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Title: The Development of Metaphysics in Persia - A Contribution to the History of Muslim Philosophy
Author: Iqbal, Muhammad
Language: English
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  B. A. (Cantab) M. A. (Pb.) Ph. D. (Munich).

  LUZAC & Co. 46, Great Russell Street W. C.

  Printed by E. J. BRILL. — LEIDEN (Holland).

         Professor T. W. ARNOLD M. A.

    My dear MR. ARNOLD,

This little book is the first-fruit of that literary and philosophical
training which I have been receiving from you for the last ten years,
and as an expression of gratitude I beg to dedicate it to your name. You
have always judged me liberally; I hope you will judge these pages in
the same spirit.

                                        Your affectionate pupil



The most remarkable feature of the character of the Persian people is
their love of Metaphysical speculation. Yet the inquirer who approaches
the extant literature of Persia expecting to find any comprehensive
systems of thought, like those of Kapila or Kant, will have to turn back
disappointed, though deeply impressed by the wonderful intellectual
subtlety displayed therein. It seems to me that the Persian mind is
rather impatient of detail, and consequently destitute of that
organising faculty which gradually works out a system of ideas, by
interpreting the fundamental principles with reference to the ordinary
facts of observation. The subtle Brahman sees the inner unity of things;
so does the Persian. But while the former endeavours to discover it in
all the aspects of human experience, and illustrates its hidden presence
in the concrete in various ways, the latter appears to be satisfied
with a bare universality, and does not attempt to verify the richness of
its inner content. The butterfly imagination of the Persian flies,
half-inebriated as it were, from flower to flower, and seems to be
incapable of reviewing the garden as a whole. For this reason his
deepest thoughts and emotions find expression mostly in disconnected
verses (G̱ẖazal) which reveal all the subtlety of his artistic soul.
The Hindū, while admitting, like the Persian, the necessity of a higher
source of knowledge, yet calmly moves from experience to experience,
mercilessly dissecting them, and forcing them to yield their underlying
universality. In fact the Persian is only half-conscious of Metaphysics
as a _system_ of thought; his Brahman brother, on the other hand, is
fully alive to the need of presenting his theory in the form of a
thoroughly reasoned out system. And the result of this mental difference
between the two nations is clear. In the one case we have only partially
worked out systems of thought; in the other case, the awful sublimity of
the searching Vedānta. The student of Islamic Mysticism who is anxious
to see an all-embracing exposition of the principle of Unity, must look
up the heavy volumes of the Andalūsian Ibn al-‘Arabī, whose profound
teaching stands in strange contrast with the dry-as-dust Islam of his

The results, however, of the intellectual activity of the different
branches of the great Aryan family are strikingly similar. The outcome
of all Idealistic speculation in India is Buddha, in Persia Bahāullah,
and in the west Schopenhauer whose system, in Hegelian language, is the
marriage of free oriental universality with occidental determinateness.

But the history of Persian thought presents a phenomenon peculiar to
itself. In Persia, due perhaps to semitic influences, philosophical
speculation has indissolubly associated itself with religion, and
thinkers in new lines of thought have almost always been founders of new
religious movements. After the Arab conquest, however, we see pure
Philosophy severed from religion by the Neo-Platonic Aristotelians of
Islam, but the severance was only a transient phenomenon. Greek
philosophy, though an exotic plant in the soil of Persia, eventually
became an integral part of Persian thought; and later thinkers, critics
as well as advocates of Greek wisdom, talked in the philosophical
language of Aristotle and Plato, and were mostly influenced by religious
presuppositions. It is necessary to bear this fact in mind in order to
gain a thorough understanding of post-Islamic Persian thought.

The object of this investigation is, as will appear, to prepare a
ground-work for a future history of Persian Metaphysics. Original
thought cannot be expected in a review, the object of which is purely
historical; yet I venture to claim some consideration for the following
two points:--

(a) I have endeavoured to trace the logical continuity of Persian
thought, which I have tried to interpret in the language of modern
Philosophy. This, as far as I know, has not yet been done.

(b) I have discussed the subject of Ṣūfīism in a more scientific manner,
and have attempted to bring out the intellectual conditions which
necessitated such a phenomenon. In opposition, therefore, to the
generally accepted view I have tried to maintain that Ṣūfīism is a
necessary product of the play of various intellectual and moral forces
which would necessarily awaken the slumbering soul to a higher ideal of

Owing to my ignorance of Zend, my knowledge of Zoroaster is merely
second-hand. As regards the second part of my work, I have been able to
look up the original Persian and Arabic manuscripts as well as many
printed works connected with my investigation. I give below the names of
Arabic and Persian manuscripts from which I have drawn most of the
material utilized here. The method of transliteration adopted is the one
recognised by the Royal Asiatic Society.

     1. Tārīḵẖ al-Ḥukamā, by Al-Baihaqī.--Royal Library of Berlin.

     2. S̱ẖarḥi Anwāriyya, (with the original text) by Muḥammad
        S̱ẖarīf of Herāt. Royal Library of Berlin.

     3. Ḥikmat al-‘Ain, by al-Kātibī. Royal Library of Berlin.

     4. Commentary on Ḥikmat al-‘Ain, by Muḥammad ibn Mubārak
        al-Buḵẖārī. India Office Library.

     5. Commentary on Ḥikmat al-‘Ain by Ḥusainī. India Office

     6. ‘Awārif al-Ma‘ārif, by S̱ẖahāb al-Dīn. India Office Library.

     7. Mis̱ẖkāt al-Anwār, by Al-G̱ẖazālī. India Office Library.

     8. Kas̱ẖf al-Maḥjūb, by ‘Alī Hajverī. India Office Library.

     9. Risālahi Nafs translated from Aristotle, by Afḍal Kāshī.
        India Office Library.

    10. Risālahi Mīr Sayyid S̱ẖarīf. India Office Library.

    11. Ḵẖātima, by Sayyid Muḥammad Gisūdarāz. India Office

    12. Manāzilal-sā’rīn, by ‘Abdullah Ismāi’l of Herāt. India
        Office Library.

    13. Jāwidān Nāma, by Afḍal Kās̱ẖī. India Office Library.

    14. Tārīḵẖ al-Ḥukamā, by S̱ẖahrzūrī. British Museum Library.

    15. Collected works of Avicenna. British Museum Library.

    16. Risalah fi’l-Wujūd, by Mīr Jurjānī. British Museum Library.

    17. Jāwidāni Kabīr. Cambridge University Library.

    18. Jāmi Jahān Numā. Cambridge University Library.

    19. Majmu‘ai Fārsī Risālah No: 1, 2, of Al-Nasafī. Trinity
        College Library.

                                        S. M. IQBAL.


  Pre-Islamic Persian Philosophy.
  Chapter I. Persian Dualism                                    1
    Sec: I.   Zoroaster                                         1
    Sec: II.  Mānī and Mazdak                                   12
    Sec: III. Retrospect                                       20

  Greek Dualism.

  Chapter II. Neo-Platonic Aristotelians of Persia             22
    Sec: I.   Ibn Maskawaih                                    26
    Sec: II.  Avicenna                                         38

  Chapter III. Islamic Rationalism                             45
    Sec: I.   Metaphysics of Rationalism--Materialism          45
    Sec: II.  Contemporary movements of thought                55
    Sec: III. Reaction against Rationalism--The As̱ẖ‘arite      65

  Chapter IV. Controversy between Realism and Idealism         81

  Chapter V. Ṣūfīism.
    Sec: I.   The origin and Quranic justification of Ṣūfīism   96
    Sec: II.  Aspects of Ṣūfī Metaphysics                      111
         A. Reality as Self-conscious Will                    112
         B. Reality as Beauty                                 112
         C. (1) Reality as Light                              120
                (Return to Persian Dualism--Al-Is̱ẖrāqī).
            (2) Reality as Thought--Al-Jīlī                    121

  Chapter VI. Later Persian Thought                           174

  Conclusion                                                  192


Pre-Islamic Persian Philosophy.



§ I.


To Zoroaster--the ancient sage of Iran--must always be assigned the
first place in the intellectual history of Iranian Aryans who, wearied
of constant roaming, settled down to an agricultural life at a time when
the Vedic Hymns were still being composed in the plains of Central Asia.
This new mode of life and the consequent stability of the institution of
property among the settlers, made them hated by other Aryan tribes who
had not yet shaken off their original nomadic habits, and occasionally
plundered their more civilised kinsmen. Thus grew up the conflict
between the two modes of life which found its earliest expression in the
denunciation of the deities of each other--the Devas and the Ahuras. It
was really the beginning of a long individualising process which
gradually severed the Iranian branch from other Aryan tribes, and
finally manifested itself in the religious system of Zoroaster[2:1]--the
great prophet of Iran who lived and taught in the age of Solon and
Thales. In the dim light of modern oriental research we see ancient
Iranians divided between two camps--partisans of the powers of good, and
partisans of the powers of evil--when the great sage joins their furious
contest, and with his moral enthusiasm stamps out once for all the
worship of demons as well as the intolerable ritual of the Magian

    [2:1] Some European Scholars have held Zoroaster to be nothing
    more than a mythical personage. But since the publication of
    Professor Jackson's admirable Life of Zoroaster, the Iranian
    Prophet has, I believe, finally got out of the ordeal of modern

It is, however, beside our purpose to trace the origin and growth of
Zoroaster's religious system. Our object, in so far as the present
investigation is concerned, is to glance at the metaphysical side of
his revelation. We, therefore, wish to fix our attention on the sacred
trinity of philosophy--God, Man and Nature.

Geiger, in his "Civilisation of Eastern Iranians in Ancient Times",
points out that Zoroaster inherited two fundamental principles from his
Aryan ancestry.--(1) There is law in Nature. (2) There is conflict in
Nature. It is the observation of law and conflict in the vast panorama
of being that constitutes the philosophical foundation of his system.
The problem before him was to reconcile the existence of evil with the
eternal goodness of God. His predecessors worshipped a plurality of good
spirits all of which he reduced to a unity and called it Ahuramazda. On
the other hand he reduced all the powers of evil to a similar unity and
called it Druj-Ahriman. Thus by a process of unification he arrived at
two fundamental principles which, as Haug shows, he looked upon not as
two independent activities, but as two parts or rather aspects of the
same Primary Being. Dr. Haug, therefore, holds that the Prophet of
ancient Iran was theologically a monotheist and philosophically a
dualist.[4:1] But to maintain that there are "twin"[4:2]
spirits--creators of reality and nonreality--and at the same time to
hold that these two spirits are united in the Supreme Being,[4:3] is
virtually to say that the principle of evil constitutes a part of the
very essence of God; and the conflict between good and evil is nothing
more than the struggle of God against Himself. There is, therefore, an
inherent weakness in his attempt to reconcile theological monotheism
with philosophical dualism, and the result was a schism among the
prophet's followers. The Zendiks[4:4] whom Dr. Haug calls heretics, but
who were, I believe, decidedly more consistent than their opponents,
maintained the independence of the two original spirits from each other,
while the Magi upheld their unity. The upholders of unity endeavoured,
in various ways, to meet the Zendiks; but the very fact that they tried
different phrases and expressions to express the unity of the "Primal
Twins", indicates dissatisfaction with their own philosophical
explanations, and the strength of their opponent's position.
S̱ẖahrastānī[5:1] describes briefly the different explanations of the
Magi. The Zarwānians look upon Light and Darkness as the sons of
Infinite Time. The Kiyūmarṯẖiyya hold that the original principle was
Light which was afraid of a hostile power, and it was this thought of an
adversary mixed with fear that led to the birth of Darkness. Another
branch of Zarwānians maintain that the original principle doubted
concerning something and this doubt produced Ahriman. Ibn Ḥazm[5:2]
speaks of another sect who explained the principle of Darkness as the
obscuration of a part of the fundamental principle of Light itself.

    [4:1] Essays, p. 303.

    [4:2] "In the beginning there was a pair of twins, two spirits,
    each of a peculiar activity". Yas. XXX. 1.

    [4:3] "The more beneficial of my spirits has produced, by
    speaking it, the whole rightful creation". Yas. XIX. 9.

    [4:4] The following verse from Buudahish Chap. I. will indicate
    the Zendik view:-- "And between them (the two principles) there
    was empty space, that is what they call "air" in which is now
    their meeting".

    [5:1] S̱ẖahrastānī; ed. Cureton, London, 1846, pp. 182–185.

    [5:2] Ibn Ḥazm--Kitāb al-Milal w’al-Niḥal. Ed. Cairo. Vol. II,
    p. 34.

Whether the philosophical dualism of Zoroaster can be reconciled with
his monotheism or not, it is unquestionable that, from a metaphysical
standpoint, he has made a profound suggestion in regard to the ultimate
nature of reality. The idea seems to have influenced ancient Greek
Philosophy[6:1] as well as early Christian Gnostic speculation, and
through the latter, some aspects of modern western thought.[6:2] As a
thinker he is worthy of great respect not only because he approached the
problem of objective multiplicity in a philosophical spirit; but also
because he endeavoured, having been led to metaphysical dualism, to
reduce his Primary Duality to a higher unity. He seems to have
perceived, what the mystic shoemaker of Germany perceived long after
him, that the diversity of nature could not be explained without
postulating a principle of negativity or self-differentiation in the
very nature of God. His immediate successors did not, however, quite
realise the deep significance of their master's suggestions; but we
shall see, as we advance, how Zoroaster's idea finds a more
spiritualised expression in some of the aspects of later Persian

    [6:1] In connection with the influence of Zoroastrian ideas on
    Ancient Greek thought, the following statement made by Erdmann
    is noteworthy, though Lawrence Mills (American Journal of
    Philology Vol. 22) regards such influence as improbable:--"The
    fact that the handmaids of this force, which he (Heraclitus)
    calls the seed of all that happens and the measure of all order,
    are entitled the "tongues" has probably been slightly ascribed
    to the influence of the Persian Magi. On the other hand he
    connects himself with his country's mythology, not indeed
    without a change of exegesis when he places Apollo and Dionysus
    beside Zeus, i.e. The ultimate fire, as the two aspects of his
    nature". History of Philosophy Vol. I, p. 50.

    It is, perhaps, owing to this doubtful influence of
    Zoroastrianism on Heraclitus that Lassalle (quoted by Paul Janet
    in his History of the Problems of Philosophy Vol. II, p. 147)
    looks upon Zoroaster as a precursor of Hegel.

    Of Zoroastrian influence on Pythagoras Erdmann says:--

    "The fact that the odd numbers are put above the even has been
    emphasised by Gladisch in his comparison of the Pythagorian with
    the Chinese doctrine, and the fact, moreover, that among the
    oppositions we find those of light and darkness, good and evil,
    has induced many, in ancient and modern times, to suppose that
    they were borrowed from Zoroastrianism." Vol. I, p. 33.

    [6:2] Among modern English thinkers Mr. Bradley arrives at a
    conclusion similar to that of Zoroaster. Discussing the ethical
    significance of Bradley's Philosophy, Prof. Sorley says:--"Mr.
    Bradley, like Green, has faith in an eternal reality which might
    be called spiritual, inasmuch as it is not material; like Green
    he looks upon man's moral activity as an appearance--what Green
    calls a reproduction--of this eternal reality. But under this
    general agreement there lies a world of difference. He refuses
    by the use of the term self-conscious, to liken his Absolute to
    the personality of man, and he brings out the consequence which
    in Green is more or less concealed, that the evil equally with
    the good in man and in the world are appearances of the
    Absolute". Recent tendencies in Ethics, pp. 100–101.

Turning now to his Cosmology, his dualism leads him to bifurcate, as it
were, the whole universe into two departments of being--reality i.e.
the sum of all good creations flowing from the creative activity of the
beneficial spirit, and non-reality[8:1] i.e. the sum of all evil
creations proceeding from the hostile spirit. The original conflict of
the two spirits is manifested in the opposing forces of nature, which,
therefore, presents a continual struggle between the powers of Good and
the powers of Evil. But it should be remembered that nothing intervenes
between the original spirits and their respective creations. Things are
good and bad because they proceed from good or bad creative agencies, in
their own nature they are quite indifferent. Zoroaster's conception of
creation is fundamentally different from that of Plato and Schopenhauer
to whom spheres of empirical reality reflect non-temporal or temporal
ideas which, so to speak, mediate between Reality and Appearance. There
are, according to Zoroaster, only two categories of existence, and the
history of the universe is nothing more than a progressive conflict
between the forces falling respectively under these categories. We are,
like other things, partakers of this struggle, and it is our duty to
range ourselves on the side of Light which will eventually prevail and
completely vanquish the spirit of Darkness. The metaphysics of the
Iranian Prophet, like that of Plato, passes on into Ethics, and it is in
the peculiarity of the Ethical aspect of his thought that the influence
of his social environment is most apparent.

    [8:1] This should not be confounded with Plato's non-being. To
    Zoroaster all forms of existence proceeding from the creative
    agency of the spirit of darkness are unreal; because,
    considering the final triumph of the spirit of Light, they have
    a temporary existence only.

Zoroaster's view of the destiny of the soul is very simple. The soul,
according to him, is a creation, not a part of God as the votaries of
Mithra[9:1] afterwards maintained. It had a beginning in time, but can
attain to everlasting life by fighting against Evil in the earthly scene
of its activity. It is free to choose between the only two courses of
action--good and evil; and besides the power of choice the spirit of
Light has endowed it with the following faculties:--

    1. Conscience[10:1].

    2. Vital force.

    3. The Soul--The Mind.

    4. The Spirit--Reason.

    5. The Farāwas̱ẖi[10:2].--A kind of tutelary spirit which acts
        as a protection of man in his voyage towards God.

The last three[10:3] faculties are united together after death, and form
an indissoluble whole. The virtuous soul, leaving its home of flesh, is
borne up into higher regions, and has to pass through the following
planes of existence:--

    1. The Place of good thoughts.

    2. The Place of good words.

    3. The Place of good works.

    4. The Place of Eternal Glory[11:1].--Where the individual soul
       unites with the principle of Light without losing its

    [9:1] Mithraism was a phase of Zoroastrianism which spread over
    the Roman world in the second century. The partisans of Mithra
    worshipped the sun whom they looked upon as the great advocate
    of Light. They held the human soul to be a part of God, and
    maintained that the observance of a mysterious cult could bring
    about the souls' union with God. Their doctrine of the soul, its
    ascent towards God by torturing the body and finally passing
    through the sphere of Aether and becoming pure fire, offers some
    resemblance with views entertained by some schools of Persian

    [10:1] Geiger's Civilisation of Eastern Iranians, Vol. I,
    p. 124.

    [10:2] Dr. Haug (Essays p. 206) compares these protecting
    spirits with the ideas of Plato. They, however, are not to be
    understood as models according to which things are fashioned.
    Plato's ideas, moreover, are eternal, non-temporal and
    non-spatial. The doctrine that everything created by the spirit
    of Light is protected by a subordinate spirit has only an
    outward resemblance with the view that every spirit is fashioned
    according to a perfect supersensible model.

    [10:3] The Ṣūfī conception of the soul is also tripartite.
    According to them the soul is a combination of Mind, heart and
    spirit (Nafs, Qalb, Rūḥ). The "heart" is to them both material
    and immaterial or, more properly, neither--standing midway
    between soul and mind (Nafs and Rūḥ), and acting as the organ of
    higher knowledge. Perhaps Dr. Schenkel's use of the word
    "conscience" would approach the ṣūfī idea of "heart".

    [11:1] Geiger Vol. I, p. 104. (The ṣūfī Cosmology has a similar
    doctrine concerning the different stages of existence through
    which the soul has to pass in its journey heavenward. They
    enumerate the following five Planes; but their definition of the
    character of each plane is slightly different:--

        1. The world of body. (Nāsūt).

        2. The world of pure intelligence. (Malakūt).

        3. The world of power. (Jabrūt).

        4. The world of negation. (Lāhūt).

        5. The world of Absolute Silence. (Hāhūt).

    The ṣūfīs probably borrowed this idea from the Indian Yogīs who
    recognise the following seven Planes:--(Annie Besant:
    Reincarnation, p. 30).

        1. The Plane of Physical Body.

        2. The Plane of Etherial double.

        3. The Plane of Vitality.

        4. The Plane of Emotional Nature.

        5. The Plane of Thought.

        6. The Plane of Spiritual soul--Reason.

        7. The Plane of Pure Spirit.)

§ II.

Mānī[12:1] and Mazdak[12:2].

We have seen Zoroaster's solution of the problem of diversity, and the
theological or rather philosophical controversy which split up the
Zoroastrian Church. The half-Persian Mānī--"the founder of Godless
community" as Christians styled him afterwards--agrees with those
Zoroastrians who held the Prophet's doctrine in its naked form, and
approaches the question in a spirit thoroughly materialistic.
Originally Persian his father emigrated from Hamadān to Babylonia where
Mānī was born in 215 or 216 A.D.--the time when Buddhistic Missionaries
were beginning to preach Nirvāna to the country of Zoroaster. The
eclectic character of the religious system of Mānī, its bold extension
of the Christian idea of redemption, and its logical consistency in
holding, as a true ground for an ascetic life, that the world is
essentially evil, made it a real power which influenced not only Eastern
and Western Christian thought[13:1], but has also left some dim marks on
the development of metaphysical speculation in Persia. Leaving the
discussion of the sources[13:2] of Mānī's religious system to the
orientalist, we proceed to describe and finally to determine the
philosophical value of his doctrine of the origin of the Phenomenal

    [12:1] Sources used:--

        (a) The text of Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq, edited by Flügel, pp.

        (b) Al-Ya‘qūbī: ed. Houtsma, 1883, Vol. I, pp. 180–181.

        (c) Ibn Ḥazm: Kitāb al-Milal w’al-Niḥal: ed. Cairo, Vol. II,
            p. 36.

        (d) S̱ẖahrastānī: ed. Cureton, London, 1846, pp. 188–192.

        (e) Encyclopaedia Britannica, Article on Mānī.

        (f) Salemann: Bulletin de l'Académie des Sciences de St.
            Petersburg Series IV, 15 April 1907, pp. 175--184. F. W.
            K. Müller: Handschriften--Reste in Estrangelo--Schrift
            aus Turfan, Chinesisch--Turkistan, Teil I, II; Sitzungen
            der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften,
            11 Feb. 1904, pp. 348–352; und Abhandlungen etc. 1904.

    [12:2] Sources used:--

        (a) Siyāsat Nāmah Nizām al-Mulk: ed. Charles Schefer,
            Paris, 1897, pp. 166–181.

        (b) S̱ẖahrastānī: ed. Cureton, pp. 192–194.

        (c) Al-Ya‘qūbī: ed. Houtsma, 1883, Vol. I, p. 186.

        (d) Al-Bīrūnī: Chronology of Ancient Nations: tr. E. Sachau,
            London, 1879, p. 192.

    [13:1] "If I see aright, five different conceptions can be
    distinguished for the period about 400 A.D. First we have the
    Manichaean which insinuated its way in the darkness, but was
    widely extended even among the clergy". (Harnack's History of
    Christian Dogma, Vol. V, p. 56). "From the anti-Manichaean
    controversy sprang the desire to conceive all God's attributes
    as identical i.e. the interest in the indivisibility of God",
    (Harnack's History of Christian Dogma, Vol V, p. 120).

    [13:2] Some Eastern sources of information about Mānī's
    Philosophy (e.g. Ephraim Syrus mentioned by Prof. A. A. Bevan in
    his Introduction to the Hymn of the Soul) tell us that he was a
    disciple of Bardesanes, the Syrian gnostic. The learned author
    of "al-Fihrist", however, mentions some books which Mānī wrote
    against the followers of the Syrian gnostic. Burkitt, in his
    lectures on Early Eastern Christianity, gives a free translation
    of Bardesanes' De Fato, the spirit of which I understand, is
    fully Christian, and thoroughly opposed to the teaching of Mānī.
    Ibn Ḥazm, however, in his Kitāb al-Milal w’al-Niḥal (Vol. II, p.
    36) says, "Both agreed in other respects, except that Mānī
    believed darkness to be a living principle."

