Classifications of Actions
Ayatullah Shaheed Murtuza Mutahhari
What is a teaching, an ideology? How are these concepts defined? By what necessity does one as an individual or as a member of a society follow a school and cleave to, invest faith in, an ideology? Is the existence of an ideology essential for the human individual or society?
Some prefatory remarks are called for here: Man's acts are of two kinds: pleasure oriented and goal-oriented. Man carries out pleasure oriented acts under the direct influence of instinct, nature, or habit - which is second nature - to attain some pleasure or avoid some form of pain. For instance, he grows thirsty and reaches for water, he sees a snake and flees, or he feels a craving for a cigarette and lights one. Such acts conform to appetite and have to do directly with pleasure and pain. A pleasurable act attracts and a painful act repels.
One is not drawn to or repelled from goal oriented acts by instinct and nature. One carries them out or leaves them undone according to reason and volition and with a view to the benefit of either course of action. That is, man's final cause and motive force is benefit, not pleasure. Nature discerns pleasure; reason discerns benefit. Pleasure excites appetite; benefit mobilises will. Man takes pleasure in the midst of performing a pleasure oriented act, but he does not take pleasure in carrying out goal oriented acts. Rather he finds satisfaction in conceiving that he has taken a step on an ultimately beneficial course - one leading to a future good, a future attainment, a future pleasure.
There is a difference between an act that brings pleasure and happiness and an act that brings neither, that may even bring pain, but that man carries through contentedly, bearing even the pain. Because the result is deferred, goal oriented acts do not result in pleasure and cheer, but they give satisfaction. Man and animal alike experience pleasure and pain, but satisfaction and dissatisfaction are unique to man, as is hope. Satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and hope belong to the domain of intelligence and to the thought per se of man, not to his senses and perceptions.
That the goal oriented acts are performed under the governance of reason means that the evaluative power of the reason sees a good, an attainment, or a pleasure from afar, descries the road to it, which may at times be arduous, and plans for the journey to fulfilment. That these acts are performed through the power of the will means that there exists in man a faculty dependent on the faculty of reason that has the function of executing what reason has sanctioned. At times it puts these things thought has devised and reason has sanctioned into effect in the teeth of all appetites and all natural inclinations.
For example, consider a student. His youthful nature calls him to sleep, food, comfort, sensuality, and play; but his evaluative reason, which considers, on the one hand, the disastrous issue of such acts and, on the other, the ultimately happy issue of working hard, foregoing sleep, and abstaining from sensual delights and pleasures, commands him in the name of benefit to adopt the second alternative. In this instance, man elects the governance of reason, which is benefit, over the governance of nature, which is pleasure.
As another example, a sick person may loath his bitter and distasteful medicine and recoil from drinking it. But he drinks it, governed by this reason that takes thought for benefit and by this willpower that overrides appetites. The stronger are reason and will, the better they impose their command upon nature, despite nature's inclinations.
In his goal-oriented acts, man is continually implementing some plan, some design, and some theory. The more man evolves in the area of reason and will, the greater is the ratio of his goal-oriented acts to his pleasure-oriented acts. The nearer he draws to the animal level, the more the reverse is true because the animal's acts are all pleasure-oriented.
Occasionally, animals are observed to act in ways that suggest remote ends and outcomes (nest building, migrations, matings, and reproduction, for example). But none of these are enacted in awareness, with an end in mind, or with thought given to what means to elect to attain that end. Rather, they take place through a kind of irresistible instinctual suggestion from the beyond.
Man has so extended the scope of his goal-oriented acts that it has encompassed his pleasure oriented acts. That is, the plans benefit dictates maybe laid so finely that pleasures are incorporated into the structure of benefits: Each pleasure, just as it is a pleasure, becomes a question of benefit; and every natural act, just as it answers to a natural need, proves obedient to the command of reason as well. If goal oriented action covers pleasure-oriented acts, and if pleasure-oriented acts assume a role as part of the general plan and program of life under a goal-oriented outlook, then nature will accord with reason and appetite, with will.
Goal oriented action, in turning on a range of remote ends and objects, as a matter of course calls for planning, programs, methods, and selections of means to reach these ends. Insofar as this action has an individual aspect (that is, insofar as an individual himself plans for himself), the planner, programmer, and theoretician - the one who determines the method and means - is the individual reason, which, of course, is dependent on the level of the individual's qualifications, information, learning, and power of judgement.
