The question of Mirza Abul Hasan Razavi from Mulla Hadi Sabziwari

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Many learned scholars consulted Sabziwari on some of the more difficult philosophical questions to which he provided written answers. In one of the lesser known replies, Sabziwari provided a brief answer to seven questions that were posed to him by a contemporary philosopher, Mirza Abu’l Hasan Razavi. Since the seventh questions deals with the subject of knowledge by presence and clearly demonstrates the extent to which Sabziwari was influenced by Suhrawardi, we have translated the entire section. This translation also indicates that the ishraqi theory of knowledge was of great interest among the intellectual community of the time.

M.A. Razavi: “Is the method of knowledge by presence, which the sages of Sufi tradition have promulgated, true or not? Is it accessible despite the differences among the followers of the method of discovery, and how can certainly of the truth of this theory be attained? As it (Quran)says: “If you do not know it, ask the learned,” and also, “Remember that God gave birth to you through your mothers and you did make it necessary for people to answer but He made it incumbent upon the learned to answer.”

I have dared to ask this while I am depressed, and my inner being is in a tumultuous state. I am thereby requesting that the answer be sent to me soon. May the prosperity of the two worlds be yours, yours soul be enlightened, your intellect be well and your heart be free of every bondage.”

Answer of Sabziwari:
“Having a vision (mushahidah) is an authentic principle and it is spiritual in nature.

A. Spiritual discovery
Spiritual discovery is a science through which knowledge of the self, knowledge of God and eschatological issues are known, and one becomes intellectually certain in a manner that is only attainable with regards to the domain of true knowledge. The mind proceeds from the knowledge of truth (ilm al-yaqin) to the beholding of the truth (ayn al-qin) and finally becomes the truth (haqq al-yaqin).

God Most High has expressed the level of certainty within the context of “fire” and has said: You will know soon, through ilm al- yaqin, you will see hell, and you will see it with the eyes of certainty, Elsewhere He says, Hell can only be understood through knowledge by certitude.

Therefore, the degrees of knowing the divine light are similar to the degree of knowing fire. For example, if someone has never seen fire but has heard that whatever becomes united with it gains its attributes, he thereby knows that it loses its identity. Every candle and light are luminous from it and if it loses some of itself, it is not reduced. Whatever departs from it becomes its opposite in nature, such as smoke, which is dark. In darkness it is master of all incorporeal light.

It [fire] is like a luminous light that, if placed in a gathering will illuminate everyone in color, and forms manifest themselves in the presence of this light. Not every precious pearl that is placed in a gathering can do the same thing. Just as in illumination and warming, the sun is superior to fire in that there is not motion or power except through God, and they call that being fire.

B. Various levels of spiritual discovery
There are those who believe in it on the basis of the following (those who know) and some who seek to believe because of its signs (smoke from fire), such as those who believe in God on the basis of clear signs. There are those who reach divine light and see existent beings through this light and see the essence of fire when the veil is removed for them. In their knowledge of God, these people are seeing the truth. People are like burning iron to whom the effects of fire appear when they understand it. They are those who have become the truth in their knowledge of God. Both of these types are men of true discovery and faith in what is obvious to them and are transcendental theosophers. There are different degrees amongst them and they know God but do not see God.

C. Discovery of forms
Discovery of forms is the disclosure of forms as a particular to he senses and is divided in accordance to the five senses.

Therefore, discovery through vision, like the seeing of incorporeal entities by ascetics [who see] a variety of light, is an extensive discussion for another occasion. There are forms, phenomena and chants which are most sublime, and words that are pleasant and sound that are fearsome and hopeful that are issued forth to the disciples. God said: “The days of their life are like the divine breath, and the prophet he said, He shelters us, feeds us and takes our thirst away and also he said, God established balance between one’s shoulders like the deink one has between meals.

A formal discovery of the principles [ of philosophy] is the manifestation of the divine name which hears all, sees all, and understands all things. A spiritual discovery of the principles, however, is the disclosure of the divine name. Hardship and ease are therefore apparent and following the Muhammadean tradition is difficult and can only become easy through love and inner yearning.

The difference of opinion among the men of discovery and vision should not be regarded as an obstacle on the path of those who seek knowledge and practical wisdom, since differences exist everywhere. Are there not inconsistencies in the appearance of God’s words and in the truth and in the appearance of the prophetic sayings as well as the saying of the Imams? May he who wants the attainment of knowledge and sciences be successful.


suhrawardi and illumination school


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