SIXTH PREFATORY DISCUSSION
The various types of human beings who have
supernatural perception either through natural disposition or
through exercise, preceded by a discussion of inspiration
and dream visions.
IT SHOULD BE KNOWN that God has chosen certain individuals. He honored them by addressing (them). He created them so that they might know Him. He made them connecting links between Himself and His servants. (These individuals) are to acquaint their fellow men with what is good for them and to urge them to let themselves be guided aright. They are to make it their task to keep (their fellow men) out of the fire of Hell and to show them the path to salvation. The knowledge that God gave these individuals, and the wonders He manifested through their statements, indicated that there exist things beyond the reach of man, that can be learned only from God through the mediation of (these individuals), and that (these individuals themselves) cannot know unless God instructs them in them. Muhammad said: "Indeed, I know only what God taught me." It should be known that the information they give is intrinsically and necessarily true, as will become clear when the reality of prophecy is explained.
The sign by which this type of human being can be recognized is that, in the state of inspiration, they seem to be removed from those who are present. This is accompanied by a feeling of being choked that looks like swooning or unconsciousness but has nothing to do with either.239a In reality, it is an immersion in (and) encounter with the spiritual kingdom, the result of perceptions congenial to them but entirely foreign to the (ordinary) perceptions of men. (These extraordinary perceptions) are then brought down to the level of human perceptions in the form of some speech sound the person (who receives the revelation) hears and is able to to understand, or in the form of an individual delivering the divine message to him. This state (of remoteness) then leaves him, but he retains the content of the given revelation. When Muhammad was asked about revelation, he said: "At times, it comes to me like the ringing of a bell. This affects me most. When it leaves me, I have retained what was said. At other times, the angel appears to me in the form of a man. He talks to me, and I retain the things he says."240 During that (process, the person who receives the revelation) shows inexplicable signs of strain and choking. A tradition says: "There was some anxiety in connection with the revelation that he had to calm."241'A'ishah said: "The revelation would come to him on very cold days. Nevertheless, when it left him, there was sweat on his forehead."242 God says in the Qur'an: "We shall lay upon you a heavy message." 243
Because the act of receiving revelations leads to such conditions, the polytheists used to accuse the prophets of being possessed (by jinn). They said: "He has a jinni as his doubleganger, or companion." The outward appearance of the condition they observed misled them. "He whom God leads astray has no guide." 244
Another sign by which inspired human beings can be recognized is the fact that (even) before receiving revelations, they are good, innocent, and averse to any blameworthy, sinful action. This is what is meant by 'ismah (immunity from sin and error, infallibility). It looks as if, by nature, they were disposed to avoid and shun blameworthy actions, and as if such actions were the negation of their very nature. According to (the sound tradition of) the Sahih, when Muhammad was a young man he carried stones with his uncle al-'Abbas for the restoration of the Ka'bah. He was carrying them in his cloak, and thus, he was undressed. (As this was unbecoming,) he fell down in a swoon that lasted until he was covered with his cloak.245 (On another occasion,) he was invited to a wedding party where there was much merrymaking. He fell fast asleep, and slept until the sun rose. Thus, he had nothing to do with the things the others did on that occasion. God kept him from all that. It was his nature. He even avoided food that was considered objectionable. Thus, he never touched onions or garlic. When he was asked about it, he said: "I communicate with One with whom you do not communicate." 246
Attention should be paid (in this connection) to what Muhammad told Khadijah about the revelation when he first experienced it, and she wanted to know what it was like. She asked him to embrace her, and when he did so, it left him. Khadijah, thereupon, said that it was an angel, and not a devil, meaning that (a devil) would not come close to a woman. She also asked him what garments he liked best (for the angel) to wear during the revelation, and he replied, "White and green ones." Whereupon Khadijah said that it was an angel, meaning that green and white are the colors of goodness and of the angels. Black, on the other hand, is the color of evil and of the devils. There are other such stories.
Another sign by which (inspired human beings can be recognized) is the fact that they make propaganda for religion and divine worship by means of prayer, almsgiving, and chastity. Khadijah, as well as Abu Bakr, took that (conduct) as proof of Muhammad's truthfulness. They did not need any further proof of his mission beyond his conduct and character. According to (the sound tradition of) the Sahih, when Heraclius received the Prophet's letter in which he was asked to become a Muslim, he is said to have called the Qurashites who could be found in his country, among them Abu Sufyan, and to have asked them about Muhammad's condition. One of the questions he asked concerned the things Muhammad commanded them to do. Abu Sufyan's reply was: "Prayer, almsgiving, gifts, and chastity." Similar replies were given to all the other questions Heraclius asked. Heraclius' comment was: "If it is all really as you say, he is a prophet and he will take possession of this very ground upon which I am standing." 247 The "chastity" to which Heraclius referred is 'ismah (immunity from sin and error, infallibility). It is worth noting that Heraclius considered 'ismah and propaganda for religion and divine worship as proofs of the genuineness of a prophetical mission, and did not require a miracle. This story, therefore, is proof that these qualities are among the signs of prophecy.
Another sign by which (inspired human beings can be recognized) is the fact that they have prestige among their people. According to (the sound tradition of) the Sahih, God "sent no prophet who did not enjoy the protection of his people." 248 Another recension reads: ". . . who did not enjoy wealth among his people." 249 This is al-Hakim's correction of the two Sahihs 250 According to (the sound tradition of) the Sahih, Abu Sufyan replied to Heraclius' question concerning Muhammad's standing among the Qurashites, (by saying) that he had prestige among them. Whereupon Heraclius said, "Whenever messengers are sent, they have prestige among their people." 251 That means that (such a man) has group feeling and influence which protect him from harm at the hands of unbelievers, until he has delivered the messages of his Lord and achieved the degree of complete perfection with respect to his religion and religious organization that God intended for him.
Another 252 sign by which (inspired human beings can be recognized) is that they work wonders which attest to their truthfulness. "Wonders" 253 are actions the like of which it is impossible for other human beings to achieve. They are, therefore, called "miracles." They are not within the ability of men, but beyond their power. There is a difference of opinion as to how they occur and as to how they prove the truth of the prophets. Speculative theologians base themselves on the doctrine of the "voluntary agent" 254 and say that miracles occur through the power of God, and not through the action of the prophet. The Mu'tazilah maintain that human actions proceed from man himself. Still, miracles do not belong to the type of actions that human beings perform. According to all (schools), the prophet's place in the performance of miracles is (circumscribed by) the "advance challenge" (tahaddi) 255 which he offers by divine permission. That is, the prophet uses the miracles before they occur as proof of the truth of his claims. They thus take the place of an explicit statement from God to the effect that a particular prophet is truthful, and they are definite proof of the truth. An evidential miracle is the combination of a "wonder" and the "advance challenge" (tahaddi) that (announces) it. Therefore, the latter constitutes part of the miracle.
The notion of the speculative theologians (concerning the "voluntary agent") is self-explanatory. (The "voluntary agent") is (just) one. For they hold that "essential" means (being just one).255a According to the notion of the speculative theologians, the "advance challenge" (tahaddi) is what makes the difference between (miracles, on the one hand), and acts of divine grace and sorcery (on the other), since (the latter) two need no confirmation of their truthfulness. The "advance challenge" (if it occurs at all in these cases) exists (in them) only by chance.
In the opinion of those who admit the existence of acts of divine grace, if an "advance challenge" (tahaddi) occurs in connection with them, and if it is proof of them, it is proof only of saintliness, which is different from prophecy. This is why Professor Abu Ishaq 256 and others did not admit the occurrence of wonders as acts of divine grace. They wanted to avoid confusion between the "advance challenge" (tahaddi) of the saint and prophecy. We, however, have (just) shown that there is a difference between the two. The "advance challenge" (tahaddi) of a saint is concerned with other things than that of a prophet. There can be no doubt that the report on the authority of Professor Abu Ishaq is not clear and has often led to denial of (the possibility) that the wonders of the prophets could have been wrought by (saints), on the grounds that each of the two groups has its own kind of wonders.
The Mu'tazilah do not admit the occurrence of acts of divine grace, because wonders do not belong to the actions of man that are customary and allow of no break (in the customary process).
It is absurd to believe that miracles could be produced fraudulently by a liar. According to the Ash'arites, this is absurd because the essential part of a miracle is defined as "confirmation of truthfulness and right guidance." Were a miracle to occur under the contrary conditions, proof would become doubt, guidance misguidance, and, I might add, the confirmation of truthfulness, untruth. Realities would become absurdities, and the essential qualities would be turned upside down. Something, the occurrence of which would be absurd, cannot be possible.257
According to the Mu'tazilah, fraudulent miracles are absurd, because it is improper for proofs to turn into doubts and for guidance to turn into misguidance. Such, therefore, could not come from God.
The philosophers hold that wonders are acts of the prophet (who performs them, even though they have no place in the power (of the prophet himself). This is based upon their doctrine that (there exists) an essential and necessary (causality) and that events develop out of each other according to conditions and reasons that (always) come up anew and, in the last instance, go back to the Necessary per se that acts per se and not by choice. In their opinion, the prophetical soul has special essential qualities which produce wonders, with the help of the power of (the Necessary per se) and the obedience of the elements to Him for purposes of generation. (The role of) the prophet (in this process), in their opinion, is that through those qualities that God put into him, he is by nature fitted for being active among (all) created things, whenever he addresses himself to them and concentrates on them. They hold that wonders are wrought by the prophet (himself), whether there is an "advance challenge" (tahaddi) or not. They are evidence of the prophet's truthfulness, in as much as they prove that he is active among the created things, such activity constituting a special quality of the prophetic soul, not because they take the place of a clear assertion of his truthfulness. In their opinion, therefore, (wonders) are no definitive proof (of the prophet's truthfulness), as they are in the opinion of the speculative theologians. "Advance awareness," for them, does not constitute part of the miracle. It does not stand out as the thing that differentiates (miracles) from acts of divine grace. They hold that (miracles) are differentiated from sorcery by the fact that a prophet is by nature fitted for good actions and averse to evil deeds. Therefore, he could not do evil through the wonders he works. The opposite is the case with the sorcerer. All his actions are evil and done for evil purposes.258 Further, (miracles) are differentiated from acts of divine grace by the fact that the wonders of a prophet are of an unusual character, such as ascending to heaven, passing through solid bodies, reviving the dead, conversing with angels, and flying through the air .259 The wonders of a saint, on the other hand, are of a lower order, such as making much out of little, speaking about something that will happen in the future, and similar things inferior to the power of action of prophets. A prophet can produce the wonders of saints, but a saint is not able to produce anything like the wonders of prophets. This has been confirmed by the Sufis in what they have written about the mystic path and reported of their ecstatic experiences.
