Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sirat al Mustaqim of Abraham

Bruce Feiler's sincere inquiry into the heart of the world's three monotheistic faiths in search of the role and meaning of Abraham results in an astounding conclusion that offers healing to all men and women of faith:

"When I first set out on this journey, I believed Abraham existed in some mysterious place. The Great Abrahamic Hope was out there, an oasis somewhere in the deepest deserts of antiquity, and all we had to do was track him down, unveil him to the world, and his descendants would live in perpetual harmony, dancing "Kumbaya" around the campfire.

That oasis, I realized, is just a mirage.

But Abraham isn't. Abraham is like water. I came to to believe, but not the oasis I had originally thought. He's a vast, underground aquifer that stretches from Mesopotamia to the Nile, from Jerusalem to mecca, from Kandahar to Kansas City. He's an ever-present, ever flowing stream that represents the basic desire all people have to form a union with God. He's a physical manifestation of the fundamental yearning yo be descended from a sacred source. He's a personification of the biological need we all share to feel protected by someone, something. Anything.

This perpetual stream of Abrahamic ideals has existed just under the surface of the world for as long as humans have told themselves stories. And every generation - at moments of joy and crisis - tapped into the same source. Each generation chose an Abraham for itself.

And we can, too. We can tap into the same underground stream and draw out a figure for our times. We can summon our own savior from the sands, and in so doing bring ourselves closer to God. We can, like Abraham, leave behind our native places - our comfortable, even doctrinaire traditions - and set out for an unknown location, whose dimensions may be known only to God but whose mandate is to be a place where God's blessing is promised to all.

In short, we can create Abraham Number Two Hundred Forty-one.

And we must.

So what should our`Abraham look like? For starters, he should look like us. He should be a creature of the modern world, informed by our number-crunching mentality - the number of people killed, the number of people under occupation,, 1948, 1967, 56.6 K, 9-11. He should be a student of our time, knowing like a savvy, modern day Zelig that a lot of other people bearing his name are running around the world wreaking havoc in his honor.

But most of all he should embody the timeless values he's represented for four millennia. The Abraham I crave is God-fearing but also God-not-fearing. This Abraham is a wanderer, a man of the frontier, who's prepared to leave the comfort of his family for the sake of the family he wants to create, and who admits that he can't do this alone but needs a partnership with God in order to realize himself more fully. And this Abraham, having given his life over to God, is then prepared to challenge God, in order that God might more fully realize himself and renew his commitment to protect humankind.

The Abraham I long for would be a bridge between humanity and the divine, who demonstrates the example of what it means to be faithful but who also delivers to us God's blessing on earth. And this Abraham conveys God's grace through his children, through Ishmael, through Isaac, and who then has so much hallowedness left over that he doles some out to all members of his household, and then to the children of his second wife. And this Abraham is perceptive enough to know that his children will not always embrace the fullness of God's blessing, they will not always endlessly dance "Kumbaya" around the campfire, they will fight, murder, fly planes into buildings, send bombs into schools, and generally try to squander God's generosity.

But this Abraham believes - against all belief - that his children will crave God. They still need the comfort of something greater than themselves, still hold on to some gleam of humanity, still dream of a moment when they stand alongside one another and pray for their lost father and for the legacy of peace among the nations that was his initial mandate from heaven.

This Abraham is not Jew, Christian, or Muslim. He is not flawless; he's not a saint. But he is himself, the best vessel we've got, the father of all.

This Abraham won't be the only Abraham. He won't be the last Abraham. But he is an Abraham for today.

I choose him." (2002, pp. 215-218).

~ Excerpted from "Abraham" by Bruce Feiler.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Correct Path of Abraham

Bruce Feiler's book "Abraham - A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths" goes to the heart of the interfaith issues between the Abrahamic faiths. This is an excerpt of his interview with Sheikh Abu Sneina, an Imam at the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem:

"As our meeting was drawing to a close, I mentioned the interfaith conversation in the world and asked whether he believed Abraham was a uniting figure or a dividing figure.

