in their own souls, the wonderfulness of our works and the perfection of our power, that they may learn to know that the Lord God is Almighty and true, and that everything else besides is vanity.
O seeker of the mysteries! since there is nothing nearer to thee than thyself, and that still with thy soul alone, thou canst not discriminate anything, and art impotent to find out and know thyself, in what way canst thou become acquainted with anything else, and with that which is even separate from thyself? And how should’st thou be able to comprehend God, who in his nature cannot be comprehended, and of whose absolute essence it is not possible to give thee any explanation. If thou should’st say, “I perfectly know myself,” we reply, that we have no doubt that what you are acquainted with is your own hand and foot, with your eye and mouth, and animals even have this kind of knowledge. You know also that if you are hungry, your stomach craves food, and that if you are cold, you desire clothing; but other animals also understand these things.
However, that knowledge of the soul which leads to the knowledge of God, is not of this kind. The knowledge which you need to possess is, to know what you are; how you are created; whence you are; for what you are here; whither you are going; in what your happiness consists, and what you must do to secure it; in what your misery consists, and what you must do to avoid it. And further, your internal qualities are distributed into animal, ferocious, demoniacal and angelic qualities. You need to know, therefore, what qualities predominate in your character, and in the predominance of which your true happiness consists. If your qualities are chiefly animal, the essence of which is to eat and drink, you will day and night seek after these things. If your qualities are of the ferocious kind, the essence of which is to tear and rend, to injure and destroy, you will act accordingly. If you are endowed chiefly with the qualities of devils, which consist in evil machinations, deceit and delusion, then you should know and be aware of it, that you may turn towards the path of perfection. And if you possess angelic qualities, whose nature it is to worship God in sincerity and continually to await the vision of His beauty, then like them you should unceasingly, resting neither day or night, be zealous and strive that you may become worthy of the vision of the Lord. For know, O student of the mysteries! that man was created to stand at the door of service in frailty and weakness, and wait for the opening of the door of spiritual union, and for the vision of beauty, as God declares in his holy word: “I have not created the genii and men except that they should worship me.”
These qualities, whether animal, or ferocious or demoniacal have been bestowed upon man, that by their means the body might be adapted to be a vehicle for the spirit, and that the spirit, by means of the body which is its vehicle, while herein this temporary home of earth, might seek after the knowledge and love of God, as the huntsman would seek to make the phoenix and the griffin his prey. Then, when it leaves this strange land for the region of spiritual friendship, it shall be worthy to partake of the mystery contained in the invitation, “enter in peace, O believers!” and which is in the homage, “Peace is the word they shall hear from the merciful Lord.”People in general suppose that this refers to Paradise. Woe to him who has no portion in this knowledge! There is great danger in his path. The way of faith is veiled from his eyes.
If you wish, seeker of the way! to know your own soul, know that the blessed and glorious God created you of two things: the one is a visible body, and the other is a something internal, that is called spirit and heart, which can only be perceived by the mind. But when we speak of heart, we do not mean the piece of flesh which is in the left side of the breast of a man, for that is found in a dead body and in animals: it may be seen with the eyes, and belongs to the visible world. That heart, which is emphatically called spirit, does not belong to this world, and although it has come to this world, it has only come to leave it. It is the sovereign of the body, which is its vehicle, and all the external and internal organs of the body are its subjects. Its especial attribute is to know God and to enjoy the vision of the beauty of the Lord God. The invitation to salvation is addressed to the spirit. The commandment is also addressed to it, for it is capable of happiness or misery. The knowledge of what it is in reality, is the key to the knowledge of God. Beloved, strive to obtain this knowledge, for there is no more precious jewel. In its origin it comes from God, and again returns to him. It has come hither but for a time for intercourse and action.
Be sure, O seeker after knowledge! that it is impossible to obtain a knowledge of the heart, until you know its essence and its true nature, its faculties, and its relations with its faculties,—nor until you know its attributes, and how through them the knowledge of God is obtained, and what happiness is, and how happiness is to be secured. Know then, that the existence of the spirit is evident and is not involved in doubt. Still, it is not body, which is found in corpses and in animals generally. If a person with his eyes wide open should look upon the world and upon his own body, and then shut his eyes, everything would be veiled from his view, so that he could not see even his own body. But the existence of his spirit would not be at the same time shut out from his view. Again, at death, the body turns to earth, but the spirit undergoes no corruption. Still it is not permitted to us to know what the spirit is in its real nature and in its essence, as God says in his Holy Word: “They will ask you about the spirit. Answer, the spirit is a creation by decree of the Lord.” The spirit belongs to the world of decrees.
All existence is of two kinds, one is of the world of decrees, and the other is of the world of creation. “To him belongs creation and decree.” The matters which belong to the world of decrees are those which have not superficies, quantity, or form: to the world of creation belong those which do have both quantity and form. The creation spoken of in the verse is in the sense of foreordination and not of actual formation. Hence those who say that the spirit is created, and is also from all eternity are in error, for nothing is eternal except the being and attributes of God.
Those also, who say that the spirit is but an accident, are in error, for the spirit exists by itself in the body, and an accident is that which subsists with something else. And those who say that the spirit is matter are in error, for matter is that which can be divided, and spirit is not susceptible of division. There is spirit, beloved, which is called animal spirit, which is susceptible of division. It is found in animals. But that spirit, which has the property of knowing God, and which is called the heart, is not found in beasts, nor is it matter or an accident. The heart, on the contrary, has been created with angelic qualities. It is a substance of which it is difficult to apprehend the essence. The law does not permit it to be explained, but there is no occasion for the student being acquainted with it at the outset of his journey. That which is necessary to the student is pious ardor and zeal, and this must be called into exercise in perfection. It is God who graciously teaches the student what spirit is, as we find in the Holy Book: “We will direct in our way, all those who shall strive to propagate our worship.” And if a man does not strive earnestly for the faith, there is no use of explaining to him the essence of spirit. It is, however, lawful to explain to him the instruments by which it operates. Know, O seeker after the divine mysteries! that the body is the kingdom of the heart, and that in the body there are many forces in contrariety with the heart, as God speaks in his Holy Word: “And what shall teach thee the forces of thy Lord?” The heart was destined to acquire a knowledge of God, in which its happiness consists. But we cannot grow in the knowledge of God, unless we understand the works of God.
The works of God are apprehended by the senses, which are five, hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch. For such an arrangement of the senses, there was also need of a body. The body itself is composed of four diverse elements, water, earth, air and fire. Being, therefore, liable to decay, it is in continual danger of perishing from the external and internal enemies that perpetually assail it. Its external enemies, are such as wild beasts, drowning and conflagrations; its internal enemies, such as hunger and thirst. For the purpose of resisting these, it was in want of various internal and external forces, such as the hand and foot, sight and hearing, food and drink. And in this connection, for eating and drinking, it is in want of internal and external instruments like the hand, the mouth, the stomach, the powers of appetite and digestion. In addition to these instruments, there was need of means to guide in their occasional use, that is, for the internal senses. These are five, the faculties of perception, reflection, memory, recollection and imagination. Their home is in the brain, and each has a specific function, as is well known to the learned. If to any one of all these faculties and instruments an injury occurs, the actions of man are defective. Now all these are the agents of the heart and subject to its rule. If, for example, the heart gives permission to the ear, hearing results; if it gives permission to the eye, there follows sight; if it gives permission to the foot, there is movement. All the other members are obedient in the same manner to the commands of the heart. The divine plan in all this arrangement is, that while the members preserve the body for a few days from harm, the heart, in its vehicle the body, should pursue its business of cultivating the seeds of happiness for eternity and prepare for its journey to its native country. So long as the various forces of the body are obedient to the dictates of the heart, in like manner as the angels obey in the presence of God, no contrariety of action can arise among them.
Know, student of wisdom! that the body, which is the kingdom of the heart, resembles a great city. The hand, the foot, the mouth and the other members resemble the people of the various trades. Desire is a standard bearer; anger is a superintendent of the city, the heart is its sovereign, and reason is the vizier. The sovereign needs the service of all the inhabitants. But desire, the standard bearer, is a liar, vain and ambitious. He is always ready to do the contrary of what reason, the vizier, commands. He strives to appropriate to himself whatever he sees in the city, which is the body. Anger, the superintendent, is rebellious and corrupt, quick and passionate. He is always ready to be enraged, to spill blood, and to blast one’s reputation. If the sovereign, the heart, should invariably consult with reason, his vizier, and, when desire was transgressing, should give to wrath to have power over him (yet, without giving him full liberty, should make him angry in subjection to reason, the vizier, so that passing all bounds he should not stretch out his hand upon the kingdom), there would then be an equilibrium in the condition of the kingdom, and all the members would perform the functions for which they were created, their service would be accepted at the mercy seat, and they would obtain eternal felicity….
If you desire, inquirer for the way, with thankfulness for these mercies, to obtain eternal happiness in the future mansions, the heart must enthrone itself like a sovereign in its capital, the body, must stand at the door of service and direct its prayers to the gate of eternal truth, seeking for the beauty of the divinity. It must take reason for its vizier, desire for its standard bearer, anger to be the superintendent of the city, and taking the senses of reason as its spies, it must make each one of them responsible in its sphere. The perceptive faculties which are foremost in the brain, it must make to be chiefs of the spies, that they may convey to the spies notices of what occurs in the world. The faculty of memory, which is next in order in the brain, it must use as a receptacle in which it may treasure up whatever is noticed by the spies, and, as occasion requires, may inform reason, the vizier. The vizier, in accordance with the information received, will administer the kingdom. When he sees any one of the soldiers revolting and following his own passions, he will represent it to the sovereign, that he may be controlled and conquered. He must not, however, be destroyed, for each one of us has received, from his original country, a definite commission, and in that case this service must remain unfulfilled. But, alas! if the heart should swerve from its sovereignty, and not make use of reason as its vizier, and should be reduced by the standard bearer, desire, and the superintendent, anger, all the forces would then follow in the train of desire and anger, the kingdom would fall into disorder, and everlasting ruin would be the result….
If you inquire, O student! how it is known that the heart of man has been created in accordance with the qualities of angels, seeing that the most of the qualities and attributes of angels are foreign to it, I reply, you know that there is not, in truth, any creature on the face of the earth more noble than man, and that it belongs to the dignity and perfection of every creature, to work out perseveringly that service for which it was created. The ass, for instance, was created to bear burdens. If he carries his load well, without stumbling or falling, or if he does not throw off his load, his qualities are in perfection, and his service is accepted. The horse was designed also for war and military expeditions, and has strength to carry burdens. If he performs his duty well, in time of war, in running, fleeing and going to meet the enemy, his service is accepted, and he will be treated with attention in his accoutrements, grooming and feeding. But if he performs his service imperfectly, a pack saddle will be put on his back, as on the ass, from day to day he will be employed as a beast of burden, and he will be carelessly and deficiently provided with food, and poorly taken care of.
Besides, beloved! if man had been created only to eat and drink, it would follow that animals are of greater worth and excellence than man; for they can eat and drink more than man can, and they have useful services devolved upon them of drawing burdens, tilling the ground, and giving meat, butter and milk for food. If also man had been created to fight, kill and domineer, it would follow that beasts of prey are nobler than he, for they are mightier in their ferocity and their power of subjugating other animals. There are, moreover, many animals of manifest utility, as the dog to watch and hunt, and the skins of some of them for clothing. It follows, therefore, that man was not created for these things, but rather to serve God and to grow in the knowledge of him.
It is plain that mind, discernment and reason were bestowed upon man, that when he looks upon the world and sees in every object illustrations of various forms of perfection, and much to excite his wonder, he might turn his attention from the work of the artist, to the artist himself; from the thing formed to him that formed it; that he might comprehend his own excessive frailty and weakness, and the perfection of the wisdom and power, yea, of all the attributes of the eternal Creator, and that, without ceasing, he might humbly supplicate acceptance in his frailty and weakness on the one hand, and on the other might seek to draw near to the King of kings, and finally obtain rest in the home of the faithful, where the angels are in the presence of God. If men refuse to recognize their own dignity, if they neglect their duty and prefer the qualities of devils and beasts of prey, they will also possess, in the future world, the qualities of beasts of prey, and will be judged with the devils. Our refuge is in God!
Know, thou seeker of divine mysteries! that there is no end to the wonderful operations of the heart. For, to pursue the same subject, the dignity of the heart is of two kinds; one kind is by means of knowledge, and the other through the exertion of divine power. Its dignity by means of knowledge is also of two kinds. The first is external knowledge, which every one understands: the second kind is veiled and cannot be understood by all, and is extremely precious. That which we have designated as external, refers to that faculty of the heart by which the sciences of geometry, medicine, astronomy, numbers, the science of law and all the arts are understood; and although the heart is a thing which cannot be divided, still the knowledge of all the world exists in it. All the world indeed, in comparison with it, is as a grain compared with the sun, or as a drop in the ocean.- In a second, by the power of thought, the soul passes from the abyss to the highest heaven, and from the east to the west. Though on the earth, it knows the latitude of the stars and their distances. It knows the course, the size and the peculiarities of the sun. It knows the nature and cause of the clouds and the rain, the lightning and the thunder. It ensnares the fish from the depths of the sea, and the bird from the end of heaven. By knowledge it subdues the elephant, the camel and the tiger. All these kinds of knowledge, it acquires with its internal and external senses.
The most wonderful thing of all is, that there is a window in the heart from whence it surveys the world. This is called the invisible world, the world of intelligence, or the spiritual world. People ia general look only at the visible world, which is called also the present world, the sensible world and the material world; their knowledge of it also is trivial and limited. And there is also a window in the heart from whence it surveys the intelligible world. There are two arguments to prove that there are such windows in the heart. One of the arguments is derived from dreams. When an individual goes to sleep, these windows remain open and the individual is able to perceive events which will befall him from the invisible world or from the hidden table of decrees, and the result corresponds exactly with the vision. Or he sees a similitude, and those who are skilled in the science of interpretation of dreams understand the meaning. But the explanation of this science of interpretation would be too long for this treatise. The heart resembles a pure mirror, you must know, in this particular, that when a man falls asleep, when his senses are closed, and when the heart, free and pure from blameable affections, is confronted with the preserved tablet, then the tablet reflects upon the heart the real states and hidden forms inscribed upon it. In that state the heart sees most wonderful forms and combinations. But when the heart is not free from impurity, or when, on waking, it busies itself with things of sense, the side towards the tablet will be obscured, and it can view nothing. For, although in sleep the senses are blunted, the imaginative faculty is not, but preserves the forms reflected upon the mirror of the heart. But as the perception does not take place by means of the external senses, but only in the imagination, the heart does not see them with absolute clearness, but sees only a phantom. But in death, as the senses are completely separated and the veil of the body is removed, the heart can contemplate the invisible world and its hidden mysteries, without a veil, just as lightning or the celestial rays impress the external eye.
The second proof of the existence of these windows in the heart, is that no individual is destitute of these spiritual susceptibilities and of the faculty of thought and reflection. For instance every individual knows by inspiration, things which be has neither seen nor heard, though he knows not from whence or by what means he understands them. Still, notwithstanding the heart belongs to the invisible world, so long as it is absorbed in the contemplation of the sensible world, it is shut out and restrained from contemplating the invisible and spiritual world.
Think not, thou seeker after the divine mysteries! that the window of the heart is never opened except in sleep and after death. On the contrary, if a person calls into exercise, in perfection, holy zeal and austerities, and purifies his heart from the defilement of blameable affections, and then sits down in a retired spot, abandons the use of his external senses, and occupies himself with calling out “O God ! O God !” his heart will come into harmony with the invisible world, he will no longer receive notions from the material world, and nothing will be present in his heart but the exalted God. In this revelation of the invisible world, the windows of the heart are opened, and what others may have seen in a dream, he in this state sees in reality. The spirits of angels and prophets are manifested to him and he holds intercourse with them. The hidden things of earth and heaven are uncovered to him, and to whomsoever these things are revealed, mighty wonders are shown, that are beyond description. As the prophet of God says: “I turned towards the earth, and I saw the east and the west.” And God says in his word : “And thus we caused Abraham to see the kingdom of heaven and earth,” which is an example of this kind of revelation. Probably the knowledge of all the prophets was obtained in this way, for it was not obtained by learning….
When the heart is free from worldly lusts, from the animosities of society and from the distraction occasioned by the senses, the vision of God is possible. And this course is adopted by the Mystics. It is also the path followed by the prophets. But it is permitted also to acquire the practice of it by learning, and this is the way adopted by the theologians. This is also an exalted way, though in comparison with the former, its results are insignificant and contracted. Many distinguished men have attained these revelations by experience and the demonstration of reasoning. Still let every one who fails of obtaining this knowledge either by means of purity of desire or of demonstration of reasoning, take care and not deny its existence to those who are possessed of it, so that they may not be repelled from the low degree they have attained, and their conduct become a snare to them in the way of truth. These things which we have mentioned constitute the wonders of the heart and show its grandeur.
Think not that these discoveries of truth are limited to the prophets alone. On the contrary every man in his essential nature is endowed with attributes rendering him capable of participating in the same discoveries. “What God says, “Am I not your Lord ?” refers to this quality. And the holy saying of the prophet of God: “Every man is born with the nature of Islamism; but his ancestors practised Judaism, ITazarenism or Magianism,” is an indication of the same thing.
The heart of man while in the spiritual world knew its maker and creator; it had mingled with angels and knew for what service it was created; and in the assembly where they said, “Yes,” it was intoxicated as with wine at the interrogation, “Am I not your Lord?” As at that moment, it was seen with the eye of certainty, no person had any doubt on the subject, as God says in his holy word: “If you ask them, who created the heavens and the earth, they will answer thee, the wise and holy God.” All the prophets were apparently of the same nature as other men without any difference, as we find in God’s holy word: “Say, I am a man like you : it was revealed to me.” Afterwards the heart descended from the world of divine union to this house of separation, from that assembly of love to this station of sorrow, and from the spiritual to the material, and entering within the curtain of the senses, it became occupied with the care of the body and was overcome by the animal affections and material pleasures. The heart of man, veiled with the garments of heedlessness, forgot the assembly with which it had been familiar, and imagining that this miserable place was to be its mansion of rest, it chose to establish itself here in this world of perdition, as if this was its home. Still the veil of heedlessness disappeared from the eyes of those to whom the grace and guidance of the Eternal and unchangeable gave aid and support, and the discovery of the invisible world was not concealed from the view of some of those who came into this material world, but was anew revealed to them, after a measure of exertion of spiritual ardor.
To whomsoever this revelation has been vouchsafed, if it directs him to reform the world, to invite the nations to turn to God, and to a peculiar way of life, that person is called a prophet, and his way of life is called a law; and that influence which proceeds from him, which transcends what is ordinary, is called a miracle. If he has not been appointed to invite the nations, but worships in accordance with the law of another, he is called a saint, and that which proceeds from him, which transcends what is ordinary, is called a manifestation of grace. The miracle performed by a saint is accounted a miracle of that prophet whose law he follows. He who has received, by whatever means, a revelation of the invisible world, is capable of being ordained to the office of a prophet. And if he is not appointed by God, the reason will be either, that at the time the existing law had been newly revealed, and that there was no occasion for a prophet, or else that there may be a peculiarity in prophets which is not found in the saints. It follows that it is our duty not to deny either the saintship or the miracles of the saints, but to acknowledge them as real.
