Chapter 2
Explanation of ‘Ilm (Knowledge)

Section 1
Definition & Ranks of ‘Ilm (Knowledge)

Within the slave’s heart ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) is a borrowed Nur (Divine Light) from the Prophetic Alcove—where the Lantern for Divine Light shines from—so that the slave finds a way towards Allah, or towards some affair of Allah or towards the command of Allah. This ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) is something Khās (Peculiar, Exceedingly Exclusive) for a human being, indeed out of the ‘Idrāk (Grasp, Comprehension) of his ‘Aql (Intellect, Mind) and senses.

The difference between ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) and ‘Aql (Intellect, Mind) is that the ‘Aql is a Light from the Fetra (Inmost & Innate to Human Nature) discerning between the proper & corrupt and good & evil. And this Light is common between the believer and disbeliever. However the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) is Khās (Exclusive) to the believers. Whatever knowledge common between the believer and the disbeliever is that of the common_‘Aql (Intellect, Mind). But whatever that can discern between the proper & improper concerning the affairs of the Hereafter is Khās (Exclusive) to the believer. A definite link between the believer and the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) is a must. The eyes of this Khās_‘Aql (Intellect) enlightened by the Nur (Divine Light) of the Hedāya (Divine Guidance) and lined by the Divine Eyeliner of the Shariah (Prophetic Ways).

Therefore ‘Aql (Intellect) within its own Dhāt (Inmost Essence) is one object but with two obverse faces. One face from the Khāleq (Creator) i.e. the Khās_‘Aql (Intellect) for Hedāya (Divine Guidance). And the other face for the Khalq (Creation) or the common_‘Aql i.e. the intellect for the daily life. The believers and the seekers of the Haqq (The Absolute Reality & Truth, Allah) demand that the common_’Aql to follow the Khās (Exclusive to believers) Aql. So where the common_‘Aql is in concordance with the Khās_‘Aql the believers act accordingly and approve, but on the contrary due to the lack of concordance they disobey and disapprove of the common_‘Aql. And because of the latter the people of this life consider the believers weak in their ‘Aql (Intellect, Mind), unbeknownst to them these believers have another ‘Aql (Intellect) beyond their common_‘Aql.

There are three categories of ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge):

1.    ‘Ilm for Tauhid (Divine Oneness): As was said by Allah: So know (O Mohammad) that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah (Qur’an [47:19]).
2.    ‘Ilm for Ma’refat (Divine Gnosis): This is the knowledge that deals with the ‘Adam (Non-being), Wujud (Creation & Being-ness), Qurb (Divine Nearness) and Bu’d (Farness), life and death, resurrection and scattering of the life, the good recompense and just-punishment and etc.
3.    ‘Ilm for Shariah (Prophetic Ways): Knowledge specific to the prophetic commandments and prohibitions.

And each one of these Knowledge-Paths has a different Sālek (Traveler):

1.    Rab-bāni (Divine) ‘Ālem (Knower, Scholar): Found within these scholars is the Yaqin (Certainty) with regards to the Oneness of Allah and they are astute for Allah and affairs of Allah, in true submission for the laws of Islam. Their Qur’anic nomenclature is Sābeqūn (Pioneers).
2.    Okhrawi (Hereafter)/Tasaw-wuf (Sufism) ‘Ālem (Knower, Scholar): Found within them is the firm belief for the affairs of Hereafter and they extract from the Islamic Knowledge that which necessary for their spiritual benefit and put that knowledge into immediate & unconditional use. Their Qur’anic nomenclature is Abrār (Righteous, Pious) or Ashābul-Yamin (Companions of the Right whom their deeds-record will be given to them on the right hand).
3.    Dunyawi (Worldly) ‘Ālem (Knower, Scholar): Who have nothing from the Islam but the superficial and surface knowledge e.g. how to wash in the bathroom: They know only the outside appearance of the life of the world and they are heedless of the Hereafter (Qur’an [30:7]). Notably they have acquired their knowledge through learning. And whatever knowledge they have acquired they rarely implement due to their weak belief. And they have no inhibition to enter where it is forbidden and their infectious evil harms many. Their Qur’anic nomenclature is As-hābel-Shemāl (People of the Left whose deeds-records given to their left hand) and they are the most evil of the people most disgraced scholars and for them there is certain prophetic warning and promise: In the Hadith (Prophet Narration) for the Mi’rāj (Ascension to Heavens) it has entered “That night I passed by a group whose lips where being cut by fiery scissors, so I asked what nation of people are you? They responded: We are those who commanded good but did not do it ourselves, and forbade the evil and indeed committed the evil ourselves.” Also it is in the Hadith (Prophetic Narration): The most intense torment in the Day of Judgment is for those whose knowledge did not benefit them (did not do accordingly).