Goal oriented action, even at a hypothetical apogee of perfection, is not sufficient for man's actions to be truly human. Man's goal-oriented action is a necessary condition of humanity in that his reason, science, consciousness, and foresight constitute half of his humanity, but it is not a sufficient condition. Human action is truly human when, in addition to being rational and volitional, it serves the more sublime aptitudes of humanity, or at the very least does not oppose them. Otherwise, the most criminal of human acts may take shape through projections, ingenuity, forethought, planning, and theorising. The satanic designs of imperialism are the best evidence for this assertion.
In Islamic religious terminology, the power of foresight when divorced from human aptitudes and aptitudes for faith and put at the service of material and animal ends is called “abominable” (nukran) and “Satanism” (shaytanat). Goal oriented acts are not necessarily human; rather, if they turn on animal objects, they become far more dangerous than the pleasure oriented animal acts themselves. For instance, an animal may rend another animal or a person to fill its stomach, but man the planner and evaluator will destroy cities and incinerate alive hundreds of thousands of innocent souls to achieve ends of the same order.
The Insufficiency of Reason
To what extent can reason point out an individual's best interests? The power of reason, reflection, and thought is certainly indispensable for one's particular and limited plans in life. One is constantly confronted with such problems as choosing friends, a field of study, a spouse, a job, travel, a social circle, entertainment, charitable activities, struggling against crookedness, and so forth. One needs to think, reflect, and plan in all these instances; and the more and better one considers them, the better one will succeed. At times, one will need to call upon others' reflection and experience (the principle of consultation). In all these particular instances, one first prepares a plan and then puts it into effect.
What of questions of a broad and general scope? Can one draft a plan covering all the problems of his personal life, according with his best interests in every respect? Or is the power of the individual mind to plan confined to limited and particular questions? Is it beyond the allotted power of reason to comprehend one's best interests in life as a totality, embracing happiness in all its aspects?
We know that some philosophers believe in such self-sufficiency. They claim to have discovered the road from adversity to happiness and to be building their own happiness on the strength of reason and will. But we also know that no two philosophers can be found in the world who are of one mind as to where this road lies. Happiness itself, which is the central and ultimate end and which at first appears self evident, is one of the most ambiguous of concepts.
What is happiness? How is it to be realised? What is wretchedness? What factors go into it? These questions point out a great gulf in our knowledge because even now man himself, with his potentialities and possibilities remains unknown. Is it possible, while man himself remains unknown, to know what constitutes his happiness and the means of attaining it?
Moreover, man is a social being. Social life brings about thousands of problems for him, all of which he must solve, vis-a-vis all of which he must define his responsibility. Because man is a social being, his happiness, aspirations, criteria for good and evil, methods, and choice of means are interwoven with others' happiness, aspirations, criteria for good and evil, methods, and choices of means. One cannot choose one's way independently of others. One must pursue one’s happiness on the highway that is leading society to happiness and perfection.
The Need for Ideology Today
If we consider the eternal life of the spirit and the inexperience of reason with respect to the hereafter, the question becomes much more difficult. It is here the need for a teaching, an ideology, becomes apparent - the need for a general theory, a comprehensive, harmonious, and concrete design whose central object is to perfect man and secure universal happiness.
Along the lines and through the methods it suggests, musts and must nots, goods and evils, ends and means, needs, ailments and remedies, responsibilities and duties may be discerned, and every individual may derive a sense of his own responsibility from these.
From his first appearance, or at least from the age when the growth and diffusion of his social life culminated in a series of differences and disputes, man has needed an ideology - in the language of the Qur'an, a “revealed law” (shari'a).18 As time has passed and man has evolved, this need has intensified. In the past, tendencies born of consanguinity, race, ethnos, tribe, and nation governed human societies as a collective spirit.
This spirit in turn generated a range of collective (if inhuman) aspirations and imparted to society unity and direction. Growth and evolution in reason and science have weakened these ties. An individualistic tendency is an essential property of science. It weakens sympathies and bonds of feeling. What will give unity, direction, and shared aspirations to the man of today, and a fortiori to the man of tomorrow, what will serve as his touchstone of good and evil of musts and must nots, is an elective, conscious, inspirational philosophy of life armed with logic - in other words, a comprehensive, perfect ideology.
More than the man of yesterday, the man of today needs such a philosophy of life: the philosophy that is able to win him over to realities beyond the individual and his private interests. Today there is no longer any room for doubt that a teaching, an ideology, is among societies most pressing needs.
