The Foundations of Islamic Belief

by Abu Hamid Muhammad Al Ghazali 
(d. 505/1111)

In the Name of Allah: the Compassionate, the Merciful,

Chapter 1 
Belief in the Sunnah of the Prophet (p)

    The Exposition of Belief in the way of the Prophet, is embodied in the Shahadah which forms one of the Pillars of Islam.

(A) THE MEANING OF THE FIRST PHRASE OF WITNESSING:

    We say - our success is from Allah - praise be to Allah the Creator, the Restorer, the One who does whatever He wills. He whose Throne is glorious and whose Power is Mighty; who guides the select amongst His worshipers to the righteous path. He who grants them benefits once they affirm His Oneness by guarding the articles of belief from the darkness of doubt and hesitation. He who leads them to follow the way of His chosen Prophet Muhammad - praise and peace be upon him - and to follow the example of his companions, the most honored, by directing their footsteps to the way of truth. He who reveals Himself to them in His Essence and in His Works by His fine attributes which none perceive except the one who inclines his ear in contemplation. He who makes known to them that He is One in His Essence without any associate, Single without any equal, Eternal without a similar.

    Nothing precedes Him, He is without any beginning. He is Eternal with none after Him, Everlasting without any end, subsisting without cessation, abiding without termination He has not ceased and He will not cease to be described by the epithets of Majesty   At the end of time He will not be subject to dissolution and decay, but He is the First and the Last, the Hidden and Apparent, and He knows everything.

1. TRANSCENDENCE (EXALTATION)

    Allah is not a body possessing form, nor a substance restricted and limited: He does not resemble other bodies either in limitation or in accepting division.   He is not a substance and substances do not reside in Him; He is not a quality of substance, nor does a quality of substance occur in Him.  Rather, He resembles no existent and no existent resembles Him.  Nothing is like Him and He is not like anything. Measure does not bind Him and boundaries do not contain Him. Directions do not surround Him and neither the earth nor the Heavens are on different sides of Him.

    Truly, He is controlling the Throne in the manner in which He said and in the sense in which He willed - in a state of transcendence that is removed from parallel and touch, residence, fixity of location, stability, envelopment, and movement.

    The Throne does not support Him, but the Throne and those who carry it are supported by the Subtleness of His Power and are constrained by His Firmness. He is above the Throne and Heavens which does not bring Him nearer to the Throne and the Heavens,   Rather, He is Highly Exalted above the Throne and the Heavens, just as He is Highly Exalted above the earth. Nevertheless, He is vein" and He witnesses everything since His nearness does not resemble the essence of bodies.

    He does not exist in anything, just as nothing exists in Him: Exalted is He that a place could contain Him, just as sanctified is He that no   For, He was as before He had created time and place, and just as He was, He is now. He is distinct from His creatures through His His Essence exist in any other than Him.  He is Exalted from change and movement. Substance does not   Rather, He is in the attributes of His Majesty beyond cessation.  And He is in the attributes of His Perfection. He is not in need of an increase in perfection.

    In His Essence, His Existence is known by reason (in this life).  In the Everlasting Life, His Essence is seen by the eyes of the favors from Him through their beholding His Gracious Face.

2. LIFE AND POWER 

   He is Living, Able, the Conqueror and All-subduing. Inadequacy and weakness do not befall Him; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; annihilation does not prevail over   He is Single in creating and inventing. He is Alone in bringing into   Whatever He decrees cannot be numbered neither does His Knowledge end.

3. KNOWLEDGE

    He is Knowledgeable of all the known, encompassing all that happens in the depths of earth to the highest heavens. He is   Rather, He knows the stamping of the black ant upon the solid rock   He knows the secrets and that which is more hidden.  He is the Overseer of the whispering of the self and the flow of thoughts, and the most deepest concealment of the selves.  With a knowledge which is ancient from eternity and by which He circulating in His Essence.

4. WILL

    He is the Willer of all existence and the Planner of all contingent things. There is nothing that occurs in His visible or invisible world world or to render it still, without His Will they would fail.

    His Will subsists in His Essence amongst His Attributes. He has not ceased to be described by it from eternity, willing, - in His Infinity -   He directs matters not through arrangement of thought and another affair.