"If Muslims, Jews, and Christians follow what is mentioned in the Koran, then Abraham can be a uniting figure," he said, and I felt we might be heading down a path similar to the night before. "But even if Jews and Christians just follow what's mentioned about Abraham in the Bible, then we can reach unity."

Now this was a new idea. "But we have two different texts," I said.

"But the principle is the same, " he said. "You have a true heart, you have to believe there is one God. Maybe we have different approaches, but the destination is the same."

This was so radical in its openness that I didn't quite believe it at first. I mentioned that the previous Friday I had stood on a perch overlooking El-Aksa as he spoke. I could see Jews praying, Muslims praying, all the churches with their bells ringing. "And everybody could hear everybody else."

He laughed. "So what is your question?"

"Was that the sound of conflict or the sound of peace?"

"As Muslims we have the order to pray, to believe according to Islam, and God asks us very clearly to protests against other groups who have other beliefs. We want to spread Islam, to have a jihad. But that doesn't mean we have to fight. Jihad does not mean to fight people, it means to invite people to Islam, which is highly misunderstood, both historically and now. But this can be done peacefully."

"I would like to believe that," I said. "But people are dying. I live in New York."

"The situation is very difficult. There are problems in Palestinian society. People are deprived from coming to El-Aksa. Every family knows people who are prisoners, or who were killed. This political domination threatens religious tolerance. So religion is mixed with politics, you see."

"So, when I look at the situation, should I feel sad, or concerned? Or should I feel that in the future the spirit of Abraham can prevail?"

"You should feel sadness," the imam said, "not just for the Muslim world but also for Jews and Christians."

We nodded.

"But despite this sadness, " he continued, "hope must endure. We all sacrifice. We all have people killed. It's the same for Palestinians and Israelis, for Christians and Jews, for Americans, for people all over the world. We must find a way."

For the first time all morning I felt the imam emerging from his defensive posture. He was sitting on the edge of his chair now. His arms were stretching wide, his hands upstretched. His eyes burned. He was a preacher. He was a leader.

I lifted my voice in response. I moved to the edge of my chair, too. I swung my arms out wide. "So I give you a microphone," I said. "You can speak to the whole world. And I ask you to speak about Abraham. What is your message?"

We were sitting face-to-face now. The gap between us had disappeared. "Abraham was a man of faith," he began. "He worshiped God, and was thankful for God. He invented monotheism. He had high values. If all people - not just Muslims, Christians, Jews - follow the correct path of Abraham, I'm sure life would be better. But we are not doing that. The situation we are facing is that people are living their daily lives far away from the truly faithful, and from Abraham. if we look beyond the details, which we may disagree about, and follow the principles of Abraham - truth, morality, and co-existence - then most of our problems will disappear." (2002, pp. 182- 184).

~ Excerpted from "Abraham" by Bruce Feiler.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Straight Path - a Shia perspective

I asked the author of the Temple of the Living Imam blog for permission to re post one of his posts on Siratal Mustaqim. I also asked him for a brief bio. Here's his response in his own words and the text of the post:

Ok, let's see, what's important? I am a high school English teacher in rural Pennsylvania, father of three, grew up near Reading, PA, a good Catholic boy. A chance encounter with Islam during college sparked my spiritual interest and launched a ten-year trek through the Muslim world in search of the Imam. The Imam is a reality that constantly gives way to ever deepening understandings, and the blog is a way of recording personal encounters with this reality, whether through text or through spirit. Does that help? Let me know if there's anything else I can do for you! Brian

Monday, January 19, 2009

In reference to the entry of a couple days ago on the sirat al-mustaqeem, from the batini Twelver Shia exegesis of Sharaf al-Din Astrabadi called Ta'wil al-Ayat al-Dhahira fi Fadha'il al-'Itrat al-Tahira: "The path [mentioned in Surat al-Fatiha] is actually twofold. The path in this world and the Bridge in the Hereafter. As for the path in this world, that is Amir al-Mu'mineen, may peace be upon him. The one who is led to his wilayat in this world succeeds upon the Bridge in the Hereafter, and the one who is not led to his wilayat in this world does not succeed upon the Bridge in the Hereafter."