You should be aware, however, that this alchemy of happiness, that is, the knowledge of God, which is the occasion of the revelation of truth, cannot be acquired without spiritual self-denial and effort. Unless a man has reached perfection and the rank of Superior, nothing will be revealed to him, except in cases of special divine grace and merciful providence, and this occurs very rarely. Nor, except by divine condescension, is revelation obtained even by all who by effort reach the rank of Superior. And whosoever would attain holiness can only reach it by the path of difficulty.
You have now learned, student of the divine mysteries, the dignity of the heart through knowledge, and what kind of knowledge it possesses. E”ow listen and learn its dignity through divine power and on account of the greatness of which it is capable, that you may see how precious you are in yourself, and yet how vile and contemptible you make yourself by your own choice. Know then, that the heart is endowed with properties like those of angels and such as are not found in animals; and just as the material world is subjected by divine permission to the angels, and when God wills it, the angels send forth the winds, cause rain to fall, bring forth the embryo in animals, shape their forms, cause seeds to sprout in the earth and plants to grow, many legions of angels being appointed to this service, so also the heart of man being created with angelic properties must have influence and power over the material world. In man’s own body, which is peculiarly his own world, its control and influence are very evident. The hand, for example, does not in writing move of itself, but depends for motion on volition proceeding from the heart. And in eating, it is the heart which by an exertion of its will, causes moisture to rise in the mouth from under the tongue, to mix with the food that it may be swallowed and digested. These facts clearly substantiate the dominion and control of the heart, and the subordination of the body.
Know also, that if the heart should not be tarnished with the rust of rebellion, and if the animal and ferocious qualities should not be dominant, that it would be capable, on account of the presence in it of angelic properties, of manifesting this same influence over other bodies. If it should look upon a lion or tiger with severity, they would become weak and submissive. If it should look with kindness upon one who is sick, his infirmity might be changed to health. If it should look upon the vigorous with majesty, they might become infirm. The realty of the existence of these influences is known both by reason and experience. Sorcery with the eyes, is of this kind of power. If for example, a man of a malicious disposition look upon some little thing with envy, and if while he is looking, the destruction of the object should come into his mind, an influence upon it may be observed immediately, and directly or after a while that object will be destroyed: the prophet of God has said: “the eye brings man to the grave and the camel to the seething pot.”
In whomsoever these influences are shown to have power, if he occasions misery in the exercise of this power, he is designated a sorcerer. Although as has been seen, the power of performing signs, miracles and sorceries belongs to the heart when its faculties are in perfect operation, yet there are important destinctions between these powers. And whoever is of a narrow mind will not be able to appreciate that signs and miracles are influences proceeding from the heart of man, unless he should learn it by external teaching.
The heart has dominion and control through three channels. One is through visions, by which revelations are made to all men. But the kind of mysteries generally revealed to people in visions, are revealed to prophets and saints in the outward world. The second kind is through the dominion which the heart exercises over its own body, a quality, which is possessed by all men in general, though prophets and saints for the good of the community, possess the same power over other bodies than their own. The third source of dominion of the heart is through knowledge. The mass of men obtain it by instruction and learning, but it is bestowed by God upon prophets and saints directly, without the- mediums of learning and instruction. It is possible also for persons of pure minds to acquire a knowledge of some arts and sciences without instruction, and it is also possible that some persons should have all things opened up to them by the will of God. This kind of knowledge is called “infused and illuminated,” as God says in his word: “we have illuminated him with our knowledge.” These three specialities are all of them found in certain measure in some men, in others two of them are found, and in others, only one is found : but whenever the three are found in the same person, he belongs to the rank of prophets or ‘of the greatest of the saints. In our Lord the prophet Mohammed Mustafa, these three specialities existed in perfection. The Lord in bestowing these three properties upon certain individuals, designates them to exhort the nations and to be prophets of the people. To every man there is given a certain portion of each one of these peculiarities, to serve as a pattern.
Man cannot comprehend states of being which transcend his own nature. Hence none but the great God himself can comprehend God, as we have shown in our Commentary upon the “Names of God.” So also the prophets cannot be comprehended by any but the prophets themselves. No person, in short, can understand any individual who belongs to a scale of rank above him. It is possible that there is a peculiarity in prophets, of which no pattern or model is found in other persons, and therefore, we are incapable of understanding them. If we knew not what a vision is, and an individual should say to us, that a man, at a moment when he can neither move, see or hear, can perceive events which are to occur at a future period, and yet might not be able to perceive the same while walking, listening or looking, we should not in any wise be able to persuade ourselves of the truth of it, as God says in his Holy word: “They treat as a lie that which they cannot comprehend with their knowledge.” And you, do you not see that he who comes blind into the world, does not understand the pleasure which is derived from seeing? Let us not regard, therefore, as impossible all those states ascribed to the prophets which we cannot understand: for they are the accepted and praiseworthy servants of God.
From all which has been said, seeker after the divine mysteries, thou hast learned something of the dignity of the nature of man, and that the way of the mystics is holy and honorable. But I have heard that the mystics say that external knowledge is a veil upon the way to God, and a hindrance in the journey to the truth. Take care and do not deny that they are correct in what they say. For, external knowledge is derived from the sensuous world, and all objects of sense are a hindrance to him who is occupied with spiritual truth; for whoever is attending to sensual objects, indicates that his mind is preoccupied with external properties. And it is impossible that he who would walk in the way of truth, should be for a moment unemployed in meditation, upon obtaining spiritual union and the vision of beauty.
Know, student of the divine mysteries, that the heart is like a reservoir into which five streams flow: these streams at one time run clear, and at another, turbid, and hence the bottom of the reservoir contains much mud. If a person wish to cleanse the reservoir and to get rid of the mud in the bottom,-he must first dam up the course of the running streams, and then stir up and put in motion the mud, and until the muddy water has been carried off by the pure water that gushes up at the bottom of the reservoir, he will not allow any other water to run in. N”ow the external senses resemble those running streams, from which various kinds of knowledge, notions and prejudices proceed to the heart, of which some are pure and purifying, and some are corrupt and corrupting, and until these have been dammed up, the windows of the heart cannot be uncovered so that the illuminating knowledge from God can be revealed to it.
If a person possessing great knowledge of the outward world, should use his knowledge as a means of progress in the way of truth, instead of being satisfied with such disputes as of buying and selling, marrying and divorcing, and should be assiduous in gaining divine knowledge, which is the end of all other knowledge, it is all well and good. His knowledge of the outward world will give him strength in his course, and will serve as a guide to him in the way to eternal truth. For if the pilgrim do not understand the grounds of the respect due to, and the lawfulness of his food and drink, his dwelling and his clothing, if he do not understand the causes which impair or render complete acts of purification and devotion, what has a tendency to give strength to the blameable affections of the soul, and what is their nature and their remedy, he can derive no advantage from the sciences of spiritual exercise, discovery and revelation. In short to an ignorant pilgrim, the least doubt may operate as a hindrance in his course for many years. If, however, he should fall into a spirit of disputation, and should say, “knowledge implies nothing else than to be able to study a book and to correct the composition, the punctuation and the declensions,” he will certainly be frustrated from obtaining and discovering inward knowledge, — that is, he will not attain to the knowledge of God, which is the object of all knowledge, which is the most sublime knowledge, and compared with which all other knowledge is but husks. Therefore, when we hear some good man, who has travelled far on the road of spiritual discovery affirm, that knowledge of the external world, in the sense which we at first alluded to, is a hindrance in the way of truth, we ought to be careful not to deny the truth of what he says.
There are, however, in our times certain weak persons and indifferent to religious truth for the most part, who in the guise of soofees, after learning a few of their obscure phrases and ornamenting themselves with their cap and robes, treat knowledge and the doctors of the law as inimical to themselves, and continually find fault with them. They are devils and deserve judicial death. They are enemies of God, and of the apostle of God. For God has extolled knowledge and the doctors of the law; and the established way of salvation, with which God has inspired the prophets, has its basis in external knowledge. These miserable and weak men, since they have no acquaintance with science, and no education, and knowledge of external things, why should they indulge in such corrupt fancies, and unfounded language ? They resemble, beloved, a person who having heard it said that alchemy was of more value than gold, because that whatsoever thing should be touched with the philosophers’ stone would turn to gold, should be proud of the idea and should be carried away with a passion for alchemy. And when gold in full bags is offered him, he replies: “Shall I turn my attention to gold, when I am dissolving the philosophers’ stone?” And he finishes with being deprived of the gold, and with only hearing the name of the philosophers’ stone. He becomes forever a miserable, destitute, and naked vagabond, who wastes his life upon alchemy.
The science then of revelation, or of infused spiritual knowledge, resembles alchemy, and the science of the doctors of the law resembles gold; but it is folly and pure loss not to accept and be satisfied with solid gold, on account of one’s ardor to discover the philosophers’ stone, which latter knowledge is not acquired by one in a thousand.
There is still one farther observation that deserves to be made. If a person by the payment of a thousand pieces of gold, could become master of alchemy, yet the condition of the man who is absolutely master of ten thousand pieces of gold would be better and preferable. And this illustrates the position of the soofees. If a person follow their method and attain to the knowledge of some things, he still does not equal in excellence, the doctors of the law. Just as we see, that books on alchemy, and students of alchemy are very numerous, while those who are successful are the least of few, so the path of mysticism is” sought for by all men, and longed for by all classes of society, yet those who attain to the end are exceedingly rare. Perhaps, as in the case of alchemy, it only exists now in name and form. The greater part of the notions and fancies of most of the mystics, which they esteem as revelations and mysteries, are nothing but vain triflings and pure self complacency; just as that while visions are a reality, still mere confused dreams are very abundant. The mystic, however, who by spiritual revelation has learned all that a doctor of the law has been able to learn after many years of study, and who has no remaining doubts in matters of internal or external knowledge, is certainly more excellent than the doctor of the law who is learned only in external knowledge, and this should not be denied. And it follows that the way of the mystics must be acknowledged to be a true one, and that you must not destroy the belief of those weak minded and vain persons who follow them; for, the reason why they cast reproaches upon knowledge and calumniate the doctors of law is that they have no acquirements or knowledge themselves.
O, inquirer after divine mysteries! do you ask how it is known that the happiness of man consists in the knowledge of God, and that his enjoyment consists in the love of God? “We observe in reply, that every man’s happiness is found in the place where he obtains enjoyment and tranquility. Thus sensual enjoyment is found in eating and drinking and the like. The enjoyment of anger is derived from taking revenge and from violence. The enjoyment of the eye consists in the view of correct images and agreeable objects. The enjoyment of the ear is secured in listening to harmonious voices. In the same way the enjoyment of the heart depends upon its being employed in that for which it was created, in learning to know every thing in its reality and truth. Hence, every man glories in what he knows, even if the thing is but of little importance. He who knows how to play chess, boasts over him who does not know : and if he is looking on while a game of chess is played, it is of no use to tell him not to speak, for as soon as he sees an improper move, he has not patience to restrain himself from showing his skill, and glorying in his knowledge, by pointing it out….
Now that it is clear that the happiness of the heart consists in the knowledge and love of God, we may say that the heart that does not feel the necessity of the knowledge of God, and a longing for the love of God, but rather craves after and seeks the world, resembles a sick person who has no appetite for food, but even prefers such things as earth and clay to meat, regarding them as necessary, notwithstanding they have no nourishing qualities. If no remedy can be found, speedily, to recover his appetite for food, and if he continue indulging in perverse notions of what is necessary, his malady will grow in strength; until if he continue in this state, he will perish and lose the joys this world can give. In the same manner the heart which does not feel a necessity for the knowledge and love of God, and where the love of other objects reigns, is a heart that is sick and ready to perish, unless a remedy be applied, unless its affections be turned away from other things, and the love of God become predominant. Future bliss will be lost and eternal misery will be its portion. Our refuge is in God!
You should know also that the enjoyments of this world that are procured through the senses are cut off at death. The enjoyment of the love and knowledge of God, which depends upon the heart, is alone lasting. At death the hindrances that result from the presence of the external senses being removed, the light and brilliancy of the heart come to have full play, and it feels the necessity of the vision of beauty. What has hitherto been said is sufficient to enable a person of intelligence to comprehend the dignity of the heart of man. The subject could not be discussed more at large in this short treatise.
While the heart is one of the pillars of man, the body is another pillar. In the constitution of man’s body, there is an infinity of most wonderful things to be observed. Each internal and external organ has various curious uses, of which man is entirely uninformed. Know, that in the body of a man there are thousands of veins and nerves: there are many bones, each of a particular shape and each one created for a particular purpose and effect. You are ignorant of all this, and you only know that the hand was formed to take hold with, the foot to walk with, and the tongue to speak with. But in reference to the hand, you know nothing about its blood, its bones, the number of its nerves and veins, and the uses of each one : nor in reference to the eye, do you know that it is composed of ten layers, nor of what the layers are composed, nor what is the use of them. And if the eye should meet with an injury in one of the layers, you could not tell the cause of it. You know nothing either of the internal organs in the belly, such as the spleen, the liver, the gall-bladder and the kidneys. While these have been given to you to perform functions in which they are continually engaged, you are entirely unconcerned about it.
Know then, beloved, that the varieties of food you eat descend to the stomach, and thence to the liver, and that in the liver they are mixed and brought to the form of blood. Upon the liver may be seen something black and frothy which is called black bile. The spleen attracts the black bile and changes it into itself. The blood being still mixed with water, has no consistence, and the kidneys draw the water from the blood and purify it. This blood is then diffused to the seven parts of the body, and brings and conveys strength to the limbs. If the spleen become affected with any disorder, so that it cannot separate the black bile from the blood, such diseases as leprosy, insanity, inflammation of the spleen and remittent fever are the consequence. If any derangement happen to the gall-bladder so that it cannot secrete the bile, bilious disorders follow. If the kidneys get disordered, so that they cannot abstract the water from the blood, dropsy and similar diseases are the result. It all depends, however, on the will of God. In the same manner, all the organs of the body have a specific function. If it were not so, the body would perish….
Our intention has been to show you that man is a great world, and that you might know what a multitude of servants his body has to minister to him: so that you might realize while in your enjoyments, in walking, in sleeping or at rest in your world, that by God’s appointment, these numerous servants in your employ never suffer their functions to cease for a minute. Listen now for a moment candidly. If you had a servant who had been faithful to you during his whole life, with whose services you were not able to dispense, while he could at any time find a better master—yet if he should only for a single day disobey your orders, you would get angry, beat him, and wish to get rid of him. But God has been abundant in kindness to you, and has given you so many servants, and has in no wise any need of you. How then can it be just that you should become enslaved to yourself, and follow your own passions, and that forgetful of pleasing the infinite God, you should rebel against your Creator and Benefactor, and that you should render obedience to Satan, who is your enemy and the enemy of God?
Many and even innumerable books, O student of the divine mysteries, have been written in explanation of the organization of the body and the uses of its parts: but they have no more made the subject clear and exhausted it, than a drop can illustrate the ocean, or an atom illustrate the sun. It is impossible for the thing formed to understand the knowledge of him that formed it. And how is it possible, that he who is of yesterday, should comprehend the secrets of the operations of the Ancient of days?
The science of the structure of the body is called anatomy: it is a great science, but most men are heedless of it. If any study it, it is only for the purpose of acquiring skill in medicine, and not for the sake of becoming acquainted with the perfection of the power of God. But whoever will occupy himself with anatomy, and therein contemplate the wonders of the works of God, will reap three advantages. The first advantage will be, that in learning the composition of the thing made, and thereby gaining a comprehensive and condensed view of all other things like it he will see that it is impossible to discover imperfection or incompetence in the being who has created him in such perfection. The Creator himself will be acknowledged to be almighty and perfect. The second advantage will be, that he will see that it is impossible that a being who has created an organization so intelligent, capable of comprehension, endowed with beauty, and useful, should be otherwise than perfect in knowledge himself. And lastly, we shall understand the mercy, favor and perfect compassion of God towards us. Nothing that is either useful or ornamental has been omitted in the framing of our bodies, whether it be such things as are the sources of life, like the spirit and the head ; or such as sustain life, as the hand, the foot, the mouth and the teeth: or such as are a means of ornament, as the beard, elegance of form, black hair and the lips. It is to be observed that similar organs have been provided not only for man, but for all creatures, so that nothing is wanting to initiate and sustain life in the mouse, the wasp, the snake and the ant. God has done all things perfectly, and may his name be glorified!
The investigator of truth this fact well knows,
That he himself is endowed with every perfection.
The knowledge of anatomy is the means by which we become acquainted with animal life: by means of knowledge of animal life, we may acquire a knowledge of the heart, and the knowledge of the heart is a key to the knowledge of God. But the knowledge which we obtain of God is limited and contracted in comparison with the knowledge which the heart has of itself. The knowledge possessed by the heart in comparison with the knowledge of God himself, is but as an atom when compared with the sun.
The body is but au animal to be ridden by the heart, which is its rider, while the heart’s chief end is to acquire a knowledge of God. The dignity of any thing depends upon what it is in itself. A person therefore who does not understand his own body, heart and soul, and yet pretends to the knowledge of God, resembles the bankrupt, who, although he has nothing to eat himself, should yet plan a feast for all the poor of the city. In short, man ought to make every possible exertion to gain the knowledge of God, because the knowledge of God necessitates the love of God. Just in the same manner as when you see a beautiful specimen of calligraphy or some elegant verses, you praise the person who made them, you feel a love for him in your heart and desire eagerly to see him.
Since you have learned, O inquirer after the divine mysteries, the dignity and nobleness of the heart, know also that this precious jewel has been confided to you and wrapped in a veil, that you may preserve it from too close a contact with the world, and may lead it to perfection and to its place of rest, making it a partaker of manifest happiness in the eternal mansions. In the house of reunion you will have reached an eternal rest, where no evil enters, a joy where no pain mingles, a strength without infirmity, a knowledge without doubt, and a vision of the Lord, the enjoyment of which shall be endless.