5. HEARING AND SEEING

    He - the Most High - is the Hearer, the Seer. He hears and sees.  No audible thing, however faint, escapes His Hearing, and no visible   Distance does not prevent His Hearing and darkness does not   Essence does not resemble the essence of creation.

6. SPEECH 

    He - the Most High - speaks, commanding, forbidding, promising, and threatening, with a speech from eternity, ancient, through the passage of air or the friction of bodies; nor is it a letter   And that the Qur'an, the original Torah, the original Gospel of Jesus, Messengers, peace be upon them.

   The Qur'an is read by tongues, written in books, and remembered in the heart, yet it is, nevertheless ancient, subsisting in the Essence of Allah, not subject to division and or separation through its transmission to the heart and paper (by this he meant that the movement of the reciter's tongue and his management of the flow of air in his mouth and ear etc., or the writer's inscription upon paper, all of which are created. Whereas my logic addresses what is beyond this human quality and dimension of time and physic. Thereby he refers to the Qur'an before one's movement of the tongue or transcription onto paper. Most errors have come from our human dimensions, and that we try to describe Divine attributes through our own limited human attributes - Darwish.) Musa (Moses) - Allah praised him and gave him peace - heard the Speech of Allah without sound and without letter, just as the righteous see the Essence of Allah - the High - in the Hereafter, without substance or its quality.  And since He has these qualities, He is Living, Knowing, Willing, hearing, sight, and speech, not solely through His Essence.

7. DEEDS

    He, the Exalted, the High, there is no existence except Him, unless it occurs by His action and proceeds from His Justice, in the best, unjust when he deals with properties of other than his own.

   But, harm is not conceivable from Allah - the High - because He does not encounter any ownership of other than Himself, in which  His dealing could be described to be harmful.  Everything besides Him, children of Adam and jinn, angels and before they were nothing, since He existed in Eternity alone and there was nothing whatsoever with Him.

    So He originated creation thereafter as a manifestation of His Power and a realization of that which had preceded of His Will and the   He is magnanimous in creating and inventing and in imposing   He is Gracious in beneficence and reform, though not through any would not be tyrannous.

    He - the Mighty, the Glorified - rewards His believing worshipers for their acts of obedience according to generosity and   For there is no obligation upon Him in any deed towards anyone   For there is no right upon Him towards anyone.  As for His right to be obeyed it is obligatory and binding upon all believe them and what they brought.

(B) THE MEANING OF THE SECOND PHRASE OF WITNESSING WHICH IS THE WITNESSING FOR THE MESSENGERS AND THEIR MESSAGE.

    Allah sent the unlettered, of Quraish, Prophet Muhammad - praise and peace be upon him -with His Message for Arabs and non-Arabs be upon him - except that which He confirmed amongst them.

    He favored Prophet Muhammad over all other prophets and made him the master of mankind, and declared incomplete any   Allah will not accept the belief of any one until he death.

    Again, one should believe in the punishment of the grave, and that it is real and that His Ruling is just over both the body and soul in   And one should believe in the Scale with the two pans with its order to establish exact justice.

    The records of good deeds will be placed in a fine image in the scale of light, and then the balance will be heavy according to its   The records of the evil deeds will be cast in an evil image in the   One should believe also that the Bridge is real; it is a Bridge they are driven into the Everlasting residence.

    And one should believe in the frequented pool, the Pool of Prophet Muhammad - Allah has praised and given him peace -. From which springs from al-Kawthar.

    And one should believe in the Judgment and the distinctions between those in it, that some will be closely questioned, that some   Allah will ask whomsoever He will of the prophets concerning the Muslims concerning their deeds.

    One should believe that the believer in the Oneness of Allah (if he enters Hell on account of his sins) will be released from Hell fire after he has been punished, so that there will not remain in Hell one

single believer.  One should believe in the intercession of the prophets, of the   Whosoever remains of the believers and has no intercessor will be   Therefore not one single believer will abide in Hell forever; brought out from there.

    One should believe the virtues of the Companions - may Allah be pleased with them - and their different ranks, and that the most Prophet and given him peace -.