Now that this has been established, it should be known that the evidence of the noble Qur'an, which was revealed to our Prophet, is the greatest, noblest, and clearest miracle. Wonders are as a rule wrought by a prophet separately and apart from the revelation he receives. The miracle comes as evidence for it(s truthfulness). This is obvious. The Qur'an, on the other hand, is in itself the claimed revelation. It is itself the wondrous miracle. It is its own proof. It requires no outside proof, as do the other wonders wrought in connection with revelations. It is the clearest proof that can be, because it unites in itself both the proof and what is to be proved. This is the meaning of Muhammad's statement, "Every prophet was given signs likely to provide reassurance for mankind. What I have been given is a revelation that was revealed to me. Therefore, I hope to have the greatest number of followers on the day of resurrection." 259a He refers to the fact that a miracle which is identical with the revelation (confirmed by it), is of such clarity and force of evidence that it will be found truthful, because of its clarity, by the greatest number of people. Therefore, many are those who consider (the Prophet) truthful and believe. They are the "followers," the nation of Islam.
And God, praised be He, knows better.
All 260 this indicates that the Qur'an is alone among the divine books, in that our Prophet received it directly 261 in the words and phrases in which it appears. In this respect, it differs from the Torah, the Gospel, and other heavenly books. The prophets received them in the form of ideas during the state of revelation. After their return to a human state, they expressed those ideas in their own ordinary words. Therefore, those books do not have "inimitability." 262 Inimitability is restricted to the Qur'an. The other prophets received their books in a manner similar to that in which our Prophet received (certain) ideas that he attributed to God, such as are found in many traditions.263 The fact that he received the Qur'an directly, in its literal form, is attested by the following statement of Muhammad on the authority of his Lord who said: "Do not set your tongue in motion to make haste with (the revelation of the Qur'an). It is up to us to put it together and to recite it." 264
The reason for the revelation of these verses was Muhammad's haste to study the (Qur'anic) verses, because he feared that he might forget (them), and because he wished to keep the directly and literally revealed text in memory. God guaranteed him that He (Himself) would "keep" it in the following verse: "We revealed the reminder, and we are keeping it."265 This is the meaning of "keeping" which is peculiar to the Qur'an. The meaning of it is not what the common people think. (Their opinion) is far off the mark.
Many verses of the Qur'an show that He directly and literally revealed the Qur'an, of which every surah is inimitable. Our Prophet wrought no greater miracle than the Qur'an and the fact that he united the Arabs in his mission. "If you had expended all the treasures on earth, you would have achieved no unity among them. But God achieved unity among them." 266
This should be known. It should be pondered. It will then be found to be correct, exactly as I have stated. One should also consider the evidence that lies in the superiority of Muhammad's rank over that of the other prophets and in the exaltedness of his position.
We shall now give an explanation of the real meaning of prophecy as interpreted by many thorough scholars. We shall then mention the real meaning of soothsaying, dream vision, divination, and other supernatural ways of perception. We say:
(The real meaning of prophecy)
It 267 should be known that we-May God guide you and us 268 notice that this world with all the created things in it has a certain order and solid construction. It shows nexuses between causes and things caused, combinations of some parts of creation with others, and transformations of some existent things into others, in a pattern that is both remarkable and endless. Beginning with the world of the body and sensual perception, and therein first with the world of the visible elements, (one notices) how these elements are arranged gradually and continually in an ascending order, from earth to water, (from water) to air, and (from air) to fire. Each one of the elements is prepared to be transformed into the next higher or lower one, and sometimes is transformed. The higher one is always finer than the one preceding it. Eventually, the world of the spheres is reached. They are finer than anything else. They are in layers which are interconnected, in a shape which the senses are able to perceive only through the existence of motions. These motions provide some people with knowledge of the measurements and positions of the spheres, and also with knowledge of the existence of the essences beyond, the influence of which is noticeable in the spheres through the fact (that they have motion).
One should then look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage 269 of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants. The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch. The word "connection" with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group.
The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and to reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of the monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man after (the world of monkeys). This is as far as our (physical) observation extends.
Now, in 270 the various worlds we find manifold influences. In the world of sensual perception there are certain influences of the motions of the spheres and the elements. In the world of creation there are certain influences of the motions of growth and perception. All this is evidence of the fact that there is something that exercises an influence and is different from the bodi(ly substances). This is something spiritual. It is connected with the created things, because the various worlds must be connected in their existence. This spiritual thing is the soul, which has perception and causes motion. Above the soul there must exist something else that gives the soul the power of perception and motion, and that is also connected with it. Its essence should be pure perception and absolute intellection. This is the world of the angels. The soul, consequently, must be prepared to exchange humanity for angelicality, in order actually to become part of the angelic species at certain times in the flash of a moment. This happens after the spiritual essence of the soul has become perfect in actuality, as we shall mention later on.
(The soul) is connected with the stage next to it, as are all the orders of the existentia, as we have mentioned before. It is connected both upward and downward. Downward, it is connected with the body. Through (the body, the soul) acquires the sense perceptions by which it is prepared for actual intellection.271 Upward, it is connected with the stage of the angels. There, it acquires scientific and supernatural perceptions, for knowledge of the things that come into being exists timelessly in the intellections of (the angels). This is in consequence of the well-constructed order of existence mentioned above, which requires that the essences and powers of (the world of existence) be connected with one another.
The human soul cannot be seen, but its influence is evident in the body. It is as if all (the body's) parts, in combination or separately, were organs of the soul and its powers. The powers of action are touching with the hand, walking with the foot, speaking with the tongue, and the total combined motion with the body.
The powers of sensual perception are graded and ascend to the highest power, that is, the power of thinking, for which there exists the term "rational power." Thus, the powers of external sense perception, with the organs of vision, hearing, and all the other (organs), lead up to inward (perception).
The first (inward sense) is the "common sense," 272 that is, the power that simultaneously perceives all objects of sensual perception, whether they belong to hearing, seeing, touching, or anything else. In this respect, it differs from the power of external sense perception, as the objects of sensual perception do not all crowd upon external sense perception at one and the same time.
The common sense transfers (the perceptions) to the imagination, which is the power that pictures an object of sensual perception in the soul, as it is, abstracted from all external matter. The organ for the activity of these two powers (common sense and imagination) is the first cavity of the brain. The front part of that cavity is for the common sense, and the back part for the imagination.
Imagination leads up to the estimative power 273 and the power of memory. The estimative power serves for perceiving (abstract) ideas that refer to individualities, such as the hostility of Zayd, the friendship of 'Amr, the compassion of the father, or the savagery of the wolf. The power of memory serves as a repository for all objects of perception, whether they are imagined or not. It is like a storehouse that preserves them for the time when they are needed. The organ for the activity of these two powers is the back cavity of the brain. The front part of that cavity is for the estimative power, and the back for the power of memory.
All these powers then lead up to the power of thinking. Its organ is the middle cavity of the brain. It is the power that causes reflection to be set in motion and leads toward intellection. The soul is constantly moved by it, as the result of its constitutional desire to (think). It wants to be free from the grip of power 274 and the human kind of preparedness. It wants to proceed to active intellection by assimilating itself to the highest spiritual group (that of the angels), and to get into the first order of the spiritualia by perceiving them without the help of bodily organs. Therefore, the soul is constantly moving in that direction. It exchanges all humanity and human spirituality for angelicality of the highest stage, without the help of any acquired faculty but by virtue of a primary natural disposition that God has placed in it.
As far as this (process) is concerned, human souls are of three kinds. One is by nature too weak to arrive at spiritual perception. Therefore, it is satisfied to move downwards toward the perceptions of the senses and imagination and the formation of ideas with the help of the power of memory and the estimative power, according to limited rules and a special order. In this manner, people acquire perceptive and apperceptive 275 knowledge, which is the product of thinking in the body. All this is (the result of the power of) imagination and limited in extent, since from the way it starts it can reach the primary (intelligibilia) but cannot go beyond them. Also, if they are corrupt, everything beyond them is also corrupt.276 This, as a rule, is the extent of human corporeal perception. It is the goal of the perceptions of scholars. It is in it that scholars are firmly grounded.
A (second) kind (of soul), through thinking, moves in the direction of spiritual intellection and (a type of) perception that does not need the organs of the body, because of its innate preparedness for it. The perceptions of this kind of soul extend beyond the primary (intelligibilia) to which primary human perception is restricted, and cover the ground of inward observations, which are all intuitive 277 They are unlimited as to their beginning and their end. They are the perceptions of saints, of men of mystical learning and divine knowledge. The blessed obtain them after death, in Purgatory (barzakh).278
A (third) kind (of soul) is by nature suited to exchange humanity altogether, both corporeal and spiritual humanity, for angelicality of the highest stage, so that it may actually become an angel in the flash of a moment, glimpse the highest group within their own stage, and listen to essential speech 279 and divine address during that moment. (Individuals possessing this kind of soul) are prophets. God implanted and formed in them the natural ability to slough off humanity in that moment which is the state of revelation. God freed them from the lets and hindrances of the body, by which they were afflicted as human beings. He did this by means of 'ismah (immunity from sin and error, infallibility) and straightforwardness, which He implanted in them and which gave them that particular outlook, and by means of a desire for divine worship which He centered in them and which converges from all sides toward that goal. They thus move toward the (angelic) stage, sloughing off humanity at will, by virtue of their natural constitution, and not with the help of any acquired faculty or craft.
