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Kitab Sharh `Aja'ib al-Qalb

Written by: by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali :: (View All Articles by: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali)


In the Name of God Most Gracious and Beneficent!

1 Praise be to God! Hearts and minds are too baffled to grasp His glory. Eyes and looks are perplexed about the source of the radiance of His lights. He is perfectly aware of the innermost secret thoughts and what is concealed in consciences. In the governance of His realm He has no need of counselor or helper. He is the upsetter [converter] of hearts, the ready pardoner of misdeeds, the veiler of vices and the dispeller [or: comforter] of sorrows! And the abundance of God's blessings and peace be upon the chief of God's emissaries, the unifier of Religion, the eradicator of the godless, and upon the good and pure members of his household!

2 Now then: Man's title to honor and the excellence by which he excels most creatures is due to his predisposition for the knowledge of God Praised be He! In this life this knowledge is man's beauty and perfection and glory; in the afterlife it will be his equipment and his treasure [stores). Man is predisposed for this knowledge simply by reason of his heart, not because of any of his other members. It is the heart which knows God, which draws near to God, which strives for God, which speeds toward God and which discloses what is in and with God. The other members are simply subordinates and servants and instruments which the [364] heart employs and uses as a master uses a slave and a shepherd uses his flock and a craftsman uses a tool.

3 It is the heart which is acceptable to God, if it be free from what is not God, and which is veiled from God when it is immersed in what is not God. It is the heart which is accountable and spoken to and censurable. It is the heart which is rendered happy by closeness to God and which prospers [thrives] when He chastens [praises ?] it and which is disappointed (frustrated] and distressed [wretched] when He disgraces [dishonors] it and seduces [corrupts: dassa]. It is the heart which really is the obeyer of God Most High: the acts of worship dispersed among the [other] members are simply its lights. And it is the heart which disobeys and rebels against God Most High: the vile deeds spreading in the organs are simply its effects [signs, marks, impressions, actions]. By its darkness and luminosity the good qualities and shortcomings of the exterior are made visible, for every vessel is moistened by what is in it.

4 The heart it is which, if a man knows it, he indeed knows himself, he indeed knows his Lord. It is also the heart which, if a man does not know it, he indeed knows not himself: and if he knows not himself, he indeed knows not his Lord-and one who knows not his heart is even more ignorant of other things. For most men know not their hearts and themselves, since their selves have been made inaccessible to them, because God intervenes between a man and his heart. His intervention is by preventing him from seeing it and attentively regarding it and knowing its attributes and the manner of its changeableness between two of the Merciful's fingers, and how at one time it may fall to “the lowest of the low”' [95.5] and drop [be reduced] to the horizon of the devils, and how at another it may rise to the highest of the heights [cf. 83.18] and ascend to the world of the Angels closest to God. The man who knows not his heart, so that he may watch it attentively and supervise it and be on the watch for those treasures of the Kingdom which appear regarding it and in it, is one of those of whom God Most High has said: “(who) forgot God, and so He caused them to forget their souls; those-they are the ungodly” [59.19]. Knowledge of the heart and of the true meaning of its qualities is the root of religion and the foundation of the way of those who follow the path [al-salikin].

5 Since, in the first half of this book, we finished our study [consideration] of the acts of worship and the practices which take place in the members-and this is exterior knowledge [the science of the exterior] and promised that we would explain in the second half the destructive and the saving qualities which take place in the heart-and this is interior knowledge [the science of the interior]-we must preface this with two books: a book explaining the marvels of the qualities and morals [habits, manners] of the heart, and a book on how to exercise [train] the heart and refine its morals. Then, after that, we shall plunge into a detailed presentation [study] of the things which lead to perdition and of those which lead to salvation.

6 Let us now relate, of the explanation of the marvels of hearts, following the method of giving examples, what can readily be understood [365] for the clear statement of the heart's marvels and secrets which belong to the totality of the world of the Kingdom is something most minds are too dull to grasp.


The Meaning of al-Nafs, al-Ruh, al-Qalb, al-'Aql, and What Is Intended by These Names

7 Know that these four names are used in these chapters. Among the outstanding ulema there are few who fully understand these names and the difference of their meanings and their definitions and the things designated [denominated] by them. The source of most errors is ignorance of the meaning of these names and of their being common to different designates. On the meaning of these names we shall explain what concerns our purpose.

8 The first word [term, expression] is al-qalb. It is an expression for two things. One of them is the flesh, pinelike in shape, lodged in the left side of the breast. It is special flesh and has within it a hollow [cavity]. In that cavity there is black [dark-colored] blood which is the source and origin of the ruh. But we do not now intend to explain its shape and quality, since that is the business of physicians and not the concern of religious aims. This qalb is found in beasts, and it is even found in a (lead body. When we use the word qalb in this book we do not mean that. For that is a lump of flesh having no value. It belongs to the material and visible world, for beasts perceive it by the sense of sight, to say nothing of man.

9 The second thing [designated by qalb] is something subtle, divine and spiritual, which has a relation to this corporeal qalb. That subtle thing is the essence [true nature] of a man. In man it is what perceives, knows, is aware [cognizant], is spoken to, punished, blamed and responsible. It has a connection with the corporeal qalb, and the minds of most men have been baffled in [trying to] grasp the mode of the connection. For its connection with it resembles the connection of accidents with bodies and of qualities with the qualified, or the connection of the user of a tool with the tool, or the connection of something in a place with the place. Explaining that is something we arc wary of for two reasons: one is that it is connected with the sciences [lore] of revelation [al- nukashafa]-and our aim in this book is only the sciences [lore] of conduct [behavior al-mu'amala]. The other is that verifying [pinpointing] it calls for divulging the secret [mystery] of the ruh-and that is something which was not discussed by the Apostle of God-Cod's blessings and peace be upon him!-so it is not for anyone else to discuss it. Our aim, when we use the word qalb in this book, is that we mean by it this subtle thing; and our purpose is to speak of its qualities and states, not of its real meaning [nature] in itself: the science of behavior [conduct] requires knowledge of its qualities and states, but it does not require speaking of its real nature [essence]. [366]