    All these were reported in the news and witnessed traditions (of the Prophet). Therefore whosoever believes in all this and believes innovation.

    So we ask Allah to perfect our faith and make us steadfast in the Religion for us and for all Muslims through His Mercy. Truly He is Muhammad and upon every chosen worshiper.

2 THE GRADUATION OF GUIDANCE AND CLASSIFICATION OF THE STAGES OF BELIEF

    You should know that what we have already mentioned under the Exposition of the Creed should be presented to children in their they grow older.

    The first step is to commit it to memory, after which comes understanding, then belief, then certainty and realization, all of   How can this be denied when all the articles of faith of the people are based upon pure repetition and imitation.

    Yes, a belief which results from pure imitation may not be free of some weakness at the beginning, in that it can be shaken and   It should, therefore, be strengthened and confirmed in the heart of   The way to strengthen and confirm it does not lie in learning the art performance of religious duties and acts of worship.

    It is in this way that one's belief continues to increase and become well established through the proofs and arguments heard from the Qur'an.  It is also increased through the explanation of the prophetic observing the pious, by keeping company with them, listening to humble themselves before Him.

    So the first repetition was like the sowing of seeds in the heart and what followed is like its watering and nursing until it grew and was   Seeing should, in this case, suffice as a reason.

    Compare then the faith of the good, the righteous and the common person to that of those of dogmatic theology and debators. You   This is true of all except those who have heard the proof of faith proved.

    Learning the proof is one thing; arriving at it through independent thinking is another which is far from it.  If the child were to be brought up on this firm belief then occupy   This is because the Religion did not obligate the uncivilized Arabs   They were never obligated to research, inquire, nor to be burdened with the classification of arguments.

    However, if one wishes to be among the travelers along the path of the Hereafter in order to be fortunate, one would be able to which would reveal the realities of this belief through the Divine

    Light cast into one's heart through self-mortification in fulfillment of the promise of Allah who said: "Those who struggle in Our Cause,   It is the precious secret which rested in the heart of Abu Bakr al all others.

    The revelation of this secret, rather, these secrets, have different stages, that depend upon the degree of self-mortification and upon   This is just like the differences which exist among mankind in the former variations are not limited, so are the latter not limited.

    For example, if you ask whether the study of argumentation and scholastic theology is blameworthy, like astrology, or that it is safeguard of the Religion of Allah - the High -.

    Among the famous jurisprudists who hold it unlawful are al Shafi, Malik, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Sufyan and all the scholars of the theology."

    Al Karabisi related that al Shafi' - may Allah be pleased with him - was once asked about some of the scholastic theology and be pleased with him - was taken ill, Hafs came to him and asked:

    "Who am I?" He replied, "You are Hafs al-Fard - may Allah neither protect you nor take you under His auspices until you repent of that he has no religion."

    Al Za'farani related that al Shafi' once said, "My judgment concerning the scholastic theologians is that they should be beaten to scholastic theology."

    Ahmad ibn-Hanbal, said, "A scholastic theologian never succeeds.  You cannot find anyone who, having dabbled in scholastic research."

    Ahmad - may Allah have mercy on him - also said, "The scholastic theologians are heretics." Malik - may Allah have mercy on him -   In other words, the position of the debators is changing. Malik - may belong.

    Abu-Yusuf said, "He who seeks knowledge through dogmatic theology will become a heretic. Al-Hasan said, "Neither argue with what evil would come out of it.

    For this reason the Prophet - praise and peace be upon him - said, "Destroyed are those who split hairs! Destroyed are those who split who are extravagant in investigation and research."

    Also they proved by saying that if this subject were an integral part of Religion the Messenger of Allah - praise and peace be upon him commended its founders.

    One must bear in mind that he even taught how one should clean oneself after relieving oneself and urged them to study the law of   And he said: "Refrain concerning destiny." And accordingly the   Needless to say, to add to what the teacher set forth is harm and are their followers and students.

    The other group proved that the forbidden in the scholastic theology are such terms as substance and substance's quality and   But the matter is not difficult to explain, because there is not a single introduced for the sake of conveying meanings.