Designing such a teaching is beyond the power of individual intelligence. But is it within the power of the collective intelligence? Can man design such a thing by using the aggregate of his past and present experiences and learning? If we first assume that man is the greatest of unknowns to himself, knowledge of human society and of what constitutes its happiness would seem to be even more difficult to attain. What is to be done?
If we have the correct view of being and creation, if we regard the system of being as a system in equilibrium, if we deny there is emptiness and futility in being, we shall be obliged to admit that this great system of the creation has not ignored this greatest of needs, but has delineated the basic lines of this highway from a plane above human reason, that is, on the plane of revelation (the principle of prophecy). It is the task of reason and science to move along these basic lines.
How beautifully and sublimely Avicenna spoke in his Kitab al-Najat, where he elucidates people's need for a divinely revealed law expressed by human (Prophetic) means.
He says: “The need for such a man to preserve the species of man and to bring it to fruition is much greater than the need for a growth of hair on the eyebrows, the arching of the soles of the feet, and other such advantages, which are not essential for man's survival; indeed most of them do not serve that purpose at all.”19 That is to say, how should the great system of creation, which has not neglected these slight and less-than-pressing needs, neglect the most pressing need of all?
But if we are denied the correct view of being and creation, we must acquiesce in man's condemnation to bewilderment and error. Any design, any ideology advanced by this bewildered humanity in this dark edifice of nature, will amount to nothing more than a distraction and an entanglement.
Two Types of Ideologies
Ideologies are of two kinds: human and corporate. Human ideologies are addressed to the human species, not to some special nationality, race, or class, and have for their motive the salvation of the whole human species. They attract supporters from all strata, groupings, nations, and classes. Corporate ideologies are addressed to a certain group, class, or stratum and have for their motive the liberation, or the hegemony, of that group. They thus attract supporters and soldiers from that group only.
These two types of ideology are each based on a vision of man. The catholic and human type of ideology, exemplified by Islam, embodies a kind of realisation of man defined by the concept of the primordial nature. According to Islam, in the course of the creation and prior to the influence of historical and social factors, man gained a special existential dimension and lofty capacities that distinguished him from the animals and impart to him his identity. According to this view, man within creation has gained a kind of species-intelligence and species-conscience that exists in all people, and this primordial conscience has given him a species-individuation, an aptitude to be summoned and addressed and to move. These ideologies begin their summons and engender movement in reliance upon the primordial conscience that distinguishes the human species.
Another group of ideologies has a different vision of man. According to these, man as a species has no such aptitude to be summoned and addressed or to move because his intelligence, conscience, and aptitudes coalesce under the influence of historical factors (in the life of nations and peoples) or social factors (in the class situation of man). Man in the absolute, apart from special historical and social factors, has no intelligence, conscience, or aptitude to be summoned or addressed; rather, he is an abstract being, not an objective one. Marxism and the various nationalistic and ethnic philosophies are based on such a vision. These philosophies arise from class interests, national and racial sentiments, or at best from an ethnic culture.
Beyond all doubt, Islamic ideology is human and arises from the primordial nature of man. Thus, Islam is addressed to the nas, the people at large, not to a special group or class.20 Islam in practice has been able to attract supporters from among every group, even from among the very class that it has arisen in struggle against-that is, the class the Qur'an terms the “grandees” and the “affluent” (mala' wa mutrafin).
To recruit from a class warriors against that class, to engage members of a group against the interests of that group, even to incite an individual against his own corruption are things Islam has done in numerous instances throughout its history. Islam, in being a religion and so penetrating to the deepest strata of man's existence and in resting on the primordial human nature of man, is able to incite the individual against his own corruption and to bring about a revolution of self against self known as repentance (tawba).
The only power for revolution the corporate and class ideologies have is to incite individual against individual or class against class. They are never able to incite a revolution of individual against self, just as they cannot exert control over an individual in his inwardness, at the locus of his essential selfhood.
Islam, in being a religion - in being, of all the revealed religions, the seal of religions - exists to institute social justice.21 It follows that its goal is to liberate the deprived and oppressed and to struggle against the oppressors. But Islam is not addressed to the deprived and oppressed alone, just as it has not attracted its supporters from these classes alone. Islam has recruited soldiers even from among the classes that it has risen in struggle against, in reliance on the power of religion on the one hand and on the human primordial nature on the other. Islam is the theory of the victory of humanity over animality, science over ignorance, justice over injustice, equality over discrimination, virtue over iniquity, piety over dissipation, Tawhid over shirk.22 The victory of the downtrodden over the tyrants and the arrogant is one of the manifestations of these other victories.