10 The second word is al-ruh. In what is related to the sort of aim we have this also is an expression for two things. One is a subtle body the source of which is the cavity of the corporeal heart. It then spreads, by means of the arteries, to the other parts of the body. Its coursing is in the body, and the emanation [flowing] of the lights of life and sensation and sight and hearing and smell from it to [into] the members resembles the emanation of light from a lamp which is rotated [moved in a circle] in the corners of a house. For it does not reach a part of the house but that the latter is illuminated [lit] by it. Life is comparable [analogous] to the light occurring on the walls, and the ruh is analogous to the lamp. And the diffusion and movement of the ruh in the interior is analogous to the movement of the lamp in the parts of the house in virtue of the moving action of its mover. When physicians used the word ruh they mean thereby this sense. It is a subtle vapor brought to maturity by the heat of the heart. But explaining it is not a part of our purpose, since it is the concern of physicians who treat bodies. But the aim of religious physicians who treat the heart so that it may be driven [carried, given over] to the proximity of the Lord of the Worlds has no connection at all with the explanation of this ruh.

11 The second thing [designated by ruh] is the subtle thing in man which is knowing and perceptive. It is what we explained about one of the meanings of qalb. It is also what God Most High meant by His utterance: “Say: The Spirit is of the bidding [Blachère: l’Ordre; the Command] of my Lord” [17.87/85). This is a marvelous divine bidding [command] of which most minds and understandings arc unable to grasp the real meaning.

12 The third word is al-nafs. This also is common to several things, two of which have to do with our purpose. One of them is that it means the thing [ma'nan] which unites the irascible and concupiscible power in man, as will be explained. This usage is that which prevails among the Sufis. For they mean by nafs the principle [all] which unites [links] the reprehensible qualities of a man. They affirm: One must strive [fight] against the nafs and break [shatter] it. To this is the allusion in the Prophet's utterance-Peace be upon him!-”Your worst enemy is your nafs which is between your two sides.” The second thing [designated by nafs] is the subtle thing which we have spoken of and which in reality is the man. It is man's soul and self [dhat]. But it is characterized by different qualities according to the difference of its states. When it is tranquil under the command [it is in tranquil subjection to God's command ?] and free from agitation because of the opposition of the passions, it is called “the soul at peace” [serene, tranquil, quiet, at ease]. God Most High said of its like: “O soul at peace, return to thy Lord, well pleased, well pleasing?” [89.27-28]. But the nafs in the first sense cannot conceivably return to God Most High, since it is far removed [banished, exiled] from God and belongs to the party of Satan. 13 If it is not perfectly tranquil, but gets involved in resisting and opposing the concupiscible nafs, it is called “the reproachful soul” [Blachère: qui sans trêve censure; and cf. his note; censorious], because it reproaches its possessor when he falls short in the worship [service] of his Master. [367] God Most High said: “No! I swear by the reproachful soul” [75.2]. But if it leaves off opposing and yields and submits to the exigency [demand] of the passions and the requirements of Satan, it is called “the soul inciting to evil.” God Most High said, reporting of Joseph-Peace be upon him!-or of the wife of the Governor: “Yet I claim not that my soul was innocent–surely the soul of man incites to evil” [12.53]. It also may be said that the meaning of “inciting to evil” is the nafs in the first sense. Hence the soul in the first sense is most severely to be reprehended, but in the second sense it is praiseworthy because it is the nafs of man, i.e. his self and his real nature which knows God Most High and [all] the other knowables [cognoscibles].

14 The fourth word is al-'aql. This also is a common expression for different things which we have mentioned in the Book of Knowledge [Book I of the Ihya']. Two of all these things have to do with our purpose. One of them is that it may be used to mean knowledge of the true natures of things, thus being a term for the quality of the knowledge which resides in the qalb. The second is that it may be used to mean that which perceives [grasps] cognitions [al-'ulum], thus being the qalb, viz. that subtle thing. We know that every knower has in himself an existence [a being: wujud] which is a principle [asl] subsisting in itself, and knowledge is a quality residing in it-and the quality is distinct from the qualified. Al-'aql may be used to mean the quality of the knower, and it may be used to mean the locus [mahall: substrate] of the perception, i.e. the perceiver. This is the meaning of his [Muhammad's] statement-God's blessing and peace be upon him!-”The first thing created by God was al-'aql.” For knowledge is an accident which cannot conceivably have been the first thing created. On the contrary, the locus must have been created before it or with it. Also, because one cannot address it [knowledge]-and in the Tradition [we have] “The Most High said to it: Approach, and it approached, then He said to it: Turn back, and it turned back ... the Tradition” [Cf. Faris, The Book of Knowledge, p. 222].

15 Hence it has been disclosed to you that the meanings of these names exist: viz. the corporeal qalb, and the corporeal ruh, and the concupiscible soul [nafs], and knowledges [al-'ulum]. These are four meanings to which the four words arc applied. And there is a fifth meaning, viz. the subtle thing belonging to man which knows and perceives. All four of the words apply in turn to it. So the meanings are five and the words four, each of them used to express two things. But for most ulema the difference and application of these words arc obscure. Hence you see them discussing ideas [khawatir: thoughts] and saying: This is the idea of the ‘aql, and this is the idea of the ruh, and this is the idea of the qalb, and this is the idea of the nafs. But the one considering does not know the difference of the meaning of these names. So to remove the veil from that, we have first presented the explanation of these names. Where the word qalb occurs in the Qur’an and the Sunna it means the thing in man which understands and knows the meaning [nature] of things. It may be alluded [referred] to by the qalb which is in the breast, because between that subtle thing and the body of the qalb there is a special connection. For even though that [368] subtle thing is connected with the rest of the body and uses it, yet it is connected with it by means of the qalb. So its first connection is with the qalb, which, as it were, is its locus and its kingdom and its world and its mount [riding animal]. For, that reason Sahl al-Tustari likened the heart [qalb] to a throne and the breast to a chair [seat]. He said “The qalb is the throne and the breast is the seat.” But let it not be thought that he considered it to be the Throne of God and His Seat-for that is impossible [absurd]. Rather he meant thereby that it is the kingdom of man and the first [primary] channel of his governance and conduct. So the two of them in relation to man are like the Throne and the Seat in relation to God Most High. Also, this likening [analogy] is correct only from certain aspects; but the explanation of that also is not consonant with our purpose, and therefore let us pass over it.