The Paganising gnostic, as Erdmann calls him, teaches that the variety
of things springs from the mixture of two eternal Principles--Light and
Darkness--which are separate from and independent of each other. The
Principle of Light connotes ten ideas--Gentleness, Knowledge,
Understanding, Mystery, Insight, Love, Conviction, Faith, Benevolence
and Wisdom. Similarly the Principle of Darkness connotes five eternal
ideas--Mistiness, Heat, Fire, Venom, Darkness. Along with these two
primordial principles and connected with each, Mānī recognises the
eternity of space and earth, each connoting respectively the ideas of
knowledge, understanding, mystery, insight, breath, air, water, light
and fire. In darkness--the feminine Principle in Nature--were hidden
the elements of evil which, in course of time, concentrated and resulted
in the composition, so to speak, of the hideous looking Devil--the
principle of activity. This first born child of the fiery womb of
darkness, attacked the domain of the King of Light who, in order to ward
off his malicious onslaught, created the Primal man. A serious conflict
ensued between the two creatures, and resulted in the complete
vanquishment of the Primal Man. The evil one, then, succeeded in mixing
together the five elements of darkness with the five elements of light.
Thereupon the ruler of the domain of light ordered some of his angels to
construct the Universe out of these mixed elements with a view to free
the atoms of light from their imprisonment. But the reason why darkness
was the first to attack light, is that the latter, being in its essence
good, could not proceed to start the process of admixture which was
essentially harmful to itself. The attitude of Mānī's Cosmology,
therefore, to the Christian doctrine of Redemption is similar to that of
Hegelian Cosmology to the doctrine of the Trinity. To him redemption is
a physical process, and all procreation, because it protracts the
imprisonment of light, is contrary to the aim and object of the
Universe. The imprisoned atoms of light are continually set free from
darkness which is thrown down in the unfathomable ditch round the
Universe. The liberated light, however, passes on to the sun and the
moon whence it is carried by angels to the region of light--the eternal
home of the King of Paradise--"Pîd i vazargîî"--Father of greatness.

This is a brief account of Mānī's fantastic Cosmology.[16:1] He rejects
the Zoroastrian hypothesis of creative agencies to explain the problem
of objective existence. Taking a thoroughly materialistic view of the
question, he ascribes the phenomenal universe to the _mixture_ of two
independent, eternal principles, one of which (darkness) is not only a
part of the universe--stuff, but also the source wherein activity
resides, as it were, slumbering, and starts up into being when the
favourable moment arrives. The essential idea of his cosmology,
therefore, has a curious resemblance with that of the great Hindū
thinker Kapila, who accounts for the production of the universe by the
hypothesis of three gunas, i.e. Sattwa (goodness), Tamas (darkness), and
Rajas (motion or passion) which mix together to form Nature, when the
equilibrium of the primordial matter (Prakritī) is upset. Of the various
solutions[17:1] of the problem of diversity which the Vedāntist solved
by postulating the mysterious power of "Māyā", and Leibniz, long
afterwards, explained by his doctrine of the Identity of Indiscernibles,
Mānī's solution, though childish, must find a place in the historical
development of philosophical ideas. Its philosophical value may be
insignificant; but one thing is certain, i.e. Mānī was the first to
venture the suggestion that the Universe is due to the activity of the
Devil, and hence essentially evil--a proposition which seems to me to be
the only logical justification of a system which preaches renunciation
as the guiding principle of life. In our own times Schopenhauer has been
led to the same conclusion; though, unlike Mānī, he supposes the
principle of objectification or individuation--"the sinful bent" of the
will to life--to exist in the very nature of the Primal Will and not
independent of it.

    [16:1] It is interesting to compare Mānī's Philosophy of Nature
    with the Chinese notion of Creation, according to which all that
    exists flows from the Union of Yin and Yang. But the Chinese
    reduced these two principles to a higher unity:--Tai Keih. To
    Mānī such a reduction was not possible; since he could not
    conceive that things of opposite nature could proceed from the
    same principle.

    [17:1] Thomas Aquinas states and criticises Mānī's contrariety
    of Primal agents in the following manner:--

    (a) What all things seek even a principle of evil would seek.
        But all things seek their own self-preservation.
      ⁂ Even a principle of evil would seek its own self-preservation.

    (b) What all things seek is good.
        But self-preservation is what all things seek.
      ⁂ Self-preservation is good.
        But a principle of evil would seek its own self-preservation.
      ⁂ A principle of evil would seek some good--which shows that it
        is self-contradictory.

              God and His Creatures, Book II, p. 105. Rickaby's Tr.

Turning now to the remarkable socialist of ancient Persia--_Mazdak_.
This early prophet of communism appeared during the reign of
Anūs̱ẖīrwān the Just (531–578 A.D.), and marked another dualistic
reaction against the prevailing Zarwānian doctrine[18:1]. Mazdak, like
Mānī, taught that the diversity of things springs from the mixture of
two independent, eternal principles which he called S̱ẖīd (Light) and
Tār (Darkness). But he differs from his predecessor in holding that the
fact of their mixture as well as their final separation, are quite
accidental, and not at all the result of choice. Mazdak's God is endowed
with sensation, and has four principal energies in his eternal
presence--power of discrimination, memory, understanding and bliss.
These four energies have four personal manifestations who, assisted by
four other persons, superintend the course of the Universe. Variety in
things and men is due to the various combinations of the original

    [18:1] The Zarwānian doctrine prevailed in Persia in the 5th
    century B.C. (See Z. D. M. G., Vol. LVII, p. 562).

But the most characteristic feature of the Mazdakite teaching is its
communism, which is evidently an inference from the cosmopolitan spirit
of Mānī's Philosophy. All men, said Mazdak, are equal; and the notion of
individual property was introduced by the hostile demons whose object is
to turn God's Universe into a scene of endless misery. It is chiefly
this aspect of Mazdak's teaching that was most shocking to the
Zoroastrian conscience, and finally brought about the destruction of his
enormous following, even though the master was supposed to have
miraculously made the sacred Fire talk, and bear witness to the truth of
his mission.

§ III.


We have seen some of the aspects of Pre-Islamic Persian thought; though,
owing to our ignorance of the tendencies of Sāssānīde thought, and of
the political, social, and intellectual conditions that determined its
evolution, we have not been able fully to trace the continuity of ideas.
Nations as well as individuals, in their intellectual history, begin
with the objective. Although the moral fervour of Zoroaster gave a
spiritual tone to his theory of the origin of things, yet the net result
of this period of Persian speculation is nothing more than a
materialistic dualism. The principle of Unity as a philosophical ground
of all that exists, is but dimly perceived at this stage of intellectual
evolution in Persia. The controversy among the followers of Zoroaster
indicates that the movement towards a monistic conception of the
Universe had begun; but we have unfortunately no evidence to make a
positive statement concerning the pantheistic tendencies of Pre-Islamic
Persian thought. We know that in the 6{th} century A.D., Diogenes,
Simplicius and other Neo-Platonic thinkers, were driven by the
persecution of Justinian, to take refuge in the court of the tolerant
Anūs̱ẖīrwān. This great monarch, moreover, had several works translated
for him from Sanskrit and Greek, but we have no historical evidence to
show how far these events actually influenced the course of Persian
thought. Let us, therefore, pass on to the advent of Islām in Persia,
which completely shattered the old order of things, and brought to the
thinking mind the new concept of an uncompromising monotheism as well as
the Greek dualism of God and matter, as distinguished from the purely
Persian dualism of God and Devil.


Greek Dualism.



With the Arab conquest of Persia, a new era begins in the history of
Persian thought. But the warlike sons of sandy Arabia whose swords
terminated, at Nahāwand, the political independence of this ancient
people, could hardly touch the intellectual freedom of the converted

The political revolution brought about by the Arab conquest marks the
beginning of interaction between the Aryan and the Semitic, and we find
that the Persian, though he lets the surface of his life become largely
semitised, quietly converts Islām to his own Aryan habits of thought. In
the west the sober Hellenic intellect interpreted another Semitic
religion--Christianity; and the results of interpretation in both cases
are strikingly similar. In each case the aim of the interpreting
intellect is to soften the extreme rigidity of an absolute law imposed
on the individual from without; in one word it is an endeavour to
internalise the external. This process of transformation began with the
study of Greek thought which, though combined with other causes,
hindered the growth of native speculation, yet marked a transition from
the purely objective attitude of Pre-Islamic Persian Philosophy to the
subjective attitude of later thinkers. It is, I believe, largely due to
the influence of foreign thought that the old monistic tendency when it
reasserted itself about the end of the 8{th} century, assumed a much
more spiritual aspect; and, in its later development, revivified and
spiritualised the old Iranian dualism of Light and Darkness. The fact,
therefore, that Greek thought roused into fresh life the subtle Persian
intellect, and largely contributed to, and was finally assimilated by
the general course of intellectual evolution in Persia, justifies us in
briefly running over, even though at the risk of repetition, the systems
of the Persian Neo-Platonists who, as such, deserve very little
attention in a history of purely Persian thought.

It must, however, be remembered that Greek wisdom flowed towards the
Moslem east through Ḥarrān and Syria. The Syrians took up the latest
Greek speculation i.e. Neo-Platonism and transmitted to the Moslem what
they believed to be the real philosophy of Aristotle. It is surprising
that Mohammedan Philosophers, Arabs as well as Persians, continued
wrangling over what they believed to be the real teaching of Aristotle
and Plato, and it never occurred to them that for a thorough
comprehension of their Philosophies, the knowledge of Greek language was
absolutely necessary. So great was their ignorance that an epitomised
translation of the Enneads of Plotinus was accepted as "Theology of
Aristotle". It took them centuries to arrive at a clear conception of
the two great masters of Greek thought; and it is doubtful whether they
ever completely understood them. Avicenna is certainly clearer and more
original than Al-Fārābī and Ibn Maskawaih; and the Andelusian Averroes,
though he is nearer to Aristotle than any of his predecessors, is yet
far from a complete grasp of Aristotle's Philosophy. It would, however,
be unjust to accuse them of servile imitation. The history of their
speculation is one continuous attempt to wade through a hopeless mass of
absurdities that careless translators of Greek Philosophy had
introduced. They had largely to rethink the Philosophies of Aristotle
and Plato. Their commentaries constitute, so to speak, an effort at
discovery, not exposition. The very circumstances which left them no
time to think out independent systems of thought, point to a subtle
mind, unfortunately cabined and cribbed by a heap of obstructing
nonsense that patient industry had gradually to eliminate, and thus to
winnow out truth from falsehood. With these preliminary remarks we
proceed to consider Persian students of Greek Philosophy individually.

§ I.

Ibn Maskawaih[26:1] (d. 1030).

Passing over the names of Saraḵẖsī[26:2], Fārābī who was a Turk, and
the Physician Rāzī (d. 932 A.D.) who, true to his Persian habits of
thought, looked upon light as the first creation, and admitted the
eternity of matter, space and time, we come to the illustrious name of
Abu ‘Alī Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ya‘qūb, commonly known as _Ibn
Maskawaih_--the treasurer of the Buwaihid Sultān ‘Ad̤aduddaula--one of
the most eminent theistic thinkers, physicians, moralists and historians
of Persia. I give below a brief account of his system from his well
known work Al-Fauz al-Aṣg̱ẖar, published in Beirūt.

    [26:1] Dr. Boer, in his Philosophy of Islām, gives a full
    account of the Philosophy of Al-Fārābī and Avicenna; but his
    account of Ibn Maskawaih's Philosophy is restricted to the
    Ethical teaching of that Philosopher. I have given here his
    metaphysical views which are decidedly more systematic than
    those of Al-Fārābī. Instead of repeating Avicenna's
    Neo-Platonism I have briefly stated what I believe to be his
    original contribution to the thought of his country.

    [26:2] Saraḵẖsī died in 899 A.D. He was a disciple of the
    Arabian Philosopher Al-Kindī. His works, unfortunately, have not
    reached us.

1. _The existence of the ultimate principle._

Here Ibn Maskawaih follows Aristotle, and reproduces his argument based
on the fact of physical motion. All bodies have the inseparable property
of motion which covers all forms of change, and does not proceed from
the nature of bodies themselves. Motion, therefore, demands an external
source or prime mover. The supposition that motion may constitute the
very essence of bodies, is contradicted by experience. Man, for
instance, has the power of free movement; but, on the supposition,
different parts of his body must continue to move even after they are
severed from one another. The series of moving causes, therefore, must
stop at a cause which, itself immovable, moves everything else. The
immobility of the Primal cause is essential; for the supposition of
motion in the Primal cause would necessitate infinite regress, which is

The immovable mover is one. A multiplicity of original movers must imply
something common in their nature, so that they might be brought under
the same category. It must also imply some point of difference in order
to distinguish them from each other. But this partial identity and
difference necessitate composition in their respective essences; and
composition, being a form of motion, cannot, as we have shown, exist in
the first cause of motion. The prime mover again is eternal and
immaterial. Since transition from non-existence to existence is a form
of motion; and since matter is always subject to some kind of motion, it
follows that a thing which is not eternal, or is, in any way, associated
with matter, must be in motion.

2. _The Knowledge of the Ultimate._

All human knowledge begins from sensations which are gradually
transformed into perceptions. The earlier stages of intellection are
completely conditioned by the presence of external reality. But the
progress of knowledge means to be able to think without being
conditioned by matter. Thought begins with matter, but its object is to
gradually free itself from the primary condition of its own
possibility. A higher stage, therefore, is reached in imagination--the
power to reproduce and retain in the mind the copy or image of a thing
without reference to the external objectivity of the thing itself. In
the formation of concepts thought reaches a still higher stage in point
of freedom from materiality; though the concept, in so far as it is the
result of comparison and assimilation of percepts, cannot be regarded as
having completely freed itself from the gross cause of sensations. But
the fact that conception is based on perception, should not lead us to
ignore the great difference between the nature of the concept and the
percept. The individual (percept) is undergoing constant change which
affects the character of the knowledge founded on mere perception. The
knowledge of individuals, therefore, lacks the element of permanence.
The universal (concept), on the other hand, is not affected by the law
of change. Individuals change; the universal remains intact. It is the
essence of matter to submit to the law of change: the freer a thing is
from matter, the less liable it is to change. God, therefore, being
absolutely free from matter, is absolutely changeless; and it is His
complete freedom from materiality that makes our conception of Him
difficult or impossible. The object of all philosophical training is to
develop the power of "ideation" or contemplation on pure concepts, in
order that constant practice might make possible the conception of the
absolutely immaterial.

3. _How the one creates the many._

In this connection it is necessary, for the sake of clearness, to divide
Ibn Maskawaih's investigations into two parts:--

(a) _That the ultimate agent or cause created the Universe out of
nothing._ Materialists, he says, hold the eternity of matter, and
attribute form to the creative activity of God. It is, however, admitted
that when matter passes from one form into another form, the previous
form becomes absolutely non-existent. For if it does not become
absolutely non-existent, it must either pass off into some other body,
or continue to exist in the same body. The first alternative is
contradicted by every day experience. If we transform a ball of wax
into a solid square, the original rotundity of the ball does not pass
off into some other body. The second alternative is also impossible; for
it would necessitate the conclusion that two contradictory forms e.g.
circularity and length, can exist in the same body. It, therefore,
follows that the original form passes into absolute non-existence, when
the new form comes into being. This argument proves conclusively that
attributes i.e., form, color, etc., come into being from pure nothing.
In order to understand that the substance is also non-eternal like the
attribute, we should grasp the truth of the following propositions:--

1. The analysis of matter results in a number of different elements, the
diversity of which is reduced to one simple element.

2. Form and matter are inseparable: no change in matter can annihilate

From these two propositions, Ibn Maskawaih concludes that the substance
had a beginning in time. Matter like form must have begun to exist;
since the eternity of matter necessitates the eternity of form which,
as we have seen, cannot be regarded as eternal.

(b) _The process of creation._ What is the cause of this immense
diversity which meets us on all sides? How could the many be created by
one? When, says the Philosopher, one cause produces a number of
different effects, their multiplicity may depend on any of the following

1. The cause may have various powers. Man, for instance, being a
combination of various elements and powers, may be the cause of various

2. The cause may use various means to produce a variety of effects.

3. The cause may work upon a variety of material.

None of these propositions can be true of the nature of the ultimate
cause--God. That he possesses various powers, distinct from one another,
is manifestly absurd; since his nature does not admit of composition. If
he is supposed to have employed different means to produce diversity,
who is the creator of these means? If these means are due to the
creative agency of some cause other than the ultimate cause, there
would be a plurality of ultimate causes. If, on the other hand, the
Ultimate Cause himself created these means, he must have required other
means to create these means. The third proposition is also inadmissible
as a conception of the creative act. The many cannot flow from the
causal action of one agent. It, therefore, follows that we have only one
way out of the difficulty--that the ultimate cause created only one
thing which led to the creation of another. Ibn Maskawaih here
enumerates the usual Neo-Platonic emanations gradually growing grosser
and grosser until we reach the primordial elements, which combine and
recombine to evolve higher and higher forms of life. S̱ẖiblī thus sums
up Ibn Maskawaih's theory of evolution[33:1]:--

"The combination of primary substances produced the mineral kingdom, the
lowest form of life. A higher stage of evolution is reached in the
vegetable kingdom. The first to appear is spontaneous grass; then plants
and various kinds of trees, some of which touch the border-land of
animal kingdom, in so far as they manifest certain animal
characteristics. Intermediary between the vegetable kingdom and the
animal kingdom there is a certain form of life which is neither animal
nor vegetable, but shares the characteristics of both (e.g. coral). The
first step beyond this intermediary stage of life, is the development of
the power of movement, and the sense of touch in tiny worms which crawl
upon the earth. The sense of touch, owing to the process of
differentiation, develops other forms of sense, until we reach the plane
of higher animals in which intelligence begins to manifest itself in an
ascending scale. Humanity is touched in the ape which undergoes further
development, and gradually develops erect stature and power of
understanding similar to man. Here animality ends and humanity begins".

    [33:1] Maulānā S̱ẖiblī ‘Ilm al-Kalām, p. 141. (Haidarābād).

4. _The soul._

In order to understand whether the soul has an independent existence, we
should examine the nature of human knowledge. It is the essential
property of matter that it cannot assume two different forms
simultaneously. To transform a silver spoon into a silver glass, it is
necessary that the spoon-form as such, should cease to exist. This
property is common to all bodies, and a body that lacks it cannot be
regarded as a body. Now when we examine the nature of perception, we see
that there is a principle in man which, in so far as it is able to know
more than one thing at a time, can assume, so to say, many different
forms simultaneously. This principle cannot be matter, since it lacks
the fundamental property of matter. The essence of the soul consists in
the power of perceiving a number of objects at one and the same moment
of time. But it may be objected that the soul-principle may be either
material in its essence, or a function of matter. There are, however,
reasons to show that the soul cannot be a function of matter.

(a). A thing which assumes different forms and states, cannot itself be
one of those forms and states. A body which receives different colors
should be, in its own nature, colorless. The soul, in its perception of
external objects, assumes, as it were, various forms and states; it,
therefore, cannot be regarded as one of those forms. Ibn Maskawaih
seems to give no countenance to the contemporary Faculty-Psychology; to
him different mental states are various transformations of the soul

(b). The attributes are constantly changing; there must be beyond the
sphere of change, some permanent substratum which is the foundation of
personal identity.

Having shown that the soul cannot be regarded as a function of matter,
Ibn Maskawaih proceeds to prove that it is essentially immaterial. Some
of his arguments may be noticed:--

1. The senses, after they have perceived a strong stimulus, cannot, for
a certain amount of time, perceive a weaker stimulus. It is, however,
quite different with the mental act of cognition.

2. When we reflect on an abstruse subject, we endeavour to completely
shut our eyes to the objects around us, which we regard as so many
hindrances in the way of spiritual activity. If the soul is material in
its essence, it need not, in order to secure unimpeded activity, escape
from the world of matter.

3. The perception of a strong stimulus weakens and sometimes injures the
sense. The intellect, on the other hand, grows in strength with the
knowledge of ideas and general notions.

4. Physical weakness due to old age, does not affect mental vigour.

5. The soul can conceive certain propositions which have no connection
with the sense-data. The senses, for instance, cannot perceive that two
contradictories cannot exist together.

6. There is a certain power in us which rules over physical organs,
corrects sense-errors, and unifies all knowledge. This unifying
principle which reflects over the material brought before it through the
sense-channel, and, weighing the evidence of each sense, decides the
character of rival statements, must itself stand above the sphere of

The combined force of these considerations, says Ibn Maskawaih,
conclusively establishes the truth of the proposition--that the soul is
essentially immaterial. The immateriality of the soul signifies its
immortality; since mortality is a characteristic of the material.

§ II.

Avicenna (d. 1037).

Among the early Persian Philosophers, Avicenna alone attempted to
construct his own system of thought. His work, called "Eastern
Philosophy" is still extant; and there has also come down to us a
fragment[38:1] in which the Philosopher has expressed his views on the
universal operation of the force of love in nature. It is something like
the contour of a system, and it is quite probable that ideas expressed
therein were afterwards fully worked out.

    [38:1] This fragment on love is preserved in the collected works
    of Avicenna in the British Museum Library and has been edited by
    N. A. F. Mehren. (Leiden, 1894.)

Avicenna defines "Love" as the appreciation of Beauty; and from the
standpoint of this definition he explains that there are three
categories of being:--

1. Things that are at the highest point of perfection.

2. Things that are at the lowest point of perfection.

3. Things that stand between the two poles of perfection. But the third
category has no real existence; since there are things that have already
attained the acme of perfection, and there are others still progressing
towards perfection. This striving for the ideal is love's movement
towards beauty which, according to Avicenna, is identical with
perfection. Beneath the visible evolution of forms is the force of love
which actualises all striving, movement, progress. Things are so
constituted that they hate non-existence, and love the joy of
individuality in various forms. The indeterminate matter, dead in
itself, assumes, or more properly, is made to assume by the inner force
of love, various forms, and rises higher and higher in the scale of
beauty. The operation of this ultimate force, in the physical plane, can
be thus indicated:--

1. Inanimate objects are combinations of form, matter and quality. Owing
to the working of this mysterious power, quality sticks to its subject
or substance; and form embraces indeterminate matter which, impelled by
the mighty force of love, rises from form to form.

2. The tendency of the force of love is to centralise itself. In the
vegetable kingdom it attains a higher degree of unity or centralisation;
though the soul still lacks that unity of action which it attains
afterwards. The processes of the vegetative soul are:--

(a) Assimilation.

(b) Growth.

(c) Reproduction.

These processes, however, are nothing more than so many manifestations
of love. Assimilation indicates attraction and transformation of what is
external into what is internal. Growth is love of achieving more and
more harmony of parts; and reproduction means perpetuation of the kind,
which is only another phase of love.

3. In the animal kingdom, the various operations of the force of love
are still more unified. It does preserve the vegetable instinct of
acting in different directions; but there is also the development of
temperament which is a step towards more unified activity. In man this
tendency towards unification manifests itself in self-consciousness. The
same force of "natural or constitutional love", is working in the life
of beings higher than man. All things are moving towards the first
Beloved--the Eternal Beauty. The worth of a thing is decided by its
nearness to or distance from, this ultimate principle.

As a physician, however, Avicenna is especially interested in the nature
of the Soul. In his times, moreover, the doctrine of metempsychosis was
getting more and more popular. He, therefore, discusses the nature of
the soul, with a view to show the falsity of this doctrine. It is
difficult, he says, to define the soul; since it manifests different
powers and tendencies in different planes of being. His view of the
various powers of the soul can be thus represented:--

1. Manifestation as unconscious activity--

    (a). Working in different directions ┌ 1. Assimilation.
          (Vegetative soul)              │ 2. Growth.
                                         └ 3. Reproduction.

(b). Working in one direction and securing uniformity of action--growth
of temperament.

2. Manifestation as conscious activity--

(a). As directed to more than one object--

                 Animal soul.
      │                                 │
    Lower Animals.                     Man.

    A. Perceptive powers.            A. Perceptive powers.
    B. Motive powers (desire           (a) Five external senses.
       of pleasure and avoidance       (b) Five internal senses--
       of pain).                            1. Sensorium.
                                            2. Retention of images.
                                            3. Conception.
                                            4. Imagination.
                                            5. Memory.

                                      These constitute the five internal
                                      senses of the soul which, in man,
                                      manifests itself as progressive
                                      reason, developing from human to
                                      angelic and prophetic reason.

                                     B. Motive powers--will.

(b). As directed to one object--The soul of the spheres which continue
in one uniform motion.

In his fragment on "Nafs" (soul) Avicenna endeavours to show that a
material accompaniment is not necessary to the soul. It is not through
the instrumentality of the body, or some power of the body, that the
soul conceives or imagines; since if the soul necessarily requires a
physical medium in conceiving other things, it must require a different
body in order to conceive the body attached to itself. Moreover, the
fact that the soul is immediately self conscious--conscious of itself
through itself--conclusively shows that in its essence the soul is quite
independent of any physical accompaniment. The doctrine of
metempsychosis implies, also, individual pre-existence. But supposing
that the soul did exist before the body, it must have existed either as
one or as many. The multiplicity of bodies is due to the multiplicity of
material forms, and does not indicate the multiplicity of souls. On the
other hand, if it existed as one, the ignorance or knowledge of A must
mean the ignorance or knowledge of B; since the soul is one in both.
These categories, therefore, cannot be applied to the soul. The truth
is, says Avicenna, that body and soul are contiguous to each other, but
quite opposite in their respective essences. The disintegration of the
body does not necessitate the annihilation of the soul. Dissolution or
decay is a property of compounds, and not of simple, indivisible, ideal
substances. Avicenna, then denies pre-existence, and endeavours to show
the possibility of disembodied conscious life beyond the grave.