If the heart strive not after its own glory and dignity, but inclines to the cares of the world and sensual pleasures, no creature is more feeble, infirm and contemptible than man. At one time he will be the slave of disappointment and melancholy, at another suffering from disease and misfortune; at one time exposed to hunger and thirst, and at another the slave of avarice or ambition. He is not indulged with the enjoyment of a single day in peace. And when he is disposed to partake of the pleasures of the world and stretches out his hand to them, for a long time he cannot succeed in freeing himself from calamity. Even the pleasure of eating will be attended with oppression and pain, and afterwards be followed by some adverse accident. In short, of whatever enjoyment he partakes, regret is sure to follow it. If we regard knowledge, power, will, beauty and grace of form as constituting the glory and honor of this world, what is the wisdom of man? If his head pain him, he knows not the cause or the remedy. If he have pain at his heart, he knows not the occasion of it, or why it increases, or what will cure it. He sees the plants and medicines that could cure it, perhaps even holds them in his hands, and is not aware of it. He knows nothing of what will happen to him on the morrow, nor what action will be a source of enjoyment to him, nor what will be to him a source of pain. If you look only to the strength of a man, what is more impotent than he is. If a fly or mosquito molest him, he cannot get rid of it. If he is attacked by disease, he has no remedy to meet it with. He has no power to preserve himself from destruction. If you look at the firmness and resolution of man, what is more contemptible than he is! If he see any thing more extraordinary than a piece of money, he changes color and loses his presence of mind. If a beggar meet him, he turns away, and dares not look him in the face. If you look at the form of man, you see that it is skin, drawn over blood and impurity….
In short, man in this world, is framed in infirmity and imperfection. But if he desire and will to free himself from animal propensities, and ferocious and satanic qualities, he may attain future happiness, will be more exalted and excellent than a king and will be enriched with the vision of the beauty of the Lord. But if he incline towards the world, and retain only the qualities of animals and wild beasts, his future state will be worse even than theirs. For they turn to dust, and are delivered from pains and torment. Our refuge is in God!
From the moment, O beloved! that you have learned in what the dignity and nobleness of man consists, and what constitutes his vileness and meanness, you have learned at the same time how the knowledge of the soul, is the key to the knowledge of God.
- Sura 41:53.
- S. 51:56.
- S. 50:33.
- S. 36:58.
- S. 17:87.
- S. 7:53.
- S. 29:69.
- S. 74:34.
- See note A.
- S. 6:75.
- See note B.
- S. 43:8.
- S. 18:110.
- S., 18:64.
- S., 10:40.
- Ulema, the clerical and theological class.
On the Knowledge of God.
In the books of former prophets it is written, “Know thine own soul, and thou shalt know thy Lord,” and we have received it in a tradition, that “He who knows himself, already knows his Lord.” This is a convincing argument that the soul is like a clean mirror, into which whenever a person looks, he may there see God. If you say, however, that there are many who have studied themselves, and have learned that they are creatures, and still they do not know their Lord, I reply, that to pass from the knowledge of the soul to the knowledge of God, and to demonstrate the latter from the former, may be accomplished by two methods. The first method is most deep and profound. The most exalted in wisdom and the most penetrating among men are far from understanding it, even when they apply themselves to it, both with science, practice and a pure life. How then should those ignorant persons understand it, who are utterly destitute of a knowledge of external things! Let us, therefore, pass to the second method and explain that: for he who possesses a discriminating mind, even if he were blind, is capable of understanding it.
Know, therefore, that man from his own existence knows the existence of a Creator; from his own attributes, he knows the attributes of his maker; from the control which he has Over his own kingdom, he knows the control that God exercises over all the world. The reason of this is, that when a man looks at himself, beginning at the time when there was no trace or notion of his existence, and contemplates his creation with attention, he sees that he had his origin from a drop of water. He had neither mind nor understanding: and neither fat, flesh nor bones. Afterwards by divine operation and sovereign power, most strange and wonderful internal changes took place, and strong organs, passions, affections, and agreeable qualities rose up all adorned with beauty. When man comes to look upon his organs and members, whether upon the external, as the hand, the foot, the eye, the tongue and the mouth, or upon the internal organs, as the liver, the stomach and the spleen, he sees that each is the result of a special wisdom, that each one has been created for some peculiar use, and that each one is in its place and perfect. After a man has observed these things, he knows that the Creator has power to do what he pleases with all things, that his knowledge includes and embraces in perfection whatever is to be known of creatures either externally or internally, and that his power and wisdom pervade every organ and particle.
Beloved, in proportion as a man analyzes the nature of his body and the variety of uses of its several members, his reverence and love for its Creator and Maker will increase. Let a man observe, for example, that his hands are made like columns and separated from the body, to serve as an instrument to seize, or take hold of, or to defend it from an enemy. At the extremity of the hands are five fingers, four of which are in a row, and some long and some short, so that when they take hold of anything, they may come equally together in the palm of the hand. The thumb, which is opposite to the four fingers, is shorter than any of them and stronger, that it may be a help to the whole and render them capable of retaining and grasping. The four fingers have three joints each, and the thumb has but two, that when contracted they may become like the bowl of a spoon or ladle, and that when open they may become like a plate, and so discharge an infinity of services. The front teeth were formed sharp, to cut and separate the food: the side teeth were formed broad to mash and grind the food. The tongue was formed like a spoon to throw the food into the throat. There is, also, under the tongue, an organ by which water is poured out, and the food is made of the consistence of dough, that it may be more easily swallowed and digested. All the organs, in short, have been devised with the best arrangement and form for use, and each one of them is punctual day and night in discharging its function. Think not, that they are lazy or sleeping. If the minds of the intelligent, the science of the learned, and the wisdom of the sage had been united and had been employed since the beginning of the world, in reflection and contrivance, they could not have discovered anything more excellent than the present arrangement, nor any forms more useful and beautiful. If the eye had been attached to the top of the head, or the ear to the nape of the neck, or the mouth to the back of the body, or if three fingers had been given instead of four, it is plain to a person of intelligence that the existing advantages would not have been secured, and the present beauty of form and appearance would have been imperfect.
Let us notice, also, the daily necessities of man, his need of food, of clothing and of a dwelling; his need of rain, clouds, wind, heat and cold: and that he needs the weaver, the cotton-spinner, the clothier and the fuller to provide him with clothing; and that each one of these has need of so many instruments, and of so many trades, like those of the blacksmith, the farmer, the carpenter, the dyer, and the tanner; and besides, their need of iron, lead, wood and the like. Notice at the same time, the adaptation of these workmen to their instruments, and of the instruments to the trades, and how each art has given rise to several others, and the mind is astonished and distracted. The adaptation of all these instruments comes from the pure grace and perfect mercy of God, and from the fountain of his benevolence. Moreover, God’s creating prophets, sending them to us, and leading us to their law and to love them, is a perfume of His universal beneficence. He proclaims himself, “My mercy surpasses my anger,” and the Prophet has said: “Verily, God is more full of compassion to his servants, than the affectionate mother to her nursing child.”
It has been shown that man from his own existence, knows the existence of his creator, that from his analysis of the materials of which his body is composed and of its distinctive characters he understands the almighty power of God, that from the uses, the arrangement and the combination of his organs, he knows the omniscient wisdom of God, and that his clemency and compassion extend to all. He knows, also, that these many mercies and bounties are bestowed upon him without his seeking or care, from God’s rich and overflowing grace. Now in this way it is possible that the knowledge of the soul should become the key to the knowledge of God. For just as from a survey of your own being and attributes, you have in a contracted form learned the being and attributes of God, it is also possible to understand how the freedom and the holiness of God, bear a resemblance to the freedom of your soul.
Know, that God exists exempt from and independent of the notions that enter the mind, and the forms that are produced in the imagination, that he is not subjected to reasoning, and time and place cannot be ascribed to him. Still his exercise of power and the manifestation of his glory are not independent of place. But in the same manner, this independence and freedom is possible in your soul. The spirit, for example, which we call heart is exempt from the entrance of fancies and imaginations, and also from size and divisibility. Nor has it form or color, for if it had, it could be seen by the eye, and would enter into the sphere of fancy and imagination, and its beauty or ugliness, its greatness or littleness would be known. If any one ask you about your soul, you may answer, “It exists by the will of God: it has neither quantity or physical quality; it is exempt from being known.” Beloved, since you are incapable of knowing the spirit which is in your body, how should it be possible for you to know God, who created spirits, bodies and all things, who is himself foreign to all of them, and who is not of their class and kind? It is one of the most important things, yea, a most necessary duty, to treat of God as holy, independent and free.
How many things there are in your body in reference to which you do not know their reality and essence, such as desire, love, misery and pleasure. Their existence is admitted, but their quantity and quality cannot be measured. If you desire to learn the absolute truth about them, you cherish a vain longing; and it is the same, if you desire to know the absolute nature of voice, nutrition or hearing. As that which is perceived by the eye has no relation to voice, and as that which is perceived by the ear has no relation to form, and as that which is perceived by the sense of smelling has no relation to taste, so that the one can be known by means of the other, in the same manner that which is perceived through the medium of the mind or of divine power, cannot be perceived by the senses; Again, as the spirit exists and controls the body, and yet we know not the mode and essence of it, so God is present in all things, and controls and governs all things, but his form, essence and quality are exempt from being known. Exemption and freedom may be illustrated in still another manner. In the same way that the spirit pervades all the limbs and the body, and the body is entirely subject to its control, and that the spirit is indivisible, while the body is divisible, so also in relation to God, all that exists, springs from him, all creatures exist by his word, and in all possible things his operations are seen, yet still he is not related to place, nor does he reason about anything, and he is free from relation or affinity to any quality of bodies or to quantity.
This topic of exemption and freedom, beloved, cannot be perfectly explained, until the mystery about the soul shall have been developed. The law, however, gives no permission to develop this secret, and it is not lawful to stretch out one’s hand to do what the legislator forbids. But the language of his excellency the glory of the world, “God created man in his own image,” cannot be explained until the mystery about the nature of the soul or spirit has been explained.
And now, student of the divine mysteries, that you have in general understood, as far as your mind can reach, the being and attributes of God, by having your own soul as an example, it is important that you should become acquainted with the influence of the word, government and sovereignty of God in the world. This is called knowledge of operation. You ought to understand, also, as far as reason can go, the government that he exercises over the body, so that you may comprehend in what way creatures obey the word and the will of God, in what way the angels by his decree convey their ministrations from heaven to earth, in what way the movements of the heavens and the revolutions of the constellations are eft’ected, and what is the key to the method by which the orders of daemons are effected. But unless you know in what way you exercise authority over your body, what probability is there that you can understand how God exercises control over all things.
“Know thyself, and thou sh alt know thy Lord.” Observe then that when you desire to write upon paper the phrase, In the name of God, there arises first of all an inclination and a decision in the heart to write it. Next in order, that inclination and decision by means of the animal spirit is carried to the brain. “When, that decision has reached the brain then the image of the phrase, In the name of God is formed in the faculty of imagination in the brain. Afterwards the image reaches a nerve resembling a white thread, and descends by means of it to the ends of the fingers. Finally by means of the senses the fingers write the phrase In the name of God, in the form in which by the will of the heart, it exists in the treasury of the imagination. Again, also, when the will of God is suspended to anything, a token of it rises and appears in the empyreal heaven. And there is an essence called both the Spirit of Power, and the Holy Spirit, by means of which it arrives at the throne in the heavens. As the phrase, In the name of God, appears in the treasury of the imagination, so the image of the thing dependent on the will of God appears upon the Preserved Tablet. The angels appointed to serve in the empyrean and at the throne, cause it to descend to the inferior world, and by means of the periods and hours of the constellations, it is made to appear through the four elementary qualities—heat, cold, moisture and dryness. As the phrase In the name of God is written down by first dipping the pen in the ink, so the thing which God wills, comes to light by mixing heat and cold with water and earth. As paper is so adapted to writing as to preserve the forms which are written upon it, so dryness and moisture are recipient of those other forms and preserve the images that are produced. If moisture did not exist, forms and images could not be preserved. In the same manner as by the will of the heart and by the method above mentioned, the image In the name of God, which is in the treasury of the imagination is painted with the pen upon paper, so also the will of God, which is an image produced upon the Preserved Tablet in the empyrean, is produced and made visible in the material world, by means of the angels, the constellations and the elemental qualities of water and earth.
At the time when the heart of man had control over all the organs and members, and they were all obedient to it, some thought that man was a dweller in his own heart. When the empyrean in like manner, ruled over all things by the will of God, they reasoned that man was seated in the empyrean. But like as man has dominion over his own heart in the administration of his kingdom, the body, God also rules over the empyrean in the administration of the affairs of created beings, which he has committed to the empyrean. Thus God declares in his holy word, “He sat upon the empyrean to govern the universe.” You should know, also, that what we have been maintaining is convincingly established. It is known to men of penetration by revelation.
“God created man in his own image.” What does this mean, and how is it known to be true? Know, beloved, that the sovereign recognizes no other person except the sovereign himself. If the Lord had not appointed you to be sovereign over the body as over a kingdom, if he had not confided to you the affairs of its government, and had not given you this brief copy as a model, how would you have been able to comprehend the sovereign, who is independent of reasoning and of place, and who cannot be known by argument or hypothesis or in any other way? Thanks and praises be given to him who is without beginning and eternal, to him who is unceasingly beneficent, to him who made you sovereign over yourself, who subjected your body to you for a kingdom, who made your heart to be an empyreal throne, and made the animal spirit which is the fountain of the heart, to be a seraphic messenger. He appointed the brain to be the throne, and the treasury of the imagination to be the Preserved Tablet. He made the cupola of the brain, which is the source of the nerves and the mine of the faculties, to be like the vault of heaven and the stars. He appointed the fingers and the pen to serve the elemental qualities of nature, and subjected them to your order. He made you more excellent and noble than all other creatures, and to exercise rule over all possible things. He has bidden you to beware and not to be heedless of your soul, which is your kindom and dominion: for to be regardless of your soul, is to be regardless of your Creator and Benefactor.
Know, however, that there is an immense distance and wide interval between perceiving the beauty of the Lord, and understanding that which constitutes its soul, marrow and essence. O seeker of the divine mysteries, those impotent astrologers and physicists, who, shut out from the knowledge of God, ascribe changes and events to the stars and to nature, resemble an ant, that seeing a pen making marks upon paper, should be overjoyed and cry out, “I have found out the secret of the effect. It is the pen that causes the marks.” This class of men in another point resembles the natural man, who ascribes the influences in nature to heat and cold, water and earth: so a second ant looking on with attention, sees that the pen does not move of itself, but rather by the will of the hand: and he turns and says to the first ant, “You were mistaken; you did not perceive the real nature of the thing: you thought the marks and movements were caused by the pen. It is not so; the whole influence proceeds from the fingers and the pen is subject to the fingers.” Beloved, this ant resembles the astrologer, who ascribes effects to the constellations. He does not know that he also is mistaken, and that the stars and the constellations are subject to the angels, and that the angels can do nothing without the command of God.
In the same manner as there is falsity, in the way in which the material world is regarded by the natural man and the astrologer, there is also a diversity of views among those who survey the spiritual world. There are some who, just as they are upon the point of entering upon the vision of the spiritual world, seeing that they discover nothing, descend back to their old sphere. There is also a difference of view between those who do succeed in reaching the spiritual or invisible world by meditation, for some have an immense amount of light veiled from them. Every one in the sphere to which he attains, is still veiled with a veil. The light of some is as of a twinkling star. Others see as by the light of the moon. Others are illuminated as if by the world-effulgent sun. To some the invisible world is even perfectly revealed, as we read in the holy word of God: “And thus we caused Abraham to see the heaven and the earth.” And hence it is that the prophet says, “There are before God seventy veils of light; if he should unveil them, tbe light of his countenance would burn everything that came into his presence.”
Still the miserable naturalist, who ascribes effects to the influences of nature, speaks correctly. For, if natural causes had no operation, the art of medicine would have been useless, and the holy law would not have allowed to have recourse to medical treatment. The mistake which the naturalist makes, is that he contracts his sphere of vision, and is like the lame ass, that left his load at the first stopping place. He does not know that nature also is subjected to the hand of the power of God, and is a kind of humble servant, such as a shoe is to the ass. The astrologer also says, that the sun is a star, which causes heat and light upon the earth. If there had been no sun, the distinction between day and night would not have existed, and vegetables and grain could not have been produced. The moon also is a star, and if there had been no moon, how many things connected with the requirements of the Law of the Koran, would have been impracticable, such as fasting, alms and pilgrimage, since there would have been no distinction of weeks, months and years. The colors and perfumes of herbs and fruits exist also from its influence. The sun is warm and dry; the moon is cold and moist. Saturn is cold and dry, Venus is warm and moist. And the school of astrologers is to be credited in these representations; but when they ascribe all events to influences proceeding from the heavenly bodies, they are liars. They do not perceive that they all alike are subject to the almighty power of God as God says in his word: “And the sun, moon and stars are subject to his command.” There is also an influence exercised by the stars, which resembles the control, exercised by the nerve that comes from the brain over the finger in writing; while the force of nature is like the control exerted upon the pen by the finger….
When the health of a person undergoes a change, and he becomes the prey of melancholy and suspicion, and the pleasures of the world become distasteful, so that from disgust with it, he withdraws from all society, his physician says, “this person is diseased with melancholy; he must take an infusion of dodder, of thyme and bark of endive as a medicine.” The naturalist says: “As this person’s malady is of a dry nature, it arises from a predominance of dryness, which has settled on the brain. The occasion of his having a dry temperament is the season of winter. Until spring comes, and dry weather predominates, there is no possibility of a cure.” The astrologer says, “this person being under the influence of melancholy, which arises from a hurtful conjunction between Mars and Jupiter, there will be no favorable change in his health until the conjunction of Jupiter with Venus shall have reached the Trine.” Now know, beloved, that the language of all these persons is correct, for they all speak and believe according to the degree and reach of their reason and understanding. However, the real and essential cause of the malady may be stated thus. When fortune is favorable to any person, and the Deity desires to guide him into the possession of it, he deputes two powerful ministers to that effect, Jupiter and Mars. These in turn, control the light footed ministers, the elements, and command dryness, for example, to fasten its bridle to the neck of the person, and cause dryness to attack his head and brain. He is thus made to become weary of the world by means of the scourge of melancholy and suspicion, and so with the bridle of the will may be impelled towards the Deity. These circumstances can never be understood in this sense, either by medicine, or by nature, or by the stars. One may, however, learn to understand them by knowledge and the prophetic power combined. For they embrace the whole kingdom of the universe with its deputies and servants, and possess the knowledge of the end for which everything was created: they know to whose command all things are subjected, to what men are invited and what they ‘are forbidden to do.
The Lord invites the servants whom he loves to the contemplation of his glory, at one time by sending misfortune and affliction, and at another by melancholy and sickness: and he says to them, “my servants, what you regard as misfortune and affliction, is but the bridle of my love, by which I draw those whom I love to a spirit of holy submission, and to my Paradise.” It is also found in a tradition that “misfortune is first of all the lot of the prophets, then of the saints and then of those who are like them in successive lower degrees. Look not then upon these things as maladies, for they are my favored servants.”