Cultural Unity or Diversity
Does the genuine human culture have a single identity? Does culture have an ethnic, national, or class identity, so that what is and always will be are cultures, not culture? These questions, too, relate to whether man has a single and authentic primordial nature, which could bestow a unity on culture, or he has no such single primordial nature, so that cultures must be the products of historical, ethnic, and geographical factors or of profit oriented class tendencies. Because Islam's worldview upholds a single primordial nature, it favours both a single ideology and a single culture.
Only a human ideology, not a corporate ideology, a unitive ideology, not one based on the division and fragmentation of man, a primordial ideology, not a profit-oriented one, can rest on human values and be human in its essence.
Ideological Temporality and Environmental Specificity
Is every ideology tied to a time and a place? Is man condemned to have a particular ideology for each permutation of temporal circumstances and under each set of varying local environmental conditions? Do the principle of variation (according to region and locale) and the principle of abrogation and substitution (according to the time) govern ideology? Or, just as man's ideology is single, not multiple, from the standpoint of grouping, is it likewise single, not multiple, from the standpoints of time and place? In other words, just as it is general, not special, from the standpoint of grouping, is it absolute, not relative, from the standpoints of time and place?
The question of whether an ideology is absolute or relative from the standpoints of time and place relates to the question of whether it arises from the specific primordial nature of man and has for its object the happiness of the human species or whether it arises from corporate interests and ethnic and class sensibilities.
In another respect, it depends on what we regard as the essence of social transformation. When a society undergoes transformation, leaving behind an era and embarking on a new era, does that society undergo a change in identity and so come to be governed by a new set of rules, just as, for instance, water, as its temperature rises, finally vaporises, thereafter to be governed by the gas laws, not the laws governing liquids? Or are the primary laws of social evolution constant? Is the axis on which social change turns itself fixed? Does society undergo changes in stage, but not in the axis, the law, of evolution, just as animals transform and evolve biologically, while the laws of evolution themselves always remain constant?
In a third respect the question of whether an ideology is absolute or relative from the standpoints of time and place depends on that ideology's worldview. Is it scientific, philosophic, or religious? A scientific ideology, in being founded on an unstable worldview, cannot itself be stable. It thus contrasts with the philosophic worldview founded on first principles and first axioms, and with the religious worldview, founded on revelation and prophecy.23
Ideological Constancy or Change
Does the principle of constancy or the principle of change govern ideology? Whether man's ideology varies as time and place vary is a question of the abrogation and substitution of ideologies, but here I speak of a different question - that of the change and transformation of a single ideology. Whether an ideology is general or special in its content, whether it is absolute or relative, is it as a phenomenon constantly transforming and developing, given that this is the nature of phenomena? Is not the character of an ideology at its inception different from its character as it grows and matures?
That is, must it not of necessity constantly undergo modification, augmentation and deletion, and revision at the hands of leaders and ideologues (such as we witness present day materialistic ideologies undergoing)? Otherwise, will it not soon grow exhausted and dated and lose its authority? Or can an ideology be so ordered and so set along the primary lines of movement of man and society that it needs no revision or deletion and correction, that the role of the leaders and ideologues is only that of ijtihad in tenor and content, and that ideological evolution takes place in the realm of these acts of ijtihad, not in the substance of the ideology? 24 The answer to this question, too, will grow clear from the answers to the preceding questions.25
The Need for Faith
The individual act of cleaving to an ideology takes its true form when it takes the form of faith, and true faith cannot arise through coercion or with a regard to expediency. One may be made to submit to a matter and yield oneself, but ideology is not to yield to. Ideology is to be magnetised by and to embrace. Ideology calls for faith.
An appropriate ideology should, on the one hand, rest on a kind of worldview that can convince the reason and nourish the mind and, on the other hand, logically deduce attractive goals from its worldview. At this juncture, love and conviction, the two basic elements of faith, work hand in hand to shape the world.
Islam: The Comprehensive and All-Encompassing Teaching
Islam, in being founded on such a worldview, is a comprehensive and realistic teaching. It considers every aspect of human needs, whether this worldly or otherworldly, physical or spiritual, intellectual or emotional and affectual, individual or social. From one standpoint, the aggregate of Islamic teachings comprises three areas:
1. Principles of belief, that is, things in which it is the duty of every individual to strive to attain belief. The task that man is charged with in this area falls under the heading of investigation and the acquisition of knowledge.