We have run over the work of the early Persian Neo-Platonists among
whom, as we have seen, Avicenna alone learned to think for himself. Of
the generations of his disciples--Behmenyār, Ab u’l-Ma’mūm of Isfahān,
Ma‘ṣūmī, Ab u’l-‘Abbās, Ibn Tāhir[44:1]--who carried on their master's
Philosophy, we need not speak. So powerful was the spell of Avicenna's
personality that, even long after it had been removed, any amplification
or modification of his views was considered to be an unpardonable crime.
The old Iranian idea of the dualism of Light and Darkness, does not act
as a determining factor in the progress of Neo-Platonic ideas in Persia,
which borrowed independent life for a time, and eventually merged their
separate existence in the general current of Persian speculation. They
are, therefore, connected with the course of indigenous thought only in
so far as they contributed to the strength and expansion of that
monistic tendency, which manifested itself early in the Church of
Zoroaster; and, though for a time hindered by the Theological
controversies of Islām, burst out with redoubled force in later times,
to extend its titanic grasp to all the previous intellectual
achievements of the land of its birth.

    [44:1] Al-Baihaqi; fol. 28a et seqq.



§ I.

The Metaphysics of Rationalism--Materialism.

The Persian mind, having adjusted itself to the new political
environment, soon reasserts its innate freedom, and begins to retire
from the field of objectivity, in order that it may come back to itself,
and reflect upon the material achieved in its journey out of its own
inwardness. With the study of Greek thought, the spirit which was almost
lost in the concrete, begins to reflect and realise itself as the
arbiter of truth. Subjectivity asserts itself, and endeavours to
supplant all outward authority. Such a period, in the intellectual
history of a people, must be the epoch of rationalism, scepticism,
mysticism, heresy--forms in which the human mind, swayed by the growing
force of subjectivity, rejects all external standards of truth. And so
we find the epoch under consideration.

The period of Umayyad dominance is taken up with the process of
co-mingling and adjustment to new conditions of life; but with the rise
of the ‘Abbāsid Dynasty and the study of Greek Philosophy, the pent-up
intellectual force of Persia bursts out again, and exhibits wonderful
activity in all the departments of thought and action. The fresh
intellectual vigour imparted by the assimilation of Greek Philosophy
which was studied with great avidity, led immediately to a critical
examination of Islamic Monotheism. Theology, enlivened by religious
fervour, learned to talk the language of Philosophy earlier than cold
reason began to seek a retired corner, away from the noise of
controversy, in order to construct a consistent theory of things. In the
first half of the 8{th} century we find Wāṣil Ibn ‘Atā--a Persian
disciple of the famous theologian Ḥasan of Baṣra--starting Mu‘tazilaism
(Rationalism)--that most interesting movement which engaged some of the
subtlest minds of Persia, and finally exhausted its force in the keen
metaphysical controversies of Bag̱ẖdād and Baṣra. The famous city of
Baṣra had become, owing to its commercial situation, the playground of
various forces--Greek Philosophy, Scepticism, Christianity, Buddhistic
ideas, Manichaeism[47:1]--which furnished ample spiritual food to the
inquiring mind of the time, and formed the intellectual environment of
Islamic Rationalism. What Spitta calls the Syrian period of Muhammadan
History is not characterised with metaphysical subtleties. With the
advent of the Persian Period, however, Muhammadan students of Greek
Philosophy began properly to reflect on their religion; and the
Mu‘tazila thinkers[47:2], gradually drifted into metaphysics with which
alone we are concerned here. It is not our object to trace the history
of the Mu‘tazila Kalām; for present purposes it will be sufficient if we
briefly reveal the metaphysical implications of the Mu‘tazila view of
Islām. The conception of God, and the theory of matter, therefore, are
the only aspects of Rationalism which we propose to discuss here.

    [47:1] During the ‘Abbāsid Period there were many who secretly
    held Manichaean opinions. See Fihrist, Leipsig 1871, p. 338; See
    also Al-Mu‘tazila, ed. by T. W. Arnold, Leipsig 1902, p. 27,
    where the author speaks of a controversy between Abu
    ’l-Huḏẖail and Ṣālih, the Dualist. See also Macdonald's Muslim
    Theology, p. 133.

    [47:2] The Mu‘tazilas belonged to various nationalities, and
    many of them were Persians either by descent or domicile. Wāṣil
    Ibn ‘Atā--the reported founder of the sect--was a Persian
    (Browne, Lit. His., Vol I, p. 281). Von Kremer, however, traces
    their origin to the theological controversies of the Umayyad
    period. Mu‘tazilaism was not an essentially Persian movement;
    but it is true, as Prof. Browne observes (Lit. His., Vol. I, p.
    283) that S̱ẖi‘ite and Qādarī tenets, indeed, often went
    together, and the S̱ẖi‘ite doctrine current in Persia at the
    present day is in many respects Mu‘tazilite, while Ḥasan
    Al-As̱ẖ‘arī, the great opponent of the Mu‘tazilite, is by the
    S̱ẖi‘ites held in horror. It may also be added that some of the
    greater representatives of the Mu‘tazila opinion were S̱ẖi‘as
    by religion, e.g. Abu ’l-Huḏẖail (Al-Mu‘tazila, ed. by T. W.
    Arnold, p. 28). On the other hand many of the followers of
    Al-As̱ẖ‘ari were Persians (See extracts from Ibn ‘Asākir ed.
    Mehren), so that it does not seem to be quite justifiable to
    describe the As̱ẖ‘arite mode of thought as a purely semitic

His conception of the unity of God at which the Mu‘tazila eventually
arrived by a subtle dialectic is one of the fundamental points in which
he differs from the Orthodox Muhammadan. God's attributes, according to
his view, cannot be said to inhere in him; they form the very essence of
His nature. The Mu‘tazila, therefore, denies the separate reality of
divine attributes, and declares their absolute identity with the
abstract divine Principle. "God", says Abu’l-Huḏẖail, "is knowing,
all-powerful, living; and his knowledge, power and life constitute His
very essence (ḏẖāt)"[49:1]. In order to explain the pure unity of God
Joseph Al-Baṣīr[49:2] lays down the following five principles:--

(1). The necessary supposition of atom and accident.

(2). The necessary supposition of a creator.

(3). The necessary supposition of the conditions (Aḥwāl) of God.

(4). The rejection of those attributes which do not befit God.

(5). The unity of God in spite of the plurality of His attributes.

    [49:1] S̱ẖahrastānī: Cureton's ed., p. 34.

    [49:2] Dr. Frankl: Ein Mu‘tazilitischer Kalām--Wien 1872, p. 13.

This conception of unity underwent further modifications; until in the
hands of Mu‘ammar and Abu Hās̱ẖim it became a mere abstract possibility
about which nothing could be predicated. We cannot, he says, predicate
knowledge of God[50:1], for His knowledge must be of something in
Himself. The first necessitates the identity of subject and object which
is absurd; the second implicates duality in the nature of God which is
equally impossible. Aḥmad and Faḍl[50:2]--disciples of Nazzām, however,
recognised this duality in holding that the original creators are
two--God--the eternal principle; and the word of God--Jesus Christ--the
contingent principle. But more fully to bring out the element of truth
in the second alternative suggested by Mu‘ammar, was reserved, as we
shall see, for later Ṣūfī thinkers of Persia. It is, therefore, clear
that some of the rationalists almost unconsciously touched the outer
fringe of later pantheism for which, in a sense, they prepared the way,
not only by their definition of God, but also by their common effort to
internalise the rigid externality of an absolute law.

    [50:1] S̱ẖahrastānī: Cureton's ed., p. 48. See also
    Steiner--Die Mutaziliten, p. 59.

    [50:2] Ibn Ḥazm (Cairo, ed. I) Vol. IV, p. 197. See also
    S̱ẖahrastānī: Cureton's ed., p. 42.

But the most important contribution of the advocates of Rationalism to
purely metaphysical speculation, is their explanation of matter, which
their opponents--the Ash‘arite--afterwards modified to fit in with their
own views of the nature of God. The interest of Nazzām chiefly consisted
in the exclusion of all arbitrariness from the orderly course of
nature[51:1]. The same interest in naturalism led Al-Jāḥiẓ to define
Will in a purely negative manner[51:2]. Though the Rationalist thinkers
did not want to abandon the idea of a Personal Will, yet they
endeavoured to find a deeper ground for the independence of individual
natural phenomena. And this ground they found in matter itself. Nazzām
taught the infinite divisibility of matter, and obliterated the
distinction between substance and accident[51:3]. Existence was regarded
as a quality superimposed by God on the pre-existing material atoms
which would have been incapable of perception without this quality.
Muḥammad Ibn ‘Uṯẖmān, one of the Mu‘tazila S̱ẖaiḵẖs, says Ibn
Ḥazm,[51:4] maintained that the non-existent (atom in its
pre-existential state) is a body in that state; only that in its
pre-existential condition it is neither in motion, nor at rest, nor is
it said to be created. Substance, then, is a collection of
qualities--taste, odour, colour--which, in themselves, are nothing more
than material potentialities. The soul, too, is a finer kind of matter;
and the processes of knowledge are mere mental motions. Creation is only
the actualisation of pre-existing potentialities[52:1] (Ṭafra). The
individuality of a thing which is defined as "that of which something
can be predicated"[52:2] is not an essential factor in its notion. The
collection of things we call the Universe, is externalised or
perceptible reality which could, so to speak, exist independent of all
perceptibility. The object of these metaphysical subtleties is purely
theological. God, to the Rationalist, is an absolute unity which can, in
no sense, admit of plurality, and could thus exist without the
perceptible plurality--the Universe.

    [51:1] Steiner: Die Mu‘taziliten; Leipzig, 1865, p. 57.

    [51:2] Steiner: Die Mu‘taziliten; Leipzig, 1865, p. 59.

    [51:3] S̱ẖahrastānī: Cureton's ed., p. 38.

    [51:4] Ibn Ḥazm (ed. Cairo): Vol. V, p. 42.

    [52:1] S̱ẖahrastānī: Cureton's ed, p. 38.

    [52:2] Steiner: Die Mu‘taziliten, p. 80.

The activity of God, then, consists only in making the atom perceptible.
The properties of the atom flow from its own nature. A stone thrown up
falls down on account of its own indwelling property[53:1]. God, says
Al-‘Aṭṭār of Baṣra and Bis̱ẖr ibn al Mu‘tamir, did not create colour,
length, breadth, taste or smell--all these are activities of bodies
themselves[53:2]. Even the number of things in the Universe is not known
to God[53:3]. Bishr ibn al-Mu‘tamir further explained the properties of
bodies by what he called "Tawallud"--interaction of bodies[53:4]. Thus
it is clear that the Rationalists were philosophically materialists, and
theologically deists.

    [53:1] S̱ẖahrastānī: Cureton's ed., p. 38.

    [53:2] Ibn Ḥazm (ed. Cairo): Vol. IV, pp. 194, 197.

    [53:3] Ibn Ḥazm (ed. Cairo): Vol. IV, p. 194.

    [53:4] S̱ẖahrastānī: Cureton's ed., p. 44.

To them substance and atom are identical, and they define substance as a
space-filling atom which, besides the quality of filling space, has a
certain direction, force and existence forming its very essence as an
actuality. In shape it is squarelike; for if it is supposed to be
circular, combination of different atoms would not be possible[53:5].
There is, however, great difference of opinion among the exponents of
atomism in regard to the nature of the atom. Some hold that atoms are
all similar to each other; while Abu’l-Qāsim of Balḵẖ regards them as
similar as well as dissimilar. When we say that two things are similar
to each other, we do not necessarily mean that they are similar in all
their attributes. Abu’l-Qāsim further differs from Nazzām in advocating
the indestructibility of the atom. He holds that the atom had a
beginning in time; but that it cannot be completely annihilated. The
attribute of "Baqā" (continued existence), he says, does not give to its
subject a new attribute other than existence; and the continuity of
existence is not an additional attribute at all. The divine activity
created the atom as well as its continued existence. Abu’l-Qāsim,
however, admits that some atoms may not have been created for continued
existence. He denies also the existence of any intervening space between
different atoms, and holds, unlike other representatives of the school,
that the essence or atom (Māhiyyat) could not remain essence in a state
of non-existence. To advocate the opposite is a contradiction in terms.
To say that the essence (which is essence because of the attribute of
existence) could remain essence in a state of non-existence, is to say
that the existent could remain existent in a state of non-existence. It
is obvious that Abu’l-Qāsim here approaches the As̱ẖ‘arite theory of
knowledge which dealt a serious blow to the Rationalist theory of

    [53:5] In my treatment of the atomism of Islamic Rationalists, I
    am indebted to Arthur Biram's publication: "Kitābul Masā’il fil
    ḵẖilāf beyn al-Baṣriyyīn wal Bag̱ẖdādiyyīn".

§ II.

Contemporary Movements of Thought.

Side by side with the development of Mu‘tazilaism we see, as is natural
in a period of great intellectual activity, many other tendencies of
thought manifesting themselves in the philosophical and religious
circles of Islam. Let us notice them briefly:--

1. Scepticism. The tendency towards scepticism was the natural
consequence of the purely dialectic method of Rationalism. Men such as
Ibn As̱ẖras and Al-Jāhiz who apparently belonged to the Rationalist
camp, were really sceptics. The standpoint of Al-Jāhiz who inclined to
deistic naturalism[55:1], is that of a cultured man of the time, and
not of a professional theologian. In him is noticeable also a reaction
against the metaphysical hairsplitting of his predecessors, and a desire
to widen the pale of theology for the sake of the illiterate who are
incapable of reflecting on articles of faith.

    [55:1] Macdonald's Muslim Theology, p. 161.

2. Ṣūfīism--an appeal to a higher source of knowledge which was first
systematised by Ḏẖu’l-Nūn, and became more and more deepened and
antischolastic in contrast to the dry intellectualism of the
As̱ẖ‘arite. We shall consider this interesting movement in the
following chapter.

3. The revival of authority--Ismā‘īlianism--a movement
characteristically Persian which, instead of repudiating freethought,
endeavours to come to an understanding with it. Though this movement
seems to have no connection with the theological controversies of the
time, yet its connection with freethought is fundamental. The similarity
between the methods practised by the Ismā‘īlian missionaries and those
of the partisans of the association called Iḵẖwān al-Safā--Brethren of
Purity--suggests some sort of secret relation between the two
institutions. Whatever may be the motive of those who started this
movement, its significance as an intellectual phenomenon should not be
lost sight of. The multiplicity of philosophical and religious views--a
necessary consequence of speculative activity--is apt to invoke forces
which operate against this, religiously speaking, dangerous
multiplicity. In the 18th century history of European thought we see
Fichte, starting with a sceptical inquiry concerning the nature of
matter, and finding its last word in Pantheism. Schleiermacher appeals
to Faith as opposed to Reason, Jacobi points to a source of knowledge
higher than reason, while Comte abandons all metaphysical inquiry, and
limits all knowledge to sensuous perception. De Maistre and Schlegel, on
the other hand, find a resting place in the authority of an absolutely
infallible Pope. The advocates of the doctrine of Imāmat think in the
same strain as De Maistre; but it is curious that the Ismā‘īlians, while
making this doctrine the basis of their Church, permitted free play to
all sorts of thinking.

The Ismā‘īlia movement then is one aspect of the persistent
battle[57:1] which the intellectually independent Persian waged against
the religious and political ideals of Islam. Originally a branch of the
Shī‘ite religion, the Ismā‘īlia sect assumed quite a cosmopolitan
character with ‘Abdulla ibn Maimūn--the probable progenitor of the
Fātimid Caliphs of Egypt--who died about the same time when
Al-As̱ẖ‘arī, the great opponent of Freethought, was born. This curious
man imagined a vast scheme in which he weaved together innumerable
threads of various hues, resulting in a cleverly constructed
equivocation, charming to the Persian mind for its mysterious character
and misty Pythagorean Philosophy. Like the Association of the Brethren
of Purity, he made an attempt, under the pious cloak of the doctrine of
Imāmat (Authority), to synthesise all the dominating ideas of the time.
Greek Philosophy, Christianity, Rationalism, Sūfīism, Manichaeism,
Persian heresies, and above all the idea of reincarnation, all came
forward to contribute their respective shares to the boldly conceived
Ismā‘īlian whole, the various aspects of which were to be gradually
revealed to the initiated, by the "Leader"--the ever Incarnating
Universal Reason--according to the intellectual development of the age
in which he incarnated himself. In the Ismā‘īlian movement, Freethought,
apprehending the collapse of its ever widening structure, seeks to rest
upon a stable basis, and, by a strange irony of fate, is led to find it
in the very idea which is revolting to its whole being. Barren
authority, though still apt to reassert herself at times, adopts this
unclaimed child, and thus permits herself to assimilate all knowledge
past, present and future.

    [57:1] Ibn Ḥazm in his Kitāb al-Milal, looks upon the heretical
    sects of Persia as a continuous struggle against the Arab power
    which the cunning Persian attempted to shake off by these
    peaceful means. See Von Kremer's Geschichte der herrschenden
    Ideen des Islams, pp. 10, 11, where this learned Arab historian
    of Cordova is quoted at length.

The unfortunate connection, however, of this movement with the politics
of the time, has misled many a scholar. They see in it (Macdonald, for
instance) nothing more than a powerful conspiracy to uproot the
political power of the Arab from Persia. They have denounced the
Ismā‘īlian Church which counted among its followers some of the best
heads and sincerest hearts, as a mere clique of dark murderers who were
ever watching for a possible victim. We must always remember, while
estimating the character of these people, the most barbarous
persecutions which drove them to pay red-handed fanaticism in the same
coin. Assassinations for religious purposes were considered
unobjectionable, and even perhaps lawful, among the whole Semite race.
As late as the latter half of the 16th century, the Pope of Rome could
approve such a dreadful slaughter as the massacre of St. Bartholomew.
That assassination, even though actuated by religious zeal, is still a
crime, is a purely modern idea; and justice demands that we should not
judge older generations with our own standards of right and wrong. A
great religious movement which shook to its very foundations the
structure of a vast empire, and, having successfully passed through the
varied ordeals of moral reproach, calumny and persecution, stood up for
centuries as a champion of Science and Philosophy, could not have
entirely rested on the frail basis of a political conspiracy of a mere
local and temporary character. Ismā‘īlianism, in spite of its almost
entire loss of original vitality, still dominates the ethical ideal of
not an insignificant number in India, Persia, Central Asia, Syria and
Africa; while the last expression of Persian thought--Bābism--is
essentially Ismā‘īlian in its character.

To return, however, to the Philosophy of the sect. From the later
Rationalists they borrowed their conception of Divinity. God, or the
ultimate principle of existence, they teach, has no attribute. His
nature admits of no predication. When we predicate the attribute of
power to him, we only mean that He is the giver of power; when we
predicate eternity, we indicate the eternity of what the Qur’ān calls
"Amr" (word of God) as distinguished from the "Ḵẖalq" (creation of
God) which is contingent. In His nature all contradictions melt away,
and from Him flow all opposites. Thus they considered themselves to have
solved the problem which had troubled the mind of Zoroaster and his

In order to find an answer to the question, "What is plurality?" the
Ismā‘īlia refer to what they consider a metaphysical axiom--"that from
one only one can proceed". But the one which proceeds, is not something
completely different from which it proceeds. It is really the Primal one
transformed. The Primal Unity, therefore, transformed itself into the
First Intellect (Universal Reason); and then, by means of this
transformation of itself, created the Universal soul which, impelled by
its nature to perfectly identify itself with the original source, felt
the necessity of motion, and consequently of a body possessing the power
of motion. In order to achieve its end, the soul created the heavens
moving in circular motion according to its direction. It also created
the elements which mixed together, and formed the visible Universe--the
scene of plurality through which it endeavours to pass with a view to
come back to the original source. The individual soul is an epitome of
the whole Universe which exists only for its progressive education. The
Universal Reason incarnates itself from time to time, in the personality
of the "Leader" who illuminates the soul in proportion to its experience
and understanding, and gradually guides it through the scene of
plurality to the world of eternal unity. When the Universal soul
reaches its goal, or rather returns to its own deep being, the process
of disintegration ensues. "Particles constituting the Universe fall off
from each other--those of goodness go to truth (God) which symbolises
unity; those of evil go to untruth (Devil) which symbolises
diversity"[63:1]. This is but briefly the Ismā‘īlian Philosophy--a
mixture, as S̱ẖarastānī remarks, of Philosophical and Manichaean
ideas--which, by gradually arousing the slumbering spirit of scepticism,
they administered, as it were, in doses to the initiated, and finally
brought them to that stage of spiritual emancipation where solemn ritual
drops off, and dogmatic religion appears to be nothing more than a
systematic arrangement of useful falsehoods.

    [63:1] S̱ẖarastānī: Cureton's ed: p. 149.

The Ismā‘īlian doctrine is the first attempt to amalgamate contemporary
Philosophy with a really Persian view of the Universe, and to restate
Islam, in reference to this synthesis, by allegorical interpretation of
the Qur’ān--a method which was afterwards adopted by Ṣūfīism. With them
the Zoroastrian Ahriman (Devil) is not the malignant creator of evil
things but it is a principle which violates the eternal unity, and
breaks it up into visible diversity. The idea that some principle of
difference in the nature of the ultimate existence must be postulated in
order to account for empirical diversity, underwent further
modifications; until in the Ḥurūfī sect (an offshoot of the Ismā‘īlia),
in the fourteenth century, it touched contemporary Ṣūfīism on the one
hand, and Christian Trinity on the other. The "Be", maintained the
Ḥurūfīs, is the eternal word of God, which, itself uncreated, leads to
further creation--the word externalised. "But for the 'word' the
recognition of the essence of Divinity would have been impossible; since
Divinity is beyond the reach of sense--perception"[64:1]. The 'word',
therefore, became flesh in the womb of Mary[64:2] in order to manifest
the Father. The whole Universe is the manifestation of God's 'word', in
which He is immanent[64:3]. Every sound in the Universe is within God;
every atom is singing the song of eternity[64:4]; all is life. Those
who want to discover the ultimate reality of things, let them seek "the
named" through the Name[65:1], which at once conceals and reveals its

    [64:1] Jāwidān Kabīr, fol. 149a.

    [64:2] Jāwidān Kabīr, fol. 280a.

    [64:3] Jāwidān Kabīr, fol. 366b.

    [64:4] Jāwidān Kabīr, fol. 155b.

    [65:1] Jāwidān Kabīr, fol. 382a.

§ III.

Reaction against Rationalism.

The As̱ẖ‘arite.

Patronised by the early Caliphs of the House of ‘Abbās, Rationalism
continued to flourish in the intellectual centres of the Islamic world;
until, in the first half of the 9th century, it met the powerful
orthodox reaction which found a very energetic leader in Al-As̱ẖ‘arī
(b, 873 A.D.) who studied under Rationalist teachers only to demolish,
by their own methods, the edifice they had so laboriously built. He was
a pupil of Al-Jubbā’ī[65:2]--the representative of the younger school of
Mu‘tazilaism in Baṣra--with whom he had many controversies[65:3] which
eventually terminated their friendly relations, and led the pupil to bid
farewell to the Mu‘tazila camp. "The fact", says Spitta, "that
Al-As̱ẖ‘arī was so thoroughly a child of his time with the successive
currents of which he let himself go, makes him, in another relation, an
important figure to us. In him, as in any other, are clearly reflected
the various tendencies of this politically as well as religiously
interesting period; and we seldom find ourselves in a position to weigh
the power of the orthodox confession and the Mu‘tazilite speculation,
the child-like helpless manner of the one, the immaturity and
imperfection of the other, so completely as in the life of this man who
was orthodox as a boy and a Mu‘tazila as a young man"[66:1]. The
Mu‘tazila speculation (e.g. Al-Jāḥiz) tended to be absolutely
unfettered, and in some cases led to a merely negative attitude of
thought. The movement initiated by Al-As̱ẖ‘arī was an attempt not only
to purge Islām of all non-Islamic elements which had quietly crept into
it, but also to harmonize the religious consciousness with the
religious thought of Islam. Rationalism was an attempt to measure
reality by reason alone; it implied the identity of the spheres of
religion and philosophy, and strove to express faith in the form of
concepts or terms of pure thought. It ignored the facts of human nature,
and tended to disintegrate the solidarity of the Islamic Church. Hence
the reaction.

    [65:2] Extracts from Ibn ‘Asākir (Mehren)--Travaux de la
    troisième session du Congrès International des Orientalistes--p.

