THE WAY TO HAPPINESS
5.1.11 Moshe ben Maimon
5.1.12 Thomas Aquinas
5.2 The society of the virtuous
5.3.7 Moshe ben Maimon
5.3.8 Thomas Aquinas
5.1 Human happiness
Al-Kindī (1) adopts the idea of Plato that the human soul is a complete and immortal substance, distinct from the body like the rider of a horse. It even comes from the substance of God like a ray of light from the sun. Its happiness here below consists in the exercise of the intellect mastering the passions and receiving enlightenment from God or separated souls, to the extent that it is purified. Being only in transit in this world, its true happiness is to go to the spiritual world beyond the heavenly spheres, where it will be filled with the light of God and will resemble him.
But not all souls will go immediately to this spiritual world. Those who still have traces of their passions must remain in the sphere of the moon before going on to that of Mercury and then to that of the fixed stars, until they are completely purified. Then at last it is in the light of the Creator; it is proportioned (tābaqat) to him and it sees everything clearly. (2)
Here below the difference of souls is manifested also in the intensity of their imagination and intelligence in abstracting from the exterior senses and being absorbed in thought, which can happen when they are awake and when they are asleep as well. It is then that the strong can understand hidden truths and make true predictions of the future, seeing far-away effects in their causes. (3) All that depends on the souls degree of purification from its passions, such as lust and anger. (4)
From ar-Rāzī we have a complete treatise on ethics, at-tibb ar-rūhānī (spiritual medicine), which discusses a series of virtues, and a small treatise, as-Sīra al-falsafiyya. Ar-Rāzī stresses moderation, rejection the extreme asceticism of Socrates. The soul must purify itself by the study of philosophy. A soul that does so will enjoy happiness after it is separated from the body, but a non-purified soul will suffer from the privation of the bodily pleasures it is used to. (5)
Happiness, according to Ibn-Masarra, consists in knowing God the best we can by reason or revelation. This makes one ready for the company of God and for the vision of his being (kunh-hu) as the promised reward. Those who close their eyes to the truth have an unhappy end. (6)
Al-Fārābī says that human happiness consists in the separation of the soul from matter forever (dāiman abadan); in this way it rises to the level of the Agent Intellect. (7) There it has no need of the body. (8) In its separated state each soul retains its individuality because the unique impression it received from its body during its earthly life. (9) For the same reason, souls cannot transmigrate from one body to another. (10) After their separation from the body, souls coming from the society of the virtuous will rejoice in the company of other souls in this state, and the arrival of every new soul into their company will mark and increase in joy. (11)
But the ignorant, who have not come out of their condition of materiality by knowledge of the truth, will perish at death like the animals. (12) Nevertheless, those who knew the truth and turned away from it to do evil are destined to eternal punishment. The same for leaders of heresies who lead people astray; they will undergo an eternal punishment, but ignorant people will simply perish. Only the virtuous who were forced to go astray by evil leaders will be spared. (13)
In his Ta`līqāt al-Fārābī remarks that the human soul is not a material form, yet it is impressed in matter, (14) but later in the same work he goes back to the position that only the soul that transcends the imagination and is perfected by knowledge is capable of surviving and receiving the emanation of the Agent Intellect, (15) and that the human soul is naturally mortal; only it receives permanence by contact with the active intellects. (16) Only the ad-Da`āwī al-qalbiyya says that the soul of everyone is naturally incorruptible and immortal.
How much truth must one know to belong to the society of the virtuous and qualify for eternal happiness? Al-Fārābī says one must know the First Cause and his characteristics, beings separated from matter and their characteristics, with the proper activities of each, down to the Agent Intellect, the characteristics of each of the heavenly spheres, the wisdom and order of the process of generation and corruption of natural bodies, the structure of mans body and soul and how the Agent Intellect acts on the soul, the structure of the virtuous society, and finally eternal happiness. (17)
In a word, it is all of philosophy, which can be mastered only by a small fraction of humanity. But al-Fārābī is pragmatic; he provides a place for the masses by saying that knowledge of things by way of similitude (tamthīl) is sufficient for them. It is the task of the prince learned in philosophy or revelation to instruct them on the right path. (18)
On the other hand, as for the power of the human intellect to know natural things, al-Fārābī says that it does not know their real essences, but only their external properties, which are not the true specific differences of a definition. (19) Elsewhere he distinguishes between an essential definition of natural things and a definition through external properties, without raising the problem of the validity of the one or the other. (20)
Philosophy and revelation are alike in the fact that both come from an emanation of the Agent Intellect. If this inspiration touches the imaginative power it makes a man a prophet; if it touches the intellect it makes him a philosopher. (21)
Miskawayh teaches that this life should be a search for wisdom, which brings about moderation between excess and defect. True wisdom is characterized by subtlety (dhihn) which is the mode of angelic intelligence, understanding instantly without passing through the paths of reasoning. (22)
Happiness in this life also demands knowledge of the physical, spiritual and divine worlds. (23) Happiness is characterized by unity and rising to the intelligible world, whereas misery is characterized by division and descent into the sensible world. (24) Miskawayh answers the objection that excessive intellectual activity brings about melancholy. He says that it is not the exercise of the intellect that brings about melancholy, but excessive activity of the imagination. (25)