The Soldiers of the Heart

16 God Most High has said: “None knows the hosts of thy Lord but He” [74:34/31]. So God-Praised be He!-has, in hearts and spirits and other worlds [creatures] enlisted [recruited, mobilized] soldiers the real nature and detailed number of which nobody knows but He. We shall now indicate some of the soldiers of the heart, for this has to do with our purpose.

17 The heart has two sorts of soldiers [junud: troops, hosts, armies, minions, myrmidons], one seen by the eyes, and one seen only by the inner eyes. The heart is like a king, and the soldiers are like servants and helpers-this is the meaning of “soldiers.” The heart's soldiers visible to the eye are hand, foot, eye, car, tongue and the other organs, exterior and interior. For they all serve the heart and are subject to it, while it has them at its disposal and [frequently] has recourse to them. They were created with a natural disposition [propensity] for obeying the heart and cannot oppose or disobey it. When it commands the eye to open, it opens; when it commands the foot to move, it moves; when it commands the tongue to speak, and is firmly decided on it, it speaks-and so of all the other organs. The subjection of the organs and senses to the heart resembles in a way the subjection of the Angels to God Most High. For they have a natural disposition for obedience and cannot oppose God, nay more they cannot resist God whatever He commands them, but they do what they are commanded. They [organs and Angels] differ in only one thing. This is that the Angels-Peace be upon them! know their obedience and their compliance [submission], whereas the eyelids obey the heart in opening and shutting by way of subjection without having any information [intelligence ?] about themselves and their obedience to the heart.

18 The heart needs these soldiers simply because of its need for a mount and provisions for its journey for which it was created, viz. the journey to God-Praised be He!-and traversing the way stations to the meeting with Him: and for this hearts have been created. God Most High has [369] said: “I have not created jinn and mankind except to serve Me” [51.56]. The heart's mount is simply the body and its provisions knowledge. The causes [means] which bring it to the provisions and enable it to supply itself with them are right [virtuous] action. The servant [creature] cannot arrive at God-Praised be He!-so long as he does not dwell in the body and does not leave behind this life [world]. For the lowest [nearest] way station must be traversed to arrive at the furthest [most distant] way station. This life [world] is the plantation of the afterlife [a Tradition from Muhammad], and it is one of the way stations of guidance. It is called dunyā because it is the closer [adnā] of the two grades [manzilatayn: way stations, dwellings ?]. So the heart is compelled to find provisions in this world. And the body is its mount with which it arrived in this world. Hence the heart must care for and maintain the body; and it maintains the body simply by getting for it suitable nourishment and other things, and by repelling from it the destructive things incompatible with it.

19 In order to get nourishment for the body the heart needs two soldiers, one interior, i.e. appetite [desire, passion], and the other exterior, i.e. the hand and the organs which fetch the nourishment. So in the heart are created the appetites [desires] which it needs, and there are created the organs which are the tools [instruments] of the appetites. In order to repel destructive things two soldiers are needed. One is interior, i.e. anger [irascibility], by which it repels destructive things and takes revenge upon enemies. The other is exterior, i.e. the hand and foot by which it effects what anger demands. All that has to do with external matters. So the members are to the body like weapons, etc. Furthermore, so long as one who needs nourishment does not know the nourishment, the appetite and fondness for nourishment will be of no use to him. So he needs, for such knowledge, two [types of] soldiers. One is interior, viz. the perception of hearing and sight and smelling and touching and tasting. The other is exterior, viz. eye and ear and nose, et al. Detailed discussion of the need for these and how there is wisdom in them would be lengthy and many tomes would not contain it. We have indicated a bit of it in the “Book of Gratitude” [Bk. II of Fourth Quarter of Ihya']-so be content with that.

20 So all the soldiers of the heart are confined to three sorts. One sort is instigating and inciting [urging], either to getting the useful and suitable, like appetite [desire], or to repelling the harmful and incompatible, like anger [irascibility]. The instigating sort may be designated by al-irāda [the will]. The second sort is what moves the members to acquire these aims. It is designated by al-qudra [power], and includes soldiers scattered about in all the members, especially the muscles and tendons [sinews]. The third sort is the perceptive which gets to know [uncovers] things like spies. These are the power [faculty] of seeing and hearing and smelling and tasting and touching which arc scattered about in specific members. This sort is designated by al 'ilm wa l-idrāk [knowledge and perception]. Along with each of these interior soldiers there are exterior soldiers, viz. the members made up of fat and flesh and nerves and blood and bones, which are prepared as tools of these soldiers. For the power of snatching [or: striking] is simply by the fingers, and that of sight by the eye, and so [370] for the other powers [faculties]. We shall not discuss the exterior soldiers, I mean the members, because they belong to the material and visible world, but we shall now discuss only the invisible soldiers that support them.

21 This third sort, i.e. what is perceptive in this totality, is divided into what is lodged in exterior positions-viz. the five senses, i.e. hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch-and what is lodged in interior positions, viz. the cavities of the brain. These are also five. For after seeing a thing a man shuts his eye and perceives its image [form: sura] in himself: this is the imagination [al-khayāl]. Then that image stays with the man by reason of something which preserves it: this is the preserving [conserving, memory] soldier. Then the man reflects on what he remembers and joins part of it to another part, then recalls and returns to what he has forgotten, then unites a group of concepts of sensibles in his imagination by means of a sense [perception ?] common to the sensibles. So in [man's] interior there is a common sense [“sensus communis”], and the imagination, and thought [reflection], and recalling [remembrance], and preservation [memory]. Had not God created the power of preservation and reflection and recall and imagination, the brain would be devoid of this just as the hand and the foot are. These powers are also interior soldiers and their places are also interior. These are the divisions of the soldiers of the heart. To explain that by using examples so that weak minds would grasp it would be lengthy. The aim of such a book as this is that it be helpful to the strong and outstanding ulema. However we shall endeavor to make the weak understand by means of giving examples so that it may be close to [accessible to] their understandings [minds].