O seeker after the divine secrets, now that you have learned that within the body of man, there is a sovereign who possesses and controls it, it is time that you should learn the meaning of the sentences, “Glory to God,” “God be praised,” “There is no God but God,” and “God is the greatest.” These sentences are very current on the tongues of men, but they do not know the signification of them. Although these four sentences are in appearance very short, yet there are no others that embrace so much of the knowledge of God. Since from the consideration of the freedom and independence of your own spirit, you have learned the freedom and independence of God, you have in consequence learned the meaning and import of the sentence, “Glory to God.” Seeing that from the sovereignty which you exercise over your own spirit, you have learned the sovereignty which God exercises, and know that all causes and instruments are subject to his power, and that all outward and inward mercies, which are incalculable and innumerable, are from him, you therefore know the meaning ^and import of the phrase, “God be praised.” As you know also that all things are of his creation, that his government extends over all things, and that without his will no motion or change can affect any thing, you see the meaning of the words, “There is no God but God.” Listen now to the explanation of the sentence, “God is the greatest.”
Do not suppose that, from all that has hitherto been said, you can understand the greatness of God. His greatness and power are above and beyond the comprehension of the mind and wisdom of man. Moreover the phrase “God is the greatest” does not mean that God is larger than other things: it is a sin to indulge in such a belief. It is as much as to say, that there are large things, but that God is larger than they are. The holy meaning of the phrase “God is the greatest” is that God is so great, that he cannot be known or comprehended by the mind or understanding, or be compared with any thing,—that the knowledge of God cannot be attained by means of the knowledge which a man has of his own soul (which God forbid!), that a knowledge of his attributes cannot be attained from a knowledge of the attributes of man, and that his independence and holiness cannot be compared with the independence and holiness of man in any form whatever. God forbid that His sovereignty and government should be compared and measured! The doctors of the law have been allowed however, in the way of illustration to explain in a certain degree the knowledge, power, excellence and sovereignty of God to man, who is frail and weak in understanding.
Thus, let us suppose that a person had been born and brought up in darkness, where he had never seen the rays or light of the sun, but had merely heard a description of the sun. If such a person should ask to have the light and mode of shining of the sun explained to him, how would it be possible in any way to explain to him what it is? If however, there should happen to be in that dark place many glow worms, the person addressed, taking one of them up in his hands, might say, “the light of the sun resembles this,” although in reality it has not a particle or an atom of resemblance. Take another example: suppose a child incapable of making distinctions, should inquire of us about the pleasure derived from exercising authority and sovereignty. We, knowing the impossibility of explaining the matter to him, might answer that the pleasure of ruling was like that obtained from playing with nuts or at ball, although it does not resemble them in any particular. From these examples we may learn that it is impossible for any being, except God himself, to know God. “God is witness! God is witness! No one knows God, except God himself.”
Finally, seeker after divine mysteries, know that the paths to the knowledge of God, are as numerous as the souls of creatures, and their number is known to God alone. But we have spoken so much as is found above, for the sake of both warning and stimulating the seeker after the knowledge and love of God.
The happiness of man consists in the knowledge, obedience and worship of God. Only a little previously we have shown, how it is that man’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God. “We now proceed to observe, that it is an argument to prove that the happiness of man consists in obedience and devotion, the fact that when a man dies, his destination is to return to where God is. Everything which concerns man is with God, and his works will all be presented before Him, Whenever all the affairs of a person are in the hands of another, and his employments and his home are with him—when he is near to him and continually has need of him, there will be perfect harmony between the two, and abiding friendship and love. Whoever be the person whom we love, we shall find our happiness with him. There is nothing more delightful than to meet with and look upon an object that we love. But we ought to know that the love of God will never reign in the heart of a man until first the knowledge of God reigns there, and until the remembrance of God becomes unceasing. If one individual love another, he is continually thinking of him, and by this continual remembrance, his love is increased.
The remembrance of God will be predominant in the heart that is always engaged in devotion: and the heart will be engaged in devotion and worship, whenever it withdraws from worldly lusts and sensual pleasures: it will withdraw from worldly lusts, when it refrains from sins. To abstain from sins of rebellion, brings peace to the heart: to be constant in worship, is a means of remembrance of God; and both are a means of growing in the love of God, which is the seed of happiness. And so the Lord speaks in his word: “Blessed is the man who keeps himself pure, who repeats the name of the Lord and prays.”
Know also that all our acts cannot be devotional. Those acts only are devotional which harmonize with the law. But it is not possible to be totally exempt from sensuous passions, for if the body should be deprived of food and drink for example, it would perish. There is occasion therefore for making distinctions between our acts; but these distinctions, the individual is not capable of making for himself, because the animal soul necessarily casts a veil over the truth and inclines it to vanity. On this account we are obliged to follow after and imitate others—such persons as the prophets. They have been purified and enlightened by the eternal Truth Himself, and have been sent forth to communicate precepts and laws, and to decide upon all circumstances. Every one is therefore bound to imitate them within the limits of the law, and in the regulation of his moral conduct, that he may attain felicity and be preserved from danger of eternal destruction. Those careless and indifferent persons, seeker after the divine mysteries, who from ignorance, stupidity and sin have turned away from God and his prophet, and have wandered from the path of religion, may be arranged in seven classes.
To the first class belong those who do not believe in God. They had desired to find him out in his essence and attributes, by speculations and fancies, by comparisons and illustrations. And because they have not succeeded in understanding him, they have referred his acts and his government to the stars and to nature. They have fancied that the soul of man and of other animals, and this wonderful world with its marvellous arrangements came of themselves, and that they are eternal; or that they are effects from natural causes, and that there is no creator beyond the sphere of the world. This class of people resembles the man who seeing a writing, fancies that it was written of itself, and infers that it was not written by a penman or by a supernatural power: or else that it is eternal and that no one knows whence it comes. It is impossible to recover from the path of delusion, persons whose ignorance, error and stupidity have reached such a degree as this.
The second class of errorists are those who deny a day of resurrection and assembly. They allege that man and other animals are like vegetables, and do not enter into another body when they die. They say, that a resurrection, in which spirits and bodies shall be reassembled in one place, is impossible, and that there will be neither discipline or punishment, recompense or reward. The errors of this sect arise from their inability to understand of themselves their own souls. They imagine that the spirit is an animal spirit only, and that the heart, which is in reality the spirit of man, is the place for the knowledge of God, and that no evil can happen to it, except that it will be separated from the body. They call this separation, death. This sect is unconcerned about this spirit, and in proof of this we shall discourse, if it please God, in the fourth chapter.
The third class of errorists are those who indeed believe in God and a future life, but whose faith is weak, because they do not understand the requirements of the law. They say that “God is able to do without our worship. There is neither any profit to God from our worship, or any injury done him by our disobedience. If we worship God, we shall learn what good it did in the future world; and if we do not worship him, there will neither be any advantage or harm. God himself so declares in his holy word, “Whosoever keep himself pure, does it for his own advantage,” and in another place, “He who does well, does it for his own profit.” Although it is better to worship God, yet as God has no need of our worship, therefore if we do not worship him, what harm is there in it?” These ignorant people resemble the sick man, who when the physician says to him, “you should be abstinent, if you wish to be cured of your malady,” should answer, “what advantage is it to you whether I am abstinent or not”? Now though the sick man is right when he says that there is no advantage to the physician from his abstinence, yet if he is not abstinent, he will perish. This class regards obedience and transgression as of the same degree in value. But in the same manner as disease may occasion a man’s destruction, so transgression defiles the heart, and will cause it to appear in the future world in a state of woe. And just as abstinence and medicine restore the body to health, so to avoid acts of transgression and sin and to be obedient to God, are means of securing salvation.
The fourth class of men who indulge in error, are those who indeed receive the law, but in some peculiar and erroneous sense. They wrongly say, “The law commands us to keep our hearts pure from pride, envy, hatred, anger and dissimulation. But this is a thing which it is impossible to do. For the soul has been created with these qualities and affections, and human nature cannot be changed. It is just as impossible to make a black material white by scraping it, as for the human heart to be free from these qualities.” These ignorant men do not know and understand, that the law does not command that these qualities should be entirely effaced and expelled from the heart, but rather requires that they should be brought under subjection to the heart and the reason, to the end that they may not act presumptuously, go beyond the limits set by the law, and indulge in mortal sins. It is possible even to change these qualities, by doing only what reason requires, and by respecting the restrictions of the law. Many devout men in past times have secured this change of the affections of the soul. These qualities once existed in the prophet of God, but they were corrected, as we learn from the tradition: “I am a man like you. I become angry, as a man becomes angry.” And God speaks in his holy word of “those who control their wrath, and who pardon the men who offend them.” Notice, that in his eternal word, God praises those who dissipate their anger and irritation: he does not praise those who had no anger or rage, since man cannot be without them.
The fifth class of persons in error are those who say that, “God is merciful and ready to pardon, loving and compassionate, and more pitiful to his servants than a father and mother to their children, and therefore he will pardon our faults and cover our transgressions.” They do not ‘teonsider that notwithstanding God is bounteous and merciful, there are still multitudes of poor and miserable people in the world, multitudes who are infirm and helpless, and many who are subjected to suffering. This is a mystery which is known only to God. But it shows us, that though God is disposed to cover and hide sin, still he is an absolute sovereign and an avenger. While he is bounteous and beneficent, he is at the same time dreadful in his chastisements: while he is a benefactor, and provides the necessaries of life, at the same time he who does not seek to gain, obtains no store: and he who is not industrious, accomplishes nothing in the world. Beloved, these ignorant men, in the affairs of the world, in their schemes of living, and in their business, manifest no trust in the bounty of God, nor do they leave off for one moment their buying and selling, their trades or their farming, although God has decreed the means of their existence many years before they Were born, and has made himself surety that it should be provided for them. He announces in his eternal word and book of mighty distinctions, that “there is no creature on the earth, for whom God has not taken upon himself to provide nourishment.” Still they make not the least exertion in reference to their relations and condition in eternity, but merely rely upon the mercy of God, notwithstanding God declares in his holy word, “man can have nothing without exertion.” When they say that God is gracious and merciful, they speak correctly. But they are not aware that Satan is deceiving them with it, hindering them from obedience and worship, and preventing them from engaging in that cultivation and commerce that would prepare them for eternity.
The sixth class who indulge in error, are those who, exalted with pride, think that they have already attained and are perfect: and they say, “we have reached such a state that transgressions do us no harm: we are like the sea, which is not polluted by filth falling into it.” These foolish people are so ignorant, that they do not know that “to be like the sea,” means to attain such a degree of calm that no wind can put them in movement and that nothing can cause any perturbation in their minds. These persons on the contrary, if an individual fail to treat them with honor and respect, or if in conversation the individual do not address them as, my lord or dear sir, or speak a word that touches their reputation, they bear him a grudge for a long time, and even perhaps attempt to do him an injury. And if a person take a piece of money or a morsel of bread from them, the world becomes too straight for them, and every thing looks dark. These foolish people have not even yet reached manhood. They are weak in their own souls, and are in subjection like slaves to passion and anger. If it were not so, how could they be so inconsiderate and presumptuous? Beloved, the falsehood and error of these people appear from this consideration. When inadvertently any of the prophets fell into sin, even a little and venial sin, they would spend years in mourning and lamentation over it, and occupied themselves in endeavors to obliterate their faults, and to obtain pardon and forgiveness. Filled with fear and dread, they became blind from their tears; from their long continuing perturbation and distraction of mind, you would think they had lost the use of their reason. As for the companions of the prophet, and their immediate successors who were faithful witnesses for the truth and the beloved of God, they were so afraid in their suspiciousness of doing wrong, that they abstained in their anxiety, from doing even what was lawful. Do not these ignoramuses know that their degree of attainment does not equal that of the prophets and apostles, and that they are even at a great distance from them? Why then do they not shrink in fear and awe from the shining vengeance of the glorious God?
If they urge, however, that the transgressions of the prophets were doing them no injury, but that they were exercising prudence and carefulness for the sake of other people, we then reply, that you also ought to be careful, lest other people seeing your actions, should imitate your example. And if they respond, we do not belong to the rank of prophets, that men should walk in our steps, or that any injury should befall us, on account of the sins which they may commit, we would again reply, that it is better that no injury should come to you in consequence of the sins done from imitating you, than that injury should not befall the prophets from the sins done in consequence of imitating them; for they are the praised and accepted servants of God; their earlier and their later sins have been pardoned, and they are blessed in Paradise. Why, then, was it so necessary that they should abstain from forbidden things, from things of a doubtful nature and even from permitted things? It is said that one day some ripe dates were brought to the prophet, and he took one and put it in his blessed mouth. But immediately a doubt entered his mind, as to the manner in which the dates had been obtained, and he took it out of his blessed mouth and would not eat it. On another occasion a cup of milk was brought to the faithful witness Aboo Bekir by his slave, and he took it and drank it. After drinking it, he inquired, ” where did you get the milk?” The slave said, “I told a man his fortune, and he gave me the milk in return.” As soon as the faithful witness heard this, he frowned severely upon his servant, inserted his blessed finger down his mouth, and threw up the whole of the milk, so that none of it remained on his stomach. He then said, “I fear that if any of the milk should remain on my stomach, God would expel knowledge and love from my heart.” Now what harm could result to other people from their eating those dates or drinking that milk, that they should have been so careful about such little things? And since they did abstain from such little things, regarding them as injurious, how should it be otherwise than injurious to these foolish people to drink wine, in full bowls and even by the jar full?
They know that the wisdom, piety and abstinence of the prophets and saints were not less than their own. Can there be any more astonishing folly than that of these men who dare to compare themselves with the sea, because they are not disturbed by drinking several bowls of wine, while they compare the prophet of God, to a little water, which is changed in its taste by a single date? They are just worthy that Satan should seize hold of them by the beard and mustachios, and drag them after him both in this world and the next, making them a shame and reproach.
Now the faithful, truthful and experienced in religion, who are mindful that the soul is treacherous, deceptive, perfidious, malicious and false, always watch carefully over their own souls, lest they should do something that transcends the commands of the law, or that is contrary to reason. The soul is always disposed to say to itself, “I am obedient to the truth: I am submissive to the holy law: and I am well instructed in knowledge.” But thou, without being puffed up by this deceitful language of the soul, must constantly look to all its thoughts and states. If it is walking in the path of the law and of the prophets and saints, it is well! and happy is he that is faithful to his word! But if the soul begin to have an inclination for self-indulgence, to explain away or exceed the limits of the law and to contradict clear and plain knowledge, you must regard it as a machination of the devil and a temptation to the soul. In short, man, until he descends to the grave, must always watch over his soul with attention, to discover in what degree it is obedient to the holy law and in harmony with knowledge. Whoever does not thus watch over and guard himself, is most surely in a delusion and in the way of a just destruction. It is the first step in Islamism, that a man should keep his soul subject to the law.
The seventh form of error, beloved, is that of the class whose mistakes arise from ignorance and carelessness, while they have never heard any thing of these doubts of which we have been speaking. They merely wear the garments, cap and quilted robes of the mystics (soofees), and after learning some of their words and phrases, they pretend to have attained saintship and supernatural powers. And although apparently they have no evil intentions, yet because they do not properly respect the holy law, but practice their devotions in a lax way, their course leads them to corrupt doctrines and errors. They are always inclined to do whatsoever their corrupt disposition would lead them to do, such as yielding to the love of frivolous practices, or to sensual indulgences, or assenting to transgression and sin. In the presence of the multitude, they put on a holy mien and do not approve of error and sin, but they do not withdraw their hearts from the pleasure of wine, nor from adulterous and licentious society, nor withdraw their hands from the business of gaining the world. Although in these associations there may be no overt sin, yet they do not consider that such thoughts are but satanic suggestions and sensual importunities. They are not capable of distinguishing actions and circumstances, or right and wrong. Beloved, to this class belong those of whom God declares in his holy word, “We have covered their hearts with more than one envelop, that they may not understand the Koran and we have put deafness upon their ears. Even if thou shouldst call them to the right way, they would never follow it,” It is better to talk with a sword, than to talk with this class of people, for they are not open to conviction….
- S. 10:3.
- S. 6:75.
- The author has commented upon this in his work, Meshkuwet el enwar we masnafat el esrar. Tr.
- S. 16: 12.
- S. 84:14, 15.
- S. 35:19.
- S. 41:46.
- S. 3:138.
- S. 11:8.
- S. 53:40.
On Knowledge of the World.
Know, that this world is one stage of our life for eternity. For those who are journeying in the right way, it is the road of religion. It is a market opened in the wilderness, where those who are travelling on their way to God, may collect and prepare provisions for their journey, and depart thence to God, without sorrow or despondency.
Know, that the state previous to death is called the world, because mortality is close at hand. The state after death is called the future, because its rest is permanent. The purpose and design of the world, is to afford anopportunity to make provision for the future, to acquire knowledge, and to worship God. Man as at first created, was destitute of works, and void of perfection: but he was made capable of reaching perfection and attaining felicity, so that while in a material world he could look forward to a spiritual world, understand whence he came, what are his duties, that he is soon to depart, and might be always ready. Man’s felicity, which consists in the contemplation of the beauty of God, cannot be vouchsafed to him, until the eye of his judgment is opened. But the eye of judgment is opened by the contemplation of the works of God, and by understanding his almighty power. The contemplation of the works of God is by means of the senses, which become the key to all knowledge of God. The senses subsist by means of the body, and the body is composed of four different elements. Those therefore who are endowed with understanding, conscious of the frailty of their bodies should make all diligence to quit this kingdom of corruption and to enter permanently into the unchanging kingdom.
Know, O inquirer after the divine secrets, that there are two things needful to man in this world; first of all, he needs to acquire spiritual food to preserve his heart from perishing. The aliment of the heart consists in the love and knowledge of God ; for whatever is a necessity of the nature of any one, that he loves, as we have before mentioned. The ruin of the soul consists in the predominance of some other love over the love of God, which veils the divine love. Our refuge is in God!
The second thing needful for a man is, that the body should be preserved and tended with care, since it is the frame of the heart. As a camel is to a pilgrim, so the body is like an animal upon which the heart rides. The pilgrim is obliged to give food and water to his camel, and to treat it with attention, that he may reach the end of his journey in safety, and by its means be successful in the object for which he travels. But the attention bestowed by the pilgrim upon his camel, should be only in that proportion which is really necessary. If he should be busy with his camel day and night, and should expend all his capital in feeding it, he would not reach his destination, but would ultimately become separated from his caravan, would lose all that he possessed, and in view of the injury he had sustained, he would be the victim of unceasing regrets, and ruin would ensue. Just so is it with man in general. If he pass all his days in attending to the preservation of the body, and spend the capital of his life, in providing food and drink for the body, he will not reach the mansions of felicity, but will wander in the wilderness of destruction, without capital, penniless and a naked vagabond.