Miskawayh describes the experience of a rapture by the Agent Intellect, when a person faints and almost dies because of this perfect pleasure. (26)
Happiness in the future life consists in the reception of a divine emanation (fay), which each soul receives according to its different capacity. One of the pleasures of the separated soul is the company of like souls. The unhappy are those who have an impediment to this emanation. (27) The desire for future happiness makes us despise the pleasures of this world and avoid the impediments which are lust and anger. Any material description of future happiness is only metaphorical. (28)
As for Ibn-Sīnā, the eternal destiny of everyone is either happiness (as-sa`āda) or unhappiness (shaqāwa). (29) Happiness after death consists in conjunction with the Agent Intellect, which gives the soul its perfection by communicating to the enlightenment of the divine emanation. (30) Thus the separated soul has no more need of the body for knowledge, but it knows by its essence. (31) Ibn-Sīnā rejects the monist tendency of those who say that union with the Agent Intellect is becoming (or fusion with) the Agent Intellect. The separated soul retains its individuality. (32)
In this life, since the perfection of the soul comes by infusion from the Agent Intellect, (33) even salāt is directed to it (passing on to God), and it is through this salāt that the Agent Intellect descends to the soul. (34) Given the cosmic and universal role that Ibn-Sīnā accords to the Agent Intellect, it is not surprising that he shows a devotion to it which to us seems idolatrous. But in his ad-Du`ā, he directs his prayer to God, asking him to enlighten him through the Agent Intellect. (35) Elsewhere he recommends devotion to the angels, who know and direct the details of this world by their substance. Angels are visible to each other, and a man who seeks to learn the truth and be purified can receive communications from them. (36) Thus the Risāla fī tazkiya an-nafs contains a cosmic prayer, asking from God an infusion of wisdom through the action of the stars, of Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter, and the Agent Intellect. (37) Elsewhere Ibn-Sīnā recommends moderation and the practices of worshiping God prescribed by the Prophet. (38)
The most happy are those who have most developed their intellects in this life, and this supposes that their reason has dominated their passions. Those who have conceived the desire of developing their reason, but have turned away from this will have the greatest misery in the next life. Those who have not had the least idea of human perfection will not suffer so much by lacking it in the next life. (39) The distractions of this life impede the soul from seeing its true condition, and the joy of seeing God or the pain of lacking this are only realized after death. (40) Often Ibn-Sīnā talks of how the soul will be shocked by the truth when it finds itself stripped of the body. (41)
In his Risāla fī s-sa`āda, Ibn-Sīnā repeats that true happiness can only be found in the next life. To determine what true happiness is in this life, he follows Aristotles method of passing in review all the possible sources of happiness and eliminating them one after the other. (42) Likewise in ar-Risāla al-ahdawiyya fī l-ma`ād, he explains that there are all sorts of bodily and spiritual pleasures, which are unequal. True pleasure is knowing God, the angels and the nature of heavenly and earthly things. (43)
[This pleasure] can only be realized and be absolute in the next life. For happiness in this life consists in stripping the soul from the body and from the traces of nature, and in the complete separation of its essence, when it will see by an intellectual vision the essence of Him whose reign is supreme, the spirits that adore him, the upper world, and how it got there. The greatest pleasure is in that, whereas the greatest unhappiness consists in the opposite of that. Just as this happiness is the greatest, so that unhappiness is the most painful. (44)
Where exactly is the dividing line between those who are destined to eternal happiness and those destined to eternal unhappiness? Ibn-Sīnā says that he can only venture an approximation: 1) Those who have a general idea of the structure of the universe, how everything flows from the first immaterial Principle, and who practice moderation in their private and social life will be qualified for happiness. 2) Those who have no scientific idea of the order of the universe, but follow religious beliefs on this subject can also reach happiness. 3) But among both classes of people there are those who have dispositions contrary to contemplation of the truth, who have immoderate attachment to sensible things and even think that intelligible and immaterial things do not exist. These will reach eternal happiness, but by passing through temporal suffering after death. (45) This is in agreement with the statement of the Sunnites [= the Ash`arites] that none of the Believers who commits great sins will stay for eternity [in the Fire]. (46)
Elsewhere Ibn-Sīnā says with assurance that: 1) the first class of people mentioned above, who are the sābiqūn, muqarrabūn of Qurān 56:10, merit to enter the world of intellects. 2) Those who lack either the necessary knowledge or its corresponding behavior will go to the world of the heavenly souls, that is to the Paradise of sensible joys described in the Qurān. These will stay there until they are purified; then they will pass to the rank of the first. 3) Those who lack both necessary qualifications will enter the world of the body, which is one of suffering. (47) Children and others who die without the possibility of developing their intellects will have neither absolute joy nor absolute pain, but will be in an intermediate state, between Paradise and the Fire. (48)
The Risāla fī `ilm al-akhlāq, speaking of the knowledge necessary for happiness, says that one must acquire all the sciences mentioned in the books that enumerate the sciences (kutub ihsā al-`ulūm such as that of al-Fārābī and his own Risāla fī aqsām al-`ulūm al-`aqliyya). (49) As for both intellectual and moral perfection, just as one is in this life so he will be when he is separated from the body. (50)
Thus both intellectual and moral perfection are requires for eternal happiness, but there are individuals who lack one or the other.
