Monday, 17 October 2011

Characteristics of the Heart

Characteristics of the Heart



the Uniqueness of the Qur'an 



Murtada Mutahhari



Translated from the Persian by Mahliqa Qara'i



Vol I No. 1-3 (Muharram - Rajab 1404 AH)









  • Approaches to the Understanding of the Qur'an 
  • 1. Authentication 
    2. Analytical Study 
    3. Study of the Sources of Ideas 
  • The Three Distinguishing Characteristics of the Qur'an 
  • Conditions Necessary for the Study of the Qur'an 
  • Uniqueness of the Qur'an 
  • Is the Qur'an Understandable? 
  • Issues in an Analytical Study of the Qur'an 
  • How does the Qur'an Introduce Itself? 
  • The Language of the Qur'an 
  • The Qur'an's Addressees 
  • Conception of Reason in the Qur'an 
  • Evidence in Favour of the Authority of Reason 
  • 1. The Qur'an's Emphasis on Rationalism 
    2. References to the Law of Causality 
    3. Rational Basis of Divine Commands 
    4. Combating Deviations of Reason 
  • The Qur'anic Viewpoint Regarding the Sources of Error 
  • Qur'anic Outlook Regarding the "Heart" 
  • Definition of the Heart 
  • Characteristics of the Heart 

    The study and knowledge of the Qur'an is essential for every learned person
    as well as for all faithful believers. It is specially essential for those
    scholars who are interested in the study of man and society, since this
    book has been effectively instrumental not only in moulding the destinies
    of Islamic societies, but also in shaping the destiny of the human race
    as a whole. A brief glance over history would be enough to provide sufficient
    proof of the claim that there has been no such book that has ever influenced
    human societies to the magnitude of the Qur'an. It is for the same reason
    that the Qur'an automatically steps into the precincts of sociological
    discussions, and becomes the elemental constituent of the subjects of research
    in this discipline. This means that any deep study and profound research
    in the field of world history of the last fourteen hundred years, is impossible
    without the knowledge of the Qur'an. 


    The study of the Qur'an is essential for every committed Muslim, since
    it is the main source and foundation of the religious thought and faith.
    Whatsoever gives meaning, essence and sanctity to his existence lies in
    the Holy Qur'an. 

    The Qur'an is not just like other religious books which are content
    to discuss the problems of existence of God and creation in cryptic tones,
    or like those which merely convey a series of simple moral advice and counsels,
    so that those who believe in them are hopelessly left to search for guidance
    in other sources. Unlike such books the Qur'an formulates the tenets of
    faith besides communicating the ideas and views that are essential for
    a man of faith and belief. Similarly, it also lays down the principles
    of moral and ethical values for the purpose of social and familial existence.
    It leaves the job of explanation, interpretation, and occasionally that
    of ijtihad and application of principles (usul) to secondary matters
    (furu') to be dealt with through ijtihad and sunnah. Accordingly,
    utilization of any other source depends on the prior knowledge of the Qur'an.
    The Qur'an is the criterion and standard for judging all other sources.
    We should judge hadith and sunnah in the light of the Qur'an. We can accept
    it only when it is in accordance with the Qur'an, otherwise we do not accept

    There are four more books that come after the Qur'an, and are regarded
    as the most sacred and the most authentic sources (by the Shi'ah Muslims).
    They are: Al-Kafi, Man la yahduruhu al-faqih, Tahdhib, and Istibsar. There
    are also other sources like the Nahj al-Balaghah, and the prayers of al-Sahifah
    al-Sajjadiyyah. All these books are secondary to the Qur'an, and their
    authenticity of source is not so absolute as that of the Qur'an. A hadith
    from al-Kafi is as trustworthy as it may be in conformity with the Qur'an,
    and reliable so far as its words comply with the teachings of the Qur'an
    and do not go against it. The Prophet (S) and the infallible Imams have
    said that their traditions should be checked in the light of the Qur'an;
    if they do not coincide with the words of the Qur'an, they should be regarded
    as false and fake, and as being wrongfully attributed to them; since they
    have not said anything that can go against the Qur'anic teachings. 

    Approaches to the Understanding

    of the Qur'an

    Now that the necessity of understanding the Qur'an has been confirmed,
    let us see what are the ways of understanding this book. Generally for
    the purpose of a profound understanding of any book it is necessary to
    study it in three ways: 

    1. Authentication:

    At this stage, we want to know to what extent the relationship of a book
    with its author is authentic. Suppose we want to study the Diwan-Hafiz,
    or the Ruba'iyyat of 'Umar Khayyam. At first, we have to see whether the
    work which is attributed to Hafiz, wholly belongs to him, or whether a
    part of it is Hafiz's work and the rest is an apocryphal annexation to
    it. Similarly in the case of 'Umar Khayyam, and others too, we must judiciously
    scrutinize their works. It is here that the matter of examination of manuscripts
    --and for that matter the oldest of them-- becomes relevant. Thus we see
    that none of these books can dispense with such a treatment. The Diwan-e-Hafiz
    printed by the late Qazvini, which has been based on some of the most authentic
    manuscripts of Hafiz's work, varies greatly from the ordinary editions
    of Hafiz. printed in Iran and Bombay, which are usually found in homes.
    The editions of Hafiz's works published during the last thirty or forty
    years contain as much as twice the amount of Hafiz's original works. In
    view of certain modern manuscript experts of repute, they are fake; although
    we occasionally come across in them some verses which match the sublime
    heights of Hafiz's poetry. Likewise when we study the quatrains attributed
    to 'Umar Khayyam, we shall find nearly two hundred quatrains of the same
    poetical standard with only minor differences usually possible even among
    the authentic verses of a single poet. However, if we look back at the
    history of Khayyam's times, we shall notice that the number of quatrains
    attributed to him may perhaps be less than twenty. The authenticity of
    the rest of them is either doubtful, or may with certainty be said to belong
    to other poets. 

    It means that the first step towards the research study of any book
    is to see to what extent the book in our hands is authentic, whether all
    the things recorded on its pages are genuine, or if only a part of it is
    authentic. Moreover, what criteria and standards should be employed in
    order to judge the authenticity and genuineness of authorship? By what
    logic can the authenticity of any book be totally rejected or affirmed? 

    The Qur'an is absolutely exempt from all such criteria that may be applicable
    to all worldly books. It is regarded as the exclusively singular book since
    the ancient times. No book of ancient days has remained above doubt to
    such extent despite a long lapse of several hundred years. No one can ever
    say about it that such and such a surah has a questionable authenticity
    or such and such a verse that is present in such and such a manuscript
    is missing from another manuscript. The Qur'an stands above the notions
    of manuscript reading. There is no place for the slightest doubt that all
    of the verses that exist in the Qur'an are those conveyed to Muhammad ibn
    'Abd Allah (S) who communicated them as the miraculous Word of God. Nobody
    can ever claim that another version of the Qur'an existed anywhere, or
    still exists. There has not been any Orientalist either who would begin
    the study of the Qur'an by saying, "let us trace from the earliest of the
    manuscripts of the Qur'an to see what was included in it and what was not."
    The Qur'an is absolutely free from this kind of investigation necessary
    in case of such books as the Bible, the Torah, or the Avesta, or the Shahnameh
    of Ferdowsi, or the Gulistan of Sa'di and every other ancient or not so
    ancient work. 

    Only for the study of the Qur'an no such questions arise, and the Qur'an
    is far above the usual norms of authenticity and the craft of manuscript
    reading. Moreover, besides the fact that the Qur'an is one of the heavenly
    scriptures and has been regarded by its followers as the most basic and
    authentic proof of the Prophet's (S) claim to prophethood, and as the greatest
    of his miracles, the Qur'an, unlike the Torah, was not revealed at one
    time and was not subject to later difficulties in distinguishing the true
    manuscript. The verses of the Qur'an were revealed gradually during a span
    of twenty-three years. From the very first day, the eager Muslims memorized
    its verses, preserved and recorded them. Those were the days when the Muslim
    society was quite a simple society. No other book existed besides the Qur'an,
    and the Muslims were inevitably inclined to memorize its verses. Their
    clear, unmarked minds and their powerful memory, their general ignorance
    about reading and writing, all these factors assisted them in acquiring
    and retaining their information regarding the Qur'an. This is the reason
    why the message of the Qur'an, which was so congenial to their sensibilities
    and their natural propensities, got effectively imprinted on their hearts
    like inscription on stone. Since they believed it to be the Word of God,
    it was sacred to them also. They couldn't permit themselves that a single
    word or even a letter of it be altered or replaced in its text. They tried
    to acquire the nearness to God by reciting its verses. It should be noted
    here that from the very early days the Prophet (S) had engaged a group
    of scribes for the purpose of writing down the Qur'an, who were known as
    the "Scribes of the Revelation." This should be regarded as one of the
    merits in favour of the Qur'an from which all other ancient books are excluded.
    The absence of any alteration and change in the Word of God was on account
    of this process of writing and recording from the very beginning. 