Now the body needs in this world three things, one is food, another is clothing, and the third is a home : and by means of these, it can be preserved from injury and ruin. If the food provided for the body is excessive, the body will be destroyed: but let the food provided for the spirit be ever so much, still is it well. On account, therefore, of man’s need of clothing and food, God has appointed sensuous desire to act as a commissary, that the animal, that is, the body, may not perish from hunger, cold or heat. But as desire, under the control of the animal soul, would not be satisfied with a sufficient quantity, but would crave to spend its life in eating and drinking, God afterwards committed the animal soul into the charge of the reason, that desire might not transgress the proper limits. Yet as the animal soul and desire, on account of their intimate relations with the body, are so essential to it, their influence would still have been predominant. But God, the holy defender, in accordance with his bounteousness and grace, (“my mercy has surpassed my anger,”) has sent his law by the tongues of prophets, that it might become strength to the reason, and prevent the animal soul and desire from passing beyond the due limits, and on the contrary might dispose the soul to rest satisfied with the degree of energy and force necessary for it, and by learning the design for which it had come into the world, might spend its days accordingly.
After you have learned, O student of the divine mysteries, what this world in its meaning really is, it is important that you should look at the world in detail. Every thing in the world of matter which grows, has been included under three classes, animal, vegetable and mineral, which are called the three generations or kingdoms. Animals were created some for riding, some for food, and some for tilling. Vegetables were created to afford food and conveniences to man, and sustenance to various animals. Minerals, like gold, silver, copper and iron, were created to serve as instruments to provide means of sustaining life in man. It was designed that by means of these three kingdoms, the spirit of man, while dwelling for a few days in the body, should be employed in making preparation for the future world. Man, however, forgetful of the end for which he had come hither, heedless of the fact that he was soon to depart, and that he would then repent to find that he was going unprepared, became engaged in strife with his fellows about the things of the world, fell in love with its ways, and attempted to gain its wealth. In consequence various qualities began to appear in the heart, such as avarice, envy, ambition and hatred, which are sources of its ruin. Finally the heart, forgetful of the duties for the performance of which it had come into the world, exhausted all its energies in building up the world.
As man’s primary necessities in the world are three, viz: clothing, food and shelter, so the arts of the world are three, viz: weaving, planting and building. The rest of the arts serve either for the purpose of perfecting the others, or for repairing injuries. Thus the spinner aids the work of weaving, the tailor carries out that work to perfection, while the cloth-dresser adds beauty to the work. In the arts, there is need of iron, skins and wood, and for these many instruments are necessary. No person is able to work at all kinds of trades, but by the will of God, upon one is devolved one art and upon another two, and the whole community is made dependent, one member upon the other. When avarice, ambition and covetousness hold sway in the hearts of men, because some are not pleased to see others obtain honors, and because they do not endeavor to quell their wants, envy and hatred arise among them. Each one, dissatisfied with his own rights, plots against the property and honor of his fellows. On this account there was a necessity for three farther distinctions, viz: sovereignty, judicial authority, and jurisprudence, which contains the digest of the law. But alas! poor and wretched man coming under the influence of all these causes, motives and instruments, spends his life in collecting wealth and lays up for himself sources of regret. And just as the pilgrim, who on his way to the Kaaba of Mecca, was engaged day and night in taking care of his camel, got separated from the caravan, and perished in the desert, so those who know not the real nature of the world and its worthlessness, and do not understand that it is the place where seed is sown for eternity, but spend all their thoughts upon it, are certainly fascinated and deceived; as the apostle of God declares. “The world is more enchanting than Harout and Marout: let men beware of it.”
After you have learned that the world is delusive, enchanting and treacherous, you need to know in what way its delusions and enchantment operate. I will, therefore, mention some things which are illustrative of the world. The world, beloved, is like an enchanter, who exhibits himself to you as though he would dwell with you and would forever be at your side; while in truth this world is always upon the point of being snatched away from you, notwithstanding you are tranquilly unconscious of it. The world is like a shadow, which, while you look at it, seems fixed, although in reality, it is in motion. Life is like a running water, which is always advancing, yet you think that it is still and permanent, and you wish to fix your abode by it. The world again is like an enchanter who performs for you acts of friendship and manifests love for you, for the sake of winning your affections to him: but as soon as he has secured your love, he turns away his face from you and plots to destroy you….
The world resembles those imposters, who decorate themselves externally and conceal the sorrows and curse they bring, while the ignorant, looking only at the outside, are fascinated and- deluded. The world resembles the old woman who arrayed herself in silk stuffs and flowered brocades, and with ornaments, and covered her head with a beautiful embroidered veil, so that those who should see her from a distance, and notice only her garments and her form, might be deceived. And whenever she has succeeded in inducing a person to follow after her and to decide upon joining himself to her, she takes off her robes from her back and her veil from her head, and immediately her concealed ugliness is brought to light, and the person who had been seeking her, becomes subject to eternal regret and sorrow. We have received it also by tradition, that the world will be brought to the great assembly at the last day, in the form of a woman with livid eyes, pendent lips, and deformed shape, and all the people will look upon her, (we take refuge in God,) and will exclaim, “what deformed and horrible person is that, whose aspect alone is severe torture to the soul?” And they will be answered. “It was on her account that you were envying and hating one another, and were ready to slay one another. It was on her account that you rebelled against God, and debased yourselves to every sort of corruption.” And then God will order her to be driven off to hell with her followers and her lovers….
Know, that the world consists of a certain number of stages between the world of spirits and the future world. The first stage is the cradle, and the last is the grave, and every period between these is also a stage. Each month represents a league, each hour a mile, and each breath a step. It is always flowing on like running water. Man in his excessive heedlessness thinking himself to be permanently established, engages in building up the world: and though he has no assurance of a half-hour of time, he makes preparations for dwelling here for many years, and never once brings himself to make the necessary preparation for dislodging and moving to another land.
Behold, another likeness of the world. Know, beloved, that the pleasures of the world, and the pains and tribulations which are the counterpart to these pleasures in the future world, resemble the man who should eat very largely of rich and delicate food and find great delight therein: but on account of his excesses, he suffers from indigestion, his stomach is irritated, vomiting and sickness ensue and he has a great deal to endure before he can recover his health. He repents of what he has been eating, and in proportion as he ate extravagantly, and found enjoyment, he now suffers corresponding pain and disappointment. Now then, in proportion as anyone in the world has indulged in the pleasures of life and dissipation, so much the greater will be his anguish and torment at the moment of death. He who possesses gardens and fields, houses, lands, and money, servants and horses, will be subject to regret and affliction at death, in proportion to their amount. This misery does not close with death, but on the contrary afterwards increases. The Lord Jesus (upon whom be peace!) declares that the world is like the man who drinks seawater. The more he drinks, the more his internal heat increases. And unless he stops, he will destroy himself by drinking.
Man in this world resembles the guest who was invited to partake of the hospitality of a rich man. In token of respect, the servants set before him silver washing-basins, vessels of costly stones, perfumes of musk and amber with chafing dishes. The poor guest is overjoyed at the sight of these things, thinking that they have been made his own property, and he lays hold of them with the intention of retaining them. The next day, when he is upon the point of departure, they are all taken from him by force, and the measure of his disappointment and regret is clear to every person of discrimination. Seeing that this world is itself a mansion built for travellers, by the road over which they are to pass, that they may make a halt, and lay in provisions preparatory to leaving it again, he is a wise guest who does not lay his hand upon other things than his necessary provisions, lest on the morrow when about to move on, they take them out of his hands, and he expose himself to regret and sorrow.
The people of this world are also like the passengers in a ship, who while sailing upon the sea, arrive at an island. The sailors draw the ship to the shore, and then call out and say, “whoever wishes for water or other provisions, let him leave the ship and go and procure them: let him not delay, for the ship will not remain long. It is besides a dangerous place, and whoever remains here will perish.” After receiving this warning, the passengers leave the ship, and are all scattered about, one in this direction and another in that. The wise passengers, remembering the admonition of the sailors, attended quickly to their affairs, and immediately returned to the ship. They selected the places in the ship that pleased them best, and sat down calm and tranquil. Some of the passengers, however, gazed at the trees, the flowers and the fruits of the island, listened to and admired the notes of the birds, and became absorbed in looking at the wonderful curiosities found there. They delayed so long, that when they came to the ship, they found every place in the ship occupied, and no room for them to sit down. They finally entered, and found a corner with great difficulty, where they could just press themselves in. Others, not satisfied with gazing around, loaded themselves with stones that had the appearance of being precious, and after a time returned to the ship. They found it completely full, and absolutely no place to sit down. After they had entered, they were compelled from necessity to stow themselves in a dark place at the bottom. As for the stones which they had thought were jewels, they lost their color, putrefied, and sent forth such a disagreeable odor, as to affect the passengers to nausea. It was impossible to expel the odor and they remained to the last with its disagreeableness in the midst of them. Others still took so much pleasure in looking about the island, that they said to themselves, “where shall we be able to find a more delightful retreat than this? It is not clear that the place where we are going is better than this.” And so they chose to remain there; and after the departure of the ship some of them perished with hunger and thirst, and some were devoured by wild beasts. Not one of them was saved. In the future world they will certainly suffer pain and retribution.
Do not suppose, beloved, that every thing in the world is to be despised; for there are some things that are estimable and valuable, which belong to the world: viz: knowledge, worship, war in defence of the faith, and abstinence: and also a sufficiency of food, drink and clothing, marriage, domestic shelter and other things; seeing that they are helps on the journey to the future world and in the path of knowledge, they are all of them exceedingly important and necessary. Delight in knowledge, delight in worship, delight in prayer and delight in communion with God are things of this world, but still they are for the sake of the future world. It follows, therefore, that the pleasures of the world are not all of them blamable, but only those which entail punishment in the future world, or which are not in the path to paradise, and so the apostle declares, “The world is a curse and all that is in it is a curse, except the remembrance of God and that which is the object of his love.”
- Teachers of arts of enchantment.
On Knowledge of the Future World.
Know, beloved, that we cannot understand the future world, until we know what death is: and we cannot know what death is, until we know what life is: nor can we understand what life is, until we know what the spirit is….
If you wish, O student of the mysteries of God, to learn the essential facts about death, you must know that there are in man two kinds of spirit, one of which is of the nature of the spirit in animals and which we call animal spirit, and the other is of the nature of the spirit of angels, which we call human spirit. The fountain of the animal spirit is in that heart which is in the left side of the breast, and is a piece of flesh. It is a delicate exhalation from the humors within the animal. Its constitution is fixed in certain proportions, just as is that of oxymel, which is composed of honey and vinegar that on being mixed, while they lose their own flavor, acquire a new, delicate and useful flavor, so also, by the blending of the various elements of the body,a delicate exhalation is the result, which finds its home in the heart. It gains other delicate qualities from the heart, and from thence the blood channels, which are the veins of pulsation, are supplied. The exhalation passes by their means to the brain and from thence flows to all the members. It is exceedingly hot, but in its passage to the brain, it loses some of its heat and becomes tepid. By the distribution of this spirit through the body, the eye sees, the ear hears, the tongue tastes, the nose smells, and the rest of the organs are endowed with their proper movements and perform their appropriate functions….
So long as the spirit works in equilibrium, it is capable of delicate operations and effects ; but so soon as excess of heat or cold destroys the equilibrium, the exhaled fluid is diminished, and it becomes incapable of movement and sensation….
That cause which throws the constitution out of balance and occasions the complete absence of the exhalation, is called the Angel of death, who is also a creature of God. Most persons merely know his name….
The second kind of spirit, which is called both human spirit and heart, is not a body, and is not susceptible of division. It is the seat of the knowledge of God. In the same manner, God himself is one, is not susceptible of separation into parts and the place of his knowledge is one….
Even if the action of the larger part of the members should be paralyzed, it is still possible that life should continue in a man. Death occurs, when, after the ruin of the constitution, the delicate exhalation on that very account is no longer transmitted to the members, and they are all paralyzed together and cease from movement. Although you still remain in being, you possess neither sensation nor motion. You know, also, that in infancy the ingredients of your body were drawn from pure blood. These underwent a change and disappeared, and the ingredients derived from food took their place. You know moreover that the form which you had on your entrance into the world, and your present form are not the same. It follows therefore that there is no necessity of your perishing on account of the perishing of the body. The body is earth and must therefore return to its original earth. Your spirit, however, is of an angelic nature, and you must therefore mingle with your original spirit. If the influences of the world operate with such power that you are separated from your original spirit, it is fixed and sure that you will have to endure the torment of separation and misery.
It should be kept in mind, that you possess two classes of qualities or attributes. One class includes those which result from the union existing between your body and your spirit, viz: hunger, thirst, sleep, eating and drinking. These qualities become useless at death. The other class includes qualities belonging solely to your spirit, such as the knowledge of God, and the love of God, and the qualities which tend to secure these two, as gratitude, submission and supplication. These are qualities of your individual self, which do not pass away with death, but on the contrary the fruits of them will be ever growing and developing. The language of the blessed God in the words, “the permanent things are the holy virtues,” points to these qualities. That spirit is also enduring and eternal, which is destitute of love and knowledge, which indeed knows nothing and has no delight in or affection for these things, but it will be blind and wretched: as God declares in his word: “He who was blind in this world will be blind in the future world, and in a most fatal path of error.”
The nature of death cannot be understood, unless we are acquainted with these two kinds of spirit and with the relations of dependence between them. Know, then, seeker, that the animal spirit belongs to the inferior world. The elements of its four humors, blood, phlegm, bile and black bile, are fire, air, water and earth. The animal spirit is a product of a delicate exhalation from these elements. The variations in the measure of a man’s health depend on the variations of heat, cold, drynessandmoisture. Hence it is the object of the science of medicine to preserve these four elements in their due proportions, so that they may serve as instruments to secure perfection to the human spirit.
The human spirit belongs to the superior world and is of an angelic substance. It has come into this world a stranger, and has descended from its original state to this temporary home, to receive its destiny from divine direction, and for the purpose of acquiring the knowledge of God. In accordance with this, God declares in his holy word, “We said to them—leave paradise all of you just as you are: a book destined for your guidance will come to you from me: fear shall never befall those who will follow it, and they shall not be afflicted.” And that which God says in another place, points to the different degrees of worlds: “I create man of clay: and when I shall have formed man of clay and shall have breathed ray spirit in him, prostrate yourselves before him in adoration.” First of all in his saying “from clay” he points to a material body. The phrase “I shall have formed” indicates the animal spirit. The phrase “shall have breathed my spirit in him,” means that I have given to the body of man a well balanced constitution with power and motion. I have made it capable of receiving the law, and to be a home for the knowledge of God.
In the same manner as the equilibrium of the inferior spirit is to be preserved by the science of medicine, the equilibrium of the human spirit is to be preserved by virtue, self-denial and holy zeal, that it may not be destitute of the love of God and perish.
It is plain, then, that a knowledge of the future world cannot be acquired, until we have learned the true nature of the two spirits. We cannot obtain, for example, a knowledge of God, unless we previously possess a knowledge of the soul. But as Islamism consists essentially in believing and confessing the Lord God and the future world, it becomes our duty to acquire a knowledge of the future world as far as the thing is possible. There is, however, a mystery regarding the future world, which the holy law has not authorized to be explained or to be mentioned, be,cause it could not possibly be understood. Seeing then that the knowledge of the future world cannot possibly be acquired, until that mystery is revealed, strive that it may be revealed in your own soul by pious endeavor, self-denial and divine guidance. You cannot learn it by any possible efforts from any other person by the hearing of the ear. Many persons have heard this mystery, which represents one of the attributes of God, but they did not acknowledge it as true, and said that it was impossible, not because it was in its nature exempt from being known, but because it was an unemployed mystery. It is not named either in the Koran or in the Traditions. God commanded the prophets not to inform the people of the essence of his attributes, saying “for they will not understand them, will accuse you of falsehood, and will do injury to themselves.”
It has been clearly shown to you, student of the mysteries, that the human spirit in its essence and attributes is to live forever, and that it is able to exist without a frame, that the meaning of death is not the annihilation of the spirit, but its separation from the body, and that the resurrection and day of assembly do not mean a return to a new existence after annihilation, but the bestowal of a new form or frame to the spirit, which shall be under its control in the second period, as the body was under its control in the first period….
In saying that in the second period, the control of the spirit is easy, it is said in respect to our contracted understandings, and in comparison with our operations, and to make the matter intelligible to others. When God says in the powerful Koran, “It is easier,” and “For me it is easy,” he uses the phraseology only for the sake of being understood by man. On the contrary in the first period, there was nothing difficult for God: it would have been nothing to him to have created without matter, in a moment, a thousand worlds like this which we inhabit.
It follows from what has been said, that it is not a necessary condition of the resurrection and restoration that the spirit should possess exactly the original mould. For that which we seek is not the vehicle of the spirit, but the spirit itself. This mould undergoes change even in this world. Thus, for example, the materials derived from the condensation of the exhalations and the inspissation of the blood in the stomach of the mother are changed by food, and new flesh is produced. Many questions may be asked of those who say that the identical mould must return and rise in the resurrection, and that its absence can in no wise be tolerated, and they will find much difficulty in answering them. One may ask for example, if one man eat another man, and the man eaten become a portion of the man who ate him, will that portion rise with the eater or with the man who was eaten?…
They say, moreover, that man is created from seed, that seed is derived from food, and that food is derived from the milk, the fat or the flesh of an animal: now with which of all these will the ingredient rise up ? Again, suppose the hand of a thief has been cut off, and he afterwards leads a life of good works and enters Paradise. Must he enter Paradise, where nothing maimed or defective can enter, without his hand, or will he enter with his hand, notwithstanding his good works were not performed when he possessed that hand? The source of all these perverse speculations is in the pretence of those who say that in the day of assembly, the mould reappears and that the spirit follows in its train, that if it was not for the mould there would be no semblance of man, and that the permanency of the spirit results from its connection with the body.
If, O seeker, you say that the well known language of the wise in the law and in discourse is, that at death a man becomes non-existent, and that he exists afterwards in the resurrection with this identical body, and that our language contradicts theirs, we reply. He who merely follows in the track of the language used by others, will never acquire a knowledge of the truth. However, the words you have cited are not those, either of people of intelligence or of imitators. For the intelligent and learned know that the body is not annihilated at death, but that the materials of which it is composed are separated, and that it is this separation which they call death. The imitator has likewise heard from the doctors of the law, that the spirit lives eternally after death.
It is well known that spirits are divided into two classes, in one of which all blessed spirits are embraced and in the other all miserable spirits. With respect to the blessed spirits God says, “Think not that those who have been slain on the divine road are dead: they are alive near their Lord and are sustained by him.” In regard to the miserable spirits, the apostle of God came to the infidels who had been slain in the battle of Bader, and called upon each by name, and said, “O! such a one, son of such a one, I have found the victory and triumph which ray Lord promised. And you, have you found that latter end and torment of which the Lord assured you, or have you not found it?” His honored companions having remarked to him, “they are dead and how can they hear and how can they speak?”, the glory of the world replied, “By the truth of God who has commissioned me to be a true prophet, they are better able to hear than yourselves: there is only this difference, that they are not able to answer.” And the prophet of God declared that the spirits of martyrs are in lanterns under the empyrean: and according to another account that they are suspended to the fruits of the trees of Paradise in the craws of green birds. In brief, whoever will study carefully the verses of the Koran, the Traditions and recollections that have reached us respecting death, and will consider the well substantiated accounts of the movements of the dead in grave yards, he will know, in a manner that should remove all doubt, that the dead clearly do not become non-existent….