If the soul is content with the corrupt state of its knowledge and beliefs and it is separated from the body, it will encounter the evil that we mentioned. The human soul can only be saved from this intellectual state by a period of time spent in learning with certitude the truths of philosophy. So it is obligatory not to be remiss in the acquisition of philosophy, which is salvation from the deception that damages the essence of the rational soul. (51)
In ar-Risāla al-aawiyya fī l-ma`ād, Ibn-Sīnā presents six categories of souls in the next life: (52)
1) The perfect [in intelligence] who are purified from sensible attachments; these have absolute happiness.
2) The perfect who are not purified and are before a barrier (barzakh) or temporary state of waiting before proceeding to absolute happiness.
3) The imperfect who are purified, who have embraced error and fought against the truth; these will suffer eternally.
4) The imperfect who are purified, having been in error not from their own fault.
5) The imperfect who are purified, never having known either truth or error, such as mad people and infants. Categories (4) and (5) will have neither absolute happiness nor absolute misery, but will be in an intermediate state.
6) The imperfect who are not purified, having been responsible for the imperfection of their mind; these will be in eternal misery. If they are not responsible they will be in an intermediate state with sufferings brought on by their lack of purity.
It should be noted that the moral differences between those who follow the mean and those who sin by excess or defect corresponds to a physical difference between a balance or lack of balance of the elements of which the body is composed. (53) In principle, good physical complexion and beauty should go together with a good character, but this beauty can be damaged by external influences; besides, someone who has physical beauty can choose evil and become habituated to it. (54)
We should also note that, for Ibn-Sīnā, acquiring happiness is not a purely human work. Intellectual and moral development is first of all a gift of God:
The works that come [from the soul] are acquired by divine goodness, since the perfection of everything comes from his goodness, and the privation of things that hurt [this perfection] is also from the goodness of God. This goodness is generous, provided that giving a particular thing does not harm a higher good; in that case it is better to prevent that thing. (55)
This explains why throughout the writings of Ibn-Sīnā intellectualism is mixed with Sūfism. (56) The Ta`līqāt explains the relationship between human effort and divine help, always through the Agent Intellect:
The relationship of good works to the existence of virtue is like the relationship of consideration and thought to the existence of certitude. Just as consideration and thought do not cause the existence of certitude but prepare the soul for its reception, so good works prepare the soul to receive virtue from the giver of forms. (57)
The Risāla fī māhiyya al-`ishq places the acquisition of happiness in the context of the natural desire of everything, even non-animated, for its own perfection. Every natural desire is good, but in the case of man rational desires should control animal desires, especially that of sex. (58) Natural desires are the result of the manifestation (at-tajallī) of the goodness of God. When he gives existence, God gives at the same time the desire for perfection, which is a certain resemblance (tashabbuh) to him. Those who resemble him the most are intellectual creatures. When they attain their perfection they are the divinized or divine souls (an-nufūs al-mutaallaha/ al-ilāhiyya). (59)
It is clear that someone who perceives the good naturally loves it. It is also clear that the First Cause is lovable to divinized intellects. And when human or angelic souls are perfect enough to conceive of intelligible things as they are, they have a resemblance to the absolute good, and their operations are in conformity with intelligible reasons, characterized by justice. (60)
In using this Sūfic, or even Christian, language, Ibn-Sīnā goes even so far as to adopt the Sūfic term union (ittihād) with God, which as-Ghazālī later will reject. (61)
Happiness or misery in the next life are not recompenses that fall upon the soul, but are the lifting of the veil that hides the soul from itself. When the soul looks at itself without any impediment, automatically it acquires the state of happiness or misery corresponding to its condition. (62)
What place does the vision of God have in happiness? At the end of the two editions of his Risāla Hayy ibn-Yaqzān Ibn-Sīnā raises the question. He seems to speak of this life when he says that no one can conceive of its beauty and excellence.
