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- The Book of Certainty
- On Moral Certainty, Justification and Practice
- The Book of Certainty : The Sufi Doctrine of Faith, Vision and Gnosis
The Book of Certainty
See what's new with book lending at the Internet Archive. Search icon An illustration of a magnifying glass. User icon An illustration of a person's head and chest. Sign up Log in. Web icon An illustration of a computer application window Wayback Machine Texts icon An illustration of an open book. Books Video icon An illustration of two cells of a film strip. Video Audio icon An illustration of an audio speaker.
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Images Donate icon An illustration of a heart shape Donate Ellipses icon An illustration of text ellipses. I remember purchasing a small metaphysical treatise by an author with a foreign name way back in as I was browsing the shelves in a small spiritual bookstore located amidst a beautiful garden in Ojai, California.
At the time, I knew nothing of Islam, let alone who the author was, yet the title intrigued me. It was, in essence, what I was search- ing for - certainty. I read as much of the book as I could but recall not under- standing very much. It quoted extensively from the Quran and offered highly esoterie commentaries in a language quite for- eign to me. I set it aside, but my curiosity had been piqued that shortly thereafter, in a life-altering transaction, I purchased a Quran and began to read a very personal revelation that would compel me to convert to the religion of Islam.
After more than a decade abroad seeking sacred knowl- edge, I returned to the United States and was soon teaching courses on Islam.
Not long after I was asked to teach a series of lectures based upon the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him. I agreed but needed a text in English for the students. I began looking for a sound biography of the Prophet that was written in an English style that did justice to the story. Surprisingly, for a man who the American historian Michael Hart ranked the single most influential human being who every lived, hardly anything serious biographical litera- ture was available other than poorly written works published in far-off places or polemics and misrepresentations.
I was somewhat despondent and then I discovered the finely pro- duced Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources, by Dr Martin Lings. I knew who he was because I had been warned that I should be careful when reading his books. Nevertheless, I decided to read the book and assess it for myself. I was quickly immersed in a story told by a master story- teller whose English oft-times sang and always soared.
My father, a fine critic of English literature, remarked after reading it that unfortunately the prejudice Westerners have for the topic has prevented it from being recognised as one of the great biographies of the English language.
I was struck by the surroundings, the absence of furniture in the room and the simple straw matting on the English cottage floor. The book had such a profound impact on my life that I adopted it for the class I was about to teach. In preparation I read it several times, making extensive notes and checked ref- erences to the original sources quite often.
He followed closely the work of Ibn Hisham but augmented it with several other historical sources. For those who attended the class, it will be an indelible experience marked by the grace that pervaded it as well as tears that flowed frequently. I attribute this to the topic of the course but also to the wonderful presentation of the material in Dr. The lectures were later produced as a tape set and was widely appreciated throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and even as far away as Pakistan and Malaysia.
I later came into contact Dr. I com- plied, and on my first visit I was accompanied by the well- known Muslim photographer, Sidi Abdal Adheem Sanders, who has made it his mission in life to photograph as many righteous people throughout the world as possible. When we arrived at Dr. Above left:At theTaj Mahal in Dr Lings would regularly tour Egypt, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and other countries where he would visit his students who were too poor to journey to England.
Above and page On a trip to Egypt in the Is. A few minutes later, Dr. Lings, well over ninety years of age, entered the room slowly yet gracefully, greeted us, and asked us to sit down. He sat on a small alcove that looked out upon a stunning English garden that I later learned was of his own tending and in which he is now buried. I spoke of how much his book had influenced me and told him that I had used it as a basis for my class. I then requested a belated permission to teach the book should I do so again in the future.
He graciously complied and signed the copy I had brought with me. He began to discuss our present age and how unfortunate it is that people are sev- ered from their spiritual roots. He mentioned how when he had been a child in England, prayer was the lifeblood of the family, and he lamented that many people in England no longer prayed nor even taught their children to do so.
He remarked that many people had forgotten that although God is merciful, He nonetheless has a wrathful side and that when people did not actively work to purify themselves, great tribu- lations came upon them as a result.