    For example, the Science of Prophetic Quotations, the Science of interpretation, and the Science of Jurisprudence. Had the recipients comprehend them.

    Therefore the introduction of new terms to signify a definite meaning is just as legitimate as inventing vessels with a new shape   If it is the meaning of these terms which is forbidden, we do not and His Attributes as they are mentioned in the Religion.

    Since when, is it unlawful to know Allah - the High - with the proof?  But if it is sectarianism, fanaticism, enmity, hatred, and all that guarded against and avoided.

    Nevertheless, some of the knowledge should not be prohibited because of the methods. How then is mentioning the proof or   Bring your proof" And He - the Mighty, the Glorified - said "that he to its end, is an argument with the unbelievers.

    The greatest proof of theologians for the Oneness of Allah is His Saying: "Had there been in either (Heaven or earth) gods besides so on of the rest of the verses and the proofs.

    Thus the prophets - the praise of Allah be upon them - did not cease to debate with the unbelievers and dispute with them. Allah said, Companions the need for disputation was minimal.

    The first to establish the precedence of summoning innovators back to truth by means of debate and argument was 'Ali ibn abi consequently two thousand of them returned to be obedient.

    It was also reported that al Hasan once debated with a Qadarite (who denied predestination) with the result that the latter repented.   It is also reported that 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud - may Allah be pleased Companions immersed little in the debating and this they did for a short time and not as a long time necessity nor by the way of innovation did not appear in their time.  They addressed themselves to it briefly because their only purpose was to silence the adversary and compel him to admit his error; they aimed at revealing the truth and removing dubiosities.

    Yet, whenever the confusion of the adversary persisted or he insisted in continuing in error, they prolonged their argument, never     This is practically all that can be said on behalf of the two groups (the proponents and the opponents of dogmatic theology).

1. RULINGS CONCERNING DEBATE

    If you ask me what I think the best is: I will say that the truth of the matter is that those who condemn it absolutely and under all   You should know then, that first of all a thing, such as wine or besides wine.

    In the second place a thing may be pronounced unlawful for some other reason, such as underselling your Muslim brother during the things are divided into those which are harmful both in small and large quantities, and are therefore pronounced unlawful. For example, poison which is fatal whether in small or large quantity; and those which are harmful only when taken in excess like, for example, honey, which can be harmful to a feverish patient. The same is true of eating earth. Therefore, in pronouncing wine absolutely unlawful, only the most general cases were taken into consideration. In the event that something new arises, it will be well to consider the detailing.

    We return now to the science of scholastic theology to say that it has benefits and harm.  With regard to its usefulness whenever it is useful it is either lawful, commendable, or obligatory, as the occasion demands. As to its harm, whenever it is harmful it is unlawful. Its harm lies in raising doubts and undermining the articles of faith by moving them out from the realm of certitude and determination. These things are happening at the beginning and their restoration by means of proof is doubtful. Furthermore, it varies with the individual. Therefore it is true that it is harmful to the faith.

    Yet it has another harmful influence which manifests itself in confirming the belief of the heretics in their heresies and establishing them in their hearts so that their claims increase and their insistence on them becomes more stubborn. This kind of harm, however, results from the fanaticism which disputation arouses. For this reason you find that the lay heretic can, through kindness, be easily dissuaded from his error in no time. But if he were brought up in a town where disputation and fanaticism abound it will be impossible for both the past and current generation to remove the heresy from his heart, their combined efforts notwithstanding. On the contrary, passion, fanaticism, hatred of the adversaries of disputation and non-conformist groups prevail over his heart and prevent him from comprehending the truth so that even if he were told, "Do you want Allah to remove for you the veil and to reveal to you through seeing that the truth is on the side of your adversary?" he would dislike it for fear that his adversary would be gladdened by it. This, then, is the chronic disease which has spread among men all over the land. It is a kind of corruption which is set in motion by the disputants through their fanaticism.  That is its harm.