His goodness is the veil of his goodness; his appearance is the cause of his invisibility; his manifestation is the reason why he is hidden, like the sun; if it is a little covered it is much more manifest, but when it shines it is veiled, and its light is the veil of its light. If this King lets his subjects see his majesty, he does not prevent them from approaching him. But when their [cognitive] faculties approach him without seeing him, he rightly gives them an abundant infusion [of himself], flooding those who receive it, as he is vast in his providence, universal in his giving. If anyone witnesses just a trace of his beauty, he cannot turn is look from him for an instant. (63)
In these texts Ibn-Sīnā gives the impression that God is too elevated to be seen. But the Agent Intellect is proportioned to man, and in communion with it he can find his eternal happiness. It is only in a late work, ar-Risāla al-ahdawiyya fī l-ma`ād, that he insists that the greatest pleasure in the future life is the vision of God. (64)
What does eternal misery consist in? It is not corporal fire, but first of all the distance from the Creator that comes from the condition of the soul. Secondly, it is the frustration of the desire engraven in the soul for the bodily pleasures it lacks. (65) According to those who hold that the separated soul retains its imaginative or estimative powers, the separated soul can experience, by phantom sensation, all the punishments or pleasures described in the Qurān; that is the reality of the punishment or reward in the tomb and of the bodily resurrection. (66) To avoid punishment for sins committed in this life, Ibn-Sīnā simply recommends avoiding these sins. (67)
In the Risāla fī ithbāt an-nubuwwāt, the Fire or Hell is the world of the external senses, and Paradise is the world of intelligibles. The passage on the sirāt, in the eschatology of the hadīth, is the hard work of the soul in passing from the external senses to the imagination, to the estimative power, to the cogitative power and finally to the intellect. (68)
In a very brief discussion of happiness, Ibn-Gabirol says that it consists in knowing the divine world. This is made possible by first understanding the world of matter and form, then by knowing the Will. The result of this flight from sensible to intelligible things is to escape death and be joined to the spring or source of life (maqōr hayyīm). (69)
Ibn-Bājja distinguishes different ranks of humanity: first of all the masses who are dominated by sensible knowledge. Then there are those who know the science of nature, who see the intelligible in the sensible. Lastly, there are the happy people who directly see the intelligible in itself, as in the sun, as Ibn-Bājja explains by Platos allegory of the cave. In that case they become light itself, which must mean an ontological identification with the Agent Intellect. (70) That is realized in a preliminary stage by the acquisition of metaphysics, but perfectly when one leaves the body. In this state one will meet all those who came before or after in this life, because they will all be numerically one. (71)
The final destiny of the first two categories can be surmised to be what al-Fārābī says, whom Ibn-Bājja loves to quote so often.
For the future life, Ibn-Tufayl distinguishes first those who did not know God in this life; these will have no desire for him and will suffer no pain for missing him. Those who knew him but followed their passions will suffer the loss of God, at least during as period of purification. Those who knew him and sought him in this life will have the pleasure of his contemplation. (72) These distinctions are not consistent with the denial of individual survival expressed elsewhere. In the context, they seem simply to be a recitation of ideas common in the Muslim community.
In this life one is obliged to be busy with the necessities of the body, but the principal aim of human life is the contemplation of God and acquiring a similitude of his attributes. (73) One is also obliged, like the heavenly spirits, to share in Gods providence for lower creatures. Thus Hayy ibn-Yaqzān was concerned with the preservation of nature, coming to the aid of distressed animals and plants. (74)
Mans happiness in this life, for Ibn-Rushd, is realized in conjunction with the Agent Intellect. (75) According to the Epistle on the possibility of conjunction with the active intellect that is realizable because the material intellect is eternal and the eternal can understand the eternal. (76)
As to the elementary forms of prime matter there is joined a second disposition to receive the forms of composites, so to the actualization of these forms there is joined a third disposition to receive the nutritive soul; to the realization of that is joined a fourth disposition to receive sensitive forms; to the realization of that is joined a fifth disposition to receive imaginative forms and a sixth disposition to receive speculative intelligibles; thus it is necessary that there be joined to these a seventh disposition [for conjunction with separated substances]. (77)
This disposition is realized by the actualization of the material intellect by study and not by Sūfism; in this way it becomes a speculative or acquired intellect. Study should be accompanied by the action of purifying the soul of its passions by prayer, fasting and silence. (78)
But all this preparation, achieved by so much work, must corrupt and disappear at the moment of direct conjunction with the Agent Intellect, like a combustible body before the fire that transforms it into its own nature. (79) Then the material intellect will enjoy the condition of life of the Agent Intellect, without alteration or corruption. (80) We must understand correctly the meaning of this conjunction or continuity (ittisāl) which has a precise meaning in the philosophy of Aristotle and Ibn-Rushd. It is for two things to have their extremities not just touching, but made one; it is a true union (ittihād) in a single being. (81)
The object of understanding becomes the knower, and then the intellect, the object of the intellect and the knower are one thing, being transformed into the essence and dignity of the Agent Intellect. The material intellect as intellect, the material intellect as knowing, and the Agent Intellect as known are, according to these three aspects, a single being with three dispositions... Les three intellects are transformed into one divine being. (82)
This happiness should be realized in this life. Ibn-Rushd criticizes al-Fārābī for having denied its possibility because of it being a union between the corruptible (the material intellect) and the incorruptible (the Agent Intellect), and also because he became old without experiencing it. (83) After this life there will be either perpetual non-existence or perpetual pain. (84) Ibn-Rushd does not restrict these words to a particular category of men, but he seems to be echoing Ibn-Bājja in speaking of the destiny of those who do not arrive at conjunction with the Agent Intellect, whereas those who have, as he teaches in the Tahāfut, will have immortality but not a personal one.