Hence it happens, that when a person becomes breath- less and is entranced, as sometimes happens in the first exercises among the Soofees, he has a delightful vision of the state after death, notwithstanding the animal spirit continues in the enjoyment of health. Yet if, while in that state, fear and terror should happen to predominate and deprive him of feeling and motion, and if he become so far like the dead that he perceives no external object, the same things may be revealed to him which are revealed to others after death. It is sometimes permitted, after he returns from that state to the sensible world, that all he has seen should remain in his memory, or that if he does not remember it, traces of it should remain in his mind. If he saw hell, he will retain traces of despondency, sadness, heaviness of spirit, suspicion and melancholy. If in the treasury of his imagination he has preserved these traces, it is lawful for him to communicate them to others….
The torments of the grave, O seeker after the divine mysteries, are of two kinds: one kind is spiritual and the other is material torment, and they have been repeatedly explained.
The spiritual torment cannot be understood, until a person is acquainted with his own soul and spirit. His soul exists in its own individuality: it is not dependent upon form or mould : it has neither hand or foot, nor eye or ear. The external senses which it possessed were dependent on the body, and remain inactive and useless after death, and all the enjoyments resulting from them become entirely null. Wife, children, friends, property, slaves and domestics, equipage, cattle, estates and fields were formerly sources of enjoyment to it. And if he were a lover of, and a seeker after these things, so that he had been always occupied with them, the torment of separation from them will make a deep impression upon his soul, and he will be most certainly the subject of sorrow and lamentation. But if his heart was untrammeled by these delights, and was inclined towards the future world and was always awaiting death, if the enjoyments of the world were distasteful to him, while he was always occupied with the wants of the soul, which are to find out God—then, in the event of death, he will have attained his longing and his love, and have reached rest, joy and happiness.
Call to mind now, that the spirit of a man is eternal: It has not perished at death. Can you doubt then, that that spirit which had chosen the glare and glitter of the world for its beloved object, and had been absorbed heart and soul in the occupations of the world—when in a moment of time, all that which it had been gaining day after day, which it had obtained with great perseverance and industry, and which it had been coveting and striving for during many years, is taken out of its hands by death, can you doubt that it will be the prey of endless sorrow and grief, of abundant mortification, regret and remorse? This accords with what the apostle of God declares, “Love what thou hast loved: but thou shalt be separated from it.” But when a man realizes that this world is a stage of a journey, and that the purpose of his coming hither is to attain the knowledge and love of God, and when he is day and night occupied with this, forsaking the world before death arrives, and perhaps even envying and longing for death, there can be no doubt that in the event of death, he is delivered from all pain and sorrow, and obtains rest and spiritual union.
From what has been said, it follows that the torments of the grave are for the friends of this world and the seekers of the world, and not for the devout and pious. And here we find an explanation of what the prophet of God said: that “the world is the prison of the believer and the paradise of the infidel.”
Since you have now learned, student, that the torment of the grave is occasioned by love of the world, know also that there are different degrees of it. It is in proportion to each person’s affection and love for the world, and will come upon some with great severity….
If, for example, a person possess a female slave to whom he is exceedingly attached, and on account of his being every day by her side, he is not conscious of his attachment, and then if suddenly he should become offended with her and sell her to another person, and should afterwards become conscious of his concealed love, bis heart would hourly assail him and sting him like a serpent. The fire of regret and rage would burn within him, so that he might be not only sick from its effects, but might even die. Now if it is possible that such results should follow from the loss of a female slave, consider what must be the degree of grief and affliction of a man who is suddenly called upon to part with all his beloved objects in a moment. Just as it might happen that the master of the female slave should throw himself into the water to drown himself, or cast himself into the fire to burn himself, all on account of his separation from her, so those spirits of men who are in theirgraves utter many wishes, exclaiming, “Ah! would that these scorpions and serpents, like those in the material world, would only sting us and destroy us, that at least we might be delivered from this torment.”
Pain in the world is an accident of the body, and passes from the body to the spirit, and thus the spirit participates in the torment. Butin the future world, pain has its home in the spirit itself, and hence it is excruciating.
Every one bears away from this world within himself the essence of his torment, but men are not aware of it. God says in his eternal word, “Ah! if you knew by infallible knowledge, you would see hell, you would see it with the eyes of certainty,” and again He says in another place in the glorious Koran, “Truly hell encompasseth the infidels.” He does not say, it shall encompass, but rather that it already surrounds them….
If you say, O student of the mysteries, that “the torments of the grave are occasioned by the relations arising from ttiis present world, from which no one can be exempt, since every one has either children, a house, horses or servants, and that it results, without doubt, in causing a feeling of dependence upon them: and hence, no person will be able to escape the torments of the grave,” we observe, in reply, that what you say is correct, but then there are persons who have no relations of dependence upon the world, and who always desire death from the Lord God. The prophets themselves did not pass away from the world until they longed for death. You should know also, that the rich who are attached to this world are of two classes. One class includes those, who although they have a love for the world, yet they love the blessed God more. An illustration of the character of men of this class, may be found in the man who owns a house in each of two cities; while living in one of them he has no longing to remove to the other. But it happens that an office is conferred upon him in that other city, and immediately he is overjoyed, and is eager to go there, and makes every preparation to remove thither and to forsake his first house. His longing for an office, leads him to move, and takes away all desire of remaining where he was previously. Now although meu of this class have an inclination to the world, yet as on the other side the love of God preponderates, they prefer to go to the future world, and would not indeed, if it were possible to do otherwise, remain here a day. When persons of this class die, whose affections preponderate towards the other world, they do not experience the torments of the grave.
The other class, beloved, includes those who are entirely absorbed in the love of the world, and of pleasure. This class cannot escape from the torments of the grave, as the Lord in his everlasting word declares: “There are none of you who will not be precipitated.” But some of this class occasionally have a leaning towards eternal truth, especially if there is any trace of the love of God remaining in their hearts, and when they are about to leave the world, they forget it and never more yearn towards it. In that case they also are saved from the tribulations of the grave. A picture of this class is found in the person who also has a house in each of two cities, and as long as he is living in the one, he has no longings for the other. But at last some necessity compels him to quit his first house, and to go and reside in the second. After a few days residence, the love he had for the first house dies away from his heart and it appears better to him not to return thither. This class suffer torment in the grave up to the point where they forget the world, but after familiarizing themselves with the mansions of the future vwrld, they are freed from their pain. Those, however, whose hearts were immersed in the pleasures and cares of the world, and whose hearts bore no trace of the love of God, or of thoughtfulness for the future world, and who preferred this world to the other, will never be delivered from torment.
There is not a person in the world who will admit that he does not love God, or but that will pretend that he does love God. But this pretention can be brought to a touchstone and standard and found out by experiment. Just •look at his actions and conduct, and see whether he will do a thing which has the holy approbation of God, or whether he will abstain from doing a thing which has not the divine approbation, notwithstanding the strong opposing inclinations of his soul, and thus show his reverence for the Holy Law. If he does thus oppose the desires of his soul, he is correct when he affirms, “I love God.” But if he is following the inclinations of his soul, and is only saying with his tongue that he loves God, his declaration is a lie. When a person in this state of mind utters the confession, “There is no God but God,” a voice from God addresses him saying, “You are a liar, for your actions are opposed to your words.” In this state of mind there is no use in making the declaration, “I love God.” The prophet of God says however, that it is not an idle act to utter the phrase “There is no God but God” for the sake of preserving a man from the divine vengeance, so long as the man is one who does not prefer worldly works to the works of the future world….
Let those, then, who wish to be saved from the torments of the grave, be earnest in cutting ojSf the ties of the world; and let them, acquire a habit of being satisfied with just that which is of actual necessity. Be satisfied for example with that amount of food and drink which is necessary to give strength for devotional exercises; be satisfied with the amount of clothing necessary to protect the body from cold and heat; and so in everything else. If a man cannot purify his heart from attacli’ment to the world let him at least be assiduous in devotion and in calling upon God, and show a preference for cultivating an intimacy with the love of God. Let him look with fear and dread upon trust in the world, and weaken and relax the demands of sense by strict obedience to the law. If notwithstanding he should prefer to yield to the animal soul and to trust in this world, let him prepare himself to experience the torment of the grave and the terrors of the future world. And may the grace and mercy of God which embrace all men, and his pardon and forgiveness which extend to rich and poor, to great and small, reach and save him! The moterul torments of the grave, seeker after the divine mysteries, are those which are addressed to the body and through the body to the spirit. Spiritual, torments are those which reach the spirit only. The language of God, “It is the fire of God, the lighted fire which shall reach the hearts of the reprobates,” refers to spiritual torments which affect the heart. The spiritual hell then is of three kinds. The first is the fire of separation from the lusts of the world; the second is the fire of shame, ignominy and reproach; and the third is the fire of exclusion from the beauty of the one Lord. These fires only burn the soul and do not touch the body.
There is in the world a cause or source of each kind of torment. Then let us examine the cause of the fire of separation from the lusts of the world. In explaining previously the torments of the grave, we said that they arose from love of the world. Love and desire constitute the Paradise of the heart. So long as the heart is with its beloved object, it is in paradise, and as soon as the heart is separated from its beloved object, it is in hell. The men of this world, by their supreme love of the world, have made it to be their beloved object, and as long as they are in the world it is a real paradise to them; but as soon as death comes and separates them from their beloved, their state is a real hell to them. Believers, by loving God and the future world, have made them their best beloved, and as long as they are separated from them they are in hell. But as soon as this separation is annihilated, and they leave this world and go to the other, having attained their chief purpose and desire, they are in paradise in reality. Suppose a person, a prince, had been passing his life in banqueting and pleasure, and every one around him had been submissive and obedient to his orders. But an enemy comes and deprives him of his principality, enslaves bis wife and servants, and they plunder him of his money and property before his eyes. His pearls and jewels are wasted upon trifles, and his beautiful studs of horses and his retinue are dispersed. He becomes a subject in his own city, is compelled to wear coarse clothing in the presence of his former servants, and is appointed to guard and feed the dogs. Can you in any wise appreciate the misfortune into which the prince has fallen, and how deeply he must be a prey to anguish? Probably he exclaims many times in a day, “Would rather that I had fallen into the abyss of the earth and perished!” The severity of his torture is in proportion to the amount of sensual enjoyments in which he had participated while he was a prince. And it is plain that this torture is not inflicted on the body, but upon only the spirit, and that it is more excruciating than any pains of the body would be.
So long as a man is attached to the things of this world engrossed with the care of his body, and gives over his nature to intercourse with sensual enjoyments, he will not care for the warnings his spirit receives in this world, nor for the torment that it will incur in the future world. A sick man for example will not be so excessively despondent about his malady in the day time, because his senses are interested in other things, and as his heart follows in their train, he in some measure forgets his malady. In the night, however, when his senses have nothing to be employed about, his thoughts about his malady do not leave his mind free for one moment, and his pain increases. So also in death, the cares and thoughts of the world and the external senses cease entirely to operate on account of the torment of the spirit, and then the perfect torment of the spirit becomes manifest.
The second kind of torment in hell, beloved, is the fire of ignominy and shame. In illustration of this, suppose that a prince receives into his friendship a poor and humble man, treating him with great honor and making him the favorite among all his confidential servants. He gives into his hands the keys of all his treasuries, commits his honor and wife and family to his care, and in short confides all his affairs into his hands, in full reliance upon him. Then, suppose that the poor man, after being elevated to this high rank, should be puffed up with pride, and should be disposed to betray the honor of the prince,—that he should begin to indulge in unworthy conduct with his wife and servants, and should open his coffers and spend his property for his own pleasures. Suppose farther that he should even be consulting with the prince’s enemy who has designs upon the principality, and should enter into a compact with him. Just at this point the prince from a concealed retreat espies his conduct in his family, and learns how he has wasted his money and his possessions, and in short becomes acquainted with everything he has done. The man also learns that for some time the prince has been aware of his course of conduct, but that the reason of his delaying and postponing punishment was that he might see what other crimes he would commit, that he might punish him accordingly. In these circumstances the reflecting can easily appreciate what would be the confusion and mortification of this individual. He would think it a thousand times better to fall from a precipice and be dashed to pieces, or that the earth should open and he sink into the abyss, than that he should continue to live. So also is it with you. How many actions you perform, of which you say, “it is in private and no one sees it,” or of which Satan cloaks over the guilt from your mind, by persuading you that it is all right and fair. But at last, when death comes and makes your sin manifest, then the fire of ignominy and shame makes you captive to fierce torments and long continued misery….
Suppose you should throw a stone over against a wall, and some one should come and inform you that the stone had hit your own house, and had put out the eye of your son. When you rush to your house and find that it is even so, can you conceive of the fire of repentance and anguish yon will have to meet?…
Nor can the overwhelming nature of the remorse or the pain of the punishment be compared with the pain of putting out your son’s eye, because the former is eternal. The pains and sorrows of the world are but for a few days and then pass away, while thoughts upon the advantage and profit in the future world of pains endured here, will bring joy to those who reflect upon them. Your happiness does not depend upon your son’s eye nor upon your own eye, but upon being accepted of God, and being honored and enriched with a vision of the divine beauty and excellence.
Another illustration of the fire of shame and ignominy is, to suppose that a prince is giving his son in marriage, and that after many days spent in feasting and rejoicing on the occasion the moment has come for the son to receive his bride. The son, however, has secretly withdrawn with some of his friends and become so intoxicated as to be incapable of reasoning. But at last he concludes that it is time for him to return, and that he will go secretly and alone. He sets out, therefore, on his return home, out of his mind and unconscious of what he is about. He walks on until he reaches a door through which he sees lights burning. He fancies that it is his own house, and straightway he enters in. He looks around and observes that there is not the least movement, not even a breath, but that all have gone to sleep. At last in the middle of the court he sees some one covered over with damask silks and brocades, from whose body is exhaled the odor of musk. He fancies and exclaims that this must be his lawful bride, and he kneels down before her and kisses her lips. He observes that his mouth is damp with moisture that exudes from her lips, and that he is touching something wet. The mouth of his beloved is wounded and bloody, and he thinks that it is rose water, and continues to caress her, till he is stupified with sleep. After a while he awakes and comes into his right mind, and perceives that he is in a sepulchral chapel of the fire-worshippers, and that what he had embraced was nothing but the body of an old woman ninety years old, who had died six months previously. On that night they had anew changed the coverings, burned incense and lighted the candles.
When the prince’s son sees himself in this condition, shame and mortification overvphelm him to such a degree, that he is upon the point of destroying himself. But still severer anguish lays hold of him, lest, when he should leave the place iu this filthy state, he should be seen by some person. While he is asking himself what he should do, his father who knew nothing as to the place where his son had been, but who had left his palace with his friends and his suite in search of his son, meets him just at the moment he is coming out of that house in that state. Imagine now the shame of the son and what must be his feelings, No doubt but that he would have given his life to any one who could have offered him a refuge and deliverance from his shame. You see that the torment here is spiritual and not material; for there is not an iota of paiu here that affected the body.
In like manner the men of this world when they go to their graves, will see that what they called pleasure was flesh and corruption which they had unlawfully taken into their mouths. They will see that that beloved object, dressed in rich clothing, obtained by illicit means and stained with pollution, is but the old bag the world, with her disgusting face and horrid smell and putrefied corruption, on account of whom so many drowned in illusions have become victims to shame and remorse. Still more bitter torment will that be, beloved, which will be the lot of man, when iu the day of resurrection and assembly all these crimes and sins shall be laid open before all the angels and prophets. Our refuge is in God!
Think not that the shame and remorse of the future world is only of the kind that we have been describing. For we have before said that nothing belonging to the future world can be understood in the present world, or be rightly conceived of by our minds. The doctors of the law however (upon whom may God show mercy!), for the sake of warning and admonition in the world, and so far as the mind can appreciate it, have spoken in parables and illustrations, and they have in various ways compared the ignominy and remorse of the future world to the shame and misery existing in the present world, notwithstanding the misery in this world is but for a moment or a few days, while the other is everlasting.
We come now, beloved, to the third fire, the fire of separation from the divine beauty, and of despair of attaining everlasting felicity. The cause of this fire, is that conduct and stupidity which led the individual, while in the world, not to acquire a knowledge of God, to neglect purifying the mirror of his heart from the consuming cares of the world and from the rust of sensual pleasures, and to omit those austerities and exertions by which his blamable inclinations and dispositions might be changed to laudable ones. The individual did not act in accordance with the tradition which says, “Acquire a character resembling the character of God,” and by means of which he might have been worthy of the vision of the beauty of the Lord, and of being received at the king’s court. The heart which is full of the love of the world, and of the rust of worldly cares and transgressions, will see nothing in the future world, must be shut out from all kinds of felicity and will rise blind at the resurrection. Our refuge is in God! An illustration of this fire of reprobation and banishment may be found in this world, by supposing that a company travelling by night should come into a valley that was very stony, and as they went on their way, they should hear a voice calling out, “Take good heed and carry away with you an abundance of these stones; you will have occasion to use them at some future time.” Some of those who heard the voice, exercised prudence, and carried off as many stones as they could; others for the sake of saving themselves trouble, carried off only a few. Others still, did not carry away any, saying, “it is folly to take pains and trouble for the sake of an advantage that is future and prospective: indeed it is not clear that there will be any advantage at all.” Besides, they treated as stupid and foolish those “who did carry any away, and said, “look at those insane people, who, from pure cupidity and craving for what is impossible, load themselves down like asses, and give themselves useless pains. We are the comfortable ones, who go on our way free, joyful and without concern for the future.” When the light of day dawned, they saw that all the stones were invaluable rubies and sapphires, each one of which was worth at least three thousand drachms of silver. Then those who had brought away stones, exclaimed, “alas! that we were not able to bring away any more.” But those who had brought away nothing and had traveled with comfort and ease, were overwhelmed with the fire of reprobation; they strike their heads upon the ground with the energy of remorse, and are filled with sighs and lamentations. Those who had brought away stones, arrived at the city whither they had been going, and bought estates and slaves, jewels and rich and pleasant eatables and all kinds of raiment, and gave themselves up to banqueting and enjoyment, while those who had not brought away any stones, became so hungry, destitute and naked, that they went about desiring to perform for them some kind of service. But when they begged of them either food or drink, they said, in accordance with what God says in his ancient word. “The dwellers in fire shall call out to the inhabitants of Paradise, pour out upon us a little of your water and of the enjoyments God has bestowed upon you.'” They will answer, “God has forbidden the unbelievers either.” “No, we shall give you nothing, for God has prohibited you from having anything. Yesterday you were laughing at us, to-day we laugh at you: as God declares in his eternal word, ‘If you mock at us, we will in our turn mock at you, as ye have mocked at us.'”