The interpretation of the verse reveals the dhahir-batin dichotomy present in so much of Islamic esoterism. According to this view, the Imam is the referent of most of the verses of the Holy Qur'an, even those that appear to be referencing something mundane and non-spiritual in nature. One can ask, "What is this path?" or "What is this Bridge?", and the answer will come,
"It is the Imam." But then the next question must be, "What is the Imam?"

That is a much more challenging question to answer, and that is the batin of the batin.

Note on translation: The words "path" and "Bridge" here are translated from the same Arabic word, sirat. By convention, the word sirat in the context of al-Fatiha is expressed as "path", while in the specific context of the description of the trials of the Hereafter is expressed as "Bridge".

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baseline on Clinical Psychology of Islam

Clinical and medical approach (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Unlike medieval Christian physicians who relied on demonological explanations for mental illness, medieval Muslim physicians relied mostly on clinical psychiatry and clinical psychology, and clinical observations on mentally ill patients. They made significant advances to psychiatry and were the first to provide psychotherapy and moral treatment for mentally ill patients, in addition to other new forms of treatment such as baths, drug medication, music therapy and occupational therapy.[32]

[edit] Al-tibb al-ruhani and diseases of the mind

The concepts of al-tibb al-ruhani (translated as "spiritual health" in Arabic) and "mental hygiene" were introduced in Islamic medicine by the Persian physician Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (850-934), who often related it to spiritual health. In his Masalih al-Abdan wa al-Anfus (Sustenance for Body and Soul), he was the first to successfully discuss diseases related to both the body and the soul. He used the term al-Tibb al-Ruhani to describe spiritual and psychological health, and the term Tibb al-Qalb to describe mental medicine. He criticized many medical doctors in his time for placing too much emphasis on physical illnesses and neglecting the mental illnesses of patients, and argued that "since man’s construction is from both his soul and his body, therefore, human existence cannot be healthy without the ishtibak [interweaving or entangling] of soul and body." He further argued that "if the body gets sick, the nafs [psyche] loses much of its cognitive and comprehensive ability and fails to enjoy the desirous aspects of life" and that "if the nafs gets sick, the body may also find no joy in life and may eventually develop a physical illness." Al-Balkhi traced back his ideas on mental health to verses of the Qur'an and hadiths attributed to Muhammad, such as:[3]
"In their hearts is a disease."
Qur'an 2:10
"Truly, in the body there is a morsel of flesh, and when it is corrupt the body is corrupt, and when it is sound the body is sound. Truly, it is the qalb [heart]."
Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Iman
"Verily Allah does not consider your appearances or your wealth in (appraising you) but He considers your hearts and your deeds."
Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, no. 8707

[edit] Mental hospitals

As a result of the new positive Islamic understanding of mental illness, the first mental hospitals and insane asylums were built in the Islamic world as early as the 8th century. The first mental hospitals were built by Arab Muslims in Baghdad in 705, Fes in the early 8th century, and Cairo in 800. Other famous mental hospitals were built in Damascus and Aleppo in 1270.[4][33]

[edit] Al-‘ilaj al-nafs and tibb al-qalb

Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari's Firdous al-Hikmah written in the 9th century was the first work to study 'al-‘ilaj al-nafs (translated as "psychotherapy" from Arabic)[10] in the treatment of patients. His ideas were primarily influenced by early Islamic thought and ancient Indian physicians such as Sushruta and Charaka. Unlike earlier physicians, however, al-Tabari emphasized strong ties between psychology and medicine, and the need for al-‘ilaj al-nafs and counseling in the therapeutic treatment of patients. He wrote that patients frequently feel sick due to delusions or imagination, and that these can be treated through "wise counselling" by smart and witty physicians who could win the rapport and confidence of their patients, leading to a positive therapeutic outcome.[14] In his chapter on mental illness, al-Tabari first described thirteen types of mental disorders, including madness, delirium, and Fasad Al-Khayal Wal-Aqo ("damage to the imagination, intelligence and thought").[34] He also clearly highlighted mental illness as a speciality of its own.