Examples of the Heart's [Relation to] Its Interior Soldiers

22 Know that the soldiers of anger [irascibility] and appetite [concupiscence] may be entirely submissive to the heart. That would help it on its path which it is following, and their companionship on the journey which occupies it would be a good thing. But they may also oppose it wilfully and recalcitrantly to the point of dominating and enslaving it: in this lies its perdition and its being cut off from its journey on which depends its attainment of eternal happiness.

23 But the heart has other soldiers: knowledge and wisdom and thought [reflection], as will be explained. And it has the right [duty] to appeal for aid to this [kind of soldier], for the latter is of God Most High's party against the other two soldiers [anger and desire]-because they may be affiliated with the party of Satan. If the heart omits the appeal for aid and empowers over itself the soldiers of anger and desire [appetite] it will surely perish and will incur a most evident loss. That is the state of most men, for their intellects have become subject to their appetites in seeking out stratagems for satisfying appetite, whereas the appetite ought to be subject to their intellects regarding what reason requires. We shall bring this close to your understanding by means of three examples. [371]

24 The first example is that we say: A man's soul in his body-by “soul” I mean the subtle thing already mentioned-is like a king in his city and his kingdom. For the body is the soul's kingdom, its world and residence [abode] and city. Its members and powers are in the position of craftsmen and workmen. Its intellectual, reflective power is like a sincere counselor and a wise minister. Its appetite is like the lowly [vile] slave who brings food and supplies to the city. Its anger and violence [ardor] are for it like the chief of police.

25 The slave who brings provisions is very untruthful, cunning, deceptive and wicked [vicious] and represents himself in the guise of a sincere adviser, but underneath his advice there is appalling evil and lethal poison. His habit and wont is opposing the counselor-minister in his views and measures to such an extent that there is not an hour free from his opposition and resistance. Just as the ruler in his kingdom, when, in his measures [plans], he invokes the aid of his minister, counseling him and discarding the suggestion of his wicked slave, concluding from the latter's suggestion that the right [course of action] is the opposite of the slave's view, [and] his chief of police educates [refines ?] him and conducts him to his minister and makes [the latter] his counselor, and he on his part makes him master of this wicked slave and of his followers and helpers, so that the slave is ruled, not ruling, and commanded and managed, not a commander and manager,-[then] all is well in his country and because of that justice is in good order,

26 so also [going back to “Just as” of preceding Para.] the soul, when it seeks help from al-'aql [reason, intellect] and disciplines the ardor of anger [irascibility] and makes the latter master over appetite [concupiscence] and seeks the help of one against the other, at one time by reducing the degree and extravagance [excess] of anger by its opposition and promotion of appetite, and at another by curbing and subduing appetite by making anger and ardor its master and by censuring its demands, [then] the soul's powers [faculties] are in equilibrium and its morals are good. But he who turns from this path is like him of whom God Most High has said: “Hast thou seen him who has taken his caprice to be his god, and God has led him astray out of a knowledge” [45.22/23]. And the Most High has said: “and followed his lust. So the likeness of him is as the likeness of a dog; if thou attackest it it lolls its tongue out, or if thou leavest it it lolls its tongue out” [7.175/176]. And God-Mighty and Gloriousl -has said of him who forbids the soul its caprice: “But as for him who feared the Station of his Lord and forbade the soul its caprice, surely Paradise shall be the refuge” [79.40/41]. How to battle these soldiers and to make one master another, will come in the Book of the Exercise [Askesis] of the Soul [the Book following this book], if God Most High wills.

27 The second example: Know that the body is like a city and the 'aql –I mean what perceives-in man is like a king governing it, and man's perceptive faculties-such as the exterior and interior senses-are like the king's soldiers and helpers, and his members are like his subjects, and the soul inciting to evil, which is appetite and anger, is like an enemy who opposes the king in his kingdom and strives to ruin his subjects. So man's [372] body is like a ribat [caravansary] and thaghr [frontier post], and his soul is like one residing and stationed in it. If he battles his enemy and routs him and forces him to what he [the victor] wants, he is subsequently praised when he returns to the cultivated region as God Most High has said: “God has . preferred in rank those who struggle with their possessions and their selves over the ones who sit at home” [4.97/95]. But if he loses his frontier post and neglects his subjects he will subsequently be blamed and vengeance will be exacted in his regard with God and on the Day of the Resurrection he will be told: “0 wicked shepherd, you have eaten the flesh and drunk the milk and have not sheltered the stray [lost sheep] nor set [the bones of] the fractured: today I shall be revenged upon you”-as has come down in the Tradition. To this battle is the allusion in his utterance-God's blessings and peace be upon him!-”We have come back from the Lesser Jihad [Holy War] to the Greater Jihad.”

28 The third example: The likeness of al-`aql [reason, intelligence] is the likeness of a horseman hunting for prey. His desire is like his horse, and his anger is like his dog. When the horseman is skillful and his steed well trained and his dog disciplined and schooled, he is deserving of success., But when he is clumsy and his steed unruly and his dog mordacious, so that his steed does not hasten beneath him submissively nor is his dog easily obedient to his signal, then he deserves to be destroyed-to say nothing of his attaining what he seeks. The clumsiness of the horseman is like a man's ignorance and scanty wisdom and dim discernment, and the unruliness of the steed is like the domination of desire, especially desire related to the belly and to sexual pleasure, and the mordacity of the (log is like the dominion and mastery of anger-we ask God graciously to grant us good guidance!


The Special Quality of Man's Heart

29 Know that all we have spoken of has been bestowed by God on all the animals other than man. For animals also have desire and anger and the external and internal senses. Thus a sheep sees a wolf with its eye and knows its hostility by its qalb and flees from it: that is interior perception. But let us speak of what is peculiar to man's heart and because of which he has an immense dignity and is worthy of closeness to God Most High. This comes down to knowledge and will.