(The prophets) move in that direction, slough off their humanity, and, once among the highest group (of angels), learn all that may there be learned. They then bring what they have learned back down to the level of the powers of human perception, as this is the way in which it can be transmitted to human beings. At times, this may happen in the form of a noise the prophet hears. It is like indistinct words from which he derives the idea conveyed to him. As soon as the noise has stopped, he retains and understands (the idea). At other times, the angel who conveys (the message) to the prophet appears to him in the form of a man who talks to him, and the prophet comprehends what he says. Learning the message from the angel, reverting to the level of human perception, and understanding the message conveyed to him - all this appears to take place in one moment, or rather, in a flash. It does not take place in time, but everything happens simultaneously. Therefore, it appears to happen very quickly. For this reason, it is called wahy ("revelation"), because the root why has the meaning "to hasten." 280
It should be known that in the judgment of thorough scholars, the first (degree), the state of noise, is that of prophets who are not sent as messengers. The second degree, the state when an angel appears in the form of a man who addresses the prophet, is that of prophets who are sent as messengers. Therefore, it is more perfect than the first (degree). This is the meaning of the tradition in which the Prophet explained revelation, in reply to a question by alHarith b. Hisham.281 Asked how the revelation came to him, Muhammad replied, "At times, it comes to me like the ringing of a bell. This affects me most. When it leaves me, I have retained what was said. At other times, the angel appears to me in the form of a man. He talks to me, and I retain the things he says." The first (case) affected him more, being the first attempt to advance from potential to actual contact (with the supernatural). Thus, it was somewhat difficult. When the Prophet returned, in this case, to the level of human perceptions, all he retained was auditory (impressions). All others were difficult. When the revelation was repeated and the messages became numerous, contact (with the supernatural) became easy. When the Prophet returned to the level of human perceptions, now all his senses-and especially the clearest sense, that of vision-conveyed (the revelation).
The use of the perfect tense "I have retained" in the first case, and of the present tense "I retain" in the second, is a meaningful stylistic distinction. In both cases, the words that were spoken (during the revelation) came in a disguise. In the first case, they appeared in the form of "noise," which, according to accepted usage, is something different from speech. Muhammad indicated that understanding and comprehension followed immediately upon it after it had stopped. He properly used the perfect tense, which is suitable (to signify) what has ended or stopped, in order to indicate comprehension at the moment he perceived that (the noise) had ended and stopped.282 In the second case, the angel appeared in the form of a man who addressed the Prophet and spoke to him. Comprehension (in this case) ran parallel with speech. Therefore, Muhammad properly used the present tense, which of necessity expresses renewed (repeated) activity.
It should be known that, in general, the state of revelation presents difficulties and pains throughout. This has been indicated in the Qur'an: 283 "We shall lay upon you a heavy message." 'A'ishah said: "There was some anxiety in connection with the revelation, with which he had to struggle." She said: "The revelation would come to him on very cold days. Nevertheless, when it left him, there was sweat on his forehead." This is the reason for his well-known remoteness (from sensual perception) and the choking (feeling) when in that condition, of which the Prophet used to speak. The reason, as we have established, is that revelation means leaving one's humanity, in order to attain angelic perceptions and to hear the speech of the soul.284 This causes pain, since it means that an essence leaves its own essence and exchanges its own stage for the ultimate stage (of the angels). This is the meaning of the choking feeling which Muhammad referred to in connection with the beginning of revelation in his statement: "And he (Gabriel) choked me until it became too much for me; then he released me. Then he said, 'Read,' and I replied, 'I cannot read.'285 He did this a second and a third time, as the tradition tells.
Gradual habituation to (the process of revelation) brings some relief, as compared to how it was before. It is for this reason that the earliest passages, surahs, and verses of the Qur'an, revealed to Muhammad in Mecca, are briefer than those revealed to him in Medina. One may compare the tradition about how the ninth surah (Surat al-Bara'ah) was revealed, during the expedition to Tabuk. The whole of this (long surah), or most of it, was revealed to Muhammad while he was riding his camel.286 Before this, when he was in Mecca, part of one of the shortest surahs in the latter part of the Qur'an 287 was revealed on one occasion, and the rest on another occasion. Also, one of the last revelations received in Medina was the "Verse of the Religion," 288 which is very long. Before this, in Mecca, the verses revealed were short, like those of the surahs ar-Rahman, adh-Dhariyat, al-Muddaththir, ad-Duha, and al-`Alaq,289 and similar surahs. This may serve as criterion for distinguishing the Meccan surahs and verses from the Medinese. God leads to that which is correct. This is the quintessence of prophecy.
Soothsaying (kahanah) is also one of the particular qualities of the human soul. This is as follows.
In the previous discussion, we have always stated that the human soul is prepared to exchange its humanity for the spirituality that lies above (humanity). Human beings have an intimation of that (exchange) in prophets who are by nature fitted to achieve it. It has been established that they neither need acquired qualities for that (exchange), nor are they dependent on any help from perceptions, notions (tasawwur), bodily activities, be they speech or motion, or anything else. It is (with them) a natural change from humanity to angelicality in the flash of a moment.
If this is so and if such preparedness exists in human nature, logical classification requires that there must be another kind of human beings, as inferior to the first kind as anything that has something perfect as its opposite, must be inferior to that (perfect) opposite. Independence from all help in (achieving contact with the supernatural) is the opposite of dependence on help in connection with it. They are two very different things.
Now, the classification of the world of existence requires that there must be a kind of human beings fitted by nature for the process of thinking voluntarily under the impulse of their rational power, whenever that power has a desire for it. (But the rational power) is not by nature capable of (the process of supernatural perception). Thus, when its weakness prevents (the rational power) from (contact with the supernatural), it is natural for (the rational power) to get involved with particulars, either of sensual perception or of the imagination, such as transparent bodies, animal bones, speech in rhymed prose, or whatever bird or animal may present itself. (A person whose rational power is thus engaged) attempts to retain such sensual or imaginary perceptions, since he depends on their help in attaining the supernatural perception he desires. They give him a sort of assistance.
The power which in (such persons) constitutes the starting point of supernatural perception is soothsaying. The souls of such persons are inferior by nature and unable to attain perfection. Therefore, they have a better perception of particulars than of universals. They get involved with the former and neglect the latter. Therefore, the power of imagination is 290 most strongly developed in those persons, because it is the organ of the particulars. (The particulars) completely pervade (the power of the imagination),291 both in the sleeping and the waking state. They are ever ready and present in it. The power of imagination brings (the particulars) to the attention of (those persons) and serves as a mirror in which they are seen constantly.
The soothsayer is not able to achieve perfection in his perception of the intelligibilia, because the revelation he receives is inspired by devils. The highest state this type of person can reach is to achieve disregard for the senses, with the help of rhymed prose and the use of words of an identical structure at the end of successive cola,292 and (thereby) to attain an imperfect contact of the sort described (with supernatural things). From that motion and the foreign support that accompanies it, his heart receives some inspiration to express itself in words. The soothsayer, thus, often speaks the truth and agrees with reality. Often, however, what he says are falsehoods, because he supplements his deficiency with something foreign to, different from, and incompatible with, his perceptive essence. Thus, truth and falsehood are umbled together in him, and he is not trustworthy. He often takes refuge in guesses and hypotheses, because, in his self-deception, he desires to have (supernatural) perception and is willing to cheat those who ask him (for information).
Men who use such rhymed prose are distinguished by the name of soothsayers (kahin, pl. kuhhan). They rank highest among their kind. Muhammad said, regarding something of the sort, "This belongs to the rhymed prose of the soothsayers." 293 The use of the genitive construction ("rhymed prose of") indicates that Muhammad considered rhymed prose a distinctive (mark of the soothsayer). He also questioned Ibn Sayyad,294 in order to find out about him, and he asked him how that thing came to him. Ibn Sayyid replied: "It comes to me in the form of both truth and falsehood." Whereupon Muhammad said, "You are confused with regard to the matter." He meant that prophecy is characterized by truthfulness and can in no way be affected by falsehood. For prophecy is a direct and independent contact of the essence of the prophet with the most high group (the angels). Because of his weakness, the soothsayer depends on the help of foreign notions (tasawwur). (These foreign notions) enter into his perception and mingle with the perception toward which he aspires. He thus becomes confused by them. So it is that falsehood makes its way to his (door). It is, therefore, impossible (for his activity) to be prophecy.
We have stated that the highest rank of soothsaying is the state in which rhymed prose is used, because the support derived from rhymed prose is lighter than any other support, such as that derived from vision or hearing. Such light support (as is given by the use of rhymed prose) points to nearness of contact and perception and to a certain freedom from weakness.
Some people assume that soothsaying of this type stopped with the time of prophecy, as the result of the stoning of the devils with meteors, in view of the prophetic mission, which occurred in order to keep them away from heavenly information, as is mentioned in the Qur'in,295 The soothsayers had received heavenly information from the devils, and now, from the day on which the devils were stoned, soothsaying ceased to exist. There is no proof for this contention. Soothsayers obtain knowledge from their own souls as well as from the devils, as we have established. Furthermore, the verse of the Qur'an shows only that the devils were kept away from one particular kind of heavenly information, namely, that connected with the (prophetic) mission. They were not kept from other information. Also, soothsaying stopped only in view of the existence of prophecy. It may afterwards have returned to its former state. This would seem to be an obvious (fact), because all such (supernatural) perceptions are in abeyance at the time of prophecy, just as stars and lamps lose their brilliance beside the sun. Prophecy is the greatest light, in whose presence every other light is obscured or disappears.
Some philosophers think that (soothsaying) exists only in view of prophecy, and then stops.296 This happens at each occurrence of prophecy. They argue that the existence of prophecy needs a particular constellation that makes it necessary. The perfection of that constellation coincides with the perfection of the particular prophecy to which the constellation has reference. As long as the constellation is imperfect, it requires the existence of some imperfect related element. This is the meaning of "soothsayer," as we have established it. The perfect state of the constellation is preceded by an imperfect one, which requires the existence of one or more soothsayers. When the constellation reaches perfection, the prophet's existence reaches perfection. The constellations that point to the existence of a(n inferior) element such as soothsaying have passed by, and soothsaying ceases to exist.297 This (theory) is based upon the assumption that any part of a particular constellation must exercise part of the influence that the constellation (in its perfect state) would exercise. This assumption is not fully acceptable. It may be that a particular constellation exercises its influence only when it has taken on its proper form. If some aspects are missing, it may exercise no influence whatever, not even, as they say, a restricted influence.