    The other reason responsible for the popularity of the Qur'an among
    the people was its extraordinary, supernatural literary and artistic dimension
    depicted in its rhetoric and eloquence. It was this strong literary attraction
    towards the Qur'an, which had an appeal for the people, that prompted them
    to immediately memorize its verses. But unlike other literary works like
    the Diwan-e-Hafiz and poems of Rumi, which are exposed to meddling by admirers
    who think they are improving on the original, nobody could ever give himself
    the permission of meddling with the sacred text; for the Qur'an immediately
    declared in one of its verses: 

    Had he [the Prophet (S)] invented against Us any sayings,
    We would have seized him by the right hand, then We would surely have cut
    his life vein. (69:44-46) 

    There are several other verses in the Qur'an that forbid forgery in relation
    to the Word of God. The gravity of this sin as stressed by the Qur'an had
    profound impression upon minds and served as a severe discouragement in
    this regard. In this way, before any type of alterations could have taken
    place in its verses, they were repeated often, thus reaching a stage that
    it was impossible to increase, diminish or alter even a single word in
    this heavenly book. Accordingly, there is neither any need of any discussion
    about the Qur'an from the point of view of authenticity, nor does any scholar
    of the Qur'an throughout the world see any necessity of such a discussion.
    However, I think, it is necessary to remind the readers about the fact
    that, because of the rapid expansion of the Islamic domain and distance
    of the major part of the population living far away from Medina, which
    was the center of huffaz (those who memorized) of the Qur'an and
    the Companions of the Prophet, there arose the danger of occurrence of
    advertent or wilful gradual alteration in the Qur'anic text. But the prompt
    dexterity and timely awareness on the part of early Muslims averted this
    danger. Within the first five decades, they utilized the services of the
    Sahabah (the Companions of the Prophet) and those of the huffaz
    of the Qur'an for the purpose of averting the chances of conscious or inadvertent
    alterations in the text of the Qur'an. They distributed approved copies
    of the Qur'an from Medina to the surrounding regions. They thus checked
    any chances of wrongdoing, especially on the part of the Jews, who are
    well-known champions in this field. 

    2. Analytical Study:

    During this stage of study and analysis of a book, it is essential to understand
    these things: the subject it deals with, the goal that it pursues, its
    outlook regarding the world, its point of view concerning man and society,
    its style and treatment of the subject-whether the treatment of the subject
    is in an intellectual and scholarly manner, or whether it has its own characteristic
    style. One more question that is relevant in this context is whether this
    book contains any message and guidance for humanity or not. If the answer
    to this question is in the affirmative, then what is the message that it
    conveys? The first group of questions are, of course, concerned with the
    point of view and outlook of the book regarding man and universe, about
    life and death etc. In other words, these questions are associated with
    the, world-outlook of the book, and in terms of Islamic philosophy, with
    its al-hikmat al-nazariyyah (theoretical wisdom). But the second
    group of questions is concerned with the perspective of future of mankind
    offered by the book. They deal with the suggested basis for moulding the
    human kind and human societies. This aspect may be regarded as the "message"
    of the book. 

    This sort of understanding is, however, concerned with the subject of
    the book, and is relevant in regard to all kinds of books, whether it is
    the medical treatise of Ibn Sina, or if it is the Gulistan of Sa'di. It
    is possible that a book may lack an outlook as well as a message, or it
    may contain an outlook but not a message, or it may contain both. 

    Regarding the analytical study of the Qur'an we shall have to see, in
    general, what sort of problems does the Qur'an deal with, and what is its
    manner of presenting them. What is its manner of argument and its approach
    to various problems? Does the Qur'an, being the defender, presenter and
    protector of faith, and its message being a religious message, view reason
    as a rival to its teachings, and clings to a defensive posture against
    it, or whether it considers reason as a supporter and protector of faith
    and relies upon its power? These questions and various other queries, arise
    during the analytical study of the Qur'an. 

    3. Study of the Sources of Ideas:

    At this stage, i.e. after verification of authenticity of the authorship
    of a book, and after thorough study and analysis of its contents, we come
    to the stage of exploring whether the contents of the book comprise of
    its author's own original ideas, or, the ideas have been borrowed from
    some other source. For instance, in studying Hafiz's works, after verifying
    the authenticity of the verses and making their analytical study, we have
    to see whether these themes, ideas and thoughts that have been incorporated
    into Hafiz's poetry and poured into the moulds of his words, phrases, couplets,
    language and style, are actually the creations of Hafiz, or whether only
    the words and phrases and the beauty, art and craftsmanship reflected in
    the verses come from Hafiz, whereas the thoughts and ideas belong to someone
    else, or have been borrowed from another source. After ascertaining his
    artistic originality, the intellectual originality of Hafiz's works has
    also to be established. 

    This kind of study regarding Hafiz, or any other author, implies the
    study of the source and roots of the author's ideas and thought. This sort
    of study is secondary to an analytical study; that is, firstly the contents
    of the author's thought should be completely understood, and afterwards
    an attempt should be made to identify its roots and sources. Otherwise,
    the result of one's effort will be something like the works of certain
    writers of history of various sciences, who write without any thorough
    knowledge of the subject, or similar to the works of those writers of philosophical
    books, who undertake, for instance, a comparative study of Ibn Sina and
    Aristotle, without any knowledge of either. After superficial comparison
    and on discovering some literal similitudes between the works of the two
    great thinkers, they immediately sit down to pass a quick judgment. Although,
    for the purpose of a comparative study, very deep and profound knowledge
    of the ideas and thoughts of both of the philosophers is required. A lifetime
    of study is necessary for such a task; otherwise, it has no more value
    than can be given to blind imitative conjectures. 

    For the study and understanding of the Qur'an, an analytical study must
    be followed by a comparative and historical study. That is, the contents
    of the Qur'an should be compared with other books that existed at that
    time, specially the religious ones. For the purpose of such a comparison,
    it is essential to keep in mind the conditions and relations of the Arabian
    peninsula with other parts of the world, and the number of educated Arabs
    living in Mecca at the time. Only then we can arrive at an estimation of
    the influence of other books of those times on the contents of the Qur'an,
    and if we find something common in them, discover its proportions. We can
    then see whether the material that has been borrowed from other books is
    used in an original manner or not. Does the Qur'an go even further to the
    extent of playing a role in amending the contents of those books and setting
    right the errors occurring in them? 

    The Three Distinguishing

    Characteristics of the Qur'an

    Our study of the Qur'an acquaints us with three distinguishing characteristics
    of this holy book. The first distinguishing characteristic is the absolute
    authenticity of its source. That is, without the slightest need of any
    comparison between the oldest manuscripts, it is evident that what we recite
    as the verses of the Holy Qur'an, are exactly the same words presented
    before the world by Muhammad ibn 'Abd-Allah (S). The second characteristic
    feature of the Qur'an is the quality of its contents: its teachings are
    genuinely original and have not been adopted or plagiarized. It is the
    duty of an analytical study to prove this fact. The third characteristic
    of the Qur'an is its Divine identity: its teachings have been delivered
    to the Prophet from a world that transcends his thought and mind. The Prophet
    (S) was only a recipient of this revelation and message. This is the result
    that we obtain from the study of the sources and roots of the Qur'an. 

    But the study of the sources of the Qur'an, and confirmation of its
    originality, depend upon the analytical study. So I resolve to open this
    discussion with the analytical study of the Qur'an. We shall first see
    what is the subject matter of the Qur'an, what kind of problems are discussed
    in it, what type of problems have been given priority, and in what manner
    those subjects are presented in it. If we are successful in our critical
    analysis, and acquire a sufficient understanding of the Qur'anic teachings,
    it will bring us to an acknowledgment of its principal aspect, which is
    the Divine aspect of the Qur'an, the quality of its being a Divine miracle. 

    Conditions Necessary for the Study of the Qur'an

    The understanding of the Qur'an requires certain preliminaries which are
    briefly described here. The first essential condition necessary for the
    study of the Qur'an, is the knowledge of the Arabic language, such as for
    the understanding of Hafiz and Sa'di, it is impossible to get anywhere
    without the knowledge of the Persian language. In the same way, to acquaint
    oneself with the Qur'an without knowing the Arabic language is impossible.
    The other essential condition is the knowledge of the history of Islam;
    since, unlike the Bible and the Torah, this book was revealed gradually
    during a long period of twenty-three years of the Prophet's life, a tumultuous
    time in the history of Islam. It is on this account that every verse of
    the Qur'an is related to certain specific historical incident called sha'n-i
    nuzul The sha'n-i nuzul, by itself does not restrict the meaning of the
    verses, but the knowledge of the particulars of revelation throws more
    light on the subject of the verses in an effective way. 

    The third condition essential for the understanding of the Qur'an, is
    the correct knowledge of the sayings of the Prophet (S). He was, according
    to the Qur'an itself, the interpreter of the Qur'an par excellence. The
    Qur'an says: 

    We have revealed to you the Reminder that you may make clear
    to men what has been revealed to them ... (16:44) 

    The Qur'an also says: 

    It is He who has sent among the illiterate a Messenger from
    among them, to recite His sings to them, and to purify them and to teach
    them the Book and the Wisdom. (62:2) 

    According to the Qur'an, the Prophet (S) himself is the exegetist and the
    interpreter of the Qur'anic text. Whatever has reached us from the Prophet,
    is of great help in our understanding of the Qur'an. For the Shi'ah, who
    believe in the infallible Imams (A) also, and believe that the Prophet
    (S) has transmitted everything he obtained from God to his spiritual successors
    (awliya'), those genuine riwayat (narrations about the Prophet (S)) that
    have reached us through the Imams, possess the same degree of authenticity
    as those obtained directly from the Prophet (S). Accordingly, the authentic
    riwayat of the Imams are of great help to us in our understanding of the

    A very important point to remember during the initial stages of study,
    is that we should try to understand the Qur'an with the help of the Qur'an
    itself; because, the verses of the Qur'an constitute a completely united
    integral whole, a coherent unified structure. If we single out any verse
    from the Qur'an and try to understand it in isolation from the rest of
    the Book, it would not be a correct method. However, it is possible that
    we may happen to understand it, but the method is not recommended by caution,
    as certain verses of the Qur'an are explanatory for certain other verses.
    All great commentators of the Qur'an have affirmed this method; the infallible
    Imams also had approved of this manner of interpretation of the Qur'anic
    verses. The Qur'an has its own specific mode of discussing various problems.
    There are instances where if a solitary verse is studied without placing
    it in its proper context, it gives quite a different sense than when it
    is seen under the light of the verses dealing with a similar subject. 

