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The young Berkyaruq was proclaimed Seljuk Sultan in 1094; but his reign was marred by a civil war until he was succeeded by his half-brother Muhammad Tapar in 1104. Their uncle Arslan-Arghun claimed Khurasan except for Nishapur. Berkyaruq sent his uncle Bori-Bars, who was captured and killed; but Arslan-Arghun ruled so violently that he was murdered by one of his own retainers in 1097. Berkyaruq appointed his half-brother Sanjar Governor of eastern Khurasan and Tukharistan, and he ruled the east for sixty years. Muhammad ibn Sulaiman ibn Chaghri-Beg was supported by the Ghaznavids; but Sanjar's army suppressed this revolt in seven months and blinded him. The next year Sanjar did the same to Daulat-Shah in Tukharistan. Sanjar allowed his loyal vassals Qutb-al-Din (r. 1097-1127) and 'Ala' al-Din Atsiz (r. 1127-56) to rule over Khwarezm. Ghaznavid ruler Mas'ud (r. 1099-1115) married Sanjar's sister and left the Seljuks alone as he faced India. After some conflict with Sanjar during the three-year reign of Arslan-Shah in Ghazna, Bahram-Shah (r. 1118-52) became a loyal vassal of Sanjar.
The fighting between Berkyaruq and Muhammad Tapar made them unwilling to help defend Muslims against the crusading Franks. The brothers met in battle five times, beginning in 1100. After a win and a loss Muhammad was supported by Sanjar's army from Balkh. Berkyaruq lost popularity when his cavalry plundered the Sawad in Baghdad. He retreated south to Khuzistan and purged the Isma'ilis from his army, also massacring many in Baghdad and western Iran. The third battle was indecisive and resulted in a failed compromise. Muhammad repudiated it and was defeated, fleeing to Isfahan. After a nine-month siege, Muhammad escaped. Berkyaruq chased him into Azerbaijan and won the fifth battle in 1103; but Berkyaruq was ill and made peace. Chavli was atabeg for Muhammad's infant son Chaghri; but Chavli ruled Fars tyrannically, attacking tribal chiefs of the Kurds and Kirman, which was generally peaceful and prosperous during the long reign of Arslan-Shah from 1101 to 1142.
Possibly informed by Byzantine Emperor Alexius about the coming of the Franks, Egyptian vizier al-Afdal led the Fatimid army into Palestine to take control of Jerusalem by 1098 before the Franks arrived. Turks in the Seljuk province of Rum harassed the crusaders as they passed through Anatolia; but the Franks defeated Kilij Arslan at Dorylaeum in July 1097. Armenian Christians surrendered Edessa to Baldwin the following March. The crusaders besieged Antioch for eight months until it was betrayed by an Armenian Christian. Governor Yaghisiyan was killed fleeing, and the relieving army of Kerbogha from Mosul was defeated. Muslim historian Ibn al-Athir complained that after Maarat an-Numan surrendered, the crusaders killed a hundred thousand men. When the Franks conquered Jerusalem in July 1099, Jews were burned in the synagogue; Muslim historians estimated the massacre at 70,000. Many Muslims fled from Palestine. Malik-Ghazi of Danishmend captured the Norman crusader Bohemond and held him for ransom. In 1102 Mosul atabeg Kerbogha provoked a civil war in al-Jazira (Mesopotamia). In Anatolia Kilij Arslan had lost his capital at Nicaea to crusaders and retreated from Ankara; but the Seljuks held on to their fortress at Gangra and destroyed most of a crusader army at Mersivan.
When Berkyaruq died in 1104, he left his 5-year-old son as heir; but Muhammad Tapar (r. 1105-18) marched into Baghdad, blinded the boy, and became Sultan over the Seljuk empire with Sanjar still governing the east from Balkh. The long civil war had ravaged the country and caused famine. Sadaqa led Arabs and Kurds and had supported Berkyaruq, and in 1108 Muhammad's forces defeated and killed him. That year Muhammad sent troops and money to his cousin Duqaq in Damascus to help relieve Tripoli from the crusaders; this did little, but Egypt's al-Afdal sent a governor for Tripoli. During Muhammad's reign corrupt viziers gained great wealth. Muhammad ibn Fakhr al-Mulk ibn Nizam al-Mulk was Vizier for eleven years to 1118. When Sanjar seized him while returning from Ghazna, he was found to have one million dinars.