It seemed, to him, that the world was on the brink of some great purification. After the meeting, both Sidi Abdal Adheem and I agreed that the presence of the man was not dissimilar to that of some of the righteous men we were fortunate enough to have met in 54 Q-NEWS the East. Another quality that impacted both of us was the utter humility he displayed that was as genuine as the sheepskin rugs he offered us to sit upon.
What struck me more than any- thing else was that during the entire conversation he almost always prefaced his remarks or followed them with a verse from the Quran, which he quoted with an eloquent Arabic accent.
His slow and deliberate method of speaking instilled in the listener an anticipation of what was to come as well as a sense that the speaker was acutely aware of the angelic scribes who were anticipating and recording the conversation. I was happy that I had the good fortune to meet such a man; but lamented that I had never bothered to visit him before.
In the weeks that followed, several things that he had mentioned in our hour-long conversation returned to occupy my thoughts, particularly some insights into the Quran that he had brought to my attention.
I vowed that if I were in England again, I would try to visit him once more. Our next meeting came shortly after the first. Lings after being told of him by Fuad Nahdi, publisher of Q-News. When he heard of the excellent book Dr. Lings had penned and his love for the Prophet, he desired to visit him with us. The day that we arrived at the doorsteps of Dr. This time, the good doctor welcomed us at the door and I attributed this to Dr. Lings impeccable comport- ment towards a direct descendent of the Prophet, and God knows best.
He led us to the same room as before and invited us to sit. Before speaking, Dr. Lings apologised to us and explained that, while during his time in Egypt, he had become quite flu- ent in Arabic, unfortunately since his return to England his spoken Arabic had been neglected and become quite rusty from lack of use but that he would do his best.
Someone who was present brought up a thorny issue that was the source of the many warnings I had received about Dr. Lings responded to the question with comments that were highly philosophical. Lings substantiated his arguments with verses from the Quran.
What we heard instead was a rather novel interpretation based upon Dr. What they rejected rather was the tragic misrepresentation through distortion or the bad behavior of those who claimed to follow the true teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Lings was most certain- ly a devout and pious Muslim, fully committed to the teaching of the Prophet and one who rooted his thought and practice in the Quran despite our clear differences with him on the sub- ject of perennialism.
I believe that his spiritual presence was a cogent argument for his practice and commitment. Lings and in doing so I was afforded the extraordinary opportunity to thank him publicly for being the means by which Allah had guided me to Islam; and for that I am eternally indebted to him. Is there any evil after this good? And yet he, peace be upon him, called such people good. It is important for us to recognise the good in our com- munity and especially the scholars whom God has graced with intellect and training, which enables them to see things others do not see, and which as a result, causes them to sometimes make mistakes and err in their judgment and understanding.
While some of the views Dr. Many of our great scholars have maintained posi- tions based upon their idiosyncratic views and conclusions that extended beyond the boundaries of mainstream ortho- 56 Q-NEWS doxy, but this did not prevent the community of believers from recognising their excellence and benefiting from their knowl- edge and piety and looking for interpretive justifications or at least excuses for them.
Our scholars agreed upon marters that all Muslims could grasp as well as what was most unambigu- ously expressed in the Quran and Sunnah.
They shied away from metaphysical considerations inaccessible to most people that also allowed for confusion or obfuscation. Many scholars of the past have grappled with this theological bug- bear and many still do. For instance, the well-substantiated view held by Ibn Taymiyyah, may God have mercy on him, that the Fire would eventually be extinguished was based upon his belief that the mercy of God was too vast to punish people eternally.
He also based his opinions on a nuanced and highly interpretive reading of verses of the Quran that condemned some people to the hellfire eternally and substantiated his views with certain confirmed statements of the companions of the Prophet that buttressed his position. I read a book exam- ining his views on the matter and was dumbfounded by the strength of his arguments and the subtle points he brought up on the subject.
His position is, however, heterodox, and thus rejected by almost all the scholars of Islam. Such views are then cate- gorised as innovations. And despite all of those illustrious men suffering attacks from some of the great as well as less than great scholars of Islam, the community of scholars and believers alike have, notwithstanding such views, taken the good of such scholars and point out the areas of concern while adhering to the majority view where they may differ.