Soothsayers who are a prophet's contemporaries are aware of the prophet's truthfulness and the significance of his miracle, since they derive some intuitive298 experience from prophecy, such as every human being derives from sleep. Intellectual awareness of this relationship is stronger in the soothsayer than in the sleeper. What prevents soothsayers from acknowledging the truthfulness of the prophet, and causes them to deny (him), is simply their misguided desire to be prophets themselves. This leads them to spiteful opposition. This happened to Umayyah b. Abi s-Salt, who desired to be a prophet. It also happened to Ibn Sayyid, Musaylimah, and others 299 When faith gains the upper hand and they stop aspiring to become prophets themselves, they make the most faithful of believers. This happened to Tulayhah al-Asadi and Qarib b. al-Aswad.300 The actions of these two men in the Muslim conquest show that they were faithful believers.
Real dream vision is an awareness on the part of the rational soul in its spiritual essence, of glimpse(s) of the forms of events. While the soul is spiritual, the forms of events have actual existence in it, as is the case with all spiritual essences. The soul becomes spiritual through freeing itself from bodily matters and corporeal perceptions. This happens to the soul (in the form of) glimpse(s) through the agency of sleep, as we shall mention. Through (these glimpses) (the soul) gains the knowledge of future events that it desires and by means of which it regains the perceptions that (properly) belong to it. When this process is weak and indistinct, the soul applies to it allegory and imaginary pictures, in order to gain (the desired knowledge). Such allegory, then, necessitates interpretation.301 When, on the other hand, this process is strong, it can dispense with allegory. Then, no interpretation is necessary, because (the process) is then free from imaginary pictures.
The occurrence, in the soul, of such glimpse(s) is caused by the fact that the soul is potentially a spiritual essence, supplemented by the body and the perceptions of (the body). Its essence, thus, eventually becomes pure intellection, and its existence becomes perfect in actuality. The soul, now, is a spiritual essence having perception without the help of any of the bodily organs. However, among the spiritualia, it is of a lower species than the angels, who inhabit the highest stage, and who never had to supplement their essences with corporeal perceptions or anything else. The preparedness (for spirituality) comes to (the soul) as long as it is in the body. There is a special kind (of preparedness), such as saints have, and there is a general kind common to all human beings. This is what "dream vision" means.
In the case of the prophets, this preparedness is a preparedness to exchange humanity for pure angelicality, which is the highest rank of spiritualia. It expresses itself repeatedly during revelations. It exists when (the prophet) returns to the level of corporeal perceptions. Whatever perception (the prophet) has at that moment is clearly similar to what happens in sleep, even though sleep is much inferior to (revelation).
Because of this similarity, the Lawgiver (Muhammad) defined dream vision as being the forty-sixth - or, according to other recensions, the forty-third, or the seventieth-part of prophecy.302 None of these (fractions) is meant to be taken literally. They are to indicate the great degree of difference between the various stages (of supernatural perception). This is shown by the reference to "seventy" in one of the recensions. The number "seventy" is used by the Arabs to express (the idea of) a large number.
The reference to "forty-six" has been explained by some scholars as follows. In its beginning, the revelation took the form of dream visions for six months, that is, for half a year. The whole duration of (Muhammad's) prophecy in Mecca and Medina was twenty-three years. Half a year, thus, is one forty-sixth (of the whole duration of prophecy). This theory cannot be verified. The given (figures) apply only to Muhammad. How can we know whether they also applied to other prophets? Moreover, this (theory) describes the relationship of prophecy to dream vision in point of time only, and does not consider the true character of dream visions in relation to the true character of prophecy. If our previous remarks were clear, it will be realized that the fraction refers to the relationship between the primary preparedness general to all mankind, and the close preparedness limited to the (prophets) and natural to them.
The remote preparedness is commonly found among human beings. However, there are many obstacles and hindrances that prevent man from translating it into actuality. One of the greatest hindrances is the external senses. God, therefore, created man. in such a way that the veil of the senses could be lifted through sleep, which is a natural function of man. When that veil is lifted, the soul is ready to learn the things it desires to know in the world of Truth (haqq). At times, it catches a glimpse of what it seeks. Therefore, the Lawgiver (Muhammad) classified dream visions among "the bearers of glad tidings" (mubashshirat). He said, "Nothing remains of prophecy except the bearers of glad tidings." Asked what they were, he said: "A good dream vision, beheld by - or shown to - a good man." 303
The reason why the veil of the senses is lifted in sleep is as follows.304 The perceptions and actions of the rational soul are the result of the corporeal animal spirit. This spirit is a fine vapor which is concentrated in the left cavity of the heart, as stated in the anatomical works of Galen and others.305 It spreads with the blood in the veins and arteries, and makes sensual perception, motion, and all the other corporeal actions possible. Its finest part goes up to the brain. There, it is tempered by the coldness of (the brain), and it effects the actions of the powers located in the cavities of the brain. The rational soul perceives and acts only by means of that vaporous spirit. It is connected with it. (This connection is) the result of the wisdom of creation which requires that nothing fine can influence anything coarse. Of all the corporeal matters, only the animal spirit is fine. Therefore, it is receptive to the influence of the essence, which differs from it only in respect of corporeality, that is, the rational soul. Thus, through the medium of (the animal spirit), the influence of the rational soul reaches the body.
We have stated before 306 that the perception of the rational soul is of two kinds. There is an external perception through the five senses, and an inward perception through the cerebral powers. All these perceptions divert the rational soul from the perception for which 307 it is prepared by nature, (namely, that) of the essences of the spiritualia, which are higher than it.
Since the external senses are corporeal, they are subject to weakness and lassitude as the result of exertion and fatigue, and to spiritual exhaustion through too much activity. Therefore, God gave them the desire to rest, so that perfect perception may be renewed afterwards. Such (rest) is accomplished by the retirement of the animal spirit from all the external senses and its return to the inward sense. This process is supported by the cold that covers the body during the night. Under the influence of the cold of the night, the natural heat repairs to the innermost recesses of the body and turns from its exterior to the interior. It thus guides its vehicle, the animal spirit, into the interior of the body. This is the reason why human beings, as a rule, sleep only at night.
The spirit, thus, withdraws from the external senses and returns to the inward powers. The preoccupations and hindrances of sensual perception lessen their hold over the soul, and it now returns to the forms that exist in the power of memory. Then, through a process of synthesis and analysis, (these forms) are shaped into imaginary pictures. Most of these pictures are customary ones, because (the soul) has (only) shortly before withdrawn from the conventional objects of sensual perception. It now transmits them to the common sense, which combines all the five external senses, to be perceived in the manner of (those) five senses. Frequently, however, the soul turns to its spiritual essence in concert with the inward powers. It then accomplishes the spiritual kind of perception for which it is fitted by nature. It takes up some of the forms of things that have become inherent in its essence at that time. Imagination seizes on those perceived forms, and pictures them in the customary molds either realistically or allegorically. Pictured allegorically, they require interpretation. The synthetic and analytic activity which (the soul) applies to the forms in the power of memory, before it perceives its share of glimpses (of the supernatural), is (what is called in the Qur'an) "confused dreams."308
According to (the sound tradition of) the Sahih, the Prophet said, "There are three kinds of dream visions. There are dream visions from God, dream visions from the angels, and dream visions from Satan."309 This threefold division agrees with our preceding statement. Clear dream visions are from God. Allegorical dream visions, which call for interpretation, are from the angels. And "confused dreams" are from Satan, because they are altogether futile, as Satan is the source of futility.
This is what "dream vision" really is, and how it is caused and encouraged by sleep. It is a particular quality of the human soul common to all mankind. Nobody is free from it. Every human being has, more than once, seen something in his sleep that turned out to be true when he awakened. He knows for certain that the soul must necessarily have supernatural perception in sleep. If this is possible in the realm of sleep, it is not impossible in other conditions, because the perceiving essence is one and its qualities are always present. God guides toward the truth.
Note: Most of the (afore-mentioned supernatural perception by means of dream visions) occurs to human beings unintentionally and without their having power over it. The soul occupies itself with a thing. As a result, it obtains that glimpse (of the supernatural) while it is asleep, and it sees that thing. It does not plan it that way.
In the Ghayah310 and other books by practitioners of magic, reference is made to words that should be mentioned on falling asleep so as to cause the dream vision to be about the things one desires. These words are called by (the magicians) "dream words" (al-halumah). In the Ghayah, Maslamah mentioned a dream word that he called "the dream word of the perfect nature." It consists of saying, upon falling asleep and after obtaining freedom of the inner senses and finding one's way clear (for supernatural perception), the following non-Arabic words: tamaghis ba'dan yaswadda waghads nawfana ghadis.311 The person should then mention what he wants, and the thing he asks for will be shown to him in his sleep.
A man is said to have done this after he had eaten but little and done dhikr exercises312 for several nights. A person appeared to him and said, "I am your perfect nature." A question was put to that person, and he gave the man the information he desired.
With the help of these words, I have myself had remarkable dream visions, through which I learned things about myself that I wanted to know. However, (the existence of such dream words) is no proof that the intention to have a dream vision can produce it. The dream words produce a preparedness in the soul for the dream vision. If that preparedness is a strong one, (the soul)312a will be more likely to obtain that for which it is prepared. A person may arrange for whatever preparedness he likes, but that is no assurance that the thing for which preparations have been made will actually happen. The power to prepare for a thing is not the same as power over the thing (itself). This should be known and considered in similar cases. God "is wise and knowing." 313
Other types of divination
In the human species we find individuals who foretell things before they take place. They have a special natural qualification for it. Through that qualification, they are distinguished from all other human beings. They do not have recourse to a craft for their predictions, nor do they get them with the help of astral influences or anything else. Their forecasts are the necessary result of their natural disposition. Among such people are diviners ('arraf); men who gaze into transparent bodies such as mirrors or bowls of water; men who examine the hearts, livers, and bones of animals; men who draw auguries from birds and wild animals; and men who cast pebbles, grains of wheat, or (date) pits.314 All these things are found among mankind; no one can deny them or be ignorant of them. Statements concerning supernatural things are also placed upon the tongues of the insane, who are thus able to give information about (supernatural things). Sleeping and dying persons, being about to die or to fall asleep, likewise speak about supernatural things. Men who have followed Sufi training have, as is well known, as acts of divine grace, obtained perceptions of supernatural things.