In 1110 Muhammad sent an army led by Mosul atabeg Sharaf ad-Din Maudud that besieged Edessa. Maudud and the Artukid Ayaz helped Tughtigin defend Damascus in 1113. Maudud was murdered in a mosque; Tughtigin immediately killed the assassin but was suspected anyway. That year Shi'a Ridvan of Aleppo died; he had closed his gates to Sunni Muslims from the east but was succeeded by his son Alp Arslan, who issued warrants for Shi'i assassins. Meanwhile Malik Shah plundered Pergamum. In 1115 Sultan Muhammad sent an army led by Hamadan’s Governor Bursuq; but they were defeated by the Franks led by Roger of Antioch. After Jerusalem’s King Baldwin attacked the Egyptians at al-Farama 1117, the Fatimids stopped intervening in the Levant. In 1119 Artukid ruler Il-Ghazi of Mardin defeated Roger of Antioch in the battle of Balat (Field of Blood). In the north the Christians of Georgia nearly destroyed the army of Il-Ghazi. He was succeeded by Belek, who massacred the army of Baldwin II and captured him. After Belek died, Il-Ghazi's son Timurtash ransomed Baldwin, who broke his promise to suppress the Bedouin leader Dubais by helping him.
Muhammad Tapar was succeeded as Seljuk Sultan by his son Mahmud (r. 1118-31); but his uncle Sanjar was the senior Seljuk and defeated Mahmud in 1119 in order to take over northern Iran. Mahmud then married Sanjar's daughter. Mahmud's brother Tughril also rebelled to extend his territory in northwest Iran. Another brother Mas'ud and his atabeg Juyush Beg ruled Mosul, al-Jazira, and Azerbaijan; they revolted in 1120 but were defeated by Mahmud's army. Two years later Juyush Beg helped suppress a revolt in Azerbaijan led by Tughril. These divisions among the Seljuks enabled the Abbasid caliphs al-Mustarshid (1118-35) and al-Muqtafi (1136-60) to gain more influence. Isma'ili leader Hasan ibn al-Sabba died in 1124 and was succeeded by Buzurg-Ummid (d. 1138).
Zengi became the ruler of Mosul in 1127 and took over Aleppo the next year, allying himself with Tughtigin's successor Taj al-Muluk Bori against the Franks. Bori suppressed the Assassins and executed Vizier al-Mazdaghani for plotting with the Franks to surrender Damascus for Tyre. Zengi controlled Syria as far south as Homs and defeated the Franks at al-Atharib, making a treaty that would last several years while he fought caliphate rivals and the Kurds.
After Mahmud's death in 1131, his sons Da'ud and brothers Mas'ud and Seljuk-Shah each claimed the throne; so the Caliph asked Sanjar to intervene. He made the brother Tughril Sultan; but after a brief and turbulent reign, Tughril died in 1134. Mas'ud quickly moved from Baghdad to Hamadan and was proclaimed Sultan, although he ruled only Jibal and central Iraq. The combined forces of Seljuk-Shah and Caliph al-Mustarshid defeated Mas'ud and Zengi; but then Sanjar and the Arab Dubais supported Zengi, who forced al-Mustarshid to accept Mas'ud as Sultan of Iraq. Da'ud ibn Mahmud was governing in Azerbaijan and was conciliated by marrying Mas'ud's daughter. In 1135 Caliph al-Mustarshid's army was defeated, and he was captured and murdered by Isma'ilis in the sultan's camp while Mas'ud was pursuing Da'ud in Azerbaijan. In 1137 Damascus atabeg Mahmud invaded and plundered Lebanon while Zengi besieged Homs and the Tripoli army at Montferrand. In a treaty Zengi agreed to let the army go but kept the Montferrand castle. The next year a coalition of Christians attacked Aleppo and besieged Shaizar, but riots in Baghdad persuaded Mas'ud to send troops to help Zengi, who gained Homs as a dowry by marrying the Atabeg's mother. In 1139 Zengi captured Baalbek, crucified the garrison, and sold the women as slaves.
In the east Khwarezm ruler 'Ala' al-Din Atsiz began a revolt against Sanjar in 1138. After his army was defeated, Atsiz took refuge in Gargan, came back to capture Bukhara, but submitted to Sanjar in 1141. That year the Kara-Kitai, who a generation before had been pushed out of northern China by the Jurchen, invaded Khwarezm, causing Sanjar to retreat to Balkh and Atsiz to enter Khurasan, taking the treasury at Marv and occupying Nishapur. Sanjar had spent three million dinars that year but regained Khurasan and invaded Khwarezm in 1143, forcing Atsiz to return the treasury.