In the first question of his Tahāfut at-Tahāfut Ibn-Rushd supposes that the soul is immortal, but, against Ibn-Sīnā, he denies its individuality, for two reasons. The first is that, if the world has always existed, there would be an infinity of separated souls, but an actual infinity is impossible; besides these souls would exhaust the finite earth for the material of their bodies. The second is that the form of the soul is the same for all men and is distinguished only by matter; if matter is taken away there will be no more distinction but only one separated soul. (85)
In this context we can observe that by the soul Ibn-Rushd means the intellect, since he clearly says elsewhere that man is essentially an intellect. (86) The soul, as form, is inseparable from the body, (87) and all its sensitive powers, including the imagination or the material intellect, are corruptibles. (88)
Thus, in spite of a certain obscurity of the texts, we can conclude that, according to the middle commentary on De Anima, there is no personal agent or possible intellect, nor even a single common possible intellect, but all men share in a single eternal intellect, the Agent Intellect. This is a substance separate from the soul, which knows everything and which is the real subject of knowledge when we attribute knowledge to anyone. What is personal to each man is an indwelling or radiated likeness of this intellect, corresponding to the different phantasms in the imagination of each person. This likeness, whether it takes on the state of the material intellect or the habitual intellect or the intellect in act, is corruptible, like the soul which is the substantial form of the body; both disappear with the body.
In his summary (Talkhīs) of the Risāla al-ittisāl of Ibn-Bājja, which he added to a later edition of his small commentary on the De Anima, after writing his large commentary, Ibn-Rushd praises the work of Ibn-Bājja. He explains the degrees of knowledge proposed by Ibn-Bājja, saying that the lowest degree is sensible knowledge, proper to the masses of people (jumhūr). The next degree is mathematics, which is abstract and remote from individual reality (al-ashkhās). The next degree is science of nature, which is closer to reality, but removed in so far as it is universal. The supreme degree is metaphysics, which studies the reality of separated substances which are at the same time individual and intelligible. (89)
Ibn-Rushd next considers the objection that metaphysical knowledge depends on principals (muqaddimāt) taken from physical science and that this knowledge is only intelligible by relation and analogy (bi-l-munāsaba wa-l-muqāyasa) to material things. He answers that this dependence on physical science is accidental (iāfa), and that it is by way of negation (salb) that one progresses little by little, starting from knowledge of the human soul, to a pure and unmovable understanding of God and separated substances. Thus conjunction with the Agent Intellect is not a physical or natural perfection (tabī`ī) bit a divine one (ilāhī), which makes of man thus perfected a composite of the perishable (fāsid) and the eternal (azalī).
In the Tahāfut Ibn-Rushd speculates on the state of the separated soul, saying that death is like sleep, in that in both states the soul is in act without an organ. (90) Avoiding any clear statement of his own position, he quotes the opinion of certain partisans of Ibn-Sīnā who defend the multiplicity of separated souls by the supposition that they have some subtle matter; they would then be like the jinn. (91) Supposing that the resurrection of the body is possible and true, Ibn-Rushd praises al-Ghazālī for his position that in the resurrection the body is not of the same matter as that left at death. (92) Like the other philosophers, Ibn-Rushd takes Qurānic descriptions of the bodily pleasures of heaven as figures of true spiritual pleasures; the bodily punishments of Hell are likewise symbols of the suffering of the soul. (93)
In all these texts, there is no basis for saying that Ibn-Rushd believes in personal immortality. (94) Rather on this question he follows the road traced by Ibn-Bājja. It is only in his al-Kashf `an manāhij al-adilla, while discussing the question of the resurrection, that Ibn-Rushd seems to take another position. He first establishes that human happiness consists in the act of the intellect, together with the speculative and practical virtues. Then he says:
After death souls will be stripped of their bodily desires. But if they had been stained, their separation will add to their dirtiness, because they will suffer from the sins (radāil) that they have acquired. And the failure that they experienced by their lack of purification will be intensified when they are separated from the body, because they can gain nothing apart from the body. (95)
Ibn-Rushd outlines three ways that different religions follow in trying to describe future life: 1) that future life is just like this life (with bodily pleasures), but it is permanentthe opinion of the majority of Muslims, 2) that future life is spiritual, and its sensible representation in the Qurān is allegoricalthe opinion of the philosophers, and 3) that future life is bodily, but completely different from this life, because there we will be incorruptible and have no metabolism or nutrition or generation; thus his life and the future life have only the name life in common, as Ibn-`Abbās said. Ibn-Rushd is happy that those who propose this opinion do not demand that at the resurrection the soul takes back the same matter that it left behind at death. (96)
Ibn-Rushd wrote al-Kashf `an manāhij al-adilla to show that, although a philosopher, he is an authentic Muslim. He praises all the expressions that are found in the Qurān as the best way to guide the masses, but it is clear that he himself leans towards an allegorical interpretation of the stories of the resurrection. His acceptance of the immortality of the soul does not contradict his teaching on the unicity of the intellect of those who die in a state of perfection. The different destiny of the unperfected agrees with his teaching in The conjunction that the misery of these people is really annihilation.