    For instance, the specific mode and style of the Qur'an may be noticed
    from the distinction drawn between al-ayat al-muhkamat (the firm verses)
    and al-ayat al-mutashabihat (the ambiguous verses). There is a prevalent
    view regarding the muhkamat and the mutashabihat. Some people imagine that
    al-ayat al-muhkamat are such verses as whose meaning is quite simple and
    clear, whereas the meaning of al-ayat al-mutashabihat is cryptic, enigmatic
    and puzzling. According to this notion, men are only permitted to cogitate
    upon the meaning of al-ayat al-muhkamat, and al-ayat al-mutashabihat are
    basically inscrutable and beyond their understanding. Here, the question
    arises, what is the philosophy underlying al-ayat al-mutashabihat? Why
    has the Qur'an put forward such verses that are incomprehensible? A brief
    answer to this question is that neither muhkam means "simple" and "clear",
    nor mutashabih means "ambiguous", "cryptic" and "enigmatic." "Ambiguous"
    and "enigmatic" are adjectives applicable to sentences that do not convey
    the meaning in a direct and simple manner, as are sometimes met in the
    writings of various authors. For example, when Sultan Mahmud rewarded the
    poetic efforts of Ferdowsi with a reward of an insignificant and humiliating
    amount of money, Ferdowsi did not accept it, and instead he accused Sultan
    Mahmud of the trait of parsimony in his versified lampoons. Some of them
    were quite clear and obvious whereas the others were not devoid of ambiguity
    and a lot of enigma. Ferdowsi is quite direct when he says: 

    Had the king's mother been an honourable lady,  

    He would have rewarded me with knee-high gold and silver. 

    However, when he remarks: 

    The palm of king Mahmud, the conqueror of lands,  

    Was nine times nine and three times four, 

    what does he intend to say? Here Ferdowsi has made use of an enigmatic
    technique. Those who are interested would like to know the solution: 9
    X 9=81, 3 X 4=12, and 81 plus 12 add up to 93. Ferdowsi says, the Sultan's
    palm was just like 93. It means that the fist of the Sultan was so tightly
    closed that only his thumb was free, and this thumb along with the index
    finger (which acquires the shape of 92 and other three fingers make 93.
    Through this obscure statement Ferdowsi wants to emphatically report the
    miserliness of the Sultan. 

    We shall see whether there are actually any enigmatic and abstruse verses
    in the Qur'an. Such an assumption contradicts with the text of the Qur'an
    which unequivocally states that it is a clear and comprehensible book whose
    verses provide guidance and shed light. The core of the problem is that
    some of the issues dealt with in the Qur'an are related to metaphysical
    matters and the transcendental world, which cannot be expressed in ordinary
    language. In the words of Shaykh Shabistari: 

    The word fails to encompass meaning,  

    The ocean cannot be poured into a pot. 

    Since the language of the Qur'an is the same as used by men, inevitably,
    the same diction is used for the most sublime and spiritual themes as we
    human beings use for earthly subjects. But in order to prevent any misunderstanding
    about certain problems, some verses have been devised in such a way that
    they need to be explained with the help of other verses. There is no way
    except this. For example, the Qur'an wanted to point out to a truth namely,
    seeing God through the heart; that is, to witness the presence of God by
    means of one's heart. This idea has been expressed in the following terms: 

    (Some) faces on the Day shall be bright, looking towards
    their Lord. (75:22-23)

    Uniqueness of the Qur'an

    The Qur'an makes use of the verb "looking," and no other word more suitable
    could be available for the expression of the desired sense. But to avert
    the possibility of any doubt, the Qur'an explains in other place: 

    Vision perceives Him not, and He perceives all vision. (6:104) 

    The second verse makes the reader distinguish between two different meanings
    conveyed by the same word. In order to avoid any possibility of ambiguity
    in its exalted themes, the Qur'an asks us to check the mutashabihat against
    the mahkamat: 

    He sent down upon thee the Book, wherein are verses firm
    (ayat mahkamat) that are the essence of the Book. (3:6)

    Thereby, the Qur'an means that there are certain verses whose firmness
    cannot be denied and other meanings cannot be derived from them, except
    their real ones. Such verses are the 'mother' of the Book (umm al-kitab).
    In the same way as a mother is the refuge to her child, or a cosmopolitan
    city (umm al-qura) is the center of small cities, al-ayat al-muhkamat are
    also regarded as the axes of the mutashabihat. Al-ayat al-mutashabihat
    are, of course, to be cogitated upon and understood, but they are to be
    pondered upon with the help of al-ayat al-muhkamat. Any inference drawn
    without the help of the mother-verses would not be correct and reliable. 

    Is the Qur'an Understandable?

    During the analysis and study of the Qur'an, the first question that arises
    is whether the Qur'an can be studied and understood. Has this book been
    introduced for the purpose of studying and understanding it, or whether
    it is just for reading and reciting and obtaining reward and blessing?
    The reader, possibly, may wonder at raising of such a question. To him
    it may appear beyond doubt that the Qur'an is meant for the purpose of
    knowing and understanding it. Nevertheless, in view of various undesirable
    currents, which due to numerous reasons came into existence in the Muslim
    world regarding the question of understanding of the Qur'an, and which
    had an important role in bringing about the decline of Muslims, we shall
    discuss this matter in brief. Regrettably, the roots of those degenerate
    and dangerous notions still persist in our societies. So I consider it
    necessary to elaborate on this topic. 

    Among the Shi'ah scholars of three or four centuries ago, there appeared
    a group which believed that the Qur'an is not a hujjah ("proof", meaning
    a legal source usable for vindication). Among the four sources of fiqh
    that have been regarded as the criteria and standard for the understanding
    of the Islamic problems by Muslim scholars, i.e. the Qur'an, the sunnah
    (tradition), 'aql (reason) and ijma' (consensus of opinion),
    they did not recognize three of them. Regarding ijma', they said
    that it belongs to the Sunni tradition and they could not follow it. Concerning
    reason, they maintained that reason can also err, and reliance on reason
    is not legitimate. About the Qur'an they respectfully asserted that the
    Qur'an is greater in station than being subject to study and comprehension
    by us humble human creatures. It is only the privilege of the Prophet and
    the Imams to ponder over the verses of the Holy Qur'an. We ordinary human
    beings have only the right to read and recite them. This group was that
    of the Akhbariyun or Akhbaris. 

    The Akhbaris regarded hadith and chronicles as the only permissible
    sources of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). One may be astounded to
    learn that in some of the Qur'anic exegeses written by these people, they
    mentioned only those verses about which the tradition existed, and refrained
    from mentioning other verses as if they are not a part of the Qur'an. 

    Such a kind of practice was an injustice to the Qur'an. This shows that
    a society that could neglect and alienate their own heavenly book and that
    too of the standard and stature of the Qur'an, is not at all up to the
    Qur'anic standards. Besides the Akhbaris there were other groups who also
    regarded the Qur'an as inaccessible to the ordinary human intellect. Among
    them the Ash'arites can be named, who believed that the knowledge of the
    Qur'an does not necessarily mean that its verses should be pondered over,
    but the real meanings are the same as that the words literally communicate.
    According to them, whatever we understand from the outward meaning, we
    have to be satisfied with it. We should not be concerned with the secret
    and inner meanings. It was quite natural that this sort of thinking regarding
    the Qur'an, very rapidly, gave rise to serious deviations and grave misunderstandings.
    Since they were forced on the one hand to the task of interpretation of
    the meaning of the Qur'anic verses, and, on the other hand, banished reason
    also from the realm of religious learning, as a result, they were forced
    to adopt merely vulgar and superficial interpretations of the Qur'anic
    verses. On account of their faulty way of thinking, they deviated from
    the regular course of correct thinking, and thus gave way to distorted
    and faulty religious vision. As the result of this type of religious thinking,
    heretical beliefs like the personification of God the Almighty, and numerous
    other distorted ideas like the possibility of visual perception of God,
    His possession of physical characteristics etc., came into existence. 

    Opposing the group which abandoned the Qur'an, another group came into
    existence which used the Qur'an as the means to fulfill their selfish aims.
    They gave the Qur'anic verses such interpretations as were favourable to
    their selfish interests, and wrongfully attributed certain ideas to the
    Qur'anic text that were not at all in agreement with the spirit of the
    Qur'an. In answer to every objection that was made against them, they said
    that none except themselves could understand the esoteric and secret meaning
    of the Qur'anic verses, and whatever they stated was based on the understanding
    and knowledge of the esoteric meaning of the verses. 

    The champions of this movement in the history of Islam consist of two
    groups: the first group are the Isma'ilis, who are also known as the Batinis
    (secret sect), and the other are the Sufis. Most of the Isma'ilis are found
    in India and some of them are in Iran. They had formed an empire in Egypt
    known as the Fatimid caliphate. The Isma'ilis are so-called Shi'ahs who
    believe in six Imams. But all the Twelver Imami Shi'ah scholars are unanimous
    in the opinion that in spite of their belief in six Imams, the Isma'ilis
    stand at a greater distance from the Shi'ite faith than the non-Shi'ite
    sects. The Sunnis, who do not believe in any of the Imams in the same sense
    as the Shi'ah do, nevertheless are nearer to the Shi'ah than these "Six-Imami
    Shi'ahs." The Isma'ilis, on account of their batini beliefs and secretive
    practices have played a treacherous role in the history of Islam and have
    had a big hand in causing serious deviations in the realm of Islam. 