    [65:3] Spitta: Zur Geschichte Abul-Ḥasan Al-As̱ẖ‘arī, pp. 42,
    43. See also Ibn Ḵẖallikān (Gottingen 1839)--Al-Jubbā’ī, where
    the story of their controversy is given.

    [66:1] Spitta: Vorwort, p. VII.

The orthodox reaction led by the As̱ẖ‘arite then was, in reality,
nothing more than the transfer of dialectic method to the defence of the
authority of Divine Revelation. In opposition to the Rationalists, they
maintained the doctrine of the Attributes of God; and, as regards the
Free Will controversy, they adopted a course lying midway between the
extreme fatalism of the old school, and the extreme libertarianism of
the Rationalists. They teach that the power of choice as well as all
human actions are created by God; and that man has been given the power
of acquiring[67:1] the different modes of activity. But Faḵẖral-Dīn
Rāzī, who in his violent attack on philosophy was strenuously opposed by
Tūsī and Qutbal-Dīn, does away with the idea of "acquisition", and
openly maintains the doctrine of necessity in his commentary on the
Qur’ān. The Mātarīdiyya--another school of anti-rationalist theology,
founded by Abu Manṣūr Mātarīdī a native of Mātarīd in the environs of
Samarqand--went back to the old rationalist position, and taught in
opposition to the As̱ẖ‘arite, that man has absolute control over his
activity; and that his power affects the very nature of his actions.
Al-As̱ẖ‘arī's interest was purely theological; but it was impossible to
harmonise reason and revelation without making reference to the ultimate
nature of reality. Bāqilānī[68:1] therefore, made use of some purely
metaphysical propositions (that substance is an individual unity; that
quality cannot exist in quality; that perfect vacuum is possible.) in
his Theological investigation, and thus gave the school a metaphysical
foundation which it is our main object to bring out. We shall not,
therefore, dwell upon their defence of orthodox beliefs (e.g. that the
Qur’ān is uncreated; that the visibility of God is possible etc.); but
we shall endeavour to pick up the elements of metaphysical thought in
their theological controversies. In order to meet contemporary
philosophers on their own ground, they could not dispense with
philosophising; hence willingly or unwillingly they had to develop a
theory of knowledge peculiar to themselves.

    [67:1] S̱ẖahrastānī--ed. Cureton, p. 69.

    [68:1] Martin Schreiner: Zur Geschichte des Ash‘aritenthums.
    (Huitième Congrès International des Orientalistes 1889, p. 82).

God, according to the As̱ẖ‘arite, is the ultimate necessary existence
which "carries its attributes in its own being"[69:1]; and whose
existence (wujūd) and essence (Māhiyyat) are identical. Besides the
argument from the contingent character of motion they used the following
arguments to prove the existence of this ultimate principle:--

(1). All bodies, they argue, are one in so far as the phenomenal fact of
their existence is concerned. But in spite of this unity, their
qualities are different and even opposed to each other. We are,
therefore, driven to postulate an ultimate cause in order to account for
their empirical divergence.

    [69:1] Martin Schreiner: Zur Geschichte des Ash‘aritenthums.
    (Huitième Congrès International des Orientalistes II{me} Partie
    1893, p. 113).

(2). Every contingent being needs a cause to account for its existence.
The Universe is contingent; therefore it must have a cause; and that
cause is God. That the Universe is contingent, they proved in the
following manner. All that exists in the Universe, is either substance
or quality. The contingence of quality is evident, and the contingence
of substance follows from the fact that no substance could exist apart
from qualities. The contingence of quality necessitates the contingence
of substance; otherwise the eternity of substance would necessitate the
eternity of quality. In order fully to appreciate the value of this
argument, it is necessary to understand the As̱ẖ‘arite theory of
knowledge. To answer the question, "What is a thing?" they subjected to
a searching criticism the Aristotelian categories of thought, and
arrived at the conclusion that bodies have no properties in
themselves[70:1]. They made no distinction of secondary and primary
qualities of a body, and reduced all of them to purely subjective
relations. Quality too became with them a mere accident without which
the substance could not exist. They used the word substance or atom with
a vague implication of externality; but their criticism, actuated by a
pious desire to defend the idea of divine creation, reduced the Universe
to a mere show of ordered subjectivities which, as they maintained like
Berkeley, found their ultimate explanation in the Will of God. In his
examination of human knowledge regarded as a product and not merely a
process, Kant stopped at the idea of "Ding an sich", but the As̱ẖ‘arite
endeavoured to penetrate further, and maintained, against the
contemporary Agnostic-Realism, that the so called underlying essence
existed only in so far as it was brought in relation to the knowing
subject. Their atomism, therefore, approaches that of Lotze[71:1] who,
in spite of his desire to save external reality, ended in its complete
reduction to ideality. But like Lotze they could not believe their atoms
to be the inner working of the Infinite Primal Being. The interest of
pure monotheism was too strong for them. The necessary consequence of
their analysis of matter is a thorough going idealism like that of
Berkeley; but perhaps their instinctive realism combined with the force
of atomistic tradition, still compels them to use the word "atom" by
which they endeavour to give something like a realistic coloring to
their idealism. The interest of dogmatic theology drove them to maintain
towards pure Philosophy an attitude of criticism which taught her
unwilling advocates how to philosophise and build a metaphysics of their

    [70:1] See Macdonald's admirable account of the As̱ẖ‘arite
    Metaphysics: Muslim Theology p. 201 sq. See also Maulānā
    S̱ẖiblī ‘Ilmal Kalām pp. 60, 72.

    [71:1] "Lotze is an atomist, but he does not conceive the atoms
    themselves as material; for extension, like all other sensuous
    qualities is explained through the reciprocal action of atoms;
    they themselves, therefore, cannot possess this quality. Like
    life and like all empirical qualities, the sensuous fact of
    extension is due to the cooperation of points of force, which,
    in time, must be conceived as starting points of the inner
    workings of the Infinite Primal Being." Höffding Vol. II, p.

But a more important and philosophically more significant aspect of the
As̱ẖ‘arite Metaphysics, is their attitude towards the Law of
Causation[72:1]. Just as they repudiated all the principles of
optics[72:2] in order to show, in opposition to the Rationalists, that
God could be visible in spite of His being unextended, so with a view
to defend the possibility of miracles, they rejected the idea of
causation altogether. The orthodox believed in miracles as well as in
the Universal Law of Causation; but they maintained that, at the time of
manifesting a miracle, God suspended the operation of this law. The
As̱ẖ‘arite, however, starting with the supposition that cause and
effect must be similar, could not share the orthodox view, and taught
that the idea of power is meaningless, and that we know nothing but
floating impressions, the phenomenal order of which is determined by

    [72:1] S̱ẖiblī ‘Ilmal-Kalām pp. 64, 72.

    [72:2] S̱ẖahrastānī, ed. Cureton, p. 82.

Any account of the As̱ẖ‘arite metaphysics would be incomplete without a
notice of the work of Al-G̱ẖazālī (d. 1111 A.D.) who though
misunderstood by many orthodox theologians, will always be looked upon
as one of the greatest personalities of Islam. This sceptic of powerful
ability anticipated Descartes[73:1] in his philosophical method; and,
"seven hundred years before Hume cut the bond of causality with the
edge of his dialectic"[73:2]. He was the first to write a systematic
refutation of philosophy, and completely to annihilate that dread of
intellectualism which had characterised the orthodox. It was chiefly his
influence that made men study dogma and metaphysics together, and
eventually led to a system of education which produced such men as
S̱ẖahrastānī, Al-Rāzī and Al-Is̱ẖrāqī. The following passage indicates
his attitude as a thinker:--

"From my childhood I was inclined to think out things for myself. The
result of this attitude was that I revolted against authority; and all
the beliefs that had fixed themselves in my mind from childhood lost
their original importance. I thought that such beliefs based on mere
authority were equally entertained by Jews, Christians, and followers of
other religions. Real knowledge must eradicate all doubt. For instance,
it is self-evident that ten is greater than three. If a person, however,
endeavours to prove the contrary by an appeal to his power of turning a
stick into a snake, the performance would indeed be wonderful, though
it cannot touch the certainty of the proposition in question"[75:1]. He
examined afterwards, all the various claimants of "Certain Knowledge"
and finally found it in Ṣūfīism.

    [73:1] "It (Al-Ghazālī's work on the Revivication of the
    sciences of religion) has so remarkable a resemblance to the
    _Discourse sur la methode_ of Descartes, that had any
    translation of it existed in the days of Descartes everyone
    would have cried against the plagiarism". (Lewes's History of
    Philosophy: Vol. II. p. 50).

    [73:2] Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 20, p.

    [75:1] Al-Munqiḏẖ p. 3.

With their view of the nature of substance, the As̱ẖ‘arite, rigid
monotheists as they were, could not safely discuss the nature of the
human soul. Al-G̱ẖazālī alone seriously took up the problem, and to
this day it is difficult to define, with accuracy, his view of the
nature of God. In him, like Borger and Solger in Germany, Ṣūfī pantheism
and the As̱ẖ‘arite dogma of personality appear to harmonise together, a
reconciliation which makes it difficult to say whether he was a
Pantheist, or a Personal Pantheist of the type of Lotze. The soul,
according to Al-G̱ẖazālī, perceives things. But perception as an
attribute can exist only in a substance or essence which is absolutely
free from all the attributes of body. In his Al-Madnūn[75:2], he
explains why the prophet declined to reveal the nature of the soul.
There are, he says, two kinds of men; ordinary men and thinkers. The
former who look upon materiality as a condition of existence, cannot
conceive an immaterial substance. The latter are led, by their logic, to
a conception of the soul which sweeps away all difference between God
and the individual soul. Al-G̱ẖazālī, therefore, realised the
Pantheistic drift of his own inquiry, and preferred silence as to the
ultimate nature of the soul.

    [75:2] See Sir Sayyid Aḥmad's criticism of Al-G̱ẖazālī's view
    of the soul, Al-Nazrufī ba’di Masāili-l Imāmi-l humām Abū Ḥāmid
    Al-G̱ẖazālī; No. 4, p. 3 sq. (ed. Agra).

He is generally included among the As̱ẖ‘arite. But strictly speaking he
is not an As̱ẖ‘arite; though he admitted that the As̱ẖ‘arite mode of
thought was excellent for the masses. "He held", says S̱ẖiblī
(‘Ilmal-Kalām, p. 66.), "that the secret of faith could not be revealed;
for this reason he encouraged exposition of the As̱ẖ‘arite theology,
and took good care in persuading his immediate disciples not to publish
the results of his private reflection". Such an attitude towards the
As̱ẖ‘arite theology, combined with his constant use of philosophical
language, could not but lead to suspicion. Ibn Jauzī, Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ, and
other famous theologians of the orthodox school, publicly denounced him
as one of the "misguided"; and ‘Iyāḍ went even so far as to order the
destruction of all his philosophical and theological writings that
existed in Spain.

It is, therefore, clear that while the dialectic of Rationalism
destroyed the personality of God, and reduced divinity to a bare
indefinable universality, the antirationalist movement, though it
preserved the dogma of personality, destroyed the external reality of
nature. In spite of Nazzām's theory of "Atomic objectification"[77:1],
the atom of the Rationalist possesses an independent objective reality;
that of the As̱ẖ‘arite is a fleeting moment of Divine Will. The one
saves nature, and tends to do away with the God of Theology; the other
sacrifices nature to save God as conceived by the orthodox. The
God-intoxicated Ṣūfī who stands aloof from the Theological controversies
of the age, saves and spiritualises both the aspects of existence, and
looks upon the whole Universe as the self-revelation of God--a higher
notion which synthesises the opposite extremes of his predecessors.
"Wooden-legged" Rationalism, as the Ṣūfī called it, speaks its last word
in the sceptic Al-G̱ẖazālī, whose restless soul, after long and
hopeless wanderings in the desolate sands of dry intellectualism, found
its final halting place in the still deep of human emotion. His
scepticism is directed more to substantiate the necessity of a higher
source of knowledge than merely to defend the dogma of Islamic Theology,
and, therefore, marks the quiet victory of Ṣūfīism over all the rival
speculative tendencies of the time.

    [77:1] Ibn Ḥazm, Vol. V, p. 63, 64, where the author states and
    criticises this theory.

Al-G̱ẖazālī's positive contribution to the Philosophy of his country,
however, is found in his little book--Mis̱ẖkātal-Anwār--where he starts
with the Quranic verse, "God is the light of heavens and earth", and
instinctively returns to the Iranian idea, which was soon to find a
vigorous expounder in Al-Is̱ẖrāqī. Light, he teaches in this book, is
the only real existence; and there is no darkness greater than
non-existence. But the essence of Light is manifestation: "it is
attributed to manifestation which is a relation"[78:1]. The Universe
was created out of darkness on which God sprinkled[79:1] his own light,
and made its different parts more or less visible according as they
received more or less light. As bodies differ from one another in being
dark, obscure, illuminated or illuminating, so men are differentiated
from one another. There are some who illuminate other human beings; and,
for this reason, the Prophet is named "The Burning Lamp" in the Qur’ān.

    [78:1] Mis̱ẖkātal-Anwār, fol. 3a.

    [79:1] In support of this view Al-G̱ẖazālī quotes a tradition
    of the prophet. Mis̱ẖkātal-Anwār, fol. 10a.

The physical eye sees only the external manifestation of the Absolute or
Real Light. There is an internal eye in the heart of man which, unlike
the physical eye, sees itself as other things, an eye which goes beyond
the finite, and pierces the veil of manifestation. These thoughts are
merely germs, which developed and fructified in Al-Is̱ẖrāqī's
"Philosophy of Illumination"--Ḥikmatal-Is̱ẖrāq.

Such is the As̱ẖ‘arite philosophy.

One great theological result of this reaction was that it checked the
growth of freethought which tended to dissolve the solidarity of the
Church. We are, however, concerned more with the purely intellectual
results of the As̱ẖ‘arite mode of thought, and these are mainly two:--

(1). It led to an independent criticism of Greek philosophy as we shall
see presently.

(2). In the beginning of the 10th century when the As̱ẖ‘arite had
almost completely demolished the stronghold of Rationalism, we see a
tendency towards what may be called Persian Positivism. Al-Birūnī[80:1]
(d. 1048) and Ibn Haiṯẖam[80:2] (d. 1038) who anticipated modern
empirical Psychology in recognising what is called reaction-time, gave
up all inquiry concerning the nature of the supersensual, and maintained
a prudent silence about religious matters. Such a state of things could
have existed, but could not have been logically justified before

    [80:1] He (Al-Birūnī) quotes with approval the following, as the
    teaching of the adherents of Aryabhatta: It is enough for us to
    know that which is lighted up by the sun's rays. Whatever lies
    beyond, though it should be of immeasurable extent, we cannot
    make use of; for what the sunbeam does not reach, the senses do
    not perceive, and what the senses do not perceive we cannot
    know. From this we gather what Al-Birūnī's Philosophy was: only
    sense-perceptions, knit together by a logical intelligence,
    yield sure knowledge. (Boer's Philosophy in Islām, p. 146).

    [80:2] "Moreover truth for him (Ibn Haiṯẖam) was only that
    which was presented as material for the faculties of
    sense-perception, and which received it from the understanding,
    being thus the logically elaborated perception". (Boer's
    Philosophy in Islām, p. 150).

    [80:2] "Moreover truth for him (Ibn Haiṯẖam) was only that
    which was presented as material for the faculties of
    sense-perception, and which received it from the understanding,
    being thus the logically elaborated perception". (Boer's
    Philosophy in Islām, p. 150).



The As̱ẖ‘arite denial of Aristotle's Prima Materia, and their views
concerning the nature of space, time and causation, awakened that
irrepressible spirit of controversy which, for centuries, divided the
camp of Muhammedan thinkers, and eventually exhausted its vigor in the
merely verbal subtleties of schools. The publication of Najm al-Dīn
Al-Kātibī's (a follower of Aristotle whose disciples were called
Philosophers as distinguished from scholastic theologians) Ḥikmat
al-‘Ain--"Philosophy of Essence", greatly intensified the intellectual
conflict, and invoked keen criticism from a host of As̱ẖ‘arite as well
as other idealist thinkers. I shall consider in order the principal
points on which the two schools differed from each other.

A. _The Nature of the Essence._

We have seen that the As̱ẖ‘arite theory of knowledge drove them to
hold that individual essences of various things are quite different from
each other, and are determined in each case by the ultimate cause--God.
They denied the existence of an everchanging primary stuff common to all
things, and maintained against the Rationalists that existence
constitutes the very being of the essence. To them, therefore, essence
and existence are identical. They argued that the Judgment, "Man is
animal", is possible only on the ground of a fundamental difference
between the subject and the predicate; since their identity would make
the Judgment nugatory, and complete difference would make the
predication false. It is, therefore, necessary to postulate an external
cause to determine the various forms of existence. Their opponents,
however, admit the determination or limitation of existence, but they
maintain that all the various forms of existence, in so far as their
essence is concerned, are identical--all being limitations of one
Primary substance. The followers of Aristotle met the difficulty
suggested by the possibility of synthetic predication, by advocating the
possibility of compound essences. Such a judgment as "Man is animal",
they maintained, is true; because man is an essence composed of two
essences, animality and humanity. This, retorted the As̱ẖ‘arite, cannot
stand criticism. If you say that the essence of man and animal is the
same, you in other words hold that the essence of the whole is the same
as that of the part. But this proposition is absurd; since if the
essence of the compound is the same as that of its constituents, the
compound will have to be regarded as one being having two essences or

It is obvious that the whole controversy turns on the question whether
existence is a mere idea or something objectively real. When we say that
a certain thing exists, do we mean that it exists only in relation to us
(As̱ẖ‘arite position); or that it is an essence existing quite
independently of us (Realist position)? We shall briefly indicate the
arguments of either side. The Realist argued as follows:--

(1). The conception of my existence is something immediate or intuitive.
The thought "I exist" is a "concept", and my body being an element of
this "concept", it follows that my body is intuitively known as
something real. If the knowledge of the existent is not immediate, the
fact of its perception would require a process of thought which, as we
know, it does not. The As̱ẖ‘arite Al-Rāzī admits that the concept of
existence is immediate; but he regards the judgment--"The concept of
existence is immediate"--as merely a matter of acquisition. Muḥammad ibn
Mubārak Buḵẖārī, on the other hand, says that the whole argument of
the realist proceeds on the assumption that the concept of my existence
is something immediate--a position which can be controverted.[84:1] If,
says he, we admit that the concept of my existence is immediate,
abstract existence cannot be regarded as a constitutive element of this
conception. And if the realist maintains that the perception of a
particular object is immediate, we admit the truth of what he says; but
it would not follow, as he is anxious to establish, that the so called
underlying essence is immediately known as objectively real. The
realist argument, moreover, demands that the mind ought not to be able
to conceive the predication of qualities to things. We cannot conceive,
"snow is white", because whiteness, being a part of this immediate
judgment, must also be immediately known without any predication. Mulla
Muḥammad Hās̱ẖim Ḥusainī remarks[85:1] that this reasoning is
erroneous. The mind in the act of predicating whiteness of snow is
working on a purely ideal existence--the quality of whiteness--and not
on an objectively real essence of which the qualities are mere facets or
aspects. Ḥusainī, moreover, anticipates Hamilton, and differs from other
realists in holding that the so-called unknowable essence of the object
is also immediately known. The object, he says, is immediately perceived
as one.[85:2] We do not successively perceive the various aspects of
what happens to be the objects of our perception.

    [84:1] Muḥammad ibn Mubārak's commentary on Ḥikmat al-‘Ain,
    fol. 5a.

    [85:1] Ḥusainī's commentary on Ḥikmat al-‘Ain, fol. 13a.

    [85:2] Ḥusainī's commentary on Ḥikmat al-‘Ain, fol. 14b.

(2) The idealist, says the realist, reduces all quality to mere
subjective relations. His argument leads him to deny the underlying
essence of things, and to look upon them as entirely heterogeneous
collections of qualities, the essence of which consists merely in the
phenomenal fact of their perception. In spite of his belief in the
complete heterogeneity of things, he applies the word existence to all
things--a tacit admission that there is some essence common to all the
various forms of existence. Abu’l-Ḥasan al-As̱ẖ‘arī replies that this
application is only a verbal convenience, and is not meant to indicate
the so-called internal homogeneity of things. But the universal
application of the word existence by the idealist, must mean, according
to the realist, that the existence of a thing either constitutes its
very essence, or it is something superadded to the underlying essence of
the thing. The first supposition is a virtual admission as to the
homogeneity of things; since we cannot maintain that existence peculiar
to one thing is fundamentally different from existence peculiar to
another. The supposition that existence is something superadded to the
essence of a thing leads to an absurdity; since in this case the essence
will have to be regarded as something distinct from existence; and the
denial of essence (with the As̱ẖ‘arite) would blot out the distinction
between existence and non-existence. Moreover, what was the essence
before existence was superadded to it? We must not say that the essence
was ready to receive existence before it actually did receive it; since
this statement would imply that the essence was non-existence before it
received existence. Likewise the statement that the essence has the
power of receiving the quality of non-existence, implies the absurdity
that it does already exist. Existence, therefore, must be regarded as
forming a part of the essence. But if it forms a part of the essence,
the latter will have to be regarded as a compound. If, on the other
hand, existence is external to the essence, it must be something
contingent because of its dependence on something other than itself. Now
everything contingent must have a cause. If this cause is the essence
itself, it would follow that the essence existed before it existed;
since the cause must precede the effect in the fact of existence. If,
however, the cause of existence is something other than the essence, it
follows that the existence of God also must be explained by some cause
other than the essence of God--an absurd conclusion which turns the
necessary into the contingent.[88:1] This argument of the realist is
based on a complete misunderstanding of the idealist position. He does
not see that the idealist never regarded the fact of existence as
something superadded to the essence of a thing; but always held it to be
identical with the essence. The essence, says ibn Mubārak,[88:2] is the
cause of existence without being chronologically before it. The
existence of the essence constitutes its very being; it is not dependent
for it on something other than itself.

    [88:1] Ibn Mubārak's Commentary, fol. 8b.

    [88:2] Ibn Mubārak's Commentary, fol. 9a.

The truth is that both sides are far from a true theory of knowledge.
The agnostic realist who holds that behind the phenomenal qualities of a
thing, there is an essence operating as their cause, is guilty of a
glaring contradiction. He holds that underlying the thing there is an
_unknowable_ essence or substratum which is _known_ to exist. The
As̱ẖ‘arite idealist, on the other hand, misunderstands the process of
knowledge. He ignores the mental activity involved in the act of
knowledge; and looks upon perceptions as mere presentations which are
determined, as he says, by God. But if the order of presentations
requires a cause to account for it, why should not that cause be sought
in the original constitution of matter as Locke did? Moreover, the
theory that knowledge is a mere passive perception or awareness of what
is presented, leads to certain inadmissible conclusions which the
As̱ẖ‘arite never thought of:--

(a). They did not see that their purely subjective conception of
knowledge swept away all possibility of error. If the existence of a
thing is merely the fact of its being presented, there is no reason why
it should be cognised as different from what it actually is.

(b). They did not see that on their theory of knowledge, our
fellow-beings like other elements of the physical order, would have no
higher reality than mere states of my consciousness.

(c). If knowledge is a mere receptivity of presentations, God who, as
cause of presentations, is active in regard to the act of our knowledge,
must not be aware of our presentations. From the As̱ẖ‘arite point of
view this conclusion is fatal to their whole position. They cannot say
that presentations on their ceasing to be my presentations, continue to
be presentations to God's consciousness.

Another question connected with the nature of the essence is, whether it
is caused or uncaused. The followers of Aristotle, or philosophers as
they are generally called by their opponents, hold that the underlying
essence of things is uncaused. The As̱ẖ‘arite hold the opposite view.
Essence, says the Aristotelian, cannot be acted upon by any external
agent.[90:1] Al-Kātibī argues that if, for instance, the essence of
humanity had resulted from the operation of an external activity, doubt
as to its being the real essence of humanity would have been possible.
As a matter of fact we never entertain such a doubt; it follows,
therefore, that the essence is not due to the activity of an agency
external to itself. The idealist starts with the realist distinction of
essence and existence, and argues that the realist line of argument
would lead to the absurd proposition--that man is uncaused; since he
must be regarded, according to the realist, as a combination of two
uncaused essences--existence and humanity.

    [90:1] Ibn Mubārak's Commentary, fol. 20a.