The different kinds of supernatural perception
We are now going to discuss all these ways of (supernatural) perception. We are going to start with soothsaying. Then, we shall discuss all the other kinds, one by one. Before that, however, we want to discuss how the human soul, as it exists in all the types of human beings mentioned, is prepared for supernatural perception. This is as follows.
(The soul) is a spiritual essence which, as we have mentioned before, is the only spiritual being that exists potentially. It exchanges potentiality for actuality with the help of the body and (bodily) conditions. This is something everyone can attain to.
Now, everything that exists potentially has matter and form. The form of the soul, through which its existence materializes, is identical with perception and intellection. The soul at first exists potentially. It is prepared for perception and for the reception of the universal and particular forms. Its growth and actual existence then materialize through keeping company with the body, through the things to which (the body) accustoms (the soul) when (the former's) sensual perceptions are foisted upon (the latter), and through the universal ideas which (the soul itself) abstracts from the sensual perceptions of the body. It intellectualizes the forms time after time, until perception and intellection become the actual form of the soul. Thus, its essence materializes. The soul, then, is like matter, and, through perception, the forms come to it one after the other in an uninterrupted sequence.
This is why we find that a child in the earliest stages of his growth is unable to achieve the perception which comes to the soul from its essence, either in his sleep or through removal (of the veil of sense perception), 315 or anything else. For the form of the soul, which is its very essence, namely, perception and intellection, has not yet materialized (in the child). Nor has the power of the soul to abstract the universals materialized. Later on, when the essence of (the soul) has materialized in actuality, the soul has two kinds of perception, as long as it remains in the body: one through the organs of the body, for which the soul is enabled by the corporeal perceptions, and the other through its own essence, without any intermediary. The soul is prevented 316 from (the latter kind of perception) by its immersion in the body and the senses, and the preoccupations of (body and senses). By means of corporeal perception, for which the senses were originally created, they always draw the soul to the external. Frequently, however, the soul plunges from the external into the internal. Then, the veil of the body is lifted for a moment, either by means of a quality that belongs to every human being, such as sleep, or by means of a quality that is found only in certain human beings, such as soothsaying or casting (of pebbles, etc.), or by means of exercises such as those practiced by (certain) Sufis who practice the removal (of the veil of sense perception). At such moments, the soul turns to the essences of the highest group (the angels), which are higher than itself. (This is possible) because in (the order of) existence the stages of the soul and the angels are connected with each other, as we established earlier.317 These essences are spiritual. They are pure perception and intellects in action. They contain the forms and realities of the existentia, as was (just) mentioned. Something of those forms is then disclosed in (the soul). It derives some knowledge from them. Frequently, it transmits the perceived forms to the imagination which, in turn, puts them into the customary molds. (The soul,) then, has recourse to sensual perception to explain the things it has perceived, either in their abstract form or in the molds into which (they were put by the imagination). In this way it gives information about them. This is how the preparedness of the soul for supernatural perception must be explained.
Let us now return to the explanation we promised, of the various kinds (of supernatural perception). Persons who gaze into transparent bodies, such as mirrors, bowls, or water, and (examine) the hearts, livers, and bones of animals, as well as those who cast pebbles and (date) pits, all belong to the class of soothsayers. Only, they are constitutionally less well fitted for supernatural perception than soothsayers. The soothsayer does not need to make much of an effort in order to lift the veil of sensual perception. They, however, expend much effort to concentrate all sensual perception in one particular sense, the noblest one, which is vision. It is applied exclusively to whatever plain visual object has been (selected for concentration), until the perception about which information is to be given appears. It is often thought that the place where those (who gaze into mirrors) see something, is the surface of the mirror. This is not so. They continue gazing at the surface of the mirror until it (the surface) disappears. Between their eyes and the mirror appears a veil like a white cloud. In it, forms are pictured, and (these pictures) are the objects they perceive. This gives them the facts of a negative or positive character they wanted to obtain, and they pass on (these facts) as they perceived them. Neither the mirror nor the forms perceived in it are now present to them. A different kind of perception originates in them in (that state). It is a psychic one that has nothing to do with vision. Through it, objects of psychic perception take on shape (for observation) by sensual perception, as is known. Something similar happens to those who examine the hearts and livers of animals, and to those who gaze into water, bowls, and similar things.
Among these people we have observed persons who keep their senses occupied only by means of incense, as well as incantations, in order to be prepared (for supernatural perception). Then, they tell what they have perceived. They think that they see the forms take on concrete shapes in the air, telling them what they want to know in the form of pictures and allusions. These persons are less remote from sensual perception than the first group. The world is full of remarkable things.
Augury (zajr) is talk about supernatural things which originates in some people when a bird or animal appears, and they reflect about it after it has gone. It is a power in the soul that calls for sagacity and the ability to think about (the things of interest) which augurs see or hear. As we mentioned earlier,318 the power of imagination is strong in augurs, and they exert that power in their researches, while depending on the help given by things they have seen or heard. This gives them some supernatural perception. The power of imagination acts here as it does in sleepers. When the senses are asleep, (the power of imagination) intervenes among the things seen in the waking state, and combines them with the products of its own thinking. Thus, the power of imagination brings about vision.
In the insane, the rational soul is but weakly connected with the body, because the humors, as a rule, are corrupt and have a weak animal spirit. Therefore, the soul belonging to (the body of an insane person) is not deeply immersed in the senses. The painful disease of deficiency that affects it keeps it too much occupied. Frequently, it was pushed into attaching itself to (the insane) by some other Satanic spirituality, which clings to them and which (the soul) itself is too weak to keep away. The insane thus become possessed.318a When they have become possessed in this manner, either because of the corruption of their constitution as the result of the essential corruption of their soul, or because of the onslaught the Satanic souls make upon them when they are attached to (their bodies), they are totally removed from sensual perception. They perceive a glimpse of the world of their soul. (Their soul) receives the impress of forms which, in turn, are transformed by the imagination. In this condition, they frequently speak without wanting to speak.
(Supernatural) perception in all these (groups) contains truth and falsehood mixed together. For although they may achieve the loss of sensual perception, it is only with the help of foreign notions (tasawwur) that they achieve contact (with the supernatural), as we have established. This leads to untruthfulness, (which is to be found) in these (ways of supernatural) perception.
The diviners ('arraf) somehow enjoy this kind of perception, but they do not have the same contact (with the supernatural). They concentrate their thinking upon the matter in which they are interested and apply guesses and hypotheses to it. They base themselves upon an unfounded assumption as to what basically constitutes contact with, and perception of, (the supernatural). They claim acquaintance with the supernatural, but in reality (their procedure) has nothing to do with it.
This is the manner in which such (supernatural knowledge) is obtained. Al-Mas'udi discussed the subject in his Muruj adh-dhahab.319 He did not hit upon the right explanation. It is evident from his discussion that he was not firmly grounded in the various kinds of (pertinent) knowledge. He merely reports what he learned from people experienced in the subject, and from others.
All the kinds of (supernatural) perception mentioned are found in man. The Arabs used to repair to soothsayers in order to learn about forthcoming events. They consulted them in their quarrels, to learn the truth by means of supernatural perception. Literature contains much information about this matter. In pre-Islamic times, Shiqq, of the tribe of Anmar b. Nizar, and Satih, of the tribe of Mazin b. Ghassan,320 were famous (soothsayers) (The latter) used to fold up like a garment, as he had no bones save for his skull.
A famous story is their interpretation of the dream vision of Rabi'ah b. Nasr, in which they informed him that the Abyssinians would take possession of the Yemen, that the Mudar would rule after them, and that the Muhammadan prophecy would make its appearance among the Quraysh.321 Another famous story is that of the dream vision of the Mobedhan.322 Satih interpreted it when the Persian emperor (Khosraw) sent 'Abd-al-Masih to him with (the dream). (On that occasion, Satih) informed him about the prophecy (of Muhammad) and the (future) destruction of the Persian realm. All this is well known.
There were also many diviners among the Arabs. They are mentioned by the Arabs in their poems. (One poet) said:
I said to the diviner of the Yamamah: Cure me,
For if you cure me, you are indeed a physician.323
Another poet said:
I promised to give the diviner of the Yamamah whatever
he would ask me for,
And (I promised the same) to the diviner of Najd, if they
would cure me (of my love).
But they said: Let God cure you. By God, we have no
Power over (the disease) that you carry around with you
in your body 324
The "diviner of the Yamamah" is Riyah b. 'Ijlah,325 and the "diviner of Najd" is al-Ablaq al-Asadi.
Some people have another way of supernatural perception. It occurs in the stage of transition from waking to sleeping, and is in (the form of unconsciously) speaking about the thing one wants to know and thereby obtaining supernatural knowledge of the matter as desired. This happens only during the transition from waking to sleeping, when one has lost the power to control one's words. Such a person talks as if by innate compulsion. The most he can do is to hear and understand what (he says).
Words of a similar nature come from those who are about to be killed, at the moment when their heads are being severed from their trunks. We have been informed that certain criminal tyrants used to kill their prisoners in order to learn their own future from the words the prisoners would utter when they were about to be killed. It was unpleasant information they received from them.
In the Ghayah,326 Maslamah similarly mentioned that when a human being is placed in a barrel of sesame oil and kept in it for forty days, is fed with figs and nuts until his flesh is gone and only the arteries and sutures 327 of the skull remain, and is then taken out of the oil and exposed to the drying action of the air, he will answer all special and general questions regarding the future that may be asked. This is detestable sorcery. However, it shows what remarkable things exist in the world of man.
There are men who attempt to obtain supernatural perception through exercise. They attempt an artificial (state of) death through self-mortification.328 They kill all corporeal powers (in themselves), and wipe out all influences of those powers that color the soul in various ways.329 This is achieved by. concentrated thinking, and doing without food for long (periods). It is definitely known that when death descends upon the body, sensual perception and the veil it constitutes disappear, and the soul beholds its essence and its world. (These men) attempt to produce, artificially before death, the experience they will have after death, and to have their soul behold the supernatural.