Mas'ud made his Treasurer Kamal al-Din Vizier, because he exposed corruption, made taxes more fair, and investigated charges of injustice. This made enemies, and Qara-Sonqur of Azerbaijan used threats to get his Vizier to replace Kamal al-Din. So many governors (emirs) gave themselves land grants (iqta's) that the Sultan's territory diminished. In Kirman Arslan-Shah's peaceful reign was shattered in 1142 when his son Muhammad killed him and blinded twenty of his brothers and nephews. Muhammad (r. 1142-56) took over Isfahan but surprisingly was known for patronizing learning and never killing anyone without getting a decree (fatwa) from the religious authorities. Da'ud was assassinated by an Isma'ili in 1143 when Zengi feared he was going to be sent to take over northern Syria. In 1144 Zengi's army, which included Turks and Kurds, stormed Edessa and massacred the Christians and made the women slaves. Two years later Zengi removed rebelling Armenians from Edessa and replaced them with 300 Jewish families. Zengi was known for being a strict disciplinarian, and in September 1146 he was murdered in his sleep by a servant he had threatened to punish. Zengi was succeeded by his son Saif ad-Din Ghazi at Mosul and by Nur-ad-Din at Aleppo. Unur's Damascus army took over Baalbek, Homs, and Hama.
Nur-ad-Din took possession of Edessa and successfully defended it against the second crusade by defeating the Franks at Safar in 1149. He gained Byzantine territory in Syria; but after Unur died in 1151, Nur-ad-Din could not take Damascus because of Baldwin III. In 1153 Mujir of Damascus agreed to pay the Franks annual tribute; but the next year he surrendered the city to Nur-ad-Din, who continued the truce and the tribute. He made a treaty with the Byzantines in 1159 and with the Franks two years later. Nur-ad-Din established a house of justice in Damascus and was respected for dispensing justice twice a week. He founded colleges, convents, and a hospital. The Byzantine army defeated Seljuk sultan Kilij Arslan II (r. 1155-92), who did homage to Byzantine Emperor Manuel in 1161.
Sanjar made a third expedition into Khwarezm in 1147 when Samarkand was taken over by the first Kara-Kitai Gur-Khan, 'Ala' al-Din Husain (r. 1149-61). Sultan Mas'ud got help from Khass Beg in fighting rebellious Turkish governors and defeated the army of Fars; but more emirs revolted in 1148. Baghdad was defended by the Caliph while Mas'ud withdrew to the fortress at Takrit. The allies dispersed, and the next year Sanjar came to Ray and insisted that Mas'ud dismiss Khass Beg. Efforts to make Malik-Shah sultan continued until Mas'ud died in 1152 at Hamadan. The Ghuzz had been paying Sanjar an annual tribute of 24,000 sheep, but in 1152 they killed an obnoxious tax collector. The next year after Sanjar refused to negotiate, his army of 100,000 marched out of Marv; but they were defeated and had to evacuate the capital as the Ghuzz captured Sanjar. Ghuzz leader Bakhtiyar plundered Marv and captured Nishapur, burning its famous library. Sanjar was put on a throne; but after he tried to escape, he was kept in an iron cage. Sanjar did finally escape in 1156, but he died the next year, appointing Qarakhanid Mahmud Khan as his successor.
After Sultan Mas'ud died in 1152, Khass Beg Arslan appointed Malik-Shah ibn Mahmud sultan, but he was replaced by his brother Muhammad the next year. Caliph al-Muqtafi asserted his authority from Baghdad and recognized the fugitive Sulaiman-Shah as sultan in 1155. After Muhammad's siege of Baghdad failed in 1157, the sultans had no authority there. None of the regional Seljuk princes were able to unify the empire. Caliph al-Mustanjid (1160-70) ruled by his viziers.
In 1161 Egypt's Vizier Tala'i ibn Ruzzik was murdered and was succeeded by his son Ruzzik, who was also murdered in 1163. That year the Franks defeated Nur-ad-Din on the plain of al-Buqay'a. This experience caused Nur-ad-Din to repent and become ascetic, shedding elegant clothing for a Sufi garb. In 1164 he sent an army led by Kurdish Shirkuh to restore Shawar in Cairo. Shavar regained control but broke his promise to Nur-ad-Din, who was defeating a coalition of forces from Tripoli and Antioch on the plain of Arta. While Nur-ad-Din raided Lebanon, in 1167 Shirkuh and his nephew Saladin (Salah-ad-Din) invaded Egypt again. Shavar bribed crusader King Amalric to fight off Shirkuh. After an inconclusive battle, Shirkuh and Amalric agreed to pull out their forces; but Shavar reneged on his promise not to punish collaborators. Amalric returned to Alexandria to collect more tribute while Shirkuh and Saladin went back to Damascus. Shirkuh and Saladin returned to Egypt with 8,000 cavalry, and Amalric departed in 1169. After Shirkuh died in March, Saladin took control of Egypt. He reformed taxes according to orthodox Islamic law and founded colleges. When the Shi'i Fatimid caliph al-'Adid died in 1171, Saladin put Egypt under the Sunni caliphate in Baghdad. Nur-ad-Din had become a sultan; but he died in 1174, and Saladin married his widow.