The Tunisian Arab Muslim physician,[35] Ishaq ibn Imran (d. 908),[36] known as "Isaac" in the West,[37] wrote an essay entitled Maqala fil-L-Malikhuliya, in which he first described psychosis, and also described a type of melancholia: the "cerebral type" or "phrenitis". He described the diagnosis of this mental disorder, reporting its varied symptoms. The main clinical features he identified were sudden movement, foolish acts, fear, delusions, and hallucinations of black people.[36] This work was later translated into Latin as De Oblivione (On Forgetfulness) by Constantine the African.[35]

The Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) (865-925) wrote the landmark texts El-Mansuri and Al-Hawi in the 10th century, which presented definitions, symptoms, and treatments for many illnesses related to mental health and mental illness. Razi's texts made significant advances in psychiatry. Razi also managed the mental ward of a Baghdad hospital. Such institutions could not exist in Europe at the time, because of European fears of demonic possession.[32]

In the centuries to come, Islam would serve as a critical waystation of knowledge for Renaissance Europe, through the Latin translations of many scientific Islamic texts. Razi, al-Tabari and Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi were the first known physicians to study al-‘ilaj al-nafs.
Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi (d. 982) discussed mental illness in his medical text, Kitab al-Malaki, where he discovered and observed a type of melancholia: clinical lycanthropy, associated with certain personality disorders. He wrote the following on this particular mental illness:[36]
"Its victim behaves like a rooster and cries like a dog, the patient wanders among the tombs at night, his eyes are dark, his mouth is dry, the patient hardly ever recovers and the disease is hereditary."

Avicenna (980-1037) often used psychological methods to treat his patients.[23] One such example involved a prince of Persia who had melancholia and suffered from the delusion that he was a cow. He would low like a cow, crying "Kill me so that a good stew may be made of my flesh," and would not eat anything. Avicenna was persuaded to undertake the case, and sent a message to the patient, asking him to be happy, as the butcher was coming to slaughter him, and the sick man rejoiced. When Avicenna approached the prince with a knife in his hand, he asked, "Where is the cow so I may kill it." The patient then lowed like a cow to indicate where he was. By order of Avicenna in his role as the butcher, the patient was also laid on the ground for slaughter. When Avicenna approached the patient, pretending to slaughter him, he said, "The cow is too lean and not ready to be killed. He must be fed properly and I will kill it when it becomes healthy and fat." The patient was then offered food, which he ate eagerly and gradually "gained strength, got rid of his delusion, and was completely cured."[38]

[edit] Music therapy

Al-Kindi (801–873) was the first to realize the therapeutic value of music. He was the first to experiment with music therapy, and he attempted to cure a quadriplegic boy using this method.[39]
Later in the 9th century, al-Farabi also dealt with music therapy in his treatise Meanings of the Intellect, where he discussed the therapeutic effects of music on the soul.[15]

[edit] Cognitive therapy

Al-Kindi developed cognitive methods to combat depression and discussed the intellectual operations of human beings.[14]
According to the psychologist Amber Haque, the medieval Islamic scholar Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (850-934) was "probably the first cognitive and medical psychologist to clearly differentiate between neuroses and psychoses, to classify neurotic disorders, and to show in detail how rational and spiritual cognitive therapies can be used to treat each one of his classified disorders."[40]