    Besides the Isma'ilis, the Sufis are also charged with distortion of
    the Qur'anic verses and had a long hand in interpreting them according
    to their personal beliefs. Here I present a specimen of their exegesis
    so that the extent and method of their misinterpretation may be known: 

    The anecdote of Ibrahim (A) and his son Isma'il is described by the
    Qur'an as follows: It occurred to Ibrahim (A) in his dream that he has
    to sacrifice his son for the sake of God. At first he is perplexed regarding
    such an instruction; but as he repeatedly has the dream reiterating the
    same theme, he becomes certain of the Will of God and decides to obey the
    Divine command. He puts the whole matter before his son, who also faithfully
    accepts his father's proposal of executing the Divine command: 

    "My son, I see in a dream that I shall sacrifice thee; consider
    what thinkest thou?" He said, "My father, do as thou art bidden; thou shalt
    find me, God willing, one of the steadfast." (37:102) 

    Here the aim is the expression of total submission and resignation towards
    the Divine decree. For the same reason the father and son are ready to
    execute the Divine command with whole-hearted purity and sincerity, but
    the execution of the command was stopped by the Will of God. But the same
    incident is interpreted by the Sufis in this fashion: Ibrahim here represents
    intellect and reason ('aql) and Isma'il represents the self (nafs); the
    Qur'anic anecdote is an allegory that hints at the attempt of reason to
    murder the human self (nafs). 

    It is obvious that such interpretation of the Qur'an is like wanton
    treatment of it, and presents a distorted perspective of its teachings.
    It is in the context of such deviate interpretations of the Qur'an based
    upon personal or sectarian bias and interests that the Prophet has said:
    One who interprets the Qur'an according to his wish, should be certain
    of his place in hell. 

    This kind of frivolous attitude towards the verses of the Qur'an amounts
    to the betrayal of the Qur'an and that too of a grievous degree. The Qur'an
    itself strikes a middle course between the stagnant and narrow-minded attitude
    of the Akhbaris and the unwarranted and deviate interpretations of the
    Batinis. It recommends a course of sincere, disinterested study and asks
    for unbiased and unprejudiced meditation over its meanings. Not only the
    believers and the faithful, but even the infidels are invited by it to
    contemplate over its verses. The Qur'an demands that it verses should be
    first contemplated over, before forming any adverse opinion against them.
    Addressing the opponents, it says, why they don't ponder over the Qur'an,
    what sort of hearts they possess, they are as if shut close and sealed: 

    What, do they not ponder the Qur'an? Or is it that there
    are locks upon their hearts? (47:24) 

    The Qur'an also says in one of its verses: 

    (This is) a Book We have revealed to you abounding in good,
    that they may ponder the verses. 

    That is, We have not sent the Qur'an to be kissed, embraced and put on
    the niche to gather dust, but for men to read and to contemplate about
    its contents: 

    That those endowed with understanding may ponder its signs
    and so remember. (38:29) 

    The above verse and scores of other such verses emphasize the importance
    of contemplation in the Qur'an and interpretation of the Qur'anic verses,
    although not an interpretation based on personal caprices and bias, but
    a just, truthful and balanced interpretation free of all traces of selfish
    interests. If we try to comprehend the Qur'an in an honest and unbiased
    way, it is not at all necessary to solve all problems that we find in it.
    In this regard the Qur'an is similar to Nature. In Nature, too, a number
    of mysteries have neither been solved yet, nor can they be solved in present
    conditions, yet are likely to be solved in the future. Moreover, in studying
    and understanding nature, man has to tailor his ideas in accordance with
    Nature itself. He is forced to interpret Nature in accordance with its
    reality. He cannot define Nature in terms of his own caprices and inclinations.
    The Qur'an, like the book of Nature, is a book that has not been sent for
    a specific age and time. Had it been otherwise, all the secrets of the
    Qur'an would have been discovered in the past; this heavenly Book would
    not have presented its charm, freshness and vitality. But we see that the
    possibility of contemplation, reflection and discovery of new dimensions
    is inexhaustible in the case of this Holy Book. This is a point that has
    amply been emphasized and clarified by the Prophet and the Imams. In a
    tradition, it is related from the Prophet (S) that the Qur'an, like the
    sun and the moon, will present its movement and continuity; that is, the
    Qur'an is not static or monotonous. In some other place the Prophet has
    said that outwardly the Qur'an is beautiful and inwardly it is deep and
    unfathomable. In 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida, from the Imam al-Rida (A), it is
    quoted that Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A) was asked about the secret of it that
    as the time passes and the more it is read and recited, the Qur'an increases
    in its novelty and freshness day by day. The Imam al-Sadiq (A) answered: 

    Because the Qur'an is not for an exclusive age or for an
    exclusive people. 

    The Qur'an has been sent for all ages and for all human beings. It is so
    composed that in spite of changes in knowledge, outlook and approach through
    various times and ages, it surpasses all learning and knowledge in all
    ages. While it encompasses mysteries and abstruse intricacies for the reader
    of every age, at the same time it presents a great feast of meanings and
    ideas that can satiate the needs of every time in accordance with the capacity
    of that particular age. 

    Issues in an Analytical Study of the Qur'an:

    Now we shall proceed to study the contents of the Qur'an from an analytic
    viewpoint. Of course, if we were to deal with every subject of the Qur'an
    separately, it would call for --as Rumi would say-- seventy tons of paper.
    So we will confine our discussion mainly to general and then a few particular

    The Qur'an has dealt with a vast range of subjects, and in this process,
    it is more concerned with certain subjects and less with others. The universe
    and its Creator are among the most recurring themes of the Qur'an. We must
    try to see how it treats this theme. Is its outlook philosophical or gnostic?
    Is its treatment similar to that of other religious books like the Bible
    and the Torah? Is it similar to that of the religious books of Hinduism?
    Does it deal with this problem in its own independent manner? 

    The other problem that is repeatedly treated by the Qur'an is the problem
    of the universe or the world of creation. We must examine the outlook of
    the Qur'an about the universe. Does it regard the universe and all creation
    to be an exercise in vanity and futility or does it regard it as being
    based on coherent truth? Does it consider the state of affairs in the universe
    as being based upon a series of laws and principles, or does it regard
    it as a chaotic phenomenon in which nothing is the cause or condition of
    any other thing? Among the general issues dealt by the Qur'an is the problem
    of the human being. The Qur'anic outlook regarding the human being must
    be analyzed. Does the Qur'an possess an optimistic outlook of man? Does
    it speak of him in pessimistic and negative terms? Does the Qur'an consider
    man as a despicable creature, or does it acknowledge his nobility and dignity? 

    The other problem dealt with in the Qur'an is the problem of human society.
    We have to see if the Qur'an considers the society to be primary and the
    individual as secondary or whether it subordinates the society to the individual.
    Are societies, according to the Qur'an, subject to laws governing their
    life and death, their rise and decline, or are these conditions applicable
    to individuals alone? In the same way, its conception of history also needs
    to be clarified. What is the Qur'anic view regarding history? What are
    the forces that control the dynamics of history? To what extent can an
    individual's influence affect the course of history in the view of the

    The Qur'an deals with numerous other issues. I shall enumerate some
    of them here. One of them is the point of view of the Qur'an about itself.
    The other issue is related to the Prophet (S) and its manner of introducing
    and addressing him. Another issue is its definition of a believer (mu'min)
    and his characteristics and so on. 

    Furthermore, each of these general issues possesses various branches
    and divisions. For example, when discussing mankind and its situation,
    it is natural to speak about morality. Or, when speaking about society,
    the problem of human relationships also unavoidably enters the discussion.
    The same is true of such notions as "enjoining good and forbidding evil,"
    and the problem of social classes. 

    How does the Qur'an Introduce Itself?

    For the purpose of analysing Qur'anic themes, it is better to start by
    examining the opinion of the Qur'an about itself and its manner of self-introduction.
    The first and foremost thing that the Qur'an pronounces about itself is
    that all of its words, phrases and sentences are the Word of God. It makes
    clear that the Prophet (S) was not its author; rather the Prophet only
    related whatever was revealed to him through the agency of the Ruh al-Qudus
    (Gabriel) with the permission of God. 

    The Qur'an describes its other function as the presentation of the Prophetic
    mission, which is aimed at guidance of humanity, by delivering it from
    darkness and leading it towards light: 

    A Book We have sent down to thee that thou mayest bring
    forth mankind from the darkness into the light... (14:1) 

    Without doubt the darkness of ignorance is one of the vices from which
    the Qur'an emancipates humanity and leads it towards the light of knowledge
    and wisdom. However, if merely ignorance were regarded as darkness, then
    the philosophers could have accomplished this job. But there exist other
    evils more dangerous than the vice of ignorance, and to subdue them is
    beyond the power of sheer knowledge. Among them are the vices of worship
    of material benefits, egoism, enslavement to desires, and greed, which
    are considered to be personal and moral vices. Social vices like oppression
    and discrimination manifest the spiritual darkness of a society. In Arabic,
    the word zulm (injustice and oppression) is derived from the same root
    as zulmah (darkness), which shows that injustice is a form of social and
    spiritual darkness. To struggle against such forms of darkness is the responsibility
    and mission of the Qur'an and other heavenly books. Addressing Prophet
    Moses (A), the Qur'an says: 

    That thou mayest bring forth your people from the darkness
    into the light ... (14:5) 

    This darkness, this shadow, is the darkness of Pharaoh's oppression and
    injustice and that of his clique. The light is the light of justice and

    The exegetists of the Qur'an emphasize the point that whenever the Qur'an
    mentions darkness, it always uses it in the plural form although it always
    uses light in its singular form. This means that the word, (darkness) includes
    all sorts of darkness, all of the evil ways that lead towards darkness,
    and that (light) signifies one single right path --the path of righteousness,
    whereas the ways of deviation and perversion are many. In Suurat al-Baqarah,
    the Qur'an says: 

    God is the Protector of the believers; He brings them forth
    from the darkness into the light. And the unbelievers --their protectors
    are taghut, that bring them forth from the light into the darkness ...