In 1174 Saladin besieged Homs and Aleppo, whose atabeg Gumushtigin appealed to the Assassins and Franks. Saladin survived an attack by assassins the next year and again in 1185. After his army defeated an alliance of Aleppo and Mosul, Saladin declared a truce and proclaimed himself Sultan of Egypt and Syria. He forgave the Assassins and made an agreement with their leader Sinan not to attack each other. Turks defeated the Byzantine army at Konya in 1176 and ruled all but the coasts of Anatolia. Saladin threatened Ascalon; but a surprise attack by Frank knights near Montisgard castle caused his army to retreat all the way to Egypt. In 1179 Saladin's nephew Farrukh-Shah ambushed the army of Baldwin IV for rustling sheep near Damascus. The next year Saladin made treaties with King Baldwin and Tripoli's Raymond III; but in 1181 Reginald raided a Muslim caravan, and so Saladin captured 1,500 pilgrims. Reginald continued to attack pilgrims going to Mecca on land and sea. Saladin's brother Malik al-Adil was governing Egypt and ordered a fleet that recaptured Aila and sent Reginald's pirates to be sacrificed at Mecca or beheaded at Damascus. Saladin made a treaty with Constantinople and a four-year truce with Bohemond III before capturing Aleppo and invading Palestine and withdrawing in 1183.
Saladin sponsored madrasa schools in Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Cairo that were called Salahiyas or Nasiriyas. Many of the best physicians were Jews, and Saladin had three, including Maimonides. Surgeons were expected to know the anatomy found in Galen, and almost every large city had its own hospital with pavilions for men and women; Cairo had a third for the insane. Several histories were written. 'Umara ibn 'Ali al-Yamani wrote a history of Yemen but was executed by Saladin in 1174 for plotting with the Frank King Amalric to restore the Fatimids in Egypt. The History of Damascus by Ibn 'Asakir (d. 1176) is so long in eighty volumes that the entirety still has not been published.
Saladin complained again late in 1186 when Reginald raided a lucrative caravan, killing soldiers and imprisoning merchants. Bohemond and Raymond renewed their truces with Saladin; but Guy of Lusignan took Beirut from Raymond and attacked Tiberias. In July 1187 Saladin's large army surrounded the Frank army, depriving them of water, defeating them, and capturing many. Saladin gave Guy water but personally executed Reginald. Fanatical Muslims beheaded Templars and Hospitallers. So many prisoners were sold into slavery that the price fell to three dinars. Saladin's army moved on to take Acre while his brother al-Adil brought the Egyptian army to besiege and storm Jaffa. The Muslims passed by fortified Tyre but accepted the capitulation of Sidon, Ascalon, and Gaza. Jerusalem had little defense. To avoid a massacre of its Muslims, Saladin offered to ransom men for ten dinars each, women for five, and children for one. He would let 20,000 poor people go for 100,000 dinars, but only 30,000 dinars was raised for 7,000 of them. Saladin waited to enter Jerusalem on October 2, the anniversary of Muhammad's night journey. He encouraged Muslims and Jews to move to Jerusalem and granted the Christian holy sites to the Orthodox Church. By the end of 1187 the Muslims had captured more than fifty cities and castles.
The third crusade to recapture Jerusalem was led by kings Friedrich of Germany, Philip II of France, and Richard of England. For nearly two years about 100,000 crusaders besieged Acre while Saladin's army surrounded them. Acre capitulated in July 1191, promising to pay 200,000 dinars and release 1,500 Christian captives; Saladin had not approved but honored this. Richard complained that Saladin was not fulfilling the agreement and ordered the massacre of the Acre garrison of 2700 men and their families. Richard marched south and demanded all of Palestine. Saladin responded by destroying Jaffa and Ascalon while fortifying Jerusalem and poisoning surrounding wells and cutting down orchards. After fighting over Jaffa, Saladin and Richard signed a three-year truce in 1192, allowing both Muslims and Christians access to Palestine.
In 1193 Saladin died in Damascus. This city was claimed by his oldest son al-Afdal, who ceded Judea to his brother al-Aziz, ruler of Egypt. Another son az-Zahr governed Aleppo and gained Latakia and Jabala for recognizing al-Afdal as Sultan. Saladin's brother al-Adil tried to negotiate these arrangements and intervened in the civil war between Al-Afdal and al-Aziz, first for one and then the other, until al-Aziz became Sultan in 1196. After he died falling from his horse two years later, al-Afdal failed to take control. Al-Adil started making peace treaties with the Franks in 1198, and by 1201 he had become Sultan over the entire Aiyubid empire, which he would rule until 1218. He allowed Venetians to establish markets in Alexandria and the Pisans consulates.