    As to its benefits some think that it is useful in revealing realities and knowing them as they really are. But how far from the truth this is, because the fulfillment of noble desire is not found in disputation.  In fact the perplexity and confusion consequent on disputation surpass anything which it may reveal or unfold.  If you were to hear that from a scholar of the prophetic quotations or a semi-scholar you would think that men are the enemies of that of which they are ignorant.  Take it, then, from one who has familiarized himself with disputation and, after a careful study and a thorough investigation of it in which he surpassed the extreme limits of its masters and went even further to study in great detail other cognate subjects, has come to dislike it, and has ascertained that the road to the realities of knowledge is closed from this direction.

    Disputation, as a matter of fact, will inevitably reveal, unfold and clarify a few things, but this is very rare and only occurs in simple and clear matters which are readily understood even before any thorough study of the art of disputation. It has only one benefit. It preserves the belief for the ordinary people and safeguards it against the confusion of innovators by different kinds of argumentation. For the layman is swayed by the argument of the innovator although the argument may be false; and to confront a false position with another refutes it. People are expected to follow this belief which we have already mentioned because the Religion has ordained it for the good of their temporal and spiritual lives and because the good early generations agreed on it.

    The learned are expected to watch over it for the ordinary people against the ambiguities of the innovators, just as the magistrates are expected to safeguard their property against the attacks of the oppressors and ravishers.  When both its harm and benefit are fully understood, one should be like the physician who is adept in the use of dangerous drugs, which he does not apply except to the right place and only at the time of desperation.  To explain further, the laymen and the ordinary people who are engaged in crafts and trades should be left alone in the integrity of their beliefs which they have accepted when they were instructed in the faith which we have already stated. To teach them disputation is decidedly harmful to them as it will perhaps arouse doubts in their minds which will shake their belief. Once these doubts are aroused it will not be possible to remedy their shaken belief.

    As to the layman who believes in a certain innovation, he should be called back to the truth with kindness and tact and not with fanaticism, with soft words which are convincing to the soul and effective in the heart, words similar to those of the arguments of the Qur'an and the prophetic quotations, mixed with a little admonition and warning. This is much better than debate along the line set down by the scholastic theologians. This is because the layman, when he hears such arguments, thinks that they are a kind of technique in disputation which the disputant has learned in order to draw men to his belief. Consequently, if the layman fails to reply to these arguments he will assume that the scholastic theologians of his school are capable of refuting them. Disputation with both this man and the former is unlawful.

    Likewise it is unlawful to argue with one who has fallen victim to doubt, since doubt should be removed with kindness by admonition and understandable proofs free of excessive speculation and endless debate. In fact disputation is useful in only one case, namely, when the layman has been persuaded to believe in an innovation through one kind of argument, in which case it should be countered by the same kind of argument in order to recall the person to the truth. This, however, applies to those who - because of their fondness of disputation - are no longer satisfied with the ordinary admonitions and warnings, but have reached a stage where nothing will cure them except debate. Consequently it is permissible to argue with them. But in a country where heresy is rare and one rite prevails, it should be sufficient to state the articles of faith which we have already mentioned, without any attempt to take up the question of proofs. The person should wait until something questionable arises before he takes up the question of proofs which he should present according to the need.

    If the heresy were a common one and a fear existed that the children might be beguiled with it, then there would be no harm in teaching them the equivalent of what we have included in part of this book entitled "The Jerusalem Message" (al-Risalah al- Qudsiyah), as a means for overcoming the influence of the disputations of innovators if that influence should confront the children.

    This is a brief thing which we included in this book because of its brevity. If the child were bright and therefore became aware of a certain question or grew skeptical of something in his mind, then the feared disease has appeared and the malady has become visible. There will be no harm, then, to promote the child to the equivalent of that which we have included in the book entitled al-lqtisad fi al-I'tiqad (The Mid-way Belief), which is free from any departures from a discussion of the foundations of the articles of faith to the other investigations of the scholastic theologians. If this convinces the child then he might be left alone; but if this should fail to convince him, then the disease has become chronic, the malady rooted, and the epidemic widespread. Let, then, the physician be as kind and tactful as possible, and let him await the Will of Allah until, through His Grace, the truth shall be revealed to the child. Otherwise he will persist in his doubt and skepticism.