    The Qur'an determines its goal to be the breaking of the chains of ignorance,
    misguidance, moral and social corruption and destruction, or in other words,
    to dissipate all sorts of (darkness) and to guide humanity in the direction
    of justice, goodness and light. 

    The Language of the Qur'an

    The other issue is that of gaining familiarity with the language of the
    Qur'an and the recitation of it. There are some people who think that the
    Qur'an is to be read merely for the purpose of obtaining spiritual reward
    (thawab) without need of understanding anything of its contents. They continuously
    recite the Qur'an, but if they are even once asked) "Do you understand
    the meaning of what you are reading?" they cannot answer. To recite the
    Qur'an is essential and good, being regarded as the first step necessary
    for comprehending its contents; and not merely as a means for gaining Divine

    The comprehension of the meaning of the Qur'an has certain peculiarities
    to which due attention must be paid. While other books are read for the
    purpose of acquiring the knowledge of novel ideas that merely involve reason
    and the rational faculties of the reader's mind, the Qur'an must be studied
    with the intention of educating oneself. The Qur'an itself clarifies this

    A book We have sent down to thee, blessed, that men possessed
    of mind may ponder its signs end so remember. (38:29) 

    One of the functions of the Qur'an is to instruct and to teach. For this
    purpose, the Qur'an addresses human reason and speaks in logical and demonstrative
    terms. There is also another language that the Qur'an makes use of. But
    this language is not used to appeal to the faculty of reason, but to the
    heart. This is the language of feeling. Whosoever wants to acquaint himself
    with the Qur'an, should be familiar with both of the languages and be able
    to make use of both of them simultaneously. It is a grave mistake to separate
    one from the other. 

    That which is termed here as the heart, is the great source of profound
    feeling that resides within all human beings. This is sometimes also called
    "the sense of being", i.e. the feeling of relationship between human existence
    and the Absolute Being. 

    One who knows the language of the heart, when he addresses the human
    being in this language, can move the inner depths of his being. It is not
    merely the mind and the intellect alone which is affected, but his whole
    being, which is profoundly influenced. This sort of influence can perhaps
    be illustrated by the example of music. The various forms of music share
    the common quality which is stimulation of human feelings. Music appeals
    to the human soul and immerses it into a specific world of feeling. The
    nature of feelings, excited by different kinds of music, of course, varies.
    Certain types of music may be associated with the passions of valour and
    bravery. In the past, on the battlefield, the effects of martial music
    were evident. Sometimes its effects were so strong that the frightened
    soldiers who would not dare come out of their bunkers, were made to march
    in fervour despite fierce attacks from enemy's ranks. It is possible that
    certain other kinds of music may excite sensual feelings and invite the
    listener to succumb to sensual vices. The results of such music are noticeable
    in the moral waywardness of our own times. Perhaps no other thing could
    have so effectively broken down the walls of morality and chastity to the
    extent of this kind of music. Other kinds of instinctive feelings and passions,
    whether aroused by means of music or by some other means, can be controlled
    when addressed in the language that appeals to them. 

    One of the most sublime instincts and emotions present in all human
    beings is the urge for religion and the natural quest for God. It is in
    the same heavenly echoes that the Qur'an speaks to the Divine instincts
    of mankind. The Qur'an itself recommends that its verses be recited in
    fine and beautiful rhythms; for it is in those heavenly rhythms that it
    speaks to the Divine nature of man. The Qur'an, describing itself, maintains
    that it speaks in two languages. Sometimes it introduces itself as the
    Book of meditation, logic and demonstration; at other times as the Book
    of feeling and love. In other words, it does not merely seek to nourish
    the intellect and thought, but also nurtures the human soul. 

    The Qur'an lays great emphasis on its own specific quality of music,
    a music which more than any other music, is effective in arousing the profound
    and sublime feelings of the human heart. The Qur'an directs the believers
    to devote a few hours of the night to reciting its verses, and to recite
    them during their ritual prayers when their attention is turned towards
    God. Addressing the Prophet, the Qur'an says: 

    O thou enwrapped in thy robes, keep vigil the night, except
    a little (a half of it, or diminish a little, or add a little) and chant
    the Qur'an very distinctly. (73:1 -4) 

    It asks the Prophet (S) to recite the Qur'an while standing for the prayers.
    Tartiil means to recite neither too hastily that words cannot be distinguished,
    nor too slowly that their connection be lost. It commands the Prophet (S)
    to recite its verses rhythmically, and at the same time to cogitate upon
    their meaning. Again, in a later verse of the same surah, the Prophet is
    reminded that he needs enough sleep to effectively perform the daily chores
    of business or jihad in the path of God; nevertheless, he should not forget
    to seclude himself for worship. 

    It were the same rhythms of the Qur'an that became the singular source
    of spiritual joy and strength, and the means of producing inner purity
    and sincerity among Muslims. It was the same music of the Qur'an which,
    in a very short period of time, converted the barbarous tribes of the Arabian
    peninsula, into a steadfast nation of committed believers, who could grapple
    with the greatest powers of the age and overthrow them. 

    The Muslims did not merely view the Qur'an as a book of moral advice
    and instruction alone, but also, as a spiritual and ideological tonic.
    They recited the Qur'an with devotion of heart during their intimate nightly
    supplications, and during the day, they derived from it the strength to
    attack the unbelievers like roaring lions. The Qur'an had just such an
    expectation of those who had found their faith. Addressing the Prophet,
    it says: 

    Obey not the unbelievers, but struggle against them with
    it [the Qur'an] striving mightily. (25:52) 

    The Qur'an advises the Prophet (S) not to pay heed to the words of the
    infidels and to stand firmly against them equipped with the weapon of the
    Qur'an. It assures him that the ultimate victory shall be his. The life
    of the Prophet (S) itself is a positive proof of this assurance. He stood
    all alone against enemies without any support except the Qur'an, and the
    same Qur'an meant everything to him. It produced warriors for him, furnished
    arms and forces, until, ultimately, the enemies were totally subdued. The
    Qur'an drew towards him individuals from the enemy's camp, and caused them
    to submit before the Messenger of God. In this way the Divine pledge was

    When the Qur'an calls its language "the language of the heart," it means
    the heart which it seeks to purify, enlighten and stimulate. This language
    is other than the language of music that occasionally arouses sensual feelings.
    It is also different from the language of martial music that arouses the
    spirit of heroism in the hearts of soldiers and strengthens and enhances
    their enthusiasm. Rather, it is the language which converted the Arab Bedouins
    into inspired mujahidin, for whom it was said: 

    They carried their visions on their swords. 

    Those people carried their vision, their ideology, their religion and spiritual
    discoveries on their swords, and used them in the defence of those ideals
    and ideas. The notions of private and personal interest were alien to them.
    Though they were not innocent and infallible, and they did commit mistakes,
    yet they were those who rightly fitted the description: 

    Standing in prayer during nights, 

    fasting during daytime. 

    Every moment of day and night, they were in contact with the depths of
    Being. Their nights were passed in worship, and days in jihad. 

    It is on account of this characteristic, that the Qur'an is a book of
    the heart and the soul. Its appeal overwhelms the soul and brings tears
    flowing from the eyes and makes the heart tremble. It stresses this point
    and considers it true even of the "People of the Book": 

    Those to whom We gave the Book before this believe in it,
    and, when it is recited to them, they say, 'We believe in it; surely it
    is the Truth from our Lord; even before it we were of those who surrender.

    It describes a group of people who undergo a state of veneration and awe
    when the Qur'an is recited before them. They affirm faith in all the contents
    of the Book, declare everything in it to be nothing but truth and their
    veneration of it continues to increase. In another verse, the Qur'an affirms
    that among the Ahl al-Kitab (The People of the Book), the Christians are
    closer to the Muslims than the idolaters and Jews. Then a group of Christians
    who believed and became Muslims on hearing the Qur'an are described in
    these words: 

    And when they hear what has been sent down to the Messenger,
    thou seest their eyes overflow with tears, because of the truth they recognize.
    They say, "Our Lord we believe; so do Thou write us down among the witnesses."

    In another place, while describing the believers, the Qur'an says: 

    God has sent down the fairest discourse as a book, consimilar
    in its oft repeated parts, whereat shiver the skins of those who fear their
    Lord; then their skins and their hearts soften to the remembrance of God
    ... (39:23) 

    In these, as well as in many other verses (such as 19:58, 61:1, etc.),
    the Qur'an tells us that it is not merely a book of knowledge and analysis;
    but at the same time that it makes use of logical arguments that appeal
    to the intellect, it also speaks to the finer sensibilities of the human

    The Qur'an's Addressees:

    Another point that has to be inferred from the Qur'anic text during its
    analytical study, is to determine the identity of those who are addressed
    by it. There are certain expressions like "guidance for the God fearing,"
    "guidance and good tiding for the believers," "to admonish and caution
    him who is alive," which often recur in the Qur'an. Here the question may
    arise: Of what need is guidance for those who are already guided, the pious
    and the righteous? Moreover, we see that the Qur'an describes itself in
    these words: 

    It is but a reminder unto all beings, and you shall surely
    know its tiding, after a while. (38:87-88) 

    Then, is this book meant for all the people of the world, or is it for
    the believers alone? In another verse addressing the Prophet, God the Most
    Exalted, says: 

    We have not sent thee, save as a mercy unto all beings.