In Afghanistan Khusrau-Malik (r. 1152-87) was the last Ghuzz ruler over Ghazna; but he was deposed and imprisoned when Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad (r. 1163-1203) annexed the Punjab. 'Ala' al-Din Husain was succeeded by his son Saif al-Din Muhammad (r. 1161-63), who expelled the Isma'ilis from Ghurr and became an orthodox Sunni. The Ghurid dynasty divided; Ghiyath maintained close relations with the 'Abbasid caliphs and ruled in Firuzkuh while his younger brother Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad (r. 1173-1206) campaigned in the Punjab and captured Delhi in 1193. These brothers invaded Khurasan, taking over Marv, Sarakhs, Nasa, Abivard, Tus, and Nishapur, and tried to impose a Ghurid prince there in 1200. A few years after Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad died in 1206, the Ghurid empire fell apart.
Caliph an-Nasir (1180-1225) ignored the crusades in the west and focused his diplomatic efforts in the east. In 1184 he ordered all non-Muslims dismissed from the government, and he transformed fraternal societies (futuwa) into loyal orders of chivalry. Khwarezm-Shah Tokush (r. 1172-1200) became independent of Kara-Kitai domination when he captured Nishapur and Tus in 1181. He invaded the west in 1192, and two years later he defeated the last Seljuk Sultan Tughril ibn Arslan outside Ray, taking his head to Baghdad. Tokush ruled Jibal from Hamadan; but after he died in 1200, the people of Jibal massacred the remaining Khwarezmians. Caliph an-Nasir divided Iran between himself and the Eldiguzids in the north. In Azerbaijan Oz-beg ibn Pahlavan patronized learning. In Khwarezm Tokush was succeeded by his son 'Ala' al-Din Muhammad, who used Isma'ili assassins to eliminate his opponents, got a fatwa to declare an-Nasir unfit, and proclaimed a Sayyid Caliph. He invaded Khurasan and took it over from the unpopular Ghurids by defeating Mu'izz al-Din Ghuri after the latter returned from India in 1204. In 1211 an-Nasir persuaded the Isma'ili Grand Master Jalal al-Din Hasan III to become an orthodox Muslim and burn heretical books. 'Ala' al-Din Muhammad marched on Baghdad in 1218, but snowstorms and news of the Mongols stopped him.
In the north Georgia was Christian under Dmitri (r. 1124-56) and confined itself to internal affairs; but under his son Giorgi III (1156-84) they fought the Muslims. Queen Tamara (r. 1184-1212) expanded Georgia somewhat; but the country began to decline under Giorgi IV (r. 1212-23) after the Mongols arrived.
In 1218 after the Utrar governor massacred a caravan of Muslims, who were under the protection of Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, 'Ala' al-Din Muhammad aggravated the situation by killing the Mongol ambassadors. Muhammad retreated from Samarkand toward Nishapur as the Mongol army quickly conquered Transoxiana in 1219. Genghis Khan left his sons Chagatai and Ogedei to besiege Utrar while he destroyed resisting Bukara. Mongol generals Jebe and Subedei pursued Kwarezmian Shah Muhammad across Persia to Ray, where he died. Genghis Khan occupied Samarkand and devastated Tirmidh for refusing to surrender. Balkh capitulated, and Genghis Khan besieged Taliqan. His son Tolui subjugated Khurasan. Mongols stormed and massacred the city of Marv, killing according to two Muslim historians, 700,000 or 1,300,000. The Mongols invaded Georgia in 1221 and defeated Giorgi IV at Khumani. Nishapur with a force of 10,000 managed to killed Genghis Khan's son-in-law Toghachar. Because of this, Tolui ordered everyone killed there except 400 craftsmen, who were deported to Mongolia. Herat killed Tolui's envoy but was allowed to surrender except that 12,000 troops were killed. However, a later rebellion in Herat led to the extermination of 1,600,000 people. Tolui returned to help complete the siege of Taliqan.
Muhammad's heir Uzlaq-Sultan was accused of plotting against his brother Jalal al-Din but was killed in battle. Jalal al-Din left Nishapur in February 1221 to go to Ghazna, where he pulled together an army of 60,000. Operating from Parwan, he attacked the Mongol vanguard, killing a thousand men. Genghis Khan sent a Tatar army of 30,000 led by Shigi-Qutuqu, and Jalal al-Din's army gave the Mongols their only major defeat in this campaign. Jalal al-Din retreated to the Indus. In a battle there he had to escape by jumping from a height with his horse into the river and swimming away as Genghis Khan gallantly restrained his archers from shooting at the Sultan. Genghis Khan returned to Mongolia by 1225, and he died fighting the Tangut in 1227. Jalal al-Din stayed in India for three years where 10,000 troops joined him. He learned that his brother Ghiyath al-Din was governing Iraq but that the military wanted him there. Baraq Hajib was governing Isfahan and quarreled with Ghiyath. He wanted to join Jalal al-Din but instead managed to keep Kirman for himself, founding the Qutlugh-Khan dynasty (1224-1303). Jalal al-Din found his brother Ghiyath at Ray and defeated him, taking over his army. Then Jalal al-Din drove the Caliph's army back to Baghdad and massacred Daquqa for resisting.