Other such people are the men who train themselves in sorcery. They train themselves in these things, in order to be able to behold the supernatural and to be active in the various worlds. Most such live in the intemperate zones of the north and the south, especially in India, where they are called yogis. They possess a large literature on how such exercises are to be done. The stories about them in this connection are remarkable.
The Sufi training is a religious one. It is free from any such reprehensible intentions. The Sufis aspire to total concentration upon God and upon the approach to Him, in order to obtain the mystical experiences 330 of gnosis and Divine oneness. In addition to their training in concentration and hunger, the Sufis feed on dhikr exercises 331 by which their devotion to that training can fully materialize. When the soul is reared on dhikr exercises, it comes closer to the gnosis of God, whereas, without it, it comes to be a Satanic one.
Whatever supernatural knowledge or activity is achieved by the Sufis is accidental, and was not originally intended. Had it been intentional, the devotion of the Sufis (who intended to have supernatural perception) would have been directed toward something other than God, namely, toward supernatural activity and vision. What a losing business that would have been! In reality, it would have been polytheism. A (Sufi) has said, "Whoever prefers gnosis for the sake of gnosis comes out for the second (stage of being)." Through their devotion, (Sufis) intend (to come near) the Master, and nothing else. If, meanwhile, some (supernatural perception) is obtained, it is accidental and unintentional. Many (Sufis) shun (supernatural perception) when it accidentally happens to them, and pay no attention to it.332 They want God only for the sake of His essence, and nothing else. It is well known that (supernatural perception) occurs among the (Sufis). They call their supernatural experiences and mind reading "physiognomy" (firasah) and "removal" (of the veil of sense perception, kashf). Their experiences of (supernatural) activity they call "acts of divine grace" (karamah). None of these things is unworthy of them. However, Professor Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini and Abu Muhammad b. Abi Zayd al-Maliki,333 among others, disapproved of it, in order to avoid any risk of (prophetic) miracles becoming confused with something else. However, the speculative theologians rely on the "advance challenge" (tahaddi) as the distinguishing characteristic of the (prophetic) miracle. This is sufficient.
According to (the sound tradition of) the Sahih, Muhammad said, "Among you, there are men who are spoken to, and 'Umar is one of them." 334 The men around Muhammad, as is well known, had experiences of a sort that confirms the fact (that mystics and pious persons may have some sort of supernatural perception). For instance, there is the story of 'Umar saying, "O Sariyah, beware of the mountain!" Sariyah is Sariyah b. Zunaym. He was the general of a Muslim army in the 'Iraq during the conquest. He had gotten into a battle with the polytheists. He thought of withdrawing. Near him, there was a mountain toward which he was directing himself (and where the enemy was lying in ambush). This came (supernaturally) to 'Umar's attention while he was preaching from the pulpit in Medina. He called out to him: "O Sariyah, beware of the mountain." Sariyah heard it, there where he was (in faraway 'Iraq), and he also saw ('Umar) there in person. This story is well known.335
Something similar happened to Abu Bakr in connection with his last will, addressed to his daughter 'A'ishah. He had given her a certain amount of dates from his orchard, as a gift, and then, (when he was near death), he suggested to her that she harvest them, so that the (other) heirs would not get them. Then he said, "They are your two brothers and your two sisters." Whereupon 'A'ishah said, "There is Asma', but who is the other?" Abu Bakr replied, "I see that the child in Bint Kharijah's womb is a girl," and so it was. This is mentioned in the Muwatta' in the chapter on gifts that are not permitted.336
(The men around Muhammad) and the pious and exemplary men after them had many similar experiences. However, the Sufis say that such experiences are rare in the time of prophecy, because, in the presence of the prophet, the adept of mysticism cannot continue in his mystic state. They go so far as to say that the adept of mysticism who comes to Medina is deprived of his mystic state, so long as he remains there and until he leaves.
May God provide us with guidance, and may He lead us to the truth.
Among the adepts of mysticism are fools and imbeciles who are more like insane persons than like rational beings. Nonetheless, they deservedly attained stations of sainthood and the mystic states of the righteous. The persons with mystical experience who learn about them know that such is their condition, although they are not legally responsible. The information they give about the supernatural is remarkable. They are not bound by anything. They speak absolutely freely about it and tell remarkable things. When jurists see they are not legally responsible, they frequently deny that they have attained any mystical station, since sainthood can be obtained only through divine worship. This is an error. "God bestows His grace upon whomever He wants to." 337 The attainment of sainthood is not restricted to (the correct performance of) divine worship, or anything else. When the human soul is firmly established as existent, God may single it out for whatever gifts of His He wants to give it. The rational souls of such people are not nonexistent, nor are they corrupt, as is the case with the insane. They (merely) lack the intellect that is the basis of legal responsibility. (That intellect) is a special attribute of the soul. It means various kinds of knowledge that are necessary to man and that guide his speculative ability and teach him how to make a living and organize his home. One may say that if he knows how to make a living, he has no excuse left not to accept legal responsibility, so that he may prepare for his life after death. Now, a person who lacks that (special) attribute (of the soul called intellect) still does not lack the soul itself, and has not forgotten his reality. He has reality, though he lacks the intellect entailing legal responsibility, that is, the knowledge of how to make a living. This is not absurd. God does not select His servants for gnosis only on the basis of (the performance of) some legal duty.
If this is correct, it should be known that the state of these men is frequently confused with that of the insane, whose rational souls are corrupted and who belong to (the category of) animals. There are signs by which one can distinguish the two groups. One of them is that fools are found devoting themselves constantly to certain dhikr exercises and divine worship, though not in the way the religious law requires, since, as we have stated, they are not legally responsible. The insane, on the other hand, have no (particular) devotion whatever.
Another sign is that fools were created stupid, and were stupid from their earliest days. The insane, on the other hand, lose their minds after some portion of their life has passed, as the result of natural bodily accidents. When this happens to them and their rational souls become corrupt, they are lost.
A further sign is the great activity of fools among men. It may be good or bad. They do not have to have permission, because for them there is no legal responsibility. The insane, on the other hand, show no (such) activity.
The course of our discussion caused us to insert the preceding paragraph. God leads toward that which is correct.
Other alleged ways of supernatural perception
Some people think that there are ways of supernatural perception not involving remoteness from sensual perception. (Such) are the astrologers who believe in astrological indications, consequences of the positions of (stars) in the firmament, influences of (the stars) upon the elements, and results from the tempering of the natures of (the stars) when they look at each other,338 as well as effects of such tempers upon the air. Astrologers, (as a matter of fact,) have nothing to do with the supernatural. It is all guesswork and conjectures based upon (the assumed existence of) astral influence, and a resulting conditioning of the air. (Such guesswork) is accompanied by an additional measure of sagacity enabling scholars to determine the distribution (of astral influence) upon particular individuals in the world, as Ptolemy said. We shall explain the futility of astrology in the proper place, if God wills.339 If it were established (as a fact), it would, at best, be guessing and conjecturing. It has nothing whatever to do with (the supernatural perception) we have mentioned.
Other such people include certain men of the common people who, to discover the supernatural and know the future, invented a craft they called "sand writing" (geomancy) 340 after the material one uses for it. This craft consists in forming combinations of dots in four "ranks." (The resulting combinations) differ in that the (four) ranks are made up of different or identical (arrangements) of even or odd. This makes sixteen combinations. For if (all four ranks) hold evens or (all) odds, we have two combinations. If one rank only has an even, we have four combinations. If two ranks have an even, we have six combinations, and if three ranks have an even, we have four combinations. This makes altogether sixteen combinations.341
The sand diviners have given different names to the different combinations and classified them as lucky or unlucky, as is done with the stars. For (the sixteen combinations), they have assumed (the existence of) sixteen "houses." They think that the "houses" are natural and that they correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac and the four cardines. They have attributed to each combination a "house," lucky (or unlucky) influences, and significance with regard to one particular group (of people) in the world of the elements. (The sand diviners) have thus invented a discipline that runs parallel to astrology and the system of astrological judgments. However, the astrological judgments are based upon natural indications, as Ptolemy assumes. The 342 indications of sand writing, on the other hand, are conventional.
Ptolemy discussed only nativities and conjunctions which, in his opinion, come within the influence of the stars and the positions of the spheres upon the world of the elements. Subsequent astrologers, however, discussed questions (interrogationes), in that they attempted to discover the innermost thoughts 342a by attributing them to the various houses of the firmament and drawing conclusions concerning them, according to the judgments governing each particular astral house. They are those mentioned by Ptolemy.
It should be known that the innermost thoughts concern psychic knowledge, which does not belong to the world of the elements. They do not come within the influence of the stars or the positions of the spheres, nor do (the stars and the positions of the spheres) give any indications with regard to them. The branch of questions (interrogationes) has indeed been accepted in astrology as a way of making deductions from the stars and positions of the spheres. However, it is used where it is not natural for it to be used.
When the sand diviners came, they discontinued use of the stars and the positions of the spheres, because they found it difficult to establish the altitude of stars by means of instruments and to find the adjusted (positions of the) stars by means of calculations. Therefore, they invented their combinations of figures. They assumed that there were sixteen, according to the houses of the firmament and the cardines, and they specified that they were lucky, unlucky, or mixed, like the planets. They limited themselves to the sextile aspect. They made judgments in accordance with the combinations of figures, as is done in the interrogation (branch of astrology). In both cases, the use made (of the data) is not a natural one, as we stated before.
Many city dwellers who had no work, in order to make a living,343 tried sand divination. They composed works teaching the foundation and principles of sand divination. This was done by az-Zanati 344 and others.
Some sand diviners attempt supernatural perception, in that they occupy their senses with study of the combinations of figures. They thus reach a state of preparedness, like those who are by nature fitted for preparedness, as we shall mention later on. These men are the noblest class of sand diviners.