30 The knowledge is knowledge of worldly and other-worldly matters and of intellectual truths-for these arc things beyond sensibles and the animals do not share with man in them. Nay more, the universal and necessary cognitions belong to the special qualities [properties] of the intellect. For a man judges that one and the same individual cannot conceivably be in two places at one time, and this is a judgment by him about every individual. But it is clear that he has sensibly perceived only some individuals. So his judgment about all individuals is superadded to what [373] sense perceives. If you understand this regarding obvious and necessary knowledge, it is even more obvious in the case of speculative matters.

31 The will: when a man perceives intellectually the consequences of something and the advantageous way to deal with it, there springs from' his essence [dhāt] a desire [shawq] for the advantageous aspect and for busying himself with its causes and willing it. This differs from the irada [will, volition] of appetite [al-shahwa] and the irada of animals and can even be contrary to appetite. For appetite has an aversion for bloodletting [venesection] and cupping, but the intellect [reason] wills it and seeks it and spends money freely for it. And appetite has a liking for sweet foods in time of illness, but the intelligent man is conscious in himself of a warner against them [something chiding away from them]-and that is not the warner of appetite. Had God created the intellect apprised of the consequences of things, and not created this spur [inciter] which moves the members according to the demand of the judgment of reason, the judgment of reason would truly be wasted [lost-].

32 Man's heart, then, is specially characterized by a knowledge and a will not found in the other animals, and not even found in the child at the beginning of his natural constitution [al-fitra: original disposition], but it comes to he in him only after he reaches the age of reason [after puberty]. But appetite and anger and the external and internal senses are present in the case of the child. Moreover, the child experiences two stages [phases, steps] in coming to have these cognitions in himself. One is that his heart comes to contain all the necessary and primary cognitions, such as the knowledge of the impossibility and the possibility of the things that are patently impossible and possible. But speculative cognitions about them arc not present, but have become possible and close to possibility and occurrence. The child's state with reference to cognitions is like that of a writer who knows of writing only the inkwell and the pen and the detached letters, not the combined: such a person is near to writing, but has not yet reached it.

33 The .second stage is that he come to have the cognitions acquired by experiences and thought [reflection] and that they be as though stored up in him. Then, when he wishes, he returns [refers] to them. His state is then that of one skilled in writing. For the latter is said to be a writer, even though he is not practicing writing by his power to do so. This is the ultimate stage of humanity [human-ness]. But in this stage there arc innumerable degrees in which men differ by reason of plurality and paucity of cognoscibles, and nobility and baseness of cognoscibles and the way of acquiring them. For they are acquired by some hearts by a divine inspiration by way of direct revelation, and by some men by learning and acquisition; and they may come quickly, and may come slowly. At this level there is a difference in the positions [stations] of the ulema and the philosophers [wise: hukama'] and the Prophets and the Saints, and the degrees of progress in it are unlimited, since the cognoscibles of God Praised be He!-arc infinite. The ultimate rank is that of the Prophet to whom are revealed all, or most of, the truths without any acquisition or effort [trouble, pains], by a divine disclosure in the quickest time. By [374] this happiness each man approaches God Most High in nearness in concept and meaning [truth] and quality, not in space and distance. And the stairs [steps] of these stages are the stations of those journeying to God Most High, and there is no counting of those stations.

34 Each wayfarer knows only his own station which he has reached in his journey: he knows it and knows what station is behind him. But he does not have an encompassing knowledge of the reality of what is before him. He may, however, believe in it with a faith in the unseen [invisible], just as we believe in prophecy and the Prophet and believe in his existence, but the reality of prophecy is known only by the Prophets; and just as the fetus [embryo] does not know the state of the infant, and the infant does not know the state of the one arrived at the use of reason and the necessary cognitions that are opened to the latter, and the one arrived at the use of reason does not know the state of the [mature] reasoning one and what speculative cognitions the latter has acquired, so also the [mature] reasoner does not know what God has opened to His Saints and His Prophets of the privileges of His grace and His mercy. “Whatsoever mercy God opens to men, none can withhold” [35.2]. This mercy is freely given by virtue of goodness and generosity on the part of God Most High-Praised be He!-and is not withheld from anyone. But it appears only in hearts putting themselves in the way of the gusts of God Most High's mercy-as he said-God's blessing and peace be upon him!-”Your Lord, in the (lays of your lifetime, sends forth gusts of grace: do you then put yourselves in the way of them!” And “putting oneself in the way of them” is done by purifying the heart and cleansing it from the badness and turbidity resulting from blameworthy morals [habits], as will be explained.

35 To this goodness is the allusion in his statement-God's blessing and peace be upon him!”-”God descends every night to the lowest heaven and says: Is there a suppliant that I may answer his prayer?” also in his utterance-Blessing and peace upon him!-citing his Lord-Mighty and glorious! “The just have long yearned to meet Me, and I yearn even more intensely to meet them!”; and in the Most High's [reported] saying: “Whoso approaches Me a span [an inch ?], I approach him a cubit.” All that is an indication that the lights of cognitions are not veiled from hearts because of any stinginess or withholding on the part of the Giver-Exalted He far above stinginess and holding back!-hut they are veiled because of badness and turbidity and preoccupation on the part of hearts. For hearts are like vessels: so long as the latter are filled with water, air cannot enter them. So hearts preoccupied by anything else than God cannot he entered by the knowledge of God Most High's glory. To this is an allusion in his statement-God's blessing and peace be upon him!-”Were it not that the devils swarm about the hearts of the sons of Adam, they would look at [direct their attention to] the kingdom of heaven.” From all this it is clear that the special quality of man is knowledge and wisdom.

36 The noblest kind of knowledge is the knowledge of God and His attributes and His acts. In this lies the perfection of man; and in its perfection is his happiness and his fitness for propinquity to the Presence [375] of Glory and Perfection. The body is the soul's mount; the soul is the place of knowledge; and knowledge is the thing purposed by man and his special quality for the sake of which he is created. And just as the horse shares with the ass in the power to bear burdens but is specially distinguished from the ass by the property of attacking and retreating in battle and by beauty of form, and the horse is created for that special quality so that if the latter is obstructed [becomes inactive, is put out of action] in it, it descends to the low rank of the ass-so also man shares with the ass and the horse in some things and differs from them in others which are his special quality. And that special quality belongs to the qualities of the Angels who are brought close to the Lord of the Worlds. Man is in a rank between beasts and Angels. For man, in so. far as he feeds and procreates, is a plant; and in so far as he senses and moves voluntarily, he is an animal; and with reference to his form and stature he is like a picture painted on a wall: but his special quality is simply the knowledge of the realities of things.