After making a peace treaty with Muzaffar al-Din (r. 1190-1232) of Irbil, Jalal al-Din invaded Azerbaijan. The daughter of Tughril II, the last Seljuk of Iraq, agreed to marry Jalal al-Din and arranged the surrender of Tabriz in 1225. That summer Jalal al-Din met and defeated a Georgian army of 70,000 in Armenia. Strategy helped Jalal al-Din conquer the important city of Tiflis for the Muslims. However, his siege of Akhlat in Armenia was failing, and in 1227 the Georgians attacked and burned Tiflis. After his best commander Orkhan was murdered by an Isma'ili assassin, Jalal al-Din tried to hunt them down. The Mongols returned, and the next summer both sides suffered devastating losses in the battle of Isfahan. Ghiyath al-Din fled to Khuzistan, Alamut, and Kirman, where he was murdered by Baraq. Jalal al-Din finally captured Akhlat in 1230. There he made a treaty to respect the territories of the Seljuks and the Aiyubids. Mongols led by Genghis Khan's son Ogedei (r. 1229-41) invaded Persia again. In 1231 Jalal al-Din fled to Irbil, Isfahan, and then to the mountains, where he was murdered by Kurds, probably for his clothes and horse.
Aiyubid ruler al-Adil was succeeded by his son al-Kamil (r. 1218-38), who had made a trade treaty with Venice in 1208. Many Muslims protested when al-Kamil's brother al-Mu'azzam tore down the walls of Jerusalem so that it could be given to the Franks by a treaty. Crusaders conquered Damietta in Egypt by besieging them into starvation in 1219; but the next year al-Kamil's refurbished navy devastated the crusaders' fleet off Cyprus, capturing thousands. The army led by Pelagius was surrounded by the Egyptians in 1221 and had to evacuate Damietta and agree to a truce for eight years. After al-Mu'azzam died in 1227, al-Kamil invaded Palestine and took over Jerusalem; but he had to divide lands with his brother al-Ashraf, who was ruling al-Jazira, and al-Mu'azzam's son an-Nasir, who fled to Damascus. In 1229 al-Kamil made a treaty with Friedrich II, giving crusaders Jerusalem and a narrow corridor to the coast, but Muslims kept their holy places in the Temple area.
Al-Salih (r. 1240-49) was also Sultan over the Aiyubid empire, though after Saladin there were six Aiyubid principalities. In Damascus 63 madrasas were founded, and building went up in al-Jazira (Mesopotamia). Rivalries between Aiyubids even caused them to give Jerusalem back to the Franks in 1243, and the next year Aiyubid sultan Najm al-Din allied with Khwarezmians in sacking Jerusalem and desecrating its Christian churches. In October 1244 the alliance of Egyptian Aiyubids and Khwarezmians fought an alliance of Syrian Aiyubids and Franks at Harbiyya. Al-Salih's widow Shajar ad-Durr ruled Egypt for eighty days before she was compelled to marry the first Mamluk Sultan Aybeg in 1250.
Mongol Khan Ogedei appointed Chin-Temur governor of Khurasan and Mazandaran; but he died in 1235 and was succeeded by a centenarian, who lasted four years. Then the Uighur Korguz, a Buddhist who converted to Islam, held a census and revised taxes. He rebuilt Tus and took over Azerbaijan. After the Great Khan Ogedei died in 1241, Korguz was accused of offending the widow of Chaghatai and put to death by Chaghatai's grandson Qara-Hulegu (r. 1242-46). Arghun Aqa was appointed to govern the conquered territories in the west for the Mongols. He visited Tabriz and the Mongol assembly (quriltai) that elected Ogedei's son Guyuk before returning to Khurasan in 1247. Guyuk died the next year; but news traveled slowly, and Arghun Aqa did not get to the quriltai until a year after Mongke (1251-59) had been enthroned. Arghun Aqa reported that finances in his region were a mess, and a new form of taxation was devised. 'Ata Malik Juvaini accompanied Arghun Aqa and began writing a history of the Mongol conquests. Arghun Aqa implemented the new qubchur tax in Georgia, Arran, and Azerbaijan. He was investigated for his finances but survived it, governing until he died in 1275.