    The material contained in that book and others of the same kind is that from which benefit can be expected. Chapters not confined to the same subject are of two kinds.  The first comprises chapters which deal with subjects other than the foundations of the articles of faith, such as those which discuss propensity, transmutations and the different kinds of perceptions or discoursing on sight, whether or not it has an opposite which is called obstruction or blindness. If this obstruction does exist, then it will be an obstruction (which prevents the eye) from (seeing) all invisible things, or a proof which verifies every visible thing that can be seen, as well as other misleading trivialities.

    The second kind of these chapters contains a further expansion of the same arguments as applied to other subjects, together with several questions and answers - details which add nothing but confusion and perplexity to him who has not already been convinced by the previous material. For there are certain things which become more obscure with dilation and expansion.  If one were to say that the investigation into the rules of perceptions and propensities is useful for sharpening the mind which is the instrument of Religion just as the sword is the instrument of Holy war (jihad), hence there is no harm in sharpening it, it will be like saying that playing chess, because it sharpens the mind, is a part of Religion. This, however, is insane because the mind may be sharpened through the other sciences of the Religion in which there is no fear of harm or injury.

    By this you see how much of scholastic theology is blameworthy and how much is praiseworthy, the conditions wherein it is condemned and these wherein it is praised, as well as the persons who are benefited by it and the persons who are harmed. If you should then say that, since you acknowledge the need for it in refuting the arguments of the innovators, and since innovations have now risen and calamities spread, the need for it has become urgent, it is inevitable that undertaking this science should become an Islamic public mandate just as undertaking to safeguard property and other rights and fulfilling the duties of justice and government and the rest. And unless the learned men engage in spreading and teaching this science and in making research in it, it will not endure; and if it were completely abandoned, it would surely disappear; nor is there in human nature by itself a sufficient ability to cut through the dubiosities of innovators unless this subject is learnt and studied. Therefore there should be instruction in it, and its investigation is now one of the Islamic public mandate, contrary to what it was at the time of the Companions when the need for it was not urgent.

    If you should say this, then know that the truth of the matter is that undoubtedly there should be, in every town, someone who would undertake to engage in this science and take it upon himself to refute the dubiosities of the innovators which have spread in that particular town. This undertaking is performed through education, but it is not wise to instruct the laity in it just as they are instructed in jurisprudence and interpretation. For this is like a drug, and jurisprudence is like food. The harm of food is not dangerous but the harm of drugs is dangerous as we have already mentioned. The learned people of this science should confine their instruction to men who have the three following traits: The first is devotion to knowledge and passion for it; for the working man is prevented by his work from mastering the subject completely and from dispelling doubts when they arise.

    The second trait is sagacity, intelligence, and eloquence, because those with lesser intellect do not benefit by his understanding and the dull one does not gain by his argument. On the contrary such a person is injured by disputation and should not expect any good from it.  The third trait is that the man should by nature be good, religious, sinful man would stray from Religion at the least provocation.

    Passions would do away with all deterrents and remove the barrier which stands between him and worldly pleasures. He would not be keen on dispelling anything questionable, but rather would seize upon it to free himself from any obligation. The things which such a student will spoil would be greater than those which he would reform.  When you know these divisions you would realize that, in disputation the praiseworthy argument is of the same kind as the arguments of the Qur'an, kind words which influence the hearts and convince the minds without going deeply into reasoning and analyses which most people do not understand; and whenever they understand them they consider them trickeries and artifices which their proponent has learnt in order to make things ambiguous. Should he be confronted by one of his professional colleagues he would resist him.

    You will also know that al Shafi' and all the good, early generation were forbidden from engaging in disputation and devoting themselves exclusively to it, because of the harm inherent in it which we have already pointed out. The reports of ibn Abbas' debate with the Kharijites and Ali's debate concerning free will was of the clear and intelligent kind, carried out at the time of need. Such disputation is praiseworthy under all conditions.  Undoubtedly the need for disputation differs with the time; therefore it is not unlikely that the rule which governs it should also differ.  This then is the rule of the creed which Allah imposed on mankind and the method of defending and preserving it.