Al-Balkhi classified neuroses into four emotional disorders: fear and anxiety, anger and aggression, sadness and depression, and obsession. According to Haque, al-Balkhi further classified three types of depression: normal sadness (huzn) which is "today known as normal depression", "endogenous depression" which "originated within the body", and "reactive depression" which "originated outside the body".[40]

Al-Balkhi also wrote that a healthy individual should always keep healthy thoughts and feelings in his mind in the case of unexpected emotional outbursts in the same way drugs and First Aid medicine are kept nearby for unexpected physical emergencies. He stated that a balance between the mind and body is required for good health and that an imbalance between the two can cause sickness. Al-Balkhi also introduced the concept of reciprocal inhibition (al-ilaj bi al-did), which was re-introduced over a thousand years later by Joseph Wolpe in 1969.[40]

[edit] Physical and psychological disorders

The Muslim physician Abu Zayd Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (850-934) was a pioneer of al-‘ilaj al-nafs, and the first to compare "physical and psychological disorders" and show "their interaction in causing psychosomatic disorders." He recognized that the body and the soul can be healthy or sick, or "balanced or imbalanced", and that mental illness can have both psychological and/or physiological causes. He wrote that imbalance of the body can result in fever, headaches and other physical illnesses, while imbalance of the soul can result in anger, anxiety, sadness and other mental symptoms. He recognized two types of depression: one caused by known reasons such as loss or failure, which can be treated psychologically through both external methods (such as persuasive talking, preaching and advising) and internal methods (such as the "development of inner thoughts and cognitions which help the person get rid of his depressive condition"); and the other caused by unknown reasons such as a "sudden affliction of sorrow and distress, which persists all the time, preventing the afflicted person from any physical activity or from showing any happiness or enjoying any of the pleasures" which may be caused by physiological reasons (such as impurity of the blood) and can can be treated through physical medicine.[3] He also wrote comparisons between physical disorders with mental disorders, and showed how psychosomatic disorders can be caused by certain interactions between them.[40]

In the early 10th century, Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi reported a psychotherapeutic case study from a contemporary Muslim physician who treated a woman suffering from severe cramps in her joints which made her unable to rise. The physician cured her by lifting her skirt, putting her to shame. He wrote: "A flush of heat was produced within her which dissolved the rheumatic humour."[32]

Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi (d. 982) elaborated on how the physiological and psychological aspects of a patient can have an effect on one another in his Complete Book of the Medical Art. He found a correlation between patients who were physically and mentally healthy and those who were physically and mentally unhealthy, and concluded that "joy and contentment can bring a better living status to many who would otherwise be sick and miserable due to unnecessary sadness, fear, worry and anxiety."[3] He also first discussed various mental disorders, including sleeping sickness, memory loss, hypochondriasis, coma, hot and cold meningitis, vertigo epilepsy, love sickness, and hemiplegia. He also placed more emphasis on preserving health through diet and natural healing than he did on medication or drugs, which he considered a last resort.[15]

Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037), considered a father of modern medicine,[41] was a pioneer in neuropsychiatry, physiological psychology and psychosomatic medicine in The Canon of Medicine, and contributed to the nature versus nurture debate with his theories of empiricism and tabula rasa.

Avicenna (980-1037) recognized "physiological psychology" in the treatment of "illnesses involving emotions" and develop "a system for associating changes in the pulse rate with inner feelings" which is seen as an anticipation of "the word association test of Jung." Avicenna identified love sickness (Ishq) when he was treating a very ill patient by "feeling the patient's pulse and reciting aloud to him the names of provinces, districts, towns, streets, and people." He noticed how the patient's pulse increased when certain names were mentioned, from which Avicenna deduced that the patient was in love with a girl whose home Avicenna was "able to locate by the digital examination." Avicenna advised the patient to marry the girl he is in love with, and the patient soon recovered from his illness after his marriage.[32]