This illustration of the enjoyments of Paradise has been made in very brief and comprehensive language, to serve as an example, but it is impossible by any similitude to give an idea of what it is to be separated from the contemplation of the beauty of the Lord. For whoever has but once experienced the delight of being near to God, and has enjoyed the vision of the beauty of the Lord, would perish if he should be for one moment separated from it. Even the last and least person who quits hell will receive a mansion from the Lord God which is equal to ten of these worlds. But we do not mean to say ten worlds in surface or in amount by number and weight, but ten worlds in value and in the beauty they display and the pleasure they afford.
Having now become acquainted with the three kinds of spiritual torment, know, student of the divine mysteries, that these spiritual fires of which we have been speaking, are more severe than the fires which burn the body. The body does not itself perceive pain, and until pain reaches from the body to the spirit, it does not make a trace or impression. If, then, the anguish that is occasioned to the spirit through the channel of the body is so agonizing, imagine how intense must burn the fire of that anguish which has its origin in the centre of the soul. The pain which any thing suffers is occasioned by the excess of something contrary to the nature and necessities of its constitution.
The necessities of the constitution of the spirit are to know God and to contemplate his beauty and excellence. But if stupidity and blindness, which are opposed to this tendency of the spirit, become predominant, the soul will be vexed and tormented, and there will be no end to the torment. If it were not that the body is subject to maladies in the world, the fact of this blindness and stupidity would have been visible and apparent to the soul in this world also, and it would also have been the source of immense anguish, and torment would at no moment have ceased to afflict men. Just as when a person has a severe sore upon the hand or foot, if besides it should be cut with a knife or fire should be put upon it, he would not feel the pain of the knife or the fire, on account of the pain of the sore, so likewise the maladies of the body, such as hunger and thirst, or such maladies as love of possessions and family, combined with the absorbed attention of the senses to these things, prevent the soul from being conscious of its disquiet and distress. But when in death, the torment to which the body was subject is taken away, it will be seen how excruciating is the torment of the soul. And thus also God announces in his holy word: “Ah! if you knew it with infallible assurance. But you will see hell: you will see it with the eyes of certainty.”
You should know, inquirer, that the many arguments we have adduced to prove that spiritual torment is more severe than material torment, and the many illustrations of it that we have developed, are understood by intelligent and discerning minds, but the mass of the people understand nothing about them. Suppose, for example, that the son of a prince has begun to go to school, and he is admonished that if he do not study, his father will not give him the principality. The boy does not understand the import of the warning, and continues busy in playing with tops and nuts. But, if he is told instead, if you do not learn to read and write, your master will whip you or pull your ears, from that moment, understanding the force of the admonition, he leaves his sport and play, and is diligent in his studies. Since, therefore, the commonalty cannot understand the torment of being forbidden and shut out from the vision of the beauty of God, the doctors of the law and the preachers, frighten them with serpents and scorpions, and with the fire of hell; for they are not capable of understanding anything else. In the other case, how should the “look out! take care!” from the mouth of the master, with the pain of one or two boxes on the ear, have any relation or resemblance in the mind of the boy with the loss of the principality?…
The heavenly pilgrim must forsake his own city, and not fix himself for permanence in the place where he happens to be. And by the word city, worldly cares and employments are designated. He must quit them, and find his home in the path of obedience, and forsake the land of tribulation: for the prophet has said, “Love of country is an article of religion.”
This road has four stages: the things of sense belong to the first stage; the things of fancy belong to the second stage; the things of speculation to the third, and those of reason to the fourth stage….
The view which man obtains of things in the visible world is through matter, as in the contemplation of a prospect on land. But in the fourth stage, which is that of the reason, man’s view is entirely through the medium of pure spirit, as when a man looks into water. But the view he takes, and the intercourse he enjoys in the world of speculation, is as if he was looking at an object from a ship. There is, besides, in the sphere of reason a still higher degree of sight and vision, which is enjoyed by the prophets, the saints, and the most devout, which may be compared to a prospect in the clearest weather. Hence, when some one observed to the apostle of God, that Jesus (upon whom be peace!) walked upon the waters, he replied, that “if his faith had been greater, he would have walked in the air.”
The view that can be taken by the heart of man, embraces all things that lie in the world of perception and understanding. Its sphere of action and exercise is the whole world. The ascent of man from the rank of beasts to that of angels, is an ascent where he is always exposed to danger and to destruction. He may, with the guidance of the divine guide, mount up to the highest heaven, or may descend through the deceits of Satan to the lowest hell. And the prophet has warned us of this danger in these words: “We have proposed to the heavens, to the earth and to the mountains to accept the deposit of the faith: they trembled to receive it. Man accepted the charge, but he became stupid and a wanderer in darkness.”
Know, farther, that inanimate objects are the lowest in rank in the quantity and degree of happiness they obtain, and it is a happiness which knows no change. The place of beasts is in the lowest abyss and there is no path by which they can ascend out of it. The mansion of the angels is in the highest heavens where they ever continue in the same condition, there is neither abasement or ascent from their place. And God also says in his eternal word, “And what have we except for each one a certain and appointed habitation.” The position of man is between the rank of angels, and that of animals, because he partakes of the qualities of both. No other rank except man accepted the deposit of the true faith, and indeed no other had the qualities and capacities necessary for the acceptance of it. In accepting the deposit man became bound at the same time to accept the dangers and penalties connected with it.
The doctors of the law have not commented upon these topics to the people in general. But this is not to be wondered at, when we consider that the mass of the people regard themselves as fixed in their character and position, and not as pilgrims and travellers to a higher state. There is no possibility of unveiling the things of truth, to those who settle down without desiring to make any progress, and who are contented with the first stages and degrees of the sensible world and of the world of fancy. They can neither attain to a spiritual state, nor understand spiritual laws and precepts. We have ventured, however, to unveil a little of the mysteries, as a type of the knowledge belonging to the future state, so that men might be prepared to understand the questions and affairs relating to that state. But if we had entered into any farther developments, they would not have been able to understand us, for none but those who are endowed with penetration and experience can by any possibility understand the topics to which we have alluded.
There is a class of foolish people, O inquirer after the divine mysteries, who have neither capacity for knowledge, or sound judgment to be able to understand anything of themselves, and who have remained doubting and speculating about the nature of the future state, till they have become bewildered. Finally, as the lusts of the world harmonized with their natures, they have yielded to the whisperings of Satan, and deny that there is any future state. They pretend that the only need there is of speaking of heaven and hell, is for the sake of correcting and guiding the conduct of the people, and they regard as folly the course of those who follow the law and are constant in their devotions.
If these foolish persons have one jot of sense, it will be easy to convince them with a single word. One hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets more or less, the whole multitude of the saints and all the learned doctors of the law have faithfully followed the Holy Law, have been diligent in their devotions, and with prudent anxiety and dread about the future state, they have endured much pain and suffering. And how does it happen that you, who are so ignorant and stupid, have found out that they were mistaken and in error? What should lead you to prefer your baseless and corrupt fancies to their knowledge and science, and to say that the spirit has no real existence and that it does not continue to live after death? Perhaps you do not even admit that there is any material punishment. Truly the health of your moral being is so corrupted and depraved, that there is no cure for you; you belong to that class of whom God says in his holy word: “Even, when thou shalt call them into the right path, they will never follow in it.”
If one of these men should, however, reply: “Indeed I do not know for a certainty, but why should I on account of an uncertainty, pass my precious life in devotional austerities, and forbid myself the delights and pleasures of the world?” We observe in return. According to your principles, the probabilities are balanced as to whether the events spoken of as belonging to the future world will or will not happen. It follows then as a most rational conclusion, that you ought to act in the same way you would do, if you wished to preserve yourself from a great risk and danger. For, if these events should take place, you may thereby be saved from intense torment and obtain eternal felicity; whereas, if they should not occur, you will have suffered no injury from your precautions. We have, besides, the inspired word which declares that all these things will take place; and all the prophets (upon whom be peace!) and all the saints and teachers of religion (upon whom may God have mercy!) have testified to the truth of them.
Do you not see that if you were desirous to partake of food and were just stretching forth your hand to take it, and some one should say, “Beware, and do not eat of that food, for it is deadly poison,” or “a serpent has vomited upon it,” that although there was a doubt in your mind whether what he said was true or false, still you would believe him and refrain from eating the food? You would say to yourself: “If I do not eat it, I have nothing to suffer but to remain hungry for a while longer, but if I eat it, I may kill myself. It is prudent, therefore, for me to refrain from it.”
Again, if you were sick, and a person who writes magical phrases and charms, should say to you, “give me a drachm of silver, and I will write for you a well tried charm by means of which you will immediately get well,” although you know that there is no relation of fitness between an external charm, and an internal disorder of the stomach for instance, and that there is little probability of your recovering by its means, you are still disposed to take it. And you say, “Come, let me have it, if it act as a medicine, I shall be a gainer by so many drachms of silver, and if it do me no good, I shall only have lost a single drachm. I ought therefore to try it.”
Once more, if an astrologer should say to you, “if you will drink this bitter and disagreeable medicine, you will not be attacked with illness during the whole of this coming year, for the moon is in such a station among the heavenly bodies,” notwithstanding the lie of the astrologer should be very clear to your mind, and you have no confidence in what he says, you would reply, “well, let me drink it and see; if it do me no good, it will do me no harm.” And with the fancied hope of advantage from it, you swallow down the bitter and unpalatable potion as if it were sugar.
Now come and be candid with yourself; you give credit to a false physician, to a false writer of charms and to a false astrologer, for the sake of being delivered from a day or two of illness in this world, and you even undergo suffering for the sake of it. But the learned in religion, for the sake of saving you from the malady of stupidity and rebellion and bringing you to everlasting health and felicity, have exerted themselves to make the verses of the Koran and the holy traditions to serve as a medicine to deliver you from bitter torment. Still you attach no credit to their words. You treat the Koran and the traditions with entire disregard, neither clinging to the commandments of God, nor avoiding forbidden things. You follow the bent of your own inclinations, instead of following the example and law of the prophet of God, and you indulge in many acts of transgression. Nor do you call to mind what will be your condition in the end of it all, nor how long a time you have yet to live in the world, nor what eternity is compared with this world. Do you not know that by choosing a very little pain in the business of religion during this short life and in this worthless world, you may gain eternal felicity, and riches that cannot be taken from you? The pain which we may suffer in this world, however severe, yet does not weigh the amount of an atom in comparison with the pains and torment of the other world. This world is a fading shadow, but the future world is abiding and eternal.
The following is an illustration of the duration of eternity, so far as the human mind can comprehend it. If the space from between the empyreal heaven to the regions below the earth, embracing the whole universe, should be filled up with grains of mustard seed, and if a crow should make use of them as food and come but once in a thousand years and take but a single grain away, so that with the lapse of time there should not remain a single grain, still at the end of that time not the amount of a grain of mustard seed would have been diminished from the duration of eternity.
Beware, therefore, beloved of exposing yourself to eternal torments; call to mind the great risk and danger you are to encounter in the future world: address to your soul serious admonitions, before you come to be ashamed and fall into captivity and chastisement: ask your soul, saying, “O rebellious soul, how much misery thou dost undergo for the sake of gaining the world! What long and distant journeys thou dost undertake, how often dost thou remain hungry and thirsty, notwithstanding thou are both transitory thyself and all thou dost gain is transitory; and yet all this time God himself has engaged to supply all your needs. But on the other hand what hast thou done to secure eternal salvation in the mansions of the future world, to be delivered from misery and reach unchanging felicity? If thou art not able to endure the least pain or toil for religion in this world, how wilt thou be able to bear in the future world both material and spiritual torments, together with the torments of the imagination?”
Every man ought to take as the subject of his thoughts, the things which concern the future state,—the pains of its torments, the joys of its felicity, the delight and ecstasy of the vision of the beauty of the Lord, and finally the fact that these states are eternal. Now, is it not strange folly and sottishness to be proud of the transitory pleasures of the world in a life which lasts but for one or two days, and to turn our backs upon future eternal joys? If you are wise you will acknowledge the frailly and errors of your soul, and with an understanding of the purpose for which it was created, you will meditate upon your soul, and upon the almighty power and greatness of God as far as the human mind can comprehend them. Recognizing that God’s design in creating you was, that you should know him and love him, you should never cease for one moment to walk with humility and prayer in the path of obedience. Regard this world as the place to sow seed for eternity, and after taking such a portion from this world as may give you strength to take the journey to the other world, turn away from whatever is more than this. Realize that the future world is the place for enjoyment and happiness which is eternal, and the land to behold the excellence and beauty of the Lord; and make it your purpose, divine and omniscient grace assisting you, never to cease from the pursuit of them, but to secure as your prey, the phoenix of felicity and happiness.
- S. 18:44.
- S. 17:74.
- See Good’s Physiol. Proem
- S. 2:36.
- S. 15:28, 29.
- S. 3:163.
- First victory of the Mussulmans hear Medina.
- S. 102:7.
- S. 9:49.
- S. 19:72.
- The fire worsliippers did not bury their dead.
- S. 7:48.
- S. 11:40.
- S. 102:5, 6, 7.
- S. 37:72.
- S. 38:164.
- S. 18:56.
On the Love of God.
O traveller on the way and seeker after the love of God! know that the love of God is a sure and perfect method for the believer to attain the object of his desires. It is a highly exalted station of rest, during the journey of the celestial traveller. It is the consummation of the desires and longings of those who seek divine truth. It is the foundation of the vision of the beauty of the Lord.
The love of God is of the most binding obligation upon every one. It is indeed the spirit of the body, and the light of the eye. The prophet of God declares that the faith of the believer is not complete, unless he love God and his prophet more than all the world besides. The prophet was once asked, what is faith? He replied,” It is to love God and his prophet more than wife, children and property.” And the prophet was continually in the habit of praying, “O my God! I ask for thy love, I ask that I may love whomsoever loves thee, and that I may perform whatsoever thy love makes incumbent upon me.”
On the resurrection day all sects will be addressed by the name of the prophet whom each followed, “O people of Moses! O people of Jesus! O people of Mohammed!” even to all the beloved servants of God, and it will be proclaimed to them, “O Friends and beloved of God, come to the blessed union and society of God! Come to Paradise and partake of the grace of your beloved!” When they hear this proclamation, their hearts will leap out of their places, and they will almost lose their reason. Yahya ben Moa’z says, “It is better to have as much love of God, even if only as much as a grain of mustard seed, than seventy years of devotion and obedience without love.” Hassan of Basra says, “Whoever knows God, will certainly love him, and whoever knows the world, will shun it.”
O thou who seekest the love of God! know that this love is founded upon two things: one is Beauty, and the other is Beneficence. Beauty acts as a cause to produce love, because the being, the attributes and the works of God possess beauty, and every one loves that which is beautiful. There is a tradition which says “Verily, God is beautiful and he loves beauty.” And the prophet says, “Desire to transact your affairs with those who have beautiful countenances.” It is on this account that the spirit in man has been created in accordance with the image of beauty, so that whenever it either hears or sees anything beautiful, it may have a propensity towards it, and seek for communion with it.
But you should also know, that beauty is of two kinds, one of which is beauty of form, and the other beauty of moral character. And know, beloved, that the reason why man must love beauty of form in his own species, and has an inclination to admire external beauty, is that God created the spirits of men out of a drop of his own light, as he says. “when I have breathed my spirit into him.” And as the spirit has thus been created out of the light of the Lord God, it is so essentially beautiful, that if man were capable of seeing the degree of its beauty, he would become bereft of reason and perhaps would perish from the effects of the impression.
This also should be known, that beauty of form belongs to the spirit, and not to the body. It is a proof that there is nothing agreeable in the body by itself, that when the spirit is separated from the body by death, no one has any inclination afterwards to look upon the face of the dead, but on the contrary his feelings repel him and he turns away from it. And however near a friend or relative the person may be, we have no disposition to approach his side again. The body of man is created of opaque earth, and the spirit by entering into the body is entirely veiled, so that it can neither be seen or known.
It is clear then that the beauty of form possessed by man and the beauty of many other things arise from their being created from the light of the Lord. Consider then, as far as human reason can reach, if such beauty and elegance exist in spirits formed out of one drop of the light of the blessed God, what must be the beauty and splendor of the Lord God himself. Since then the beauty of every beloved object is derived from his light, and that the beauty of every thing that is beautiful is from him, it follows that he who is wise, ought not to permit himself to be deceived by the soul which passes away, and to be attracted to that beauty which is fleeting, but that he should turn to the contemplation of that painter who is full of ail perfection, and of that maker with whom is no change, and earnestly seek after the vision of his beauty with his whole heart. Let him continue day and night with burning and consuming desire in humble prayer, longing after his beauty and after union with him.
I have made a home for thy love in my heart,
While affection for something else hovers around the home.
But it is folly to contract friendship, with aught else than thy beauty,
For there is none to be loved but the eternal Friend.
He who has made thee to be his happiness and refuge,
Has already joined himself to the perfect excellence.
O! seeker of divine love, that which renders man favorably inclined to persons of virtuous character, is the fact that God has created man after his own character; as it has come to us in the tradition that, “verily God created man after his own image.” Hence whenever man sees or hears of a quality belonging to his own race and kind, as justice, generosity, forgiveness or patience, he will certainly have a sympathy with that quality and exercise love to its possessor. If we hear for instance that in a certain country there is a just sovereign or a just vizier, we heartily love that king or vizier, and we are always praising his excellence and worth, although there is not the least probability of any advantage accruing to us from his justice. Such a sovereign was Nushirvan, who notwithstanding he was an infidel yet as he was just, the heart of every man is drawn towards him. If again we hear of the knowledge, science, clemency or munificence of any persons, as of the Imam Abu Hanifé, of the Imam Shaféi, of Bayézid of Bistan, or of Junëid of Bagdad, the spirit of a man will be attracted towards them on account of those qualities, he will love them, and he will certainly desire to see them and to be with them. If we hear of a generous man, although he may be in a foreign country, and we have no hope of any advantage from him or of any token of his generosity to ourselves, yet still from necessity we will love him, and whenever his name is mentioned we will invoke blessings upon him and praise him. It is thus with Hatem Tai whose name, though he was an infidel, is upon every tongue, because he was a generous and benevolent man, and all hearts are irresistibly led to love him….
We see then that the love we bear to persons endowed with the virtuous qualities of man, is not bestowed by us for the sake of any fancied advantage from them or any hope of gain, but that on the contrary it is because the spirits of men are created in correspondence with the character of God, and when we see a trace or mark of a quality or affection of a kind like our own, we cannot help being attracted towards it, and must necessarily love it.
In this view of the subject, seeker of the truth, and friend who longs for the bright vision, when you consider what an impulse we have to admire and to love man who is encompassed with so many defects, and whose qualities are subject to decay,—be candid and reflect, that all the attributes of God are perfect, that all his titles are glorious, and that all his works are made in infinite wisdom, and how then can there be a man of such animal affections and propensities as not to love him with all his heart and soul! And how can a person having the appearance of a man, be such a stone, as not to be willing to make a sacrifice of his head and even of his soul, impelled by his absorbing affection for Him?