The Perennialist Muslims in the West constitute a highly educated cadre largely made up of converts, who have done some of the finest work on Islamic materials and have pre- sented Islam in a beautiful and illuminating manner that has made it accessible to people it would normally not have Dr. Lings had been signing books for some people, and when the Moroccan ambassador asked for an inscription, he changed from writing with his left hand to using his right.
Apologising for the poor penmanship, he said he refused to write Arabic with his left hand out of deference to the sacred script. In spite of the aforementioned concerns, to dismiss their noble endeav- ours is unconscionable and mean-spirited.
In my subsequent meetings with Dr. Lings the issue of Perennialism did not arise nor was I inclined to mention it. My respect for his scholarship, discernable spirituality and meta- physical insights, not to mention the fact that he was more than twice my age in years and three times my age in Islam all demanded I listen attentively to his wisdom and learn from his character.
He was a highly-educated Muslim who as the keep- er of Oriental manuscripts at the British Museum had spent much of his adult life reading some of the finest Arabic man- uscripts ever put to pen by Muslims, entirely aware of the orthodox position, and had read much finer arguments than those I would be able to muster. I chose to set aside the posi- tion I was taught and still adhere to and benefit from a unique English Muslim sage in a bereft and derelict age of folly.
As Dr. Lings was a man who spoke when he had something to say and said things that resulted from intense deliberation, I took copious notes on all of my visits.
On Moral Certainty, Justification and Practice
As a registered charity, the Islamic Texts Society is dependent on the financial support of its readers and of all those who share its educational vision to achieve its aims and objectives. If you are interested in supporting the activities of the Islamic Texts Society, please visit the Support Us page. Please consider buying books at full price as a way of supporting the charitable activities of the ITS. It came into being because the author was asked by a friend to set down in writing what he considered to be the most important things that a human being can know. He was also asked to make it very easy, and despite the depth of all that it contains, it has in fact a remarkable simplicity and clarity, due no doubt to the constant use of traditional imagery which awakens and penetrates the imagination. Every page bears out this claim, for the author is steeped in the esoteric teaching of the sufi sheikhs… It is both enjoyable and instructive to peruse his little volume.
Titles on Islam · Download PDF Catalogue ) specialising in the publication of books on the heritage of Islam. As a registered The Book of Certainty.
The Book of Certainty : The Sufi Doctrine of Faith, Vision and Gnosis
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A Wittgensteinian Perspective
It came into being because the author was asked by a friend to set down in writing what he considered to be the most important things that a human being can know. He was also asked to make it very easy, and despite the depth of all that it contains, it has in fact a remarkable simplicity and clarity, due no doubt to the constant use of traditional imagery which awakens and penetrates the imagination. Between the degree of human perfection and that of extinction in the Divine Perfection there are said to be innumerable spiritual degrees whose multiplicity is sometimes represented by a symbolic number as is the multiplicity of the different Heavens to which they correspond. Apart from considering Universal Man in the Supreme Truth, it is possible to consider him also according to his plenitude in one of these spiritual degrees. Thus, for example, it is said that on the Night Journey, when the Prophet Muhammad was taken from Mecca to Jerusalem, and thence up through the next world to the Divine Presence, he met one other Prophet in each of the seven Heavens; for this does not mean that each of these Prophets had only reached the Heaven in which he was encountered, but that as it were below his extinction in the Truth of Certainty his Spirit is considered as presiding over that particular Heaven in view of some special characteristic. The seven Heavens together make up one of the Paradises, which the Chapter of the All-Merciful mentions in the above-quoted verses as being of the number of four. According to the commentary, the two first-mentioned of these Paradises are the gardens of the Soul and the Heart, above which is the celestial Paradise, the Garden of the Spirit, which comprises the seven Heavens, and finally the Garden of the Essence Itself.
He left his initial notes at the home of Elizabeth Anscombe , who linked them by theme with later passages in Wittgenstein's personal notebooks and with G. The translators were Denis Paul and Anscombe herself. The editors also numbered and grouped the passages; citations to the work are standardly given as OC