37 One who uses all his members and powers [faculties] by way of calling on their help for knowledge and action has become like the Angels. So he deserves to join [unite] with them and is worthy of being called “angel” and “divine”-as God Most High has reported of the female companions of Joseph in His utterance: “This is no mortal: he is no other but a noble angel” [12.31]. He who directs his ambition to pursuing bodily pleasures, eating as the cattle eat, has sunk to the low level of the beasts and become either simple like an ox, or greedy like a pig, or voracious like a dog or a cat, or malicious [rancorous] like a camel, or proud [haughty, overweening] like a leopard [tiger], or sly [artful] like a fox-or he combines all of that like a rebellious devil.

38 There is not one of the members or the senses but that its help can be invoked on the path leading to God Most High-and some of that will be explained in the “Book of Gratitude” [Book II of the Fourth quarter]. One who so uses it will be victorious: but one who turns from that will incur loss and be frustrated. The sum of happiness in that is that man make the meeting with God Most High his goal, and the House of the afterlife his abode, and this life his inn [stopping place], and the body his mount, and the members his servants. And let it dwell-I mean that in a man which perceives-in a heart which is in the midst of its kingdom like a king, and it will make the imaginative power which is in the forefront of the brain act as its postmaster, for the reports of the sensibles will be gathered with him, and it will make the conserving power which resides in the posterior part of the brain act as its treasurer, and it will make the tongue act as its interpreter, and it will make the moving members act as its secretaries [scribes], and it will make the five senses act as its spies each one put in charge of the reports of one of the regions [areas]: the eye charged with the world of colors, and the hearing charged with the world of sounds, and smell with the world of odors, and so for the rest of them.

39 For they are entrusted with reports which they gather [collect] from these worlds and convey [channel] to the imaginative faculty which is [376] like the postmaster. The postmaster hands them over to the treasurer, i.e. the conserving power. And the treasurer presents them to the king, and the king takes from them what he needs for the governance of his kingdom and completing his journey in which he is engaged and subduing his enemy by whom he is afflicted, and repelling the brigands who would cut off his journey. If he does that he will be successful, happy and grateful for the bounty [grace] of God; but if he neglects all this, or makes use of it, but in deference to his enemies, viz. appetite and anger and the other worldly pleasures, or in the building of his way rather than his way station [i.e. seeking performance in this life rather than passage]-for this life is his way which he must traverse, whereas his homeland and abode is the afterlife-he will be forsaken [disappointed), wretched, ungrateful for the bounty of God Most High, wasteful of the soldiers of God Most High, aiding the enemies of God, inciting to the forsaking of God's party, and he would merit loathing [hatred] and isolation [banishment] in the final destiny and the life to come-We take refuge with God from that!

40 Ka'b al-Ahbar alluded to the example we have cited when he said: “I, entered where 'A'isha was-God be pleased with herl-and said: Man's eyes are a guide and his ears a quelling and his tongue an interpreter and his hands wings and his feet a posting] and his heart a king: and if the king is good, his soldiers are good. And 'A'isha said 'So I have heard the Apostle of God-God's blessing and peace be upon him!-say.' “ And 'Alī God be pleased with him!-said in proposing a likeness of hearts: “God Most High has in His earth vessels which are [men's] hearts: the clearest of them to the Most High is the tenderest [gentlest, most sensitive] and the serenest [purest] and the firmest [hardest].” Then he explained this and said: “The firmest of them in religion, and the serenest in certainty and the tenderest concerning the brethren.” This is an allusion to the Most High's utterance: “hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another” [48.29], and to the Most High's utterance “the likeness of His Light is as a niche wherein is a lamp” [24.35]-said Abū [Ubayy] ibn Ka'b-God be pleased with him!-It means: the likeness of the light of the believer and of his heart; and to the Most High's utterance: “or they arc as shadows upon a sea obscure” [24.40]-the likeness of the hypocrite's heart. Said Zayd ibn Aslam about the Most High's utterance: “in a guarded tablet” [85.22]: that is, the heart of the believer. And Sahl said: The likeness of the heart and breast is the likeness of the Throne and the Scat [Chair]. These are the likenesses of the heart.


Ensemble of the Qualities of the Heart and Examples of It

41 Know that man, in his constitution and structure [composition, makeup] takes [has] as companions four flaws [defects]. So there come together in him four kinds of qualities. These are: the feral [predatory], the beastly [377] [animal], the diabolic [satanic], and the divine [lordly]. To the extent that he makes anger his master, he practices the acts of beasts of prey, such as enmity and hatred and assailing people with blows and curses. And to the extent that appetite dominates him, he practices the acts of beasts, such as greediness and covetousness and lust et al. And to the extent that there is in his soul a divine 'amr [bidding, command]-as God Most High has said: “Say: The Spirit is of the bidding of my Lord” [17.87/85]-he claims for himself lordship [al-rububiyya: divinity] and loves mastery and superiority [the upper hand] and being favored and monopolizing [autocracy in] all matters and sole leadership and escape from the noose of servitude and lowliness and he desires familiarity with all sciences-nay but he claims for himself knowledge ['ilm] and gnosis [ma'rifa] and the grasp [comprehension] of the real meanings [essences] of things: he rejoices when he is linked with learning and grieves when he is linked with ignorance. Comprehension of all truths and the appropriation by subjugation of all creatures are among the qualities of lordship [divinity] and in man there is a desire for that. And inasmuch as man is distinguished, with regard to beasts, by discernment, but at the same time shares with them in anger and appetite, there results in him a devilishness [diabolicalness]. So he becomes evil (wicked], using [his] discernment to devise [contrive] varieties of evil and attaining [his] purpose by cunning [craftiness] and artifice [wile] and deception and manifests evil in the form of good: and these are the mores of [the] devils.

