Thursday, November 17, 2011

Certainty (yaqin)

The classical Sufi doctrine of certainty involved three degrees: the knowledge of certainty (‘ilm al-yaqin), the eye of certainty (‘ayn al-yaqin), and the reality of certainty (haqq al-yaqin). Hujwiri (d. ca. 465/1072) discussed them in the following manner:
“By ‘ilm al-yaqin the Sufis mean knowledge of (religious) practice (mu’amalat) in this world according to the Divine commandments; by ‘ayn al-yaqin they mean knowledge of the state of dying (naz’) and the time of departure from this world; and by haqq al-yaqin they mean the unveiling (kashf) of the vision (of God) that will be revealed in Paradise, and of its nature. Therefore, ‘ilm al-yaqin is the rank of religious scholars (‘ulama’) on account of their correct observance of the divine commands, and ‘ayn al-yaqin is the station of gnostics (maqam-i ‘arifan) on account of their readiness for death, and haqq al-yaqin is the annihilation-point of lovers (fana’gah-i dustan), on account of their rejection of all ‘existent beings and things’ (mawjudat)”
In these three degrees of certainty, one clearly sees a hierarchy of states of consciousness, one which corresponds to a three-fold hierarchy of human identity: the scholars, the gnostics, and at the highest degree, the lovers.
According to a later Sufi, Najm al-Din Razi (d. 654/1256), “certainty” arises when one strives to become aware of the spiritual world, while living in accordance with shari’a. If one simply tries to use one’s rational mind, one will fall into mere philosophy and unbelief. The key to certainty is the practice of shari’a, which leads to the awareness that everything is a manifestation of an attribute of God. In the following passage, Razi discusses the nature of certainty:
But [in contrast to the mere philosopher and the heretic] …the possessor of true felicity nourish[es] the seed of the spirit in accordance with the law of Shari’at until all his senses attain perfection. He will then perceive, through his outer and inner senses, all the three hundred and sixty thousand realms that constitute the material and spiritual worlds (mulk va malakut)…He sees every atom in each of these worlds to be a manifestation of one of the divine attributes containing within it one of God’s signs; he removes the veil from the face of the manifestations, and the beauty of God’s signs is displayed to him. [As the poet Abu al-‘Atahiya stated,]
In every thing is a sign (aya) of His
pointing to the fact that He is One (ahad).
This is the threshold of the world of certainty (iqan)…Then the pure essence of God may be known in its unity, and the attributes (sifat) of divinity may be contemplated with the eye of certainty (‘ayn al-yaqin).”
Razi makes it very clear: in order to follow the path that leads to certainty and the awareness of the very “essence of God,” one must discipline and perfect one’s senses by means of shari’a, and one must be aware that there is nothing in existence that does not derive from an attribute of God.

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