Great Khan Mongke assigned his brothers Khubilai to rule China and Hulegu over western Asia. Hulegu was ordered to destroy the Isma'ilis and their castles, then suppress the Kurds and Lurs. In 1254 he was visited in Transoxiana by Herat's Shams al-Din Muhammad, founder of the Kart dynasty (1245-78), who had supported the Mongol invasion of India in 1246. Arghun Aqa accommodated Hulegu at Tus. The philosopher Nasir al-Din Tusi urged the Isma'ili grand master Rukn al-Din to submit. Scores of their castles were demolished, but Rukn al-Din never returned from his visit to the Mongol court. Mongols by order of Mongke massacred many Isma'ilis. In 1258 the Mongols attacked Baghdad, first by opening a dyke and flooding the caliph's army. After the caliph's commander went to parley and was executed, Caliph Musta'sim surrendered. The violence, looting, and burning went on for a week, as the caliph and about 800,000 people were killed. Hulegu took Aleppo after a short siege, and Damascus surrendered; but news of the death of Mongke caused Hulegu to return east in 1260, leaving Kitbogha in command of a small army. When Hulegu learned that his brother Kublai was elected, he returned to Tabriz. Hulegu went to war against the Golden Horde’s ruler Berke (r. 1257-66) and died in 1265.
In 1250 the Mamluk dynasty was established in Egypt. Hulegu sent envoys to Mamluk ruler Kutuz, whose General Baybars had them killed. Baybars trapped the smaller Mongol army in Galilee and defeated them at 'Ain Jalut, beheading Kitbogha. Baybars (r. 1260-77) killed Kutuz while he was hunting and became sultan. Baybars made truces with Jaffa and Beirut in 1261; but he raided Palestine two years later, and his army captured Caesarea and Haifa in 1265. Baybars made a series of treaties with Tyre, Hospitallers, Templars, and Tripoli between 1267 and 1271; but he often complained of treaty violations, and he took Acre and destroyed Antioch in 1268. Baybars had an Assassin murder Philip of Montfort in 1270. He made a ten-year truce with Edward, who was stabbed with a poison dagger by an Assassin but survived to become King of England. Baybars led 38 campaigns in Syria, but only 21 of them were against Franks.
Abagha (Abaqa) succeeded his father Hulegu as Il-Khan in 1265 and retained his Vizier Shams al-Din Juvaini, brother of the historian 'Ata Malik Juvaini, who became Governor of Baghdad. Abagha made Tabriz his capital and sent Yoshmut to fight off the Golden Horde's invasion led by Noqai. Abagha followed with 300,000 cavalry, defeating and killing Berke. Chaghatai Khan Baraq sent Ma'sud Beg to collect revenues. In 1270 Baraq came into conflict with Abagha and conquered most of Khurasan until he was defeated by the Il-Khan in the battle of Herat that summer. Abagha regained Khurasan and sacked Bukhara. In Rum a Vizier called Parvana put to death Sultan Qilich Arslan IV and appealed to Baybars, who defeated the Mongols at Abulustan in 1277. The upset Abagha ordered slaughter; but this was moderated by his Vizier Shams al-Din Juvaini. Parvana was put on trial and executed. The Il-Khan's brother Mengu-Temur and his army of 40,000 did not invade Syria until 1281; but the young commander was wounded by an Egyptian officer and fled from the larger Mamluk army of Sultan Kalavun (r. 1279-90). Angry Abagha went to Baghdad, where he drank himself to death in 1282.
Abagha's eldest son Arghun yielded to Hulegu's son Teguder, who took the Islamic name Ahmad. He developed friendly relations with Egypt. Arghun was Governor of Khurasan and plotted rebellion, and Teguder executed Prince Qongqurtai. Arghun was outnumbered and surrendered. The emir Buqa secretly supported Arghun, and with other princes they killed those loyal to Teguder, making Arghun Sultan. Teguder tried to escape but was captured, tried, and executed in 1284 for having killed Qongqurtai. Arghun put his son Ghazan over Khurasan, Mazandaran, Qumis, and Ray. Buqa engaged in much peculation and was put to death in 1289 as the Jew Sa'd al-Daula became Arghun's financial administrator. Arghun repelled invasions by the Golden Horde’s ruler Tole-Buqa in 1288 and 1290. Arghun imported Buddhist priests from India and eventually died from treatment by an Indian yogi. Emirs resenting Sa'd al-Daula killed him in 1291, and Arghun died five days later, resulting in pogroms against Jews in Baghdad and Tabriz.