42 In every man there is a mixture of these four principles-I mean the divine and the diabolical and the feral and the beastly-and all that is collected in the heart, as though the total in a man's skin is a pig, a (log, a devil, a wise man. The pig is appetite: for a pig is not reproached because of its color or shape or form, but because of its greed and covetousness and avidity. The clog is anger: for the rapacious beast of prey and the mordacious (log are not (log and beast of prey because of form and color and shape, but rather the spirit [essence] of the meaning of “beast-of-prey-ness” is voracity and hostility [aggression] and mordacity-and in man's interior are the voracity and rage [fury] of the beast of prey and the greed and lust of the pig. So the pig invites by greed to the vile and the abominable, and the beast of prey by anger to injustice and wrongdoing. And the devil continually stirs up the desire of the pig and the anger of the beast of prey and seduces [tempts, goads] one by the other and presents to them in a favorable light that for which they have a natural propensity.

43 The wise one, which is the model of the intellect [reason] is charged with repelling the craftiness and cunning of the devil by revealing his deception through its piercing insight and radiant and clear light. It is also charged with breaking the greed of this pig by making the clog its master. For the vigor of appetite is broken by anger and the voracity of the clog is controlled by making the pig its master and rendering the clog subject under its mastership. If [the wise one] does that and is capable of it, the matter is in equilibrium and justice appears in the kingdom of the body and all proceeds on the straight path; but if he is unable to dominate them, they. dominate and use him [as a servant] so that he is [378] continually seeking out stratagems and carefully thinking [reflecting] in order to satiate the pig and please the dog, and he will always be in the service of dog and pig.


[Ghazali goes on to describe at length that such is the sorry lot of most men so long as most of their ardor concerns the belly and sexual pleasure and competing with enemies. Service of the pig and the dog lead to all sorts of vices; so also worship of the devil. But if all is under the sway of the divine quality, all goes well and it leads to all the virtues. He then likens the heart to a mirror surrounded by all these influences and describes their effect on it....]


The Likeness of the Heart, Especially in Its Relationship
to the Cognitions [Knowledges].


The State [Condition] of the Heart in Its Relationship to the Divisions of Knowledges [Cognitions], Rational [Intellectual] aid Religious, Secular [Worldly] and Salvific [Otherworldly]


Exposition of the Difference between ilham and Ta'allum and the Difference between the Way [Method] of the Sufis in Discovering the Truth and That of the Reasoners

44 Know that the cognitions which are not necessary, but simply come to be in the heart in certain states [al-aliwal], differ in the way they come to be. At times they surprise the heart as though cast into it from where it knows not; and at times they are acquired by way of inference [argumentation, reasoning] and the process of learning [al-la'al!um]. That which comes to be neither through acquisition nor the artifice [expedient] of proof, is called “inspiration” [ilham]; and that which eventuates through inference is called “learning” [reflection, consideration, contemplation] and “intelligence” [reasoning, seeing].

45 The knowledge which suddenly falls into the heart with no artifice or learning process or effort on a man's part is divided into what a man does not know how and whence it came to be in him, and that of which he is simultaneously [concomitantly] aware of the cause from which he derived that knowledge, i.e. the Angel who cast it into his heart. The former is called an “inspiration” or a “puffing” [gusting] into the mind, and the latter is called a “revelation” and is peculiar to the Prophets. The former is peculiar to the Saints and the pure, whereas what precedes it–i .e. what is acquired through inference-is peculiar to the savants [learned].

46 What can truly be said of it [ilhām] is that the heart is predisposed for the disclosure in it of the Supreme Reality [Truth] present in all things. Interposition between It and them is due simply to one of the five [379] causes previously mentioned [in Elucidation Six: (1) defect in the heart, e.g. an infant; (2) the tarnish of sins and the rust of the passions; (3) all that distracts from the quest for the Truth; (4) prejudices; (5) ignorance of where the sought is to be found]. These are like a veil lowered and interposing between the mirror of the heart and the Preserved Tablet on which is engraven all that God has decreed until the Day of the Resurrection. The irradiation of the realities of cognitions from the mirror of the Tablet into the mirror of the heart resembles the impression of an image from one mirror on another facing it.

47 The veil between the two mirrors is removed sometimes by hand and at other times it goes away because of the blowing of winds which move it. Thus the winds of [divine] graces [favors] may blow and the veils are raised from the eyes of hearts and there is disclosed in them some of what is written on the Guarded Tablet. That sometimes occurs during sleep and what will be in the future is known. The complete lifting of the veil takes place at death when by it the covering is lifted. But it may also be lifted during wakefulness to the point that the veil is removed by a hidden grace from God Most High and there shines in hearts from behind the curtain of the invisible some of the wonders of knowledge, at times like the swift lightning, and again with a limited sequence, but its abiding is extremely rare.

48 So inspiration does not differ from acquisition in the knowledge itself, or in its place [substrate], or in its cause. But it does differ from it from the standpoint of the withdrawal of the veil, for that is not by a man's choice. Nor does revelation differ from inspiration in any of that, but rather in the seeing of the Angel who conveys the knowledge. For the knowledge comes to be in our hearts through mediation of the Angels: to this is the allusion in God Most High's utterance: “It has not been given to a man that God speak to him save by [direct] revelation or from behind a veil or by His sending a messenger who, by His leave, reveals what He wills” [42.50-51].

49 Now that you are acquainted with this, know that the preference of the then of lapwwuf [the Sufis] is for inspirational rather than for instructional [“learning-process”] cognitions. Hence they are not intent on the study of a science and the acquisition of what authors have written and the investigation of the teachings and proofs set forth. Rather they affirm that the [right] way is to give preference to spiritual combat and eradicating blameworthy qualities and cuttting off all attachments [to creatures] and applying oneself with the utmost ardor to God Most High. Whenever that eventuates, it is God Who takes care and charge of His servant's heart by enlightening it with the lights of knowledge. And when God takes charge of the heart's affairs His mercy floods it and His light shines in it and man's heart is dilated and there is disclosed to him the mystery of the Kingdom and there is lifted from the face of his heart by the favor of the [divine] mercy the veil concealing God's glory and there gleams in it the realities of the divine things. The only requirement for man is to dispose himself by simple purification and to furnish [380] ardor along with a sincere will and total yearning and continual lying in wait for the mercy .which God Most High will open to him.