Avicenna also gave psychological explanations for certain somatic illnesses, and he always linked the physical and psychological illnesses together. He described melancholia (depression) as a type of mood disorder in which the person may become suspicious and develop certain types of phobias. He stated that anger heralded the transition of melancholia to mania, and explained that humidity inside the head can contribute to mood disorders. He recognized that this occurs when the amount of breath changes: happiness increases the breath, which leads to increased moisture inside the brain, but if this moisture goes beyond its limits, the brain would lose control over its rationality and lead to mental disorders. He also wrote about symptoms and treatments for nightmare, epilepsy, and weak memory.[23]

[edit] Nosology and psychopathology

In nosology, the Arab Muslim physician and psychological thinker Najab ud-din Unhammad (870-925) described in detail nine major categories of mental disorders, which included 30 different mental illnesses in total. Some of the categories he first described included obsessive-compulsive disorders (anxious and ruminative states of doubt), delusional disorders (which "manifested itself by the mind's tendency to magnify all matters of personal significance, often leading to actions that prove outrageous to society"), degenerative diseases, involutional melancholia, and states of abnormal excitement.[42]

Unhammad made many careful observations of mentally ill patients and compiled them in a book which "made up the most complete classification of mental diseases theretofore known." The mental illnesses first described by Najab include agitated depression, neurosis, priapism and sexual impotence (Nafkhae Malikholia), psychosis (Kutrib), and mania (Dual-Kulb).[32]
Unhammad also listed nine classes of psychopathology. This included the earliest description of Souda a Tabee (febrile delirium), which was in turn subdivided into Souda where patients showed impairment of memory, loss of contact with the environment, and childish behaviour; and Jannon (agitated reaction) which occurs when Souda reaches a chronic state and is characterized by insomnia, restlessness and sometimes "beast-like roars."[43]

Friday, January 9, 2009

Baseline on Medieval Islamic Psychology

Intellect and consciousness studies (Courtesy of Wikipedia).

Further information: Avicennism - Thought experiments on self-consciousness

In the philosophy of mind, certain hadiths indicate that dreams consist of three parts, and early Muslim scholars also recognized three different kinds of dreams: false dreams, patho-genetic dreams, and true dreams.[10]

One of the earliest Muslim psychological thinkers was Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Sirin (654–728), who was renowned for his Ta’bir al-Ru’ya and Muntakhab al-Kalam fi Tabir al-Ahlam, a book on dreams. The work is divided into 25 sections on dream interpretation, from the etiquette of interpreting dreams to the interpretation of reciting certain Surahs of the Qur'an in one's dream. He writes that it is important for a layperson to seek assistance from a an Alim (Muslim scholar) who could guide in the interpretation of dreams with a proper understanding of the cultural context and other such causes and interpretations.[13] Al-Kindi (Alkindus) (801–873) also wrote a treatise on dream interpretation entitled On Sleep and Dreams.[14]

Al-Farabi (Alpharabius) was a pioneer of social psychology and a pioneer in music therapy and dream interpretation.

In consciousness studies, al-Farabi (Alpharabius) (872-951) wrote the On the Cause of Dreams, which appeared as chapter 24 of his Book of Opinions of the people of the Ideal City, was a treatise on dreams, in which he was the first to distinguish between dream interpretation and the nature and causes of dreams.[15]

Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037), while he was imprisoned in the castle of Fardajan near Hamadhan, wrote his famous "Floating Man" thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness and self-consciousness and the substantiality of the soul. He referred to the living human intelligence, particularly the active intellect, which he believed to be the hypostasis by which God communicates truth to the human mind and imparts order and intelligibility to nature. His "Floating Man" thought experiment tells its readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations, which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues that, in this scenario, one would still have self-consciousness. He thus concludes that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a primary given, a substance.[16] Avicenna also wrote about the potential intellect (within man) and active intellect (outside man) and that cognition cannot be produced mechanically but involves intuition at every stage. As an analogy, he compares the ordinary human mind to a mirror upon which a succession of ideas reflects from the active intellect. He writes that a mirror can be rusty at first (i.e. before acquiring knowledge from the active intellect), but when the mirror is polished (i.e. when one thinks), the mirror can then readily reflect light from the Sun (i.e. the active intellect).[17]