    A more detailed explanation of this matter would be undertaken during the
    course of later discussion regarding the historical aspect of the Qur'an.
    Here it is just sufficient to mention that the Qur'an is addressed to all
    the people of the world. It does not single out any particular nation or
    group. Everyone who accepts the invitation of the Qur'an is assured of
    spiritual salvation. However, the verses which mention the Qur'an as the
    book of guidance for the believers and the God-fearing (mu'minun and muttaqun),
    clearly specify the kind of people who will be attracted towards it and
    others who will turn away from it. The Qur'an never names any particular
    nation or tribe as being its devotees. It does not take sides with a specially
    chosen people. Unlike other religions, the Qur'an never associates itself
    with the interests of any specific class. It does not say, for example,
    that it has come to safeguard the interests of the workers or the peasants.
    The Qur'an repeatedly emphasizes the point that its purpose is to establish
    justice. Speaking about the prophets, it says: 

    And We sent down with them the Book and the Balance so that
    men might uphold justice ... (57:25) 

    The Qur'an advocates justice for all mankind, not merely for this or that
    class, tribe or nation. It does not, for example, like Nazism and other
    such cults, stir up the passions of prejudice to attract people. Similarly,
    it does not, like certain schools of thought like Marxism, base its appeal
    upon the human weakness of interest-seeking and enslave-ment to material
    motivations to incite people; because the Qur'an believes in the essential
    primariness of the rational consciousness of man and his intrinsic conscience.
    It believes that it is on the basis of its moral potentialities and its
    truth-conscious human nature that mankind is placed firmly on the path
    of progress and evolution. This is the reason why its message is not limited
    to the working or farming class or exclusively to the oppressed and deprived.
    The Qur'an addresses both the oppressors as well as the oppressed, and
    calls them to follow the right path. Prophet Moses (A) delivers the message
    of God to both Bani Israel and Pharaoh, and asks them to believe in the
    Lord and to move in His path. Prophet Muhammad (S) extends his invitation
    both to the chieftains of Quraysh and to ordinary persons like Abu Dharr
    and 'Ammar. The Qur'an cites numerous examples of an individual's revolt
    against his own self and his voluntary return from the path of deviation
    to the straight one. But, at the same time, the Qur'an is aware of the
    point that the restoration and repentance of those immersed in a life of
    luxury and opulence is comparatively more difficult than that of those
    familiar with the hardships of life: the oppressed and the deprived, who
    are, as a matter of fact, naturally more inclined towards justice; whereas
    the rich and wealthy, at the very first step, have to forgo their personal
    and class interests and abandon their wishes and aspirations. 

    The Qur'an declares that its followers are those who have a clear and
    pure conscience. They are drawn to it solely by the love of justice and
    truth, which is ingrained in the nature of all human beings ---not under
    the urge for material interests and worldly desires and allurements. 

    Conception of Reason in the Qur'an

    Heretofore we have discussed briefly the diction of the Qur'an, and said
    that, for the purpose of communicating its message, the Qur'an makes use
    of two types of languages, namely, the language of rational argument and
    the language of feeling. Each of these languages has a specific appeal.
    The first type addresses and appeals to the intellect or reason, while
    the second one is meant to appeal to the heart. Now we shall examine the
    point of view of the Qur'an regarding reason ('aql). 

    It is to be seen whether or not the Qur'an acknowledges the "authority"
    (hajjah) of reason --as the scholars of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence)
    and usul put it. This means whether or not we should respect the
    judge-ments of reason and act according to them if they happen to be correct
    and rightly deduced by it. Moreover, if one acts according to the dictates
    of reason and occasionally falls into error, will God exonerate him for
    it, or whether He will punish him on account of that error? And, if one
    fails to act according to the ruling of reason, does he deserve punishment? 

    Evidence in Favour of the Authority of Reason

    The issue of the authority of reason in Islam is certain. Since the earliest
    times until the present, none amongst the Islamic scholars --except for
    a very small number-- has ever negated the authority of reason; they have
    counted it as one of the four sources of Islamic fiqh. 

    1. The Qur'an's Emphasis on Rationalism

    Since our discussion is about the Qur'an, I think it necessary to produce
    arguments concerning the authority of reason from the Qur'an itself. The
    Qur'an, in various ways, confirms the authority of reason. About sixty
    to seventy verses can be cited --and that, too, for just one of the various
    ways, as mentioned-- in which the Qur'an indicates that such and such a
    matter has been mentioned for reason to reflect on. In one instance, the
    Qur'an refers to this issue in a striking statement: 

    Surely the worst of beasts in God's sight are those that
    are deaf and dumb and do not reason. (8:22) 

    Of course, it is obvious that the Qur'an does not mean the physically deaf
    and dumb, but those who do not want to listen to truth, or those who, when
    they hear, do not wish to admit it with their tongues. In the view of the
    Qur'an, the ears which are unable to listen to truth and which are only
    used for listening to absurd and nonsensical things, are deaf. The tongue
    which is merely used to utter nonsense, is dumb. The people who do not
    reason, are those who do not make use of their intellect and their faculty
    of thought. Such are not fit to be called human beings. The Qur'an includes
    them among the beasts. In another verse, while bringing up a subject related
    to Divine Unity (al-tawhid), the Qur'an refers to the issue of unity of
    Divine Acts, and says: 

    It is not for any soul to believe, save by the leave of
    God... (10:100) 

    After stating this profound issue --a problem which is not easily comprehensible
    to every human mind-- the Qur'an continues the verse like this: 

    And He lays abomination upon those who do not reason. (10:100) 

    In these two verses, which I quote here for the sake of example, the Qur'an,
    in the terms of logic, invites us to ratiocination. There are many other
    verses in the Qur'an which, on the basis of consequential signification,
    can be said to accept the authority of reason. In other words, the Qur'an
    makes statements which cannot be accepted without accepting the authority
    of reason. For instance, an opponent is asked to forward rational argument
    in favour of his position: 

    Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful. (2:111) 

    This can only be inferred to mean the Qur'an's ratification of the authority
    of reason. In another place it uses syllogistic argument to prove the existence
    of the Necessary Being (wajib al-wujud): 

    Were there gods in them [earth and heaven] other than God,
    they would surely disintegrate ... (21:22) 

    In these verses the Qur'an has framed a conditional proposition, which
    exempts or excludes the antecedent premise for arriving at a conclusion
    which is consequent upon it. Thus the Qur'an aims at emphasizing the role
    of reason and refutes the view of some of the religions that faith is alien
    to, or, is incompatible with reason, and that to embrace faith one has
    to suspend his rational faculty and concentrate upon heart alone, so that
    it may absorb the Divine light and become illuminated by it. This view
    is totally negated and refuted by the Qur'an. 

    2. References to the Law of Causality

    The other argument that supports the view that the Qur'an approves of the
    ultimate authority of reason, is that it defines various problems in terms
    of cause-and-effect relationship. The cause-and-effect relation-ship, or
    the law of causation, is the foundation of rational thinking. This law
    is honoured by the Qur'an and is also employed by it. The Qur'an speaks
    on behalf of God, the Almighty, the Creator of the system of cause and
    effect. Despite the fact that His Word transcends the limitations of causality,
    the Qur'an is not oblivious of pointing out to the system of causality
    operating in the universe; it views all phenomena and events as being subservient
    to this system. The following verse supports this view: 

    God changes not what is in a people, until they change what
    is in themselves ... (13:11)

    The Qur'an intends to say that, although all destinies depend on the Will
    of God, He never imposes upon human beings such fate as is outside and
    alien to their determination, will and action. The destinies of societies
    also change according to their intrinsic system of functioning. God does
    not extravagantly alter the destiny of a nation without any specific reason,
    unless they themselves bring about a major change in their system of social
    and moral values and their manner of performing their individual duties. 

    The Qur'an urges Muslims to study the conditions and circumstances of
    societies of the past and to take lesson from their history. It is evident
    that if the destinies of races and nations were random, or dependent upon
    accidents, or were prescribed from above, the advice to study and draw
    a lesson would not have any sense. By laying emphasis on it, the Qur'an
    intends to remind us that a uniform system of laws governs the destinies
    of all the nations of the world. It also reminds us that if the conditions
    of a society in which we live, are similar to the conditions prevalent
    in a society of the past, the same fate awaits us too. Elsewhere, the Qur'an

    How many a city We have destroyed in its evildoing, and
    now it is fallen down upon its turrets. How many a ruined well, a tall
    palace. What, have they not journeyed in the land so that they have hearts
    to understand with, or ear to hear with ... ? (22:45-46) 

    From this statement, we can infer that the affirmation of the law of causality
    and the approval of the cause-and-effect relationship, imply the acceptance
    of authority of reason. 

    3. Rational Basis of Divine Commands

    Another argument which proves that the Qur'an believes in the ultimate
    authority of reason, is that the Qur'an always explains the rationale behind
    its commands, laws and precepts. The scholars of usul al-din (the principles
    of the Faith) maintain that the harms and benefits caused by human deeds
    are among the reasons behind laws and commands. For example, while at one
    place the Qur'an ordains the performance of prayers, in another place it
    explains the philosophy of prayer: 

    Indeed prayer forbids indecency and dishonour ... (29:45) 

    It mentions the spiritual effects of prayer, and states how the prayer
    can edify man. It explains that it is on account of this exaltation that
    man can dissociate himself from indecencies. Elsewhere, after laying down
    rules for observing the fast, the Qur'an explains the rationale for its

    Prescribed for you is the Fast, even as it was prescribed
    for those that were before you --haply you will be God-fearing. (2:183) 

    Similarly, with respect to other commandments like those regarding zakat
    (alms) and jihad, the Qur'an clarifies their necessity for individual,
    as well as for society. In this way, the Qur'an, not withstanding the transcendental
    nature of Divine commandments, clarifies fully their worldly and terrestrial
    relevance, and asks men to cogitate upon their rationale until their meaning
    becomes explicit, so that it may not be imagined that these laws are based
    on a series of occult notions beyond the power of human comprehension. 