B. _The Nature of Knowledge._

The followers of Aristotle, true to their position as to the independent
objective reality of the essence, define knowledge as "receiving images
of external things".[91:1] It is possible to conceive, they argue, an
object which is externally unreal, and to which other qualities can be
attributed. But when we attribute to it the quality of existence, actual
existence is necessitated; since the affirmation of the quality of a
thing is a part of the affirmation of that thing. If, therefore, the
predication of existence does not necessitate actual objective existence
of the thing, we are driven to deny externality altogether, and to hold
that the thing exists in the mind as a mere idea. But the affirmation
of a thing, says Ibn Mubārak, constitutes the very existence of the
thing. The idealist makes no such distinction as affirmation and
existence. To infer from the above argument that the thing must be
regarded as existing in the mind, is unjustifiable. "Ideal" existence
follows only from the denial of externality which the As̱ẖ‘arite do not
deny; since they hold that knowledge is a relation between the knower
and the known which is known as external. Al-Kātibī's proposition that
if the thing does not exist as external existence, it must exist as
ideal or mental existence, is self-contradictory; since, on his
principles, everything that exists in idea exists in externality.[92:1]

    [91:1] Ibn Mubārak, fol. 11a.

    [92:1] Ibn Mubārak, fol. 11b.

C. _The Nature of Non-existence._

Al-Kātibī explains and criticises the proposition, maintained by
contemporary philosophers generally--"That the existent is good, and the
non-existent is evil".[92:2] The fact of murder, he says, is not evil
because the murderer had the power of committing such a thing; or
because the instrument of murder had the power of cutting; or because
the neck of the murdered had the capacity of being cut asunder. It is
evil because it signifies the negation of life--a condition which is
non-existential, and not existential like the conditions indicated
above. But in order to show that evil is non-existence, we should make
an inductive inquiry, and examine all the various cases of evil. A
perfect induction, however, is impossible, and an incomplete induction
cannot prove the point. Al-Kātibī, therefore, rejects this proposition,
and holds that "non-existence is absolute nothing".[93:1] The possible
'_essences_', according to him, are not lying fixed in space waiting for
the attribute of existence; otherwise fixity in space would have to be
regarded as possessing no existence. But his critics hold that this
argument is true only on the supposition that fixity in space and
existence are identical. Fixity in externality, says Ibn Mubārak, is a
conception wider than existence. All existence is external, but all that
is external is not necessarily existent.

    [92:2] Ibn Mubārak, fol. 14a.

    [93:1] Ibn Mubārak's Commentary, fol. 14b.

The interest of the As̱ẖ‘arite in the dogma of the Resurrection--the
possibility of the reappearance of the non-existent as existent--led
them to advocate the apparently absurd proposition that "non-existence
or nothing _is_ something". They argued that, since we make judgments
about the non-existent, it is, therefore, known; and the fact of its
knowability indicates that "the nothing" is not absolutely nothing. The
knowable is a case of affirmation and the non-existent being knowable,
is a case of affirmation.[94:1] Al-Kātibī denies the truth of the Major.
Impossible things, he says, are known, yet they do not externally exist.
Al-Rāzī criticises this argument accusing Al-Kātibī of the ignorance of
the fact that the '_essence_' exists in the mind, and yet is known as
external. Al-Kātibī supposes that the knowledge of a thing necessitates
its existence as an independent objective reality. Moreover it should be
remembered that the As̱ẖ‘arite discriminate between positive and
existent on the one hand, and non-existent and negative on the other.
They say that all existent is positive, but the converse of this
proposition is not true. There is certainly a relation between the
existent and the non-existent, but there is absolutely no relation
between the positive and the negative. We do not say, as Al-Kātibī
holds, that the impossible is non-existent; we say that the impossible
is only negative. Substances which do exist are something positive. As
regards the attribute which cannot be conceived as existing apart from
the substance, it is neither existent nor non-existent, but something
between the two. Briefly the As̱ẖ‘arite position is as follows:--

"A thing has a proof of its existence or not. If not, it is called
negative. If it has a proof of its existence, it is either substance or
attribute. If it is substance and has the attribute of existence or
non-existence, (i.e. it is perceived or not) it is existent or
non-existent accordingly. If it is attribute, it is neither existent nor

    [94:1] Ibn Mubārak's Commentary, fol. 15a.

    [95:1] Ibn Mubārak's Commentary, fol. 15b.



§ I.

The origin and Qurānic Justification of Ṣūfīism.

It has become quite a fashion with modern oriental scholarship to trace
the chain of influences. Such a procedure has certainly great historical
value, provided it does not make us ignore the fundamental fact, that
the human mind possesses an independent individuality, and, acting on
its own initiative, can gradually evolve out of itself, truths which may
have been anticipated by other minds ages ago. No idea can seize a
people's soul unless, in some sense, it is the people's own. External
influences may wake it up from its deep unconscious slumber; but they
cannot, so to speak, create it out of nothing.

Much has been written about the origin of Persian Ṣūfīism; and, in
almost all cases, explorers of this most interesting field of research
have exercised their ingenuity in discovering the various channels
through which the basic ideas of Ṣūfīism might have travelled from one
place to another. They seem completely to have ignored the principle,
that the full significance of a phenomenon in the intellectual evolution
of a people, can only be comprehended in the light of those pre-existing
intellectual, political, and social conditions which alone make its
existence inevitable. Von Kremer and Dozy derive Persian Ṣūfīism from
the Indian Vedanta; Merx and Mr. Nicholson derive it from Neo-Platonism;
while Professor Browne once regarded it as Aryan reaction against an
unemotional semitic religion. It appears to me, however, that these
theories have been worked out under the influence of a notion of
causation which is essentially false. That a fixed quantity A is the
cause of, or produces another fixed quantity B, is a proposition which,
though convenient for scientific purposes, is apt to damage all inquiry,
in so far as it leads us completely to ignore the innumerable conditions
lying at the back of a phenomenon. It would, for instance, be an
historical error to say that the dissolution of the Roman Empire was due
to the barbarian invasions. The statement completely ignores other
forces of a different character that tended to split up the political
unity of the Empire. To describe the advent of barbarian invasions as
the cause of the dissolution of the Roman Empire which could have
assimilated, as it actually did to a certain extent, the so-called
cause, is a procedure that no logic would justify. Let us, therefore, in
the light of a truer theory of causation, enumerate the principal
political, social, and intellectual conditions of Islamic life about the
end of the 8{th} and the first half of the 9{th} century when, properly
speaking, the Ṣūfī ideal of life came into existence, to be soon
followed by a philosophical justification of that ideal.--

(1). When we study the history of the time, we find it to be a time of
more or less political unrest. The latter half of the 8{th} century
presents, besides the political revolution which resulted in the
overthrow of the Umayyads (749 A.D.), persecutions of Zendīks, and
revolts of Persian heretics (Sindbāh 755–6; Ustādhīs 766–8; the veiled
prophet of Ḵẖurāsān 777–80) who, working on the credulity of the
people, cloaked, like Lamennais in our own times, political projects
under the guise of religious ideas. Later on in the beginning of the
9{th} century we find the sons of Hārūn (Ma’mūn and Amīn) engaged in a
terrible conflict for political supremacy; and still later, we see the
Golden Age of Islamic literature seriously disturbed by the persistent
revolt of the Mazdakite Bābak (816–838). The early years of Ma’mun's
reign present another social phenomenon of great political
significance--the S̱ẖu‘ūbiyya controversy (815), which progresses with
the rise and establishment of independent Persian families, the Tāhirīd
(820), the Ṣaffārīd (868), and the Sāmānīd Dynasty (874). It is,
therefore, the combined force of these and other conditions of a similar
nature that contributed to drive away spirits of devotional character
from the scene of continual unrest to the blissful peace of an
ever-deepening contemplative life. The semitic character of the life and
thought of these early Muhammadan ascetics is gradually followed by a
large hearted pantheism of a more or less Aryan stamp, the development
of which, in fact, runs parallel to the slowly progressing political
independence of Persia.

(2). _The Sceptical tendencies of Islamic Rationalism_ which found an
early expression in the poems of Bas̱ẖs̱ẖār ibn Burd--the blind
Persian Sceptic who deified fire, and scoffed at all non-Persian modes
of thought. The germs of Scepticism latent in Rationalism ultimately
necessitated an appeal to a super-intellectual source of knowledge which
asserted itself in the Risāla of Al-Qus̱ẖairī (986). In our own times
the negative results of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason drove Jacobi and
Schleiermacher to base faith on the feeling of the reality of the ideal;
and to the 19{th} century sceptic Wordsworth uncovered that mysterious
state of mind "in which we grow all spirit and see into the life of

(3). The unemotional piety of the various schools of Islam--the Ḥanafite
(Abu Ḥanīfa d. 767), the S̱ẖāfiite (Al-S̱ẖāfi‘ī d. 820), the Mālikite
(Al-Mālik d. 795), and the anthropomorphic Ḥambalite (Ibn Ḥambal d.
855)--the bitterest enemy of independent thought--which ruled the masses
after the death of Al-Ma’mūn.

(4). The religious discussions among the representatives of various
creeds encouraged by Al-Ma’mūn, and especially the bitter theological
controversy between the As̱ẖ‘arites, and the advocates of Rationalism
which tended not only to confine religion within the narrow limits of
schools, but also stirred up the spirit to rise above all petty
sectarian wrangling.

(5). The gradual softening of religious fervency due to the
rationalistic tendency of the early ‘Abbāsid period, and the rapid
growth of wealth which tended to produce moral laxity and indifference
to religious life in the upper circles of Islam.

(6). The presence of Christianity as a working ideal of life. It was,
however, principally the actual life of the Christian hermit rather than
his religious ideas, that exercised the greatest fascination over the
minds of early Islamic Saints whose complete unworldliness, though
extremely charming in itself, is, I believe, quite contrary to the
spirit of Islam.

Such was principally the environment of Ṣūfīism, and it is to the
combined action of the above condition that we should look for the
origin and development of Ṣūfīistic ideas. Given these condition and the
Persian mind with an almost innate tendency towards monism, the whole
phenomenon of the birth and growth of Ṣūfīism is explained. If we now
study the principal pre-existing conditions of Neo-Platonism, we find
that similar conditions produced similar results. The barbarian raids
which were soon to reduce Emperors of the Palace to Emperors of the
Camp, assumed a more serious aspect about the middle of the third
century. Plotinus himself speaks of the political unrest of his time in
one of his letters to Flaccus.[102:1] When he looked round himself in
Alexandria, his birth place, he noticed signs of growing toleration and
indifferentism towards religious life. Later on in Rome which had
become, so to say, a pantheon of different nations, he found a similar
want of seriousness in life, a similar laxity of character in the upper
classes of society. In more learned circles philosophy was studied as a
branch of literature rather than for its own sake; and Sextus Empiricus,
provoked by Antiochus's tendency to fuse scepticism and Stoicism was
teaching the old unmixed scepticism of Pyrrho--that intellectual despair
which drove Plotinus to find truth in a revelation above thought itself.
Above all, the hard unsentimental character of Stoic morality, and the
loving piety of the followers of Christ who, undaunted by long and
fierce persecutions, were preaching the message of peace and love to the
whole Roman world, necessitated a restatement of Pagan thought in a way
that might revivify the older ideals of life, and suit the new spiritual
requirements of the people. But the ethical force of Christianity was
too great for Neo-Platonism which, on account of its more
metaphysical[103:1] character, had no message for the people at large,
and was consequently inaccessible to the rude barbarian who, being
influenced by the actual life of the persecuted Christian adopted
Christianity, and settled down to construct new empires out of the ruins
of the old. In Persia the influence of culture-contacts and
cross-fertilisation of ideas created in certain minds a vague desire to
realise a similar restatement of Islam, which gradually assimilated
Christian ideals as well as Christian Gnostic speculation, and found a
firm foundation in the Qur’ān. The flower of Greek Thought faded away
before the breath of Christianity; but the burning simoon of Ibn
Taimiyya's invective could not touch the freshness of the Persian rose.
The one was completely swept away by the flood of barbarian invasions;
the other, unaffected by the Tartar revolution, still holds its own.

    [102:1] "Tidings have reached us that Valerian has been
    defeated, and is now in the hands of Sapor. The threats of
    Franks and Allemanni, of Goths and Persians, are alike terrible
    by turns to our _degenerate_ Rome." (Plotinus to Flaccus; quoted
    by Vaughan in his Half hours with Mystics, p. 63.)

    [103:1] The element of ecstacy which could have appealed to some
    minds was thrown into the background by the later teachers of
    Neo-Platonism, so that it became a mere system of thought having
    no human interest. Says Whittaker:--"The mystical ecstacy was
    not found by the later teachers of the school easier to attain,
    but more difficult; and the tendency became more and more to
    regard it as all but unattainable on earth." Neo-Platonism, p.

This extraordinary vitality of the Ṣūfī restatement of Islam, however,
is explained when we reflect on the all-embracing structure of Ṣūfīism.
The semitic formula of salvation can be briefly stated in the words,
"Transform your will",--which signifies that the Semite looks upon will
as the essence of the human soul. The Indian Vedantist, on the other
hand, teaches that all pain is due to our mistaken attitude towards
the Universe. He, therefore, commands us to transform our
understanding--implying thereby that the essential nature of man
consists in thought, not activity or will. But the Ṣūfī holds that the
mere transformation of will or understanding will not bring peace; we
should bring about the transformation of both by a complete
transformation of feeling, of which will and understanding are only
specialised forms. His message to the individual is--"Love all, and
forget your own individuality in doing good to others." Says Rūmī:--"To
win other people's hearts is the greatest pilgrimage; and one heart is
worth more than a thousand Ka‘bahs. Ka‘bah is a mere cottage of Abraham;
but the heart is the very home of God." But this formula demands a _why_
and a _how_--a metaphysical justification of the ideal in order to
satisfy the understanding; and rules of action in order to guide the
will. Ṣūfīism furnishes both. Semitic religion is a code of strict rules
of conduct; the Indian Vedanta, on the other hand, is a cold system of
thought. Ṣūfīism avoids their incomplete Psychology, and attempts to
synthesise both the Semitic and the Aryan formulas in the higher
category of Love. On the one hand it assimilates the Buddhistic idea of
Nirwāna (Fanā-Annihilation), and seeks to build a metaphysical system in
the light of this idea; on the other hand it does not disconnect itself
from Islam, and finds the justification of its view of the Universe in
the Qur’ān. Like the geographical position of its home, it stands midway
between the Semitic and the Aryan, assimilating ideas from both sides,
and giving them the stamp of its own individuality which, on the whole,
is more Aryan than Semitic in character. It would, therefore, be evident
that the secret of the vitality of Ṣūfīism is the complete view of human
nature upon which it is based. It has survived orthodox persecutions and
political revolutions, because it appeals to human nature in its
entirety; and, while it concentrates its interest chiefly in a _life_ of
self-denial, it allows free play to the speculative tendency as well.

I will now briefly indicate how Ṣūfī writers justify their views from
the Quranic standpoint. There is no historical evidence to show that the
Prophet of Arabia actually communicated certain esoteric doctrines to
‘Alī or Abū Bakr. The Ṣūfī, however, contends that the Prophet had an
esoteric teaching--"wisdom"--as distinguished from the teaching
contained in the Book, and he brings forward the following verse to
substantiate his case:--"As we have sent a prophet to you from among
yourselves who reads our verses to you, purifies you, teaches you the
Book and the _Wisdom_, and teaches you _what you did not know
before_."[107:1] He holds that "the wisdom" spoken of in the verse, is
something not incorporated in the teaching of the Book which, as the
Prophet repeatedly declared, had been taught by several prophets before
him. If, he says, the wisdom is included in the Book, the word "Wisdom"
in the verse would be redundant. It can, I think, be easily shown that
in the Qur’ān as well as in the authenticated traditions, there are
germs of Ṣūfī doctrine which, owing to the thoroughly practical genius
of the Arabs, could not develop and fructify in Arabia, but which grew
up into a distinct doctrine when they found favourable circumstances in
alien soils. The Qur’ān thus defines the Muslims:--"Those who believe in
the Unseen, establish daily prayer, and spend out of what We have given
them."[108:1] But the question arises as to the _what_ and the _where_
of the Unseen. The Qur’ān replies that the Unseen is in your own
soul--"And in the earth there are signs to those who believe, and in
yourself,--what! do you not then see!"[108:2] And again--"We are nigher
to him (man) than his own jugular vein."[108:3] Similarly the Holy Book
teaches that the essential nature of the Unseen is pure light--"God is
the light of heavens and earth."[108:4] As regards the question whether
this Primal Light is personal, the Qur’ān, in spite of many expressions
signifying personality, declares in a few words--"There is nothing like

    [107:1] Sura 2, v. 146.

    [108:1] Sura 2, v. 2.

    [108:2] Sura 51, v. 20, 21.

    [108:3] Sura 50, v. 15.

    [108:4] Sura 24, v. 35.

    [108:5] Sura 42, v. 9.

These are some of the chief verses out of which the various Ṣūfī
commentators develop pantheistic views of the Universe. They enumerate
the following four stages of spiritual training through which the
soul--the order or reason of the Primal Light--("Say that the soul is
the order or reason of God.")[109:1] has to pass, if it desires to rise
above the common herd, and realise its union or identity with the
ultimate source of all things:--

(1). Belief in the Unseen.

(2). Search after the Unseen. The spirit of inquiry leaves its slumber
by observing the marvellous phenomena of nature. "Look at the camel how
it is created; the skies how they are exalted; the mountains how they
are unshakeably fixed."[109:2]

(3). The knowledge of the Unseen. This comes, as we have indicated
above, by looking into the depths of our own soul.

(4). The Realisation--This results, according to the higher Ṣūfīism
from the constant practice of Justice and Charity--"Verily God bids you
do justice and good, and give to kindred (their due), and He forbids you
to sin, and do wrong, and oppress".[110:1]

    [109:1] Sura 17; v. 87.

    [109:2] Sura 88; v. 20.

    [110:1] Sura 16; v. 92.

It must, however, be remembered that some later Ṣūfī fraternities (e.g.
Naqs̱ẖbandī) devised, or rather borrowed[110:2] from the Indian
Vedantist, other means of bringing about this Realisation. They taught,
imitating the Hindu doctrine of Kundalīnī, that there are six great
centres of light of various colours in the body of man. It is the object
of the Ṣūfī to make them move, or to use the technical word, "current"
by certain methods of meditation, and eventually to realise, amidst the
apparent diversity of colours, the fundamental colourless light which
makes everything visible, and is itself invisible. The continual
movement of these centres of light through the body, and the final
realisation of their identity, which results from putting the atoms of
the body into definite courses of motion by slow repetition of the
various names of God and other mysterious expressions, illuminates the
whole body of the Ṣūfī; and the perception of the same illumination in
the external world completely extinguishes the sense of "otherness." The
fact that these methods were known to the Persian Ṣūfīs misled Von
Kremer who ascribed the whole phenomenon of Ṣūfīism to the influence of
Vedantic ideas. Such methods of contemplation are quite unislamic in
character, and the higher Ṣūfīs do not attach any importance to them.

    [110:2] Weber makes the following statement on the authority of
    Lassen:--"Al-Birūnī translated Patañjalī's work into Arabic at
    the beginning of the 11th century, and also, it would appear,
    the Sānkhya sūtra, though the information we have as to the
    contents of these works does not harmonise with the Sanskrit
    originals." History of Indian Literature, p. 239.

§ II.

Aspects of Ṣūfī-Metaphysics.

Let us now return to the various schools or rather the various aspects
of Ṣūfī Metaphysics. A careful investigation of Ṣūfī literature shows
that Ṣūfīism has looked at the Ultimate Reality from three standpoints
which, in fact, do not exclude but complement each other. Some Ṣūfīs
conceive the essential nature of reality as self-conscious will, others
beauty; others again hold that Reality is essentially Thought, Light or
Knowledge. There are, therefore, three aspects of Ṣūfī thought:--

A. _Reality as Self-conscious Will._

The first in historical order is that represented by S̱ẖaqīq Balḵẖī,
Ibrāhim Adham, Rābi‘a, and others. This school conceives the ultimate
reality as "Will", and the Universe a finite activity of that will. It
is essentially monotheistic and consequently more semitic in character.
It is not the desire of Knowledge which dominates the ideal of the Ṣūfīs
of this school, but the characteristic features of their life are piety,
unworldliness, and an intense longing for God due to the consciousness
of sin. Their object is not to philosophise, but principally to work out
a certain ideal of life. From our standpoint, therefore, they are not of
much importance.

B. _Reality as Beauty._

In the beginning of the 9{th} century Ma‘rūf Karḵẖī defined Ṣūfīism
as "Apprehension of Divine realities"[113:1]--a definition which marks
the movement from Faith to Knowledge. But the method of apprehending the
ultimate reality was formally stated by Al-Qus̱ẖairī about the end of
the 10{th} century. The teachers of this school adopted the Neo-Platonic
idea of creation by intermediary agencies; and though this idea lingered
in the minds of Ṣūfī writers for a long time, yet their Pantheism led
them to abandon the Emanation theory altogether. Like Avicenna they
looked upon the ultimate Reality as "Eternal Beauty" whose very nature
consists in seeing its own "face" reflected in the Universe-mirror. The
Universe, therefore, became to them a reflected image of the "Eternal
Beauty", and not an emanation as the Neo-Platonists had taught. The
cause of creation, says Mīr Sayyid S̱ẖarīf, is the manifestation of
Beauty, and the first creation is Love. The realisation of this Beauty,
is brought about by universal love, which the innate Zoroastrian
instinct of the Persian Ṣūfī loved to define as "the Sacred Fire which
burns up everything other than God." Says Rūmī:--

    "O thou pleasant madness, Love!
    Thou Physician of all our ills!
    Thou healer of pride,
    Thou Plato and Galen of our souls!"[114:1]

    [113:1] Mr. Nicholson has collected the various definitions of
    Ṣūfīism. See J. R. A. S. April, 1906.

    [114:1] Maṯẖnawī, Jalāl al Dīn Rūmī, with Baḥral ‘ulūm's
    Commentary. Lucknow (India), 1877, p. 9.

As a direct consequence of such a view of the Universe, we have the idea
of impersonal absorption which first appears in Bāyazīd of Bistām, and
which constitutes the characteristic feature of the later development of
this school. The growth of this idea may have been influenced by Hindu
pilgrims travelling through Persia to the Buddhistic temple still
existing at Bāku.[114:2] The school became wildly pantheistic in Ḥusain
Manṣūr who, in the true spirit of the Indian Vedantist, cried out, "I am
God"--Aham Brahma asmi.

    [114:2] As regards the progress of Buddhism Geiger says:--"We
    know that in the period after Alexander, Buddhism was powerful
    in Eastern Iran, and that it counted its confessors as far as
    Tabaristan. It is especially certain that many Buddhistic
    priests were found in Bactria. This state of things, which began
    perhaps in the first century before Christ, lasted till the
    7{th} century A.D., when the appearance of Islamism alone cut
    short the development of Buddhism in Kabul and Bactria, and it
    is in that period that we will have to place the rise of the
    Zarathushtra legend in the form in which it is presented to us
    by Daqīqī."

                          Civilisation of Eastern Iranians
                                   Vol. II, p. 170.

The ultimate Reality or Eternal Beauty, according to the Ṣūfīs of this
school, is infinite in the sense that "it is absolutely free from the
limitations of beginning, end, right, left, above, and below."[115:1]
The distinction of essence and attribute does not exist in the
Infinite--"Substance and quality are really identical."[115:2] We have
indicated above that nature is the mirror of the Absolute Existence. But
according to Nasafī, there are two kinds of mirrors[115:3]--

(a). That which shows merely a reflected image--this is external nature.

(b). That which shows the real Essence--this is man who is a limitation
of the Absolute, and erroneously thinks himself to be an independent

    [115:1] Nasafī's Maqṣadi Aqṣā: fol. 8b.

    [115:2] Nasafī's Maqṣadi Aqṣā: fol. 10b.

    [115:3] Nasafī's Maqṣadi Aqṣā: fol. 23b.

"O Derwish!" says Nasafī "dost thou think that thy existence is
independent of God? This is a great error."[116:1] Nasafī explains his
meaning by a beautiful parable.[116:2] The fishes in a certain tank
realised that they lived, moved, and had their being in water, but felt
that they were quite ignorant of the real nature of what constituted the
very source of their life. They resorted to a wiser fish in a great
river, and the Philosopher-fish addressed them thus:--

"O you who endeavour to untie the knot (of being)! You are born in
union, yet die in the thought of an unreal separation. Thirsty on the
sea-shore! Dying penniless while master of the treasure!"

    [116:1] Nasafī's Maqṣadi Aqṣā: fol. 3b.

    [116:2] Nasafī's Maqṣadi Aqṣā: fol. 15b.

All feeling of separation, therefore, is ignorance; and all "otherness"
is a mere appearance, a dream, a shadow--a differentiation born of
relation essential to the self-recognition of the Absolute. The great
prophet of this school is "The excellent Rūmī" as Hegel calls him. He
took up the old Neo-Platonic idea of the Universal soul working through
the various spheres of being, and expressed it in a way so modern in
spirit that Clodd introduces the passage in his "Story of Creation". I
venture to quote this famous passage in order to show how successfully
the poet anticipates the modern concept of evolution, which he regarded
as the realistic side of his Idealism.