50 To the Prophets and the Saints the matter was disclosed and light poured forth into their hearts, not by study and the writing of books, but by abstinence in worldly things and freeing themselves from attachments to them and emptying their hearts of preoccupations and devoting themselves most ardently to God Most High. He who belongs to God, God belongs to him.

51 They claim that the way to that is first of all the entire cutting off of worldly attachments and emptying the heart of them, and the sundering of the concern for family and property and offspring and fatherland and learning and power and fame; much more bringing one's heart to a state in which it is indifferent to the existence and nonexistence of everything. Then one retires alone with himself to some nook [cell ?] and confines himself to the religious duties and offices [rituals; or supererogatory exercises of piety]. He sits with heart empty and attention concentrated, his reflection not dispersed by any recital of the Qur'an or any exegetic consideration or any book of Tradition or anything else. Rather he exerts himself that nothing may occur to his mind save God Most High.

52 And after he sits down in seclusion he unceasingly says with his tongue “Allah, Allah” without interruption concomitantly with the presence of his heart until he finally reaches a state in which he gives up moving his tongue and sees the word as though it were flowing on his tongue. Then he patiently endures it until its trace disappears from his tongue and he finds his heart steadily applied to remembrance [of God –al-dhikr]. Then he perseveres in this until there is effaced from his heart the image and letters of the expression and the form of the word, and the meaning of the word remains bare in his heart, present in it as though cleaving to it and not parting from it.

53 He has a freedom of choice until he reaches this terminus and a freedom to seek to prolong this state by repelling the whisperings [of Satan], but he has no freedom in seeking to attract the mercy of God Most High. Rather, by what he does he becomes exposed [open] to the gusts of God's mercy and it remains for him only to await the mercy which God will open to him as He opened it to the Prophets and Saints by this way.

54 At this point, if his will is sincere and his intention [ardor] pure and his perseverance proper [good], and he is not pulled by his passions or distracted by inner concern with worldly attachments, the gleams of the Truth will shine in his heart. In its beginning it will be like the rapid lightning and will not remain. Then it will return and it may tarry. And if it returns, it may remain, and it may be snatched away. And if it remains, it may, or may not be, prolonged. And the likes of it may be manifested in close succession, and it may be limited to a single kind [specimen]. The abodes [way stations] of God Most High's Saints in it are innumerable just as the difference of their natural diposition and character cannot be reckoned. This way definitely comes down to sheer purification [381] on your part and purgation and burnishing, then to readiness and waiting, nothing more.

55 The reasoners and those given to reflection do not deny the existence and possibility of this way and its leading to this end on rare occasions: for it is the most frequent of the states of the Prophets and the Saints. But they find this way rugged and its fruit slow to come and the union of its requirements unlikely. They allege that the effacement of attachments to such a degree is almost impossible, and if on occasion it occurs its abiding is even more improbable. For the least temptation and fugitive thought disturb the heart-and the Apostle of God-God's blessing and peace be upon him!-said: “The believer's heart is more unstable than the pot in its boiling.” He also said-[God's] best blessing and peace upon him!-”The believer's heart is between two of the Merciful's fingers.”

56 And in the course of this spiritual combat [say the reasoners] one's temperament may be impaired [adversely affected] and his mind confused and his body may sicken. And if there has been no prior exercise and refining [training] of the soul by the realities of the sciences there cling to the heart vicious [corrupt, idle] imaginings [phantasms] with which the soul is at case for a long period until life passes and is finished before one achieves success in such matters. How many a Sufi has followed this way, and then remained in the grip of a single imagining [phantasm] for twenty years; Had he indeed first mastered the sciences [become a master of knowledge] the dubious nature of that imagining would have been disclosed to hint straightaway. Hence applying oneself to the way of learning is surer and closer to the goal.

57 They [the reasoners] also allege that the case of the Sufi is like that of the man who would refrain from learning the science of fiqh [iurisprudence] and allege “that the Prophet-God's blessing and peace be upon hint!-did not learn that but became a faqih [jurisprudent] by means of revelation and inspiration without repetition and notetaking. And I also may be brought to that by [spiritual] exercises and perseverance.” Who thinks that [they say] wrongs himself and wastes his life; nay, he is like one who gives up the way of earning [his livelihood] and farming in the hope of lighting upon some treasure-that is possible, but extremely unlikely: so also is this. They also say: First of all one simply must acquire what the learned have acquired and understand what they have said; thereafter there will be no harm in waiting for what has not been disclosed to all the learned, and it may be discovered thereafter by the spiritual combat.


Explanation of the Diflhrcncc between the Two Positions [Levels] by a Sensible Example [actually Ghazali used two examples]


Explanation of Revealed Texts Witnessing to the Soundness of the Sufis' [382] Method in Acquiring Knowledge Not by the Learning Process and Not by the Accustomed Method [Ghazali also draws on stories]


Explanation of Satan's Overcoming the Heart by Means of wasawis [Temptations, Whisperings, Suggestions, Insinuations] and of the Meaning of “Temptation” [waswasa] and the Reason for Its Victory


Detailed Explanation of Satan's Avenues [Entrances] to the Heart


Explanation of What the Servant Is Censured [Blamed] for of Hearts' Temptations [wasawis] and Solicitude and Thoughts and Intentions, and What It Is Forgiven and Is Not Censured For


Explanation of Whether or Not It Is Conceivable That Temptations [wasāwis] Be Entirely Cut Off during Remembrance [of God: al-dhikr; also the exercise so called. Ghazali cites five opinions. At any rate one will never long be free of temptations].


Explanation of the Rapidity of the Changing of Hearts, and the Division of Hearts Respecting Change and Stability


Source: McCarthy, R. J. Freedom and Fullment, Twayne Publishers, Boston, 1980. pp 363-382. Some more of this chapter was translated by John Renard. (Cf. Knowledge of God in Classical Sufism, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ, 2004; ISBN: 089140306) However he did not translate elucidation 11 - 15.

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