2. Morals, that is, traits that it is the duty of every Muslim to incorporate and adorn himself with and whose opposites it is his duty to shun. The task that man is charged with in this area falls under the heading of self-control and self-moulding.
3. Decrees, that is, rules that relate to the overt and objective acts of man, inclusive of acts with this worldly and otherworldly ends, and of individual and social acts.
According to the Shi'i school of thought, the principles of Islamic belief are five: Tawhid, justice, prophecy, the Imamate, and the Hereafter (ma'ad, the Destination). As regards the principles of belief, according to which each individual is charged with acquiring a right belief, Islam does not regard imitation and blind submission as sufficient; every individual must freely and independently verify the rightness of these beliefs. According to Islam, worship is not confined to physical acts of worship, such as the alms-taxes zakat and khums. There is another kind of worship, and that is mental worship. Mental worship, or contemplation, if directed at man's admonition and awakening, is superior to years of physical worship.
Where Thought Stumbles
The Glorious Qur'an, in summoning us to reflect and draw conclusions, in regarding reflection as worship, and in not regarding acceptance of the principles of belief as sound without logical reflection, has attended to this basic question: Where do the stumblings in human thought arise? What is the taproot of error and straying? If one wishes to think straight and avoid error and deviation, what must one do?
In the Glorious Qur'an, a series of phenomena are named as the occasions and causes of error and straying: reliance on supposition, psychical tendencies and desires, haste, traditionalism, and obedience to personalities.
Reliance on Supposition Instead of Knowledge and Certainty
The Noble Qur'an, in numerous verses, stringently opposes action based on supposition instead of knowledge and certainty; it says: “Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge” (17:36)
and “The nature of most people is such that if you try to follow them, they will mislead you, because they rely on supposition (not on certainty) and act solely on conjecture and estimation” (paraphrase of 6:116). Modern philosophy has established that this tendency is one of the chief factors in error and confusion.
A thousand years after the Qur'an, Descartes made this recognition the first principle of his logic. He says: “The first of these [precepts to which I have adhered] was to accept nothing as true which I did not clearly recognise to be so: that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitation and prejudice in judgements, and to accept in them nothing more than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly that I could have no occasion to doubt it.”26
Psychical Tendencies and Desires
If one wishes to judge rightly, one must preserve a complete impartiality toward the matter under consideration; that is, one must strive to find only reality and submit to reasons and evidence. One must be just like a judge considering a case, impartial to the two sides of the dispute. If a judge has a personal bias toward one side, he will unconsciously pay more heed to the reasons adduced for that side's case. Such a bias will cause the judge to err.
If in his own reflections one fails to preserve his impartiality relative to the negation or affirmation of a matter, if his psychical tendencies are to one side, automatically, without his being aware, the meter-needle of his thought will swing to the side of his psychical tendencies and desires. Thus, the Qur'an terms the desires of the psyche, along with reliance on supposition, one of the factors in thought's stumbling. It says in the Sura Najm: “They follow nothing but supposition and what their own psyches desire” (53:23).
Every judgement or expression of opinion demands a certain amount of evidence. Until sufficient evidence has been gathered on a question, any sort of expression of opinion constitutes haste and occasions stumbling in thought. The Noble Qur'an repeatedly alludes to the paucity of man's stock of knowledge and its insufficiency for some major judgements; it conceives of dogmatic assertions as highly imprudent. For instance, it says: “Only a little knowledge has been given you” (17:85), which is to say that the amount of knowledge and information that has reached us is slight and insufficient for judgement.
Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said: In two verses of the Qur'an God has singled out His servants and admonished them: first, that they not affirm a thing until they have attained knowledge of it [haste in affirmation], and second, that they not deny a thing until they have attained to knowledge of it - until they have reached the stage of knowledge and certainty [haste in denial]. God says in one verse: “Was not the Covenant of the Book [the book of essential disposition or the revealed books] taken from them that they would not ascribe to God anything but the truth?” (7:169).
He said in the other verse: “But they deny what their knowledge does not encompass' (10:39).27
Traditionalism and Looking to the Past
In accordance with his first nature, when man sees that a particular thought or belief was accepted by past generations, he automatically accepts it without allowing himself time to consider it. The Qur'an reminds us not to accede to the accepted notions and beliefs of past generations until we have weighed them on the scales of reason, and recommends independence of thought vis-a-vis the beliefs of past generations.