5.1.11 Moshe ben Maimon
The purpose of man, for Moshe ben Maimon, is to develop in the likeness (tashabbuh) of God. (97) Happiness in this life is to receive emanation (fay) from God and angels, particularly in the form of dreams, which are 1/60th part of prophecy. (98) Moshe ben Maimon pinpoints matter as the factor that drags man down; thus desires for material things like alchohol and sex are opposed to living by intelligence and knowing separated substances. (99) Thus moral evil is the consequence of ignorance or lack of knowledge of the Lord. (100)
The moral law in the Torah is guided by wisdom and not simply the arbitrary will of God. Nevertheless not every detail of the Law can be justified by reason. (101)
5.1.12 Thomas Aquinas
For Thomas Aquinas, the perfection of human life is to know God. (102) Since this knowledge is not possible to achieve by philosophy, by faith, or by inspiration from separated intellects, it is not possible for man to achieve it in this life. (103) Even in the future life, the vision of God cannot be acquired by knowing the angels or other separated souls, but only God himself can give it. That is through the gift of glory, which is an adaptation of the soul to see God. (104) This vision is not comprehensive, but it is available to every soul to the extent of its readiness. (105)
5.2 The society of the virtuous
For Ibn-Masarra, human society is, like the world of nature, hierarchical. Under God, prophets, religious scholars (`ulamā) and philosophers (ukamā) correspond to the human soul. Kings and other rulers correspond to the animal soul, and workers correspond to the vegetative soul. (106)
For al-Fārābī, one condition of human development in preparation for eternal happiness is the society of the virtuous or the virtuous city (al-madīna al-fādila). This, with its hierarchical structure, is a mirror of the celestial hierarchy. (107) Founded by a philosopher-king, who could be a prophet, it continues under the direction of a wise king. (108)
Likewise for Ibn-Sīnā, the prince or true king should be endowed with a perfect intelligence and the moral virtues. (109)
Ibn-Rushd expresses his ideas in a commentary on the Republic of Plato, in which he follows Platos ideas on the philosopher-king.
As for Thomas Aquinas, like al-Fārābī, he holds that the order of the universe is hierarchical, with a heavenly and an earthly hierarchy. Just as superior angels enlighten their inferiors, men endowed with greater intelligence should enlighten and direct others, and man is to direct creatures that are below man. (110)
As we have seen, for al-Fārābī, human knowledge consists in the reception of intelligible forms from the Agent Intellect. Prophecy, then, is nothing more than an extraordinary level of the same reception from the Agent Intellect.
Since all are created with the ability to learn every truth about God by philosophy, ar-Rāzī says that prophets are not necessary, and those who claim to be prophets are impostors. We will come back to ar-Rāzīs position in the next chapter.
The prophet, for Miskawayh, occupies the summit of the human hierarchy which extends from those who are endowed with the greatest subtlety of intelligence all the way down to the blacks of Africa (zanj) who live almost like beasts. (111)
On prophecy, in ash-Shifā Ibn-Sīnā remarks that certain intellects are exceptionally well prepared to receive emanation from the Agent Intellect; such an intellect Ibn-Sīnā calls a holy intellect (`aql qudsī); that is a sort of prophecy; in fact, it is the highest of prophetic powers. (114)
Discussing prophecy later on in Awāl an-nafs, Ibn-Sīnā takes as his point of departure the absolute determination of all things through the separated intellects and heavenly bodies. A prophet is someone who can put himself in contact with these separate intelligences. He can do so because he has the natural disposition to do so in his imagination. There are different levels of men: 1) those who receive light inspirations which are quickly confused or forgotten; 2) others receive stable inspirations without any follow-up; 3) others receive stable or stronger inspirations which impel them to express them to others; this is prophecy at its minimum; 4) other prophets retain what they have received without ever being distracted from it; 5) finally there are prophets who besides that can continue to work at practical things without prejudice to their prophetic experience. Sometimes even mad men can know hidden things, because their imagination sometimes alienates them from external sensation and permits them to receive influence from on high. (115)
In his Risāla fī ithbāt an-nabuwwāt, a late work, Ibn-Sīnā puts prophecy at a place between the Agent Intellect and the material intellect. The Agent Intellect has the act of understanding by its essence; other intellects have it as an accident. Just as the habitual intellect is superior to the material intellect, the perfected intellect is still superior. But the intellect that is perfected by means of reasoning is inferior to that which is perfected by a direct infusion from the Agent Intellect. This latter is a prophet. (116)
Someone is a prophet if his intelligence is supremely developed and he can grasp much at once. That is because of his power of intuition (adas), but especially because he is open to the influences of the heavenly spirits. (117) This is exactly what Thomas Aquinas calls natural prophecy. (118) Ibn-Sīnā explains this idea in al-`Ilm al-ladunī:
In his providence God approaches this soul in a general way, and looks at it with a divine look. He makes of this soul his slate, with the universal soul [= the Agent Intellect] his pen. And he inscribes on it everything that the universal soul knows. Thus the universal intellect becomes a teacher and the hole soul its student, who in this way acquires all sciences; all forms are written in it without its having to study or think. (119)
In his ar-Risāla al-`arshiyya, Ibn-Sīnā defines the speaking (kalām) of God in this way:
Sciences are infused by him onto the slate of the heart of the Prophet... by means of the Engraver Pen (al-qalam an-naqqāsh) which is also known as the Agent Intellect and the King who is brought near (al-malik al-muqarrab). (120)
In his Risāla al-fi`l wa-l-infi`āl he explains:
The definition of revelation (way) is the secret communication (ilqā) of the Agent Intellect (al-amr al-`aqlī), with the permission of God the Most High, to human souls that are prepared to receive this communication, either in the state of awakednessand that is called revelation or in sleepand that is called inspiration of the soul (nafath fī r-rū`). (121)
He continues to explain, according to the Mutakallimūn, how revelation made to a prophet is verified by miracles (mu`jizāt), but those who receive inspiration (ilhām) can only work wonders (karāmāt). In his Risāla fī bayān al-mu`jizāt wa-l-karāmāt wa-l-a`ājīb Ibn-Sīnā explains that these are possible because pure souls can have an influence on external matter. Ibn-Sīnā likewise refers to the power of the eye, according to the widespread belief in the Muslim world of his time and long afterwards. (122)
Prophecy is not a direct intelligible communication, but it passes through the imagination, according to the Qurān verse: It has not been given to a mortal that Allāh should speak to him, unless by revelatory signs, or from behind a veil, or by sending him a messenger to reveal what he wishes with His permission (42:51).