    First man appeared in the clan of inorganic things,
    Next he passed therefrom into that of plants.
    For years he lived as one of the plants,
    Remembering nought of his inorganic state so different;
    And when he passed from the vegetive to the animal state,
    He had no remembrance of his state as a plant,
    Except the inclination he felt to the world of plants,
    Especially at the time of spring and sweet flowers;
    Like the inclination of infants towards their mothers,
    Which know not the cause of their inclination to the breast.
    Again the great creator as you know,
    Drew man out of the animal into the human state.
    Thus man passed from one order of nature to another,
    Till he became wise and knowing and strong as he is now.
    Of his first soul he has now no remembrance,
    And he will be again changed from his present soul.

                                (Maṯẖnawī Book IV).

It would now be instructive if we compare this aspect of Ṣūfī thought
with the fundamental ideas of Neo-Platonism. The God of Neo-Platonism is
immanent as well as transcendant. "As being the cause of all things, it
is everywhere. As being other than all things, it is nowhere. If it
were only "everywhere", and not also "nowhere", it would _be_ all
things."[118:1] The Ṣūfī, however, tersely says that God _is_ all things.
The Neo-Platonist allows a certain permanence or fixity to
matter;[118:2] but the Ṣūfīs of the school in question, regard all
empirical experience as a kind of dreaming. Life in limitation, they
say, is sleep; death brings the awakening. It is, however, the doctrine
of Impersonal immortality--"genuinely eastern in spirit"--which
distinguishes this school from Neo-Platonism. "Its (Arabian Philosophy)
distinctive doctrine", says Whittaker, "of an Impersonal immortality of
the general human intellect is, however, as contrasted with
Aristotelianism and Neo-Platonism, essentially original."

    [118:1] Whittaker's Neo-Platonism, p. 58.

    [118:2] Whittaker's Neo-Platonism, p. 57.

The above brief exposition shows that there are three basic ideas of
this mode of thought:--

(a). That the ultimate Reality is knowable through a supersensual state
of consciousness.

(b). That the ultimate Reality is impersonal.

(c). That the ultimate Reality is one.

Corresponding to these ideas we have:

(I). The Agnostic reaction as manifested in the Poet ‘Umar Ḵẖayyām
(12{th} century) who cried out in his intellectual despair:--

    The joyous souls who quaff potations deep,
    And saints who in the mosque sad vigils keep,
    Are lost at sea alike, and find no shore,
    One only wakes, all others are asleep.

(II). The monotheistic reaction of Ibn Taimiyya and his followers in the
13{th} century.

(III). The Pluralistic reaction of Wāḥid Maḥmūd[119:1] in the 13{th}

    [119:1] Dabistān, Chap: 8.

Speaking from a purely philosophical standpoint, the last movement is
most interesting. The history of Thought illustrates the operation of
certain general laws of progress which are true of the intellectual
annals of different peoples. The German systems of monistic thought
invoked the pluralism of Herbart; while the pantheism of Spinoza called
forth the monadism of Leibniz. The operation of the same law led Wāḥid
Maḥmūd to deny the truth of contemporary monism, and declare that
Reality is not one but many. Long before Leibniz he taught that the
Universe is a combination of what he called "Afrād"--essential units, or
simple atoms which have existed from all eternity, and are endowed with
life. The law of the Universe is an ascending perfection of elemental
matter, continually passing from lower to higher forms determined by the
kind of food which the fundamental units assimilate. Each period of his
cosmogony comprises 8,000 years, and after eight such periods the world
is decomposed, and the units re-combine to construct a new universe.
Wāḥid Maḥmūd succeeded in founding a sect which was cruelly persecuted,
and finally stamped out of existence by S̱ẖāh ‘Abbās. It is said that
the poet Ḥāfiz of S̱ẖīrāz believed in the tenets of this sect.

C. _Reality as Light or Thought._

The third great school of Ṣūfīism conceives Reality as essentially Light
or Thought, the very nature of which demands something to be thought or
illuminated. While the preceding school abandoned Neo-Platonism, this
school transformed it into new systems. There are, however, two aspects
of the metaphysics of this school. The one is genuinely Persian in
spirit, the other is chiefly influenced by Christian modes of thought.
Both agree in holding that the fact of empirical diversity necessitates
a principle of difference in the nature of the ultimate Reality. I now
proceed to consider them in their historical order.

I. Reality as Light--Al-Is̱ẖrāqī.

Return to Persian Dualism.

The application of Greek dialectic to Islamic Theology aroused that
spirit of critical examination which began with Al-As̱ẖ‘arī, and found
its completest expression in the scepticism of Al-G̱ẖazālī. Even among
the Rationalists there were some more critical minds--such as
Nazzām--whose attitude towards Greek Philosophy was not one of servile
submission, but of independent criticism. The defenders of
dogma--Al-G̱ẖazālī, Al-Rāzī, Abul Barakāt, and Al-Āmidī, carried on a
persistent attack on the whole fabric of Greek Philosophy; while Abu
Sa‘īd Ṣairāfī, Qaḍī ‘Abdal Jabbār, Abul Ma‘ālī, Abul Qāsim, and finally
the acute Ibn Taimiyya, actuated by similar theological motives,
continued to expose the inherent weakness of Greek Logic. In their
criticism of Greek Philosophy, these thinkers were supplemented by some
of the more learned Ṣūfīs, such as Shahābal Dīn Suhrawardī, who
endeavoured to substantiate the helplessness of pure reason by his
refutation of Greek thought in a work entitled, "The unveiling of Greek
absurdities". The As̱ẖ‘arite reaction against Rationalism resulted not
only in the development of a system of metaphysics most modern in some
of its aspects, but also in completely breaking asunder the worn out
fetters of intellectual thraldom. Erdmann[122:1] seems to think that the
speculative spirit among the Muslims exhausted itself with Al-Fārābī and
Avicenna, and that after them Philosophy became bankrupt in passing over
into scepticism and mysticism. Evidently he ignores the Muslim criticism
of Greek Philosophy which led to the As̱ẖ‘arite Idealism on the one
hand, and a genuine Persian reconstruction on the other. That a system
of thoroughly Persian character might be possible, the destruction of
foreign thought, or rather the weakening of its hold on the mind, was
indispensable. The As̱ẖ‘arite and other defenders of Islamic Dogma
completed the destruction; Al-Is̱ẖrāqī--the child of emancipation--came
forward to build a new edifice of thought; though, in his process of
reconstruction, he did not entirely repudiate the older material. His is
the genuine Persian brain which, undaunted by the threats of narrow
minded authority, asserts its right of free independent speculation. In
his philosophy the old Iranian tradition, which had found only a partial
expression in the writings of the Physician Al-Rāzī, Al-G̱ẖazālī, and
the Ismā‘īlia sect, endeavours to come to a final understanding with the
philosophy of his predecessors and the theology of Islam.

    [122:1] Vol. I, p. 367.

Shaikh S̱ẖahābal Dīn Suhrawardī, known as S̱ẖaiḵẖal Is̱ẖrāq Maqtūl
was born about the middle of the 12{th} century. He studied philosophy
with Majd Jīlī--the teacher of the commentator Al-Rāzī--and, while
still a youth, stood unrivalled as a thinker in the whole Islamic world.
His great admirer Al-Malik-al-Zāhir--the son of Sultan Ṣalāḥ-al
Dīn--invited him to Aleppo, where the youthful philosopher expounded his
independent opinions in a way that aroused the bitter jealousy of
contemporary theologians. These hired slaves of bloodthirsty Dogmatism
which, conscious of its inherent weakness, has always managed to keep
brute force behind its back, wrote to Sultan Ṣalāḥ-al Dīn, that the
S̱ẖaiḵẖ's teaching was a danger to Islam, and that it was necessary,
in the interest of the Faith, to nip the evil in the bud. The Sultan
consented; and there, at the early age of 36, the young Persian thinker
calmly met the blow which made him a martyr of truth, and immortalised
his name for ever. Murderers have passed away, but the philosophy, the
price of which was paid in blood, still lives, and attracts many an
earnest seeker after truth.

The principal features of the founder of the Is̱ẖrāqī Philosophy are
his intellectual independence, the skill with which he weaves his
materials into a systematic whole, and above all his faithfulness to
the philosophic traditions of his country. In many fundamental points he
differs from Plato, and freely criticises Aristotle whose philosophy he
looks upon as a mere preparation for his own system of thought. Nothing
escapes his criticism. Even the logic of Aristotle, he subjects to a
searching examination, and shows the hollowness of some of its
doctrines. Definition, for instance, is genus plus differentia,
according to Aristotle. But Al-Is̱ẖrāqī holds that the distinctive
attribute of the thing defined, which cannot be predicated of any other
thing, will bring us no knowledge of the thing. We define "horse" as a
neighing animal. Now we understand animality, because we know many
animals in which this attribute exists; but it is impossible to
understand the attribute "neighing", since it is found nowhere except in
the thing defined. The ordinary definition of horse, therefore, would be
meaningless to a man who has never seen a horse. Aristotelian
definition, as a scientific principle is quite useless. This criticism
leads the S̱ẖaiḵẖ, to a standpoint very similar to that of Bosanquet
who defines definition, as "Summation of qualities". The S̱ẖaiḵẖ
holds that a true definition would enumerate all the essential
attributes which, taken collectively, exist nowhere except the thing
defined, though they may individually exist in other things.

But let us turn to his system of metaphysics, and estimate the worth of
his contribution to the thought of his country. In order fully to
comprehend the purely intellectual side of Transcendental philosophy,
the student, says the S̱ẖaiḵẖ, must be thoroughly acquainted with
Aristotelian philosophy, Logic, Mathematics, and Ṣūfīism. His mind
should be completely free from the taint of prejudice and sin, so that
he may gradually develop that inner sense, which verifies and corrects
what intellect understands only as theory. Unaided reason is
untrustworthy; it must always be supplemented by "Ḏẖauq"--the
mysterious perception of the essence of things--which brings knowledge
and peace to the restless soul, and disarms Scepticism for ever. We are,
however, concerned with the purely speculative side of this spiritual
experience--the results of the inner perception as formulated and
systematised by discursive thought. Let us, therefore, examine the
various aspects of the Is̱ẖrāqī Philosophy--Ontology, Cosmology, and


The ultimate principle of all existence is "Nūr-i-Qāhir"--the Primal
Absolute Light whose essential nature consists in perpetual
illumination. "Nothing is more visible than light, and visibility does
not stand in need of any definition."[127:1] The essence of Light,
therefore, is manifestation. For if manifestation is an attribute
superadded to light, it would follow that in itself light possesses no
visibility, and becomes visible only through something else visible in
itself; and from this again follows the absurd consequence, that
something other than light is more visible than light. The Primal Light,
therefore, has no reason of its existence beyond itself. All that is
other than this original principle is dependent, contingent, possible.
The "not-light" (darkness) is not something distinct proceeding from an
independent source. It is an error of the representatives of the Magian
religion to suppose that Light and Darkness are two distinct realities
created by two distinct creative agencies. The ancient Philosophers of
Persia were not dualists like the Zoroastrian priests who, on the ground
of the principle that the one cannot cause to emanate from itself more
than one, assigned two independent sources to Light and Darkness. The
relation between them is not that of contrariety, but of existence and
non-existence. The affirmation of Light necessarily posits its own
negation--Darkness which it must illuminate in order to be itself. This
Primordial Light is the source of all motion. But its motion is not
change of place; it is due to the _love_ of illumination which
constitutes its very essence, and stirs it up, as it were, to quicken
all things into life, by pouring out its own rays into their being. The
number of illuminations which proceed from it is infinite. Illuminations
of intenser brightness become, in their turn, the sources of other
illuminations; and the scale of brightness gradually descends to
illuminations too faint to beget other illuminations. All these
illuminations are mediums, or in the language of Theology, angels
through whom the infinite varieties of being receive life and sustenance
from the Primal Light. The followers of Aristotle erroneously restricted
the number of original Intellects to ten. They likewise erred in
enumerating the categories of thought. The possibilities of the Primal
Light are infinite; and the Universe, with all its variety, is only a
partial expression of the infinitude behind it. The categories of
Aristotle, therefore, are only relatively true. It is impossible for
human thought to comprehend within its tiny grasp, all the infinite
variety of ideas according to which the Primal Light does or may
illuminate that which is not light. We can, however, discriminate
between the following two illuminations of the original Light:--

    [127:1] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya--Al-Harawī's commentary on
    Al-Is̱ẖrāqī's Hikmat al-Is̱ẖrāq, fol. 10a.

(1). The Abstract Light (e.g. Intellect Universal as well as
individual). It has no form, and never becomes the attribute of anything
other than itself (Substance). From it proceed all the various forms of
partly-conscious, conscious, or self-conscious light, differing from one
another in the amount of lustre, which is determined by their
comparative nearness or distance from the ultimate source of their
being. The individual intellect or soul is only a fainter copy, or a
more distant reflection of the Primal Light. The Abstract Light knows
itself through itself, and does not stand in need of a non-ego to reveal
its own existence to itself. Consciousness or self-knowledge, therefore,
is the very essense of Abstract light, as distinguished from the
negation of light.

(2). The Accidental light (Attribute)--the light that has a form, and is
capable of becoming an attribute of something other than itself (e.g.
the light of the stars, or the visibility of other bodies). The
Accidental light, or more properly sensible light, is a distant
reflection of the Abstract light, which, because of its distance, has
lost the intensity, or substance-character of its parent. The process of
continuous reflection is really a softening process; successive
illuminations gradually lose their intensity until, in the chain of
reflections, we reach certain less intense illuminations which entirely
lose their independent character, and cannot exist except in
association with something else. These illuminations form the Accidental
light--the attribute which has no independent existence. The relation,
therefore, between the Accidental and the Abstract light is that of
cause and effect. The effect, however, is not something quite distinct
from its cause; it is a transformation, or a weaker form of the supposed
cause itself. Anything other than the Abstract light (e.g. the nature of
the illuminated body itself) cannot be the cause of the Accidental
light; since the latter, being merely contingent and consequently
capable of being negatived, can be taken away from bodies, without
affecting their character. If the essence or nature of the illuminated
body, had been the cause of the Accidental light, such a process of
disillumination could not have been possible. We cannot conceive an
inactive cause.[131:1]

    [131:1] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya fol. 11b.

It is now obvious that the S̱ẖaiḵẖ al-Is̱ẖrāq agrees with the
As̱ẖ‘arite thinkers in holding that there is no such thing as the Prima
Materia of Aristotle; though he recognises the existence of a necessary
negation of Light--darkness, the object of illumination. He further
agrees with them in teaching the relativity of all categories except
Substance and Quality. But he corrects their theory of knowledge, in so
far as he recognises an active element in human knowledge. Our relation
with the objects of our knowledge is not merely a passive relation; the
individual soul, being itself an illumination, illuminates the object in
the act of knowledge. The Universe to him is one great process of active
illumination; but, from a purely intellectual standpoint, this
illumination is only a partial expression of the infinitude of the
Primal Light, which may illuminate according to other laws not known to
us. The categories of thought are infinite; our intellect works with a
few only. The S̱ẖaiḵẖ, therefore, from the standpoint of discursive
thought, is not far from modern Humanism.


All that is "not-light" is, what the Is̱ẖrāqī thinkers call, "Absolute
quantity", or "Absolute matter". It is only another aspect of the
affirmation of light, and not an independent principle, as the
followers of Aristotle erroneously hold. The experimental fact of the
transformation of the primary elements into one another, points to this
fundamental Absolute matter which, with its various degrees of
grossness, constitutes the various spheres of material being. The
absolute ground of all things, then, is divided into two kinds:--

(1). That which is beyond space--the obscure substance or atoms
(essences of the As̱ẖ‘arite).

(2). That which is necessarily in space--forms of darkness, e.g. weight,
smell, taste, etc.

The combination of these two particularises the Absolute matter. A
material body is forms of darkness plus obscure substance, made visible
or illuminated by the Abstract light. But what is the cause of the
various forms of darkness? These, like the forms of light, owe their
existence to the Abstract light, the different illuminations of which
cause diversity in the spheres of being. The forms which make bodies
differ from one another, do not exist in the nature of the Absolute
matter. The Absolute quantity and the Absolute matter being identical,
if these forms do exist in the essence of the Absolute matter, all
bodies would be identical in regard to the forms of darkness. This,
however, is contradicted by daily experience. The cause of the forms of
darkness, therefore, is not the Absolute matter. And as the difference
of forms cannot be assigned to any other cause, it follows that they are
due to the various illuminations of the Abstract light. Forms of light
and darkness both owe their existence to the Abstract Light. The third
element of a material body--the obscure atom or essence--is nothing but
a necessary aspect of the affirmation of light. The body as a whole,
therefore, is completely dependent on the Primal Light. The whole
Universe is really a continuous series of circles of existence, all
depending on the original Light. Those nearer to the source receive more
illumination than those more distant. All varieties of existence in each
circle, and the circles themselves, are illuminated through an infinite
number of medium-illuminations, which preserve some forms of existence
by the help of "conscious light" (as in the case of man, animal and
plant), and some without it (as in the case of minerals and primary
elements). The immense panorama of diversity which we call the Universe,
is, therefore, a vast shadow of the infinite variety in intensity of
direct or indirect illuminations and rays of the Primary Light. Things
are, so to speak, fed by their respective illuminations to which they
constantly move, with a lover's passion, in order to drink more and more
of the original fountain of Light. The world is an eternal drama of
love. The different planes of being are as follow:--

  The Plane  ┌ 1. The Plane of Intellects--the
  of Primal  │    parent of the heavens,
    Light.   │ 2. The Plane of the Soul.
             └ 3. The Plane of Form.
                   │    ┌ 1. The Plane         ┌ 1. The Plane of
                   │    │    of ideal          │    the heavens.
                   └────┤    form. ────────────┤
                        │ 2. The Plane         │ 2. The Plane of
                        │    of material       └    the elements:--
                        └    forms:--

                     (a). The heavens          (a). Simple elements.
                     (b). The elements:--       (b). Compounds:--
                       1. Simple elements        I. Mineral kingdom.
                       2. Compounds:--           II. Vegetable kingdom.
                       I. Mineral kingdom.     III. Animal kingdom.
                      II. Vegetable kingdom.
                     III. Animal kingdom.

Having briefly indicated the general nature of Being, we now proceed to
a more detailed examination of the world-process. All that is not-light
is divided into:--

(1). Eternal e.g., Intellects, Souls of heavenly bodies, heavens, simple
elements, time, motion.

(2). Contingent e.g., Compounds of various elements. The motion of the
heavens is eternal, and makes up the various cycles of the Universe. It
is due to the intense longing of the heaven-soul to receive illumination
from the source of all light. The matter of which the heavens are
constructed, is completely free from the operation of chemical
processes, incidental to the grosser forms of the not-light. Every
heaven has its own matter peculiar to it alone. Likewise the heavens
differ from one another in the direction of their motion; and the
difference is explained by the fact that the beloved, or the sustaining
illumination, is different in each case. Motion is only an aspect of
time. It is the summing up of the elements of time, which, as
externalised, is motion. The distinction of past, present, and future
is made only for the sake of convenience, and does not exist in the
nature of time.[137:1] We cannot conceive the beginning of time; for the
supposed beginning would be a point of time itself. Time and motion,
therefore, are both eternal.

    [137:1] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya fol. 34a.

There are three primordial elements--water, earth, and wind. Fire,
according to the Is̱ẖrāqīs, is only burning wind. The combinations of
these elements, under various heavenly influences, assume various
forms--fluidity, gaseousness, solidity. This transformation of the
original elements, constitutes the process of "making and unmaking"
which pervades the entire sphere of the not-light, raising the different
forms of existence higher and higher, and bringing them nearer and
nearer to the illuminating forces. All the phenomena of nature--rain,
clouds, thunder, meteor--are the various workings of this immanent
principle of motion, and are explained by the direct or indirect
operation of the Primal Light on things, which differ from one another
in their capacity of receiving more or less illumination. The Universe,
in one word, is a petrified desire; a crystallised longing after light.

But is it eternal? The Universe is a manifestation of the illuminative
Power which constitutes the essential nature of the Primal Light. In so
far, therefore, as it is a manifestation, it is only a dependent being,
and consequently not eternal. But in another sense it is eternal. All
the different spheres of being exist by the illuminations and rays of
the Eternal light. There are some illuminations which are directly
eternal; while there are other fainter ones, the appearance of which
depends on the combination of other illuminations and rays. The
existence of these is not eternal in the same sense as the existence of
the pre-existing parent illuminations. The existence of colour, for
instance, is contingent in comparison to that of the ray, which
manifests colour when a dark body is brought before an illuminating
body. The Universe, therefore, though contingent as manifestation, is
eternal by the eternal character of its source. Those who hold the
non-eternity of the Universe argue on the assumption of the possibility
of a complete induction. Their argument proceeds in the following

(1). Everyone of the Abyssinians is black.

⁂ All Abyssinians are black.

(2). Every motion began at a definite moment.

⁂ All motion must begin so.

But this mode of argumentation is vicious. It is quite impossible to
state the major. One cannot collect all the Abyssinians past, present,
and future, at one particular moment of time. Such a Universal,
therefore, is impossible. Hence from the examination of individual
Abyssinians, or particular instances of motion which fall within the
pale of our experience, it is rash to infer, that all Abyssinians are
black, or all motion had a beginning in time.


Motion and light are not concomitant in the case of bodies of a lower
order. A piece of stone, for instance, though illuminated and hence
visible, is not endowed with self-initiated movement. As we rise,
however, in the scale of being, we find higher bodies, or organisms in
which motion and light are associated together. The abstract
illumination finds its best dwelling place in man. But the question
arises whether the individual abstract illumination which we call the
human soul, did or did not exist before its physical accompaniment. The
founder of Is̱ẖrāqī Philosophy follows Avicenna in connection with this
question, and uses the same arguments to show, that the individual
abstract illuminations cannot be held to have pre-existed, as so many
units of light. The material categories of one and many cannot be
applied to the abstract illumination which, in its essential nature, is
neither one nor many; though it appears as many owing to the various
degrees of illuminational receptivity in its material accompaniments.
The relation between the abstract illumination, or soul and body, is not
that of cause and effect; the bond of union between them is love. The
body which longs for illumination, receives it through the soul; since
its nature does not permit a direct communication between the source of
light and itself. But the soul cannot transmit the directly received
light to the dark solid body which, considering its attributes, stands
on the opposite pole of being. In order to be related to each other,
they require a medium between them, something standing midway between
light and darkness. This medium is the animal soul--a hot, fine,
transparent vapour which has its principal seat in the left cavity of
the heart, but also circulates in all parts of the body. It is because
of the partial identity of the animal soul with light that, in dark
nights, land-animals run towards the burning fire; while sea-animals
leave their aquatic abodes in order to enjoy the beautiful sight of the
moon. The ideal of man, therefore, is to rise higher and higher in the
scale of being, and to receive more and more illumination which
gradually brings complete freedom from the world of forms. But how is
this ideal to be realised? By knowledge and action. It is the
transformation of both understanding and will, the union of action and
contemplation, that actualizes the highest ideal of man. Change your
attitude towards the Universe, and adopt the line of conduct
necessitated by the change. Let us briefly consider these means of

A. _Knowledge._ When the Abstract illumination associates itself with a
higher organism, it works out its development by the operation of
certain faculties--the powers of light, and the powers of darkness. The
former are the five external senses, and the five internal
senses--sensorium, conception, imagination, understanding, and memory;
the latter are the powers of growth, digestion, etc. But such a division
of faculties is only convenient. "One faculty can be the source of all
operations."[142:1] There is only one power in the middle of the brain,
though it receives different names from different standpoints. The mind
is a unity which, for the sake of convenience, is regarded as
multiplicity. The power residing in the middle of the brain must be
distinguished from the abstract illumination which constitutes the real
essence of man. The Philosopher of illumination appears to draw a
distinction between the active mind and the essentially inactive soul;
yet he teaches that in some mysterious way, all the various faculties
are connected with the soul.

    [142:1] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya fol. 57b.