It says in the Sura Baqara, verse 170: “When it is said to them, 'Follow what God has sent down,' they say, 'No, we follow the customs we found our ancestors to believe in.' What! Even though their ancestors were void of reason and unguided?” (2:170).
Obedience to Personalities
Another of the occasions of stumbling in thought is obedience to personalities. Great historical and contemporary personalities, owing to the proportions of grandeur they assume in others' minds, exert an influence on others' thoughts and wills, to the point of overwhelming them. Others think as they think and resolve as they resolve. Others give up their independence of thought and will to them.
The Noble Qur'an summons us to independence of thought and regards blind following of great men and personalities as leading to eternal torment. Accordingly, it has the people who were lost down this road say on the resurrection: “Our Lord! We obeyed our leaders and great men, and so they misled us as to the path” (33:67).
Wellsprings of Reflection in Islam
The Qur'an, in summoning us to thought and reflection, in addition to pointing out the stumbling points of thought, has also presented the wellsprings of reflection, that is, the subjects that are suitable for man to think upon and avail himself of as the sources of his knowledge and information.
In Islam, there has been a general opposition to the expenditure of mental energy on questions that can have no other issue than mental fatigue (that man has no means to investigate) and on questions that, although they could be investigated offer no benefit to the human condition.
The Most Noble Messenger characterised as pointless a science that brings no benefit and whose absence brings no detriment3 but Islam supports and encourages sciences in which investigation can be pursued and that additionally are beneficial. The Noble Qur'an teaches that three subjects are useful and fruitful to reflect upon:
1. Nature: Throughout the Qur'an, there are many verses mentioning nature (including earth, sky, stars, sun, moon, clouds, rain, winds, movements of ships upon the sea, plants, animals - in sum, all the sensible phenomena that man sees about himself) as something we are to consider closely. As an example, I cite the verse: “Say, 'Observe all that is in the heavens and on the earth' (10:101).
2. History: There are many verses in the Qur'an that summon us to study peoples of the past and that present such study as a resource for acquiring knowledge. According to the Qur'an, human history, with its transformations, takes shape in accordance with a range of norms and laws. The exaltations and abasements, victories and defeats, successes and failures, joys and miseries of history are subject to exact and ordered calculations. By studying these calculations and laws, one can gain control of present-day history and employ it to further one's own happiness and that of one's contemporaries. Here is one verse as an example: “[Normative] systems have gone away before you. So travel the earth and observe how things came out for those who practised denial” (3:137).
That is, before your time, norms and laws were actually put into effect. So explore and study the land and the historical remains of those who have gone before and see how things came out for those who took for lies the truth that God revealed to them.
3. The inner being of man: The Qur'an names the human heart as a source of a special kind of knowledge. According to the Qur'an, the whole of creation is a set of signs of God and indications pointing out reality. The Qur'an terms man's external world “the horizons” [afaq] and his internal world “the selves” [anfus]. It thereby points out the special importance of the inner being of man. This is the source for these terms so frequently met in Islamic literature.28
The German philosopher Kant has a sentence that has universal renown, and it is inscribed on his tombstone: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” 29
1. The English philosopher Hobbes had such a view of man.
2. This is Descartes’s theory.
3. The hukama’ of Islam have a principle for the interrelation of the spirit and the body, worded this way: “The soul and the body reflect each other responsively and preparatorily.” [The author makes repeated mention of 3 classes of traditional Islamic scholars in the course of this work. The falasifa (sing. failasuf) are concerned with the theory of knowledge, the structure of language, and objective relations. Their field of inquiry is known as falsafa. Basically, they are Aristotelians. Avicenna typifies this class. The terms falasifa and falsafa are translated by their English cognates, philosophers and philosophy.
[The hukama’ (sing. hakim) are said to more concerned with ultimate questions of being, the meaning of life, its end, and the human responsibility within it. Their field of inquiry is known as hikma (wisdom, sagesse). Avicenna would also be included in this group in certain respects. More typical representatives would be Mulla Sadra, Mulla Hadi Sabzavari, and Shihab al-Din Suhravardi. These terms appear untranslated, except in a few instances where the author has used them in non-Islamic contexts or where hikma is translated as ‘wisdom’.