And as long as man is in this world, he cannot escape the evil of the surreptitious Tempter (Q 114:4), to whom God gave power over him. The imagination is Iblīs who would not bow down to the deputy of God [Adam] and his soul when the angels and all the powers did so (cf. Q 2:34). That is why everything that the intellect judges regarding things abstract from matter, the imagination detests... The Legislator [Muammad] said: There is no one among you who does not have a Satan. (123)
Here Ibn-Sīnā does not draw the conclusion that it is possible for there to be error in prophecy. He seem simply to say that the imagination serves as a means of prophecy, but it is opposed sometimes to pure truth.
In the Ta`līqāt, however, prophetic illumination comes first of all to the intellect in a sudden comprehensive idea; then it passes to the imagination where it becomes an audible composition. (124)
Ibn-Sīnā accepts the classic distinction of the Mutakallimūn between a prophet (nabī) and a messenger (rasūl); the latter, besides receiving a message, has the task of communicating (tablīgh). (The distinction in the Qurān is rather that prophet is applied to Biblical prophets, while messenger is applied also to other prophets. (125)) But he adds that a messenger receives his message precisely from the universal intellect [= the Agent Intellect], whereas a prophet receives it from the universal soul [= that of the moon]. The relation between this soul and the universal intellect is like the relation between Eve and Adam. From the universal intellect there comes revelation (way), whereas from the universal soul only inspiration (ilhām) comes. The Sūfīs also participate in inspiration, which continues after the close of revelation with Muhammad. (126)
Prophecy, according to Ibn-Tufayl, is the perfect reception of the emanation of the spirit or intellect which comes from God. What this spirit is, we have discussed in chapter 4.
As for prophecy, in the Tahāfut Ibn-Rushd remarks that divine science (or metaphysics) is so marvelous that some people attribute it to the jinns, but others to prophets; thus he quotes Ibn-Hazm that the existence of this science is the best indication of the existence of prophecy (127) -with the implication that philosophy does not differ essentially from prophecy.
Elsewhere he remarks that revelation (shar`) can supplement reason, but one should distinguish well between what surpasses reason absolutely and what is above the level of certain people, whether by nature (fitra) or by lack of education. (128)
In any case, Ibn-Rushd defends the prophecy of Muhammad, established by the miracle of the Qurān which, for Ibn-Rushd, consists in its theoretical and practical wisdom. (129)
5.3.7 Moshe ben Maimon
Moshe ben Maimon lists three opinions on candidates for prophecy: (1) The popular idea is that anyone, even ignorant or bad, can become a prophet, provided he also becomes good. (2) The philosophers, however, say that prophecy comes only to those of superior intelligence, and by necessity. (3) Jewish tradition is that prophecy is given to superior people, but not necessarily; God acts where and when he wishes. (130)
Prophecy consists in the attachment of the soul to the Agent Intellect, and is activated by visions or dreams. This requires the best disposition (mazāj) of the organ of the imagination. If it is dead now, it is expected to return in the days of the Messiah. (131)
Different levels of divine emanation result in different gifts: Coming to the intellect alone, it results in learned people who perfect themselves and others. When it comes to both the intellect and the imagination it results in prophets, who also perfect themselves and others. When it comes to the imagination alone, it results in civil leaders, priests and other moral leaders.
True prophets are characterized by a good life and bravery. False prophets are misled by imaginary visions and dreams, and are given to pleasure, especially womanizing. (132)
There are grades of prophecy: (133)
1 when a prophet does a great salvific work under divine inspiration
2 when a spirit speaks through him when he is awake
3 when the prophet sees a parable (mathal) in a dream and understands it
4 when he hears the speech of God in a dream without knowing it is from God
5 when he hears a person speaking to him in a dream
6 when he hears an angel speaking to him in a dream
7 when he sees God
8 when he sees a vision while awake
9 when he hears God speaking to him in a vision
10 when he sees a person speaking to him in a vision
11 when he sees an angel speaking to him in a vision
Although a prophetic message is usually in the form of parables directed to the imagination, the Torah is pure truth. (134)
5.3.8 Thomas Aquinas
Against the tendency of the Arab philosophers to reduce prophecy to a completely natural phenomenon pertaining to those who are eminent in intelligence, Thomas Aquinas holds that true prophecy is a purely gratuitous gift out of the control of the prophet, which he cannot exercise whenever he wishes. As a gift, it has nothing to do with the natural intelligence of the prophet, but the adaptation of his intellect to receive divine enlightenment is a supernatural gift. (135)
1. 1In his Risāla fī l-qawl fī n-nafs al-mukhtasar min kitāb Aristū wa-Flāun wa-sāir al-falāsafa.