H. Chad Hillier writes the following on the contributions made by Averroes (Ibn Rushd) (1126-1198) to the field of psychology:[18]

"There is evidence of some evolution in Ibn Rushd's thought on the intellect, notably in his Middle Commentary on De Anima where he combines the positions of Alexander and Themistius for his doctrine on the material intellect and in his Long Commentary and the Tahafut where Ibn Rushd rejected Alexander and endorsed Themistius’ position that "material intellect is a single incorporeal eternal substance that becomes attached to the imaginative faculties of individual humans." Thus, the human soul is a separate substance ontologically identical with the active intellect; and when this active intellect is embodied in an individual human it is the material intellect. The material intellect is analogous to prime matter, in that it is pure potentiality able to receive universal forms. As such, the human mind is a composite of the material intellect and the passive intellect, which is the third element of the intellect. The passive intellect is identified with the imagination, which, as noted above, is the sense-connected finite and passive faculty that receives particular sensual forms. When the material intellect is actualized by information received, it is described as the speculative (habitual) intellect. As the speculative intellect moves towards perfection, having the active intellect as an object of thought, it becomes the acquired intellect. In that, it is aided by the active intellect, perceived in the way Aristotle had taught, to acquire intelligible thoughts. The idea of the soul's perfection occurring through having the active intellect as a greater object of thought is introduced elsewhere, and its application to religious doctrine is seen. In the Tahafut, Ibn Rushd speaks of the soul as a faculty that comes to resemble the focus of its intention, and when its attention focuses more upon eternal and universal knowledge, it become more like the eternal and universal. As such, when the soul perfects itself, it becomes like our intellect."

"Ibn Rushd succeeded in providing an explanation of the human soul and intellect that did not involve an immediate transcendent agent. This opposed the explanations found among the Neoplatonists, allowing a further argument for rejecting of Neoplatonic emanation theories. Even so, notes Davidson, Ibn Rushd’s theory of the material intellect was something foreign to Aristotle."

[edit] Empiricism, tabula rasa, nature versus nurture

Further information: Avicennisn - Avicennian epistemology and psychology
One of Avicenna's most influential theories in psychology and epistemology is his theory of knowledge, in which he developed the concept of tabula rasa, a precursor to the nature versus nurture debate in modern psychology. He argued that the "human intellect at birth is rather like a tabula rasa, a pure potentiality that is actualized through education and comes to know" and that knowledge is attained through "empirical familiarity with objects in this world from which one abstracts universal concepts" which are developed through a "syllogistic method of reasoning; observations lead to propositional statements, which when compounded, lead to further abstract concepts." He further argued that the intellect itself "possesses levels of development from the material intellect (al-‘aql al-hayulani), that potentiality that can acquire knowledge to the active intellect (al-‘aql al-fa‘il), the state of the human intellect at conjunction with the perfect source of knowledge."[19]

In the 12th century, the Andalusian-Arabian philosopher and novelist Ibn Tufail (known as "Abubacer" or "Ebn Tophail" in the West) first demonstrated Avicenna's theory of tabula rasa as a thought experiment in his Arabic novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan, in which he depicted the development of the mind of a feral child "from a tabula rasa to that of an adult, in complete isolation from society" on a desert island. The Latin translation of his work, entitled Philosophus Autodidactus, published by Edward Pococke the Younger in 1671, had an influence on John Locke's formulation of tabula rasa in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,[20] which went on to become one of the principal sources of empiricism in modern Western philosophy, and influenced many Enlightenment philosophers, such as David Hume and George Berkeley.