Separation from thee, would quickly destroy me,
Separation from one’s friends is fatal.
If thou shouldst separate from me still would I
Be occupied with thee, ever active Friend,
Who art the object of my desires and my researches;
For thou wilt not turn away from him who loves thee.
You should know also that in the world of spirits, God had ennobled man with beauty and its qualities, and had made him sufficiently acquainted with Himself and His attributes; and the spirits continued for a long time participating in enjoyment in the land of affection, intoxicated and in ecstacy with the cup of love and the wine of celestial union. Afterwards in accordance with divine wisdom and by soverign decree, they fell from that exalted world to this lower world,—from the world of union to the world of separation. In this world of trial, having entered into bodies and become entangled with the things of sense and with worldly occupations, and shut out from the spiritual world, they forgot its intimate friendships and the joys of its society. Being so far distant from that world, the being and character of God became completely veiled from the view of some, and the love and union which had existed in their hearts from all eternity disappeared. None the less however, it is still the case, that when man sees beauty and perfection, the spirit cannot help admiring it. But as the intimacy and friendship which had formerly existed have been clouded over, and the animal impulses, passions and lusts have become predominant, they imagine that the love of pleasure belongs to the delights of religion, and regard it as a necessity of the soul.
The spirits of some men, however, in becoming attached to a body, retained the divine guidance, and the spiritual world in consequence was not concealed from their view, nor did they forget its friendly society or the attributes and qualities of its holy spirits. And as the glory of the infinite being and his attributes was not veiled from their eyes, their desire for the blessed union and longing for the vision of beauty increased daily. In accordance with this, it is related by Soheil Testeri (may God’s mercy be upon him!) that “from the moment that the blessed God in the world of spirits and the assembly of holy union asked the spirits “Am I not your Lord?”and they called out in an answer “yes!” that loving answer has never waned or decayed within my soul. When I was only three years old, I used to spend all night in the worship of the Lord God, without giving any slumber to my eyes.”
O thou who longest after the love of God! the second cause of love in man which we have mentioned, viz: beneficence, operates through the state of poverty and need in which man has been created. Both in the affairs of the world and in the concerns of religion, man is in want of an infinite variety of things, as God says in his word, “Verily, God is rich, but ye are poor.”. Hence a man always loves and honors whatever person enables him to obtain any object of which he stands in need, or who makes it probable that he will obtain it. This will be the case especially, if the same individual has at various times supplied his necessities. He will then be enslaved to him, heart and soul, and whenever his name is mentioned will chant his praise and invoke blessings upon him. The proverb says, “man is a slave to beneficence.”
In matters of religion, man has need of helpers of two kinds. The first class are the great expounders of doctrine, who instruct him in religious precepts, and preserve him from the darkness of ignorance and the dangers of doubt. They also make him acquainted with the restrictions of the law, and the regulations and ceremonies of worship. They explain to him what conduct corresponds with rectitude, and what is improper,—what is lawful and what unlawful. The second class of helpers to man are the venerable preachers. It is their province to throw light upon the nature of the way of life, and upon the true condition in which man is placed. They point out the means and methods by which the slave of desire may secure a change of his vicious inclinations, and by which the disordered soul may obtain a pure and virtuous character. They set forth the transitory nature of the world and the shame and sin of being attached to it. They endeavor to persuade men that the design of their entrance into the world is that they may love and know God; and they strive to turn them away from following the world, by giving them ideas of the joys and rest of the other world, and of the delight and preciousness of the vision of the beauty of the Lord, that so they may live as pilgrims to eternity. The whole reason why the apprentice loves his master, and every disciple loves his teacher, and why the wise and excellent love the experienced Sheikh whose lessons they hear, or love the doctors of the law and the saints of olden time is that they have been beneficent, and have supplied their wants.
In matters pertaining to the world, beloved, the necessities of man are of such kinds that there is no occasion for our entering into any details. Do you not realize for instance, through how many hands the food you put into your mouth passes, before it is brought to you, and how many persons have been employed in the service of preparing it for you? And man has, in short, the same kind of need of helpers in his clothing, home, and in all the arts and trades, as has before been mentioned. He needs, also, the winds and rain, the sun and moon, the earth and sky, as we find in the verses of Sheikh Saadi:
The clouds, wind, moon, sun and stars are working ever:
Therefore if a loaf of bread comes into your hands, eat it not without gratitude.
And after we have eaten our food, how many agents we need to digest it, and to convert it into fat, milk and blood. We have before remarked upon the number of servants there are within your body, of which you have no knowledge.
And now, student of the celestial way, and seeker after the love of God, come and consider a little with the eye of reverence and the mind of thoughtfulness. If a person should give you a drachm of silver, or a suit of clothes, or serve you for a single day and conclude some business which concerned you, you would love him as long as you lived, and you would always speak well of him wherever his name was mentioned, although the service he had performed for you, and his act of beneficence was only effected through the will of God and by his power. Be sincere now and say, why should you not love and sacrifice every thing for the sake of God, who created the heavens and the earth, who has taken care of all your affairs long before you desired it of him, who has provided for all your necessities before you bad any notion of them, who gives you so many thousand mercies at every breath, who has not ceased to sustain you, even when you were disobedient to his commandments and rebellious, and who has covered your shame, for the sake of the Friend of God? Ought you not to praise him with your tongue, and love him with your heart? Is it right, overwhelmed as you are with his unfailing mercies and infinite bounties, that you should regard these mercies as coming from other source than God, and that you should thank some other one than Him for these services and favors, and that you should love some other one instead of him?
It is in vain that the eyes watch for any other love than thee.
It is a loss for the eyes to weep for any other friend.
Thou art the true friend! If thou deign to look upon me,
It will be well with me, as if my eyes had never wept.
What shall I do with that life which is not passed in remembrance of thee?
What shall I do with the eye that is not sad with longing after thee?
What shall I do with the heart that is not the home of thy love?
What shall I do with the soul that does not make itself a sacrifice in thy Way?
O inquirer after the love of God ! The love of God exists in every heart, though it lies concealed, just as fire exists in the flint stone, until it is drawn out. If you take the steel of desire and affection into your hands, and with it strike the heart, you obtain fire by the means, and your soul will be filled with light. The malice, deceitfulness, hatred, vileness, envy and strife that are in the heart will be burned up, and it will be freed and purified from sensual perturbations. But if you are careless and do nothing and pass several days without seeking, the heart will again become like fire covered over with ashes, which by remaining a long time unused, will finally be extinguished. So at last the heart, becomes encased with sensual impurities and with the blackness of the passions, and is no longer capable of being enlightened with the light of truth. Our refuge is in God!
O, faithful friend, who art worthy to be loved! know, that the love of God is a standard that leads to victory. Whoever seeks refuge under it, will be a sovereign in two worlds, and lord of a throne at the king’s court. This love is a universal solvent to secure happiness. Whoever secures it, is richer than in the possession of both worlds. God is always rich, notwithstanding all the world is provided for through him. The heart which bears no traces of the love of God, is like a dead corpse, which knows nothing of its own spirit. Still there is no person among reasonable beings who will say that he does not love God, or who will not make pretensions to possessing a love for him. But it is like an empty claim, upon which no decision can be based and, unless the witness is a faithful one, no conclusion can be formed. If you should be asked, do you love God, beware and give no answer. For if you say I do not love him, (our refuge is in God), you would make yourself an infidel. And if you say in answer, “I love him,” yet you have no signs or tokens of your loving Him.
Now know that there are seven signs of love to God. In whomsoever these marks are found, his pretensions to loving God are to be regarded as well founded.
The first sign of love to God is, not to be afraid of death, and to be always waiting for it. For death unites the friend to his friend,—the seeker to the object which he seeks. As long as attachment to and dependence upon the world cannot be broken off, the traces of love to God cannot be visible. If a person, however, is afraid of death and does not feel a readiness to go into the presence of God, and yet is making every provision for his journey into the other world, it does not follow that he does not possess the love of God. It is, on the contrary, an evidence that he does love God.
It is a second sign of love to God, when a man prefers the love of God to any worldly object, chooses whatsoever ‘draws him near to God, and forsakes whatsoever has a tendency to turn him away from God. He desires always to act ill accordance with his will and with his approbation. But it is not an indication that a person is entirely destitute of love to God, because he is not in every circumstance submissive to the holy will of God. For, in some persons love may exist in perfection, while in others it may be in some measure defective. It is said, for example, that during the life of the apostle of God, one of his companions was a wine drinker, and he had oftentimes been punished for it. Another of his companions one day vexed at his conduct, cursed him. The prophet happened to hear him curse him, and knocked for him to come in. When he had come into his presence he said, “Why do you curse that man? He is both a friend of God and of his prophet, and loves them.”
The third sign of a man’s love to God is that the remembrance of God is always fresh in his heart. He never ceases to meditate upon God. Every man thinks upon and calls to mind an object in proportion to his love to it. If a person’s love and affection is perfect he never forgets that object. If a person say, I love both God and a certain worldly object, attention should be paid to see which of them he loves the most. And then that object can be said to rule in his heart which he loves the most. Gradually from day to day, the object which preponderates will efface little by little all affection for the other.
The fourth sign of love to God is, to love and respect the powerful Koran, regarding it as the word of God. A man ought to praise and love the prophets and saints, as the friends of God. He should love all men, saying that they were all created by the will and power of God, Whatever person attains to this point, his feelings of envy and hatred and even his coldness of looks will be quelled and disappear, and he will treat all individuals as his friends.
The fifth sign of love to God is that a man will choose the closet and retirement and have an eagerness for secret prayer. He will long and wait for the night, that the avocations and hindrances of the world maybe banished, that he may be embarrassed by no distractions in his supplications to his incomparable and unique Friend, and that he may be alone in familiar intercourse with God.
It is reported that in the days of the children of Israel, there was a slave who prayed every night from evening until morning, but he went out and performed his morning prayer under a tree. God spoke by inspiration to the one who was the prophet at that time and said, “Go and speak to that slave my servant thus:—You abandon prayer to me in secret and come out here to pray under this tree, for the sake of the pleasure you derive from the music of the birds over your head. But in so doing you mutilate as it were my love and you will not again obtain it perfectly.” It is also reported that God once said to David, “O! David, that man is a liar, who pretends to love me and yet goes to bed and sleeps the whole time till morning. For does not a friend desire to see the countenance of his friend, and is he not eager to have intercourse with him? Whoever wishes to see me, will seek me and will find me.”
The sixth sign of love to God, is when a man finds the • worship of God to be easy, inviting and delightful. It is related that a certain preacher used to say, “I have served God in worship sixty years with irksomeness and constraint. I afterwards served him yet sixty years more, and my devotions were to me spiritual food; and in the absence or disuse of them, I did not enjoy a moment’s peace or quiet of mind.”
The seventh sign of love to God is, that a man loves the t sincere friends and obedient servants of God, and regards them all as his friends. He regards all the enemies of God as his enemies and abhors them. And God thus speaks in his eternal word. “His companions are terrible towards the infidels, and tender towards each other.” A Sheikh was once asked “who are the friends of the exalted and blessed God?” He replied:” The friends of God are those who are more compassionate to the friends of God themselves, than a father or a mother to their children.”
- S. 15:29.
- S. 7: 171.
- S. 417: 40.
- “Ulema”—the learned in the Divine Law. See Note D.
- Sheikhs, i. e. elders, who are the preaching class.
- These Poetical Extracts were inserted by the Turkish translator.
- S. 48:29.
Note A, p. 54.
Preserved Table. This record-tablet of Mohammed, may have been suggested to his mind by the two tables of stone of the Ten Commandments of Moses. A clear view of what this table is, may be obtained from the following extract from a treatise of Berkevi explaining the Mussulman dogmas, which is at the present day a text-book in the Turkish schools.
“It must be confessed, that good and evil and every thing in short happens from the predestination and foreknowledge of God,—that all which has been and will be, was decreed from eternity and is written upon the preserved table,—that nothing can happen contrary to it,—that the faith of the believer, the piety of the pious man and his good works are foreseen, willed, predestined and decreed in writing on the preserved table, are produced, accepted and loved by God;—but that the infidelity of infidels, the irreligion of the wicked and their bad actions happen indeed with the foreknowledge of God, by his will, and as an effect of his predestination inscribed upon the preserved table, and by the operation of God,—but not with his satisfaction or affection.”
Note B, p. 56.
Mystics. Wherever this word is found in this treatise, it is to be understood that the original word is soofee, and sometimes the word has been allowed to stand untranslated. Soofee does not necessarily mean any one particular society of Mussulmans, but includes all persons as well as orders and congregations, who embrace mystical or transcendental modes of interpreting the Koran and who conform their life in a greater or less degree to their mystical notions. Soofee, Dervish and Fakir, are different words for various classes of oriental monks and mystics. They are found wherever there are Mussulmans, and the differences between them and other Mussulmans bear a considerable relation to the differences developed by mystics, pietists or puritans in Christian churches. They differ also much among themselves in their modes of spiritualization and in their ceremonies and practices. There is also much jealousy of each other, between the dominant orthodox clergy and doctors of religion, and the mystics, dervishes and preachers. The orthodox clergy admit only the grammatical and literal—the external meaning of the Koran; but many Soofees pretend that the outward meaning is but the shell, and that they seek for and expound the inward or mystical meaning. The reverence and esteem for the Soofees and Monks is so great with the people, that the clergy and doctors usually conceal their opposition and jealousy.
“Soofeeism has existed in one shape or other in every age and region; its mystical doctrines are to be found in the schools of ancient Greece and in those of the modern philosophers of Europe. It is the dream of the most ignorant and the most learned: it is to be found in the palace and the cottage, in the luxurious city, and the pathless desert.”
The fundamental doctrine, and the great object of longing of the oriental mystic is union with God. The whirling Dervishes as they are popularly called, imitate the founder of their particular order and whirl around on their toes for an hour to the sound of soft music and muttered chants: and they imagine that the dizziness which is created and the prostration which follows is an inspired ecstacy and an approximation to the desired union. Mussulman mystics are extensively accused as are also a class of perfectionists in the Christian church, of regarding external actions as morally indifferent to those who are spiritually enlightened. Their doctrines have been abused among themselves by fanatics to lead them to the commission of crime, as in the case of the attempt to assassinate the shah of Persia by the Babis. We should no more be led to think that there was any tendency to abuse for evil purposes from reading this treatise of Ghazzali, than to infer the same from devotional and mystic writings of the western world. Ghazzali, is as much disposed to censure hypocritical pretence among Soofees, as some writers on Persia have been to class nearly the whole body as hypocrites.
Note C, p. 82.
The Mohammedan calendar being regulated by the lunar months, every twelfth lunar month is devoted to fasting, and it is of the greatest importance that the very first appearance of the moon should be watched, to know just when to commence the fast. Certain months and days of the month are peculiarly appropriate to works of charity. The days on which the caravans of pilgrims ought to arrive at Mecca, and the days for going around the black stone of the Caaba, occur also on certain fixed days of lunar months. The au vantages and moral ends of having a moon, must be looked at ofrom the point of view of the theological theqry of the author, which is nothing less than that the moon was created on purpose to render possible, and to aid in carrying into effect, the ordinances of the uncreated Koran.
Note D, p. 14.
Interpretation of the Koran. The extract belew from the work of Ghazzali, the Tehafeti Felaséfé or Destruction of Philosophy, while it shows the position he assigns to the doctors of the law, exemplifies also the character of his genius, and the measure of independent thought tolerated among Mussulmans. He fearlessly adopted whatever discoveries in science could be established by proofs, and defended them even when apparently opposed to the language of the Koran: the dogmatical interpretation of the Koran must yield to stubborn, undeniable facts in science. I translate it from Hajji Khalfa’s Jihani Numa, or View of the World, where it was introduced by him to enforce the claims of scientific evidence to be received by the faithful.
“Know that the differences of opinion between philosophers and mankind generally are of three kinds. The first kind of difference is simply a verbal one. As for instance they speak of the maker of the world as essence or substance (jouhar), while at the same time, they explain the word to mean that which exists by itself and independent of place.
“The second kind of difference refers to questions, where there is no difference between their system and the principles of our religion, and where there is no occasion of appealing to the prophets in confirmation of the matter in dispute. For instance the philosophers say, that an eclipse of the moon is an indication that its light is obstructed on account of the earth’s coming between it and the sun, seeing that the moon derives its light from the sun, and that the earth is a sphere surrounded by the sky on all sides, and therefore when the moon falls into the shadow of the earth, its light is cut off. The Philosophers also say that an eclipse of the sun arises from the moon’s standing between the observer and the sun, and from a conjunction of the two at the same moment.
“The same may be said in regard to this language as was observed in reference to the disputes about words,—that one need not be anxious about refuting it. Whoever imagines that it is a religious duty to dispute upon this subject, has in fact attacked religion, and injured his own cause. For in truth these positions are fortified by mathematical proofs, about which there can be no doubt. Whoever investigates an eclipse, can establish it by demonstration, and can point out its peculiarities, the period of its commencement, the extent of it, and the period of duration until the reillumination begins. And if some one tell him that the demonstration is contrary to doctrine, let him not doubt the demonstration, but rather let him doubt the interpretation given to the law (of the Koran). The wrong done to the law by those who defend it with false interpretations, is greater than the wrong which is done to it by those who find fault with it on a correct interpretation,—as says the proverb, ‘a wise enemy is better than a foolish friend.’
“If some person should argue, that as according to a tradition, the Prophet once said, ‘When God manifests his glory upon anything, it humbles itself before it,’ and that therefore this is to be taken as an indication that an eclipse arises from an act of humility in the presence of God, we reply, that this report is not a genuine tradition, and that even on the supposition of its genuineness, it would be better to throw light upon its meaning, than to make use of it for altercation in categorical premises. For when the proofs are definite, we ought not to be controlled to such an extent by unexplained texts of the Koran. It is a cause of great joy to the infidel when the apologist fur the faith pretends that such views are contrary to the faith, for it then makes it easy for him to refute the law. The world is now disputing whether it is a genuine tradition or merely ancient. But if its genuineness should be established, it would still be a matter of indifference, whether the earth were round or flat, or whether the heavens above and what is below are more or less than thirteen layers—seeing the thing sought to be proved is, that at any rate they arc all the work of God.
“We come next to the third difference of opinion, in which the matters disputed about are at the foundation of religion, as the creation of the world, the attributes of the creator, and the resurrection of the body. In this case it is without doubt our duty to refute the error with convincing arguments.”
The work of Degerando, Histoire comparé des systèmes de philosophie, Tome iv, Paris, 1823, may properly be referred to, for comparison with Smölders’s Essai, to aid farther in appreciating the principles of Ghazzali in interpreting the Koran, and the grounds of his opposition to Aristotle. His picture of the stand-point of Ghazzali seems accurate and just. See also, Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences, 3d edition, 1857.