In general, they assume that sand writing originated with the prophets of old. They frequently ascribe its invention to Daniel or Idris,345 as is being done with all the crafts. They (also) frequently claim that (sand writing) is enjoined by the religious law. As a proof of this (contention of theirs), they quote the following tradition of Muhammad: "There was a prophet who wrote, and whoever concurs with his writing this is it."346 However, this tradition contains no evidence for the claim that sand writing is enjoined by the religious law, as some people assume. The meaning of the tradition is: "There was a prophet who wrote," that is, the revelation came to him while he was writing. It is not absurd to assume that such was the custom of some prophets, for prophets differ in their ways of perceiving the revelation. God said: "We distinguished the messengers (by giving the ones pre-eminence) over the others." 347 When some of them received the revelation, the angel spoke first to them, without any request or motive (on their part). Others had a human motive, resulting from contact with human affairs, in that their people asked them to explain some difficult problem, some obligation of duty, or the like. Therefore, they directed their devotions to the Divine, and in that way God revealed to them what they wanted to know. (Logical) classification here suggests the existence of another division. Revelation may come to a person who is not prepared for it in any way, as in the afore-mentioned instance, or it may come to a person who is prepared for it in some way. In the Israelite stories, it is reported that a prophet was prepared for the coming of the revelation by hearing sweet melodious voices 348 This report is not established as correct, but it is not improbable. God singles out His prophets and messengers for whatever (favors) He wishes. This 349 was reported to us on the authority of a great Sufi, who attempts to attain remoteness from sensual perception by listening to music. By this means he becomes completely free for his (supernatural) perceptions, in the station he is in, which (it is true) is inferior to prophecy. "And there is nobody among us who does not have a known station."350
If this is established and if, as we have mentioned before, certain sand diviners attempt to remove (the veil of sense perception) by occupying their senses with the study of combinations of figures, they may attain intuitive supernatural revelation (kashf) through complete freedom from sense perception. They may exchange bodily perceptions for spiritual ones-both of which have been explained earlier. This is a kind of soothsaying, of the type of gazing at bones, water, and mirrors, and it distinguishes (these sand diviners) from those who restrict themselves to techniques that achieve supernatural perception by means of sagacity and conjecturing, but who do not relinquish corporeal perception and continue to wander in the realm of guesswork. Some prophets achieved preparedness for being addressed by the angel, in their prophetical station, by writing, exactly as people who are not prophets may achieve preparedness for spiritual perception and the relinquishment of human perception by the same means. In the case of (sand diviners), however, what they achieve is spiritual perception only, whereas prophets achieve an angelic perception by means of divine revelation.
The prophets have nothing to do with the stations of the sand diviners, whose perceptions are based on sagacity and conjecturing. They do not make it part of the religious law for any human being to speak about and discuss the supernatural. The statement in the tradition, "And whoever concurs with his writing - this is it," 351 means: He is right, in view of the fact that the writing was supported by the revelation that came to that particular prophet, whose custom it was to have the revelation come to him while he was writing. Or, the tradition may be a compliment and indicate that the prophet had reached a high competence in the use of sand writing - without (implying) the existence of a connection between (revelation) and (sand writing) - because in this way the prophet was prepared for revelation, which, therefore, concurred with (the conclusions reached from sand writing). But were the prophet to take (those conclusions) from the writing alone, without the concurrence of revelation, they would not be right. This is the meaning of the tradition. And God knows better.
The tradition does not indicate that sand writing is enjoined by religious law, nor that it is permissible to practice sand writing to obtain supernatural perception, as sand diviners in the cities do. Some of them may be inclined to this opinion, on the basis that what (any) prophet did is accepted law, and that sand writing, therefore, is enjoined by the religious law according to the principle, held by some, that the religious law of those who came before us is religious law for us. This does not apply in this (case). Law only results when it is enjoined by messengers upon the various nations. This (particular) tradition, however, indicates no (thing of the sort). It indicates only that the particular condition was that of one of the prophets, and it is possible that it was not enjoined as a religious law. Therefore, it would not be a religious law, neither one restricted to the people of (that particular prophet), nor one common to his people and to others. (The tradition) merely indicates that it is a condition that may occur in the instance of a particular prophet, without being generally applicable to mankind. This is all we wanted to make clear here. God gives the correct inspiration.
If, in their self-deception, (sand diviners) want to discover something supernatural, they take paper, or sand, or flour, and form dots in (four) lines 352 in accordance with the number of the four ranks. This is repeated four times. They thus obtain sixteen lines. They then deduct (some) dots in pairs. The remainder, for each line, whether it is even or odd,353 is put into the rank to which it belongs according to order. This results in four combinations, which they arrange to form one continuous line. From them, they then form four other combinations through horizontal confrontation, by considering each rank, the corresponding combination next to it, and the evens or odds found in it.354 These, then, make eight combinations, placed along one line. From each pair of combinations, they then form one combination (to be placed) underneath the (eight), by considering the evens or odds found in each rank of two combinations. Thus, we have four others under (the eight). From these four combinations, they then form two more combinations, which are likewise placed underneath (the four). From these two, they again form one more combination and place it underneath (the two). They then combine this fifteenth combination with the first one and thus form one more combination, which completes the sixteen.355 Then, they evaluate the whole "writing" in a curious manner, as to the good luck or misfortune required by the various combinations, taking them as they stand, speculating on them, analyzing them, combining them, making deductions as to the various kinds of existentia, and so on.
This craft is prevalent in (all) civilized (regions). There exists a literature dealing with it. Outstanding ancient and modern personalities were famous for it. But it is obviously based on arbitrary notions and wishful thinking. The truth that should be present to one's mind is that the supernatural cannot be perceived by any craft at all. The only people who can acquire knowledge of the supernatural are those distinguished human beings who are fitted by nature to return from the world of sensual perception to the world of the spirit. The astrologers, therefore, called all people (able to perceive supernatural knowledge) "Venusians," with reference to Venus, because they assumed that the position of Venus in the nativities of these people indicates their ability to have supernatural perception.
If the person who takes up (sand) writing and similar (practices) is one of those distinguished beings, and if his study of dots, bones, and other things is intended to occupy his senses in order that his soul may return momentarily to the world of the spiritualia, then (sand writing) occupies the same position as casting pebbles, examining the hearts of animals, and gazing into transparent mirrors, as we have mentioned.356 If this is not so, and if knowledge of the supernatural is sought by means of (sand writing), (then) it is meaningless in theory and practice.357 "God guides whomever He wants to guide." 358
The sign by which persons who are disposed by nature to supernatural perceptions can be recognized, is this: When these persons devote themselves to acquiring a knowledge of things, they suffer a departure from their natural condition. They yawn and stretch, and show symptoms of remoteness from sensual perception. These (symptoms) vary in intensity according to the different degrees to which they possess this natural disposition. Those in whom this sign is not found have nothing to do with supernatural perception. They are merely trying to spread the falsehoods to which they are committed.
(The hisab an-nim)
There are (other) groups that also lay down certain rules for the discovery of the supernatural. Their rules do not belong to the first category, that which has to do with the spiritual perceptions of the soul, and also differ from speculations based upon astral influences, as assumed by Ptolemy, as well as from the guesswork and conjecturing with which the diviners work. They are nothing but mistakes which (the people who work with them) throw out like snares for weakminded people. I shall mention only as much of (the subject) as is mentioned in literature and has aroused the interest of distinguished men.
One such rule is the method called hisab an-nim.359 It is mentioned at the end of the Politics which is ascribed to Aristotle. It serves to predict the victor and the vanquished when kings go to war with each other. The procedure is to add up the numerical total of the letters in the name of each king, according to the system of calculation in which the letters of the alphabet in the sequence alif, b, j . . . are given the numerical values of units, tens, hundreds, and thousands from one to a thousand. When that has been done, each total should be divided by nine. The fractional remainder, in both cases, should be kept in mind. The two fractional remainders should be compared. If they are different and both are even or odd numbers, the (king) who has the smaller number will be the victor. If one of them is an even and the other an odd number, the (king) who has the larger number will. be the victor. If the two numbers are equal and both even, the object of the inquiry will be the victor. And if both numbers are odd, the (king) who made the inquiry will be the victor. He (Aristotle) reported two verses about this procedure which have wide currency. They are:
I think, in the case of even or odd numbers (for both),
the smaller number will gain the upper hand.
When the numbers differ (as to being even or odd), the
larger number will be the victor.
The object of the inquiry will be victorious, if the num
bers are both equal and even.
And if they are both equal and odd, the one who made
the inquiry will be victorious.
In order to find out what the fractional remainder will be after dividing by nine, a rule has been laid down by (the persons who practice the hisab an-nim), which is well known among them for that purpose. They take the letters that refer to the number one in the four ranks, alif for the units, y for the tens, q for the hundreds, and sh for the thousands 360 - there is no number higher than one thousand that can be indicated by letters, because sh is the last letter of the alphabet(ical arrangement for numerical purposes) - and arrange these four letters in sequence so as to form a word of four consonants: 'yash. Then, they do the same with the letters that designate the number two in the (first) three ranks, omitting the thousands because there are no letters of the alphabet left for them. These three letters are b for two, k for twenty and r for two hundred. Arranged in sequence, they form the word bkr. The same is done with the letters that designate the number three, resulting in the word jls, and so on through all the letters of the alphabet. This results in nine words, (nine being) the highest unit. The words are: 'yash, bkr, jls, dmt, tenth, wskh, z'dh, hfz, and tdgh, here arranged according to numerical sequence. Each of them has its own number, one for 'ygsh, two for bkr, three for jls, and so on to nine, which belongs to tdgh. If they want to divide a name by nine, they note in which of these nine words each letter of the name appears, substituting the number (of the word) for each letter (of the name), and adding together all the numbers thus obtained. If the sum is greater than nine, they (deduct nine or a multiple of nine from it and) take the fractional remainder. Otherwise, they take (the sum) as it is. The same thing is then done with the other name, and the two results are compared in the manner indicated above.
The secret of this rule is clear. The fractional remainder in a division by nine is the same in any given multiple of the powers of ten.361 In a way, (the person making the calculation) just sums up the (unit) number in any given multiple of the powers of ten. The numbers in multiples of higher powers of ten, thus, are like the (corresponding) units. There is no distinction between two, twenty, two hundred, or two thousand.362 Likewise, three, thirty, three hundred, and three thousand, all are three. The numbers are arranged in such a sequence as to indicate nothing but the (unit) number in any given multiple of the powers of ten. The letters that indicate (the same number in) the different powers of ten, the units, tens, hundreds, and thousands, are combined each in one word. The number of the corresponding word is valid for all the letters it contains, whether they are units, tens, hundreds, or thousands. Thus, the number of the word can be used for all the letters it contains, and all of them are added up, as we have said. This procedure has been common among people for a long time.