    4. Combating Deviations of Reason

    Another evidence in favour of the Qur'an's affirmation of the authority
    of reason --which is more conclusive than that mentioned above-- is the
    battle it launched against all those agents which obstruct the proper functioning
    of reason. For clarification of this point, we are forced to mention certain
    things in the way of an introduction. 

    The human mind can, in many cases, fall into error. This fact is acknowledged
    by all of us. However, this danger is not limited to the intellect alone,
    but can equally befall the senses, and feelings as well. Just for the sense
    of vision, scores of visual errors and optical illusions have been pointed
    out. In the case of reason, too, there are times when people frame an argument
    and rationale and draw an inference on its basis, but later on they realize
    that the basis of their conclusion was erroneous. Here the question arises,
    whether the faculty of reason should be suspended on account of its occasional
    failures, or whether we should employ other means for discovering the errors
    of the intellect and seek to avoid such errors. In answering this question,
    the Sophists said that reason should not be relied upon, and that, basically,
    argumentation and reasoning is an absurd practice. Other philosophers have
    given a fitting reply to the Sophists, and said that though the senses
    can also err like reason, but no one has ever recommended their suspension.
    Since it was not possible to discard reason, the philosophers resolved
    to find ways of making reason secure from error. During their efforts in
    this regard, they discovered that all arguments consist of two parts, namely,
    matter and form. Like a building which has various ingredients in its construction,
    like, lime, cement, steel, etc. (matter), to acquire a specific structure
    (form). In order to attain the permanence and perfection of its construction,
    it is essential to procure proper material as well as to draw a perfect
    and faultless plan. For the correctness and accuracy of an argument, too,
    it is essential that its content and form be both free of error and defect.
    For judging the validity of the form of any argument, the Aristotelian
    or formal logic came into existence. The function of formal logic is to
    determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of the form of an argument, and help
    the mind to avoid errors in the process of reasoning. 

    But the major problem that remains is that solely formal logic is inadequate
    for this purpose, because it cannot alone guarantee the validity of an
    argument. It can give assurance about one aspect alone. To obtain the perfection
    of the material aspect, the use of material logic is also essential, that
    is, we need certain criteria for controlling the quality of the rational

    Thinkers like Bacon and Descartes strove hard to evolve some kind of
    material logic similar to the formal logic of Aristotle, which was devised
    for formal reasoning. They did obtain certain criteria in this regard,
    though they are not as universal as those of Aristotelian logic, but are,
    to a limited extent, helpful in preventing the mind from committing errors
    in reasoning. Some may be surprised to know that the Qur'an has presented
    such principles for the prevention of any lapses in the process of reasoning,
    which surpass in merit and precedence the efforts of philosophers like
    Descartes and others. 

    The Qur'anic Viewpoint

    Regarding the Sources of Error

    Among various sources of error mentioned by the Qur'an, one is that of
    taking conjecture and hypothesis for certainty and conviction. If a person
    were to adhere to the principle of putting conviction only in certainties
    and of not confusing between conjectures and certainties, he would not
    fall into error. The Qur'an lays great emphasis on this problem, and has
    clearly stated in one place that one of the biggest errors of the human
    mind is pursuit of conjectures and hypotheses. In another verse, which
    is addressed to the Prophet (S), the Qur'an says: 

    If thou obeyest the most part of those on earth, they will
    lead thee astray from the path of God: they follow only surmise, merely
    conjecturing. (6:116) 

    In another verse, the Qur'an says: 

    And pursue not that thou has no knowledge of ... (17:36) 

    This is the word of caution to mankind extended by the Qur'an, for the
    first time in the history of human ideas, warning mankind against this
    kind of error. 

    The second source of error in the reasoning process, which is particularly
    relevant in social issues, is imitation. Most people are such that they
    accept whatever beliefs that are current in their society. They adopt certain
    beliefs merely for the reason that they were followed by their preceding
    generation. The Qur'an bids people to carefully scrutinize all ideas and
    judge them by the criteria of reason --neither to follow blindly the conventional
    beliefs and traditions of their ancestors, nor to reject them totally without
    any rational justification. It reminds us that there are many false doctrines
    that were introduced in the past, but were accepted by the people, and
    there are also certain truths that were presented in the distant past,
    but people resisted them on account of their ignorance. In accepting any
    ideas or principles, men are advised to make use of their intellects and
    rational faculties, and not to indulge in blind imitation. Very often,
    the Qur'an puts imitation of ancestors in direct opposition to reason and

    And when it is said to them: 'Follow what God has sent down',
    they say, 'No; but we will follow such things as we found our fathers doing.'
    What? Even if their fathers had no understanding of anything, and if they
    were not guided ? (2:170)

    The Qur'an constantly reiterates the view that the idea of antiquity of
    an idea is neither the evidence of its falsity, nor is it a testimony of
    its truthfulness. Antiquity affects material objects; but the eternal truths
    of existence never become old and outmoded. Truths like: 

    God changes not what is in a people, until they change what
    is in themselves ... (13:11) 

    are true for ever and ever. The Qur'an asks us to face issues with the
    weapon of reason and intellect. One should neither forsake a belief for
    fear of becoming the target of others' ridicule and banter, nor should
    he accept a belief just because it is upheld by some important and well-
    known persons. We should ourselves study and investigate the roots of all
    matters and draw our own conclusions. 

    A Third effective source of error pointed out by the Qur'an is 

    Selfish motives tarnish virtue and merit,  

    A cascade of curtains gallops from the heart towards vision. 

    Unless one maintains objectivity and neutrality in every matter, he is
    unlikely to think correctly. Reason can function properly only in an atmosphere
    that is free of selfish desires and motives. A well-known anecdote of al-Allamah
    al-Hilli, can illustrate this point. 

    A problem of fiqh was put before al-Allamah al-Hilli: If an animal
    falls inside a well, and the carcass cannot be removed; what should be
    done with the well? Incidentally, during the same days, an animal happened
    to fall into the well in his own house, and it became inevitable for him
    to deduce an injunction to solve his own problem, too There were two possible
    ways to solve the issue: Firstly, the well should be totally closed, not
    to be used again; secondly, a fixed quantity of water should be emptied
    from the well and the rest of well's water would be clean and usable. The
    'Allamah realized that he could not give a completely impartial verdict
    about the problem without interference from his own personal interest.
    Accordingly, he ordered his own well be closed. Then, with an easy mind,
    free of the pressure of selfish motives. he turned to deducing the details
    of verdict in the second case. 

    The Qur'an contains a large number of warnings regarding the evil of
    submission to personal desires. The following is just one instance of it: 

    They follow nothing except conjecture, and what the self
    desires ... (53:25)

    Qur'anic Outlook Regarding the "Heart"

    Perhaps I need not explain here that in the language of literature and
    mysticism the term heart does not mean the organ situated in the left side
    of the human body, which pumps blood into the blood vessels. What is implied
    is the sublime and distinguishing faculty of the human soul, as can be
    readily understood from the following examples from the Qur'an and verses
    of Sa'di: 

    Surely in that there is a reminder to him who has a heart
    ... (50:37) 

    My heart was alarmed 

    [on sensing the coming danger],  

    While I, a thoughtless dervish,  

    Do not know what 

    this wandering prey has come across. 

    These two examples make it obvious that the connoted meaning of the heart
    is quite different from the bodily organ. Elsewhere, the Qur'an refers
    to the ailments of the heart: 

    In their hearts is a sickness, and God has increased that
    sickness ... (2:10) 

    To cure this sickness is beyond the powers of any man of medicine, even
    the heart specialist; only the doctors of the spirit can diagnose such
    diseases and suggest proper remedies. 

    Definition of the Heart

    What is the definition of this heart then? An answer to this question is
    to be sought in the reality of human existence. Every human being, although
    he is a single individual, possesses myriads of existential dimensions.
    The human "self" encompasses myriads of thoughts, desires, fears, hopes
    and inclinations. Like the ocean which links all rivers with one another,
    all these components of the human personality are related to the same center,
    which unites them with one another. The "self" itself is the deep and unfathomable
    ocean, whose depths no one can claim to have charted out and to have discovered
    all its mysteries. Philosophers mystics, and psychologists --each of them
    has tried in his own specific way to explore its depths, and has succeeded
    only to a certain degree in discovering its secrets. Perhaps the mystics,
    a bit more than others, have been successful in this regard. What the Qur'an
    refers to as the heart, is the reality of that ocean, which includes all
    that we name as the manifestations of the soul, to which all its rivers
    and tributaries are connected. Even reason is one of the various rivers
    associated with this sea. 

    In places where the Qur'an speaks of revelation, it does not make any
    mention of reason; rather it is merely concerned with the heart of the
    Prophet (S). This does not mean an absence of rational and demonstrative
    reception of the Holy Qur'an on the part of the Prophet, but it was his
    heart which, in a state that we cannot imagine, obtained the direct experience
    and awareness of those transcendental realities. The verses of Suurat al-Najm
    and Suurat al-Takwir describe the state of this union to some extent: 

    Nor speaks he out of caprice. This is naught but a revelation
    revealed taught him by one terrible in power, very strong; he stood poised,
    being on the higher horizon, then drew near and approached nearer, two
    bow's length away, or nearer, then revealed to His servant that He revealed.
    His heart lies not of what he saw. (53:3-11) 

    The Qur'an mentions all these things to show that these matters are basically
    beyond the range of rational understanding. 

