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A Shi'a Anthology


1. Seeing God


Abu Basir has related that he said to Abu Abdallah-upon whom be peace "Tell me about God, the Mighty and Majestic Will believers see Him on the Day of Resurrection ?" 

He answered, "Yes, and they have already seen Him before the Day of Resurrection." 

Abu Basir asked, "When ?" 

The Imam answered, "When He said to them, 'Am I not your Lord?' They said: 'Yea, verily' (VII, I72)."3 Then he was quiet for a time. Then he said, "Truly the believers see him in this world before the Day of Resurrection. Doest thou not see Him now?" 

Abu Basir then said to him, "That I might be made thy sacrifice I Shall I relate this (to others) from thee ?" 

He answered, "No, for if thou relatest it, a denier ignorant of the meaning of what thou sayest will deny it. Then he will suppose that it is comparison and unbelief (kufr). But seeing with the heart (al-ru'yah b-il-qalb) is not like seeing with the eyes (al- ru'yah bi-l-ayn). High be God exalted above what the comparers (mushabbihun) and heretics (mulhidun) describe!." 


1. Cf. Quran XXI, 23: "He shall not be questioned as to what He does, but they shall be questiooned."


2. La yaqa' 'ala shay'. The meaning is not completely clear. The editor points out in a footnote (p. 300) that in the Usul min al-kafi the text of this hadith reads yandam for yaqa' i.e., "He becomes remorseful at nothing."


3. This verse is in reference to the covenant made between God and man before the creation of the world. See S. H. Nasr, Ideals and Realities of Islam, London, I966, pp. 25-7. 

2. The name that can be named ...


It has been related that Abu Abdallah said, "The name of God is other than God, and everything that can be called by the name of a 'thing' (shay')1 is created, except God. Therefore all that tongues express or is worked by hands2 is created. God is the goal of him who sets Him as his goal, but the determined goal (al-mughayya, i.e., in the mind of man) is other than the (real) goal.3 The goal possesses attributes (mawsuf), and all that possesses attributes has been fashioned (masnu). But the Fashioner (sani) of things does not possess the attributes of any stated limit (hadd musamma). He has not come into being that His Being (kaynunah) should be known through fashioning (sun) (carried out) by other than He.4 He does not terminate at a limit unless it be other than He. Whoso understands this principle (hukm) will never fall into error. It is the unadulterated profession of Unity (al-tawhid al-khalis), so believe in it, confirm it, and understand it well, with God's permission the Mighty and Majestic." 

"Whoso maintains that he knows God by means of a veil (hijab) or a form (surah) or a likeness (mithal) is an associator (mushrik), for the veil, the likeness and the form are other than He. He is utterly and only One. So how should he who maintains that he knows Him by means of other than Him be professing Unity ? Surely He alone knows God who knows Him by means of God (billah). Therefore, whoso knows Him not by means of Him knows Him not. On the contrary, he only knows other than Him. There is nothing between the Creator and the created.5 God is the Creator of things, but not from something. He is named by His names, so He is other than His names, and His names are other than He.6 The described (al-mawsuf) is other than the describer (al-wasif)." 

Then whoso maintains that he has faith in that which he does not know has gone astray from knowledge (marifah).7 


1. God is often referred to as a "thing" (shay') in the, hadith literature, as well as in theology and philosophy, since the meaning of the word "thing" in Arabic is not limited to external, concrete existents. Rather, it signifies reality, entity or quiddity, at whatever level of existence, from the most sublime to the most concrete.


2. Majlisi interprets this to mean the "script written by hands" (p. I62). I.e., neither the spoken nor the written name is the Named.


3. The meaning of this sentence is obscure in the Arabic and Majlisi offers at least eight possible readings (pp. I62-3), some of which are very close to one another, and the most likely of which has been followed here. The present interpretation is also that offered by the editor of al-Tawhid, p.58.


4. Majlisi comments that this sentence has been interpreted to mean that "God has not come into being. If He had, He would have been originated by another, and His Being as well as the attributes of His origination would be known by means of the fashioning of His maker, just as effects are known by their causes." But, he adds, "In my view perhaps the meaning is that He has not been fashioned and that therefore He cannot be known by comparing Him to something else which has been fashioned" (p. I63). According to this interpretation, the sentence should be translated as follows: "He has not come into being that His Being should be known through something else which has been fashioned."


5. Majlisi comments: "Between the Creator and His creatures there is no common matter (maddah) or reality (haqiqah) which might allow them to attain to knowledge of Him; rather, He produced them from nothing that was" (p. I65). This passage may also be interpreted to mean, in accordance with the beginning of the paragraph, "There is nothing to act as a veil between the Creator and His creatures."


6. This passage is related up to this point in the Usul min al-kafi. The Tehran edition of I388/I968-9, published with a Persian translation and notes by one of the well-known contemporary 'ulama', Ayatallah Muhammad Baqir Kamara'i, contains the following commentary (vol. I, pp. 207-8): "The Names of God are His theophanies (jilwah-ha) which cast a ray of light upon man's reason (khirad). Because they become connected to human reason, limit, end and definition (ghayah, nihayah, hadd) apply to them. The limit of each being lies where it is connected to another being. The theophanies of God's act (fi'l) and fashioning (san'ah) which are His creation, become limited in the framework of possible beings (mumkinat) There the ray of light which brings about creation comes to its limit. Thus it is said, 'the existence of a man', or 'of a tree', 'of an angel', 'of the earth', 'of heaven', etc.

"The theophanies of God's attributes (sifat), which are the principle (mabda') of the theophanies of (His) act, are given limits by the functioning of the reason, and thus it is said, God's 'knowledge', 'power', and 'life'. In this way the Names become distinct from the divine Essence, and even the all-inclusive (jami') Name of God, which is 'Allah', is separated from the Essence. The reality of God is other than all of these."


7. Ma'rifah within the essentially gnostic perspective of Islam is the goal of religious endeavour. See F. Schuon, Understanding Islam, London, I962, chapter I. As explained in the following footnote, the meaning of this sentence is that man has faith not in something which he himself does not know, but in that upon which all of his knowledge is based and which is in fact the object of all knowledge. To the extent he has knowledge, he has knowledge of God, albeit imperfectly, since there is no other knowledge. 


A created thing (makhluq) perceives nothing unless by means of God: the knowledge of God is perceived only by means of God. But God is empty of His creatures and His creatures are empty of Him.1 When He desires a thing, it is as He desires, by His command (amr) and without speech (nutq). His servants have no refuge from that which He decrees (ma qada), and they have no argument against that which is His pleasure. They have no power to act or to deal with that which is brought about in their bodies, created (by God), except by means of their Lord. So whoso maintains that he is able to perform an act which God, the Mighty and Majestic, does not desire, has maintained that his will (iradah) prevails over the Will of God. 'Blessed be God' the Lord of all beings!" (VII 54)

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