The most original point in his psychology of intellection, however, is
his theory of vision.[142:2] The ray of light which is supposed to come
out of the eye must be either substance or quality. If quality, it
cannot be transmitted from one substance (eye) to another substance
(visible body). If, on the other hand, it is a substance, it moves
either consciously, or impelled by its inherent nature. Conscious
movement would make it an animal perceiving other things. The perceiver
in this case would be the ray, not man. If the movement of the ray is an
attribute of its nature, there is no reason why its movement should be
peculiar to one direction, and not to all. The ray of light, therefore,
cannot be regarded as coming out of the eye. The followers of Aristotle
hold that in the process of vision images of objects are printed on the
eye. This view is also erroneous; since images of big things cannot be
printed on a small space. The truth is that when a thing comes before
the eye, an illumination takes place, and the mind sees the object
through that illumination. When there is no veil between the object and
the normal sight, and the mind is ready to perceive, the act of vision
must take place; since this is the law of things. "All vision is
illumination; and we see things in God". Berkley explained the
relativity of our sight-perceptions with a view to show that the
ultimate ground of all ideas is God. The Is̱ẖrāqī Philosopher has the
same object in view, though his theory of vision is not so much an
explanation of the sight-process as a new way of looking at the fact of

    [142:2] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya fol. 60b.

Besides sense and reason, however, there is another source of knowledge
called "Ḏẖauq"--the inner perception which reveals non-temporal and
non-spatial planes of being. The study of philosophy, or the habit of
reflecting on pure concepts, combined with the practice of virtue, leads
to the upbringing of this mysterious sense, which corroborates and
corrects the conclusions of intellect.

B. _Action._ Man as an active being has the following motive powers:

(a). Reason or the Angelic soul--the source of intelligence,
discrimination, and love of knowledge.

(b). The beast-soul which is the source of anger, courage, dominance,
and ambition.

(c). The animal soul which is the source of lust, hunger, and sexual

The first leads to wisdom; the second and third, if controlled by
reason, lead respectively to bravery and chastity. The harmonious use of
all results in the virtue of justice. The possibility of spiritual
progress by virtue, shows that this world is the best possible world.
Things as existent are neither good nor bad. It is misuse or limited
standpoint that makes them so. Still the fact of evil cannot be denied.
Evil does exist; but it is far less in amount than good. It is peculiar
only to a part of the world of darkness; while there are other parts of
the Universe which are quite free from the taint of evil. The sceptic
who attributes the existence of evil to the creative agency of God,
presupposes resemblance between human and divine action, and does not
see that nothing existent is free in his sense of the word. Divine
activity cannot be regarded as the creator of evil in the same sense as
we regard some forms of human activity as the cause of evil.[145:1]

    [145:1] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya fol. 92b.

It is, then, by the union of knowledge and virtue that the soul frees
itself from the world of darkness. As we know more and more of the
nature of things, we are brought closer and closer to the world of
light; and the love of that world becomes more and more intense. The
stages of spiritual development are infinite, since the degrees of love
are infinite. The principal stages, however, are as follows:--

(1). The stage of "_I_". In this stage the feeling of personality is
most predominant, and the spring of human action is generally

(2). The stage of "_Thou art not_". Complete absorption in one's own
deep self to the entire forgetfulness of everything external.

(3). The stage of "_I am not_". This stage is the necessary result of
the second.

(4). The stage of "_Thou art_". The absolute negation of "_I_", and the
affirmation of "_Thou_", which means complete resignation to the will of

(5). The stage of "_I am not; and thou art not_". The complete negation
of both the terms of thought--the state of cosmic consciousness.

Each stage is marked by more or less intense illuminations, which are
accompanied by some indescribable sounds. Death does not put an end to
the spiritual progress of the soul. The individual souls, after death,
are not unified into one soul, but continue different from each other in
proportion to the illumination they received during their companionship
with physical organisms. The Philosopher of illumination anticipates
Leibniz's doctrine of the Identity of Indiscernibles, and holds that no
two souls can be completely similar to each other.[147:1] When the
material machinery which it adopts for the purpose of acquiring gradual
illumination, is exhausted, the soul probably takes up another body
determined by the experiences of the previous life; and rises higher and
higher in the different spheres of being, adopting forms peculiar to
those spheres, until it reaches its destination--the state of absolute
negation. Some souls probably come back to this world in order to make
up their deficiencies.[147:2] The doctrine of trans-migration cannot be
proved or disproved from a purely logical standpoint; though it is a
probable hypothesis to account for the future destiny of the soul. All
souls are thus constantly journeying towards their common source, which
calls back the whole Universe when this journey is over, and starts
another cycle of being to reproduce, in almost all respects, the history
of the preceding cycles.

    [147:1] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya fol. 82.

    [147:2] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya fol. 87b.

Such is the philosophy of the great Persian martyr. He is, properly
speaking, the first Persian systematiser who recognises the elements of
truth in all the aspects of Persian speculation, and skilfully
synthesises them in his own system. He is a pantheist in so far as he
defines God as the sum total of all sensible and ideal existence.[148:1]
To him, unlike some of his Ṣūfī predecessors, the world is something
real, and the human soul a distinct individuality. With the orthodox
theologian, he maintains that the ultimate cause of every phenomenon,
is the absolute light whose illumination forms the very essence of the
Universe. In his psychology he follows Avicenna, but his treatment of
this branch of study is more systematic and more empirical. As an
ethical philosopher, he is a follower of Aristotle whose doctrine of the
mean he explains and illustrates with great thoroughness. Above all he
modifies and transforms the traditional Neo-Platonism, into a thoroughly
Persian system of thought which, not only approaches Plato, but also
spiritualises the old Persian Dualism. No Persian thinker is more alive
to the necessity of explaining all the aspects of objective existence in
reference to his fundamental principles. He constantly appeals to
experience, and endeavours to explain even the physical phenomena in the
light of his theory of illumination. In his system objectivity, which
was completely swallowed up by the exceedingly subjective character of
extreme pantheism, claims its due again, and, having been subjected to a
detailed examination, finds a comprehensive explanation. No wonder then
that this acute thinker succeeded in founding a system of thought,
which has always exercised the greatest fascination over minds--uniting
speculation and emotion in perfect harmony. The narrow-mindedness of his
contemporaries gave him the title of "Maqtūl" (the killed one),
signifying that he was not to be regarded as "S̱ẖahīd" (Martyr); but
succeeding generations of Ṣūfīs and philosophers have always given him
the profoundest veneration.

    [148:1] S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya fol. 81b.

I may here notice a less spiritual form of the Is̱ẖrāqī mode of
thought. Nasafī[150:1] describes a phase of Ṣūfī thought which reverted
to the old materialistic dualism of Mānī. The advocates of this view
hold, that light and darkness are essential to each other. They are, in
reality, two rivers which mix with each other like oil and milk,[150:2]
out of which arises the diversity of things. The ideal of human action
is freedom from the taint of darkness; and the freedom of light from
darkness means the self-consciousness of light as light.

    [150:1] Maqsadi Aqsā; fol. 21a.

    [150:2] Maqsadi Aqsā; fol. 21a.

II. Reality as Thought--Al-Jīlī.

Al-Jīlī was born in 767 A.H., as he himself says in one of his verses,
and died in 811 A.H. He was not a prolific writer like S̱ẖaiḵẖ Muḥy
al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī whose mode of thought seems to have greatly influenced
his teaching. He combined in himself poetical imagination and
philosophical genius, but his poetry is no more than a vehicle for his
mystical and metaphysical doctrines. Among other books he wrote a
commentary on S̱ẖaiḵẖ Muḥy al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī's al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiya,
a commentary on Bismillāh, and the famous work Insān al-Kāmil (printed
in Cairo).

Essence pure and simple, he says, is the thing to which names and
attributes are given, whether it is existent actually or ideally. The
existent is of two species:--

(1). The Existent in Absoluteness or Pure existence--Pure Being--God.

(2). The existence joined with non-existence--Creation--Nature.

The Essence of God or Pure Thought cannot be understood; no words can
express it, for it is beyond all relation and knowledge is relation. The
intellect flying through the fathomless empty space pierces through the
veil of names and attributes, traverses the vasty sphere of time, enters
the domain of the non-existent and finds the Essence of Pure Thought to
be an existence which is non-existence--a sum of contradictions.[152:1]
It has two (accidents); eternal life in all past time and eternal life
in all future time. It has two (qualities), God and creation. It has two
(definitions), uncreatableness and creatableness. It has two names, God
and man. It has two faces, the manifested (this world) and the
unmanifested (the next world). It has two effects, necessity and
possibility. It has two points of view; from the first it is
non-existent for itself but existent for what is not itself; from the
second it is existent for itself and non-existent for what is not

    [152:1] Insān al-Kāmil, Vol. I, p. 10.

Name, he says, fixes the named in the understanding, pictures it in the
mind, presents it in the imagination and keeps it in the memory. It is
the outside or the husk, as it were, of the named; while the named is
the inside or the pith. Some names do not exist in reality but exist in
name only as "‘Anqā" (a fabulous bird). It is a name the object of which
does not exist in reality. Just as "‘Anqā" is absolutely non-existent,
so God is absolutely present, although He cannot be touched and seen.
The "‘Anqā" exists only in idea while the object of the name "Allāh"
exists in reality and can be known like "‘Anqā" only through its names
and attributes. The name is a mirror which reveals all the secrets of
the Absolute Being; it is a light through the agency of which God sees
Himself. Al-Jīlī here approaches the Isma‘īlia view that we should seek
the Named through the Name.

In order to understand this passage we should bear in mind the three
stages of the development of Pure Being, enumerated by him. He holds
that the Absolute existence or Pure Being when it leaves its
absoluteness undergoes three stages:--(1) Oneness. (2) He-ness. (3)
I-ness. In the first stage there is an absence of all attributes and
relations, yet it is called one, and therefore oneness marks one step
away from the absoluteness. In the second stage Pure Being is yet free
from all manifestation, while the third stage, I-ness, is nothing but an
external manifestation of the He-ness; or, as Hegel would say, it is the
self-diremption of God. This third stage is the sphere of the name
Allāh; here the darkness of Pure Being is illuminated, nature comes to
the front, the Absolute Being has become conscious. He says further that
the name Allāh is the stuff of all the perfections of the different
phases of Divinity, and in the second stage of the progress of Pure
Being, all that is the result of Divine self-diremption was potentially
contained within the titanic grasp of this name which, in the third
stage of the development, objectified itself, became a mirror in which
God reflected Himself, and thus by its crystallisation dispelled all the
gloom of the Absolute Being.

In correspondence with these three stages of the absolute development,
the perfect man has three stages of spiritual training. But in his case
the process of development must be the reverse; because his is the
process of ascent, while the Absolute Being had undergone essentially a
process of descent. In the first stage of his spiritual progress he
meditates on the name, studies nature on which it is sealed; in the
second stage he steps into the sphere of the Attribute, and in the third
stage enters the sphere of the Essence. It is here that he becomes the
Perfect Man; his eye becomes the eye of God, his word the word of God
and his life the life of God--participates in the general life of Nature
and "sees into the life of things".

To turn now to the nature of the attribute. His views on this most
interesting question are very important, because it is here that his
doctrine fundamentally differs from Hindu Idealism. He defines attribute
as an agency which gives us a knowledge of the state of things.[155:1]
Elsewhere he says that this distinction of attribute from the underlying
reality is tenable only in the sphere of the manifested, because here
every attribute is regarded as the other of the reality in which it is
supposed to inhere. This otherness is due to the existence of
combination and disintegration in the sphere of the manifested. But the
distinction is untenable in the domain of the unmanifested, because
there is no combination or disintegration there. It should be observed
how widely he differs from the advocates of the Doctrine of "Māyā". He
believes that the material world has real existence; it is the outward
husk of the real being, no doubt, but this outward husk is not the less
real. The cause of the phenomenal world, according to him, is not a real
entity hidden behind the sum of attributes, but it is a conception
furnished by the mind so that there may be no difficulty in
understanding the material world. Berkeley and Fichte will so far agree
with our author, but his view leads him to the most characteristically
Hegelian doctrine--identity of thought and being. In the 37{th} chapter
of the 2{nd} volume of Insān al-Kāmil, he clearly says that idea is the
stuff of which this universe is made; thought, idea, notion is the
material of the structure of nature. While laying stress on this
doctrine he says, "Dost thou not look to thine own belief? Where is the
reality in which the so-called Divine attributes inhere? It is but the
idea."[157:1] Hence nature is nothing but a crystallised idea. He gives
his hearty assent to the results of Kant's _Critique of Pure Reason_;
but, unlike him, he makes this very idea the essence of the Universe.
Kant's _Ding an sich_ to him is a pure nonentity; there is nothing
behind the collection of attributes. The attributes are the real things,
the material world is but the objectification of the Absolute Being; it
is the other self of the Absolute--another which owes its existence to
the principle of difference in the nature of the Absolute itself. Nature
is the idea of God, a something necessary for His knowledge of Himself.
While Hegel calls his doctrine the identity of thought and being,
Al-Jīlī calls it the identity of attribute and reality. It should be
noted that the author's phrase, "world of attributes", which he uses for
the material world is slightly misleading. What he really holds is that
the distinction of attribute and reality is merely phenomenal, and does
not at all exist in the nature of things. It is useful, because it
facilitates our understanding of the world around us, but it is not at
all real. It will be understood that Al-Jīlī recognises the truth of
Empirical Idealism only tentatively, and does not admit the absoluteness
of the distinction. These remarks should not lead us to understand that
Al-Jīlī does not believe in the objective reality of the thing in
itself. He does believe in it, but then he advocates its unity, and says
that the material world is the thing in itself; it is the "other", the
external expression of the thing in itself. The _Ding an sich_ and its
external expression or the production of its self-diremption, are really
identical, though we discriminate between them in order to facilitate
our understanding of the universe. If they are not identical, he says,
how could one manifest the other? In one word, he means by _Ding an
sich_, the Pure, the Absolute Being, and seeks it through its
manifestation or external expression. He says that as long as we do not
realise the identity of attribute and reality, the material world or the
world of attributes seems to be a veil; but when the doctrine is
brought home to us the veil is removed; we see the Essence itself
everywhere, and find that all the attributes are but ourselves. Nature
then appears in her true light; all otherness is removed and we are one
with her. The aching prick of curiosity ceases, and the inquisitive
attitude of our minds is replaced by a state of philosophic calm. To the
person who has realised this identity, discoveries of science bring no
new information, and religion with her _role_ of supernatural authority
has nothing to say. This is the spiritual emancipation.

    [155:1] Insān al-Kāmil; Vol. I, p. 22.

    [157:1] Insān al-Kāmil, Vol. II, p. 26.

Let us now see how he classifies the different divine names and
attributes which have received expression in nature or crystallised
Divinity. His classification is as follows:--

(1). The names and attributes of God as He is in Himself (Allāh, The
One, The Odd, The Light, The Truth, The Pure, The Living.)

(2). The names and attributes of God as the source of all glory (The
Great and High, The All-powerful).

(3). The names and attributes of God as all Perfection (The Creator, The
Benefactor, The First, The Last).

(4). The names and attributes of God as all Beauty (The Uncreatable, The
Painter, The Merciful, The Origin of all). Each of these names and
attributes has its own particular effect by which it illuminates the
soul of the perfect man and Nature. How these illuminations take place,
and how they reach the soul is not explained by Al-Jīlī. His silence
about these matters throws into more relief the mystical portion of his
views and implies the necessity of spiritual Directorship.

Before considering Al-Jīlī's views of particular Divine Names and
Attributes, we should note that his conception of God, implied in the
above classification, is very similar to that of Schleiermacher. While
the German theologian reduces all the divine attributes to one single
attribute of Power, our author sees the danger of advancing a God free
from all attributes, yet recognises with Schleiermacher that in Himself
God is an unchangeable unity, and that His attributes "are nothing more
than views of Him from different human standpoints, the various
appearances which the one changeless cause presents to our finite
intelligence according as we look at it from different sides of the
spiritual landscape."[161:1] In His absolute existence He is beyond the
limitation of names and attributes, but when He externalises Himself,
when He leaves His absoluteness, when nature is born, names and
attributes appear sealed on her very fabric.

    [161:1] Matheson's _Aids to the Study of German Theology_, p.

We now proceed to consider what he teaches about particular Divine Names
and Attributes. The first Essential Name is Allāh (Divinity) which means
the sum of all the realities of existence with their respective order in
that sum. This name is applied to God as the only necessary existence.
Divinity being the highest manifestation of Pure Being, the difference
between them is that the latter is visible to the eye, but its _where_
is invisible; while the traces of the former are visible, itself is
invisible. By the very fact of her being crystallised divinity, Nature
is not the real divinity; hence Divinity is invisible, and its traces in
the form of Nature are visible to the eye. Divinity, as the author
illustrates, is water; nature is crystallised water or ice; but ice is
not water. The Essence is visible to the eye, (another proof of our
author's Natural Realism or Absolute Idealism) although all its
attributes are not known to us. Even its attributes are not known as
they are in themselves, their shadows or effects only are known. For
instance, charity itself is unknown, only its effect or the fact of
giving to the poor, is known and seen. This is due to the attributes
being incorporated in the very nature of the Essence. If the expression
of the attributes in its real nature had been possible, its separation
from the Essence would have been possible also. But there are some other
Essential Names of God--The Absolute Oneness and Simple Oneness. The
Absolute Oneness marks the first step of Pure Thought from the darkness
of Cecity (the internal or the original Māyā of the Vedānta) to the
light of manifestation. Although this movement is not attended with any
external manifestations, yet it sums up all of them under its hollow
universality. Look at a wall, says the author, you see the whole wall;
but you cannot see the individual pieces of the material that
contribute to its formation. The wall is a unity--but a unity which
comprehends diversity, so Pure Being is a unity but a unity which is the
soul of diversity.

The third movement of the Absolute Being is Simple Oneness--a step
attended with external manifestation. The Absolute Oneness is free from
all particular names and attributes. The Oneness Simple takes on names
and attributes, but there is no distinction between these attributes,
one is the essence of the other. Divinity is similar to Simple Oneness,
but its names and attributes are distinguished from one another and even
contradictory, as generous is contradictory to revengeful.[163:1] The
third step, or as Hegel would say, Voyage of the Being, has another
appellation (Mercy). The First Mercy, the author says, is the evolution
of the Universe from Himself and the manifestation of His own Self in
every atom of the result of His own self-diremption. Al-Jīlī makes this
point clearer by an instance. He says that nature is frozen water and
God is water. The real name of nature is God (Allāh); ice or condensed
water is merely a borrowed appellation. Elsewhere he calls water the
origin of knowledge, intellect, understanding, thought and idea. This
instance leads him to guard against the error of looking upon God as
immanent in nature, or running through the sphere of material existence.
He says that immanence implies disparity of being; God is not immanent
because He is Himself the existence. Eternal existence is the other self
of God, it is the light through which He sees Himself. As the originator
of an idea is existent in that idea, so God is present in nature. The
difference between God and man, as one may say, is that His ideas
materialise themselves, ours do not. It will be remembered here that
Hegel would use the same line of argument in freeing himself from the
accusation of Pantheism.

    [163:1] This would seem very much like the idea of the
    phenomenal Brahma of the Vedānta. The Personal Creator or the
    Prajāpati of the Vedānta makes the third step of the Absolute
    Being or the Noumenal Brahma. Al-Jīlī seems to admit two kinds
    of Brahma--with or without qualities like the Śamkara and
    Bādarayana. To him the process of creation is essentially a
    lowering of the Absolute Thought, which is Asat, in so far as it
    is absolute, and Sat, in so far as it is manifested and hence
    limited. Notwithstanding this Absolute Monism, he inclines to a
    view similar to that of Rāmānuja. He seems to admit the reality
    of the individual soul and seems to imply, unlike Śamkara, that
    Īśwara and His worship are necessary even after the attainment
    of the Higher Knowledge.

The attribute of Mercy is closely connected with the attribute of
Providence. He defines it as the sum of all that existence stands in
need of. Plants are supplied with water through the force of this name.
The natural philosopher would express the same thing differently; he
would speak of the same phenomena as resulting from the activity of a
certain force of nature; Al-Jīlī would call it a manifestation of
Providence; but, unlike the natural philosopher, he would not advocate
the unknowability of that force. He would say that there is nothing
behind it, it is the Absolute Being itself.

We have now finished all the essential names and attributes of God, and
proceed to examine the nature of what existed before all things. The
Arabian Prophet, says Al-Jīlī, was once questioned about the place of
God before creation. He said that God, before the creation, existed in
"‘Amā" (Blindness). It is the nature of this Blindness or primal
darkness which we now proceed to examine. The investigation is
particularly interesting, because the word translated into modern
phraseology would be "_The Unconsciousness_". This single word impresses
upon us the foresightedness with which he anticipates metaphysical
doctrines of modern Germany. He says that the Unconsciousness is the
reality of all realities; it is the Pure Being without any descending
movement; it is free from the attributes of God and creation; it does
not stand in need of any name or quality, because it is beyond the
sphere of relation. It is distinguished from the Absolute Oneness
because the latter name is applied to the Pure Being in its process of
coming down towards manifestation. It should, however, be remembered
that when we speak of the priority of God and posteriority of creation,
our words must not be understood as implying time; for there can be no
duration of time or separateness between God and His creation. Time,
continuity in space and time, are themselves creations, and how can
piece of creation intervene between God and His creation. Hence our
words before, after, where, whence, etc., in this sphere of thought,
should not be construed to imply time or space. The real thing is beyond
the grasp of human conceptions; no category of material existence can be
applicable to it; because, as Kant would say, the laws of phenomena
cannot be spoken of as obtaining in the sphere of noumena.

We have already noticed that man in his progress towards perfection has
three stages: the first is the meditation of the name which the author
calls the illumination of names. He remarks that "When God illuminates a
certain man by the light of His names, the man is destroyed under the
dazzling splendour of that name; and "when thou calleth God, the call is
responded to by the man". The effect of this illumination would be, in
Schopenhauer's language, the destruction of the individual will, yet it
must not be confounded with physical death; because the individual goes
on living and moving like the spinning wheel, as Kapila would say, after
he has become one with Prakriti. It is here that the individual cries
out in pantheistic mood:--She was I and I was she and there was none to
separate us."[167:1]

    [167:1] Insān al-Kāmil, Vol. I, p. 40.

The second stage of the spiritual training is what he calls the
illumination of the Attribute. This illumination makes the perfect man
receive the attributes of God in their real nature in proportion to the
power of receptivity possessed by him--a fact which classifies men
according to the magnitude of this light resulting from the
illumination. Some men receive illumination from the divine attribute of
Life, and thus participate in the soul of the Universe. The effect of
this light is soaring in the air, walking on water, changing the
magnitude of things (as Christ so often did). In this wise the perfect
man receives illumination from all the Divine attributes, crosses the
sphere of the name and the attribute, and steps into the domain of the
Essence--Absolute Existence.

As we have already seen, the Absolute Being, when it leaves its
absoluteness, has three voyages to undergo, each voyage being a process
of particularisation of the bare universality of the Absolute Essence.
Each of these three movements appears under a new Essential Name which
has its own peculiar illuminating effect upon the human soul. Here is
the end of our author's spiritual ethics; _man has become perfect_, he
has amalgamated himself with the Absolute Being, or _has learnt what
Hegel calls The Absolute Philosophy_. "He becomes the paragon of
perfection, the object of worship, the preserver of the
Universe".[169:1] He is the point where Man-ness and God-ness become
one, and result in the birth of the god-man.

    [169:1] Insān al-Kāmil, Vol. I, p. 48.

How the perfect man reaches this height of spiritual development, the
author does not tell us; but he says that at every stage he has a
peculiar experience in which there is not even a trace of doubt or
agitation. The instrument of this experience is what he calls the _Qalb_
(heart), a word very difficult of definition. He gives a very mystical
diagram of the Qalb, and explains it by saying that it is the eye which
sees the names, the attributes and the Absolute Being successively. It
owes its existence to a mysterious combination of soul and mind; and
becomes by its very nature the organ for the recognition of the
ultimate realities of existence. All that the "heart", or the source of
what the Vedānta calls the Higher Knowledge, reveals is not seen by the
individual as something separate from and heterogeneous to himself; what
is shown to him through this agency is his own reality, his own deep
being. This characteristic of the agency differentiates it from the
intellect, the object of which is always different and separate from the
individual exercising that faculty. But the spiritual experience,
according to the Ṣūfīs of this school, is not permanent; moments of
spiritual vision, says Matthew Arnold,[170:1] cannot be at our command.
The god-man is he who has known the mystery of his own being, who has
realised himself as god-man; but when that particular spiritual
realisation is over man is man and God is God. Had the experience been
permanent, a great moral force would have been lost and society

    [170:1] "We cannot kindle when we will
             The fire which in the heart resides".