Some shaykhs we knew personally were of the opinion that the correct thing is to use nine other words in place of those (mentioned). They too represent consecutive (numbers). The procedure of dividing by nine is the same. These words are: 'rb, ysqk, jzlt, mdws, hf, tkhdhn, ghsh, h', tdz, nine words in all, in numerical sequence. They contain three, four, or two letters, respectively. As one can see, they follow no coherent principle. But our shaykhs are transmitting them on the authority of the leading Maghribi scholar in astrology as well as letter magic, Abu l-'Abbas b. al-Banna' 363 They state on his authority that the use of these words for the division of the hisab an-nim is more correct than that of the words 'yqsh, (etc.). And God knows better how it may be.
All these ways of perceiving the supernatural are based upon no proof, and are not verifiable. Thorough scholars do not attribute the book that contains the hisab an-nim to Aristotle, because it contains opinions that cannot be verified or proven. This confirms (its spuriousness). The reader should investigate this matter critically, if he is a wellgrounded scholar.
(The Za'irajah) 364
Another technical rule for alleged discovery of the supernatural is the za'irajah which is called "Za'irajah of the world." It is attributed to Abul-'Abbas as-Sabti,365 a very prominent Maghribi Sufi. He lived at the end of the sixth [twelfth] century in Marrakech, during the rule of the Almohad ruler Ya'qub al-Mansur.366
The za'irajah is a remarkable technical procedure. Many distinguished people have shown great interest in using it for supernatural information, with the help of the well-known enigmatic operation that goes with it. For that (purpose), they have been desirous to solve its riddle and uncover its secret. The form of the za'irajah 367 they use is a large circle that encloses other concentric circles for the spheres, the elements, the created things, the spiritualia, as well as other types of beings and sciences. Each circle is divided into sections, the areas of which represent the signs of the zodiac, or the elements, or other things. The lines dividing each section run to the center. They are called chords. Along each chord there are sets of letters that have a conventional (numerical value). Some are zimam ciphers, the same as those used for numerals by government officials and accountants in the contemporary Maghrib. Others are the ordinary ghubar ciphers.368 Inside the za'irajah, between the circles, are found the names of the sciences and of topics of the created (world).369 On the back of (the page containing) the circles, there is a table with many squares, fifty-five horizontally and one hundred and thirty-one vertically.370 Some of the squares are filled in, partly with numbers and partly with letters. Others are empty. The significance of these numbers in their positions is not known, nor are the rules known that govern the distribution of filled and empty squares. The zd'irajah is surrounded by verses in the meter at-tawil and rhyming on -la.371 They describe the procedure which must be followed to discover the answer to a particular inquiry from the zd'irajah. However, since the verses express their meaning in riddles, they lack clarity. On one side of the za'irajah is one verse from a poem ascribed to one of the great Western forecasters of future events, the Sevillian scholar, Malik b. Wuhayb,372 who lived during the reign of the Lamtunah (Almoravids). This is the verse:
A weighty question you have got. Keep, then, to yourself
Remarkable doubts which have been raised and which can be straightened out with diligence.
This is the verse commonly used in attempting to obtain the answer to a question with the help of this or other za'irajahs. To obtain the answer to a question, the question is written down in unconnected letters and the ascendant as of that day is determined, that is, one of the signs of the zodiac and the degree (of the sign on the horizon). Then, the za'irajah is consulted, and the particular chord of the za'irajah that borders the sign of the zodiac of that (particular) ascendant is chosen. This is followed from where it starts to the center, and then on to the circumference of the circle opposite the ascendant. One takes note of all the letters written upon that chord from beginning to end, and of all the numbers written in between. The latter are converted into letters according to their numerical values, transposing all units into tens and all tens into hundreds, and vice versa, as required by the rule governing use of (the za'irajah). The letters thus obtained are put alongside the letters of the question, and one also adds all the letters and numbers that are upon the chord bordering the sign, three signs from that of the ascendant. (In this case,) one follows it from where it starts to the center, but not beyond it to the circumference. The numbers are converted into letters as before, and added to the other letters. Then, the afore-mentioned verse by Malik b. Wuhayb, which is the basis and norm of the procedure, is written down in unconnected letters, and put aside. Then the number of the degree of. the ascendant is multiplied by the "base" of the sign (of the zodiac). In the language (used here) the "base" is the sign's distance from the last rank, in contrast to the (meaning of) "base" in the language of astronomers [?], where it is the distance from the first rank.373 The degree is then multiplied by another number, called the "greatest base" and "principal cycle." The result of these (multiplications) is entered in the squares of the table, following well-known rules and familiar procedures and (using a certain) number of "cycles." Some letters are taken out, others dropped, and the rest matched with what is found among the letters of the verse. Some are transferred to the letters of the question and (the letters) that are with them. Then, these letters are divided by certain numbers called "cycles," and from each "cycle" the letter at which the "cycle" ends, is removed. The (operation) is repeated with the (entire) number of "cycles" specified for that (purpose). The result, finally, is (a number of) unconnected letters which are put together consecutively to form the words of a verse of the same meter and rhyme as the aforementioned verse by Malik b. Wuhayb, which serves as the basis of the operation. We shall mention all this in the chapter on the sciences, in discussing how a za'irajah of this kind is used.
We have seen many distinguished people jump at (the opportunity for) supernatural discoveries through (the za'irajah) by means of operations of this kind. They think that correspondence (in form) between question and answer shows correspondence in actuality. This is not correct, because, as was mentioned before,374 perception of the supernatural cannot be attained by means of any technique whatever. It is not impossible that there might be a correspondence in meaning, and a stylistic agreement, between question and answer, such that the answer comes out straight and in agreement with the question. It is not impossible that this could be achieved by just such a technique of separating the letters of the question and those of the chord, entering the numbers that come together as the result of the multiplication of fixed numbers in the table, taking out letters from the table and discarding others, operating repeatedly with a given number of "cycles," and matching the whole thing with the letters of the verse arranged in sequence. Intelligent persons may have discovered the relationships among these things, and, as a result, have obtained information about the unknown through them. Finding out relationships between things is the secret (means) whereby the soul obtains knowledge of the unknown from the known. It is a way to obtain such knowledge, especially suited to people of (mystical) training. This (training) gives the intellect added power for analogical reasoning and thinking, as has been explained before several times.375 It is in this sense that za'irajahs are usually ascribed to people of (mystical) training. This particular za'irajah is thus ascribed to as-Sabti. I have come across another one which is ascribed to Sahl b. 'Abdallah.376
It is, indeed, a remarkable operation and a wondrous procedure. As it appears to me, the secret of why the answer comes out in rhymed form is to be explained as the result of matching (the letters of the za'irajah) with the letters of the verse (by Malik b. Wuhayb). This is why the versified answer has the same meter and rhyme. This can be deduced from the fact that we have come across other similar operations in which the matching (of letters) with the verse was omitted. In those cases, the answer did not come out in the form of a verse. This will be shown when the matter is discussed in its proper place.377
Many people lack the understanding necessary for belief in the genuineness of the operation and its effectiveness in discovering the object of inquiry. They deny its soundness and believe that it is hocus-pocus. The practitioner, they believe, inserts the letters of a verse he (himself) composes as he wishes, from the letters of question and chord. He follows the described technique, which has no system or norm, and then he produces his verse, pretending that it was the result of an operation that followed an established procedure.
This reasoning is baseless and wrong. It is the result of such people's inability to understand the relations between the existentia and things that (can be) known, and the differences between the various kinds of perception and intellect. Anyone who has some perception naturally denies (the existence of) anything he is not capable of perceiving. In order to refute this (denial of the genuineness of the operation of the za'irajah), it is sufficient for us (to refer to the fact) that the technique has been observed in operation and that it has been definitely and intelligently established that the operation follows a coherent procedure and sound norms. No one who has much intelligence and sagacity and has had contact with the (operation of the za'irajah) would object to this statement. Many an operation with numbers, which are the clearest things in the world, is difficult to grasp, because the (existing) relations are difficult to establish and intricate. This is the case to a much greater degree here, where the relations are so intricate and strange.
Let us mention a problem that will to some degree illustrate the point just stated.
Take a number of dirhams and place beside each dirham three fals. Then, take all the fals and buy a fowl with them. Then, buy fowls with all the dirhams for the same price that the first bird cost. How many fowls will you have bought?
The answer is nine. As you know, a dirham has twentyfour Pals, three Pals are one-eighth of a dirham, one is eight times one-eighth. Adding up one-eighth of each dirham buys one fowl. This means eight fowls (for the dirhams), as one is eight times one-eighth .378 Add another fowl, the one that was bought originally for the additional fats and that determined the price of the fowls bought with the dirhams. This makes nine. It is clear how the unknown answer was implied in the relations that existed between the numerical data indicated in the problem. This and similar (things) are at first suspected as belonging to the realm of the supernatural, which cannot be known.
It is thus obvious that it is from the relations existing among the data that one finds out the unknown from the known. This, however, applies only to events occurring in (the world of) existence or in science. Things of the future belong to the supernatural and cannot be known unless the causes for their happening are known and we have trustworthy information about it.
If this is clear, it follows that all the operations of the za'irajah serve merely to discover the words of the answer in the words of the question. As we have seen, it is a question of producing from a given arrangement of letters another arrangement of letters. The secret here lies in the existence of a relationship between the two (different arrangements of letters). Someone may be aware of it, whereas someone else may not be aware of it. Those who know the existing relationship can easily discover the answer with the help of the stated rules.
From the (conventional) meanings and the combinations of words, the answer may then also indicate a negative or positive (statement) regarding (the object of) the question. This, however, is on another level. It is not on the same level (as merely discovering the words of the answer). It implies a conformity of the words to the outside (world).379 Such knowledge cannot be acquired through those operations. It remains veiled to human beings.
God claims all His knowledge for Himself. "God knows and you do not know." 380