There is nobody better than the Rab-bāni (Divine) & Okhrawi (Hereafter) ‘Ālem (Knower, Scholar) and no one worse than the Dunyawi (Worldly) ‘Ālem (Knower, Scholar) as was depicted in the Hadith (Prophetic Narration): The best of the best are the righteous/good ‘Ālem (Knower, Scholar) and the worst of the worst the evil ‘Ālem (Knower, Scholar).

The reason for the above argument is that there is nothing more beneficial than that of the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) when it is acquired for the sake of Allah. And on the contrary, the worst is the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) acquired for the worldly benefits—The most the benefit also the more the harm.

When the body is healthy food is beneficial and yet when the body is ailing the food is often more harmful. Similarly ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge), in and of itself, is a beneficial nutrient nourishing the nurturing of the Akhlāq (Behavior) and heart, given the necessary condition that the person is not desiring the natural lusts and the love of this world, and his being has Tawaj-juh (Pointed Focus) towards the Divine Presence without the slightest deviation or slacking.

But when the person is deviated by the love of the world and his existence infected by the foul Akhlāq (Behavior), then like the food that harms the sick, ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) actually feeds to strengthen the lusts and desires for foul attributes e.g. arrogance self-admiration envy hatred and so on that finally cause the spiritual death. Look at this incredible fraud: what was supposed to save the spiritual life causes the death. And those scholars infected by it are enslaved by the desires and lusts:

So when he is chocking he is given the water
If chocked by the water give him what else?

The signs for the beneficial ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) are the increase of Taqwā (Piety) humbleness and yet the decrease of the impact of one’s existence upon this earth therefore enflaming the flames of Shawq (Yearning) and seeking the Divine.

The signs for harmful ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) are Nafs’ (Self’s) increase of arrogance pomp pride and seeking after the world.

And the above can be deduced from the Hadith (Prophetic Narration): He who seeks the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) solely for the sake of Allah nothing hits him except the increase of the lowliness for his Nafs (Self) and humbleness towards the people and fear for Allah and exertion for the Din (Way, Religion) and such is the person who is benefiting from the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge), and he who seeks the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) for the worldly life e.g. status in front of people or prestige in front of governor nothing hits him except the increase of (false) greatness, arrogance towards the people, heedlessness for Allah and harshness in the world and such is the person who did not benefit from the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) denied the good arguments for himself and regrets and shame for Hereafter.

And the benefit from the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) comes to the person who applies it with determination and not with carelessness as was hinted by Bā Yazid Bastāmi: Indeed Allah has chosen from the Creation hearts opened for acceptance by the Nur (Divine Light) of ITs Hedāya (Divine Guidance) and illuminated them by the beam of ITs Ma’refat (Divine Gnosis) and placed therein the throne of ITs Mahab-bat (Divine Love) whereat entrusted the custody of ITs ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) and Hikma (Divine Wisdom) and he who acts with determination in accordance to his ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) has for sure preserved the trust and he who acts accordingly with low esteem has indeed wasted and squandered the trust (Translation?).

The beneficial ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) prolongs the life of the heart and its discontinuation causes the death of the heart as was noted by the Fat-h Mūseli: Doesn’t a man who is denied food and water would eventually die? People said yes then he continued: Similarly once the hearts denied Hikma (Divine Wisdom) and ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) for three days shall die too!

Imam Ali has said: The scholars are the lamps of their times, and every scholar is a lantern enlightening the people of his time. (This narration is mentioned in the first part of the Ghazali’s Ihyā-el Ulum however phrased as “some have said”.)

From the latter we conclude that the existence of the Rab-bāni (Divine) ‘Ālem (Knower, Scholar) amongst the people is the best blessing of the Divine Blessings and their absence the worst darkness, disbelief and misguidance.

The heart is the reservoir for the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) and the appearance of the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) is due to the preservation of Adab (Etiquette) for the Divine Presence. As has been indicated in some of the past books of revelations: O Children of Israel do not say that the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) is in the skies and then who is going to bring it down? And do not say that the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) is in the depth of the earth and then how is going to mine it out? And do not say that the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) it in the bottom of the seas and who is going to dive it out? The ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) is within you! Under My Hand (Divine Power) nurture with the Adab (Etiquette) Spirituality and Truthfulness until I manifest the ‘Ilm (Divine Knowledge) within your hearts such that it will envelop you from the head to the toes.


© 2005-2002,  Dara O. Shayda