Let us now sum up Al-Jīlī's _Doctrine of the Trinity_. We have seen the
three movements of the Absolute Being, or the first three categories of
Pure Being; we have also seen that the third movement is attended with
external manifestation, which is the self-diremption of the Essence into
God and man. This separation makes a gap which is filled by the perfect
man, who shares in both the Divine and the human attributes. He holds
that the perfect man is the preserver of the Universe; hence in his
view, the appearance of the perfect man is a necessary condition for the
continuation of nature. It is easy, therefore, to understand that in the
god-man, the Absolute Being which has left its absoluteness, returns
into itself; and, but for the god-man, it could not have done so; for
then there would have been no nature, and consequently no light through
which God could have seen Himself. The light through the agency of which
God sees Himself is due to the principle of difference in the nature of
the Absolute Being itself. He recognises this principle in the following

    If you say that God is one, you are right; but if you say that He
            is two, this is also true.

    If you say no, but He is three, you are right, for this is the
            real nature of man.[171:1]

    [171:1] Insān al-Kāmil, Vol. I, p. 8.

The _perfect man_, then, is the joining link. On the one hand he
receives illumination from all the Essential names, on the other hand
all Divine attributes reappear in him. These attributes are:--

1. Independent life or existence.

2. Knowledge which is a form of life, as he proves from a verse from the

3. Will--the principle of particularisation, or the manifestation of
Being. He defines it as the illumination of the knowledge of God
according to the requirements of the Essence; hence it is a particular
form of knowledge. It has nine manifestations, all of which are
different names for love; the last is the love in which the lover and
the beloved, the knower and the known merge into each other, and become
identical. This form of love, he says, is the Absolute Essence; as
Christianity teaches, God is love. He guards, here, against the error of
looking upon the individual act of will as uncaused. Only the act of the
universal will is uncaused; hence he implies the Hegelian Doctrine of
Freedom, and holds that the acts of man are both free and determined.

4. Power, which expresses itself in self-diremption i.e. creation. He
controverts S̱ẖaiḵẖ Muḥy al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī's position that the
Universe existed before the creation in the knowledge of God. He says,
this would imply that God did not create it out of nothing, and holds
that the Universe, before its existence as an idea, existed in the self
of God.

5. The word or the reflected being. Every possibility is the word of
God; hence nature is the materialisation of the word of God. It has
different names--The tangible word, The sum of the realities of man, The
arrangement of the Divinity, The spread of Oneness, The expression of
the Unknown, The phases of Beauty, The trace of names and attributes,
and the object of God's knowledge.

6. The Power of hearing the inaudible.

7. The Power of seeing the invisible.

8. Beauty--that which seems least beautiful in nature (the reflected
beauty) is in its real existence, beauty. Evil is only relative, it has
no real existence; sin is merely a relative deformity.

9. Glory or beauty in its intensity.

10. Perfection, which is the unknowable essence of God and therefore
Unlimited and Infinite.



Under the rude Tartar invaders of Persia, who could have no sympathy
with independent thought, there could be no progress of ideas. Ṣūfīism,
owing to its association with religion, went on systematising old and
evolving new ideas. But philosophy proper was distasteful to the Tartar.
Even the development of Islamic law suffered a check; since the Ḥanafite
law was the acme of human reason to the Tartar, and further subtleties
of legal interpretation were disagreeable to his brain. Old schools of
thought lost their solidarity, and many thinkers left their native
country to find more favourable conditions elsewhere. In the 16{th}
century we find Persian Aristotelians--Dastūr Isfahānī, Hīr Bud, Munīr,
and Kāmrān--travelling in India, where the Emperor Akbar was drawing
upon Zoroastrianism to form a new faith for himself and his courtiers,
who were mostly Persians. No great thinker, however, appeared in Persia
until the 17{th} century, when the acute Mulla Ṣadra of S̱ẖīrāz upheld
his philosophical system with all the vigour of his powerful logic. With
Mulla Ṣadra Reality is all things yet is none of them, and true
knowledge consists in the identity of the subject and the object. De
Gobineau thinks that the philosophy of Ṣadra is a mere revival of
Avicennaism. He, however, ignores the fact that Mulla Ṣadra's doctrine
of the identity of subject and object constitutes the final step which
the Persian intellect took towards complete monism. It is moreover the
Philosophy of Ṣadra which is the source of the metaphysics of early

But the movement towards Platonism is best illustrated in Mulla Hādī of
Sabzwār who flourished in the 18{th} century, and is believed by his
countrymen to be the greatest of modern Persian thinkers. As a specimen
of comparatively recent Persian speculation, I may briefly notice here
the views of this great thinker, as set forth in his Asrār al-Ḥikam
(published in Persia). A glance at his philosophical teaching reveals
three fundamental conceptions which are indissolubly associated with the
Post-Islamic Persian thought:--

1. The idea of the Absolute Unity of the Real which is described as

2. The idea of evolution which is dimly visible in Zoroaster's doctrine
of the destiny of the human soul, and receives further expansion and
systematisation by Persian Neo-Platonists and Ṣūfī thinkers.

3. The idea of a medium between the Absolute Real and the Not-real.

It is highly interesting to note how the Persian mind gradually got rid
of the Emanation theory of Neo-Platonism, and reached a purer notion of
Plato's Philosophy. The Arab Muhammadans of Spain, by a similar process
of elimination reached, through the same medium (Neo-Platonism) a truer
conception of the Philosophy of Aristotle--a fact which illustrates the
genius of the two races. Lewes in his Biographical History of Philosophy
remarks that the Arabs eagerly took up the study of Aristotle simply
because Plato was not presented to them. I am, however, inclined to
think that the Arab genius was thoroughly practical; hence Plato's
philosophy would have been distasteful to them even if it had been
presented in its true light. Of the systems of Greek philosophy
Neo-Platonism, I believe, was the only one which was presented in its
completeness to the Muslim world; yet patient critical research led the
Arab from Plotinus to Aristotle, and the Persian to Plato. This is
singularly illustrated in the Philosophy of Mulla Hādī, who recognises
no Emanations, and approaches the Platonic conception of the Real. He
illustrates, moreover, how philosophical speculation in Persia, as in
all countries where Physical science either does not exist or is not
studied, is finally absorbed by religion. The "Essence", i.e. the
metaphysical cause as distinguished from the scientific cause, which
means the sum of antecedent conditions, must gradually be transformed
into "Personal Will" (cause, in a religious sense) in the absence of any
other notion of cause. And this is perhaps the deeper reason why
Persian philosophies have always ended in religion.

Let us now turn to Mulla Hādī's system of thought. He teaches that
Reason has two aspects:--(a) Theoretical, the object of which is
Philosophy and Mathematics, (b) Practical, the object of which is
Domestic Economy, Politics, etc. Philosophy proper comprises the
knowledge of the beginning of things, the end of things, and the
knowledge of the Self. It also includes the knowledge of the law of
God--which is identical with religion. In order to understand the origin
of things, we should subject to a searching analysis the various
phenomena of the Universe. Such an analysis reveals that there are three
original principles.[178:1]

(1). The Real--Light.

(2). The Shadow.

(3). The not-Real--Darkness.

    [178:1] Asrār al-Ḥikam; p. 6.

The Real is absolute, and necessary as distinguished from the "Shadow",
which is relative and contingent. In its nature it is absolutely good;
and the proposition that it is good, is self-evident.[178:2] All forms
of potential existence, before they are actualised by the Real, are open
to both existence or non-existence, and the possibilities of their
existence or non-existence are exactly equal. It, therefore, follows
that the Real which actualises the potential is not itself
non-existence; since non-existence operating on non-existence cannot
produce actuality.[179:1] Mulla Hādī, in his conception of the Real as
the operator, modifies Plato's statical conception of the Universe, and,
following Aristotle, looks upon his Real as the immovable source and the
object of all motion. "All things in the Universe," he says, "love
perfection, and are moving towards their final ends--minerals towards
vegetables, vegetables towards animals, and animals towards man. And
observe how man passes through all these stages in the mother's
womb."[179:2] The mover as mover is either the source or the object of
motion or both. In any case the mover must be either movable or
immovable. The proposition that all movers must be themselves movable,
leads to infinite regress--which must stop at the immovable mover, the
source and the final object of all motion. The Real, moreover, is a pure
unity; for if there is a plurality of Reals, one would limit the other.
The Real as creator also cannot be conceived as more than one; since a
plurality of creators would mean a plurality of worlds which must be
circular touching one another, and this again implies vacuum which is
impossible.[180:1] Regarded as an essence, therefore, the Real is one.
But it is also many, from a different standpoint. It is life, power,
love; though we cannot say that these qualities inhere in it--they are
it, and it is them. Unity does not mean oneness, its essence consists in
the "dropping of all relations." Unlike the Ṣūfīs and other thinkers,
Mulla Hādī holds and tries to show that belief in multiplicity is not
inconsistent with belief in unity; since the visible "many" is nothing
more than a manifestation of the names and attributes of the Real.
These attributes are the various forms of a "Knowledge" which
constitutes the very essence of the Real. To speak, however, of the
attributes of the Real is only a verbal convenience; since "defining the
Real is applying the category of number to it"--an absurd process which
endeavours to bring the unrelated into the sphere of the related. The
Universe, with all its variety, is the shadow of the various names and
attributes of the Real or the Absolute Light. It is Reality unfolded,
the "Be", or the word of Light.[181:1] Visible multiplicity is the
illumination of Darkness, or the actualisation of Nothing. Things are
different because we see them, as it were, through glasses of different
colours--the Ideas. In this connection Hādī approvingly quotes the poet
Jāmī who has given the most beautiful poetic expression to Plato's
Doctrine of Ideas in verses which can be thus translated:--

"The ideas are glasses of various colours in which the Sun of Reality
reflects itself, and makes itself visible through them according as they
are red, yellow or blue."[181:2]

    [178:2] Asrār al-Ḥikam; p. 8.

    [179:1] Asrār al-Ḥikam; p. 8.

    [179:2] Asrār al-Ḥikam; p. 10.

    [180:1] Asrār al-Ḥikam; pp. 28, 29.

    [181:1] Asrār al-Ḥikam; p. 151.

    [181:2] Asrār al-Ḥikam; p. 6.

In his Psychology he mostly follows Avicenna, but his treatment of the
subject is more thorough and systematic. He classifies the soul in the
following manner:--

             The Soul
      │               │
    Heavenly        Earthly
             │        │          │
           Human   Animal   Vegetative


                         1. Preserving the individual.
                         2. Perfecting the individual.
                         3. Perpetuating the species.

The animal soul has three powers:--

    1. External senses┐    Perception.
    2. Internal senses┘
    3. Power of motion which includes.
       (a) Voluntary motion.
       (b) Involuntary motion.

The external senses are taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight. The
sound exists outside the ear, and not inside as some thinkers have held.
For if it does not exist outside the ear, it is not possible to perceive
its direction and distance. Hearing and sight are superior to other
senses, and sight is superior to hearing; since:--

    I. The eye can perceive distant things.

    II. Its perception is light, which is the best of all

    III. The construction of the eye is more complicated and
        delicate than that of the ear.

    IV. The perceptions of sight are things which actually exist,
        while those of hearing resemble non-existence.

The internal senses are as follow:--

(1). The Common Sense--the tablet of the mind. It is like the Prime
Minister of the mind sending out five spies (external senses) to bring
in news from the external world. When we say "this white thing is
sweet", we perceive whiteness and sweetness by sight and taste
respectively, but that both the attributes exist in the same thing is
decided by the Common Sense. The line made by a falling drop, so far as
the eye is concerned, is nothing but the drop. But what is the line
which we see? To account for such a phenomenon, says Hādī, it is
necessary to postulate another sense which perceives the lengthening of
the falling drop into a line.

(2). The faculty which preserves the perceptions of the Common
Sense--images and not ideas like the memory. The judgment that whiteness
and sweetness exist in the same thing is completed by this faculty;
since, if it does not preserve the image of the subject, Common Sense
cannot perceive the predicate.

(3). The power which perceives individual ideas. The sheep thinks of the
enmity of the wolf, and runs away from him. Some forms of life lack this
power, e.g. the moth which hurls itself against the candle-flame.

(4). Memory--the preserver of ideas.

(5). The power of combining images and ideas, e.g. the winged man. When
this faculty works under the guidance of the power which perceives
individual ideas, it is called Imagination; when it works under the
control of Intellect, it is called Conception.

But it is the spirit which distinguishes man from other animals. This
essence of humanity is a "unity", not oneness. It perceives the
Universal by itself, and the particular through the external and the
internal senses. It is the shadow of the Absolute Light, and like it
manifests itself in various ways--comprehending multiplicity in its
unity. There is no necessary relation between the spirit and the body.
The former is non-temporal and non-spatial; hence it is changeless, and
has the power of judging the visible multiplicity. In sleep the spirit
uses the "ideal body" which functions like the physical body; in waking
life it uses the ordinary physical body. It follows, therefore, that the
spirit stands in need of neither, and uses both at will. Hādī does not
follow Plato in his doctrine of transmigration, the different forms of
which he refutes at length. The spirit to him is immortal, and reaches
its original home--Absolute Light--by the gradual perfection of its
faculties. The various stages of the development of reason are as

    A. Theoretical or Pure Reason--

      1{st} Potential Reason.
      2{nd} Perception of self-evident propositions.
      3{rd} Actual Reason.
      4{th} Perception of Universal concepts.

    B. Practical Reason--

      1{st} External Purification.
      2{nd} Internal Purification.
      3{rd} Formation of virtuous habits.
      4{th} Union with God.

Thus the spirit rises higher and higher in the scale of being, and
finally shares in the eternity of the Absolute Light by losing itself in
its universality. "In itself non-existent, but existent in the eternal
Friend: how wonderful that it _is_ and _is not_ at the same time". But
is the spirit free to choose its course? Hādī criticises the
Rationalists for their setting up man as an independent creator of evil,
and accuses them of what he calls "veiled dualism". He holds that every
object has two sides--"bright" side, and "dark" side. Things are
combinations of light and darkness. All good flows from the side of
light; evil proceeds from darkness. Man, therefore, is both free and

But all the various lines of Persian thought once more find a synthesis
in that great religious movement of Modern Persia--Bābism or Bahāism,
which began as a S̱ẖī‘ah sect, with Mirzā ‘Alī Muḥammad Bāb of S̱ẖīrāz
(b. 1820), and became less and less Islamic in character with the
progress of orthodox persecutions. The origin of the philosophy of this
wonderful sect must be sought in the S̱ẖī‘ah sect of the S̱ẖaiḵẖīs,
the founder of which, S̱ẖaiḵẖ Aḥmad, was an enthusiastic student of
Mulla Ṣadrā's Philosophy, on which he had written several commentaries.
This sect differed from the ordinary S̱ẖī‘ahs in holding that belief in
an ever present Medium between the absent Imām (the 12{th} Head of the
Church, whose manifestation is anxiously expected by the S̱ẖī‘ahs), and
the church is a fundamental principle of the S̱ẖī‘ah religion.
S̱ẖaiḵẖ Aḥmad claimed to be such a Medium; and when, after the death
of the second S̱ẖaiḵẖī Medium--Ḥājī Kāzim, the S̱ẖaiḵẖīs were anxiously
expecting the manifestation of the new Medium, Mirzā ‘Alī Muḥammad Bāb,
who had attended the lectures of Ḥājī Kāzim at Karbalā, proclaimed
himself the expected Medium, and many S̱ẖaiḵẖīs accepted him.

The young Persian seer looks upon Reality as an essence which brooks no
distinction of substance and attribute. The first bounty or
self-expansion of the Ultimate Essence, he says, is Existence.
"Existence" is the "known", the "known" is the essence of "knowledge";
"knowledge" is "will"; and "will" is "love". Thus from Mulla Ṣadrā's
identity of the known and the knower, he passes to his conception of the
Real as Will and Love. This Primal Love, which he regards as the essence
of the Real, is the cause of the manifestation of the Universe which is
nothing more than the self-expansion of Love. The word creation, with
him, does not mean creation out of nothing; since, as the S̱ẖaiḵẖīs
maintain, the word creator is not peculiarly applicable to God alone.
The Quranic verse, that "God is the best of creators",[188:1] implies
that there are other self-manifesting beings like God.

    [188:1] Sūra 23; v. 14.

After the execution of ‘Alī Muḥammad Bāb, Bahāullāh, one of his
principal disciples who were collectively called "The First Unity", took
up the mission, and proclaimed himself the originator of the new
dispensation, the absent Imām whose manifestation the Bāb had foretold.
He freed the doctrine of his master from its literalistic mysticism, and
presented it in a more perfected and systematised form. The Absolute
Reality, according to him, is not a person; it is an eternal living
Essence, to which we apply the epithets Truth and Love only because
these are the highest conceptions known to us. The Living Essence
manifests itself through the Univere with the object of creating in
itself atoms or centres of consciousness, which as Dr. McTaggart would
say, constitute a further determination of the Hegelian Absolute. In
each of these undifferentiated, simple centres of consciousness, there
is hidden a ray of the Absolute Light itself, and the perfection of the
spirit consists in gradually actualising, by contact with the
individualising principle--matter, its emotional and intellectual
possibilities, and thus discovering its own deep being--the ray of
eternal Love which is concealed by its union with consciousness. The
essence of man, therefore, is not reason or consciousness; it is this
ray of Love--the source of all impulse to noble and unselfish action,
which constitutes the real man. The influence of Mulla Ṣadrā's doctrine
of the incorporeality of Imagination is here apparent. Reason, which
stands higher than Imagination in the scale of evolution, is not a
necessary condition, according to Mulla Ṣadrā, of immortality. In all
forms of life there is an immortal spiritual part, the ray of Eternal
Love, which has no necessary connection with self-consciousness or
reason, and survives after the death of the body. Salvation, then, which
to Buddha consists in the starving out of the mind-atoms by
extinguishing desire, to Bahāullāh lies in the discovery of the essence
of love which is hidden in the atoms of consciousness themselves.[190:1]
Both, however, agree that after death thoughts and characters of men
remain, subject to other forces of a similar character, in the spiritual
world, waiting for another opportunity to find a suitable physical
accompaniment in order to continue the process of discovery (Bahāullāh)
or destruction (Buddha). To Bahāullāh the conception of Love is higher
than the conception of Will. Schopenhauer conceived reality as Will
which was driven to objectification by a sinful bent eternally existing
in its nature. Love or Will, according to both, is present in every atom
of life; but the cause of its being there is the joy of self-expansion
in the one case, and the inexplicable evil inclination in the other. But
Schopenhauer postulates certain temporal ideas in order to account for
the objectification of the Primordial Will; Bahāullāh, as far as I can
see, does not explain the principle according to which the
self-manifestation of the Eternal Love is realised in the Universe.

    [190:1] See Phelp's ‘Abbās Effendī, chapter, "Philosophy and


Let us now briefly sum up the results of our survey. We have seen that
the Persian mind had to struggle against two different kinds of
Dualism--pre-Islamic Magian Dualism, and post-Islamic Greek Dualism,
though the fundamental problem of the diversity of things remains
essentially the same. The attitude of the pre-Islamic Persian thinkers
is thoroughly objective, and hence the results of their intellectual
efforts are more or less materialistic. The Pre-Islamic thinkers,
however, clearly perceived that the original Principle must be
dynamically conceived. With Zoroaster both the primary spirits are
"active", with Mānī the principle of Light is passive, and the principle
of Darkness is aggressive. But their analysis of the various elements
which constitute the Universe is ridiculously meagre; their conception
of the Universe is most defective on its statical side. There are,
therefore, two weak points in their systems:--

    1. Naked Dualism.

    2. Lack of analysis.

The first was remedied by Islām; the second by the introduction of Greek
Philosophy. The advent of Islām and the study of Greek philosophy,
however, checked the indigenous tendency towards monistic thought; but
these two forces contributed to change the objective attitude
characteristic of early thinkers, and aroused the slumbering
subjectivity, which eventually reached its climax in the extreme
Pantheism of some of the Ṣūfī schools. Al-Fārābī endeavoured to get rid
of the dualism between God and matter, by reducing matter to a mere
confused perception of the spirit; the As̱ẖ‘arite denied it altogether,
and maintained a thoroughgoing Idealism. The followers of Aristotle
continued to stick to their master's Prima Materia; the Ṣūfīs looked
upon the material universe as a mere illusion, or a necessary "other,"
for the self-knowledge of God. It can, however, be safely stated that
with the As̱ẖ‘arite Idealism, the Persian mind got over the foreign
dualism of God and matter, and, fortified with new philosophical
ideas, returned to the old dualism of light and darkness. The
S̱ẖaiḵẖ-al-Is̱ẖrāq combines the objective attitude of Pre-Islamic
Persian thinkers with the subjective attitude of his immediate
predecessors, and restates the Dualism of Zoroaster in a much more
philosophical and spiritualised form. His system recognises the claims
of both the subject and the object. But all these monistic systems of
thought were met by the Pluralism of Wāḥid Maḥmūd, who taught that
reality is not one, but many--primary living units which combine in
various ways, and gradually rise to perfection by passing through an
ascending scale of forms. The reaction of Wāḥid Maḥmūd was, however, an
ephemeral phenomenon. The later Sūfīs as well as philosophers proper
gradually transformed or abandoned the Neo-Platonic theory of Emanation,
and in later thinkers we see a movement through Neo-Platonism towards
real Platonism which is approached by Mulla Hādī's Philosophy. But pure
speculation and dreamy mysticism undergo a powerful check in Bābism
which, unmindful of persecution, synthesises all the inherited
philosophical and religious tendencies, and rouses the spirit to a
consciousness of the stern reality of things. Though extremely
cosmopolitan and hence quite unpatriotic in character, it has yet had a
great influence over the Persian mind. The unmystic character and the
practical tone of Bābism may have been a remote cause of the
progress of recent political reform in Persia.


    P. 4, Note 4, l. 1, read Buudahish for Buudadisḥ.

    P. 9, l. 10, read environment for environments.

    P. 56, l. 1, read reaction for reation.

    P. 61, l. 18, read considered for consided.

    P. 73, l. 21, read full stop after dialectic.

    P. 102, l. 1, read conditions for condition.

    P. 123, l. 19, read predecessors for precessor.

    P. 153, l. 21, read He-ness for an He-ness.

    P. 166, l. 21, read a piece for pieee.

Transcriber's Notes:

Many words appear in the text with different transcription or mark-up.
They have been left as in the original.

All occurrences of e. g., i. e., B. C., A. D. and A. H. have been
replaced with e.g., i.e., B.C., A.D. and A.H. Other initials have been
left as in the original.

All ditto marks, ibid. and Sh. An. (S̱ẖarh Anwāriyya) entries replaced
with their full references.

Printed Errata has been moved to the end of the text.

The underlined letter pairs (Dh, dh, Gh, Gh, Kh, kh, Sh and sh) have
been transcribed with a macron below each letter.

The following corrections have been made to the text:

    Page IX--due perhaps to semitic [original has samitic] influences,

    Page CONTENTS--Reality as [original has as as] Beauty

    Page 25--introduced [original has intruduced]

    Page 33, footnote 33:1--Maulānā [original has Maulāna]

    Page 54--necessarily [original has necssarily]

    Page 54--Nazzām [original has Nazzān]

    Page 57--Ismā‘īlians [original has Ismā‘īliams]

    Page 61--metaphysical [original has netaphysical]

    Page 63--which,[original has period] by gradually

    Page 65--As̱ẖ‘arite.[original has As̱ẖ‘arīte]

    Page 68, footnote 68:1--Ash‘aritenthums [original has

    Page 69--philosophising [original has plilosophising]

    Page 69, footnote 69:1--Ash‘aritenthums [original has As‘aritenthums]

    Page 74--S̱ẖahrastānī [original has Sẖahrastānī]

    Page 75--As̱ẖ‘arite [original has As̱ẖ’arite]

    Page 76--As̱ẖ‘arite [original has As̱ẖ‘ārite]

    Page 81--seem to [original has the letter t missing] be

    Page 81--Ḥikmat al-‘Ain--"Philosophy of Essence",
              [original has single hyphen]

    Page 85--objectively [original has objectivily]

    Page 95, footnote 95:1--Commentary [original has Comentary]

    Page 104--restatement [original has restatemet]

    Page 105--Ka‘bahs [original has Ka‘bāhs]

    Page 111--self-conscious [original has self-consious]

    Page 124--the son of Sultan Ṣalāḥ [original has Ṣalā-Ṣalāḥ]-al Dīn

    Page 127--visible [original has visibile]

    Page 136--is motion.[original has comma] The distinction of past,

    Page 142--theory of [original has theoryof]

    Page 148--maintains [original has mantains]

    Page 152, footnote 152:1--Insān al-Kāmil [original has Insānul Kāmul]

    Page 158--identical [original has indentical]

    Page 162--marks the [original has the the] first step

    Page 163, footnote 163:1--Notwithstanding [original has

    Page 171, footnote 171:1--Insān al-Kāmil [original has Insānul Kāmil]

    Page 180--standpoint [original has staindpoint]

    Page 187--S̱ẖī‘ahs [original has S̱ẖī’ahs]

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