    As to dispelling doubts, revealing truths, knowing things as they really are, and comprehending the mysteries which the words of this belief signify, there is no way to attain any of them except through self-mortification and the subduing of passions, through seeking Allah whole heartedly and persisting in thoughts which are free from the blemishes of disputation. They are a mercy from Allah which comes to those who expose themselves to its beneficence according to what Allah ordained for them and the extent to which they had exposed themselves to it as well as the capacity of their hearts and the degree of their purity. This is the sea the depth of which cannot be sounded and the waters of which cannot be traversed.

2. REALITY AND RELIGION

    If you say that this discourse implies that these sciences have external as well as internal meanings, that some of them are obvious and readily understood, while others are hidden and become evident through self-mortification, discipline, earnest desire, pure thinking and a heart free from all worldly activities except those which are required, and conclude that such discourse is almost contrary to the Religion because the Religion does not have external and internal meanings, secret and manifest, but the external and the internal, the secret and the manifest, are in it all the same. Then you should know that the division of these sciences into hidden and obvious is not denied by anyone of any insight but is denied by the ignorant who, having acquired some knowledge in their youth, did not advance any further and consequently failed to gain promotion to the lofty heights where lie the stations of the learned men and the spiritual sheikhs.

    This is evident from the testimony of the Religion as the Prophet said, "Indeed, there is an external meaning and an internal meaning to the Qur'an, a scope and a point." 'Ali, pointing to his breast, said, "Indeed, herein lies abundant knowledge; would that there were some to (comprehend and) transmit it." The Prophet also said, "We prophets were ordered to communicate with everyone according to his ability to understand." And again, "No one has ever recited a prophetic quotation to a people which their minds have failed to grasp without it being a temptation for them." Allah says: "And we strike these similitudes for the people, but none understands them except those who know." Ch.29:42 Qur'an.

    The Prophet - the praise and peace be upon him - said, "Indeed, knowledge has a branch which resembles a hidden thing; no one grasps it except those who know Allah." And again, "If you only knew what I know, you would laugh a little and weep much." If this had not been a secret which he was forbidden to divulge because of the inability of the minds to comprehend it, why then did he not explain it to them, especially as they would have certainly believed him if he had done so? In connection with the interpretation of the Words of Allah, "It is Allah who has created the seven heavens and of earth their like; and between them the Command descends...."  (Ch.65:12 Qur'an). 

    Abu-Hurayrah said, "I have received from the Prophet of Allah two things, one of which I have made public. Were I to divulge the other, this throat would be cut." The Prophet - the praise and peace be upon him - said, "Abu Bakr has excelled you not by excessive fasting and much prayer, but by a secret which rests in his chest." No doubt this secret was connected with the foundations of Religion and not removed from it. And whatever belonged to the foundations of Religion could not have been hidden from the other Companions through its outward form.

    Sahl al-Tustari - may Allah be pleased with him - said, "The learned person possesses three kinds of knowledge: visible knowledge which he imparts to people in general; invisible knowledge which he cannot reveal except to its own people; and finally a confidential knowledge which lies between him and His Lord and which he cannot reveal to anyone." One of the Gnostics said, "To divulge the secret of the Lord is equivalent to unbelief." Some one also said, "The Lord has a secret, if revealed, prophecy will become obsolete.  

    Prophecy has a secret, if divulged, knowledge will become useless, and the learned people of Allah have a secret, if disclosed, the Deen will become of no force." If he who had said this did not mean thereby the futility of prophecy as far as those with what he said is not true. Rather, that which is true is free of contradiction. The perfect man is he whose knowledge does not destroy his piety, and the road to piety is through the prophecy.

    You may say, "These verses and prophetic quotations may be subject to several interpretations. Show us, then, how their visible meaning differs from the invisible. For if the visible is contradictory to the invisible, it will destroy the Religion, which is exactly the position of those who say that reality is contrary of the Religion.  This is unbelief because the Religion represents the visible and nor in disagreement with the other, then both are identical.

    Therefore the division (of knowledge into obvious and hidden, visible and invisible) is hereby destroyed and the Religion will have   Were it not a part of practical Religion we would not have mentioned it in this book, and were it not one of the outward deeds is closer to unbelief than to belief.

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