    Truly this is the word of a noble messenger having power,
    of honoured place with the Lord of the Throne, obeyed, moreover trusty.
    Your companion is not possessed; he truly saw him on the clear horizon;
    he is not niggardly of the Unseen. (81:19-23) 

    Muhammad Iqbal offers a fine interpretation of this subject. He says that
    the prophet is one who, at first, imbibes the entire truth, and later on,
    in order to enrich the world and to alter the course of history, communicates
    everything that has reached him by the way of Revelation. 

    Wherever the Qur'an speaks of the revelation and the heart, al- though
    its import transcends the limits of reason and thought, its speech is not
    irrational or anti-rational. It expounds a vision which surpasses human
    reason and sensibility, and enters a domain which is, basically, beyond
    reason and intellect. 

    Characteristics of the Heart

    The Qur'an regards the heart, also, as an instrument of understanding.
    In fact, the greater part of the Qur'anic message is addressed to the human
    heart --a message which is audible to the ears of the heart alone, and
    is inscrutable to other receptive faculties. Accordingly, it attaches great
    importance to the care, protection, and development of this instrument.
    In the Qur'an, we recurrently come across such notions as purification
    of the self, purity and enlightenment of the heart, and purification of
    the heart: 

    Prosperous is he who purifies it [the self]. (91:9) 

    No indeed; but that they were earning has overwhelmed their
    hearts. (83:14) 

    And about the salvation and enlightening of the heart, the Qur'an says: 

    If you fear God, He will assign you [the capacity of] distinguishing

    But those who struggle in Our [cause], surely We shall guide them
    in Our ways... (29:69) 

    Contrarily, the Qur'an recurrently reminds that indecencies infect and
    darken the human soul, and deprive the human heart of sublime inclinations
    and virtuous tendencies. At one place, speaking on behalf of the believers,
    it says: 

    Our Lord, make not our hearts to swerve after Thou hast
    guided us ... (3:8) 

    Describing the qualities of the evildoers, the Qur'an says: 

    No indeed; but that they were earning has overwhelmed their
    hearts. (83:14) 

    The darkness of sin and injustice has engulfed their hearts: 

    When they swerved, God caused their hearts to swerve ...

    About the sealing and hardening of the hearts, it says: 

    God has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing,
    and on their eyes is a covering ... (2:7) 

    And also: 

    We lay veils upon their hearts lest they understand it ...
    (6:25) So does God seal the hearts of the unbelievers. (7:101) So that
    their hearts have become hard, and many of them are ungodly. (57:16) 

    All these verses point to the fact that the Qur'an recommends a sublime,
    spiritual atmosphere for mankind, and deems it necessary for every individual
    to strive to keep it clean and unpolluted. In addition, since an unsound
    social atmosphere renders fruitless the efforts of most individuals to
    keep pure and wholesome, the Qur'an recommends that the people should employ
    all their endeavour in the direction of purification of their social atmosphere.
    The Qur'an unequivocally propounds the view that the continued existence
    of all those sublime values, beliefs and ideas, and continued social receptivity
    to all its moral advice and counsels, depend upon individual and collective
    struggle to eradicate all types of meanness, sensuality, and lewdness. 

    Human history itself is a witness to the fact that whenever despotic
    regimes have wanted to bring other societies under their autocratic rule,
    they have tried to corrupt their social spirit and pollute their social
    atmosphere. They provided enormous facilities for the people to indulge
    in licentiousness, and gave them every kind of freedom in this regard.
    A heart-rending account of this unholy treatment meted out to Muslims of
    Spain --a region which is regarded to have played an effective role in
    initiating the Renaissance, and had the most advanced culture in Europe--
    throws enough light on this phenomenon. In order to divest Spain out of
    Muslims' hands, the Christians resorted to defilement of the morals of
    Muslim youth, by providing ample facilities for their debaucheries. They
    even went to the extent of alluring and enticing the army generals and
    government officials in topmost ranks. They thus succeeded in diverting
    Muslims from the path of determination and purpose, and in divesting them
    of their power, their strength of faith, and purity of soul, converting
    them into profligate weaklings addicted to drinking and licentiousness.
    It is obvious that it is not very difficult to subdue such individuals.
    Christians took revenge on nearly eight hundred years of Muslim rule in
    such a way that history is ashamed at recounting those deeds. The same
    Christians who, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ ("offer your
    left cheek if your right cheek is slapped"), were supposed to behave in
    a different way, surpassed the bloodthirsty tradition of Genghiz Khan by
    the massacre of Muslims in Spain. Nevertheless, the ruin that Muslims suffered
    was the result of their own spiritual degeneration and decay; it was their
    punishment for abandoning the Qur'anic commands. 

    In our times, also, wherever the evil of colonialism exists, the same
    practices are vigorously adopted --a danger against which the Qur'an so
    emphatically warns us. The colonialists try to corrupt the hearts; when
    the heart is thus debilitated, reason, too, is not only lost and fails
    to function properly, but is itself turned into a terrible bondage. The
    colonialists and the exploitive powers are not afraid of establishing schools
    and universities: they even advocate popular education; but, on the other
    hand, they take good care to make arrangements to corrupt and destroy the
    spirit of students, and of the teachers as well. They are fully aware of
    the fact that an unhealthy mind and a sickly soul cannot make any decisive
    move, and readily yield to every type of exploitation and degradation. 

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    And help one another to piety and God-fearing, do not help
    each other to sin and enmity... (5:2) 

    Men are, firstly, enjoined to pursue piety and are warned against sinning;
    secondly, they are asked to perform righteous deeds collectively, not individually. 

    Here I shall mention two or three sayings of the Prophet (S) and the
    Imams (A) in order to elucidate this point. There is a tradition that once
    a person came in the presence of the Prophet (S) and told him that he wished
    to ask certain questions. The Prophet asked him whether he wanted to listen
    to the answers, or if he wished to ask questions first. He asked the Prophet
    (S) to give the answers. The Prophet (S) told him that his question was
    concerned with the meaning of virtue and goodness. The man affirmed that
    he intended to ask exactly the same question. The Prophet gently knocked
    the man's chest with his three fingers, saying: "Put this question to your
    own heart;" then he added: "This heart is so made that it is harmonious
    with virtue; it is put at ease by virtue and piety, but disturbed by vice
    and villainy. In the same way, as presence of an alien disharmonious object
    in the human body causes uneasiness and discomfort, and disturbs its order,
    the human soul is thrown off its balance and ease on account of faulty
    behaviour." What is commonly called the pain and torment of the conscience,
    is the same state of inconformity and alienation of the soul: 

    [For an honest insight] ask your own heart, though the masters
    may have their own (different) opinion. 

    The Prophet (S) points out the fact that if a person endeavours to seek
    reality and truth with an open and impartial mind, his heart can never
    deceive him in this regard; it will always guide him towards the straight
    path. Basically, as long as man is in search of truth and reality, and
    treads the path of truth, whatever he encounters in this course is nothing
    but truth. This is, of course, a very delicate point which is often misunderstood.
    When someone falls into misguidance and loses his path, it is because he
    was following a certain direction which was not determined by sincere search
    of truth. Answering someone who had asked the Prophet, "What is virtue?,"
    he said, "If you really want to know what is virtue, then understand that
    when your heart is serene and your conscience at rest, whatever has caused
    them to be such, is virtue. But when you are attracted towards something,
    and that does not bring peace and serenity to your heart, then you should
    know that it is vice and sin." 

    Elsewhere, when the Prophet (S) was asked about the meaning of faith
    (iman), he said, "When one performs an ugly deed, and is overwhelmed with
    the feeling of reproach and displeasure, and when one performs virtuous
    deeds and feels happy and joyous, it means that he is endowed with faith." 

    It has been quoted from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A) that when a believer
    liberates himself from all worldly bondages, he feels the delight of nearness
    to God within his heart; in this state, the whole world appears to him
    very small and insignificant; he strives with all power to liberate himself
    from the bondages of the material world. This is a reality attested by
    the lives of the men of God. 

    In the biographies of the Prophet (S), it is written that once after
    his morning prayers the Prophet (S) went to visit the Ashab al-Suffah.
    They were a group of poor men who did not possess any worldly belongings,
    and used to live by the side of Prophet's Mosque in al-Madinah. When the
    Prophet (S) happened to see one of them, Harith ibn Zayd, who looked rather
    pale and emaciated, his eyes sunk deep inside his skull, he inquired, "How
    are you." He answered, "I have woken up a man of certain faith." The Prophet
    asked him what proved his claim. He answered, "I am bereft of sleep at
    nights and engage in fasting during the days." The Prophet told him that
    this was insufficient. "Tell me more about it," he said. Harith said, "O
    Messenger of God, my condition is such that I can clearly see and hear
    the people of heaven and those of hell. If you permit me, I will inform
    you about the secret thoughts and inner states of every one of your companions."
    The Prophet bade him hold his tongue, and say no more; but asked him, "What
    is your desire?" He said, "To fight in the way of God." 

    According to the Qur'an, furbishing of the human heart exalts a human
    being to such a point that, in the words of Ali (A), even if the veils
    that conceal the Unseen be removed from in front of him, there is nothing
    that can enhance his faith. The teachings of the Qur'an are meant to educate
    man to become a being equipped with the power of knowledge and reason on
    the one hand, and possessed of a pure heart and sound feeling on the other.
    They aim to train a human being who is able to employ his reason and heart
    in the most proper and exalted fashion. The Imams (S) and their true pupils
    were examples of such human beings. 

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