[The ‘urafa, (sing. ‘arif) are the exponents of the theoretical Sufism codified by Ibn ‘Arabi and especially influential in Shi’i thought, known as ‘irfan. These terms, too, appear untranslated.
[The author seems sometimes to treat falsafa and hikma as synonyms, particularly in the essay “Philosophy”. There he also treats ‘irfan as a synonym for Sufism as such, and many persons familiar in the West as Sufis are introduced throughout as ‘urafa’.
[My thanks to Muhammad Javad Larijani for his help in clarifying these terms. Trans.]
4. Tawrat: The word is cognate with the word Torah, but Muslim commentators hold that the work it refers to is not to be identified with the existing Jewish scripture. See A.Yusuf Ali, translator, The Holy Qur’an (n.p., 1946), pp.282-285. Trans.
5. This and the following quotations are from the New English Bible. Trans.
6. Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, (Lahore, 1962) p.179.
7. Will Durant, The Pleasures of Philosophy, (New York, 1953) pp.240, 114.
8. Ibid. pp.168-169.
9. The Kharijites: a relgio-political sect that rejected the claims to rule of both ‘Ali and Mu’awiya, founder of the Umayyad dynasty, as well as evolving certain distinctive theological positions.
10. Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals (London 1929) p.102.
11. See, for instance, Geoges Politzer, Cours de philosophie: I. Principes elementaires (Paris 1948).
12. George Sarton, Six Wings: Men of Science in the Renaissance (London, 1958) p.218.
13. This quotation is without attribution and the source is unknown. Trans.
14. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York 1929) p.508.
15. Ibid., p.506.
16. Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion (New York, 1950) pp.25-26.
17. Divan-i Ash’ar, ed., Nasrullah Taqavi (Tehran, 1335 Sh./1956) p.364. Nasir-i Khusraw was the famous poet, philosopher and Isma’ili missionary (d.481/1088) Trans.
18. It can be inferred from the noble verses of the Qur’an taken as a whole that these variations and needs appeared in the time of the prophet Noah. No earlier prophet had been given a revealed law. See ‘Allama Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Tafsir al-Mizan (hereafter referred to as Tafsir al-Mizan), the commentary to the blessed sura Baqara, verse 213: “The people were a single nation, and God sent messengers” (2:213).
19. Exact place of occurrence not found. Trans.
20. Sometimes this word, nas, meaning the people at large, is erroneously taken to be synonymous with the masses of the people, as opposed to the privileged classes. Because Islam is addressed to the nas, it is claimed that Islam is the religion of the masses, and this is likewise accounted a special feature of Islam. But the real virtue of Islam is that it arose with the support of the masses of the people, not that it is addressed solely to them and so has a corporate or class ideology. What distinguishes Islam even further is that not only does it take hold among the exploited and deprived classes, but, in resting on the human primordial nature, at times it has stirred the conscience of the exploiting classes and capitalists themselves, to the advantage of the exploited.
21. Note Hadid:25: “We had sent our apostles with clear signs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, that the people might stand up in equity” (57:25).
Note also A’raf:29: “Say, ‘My Lord has commanded equity’” (7:29).
22. See pages below – (Levels and Degrees of Tawhid, Levels and Degrees of Shirk, Boundary between Tawhid and Shirk).
23. I cannot here explore either the question of the primordial nature, which is the “mother of questions” in Islamic theology, or the issue of social transformation.
24. The deduction of particular applications of the law from its principles and ordinances, exercised by a mujtahid, here and occasionally elsewhere used in a broad and analogic sense. Trans.
25. In “Khatm-i Nubuvvat” (“The Seal of Prophecy”) appearing in Muhammad, Khatim-i Payambaran (“Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets”), a publication of the Husayniya-yi Irshad, and later published separately as a pamphlet, I have discussed the universality and absoluteness of Islamic ideology along with the role of ijtihad in adapting it to the circumstances of different places and changing temporal conditions. I have shown that what is subject to development and change is ijtihad, not Islamic ideology. Interested readers should refer to that work.
26. Rene Descartes, “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason”, in Philosophical Works (Cambridge, 1931), vol.1, p.92.
27. Tafsir al-Mizan, (Arabic text) vol.6 p.319, commentary to A’raf:169.
28. See Fussilat: “Soon We will show them Our signs on the horizons and in their souls, until it grows clear to them that this is the Truth” (41:53).
29. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Indianapolis, 1956), conclusion.