3. 3Cf. Risāla fī māhiyya an-nawm wa-r-ruyā.
4. 4Risāla fī l-qawl fī n-nafs al-mukhtasar min kitāb Aristū wa-Flātun wa-sāir al-falāsafa.
5. At-tibb ar-rūhānī, section 2; cf. Abū-Hātim ar-Rāzī, al-Munāarāt.
6. Risāla al-i`tibār, pp. 72-73.
7. 7Mabādi ārā, 23, as-Siyāsa al-madaniyya, 32:8.
8. 8Cf. Risāla fī l-`aql, n. 45-46.
9. 9Mabādi ārā, 29 (p. 64).
10. 10Ta`līqāt, n. 32.
11. 11Ibid., 30; as-Siyāsa al-madaniyya, 62:6.
12. 12Mabādi ārā, 32 (p. 67); as-Siyāsa al-madaniyya, 82:16; Risāla fī ithbāt al-mufāraqāt.
13. 13Mabādi ārā, 32 (p. 68).
14. 14Ta`līqāt, n. 31.
15. 15Ibid., n. 51.
16. 16Ibid., n. 54.
17. 17Ibid., 33; cf. Falsafa Aristūtālīs, 1:3, pp. 68-69.
18. 18Loc. cit.
19. 19Ta`līqāt, nos. 6, 48, 84; cf. Ihsā al-`ulūm, ch. 4, pp. 114-115.
20. 20Falsafa Arisūālīs, 3, pp. 85-90.
21. 21Ibid., 25 & 27.
22. Wasiyya, pp. 191-194.
23. Al-Fawz al-asghar, pp. 96-97.
24. Ibid., pp. 88-89.
25. Maqāla fī n-nafs wa-l-`aql, pp. 59-57, 48-47.
26. Risāla fī l-ladhdhāt wa-l-ālām, p. 67.
27. Al-Fawz al-asghar, pp. 104-106.
28. Ibid., pp. 106-110.
29. 29Ibid., 22; ar-Risāla al-ahdawiyya fī l-ma`ād, p. 189.
30. 30Mabhath `an al-quwā n-nafsānsiyya, ch. 10; Risāla fī l-kalām `alā n-nafs an-nātiqa; Kitāb an-nukat wa-l-fawāid fī l-`ilm at-tabī`ī, p. 168.
31. 31Al-Ishārāt, nama 7, fasl 1-2.
32. 32Ibid., nama 7, fasl 9-12.
33. 33Cf. an-Nukat wa-l-fawāid fī l-`ilm at-tabī`ī, pp. 166-169.
34. 34Cf. Risāla as-salāt, pp. 11-12.
35. 35P. 297.
36. 36Cf. Risāla fī s-sa`āda, p. 16.
37. 37Pp. 293-294.
38. 38Ar-Risāla al-ahdawiyya fī l-ma`ād, p. 207.
39. 39Ahwāl an-nafs, ch. 15; Maktūb Abī-s-Sa`īd ilā sh-Shaykh wa-jawābu-hu.
40. 40`Uyūn al-hikma, 53; an-Nukat wa-l-fawāid fī l-`ilm at-tabī`ī, 164-165; ar-Risāla al-ahdawiyya fī l-ma`ād, pp. 201-207; Ta`līqāt, p. 81.
41. 41Ta`līqāt, pp. 23-24 and elsewhere.
42. 42Pp. 2-5.
43. 43Pp. 191-201.
44. 44Ibid., p. 205.
45. 45Ibid.; cf. also Jawāb sitt `ashar masāil li-Abī Rayān, n. 3, p. 3; for disbelief in intelligible things, see Ta`līqāt, p. 32 and elsewhere.
46. 46Risāla fī s-sa`āda, p. 17.
47. 47Risāla fī ma`rifa an-nafs an-nātiqa wa-ahwāli-hā, ch. 3 & khātima.
48. 48Risāla fī s-sa`āda, p. 16.
49. 49P. 115.
50. 50Ibid., p. 123.
51. 51Risāla fī s-sa`āda, p. 18.
52. 52Pp. 209-213.
53. 53Risāla fī l-kalām `alā n-nafs an-nātiqa.
54. 54Risāla fī māhiyya al-`ishq, p. 19.
55. 55Risāla fī s-sa`āda, p. 19.
56. 56Among his other works, see the little Risāla fī l-hathth `alā dh-dhikr.
57. 57P. 37.
58. 58Pp. 15-17.
59. 59Pp. 21, 27 etc.
60. 60P. 23.
61. 61P. 25.
62. 62Ahwāl an-nafs, ch. 15; cf. also Mabhath `an al-quwā n-nafsāniyya, ch. 10.