[edit] Sensory perception

Ibn al-Haytham's psychology in his Book of Optics (1021) may have also possibly been influenced by Buddhist philosophy, echoes of which can be in some of his views on pain and sensation. He writes that every sensation is a form of 'suffering' and that what people call pain is only an exaggerated perception; that there is no qualitative difference but only a quantitative difference between pain and ordinary sensation.[21]

Avicenna was the first to divide human perception into five external senses (the classical senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch known since antiquity) and five internal senses which he discovered himself: the sensus communis (seat of all senses) which integrates sense data into percepts; the imaginative faculty which conserves the perceptual images; the sense of imagination which acts upon these images by combining and separating them, serving as the seat of the practical intellect; Wahm (instinct) which perceives qualities (such as good and bad, love and hate, etc.) and forms the basis of a person's character whether or not influenced by reason; and intentions (ma'ni) which conserve all these notions in memory.[22]

Al-Ghazali (Algazel) (1058-1111) stated that the self has motor and sensory motives for fulfilling its bodily needs. He wrote that the motor motives comprise of propensities and impulses, and further divided the propensities into two types: appetite and anger. He wrote that appetite urges hunger, thirst, and sexual craving, while anger takes the form of rage, indignation and revenge. He further wrote that impulse resides in the muscles, nerves, and tissues, and moves the organs to "fulfill the propensities."[23]

Al-Ghazali was also one of the first to divide the sensory motives (apprehension) into five external senses (the classical senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch) and five internal senses, which he was able to describe more accurately than Avicenna. The five internal senses discovered by al-Ghazali were: common sense (Hiss Mushtarik) which synthesizes sensuous impressions carried to the brain while giving meaning to them; imagination (Takhayyul) which enables someone to retain mental images from experience; reflection (Tafakkur) which brings together relevant thoughts and associates or dissociates them as it considers fit but has no power to create anything new which is not already present in the mind; recollection (Tadhakkur) which remembers the outer form of objects in memory and recollects the meaning; and the memory (Hafiza) where impressions received through the senses are stored. He wrote that, while the external senses occur through specific organs, the internal senses are located in different regions of the brain, and discovered that the memory is located in the hinder lobe, imagination is located in the frontal lobe, and reflection is located in the middle folds of the brain. He stated that these inner senses allow people to predict future situations based on what they learn from past experiences.[24]

In The Revival of Religious Sciences, al-Ghazali also writes that the five internal senses are found in both humans and animals. In Mizan al Amal, however, he later states that animals "do not possess a well-developed reflective power" and argues that animals mostly think in terms of "pictorial ideas in a simple way and are incapable of complex association and dissociation of abstract ideas involved in reflection." He writes that "the self carries two additional qualities, which distinguishes man from animals enabling man to attain spiritual perfection", which are 'Aql (intellect) and Irada (will). He argues that the intellect is "the fundamental rational faculty, which enables man to generalize and form concepts and gain knowledge." He also argues that human will and animal will are both different. He writes that human will is "conditioned by the intellect" while animal will is "conditioned by anger and appetite" and that "all these powers control and regulate the body." He further writes that the Qalb (heart) "controls and rules over them" and that it has six powers: appetite, anger, impulse, apprehension, intellect, and will. He states that humans have all six of these traits, while animals only have three (appetite, anger, and impulse).[24] This was in contrast to other ancient and medieval thinkers such as Aristotle, Avicenna, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas who all believed that animals cannot become angry.[25]

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How can you see the Siratal al-Mustaqim?

The human being is like the water of the river:
when it becomes turbid, you can't see to the bottom.
The bottom of the river is full of jewels and pearls:
pay attention, don't stir up the water,
for originally it's pure and free from pollution.
The human spirit resembles the atmosphere:
when air is mixed with dust, it veils the sky,
and prevents the eye from seeing the sun;
but when the dust is gone, the air once again becomes pure.
Despite your complete darkness,
God may offer you visions,
that you might find the way of deliverance.

Mathnawi IV: 2482-2486
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 2000, p. 75