Kalavun made a treaty with the Franks in 1283 but captured the last Hospitaller castle at al-Marqab two years later. After an earthquake in 1287 Kalavun took over damaged Latakia. Two years later his Egyptian army besieged Tripoli and forced the Venetians and Genoese to flee, killing the men and enslaving the women and children. Kalavun closed Alexandria to the Genoese traders until they made peace. He died on his way to defend Acre in 1290. His son al-Ashraf Kahlil took over Acre in another massacre. In 1291 the Mamluk army captured the remaining crusader cities of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Haifa, and the Templars abandoned their castles at Tortosa and Ahlit. The Muslims had pushed the crusaders off the mainland of Asia, as the Templars and Hospitallers retreated to the island of Cyprus. Al-Ashraf was murdered in 1293 for wanting to attack the Mongols and Baghdad. In 1297 Mamluk Sultan Lajin asked Ibn Taymiyya to decree a jihad against Christian Armenians in Cilicia, and three years later Taymiyya joined the sultan in a campaign against Shi'as in Lebanon accused of supporting Mongols and Christians. When traveler ibn Battuta visited Palestine and Syria in 1326 he found nothing but ruins in Ascalon, Acre, Tyre, and Tiberias.
In 1291 Arghun's brother Geikhatu was elected Il-Khan, and he forgave his rivals. In Khurasan Arghun's son Ghazna spent five years fighting a rebellion led by Nauruz. Geikhatu made peace in 1294 with the Golden Horde's Toqta (r. 1291-1312). Depletion of the treasury led to an experiment with paper money pioneered by Khubilai Khan; but this failed after two months, though it was the first block printing outside of China. Geikhatu's clemency allowed Baidu to rebel, and the Il-Khan was strangled with a bowstring. Baidu's reign was short before he was executed by Ghazan in 1295.
Ghazan (r. 1295-1304) had been a Buddhist but converted to Islam, taking the name Mahmud and proclaiming Islam the Mongol state religion. In the first year of Ghazan's reign five princes were killed in civil war; but the rebellion ended after General Qutlugh-Shah was executed in 1296. Ghazan's army invaded Syria in 1299 and defeated the Mamluks near Homs. Damascus surrendered to the Mongols the next year; but the Mongols soon retreated from Syria. Ghazan promoted learning and was considered the greatest of the Il-Khans. He was aided by his outstanding Jewish Vizier Rashid al-Din (1247-1318), who also wrote on history and theology with encyclopedic learning. The land tax was made more precise and semi-annual, and imposts on trade and crafts were cut in half or eliminated in some towns. The burdensome system of paying state officials, pensioners, and creditors was abolished. These reforms relieved the peasants and improved the Persian economy from the devastation of the Mongol conquest and the exploitation by feudal lords.
Abu-Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali was born in 1058 at Tus in Persia into a family of scholars and mystics. His father was a dervish, but al-Ghazali was orphaned at an early age and influenced by Sufi friends and relations. Al-Ghazali's brother Ahmad Ghazali became a Platonist, emphasizing pure love, and lived until 1126. In 1077 al-Ghazali went to Nishapur and studied theology, philosophy, and science under al-Juwayni, the renowned Ash'ari theologian at the Nizamiya college. Al-Ghazali also practiced Sufi exercises. After al-Juwayni died, al-Ghazali was favored for six years at the Baghdad court of Vizier Nizam al-Mulk, who appointed him to teach jurisprudence and philosophy at the Nizamiya academy in 1091. He wrote the influential Intentions of the Philosophers, and in The Incoherence of the Philosophers he criticized materialists who rejected God, naturalists who acknowledged God but doubted the immortality of the soul, and even theists like Aristotle for accepting the eternity of the world, making it equal to God. Al-Ghazali believed that only through faith could one come to ultimate truth, and he held that God not only had universal knowledge but knew all particulars as well. He became an extreme skeptic, challenging even sense perception, intellectual truths, causality, and the identity of the self. Noting that people do not doubt their experiences during dreams until they awake, he asked whether dying may not be awakening to a greater reality than this life. Eventually he found it a futile activity to try to establish theology based on reason.
In 1095 al-Ghazali faced a spiritual crisis in which he questioned his teaching work as motivated by the desire for an influential position and public recognition. In his autobiographical Deliverer from Error he described his philosophical and spiritual development. He wrote about the limitations of theology, philosophy, and the religion of the Batiniya (Isma'ili Shi'is) that is based on the authority of an imam (spiritual leader). Theologians tried to expose the confused doctrines of the heretics that varied from traditional orthodoxy. In ethics he learned that some philosophers accept falsehoods of those with whom they agree and reject truths of those with whom they disagree. As to the authority of the Qur'an, Hadith, and the imams, he found they could not possibly decide the infinite number of cases people face. Now he found that he had more affinity with the direct experience of ecstasy and moral change claimed by the Sufis or mystics who used intuitive understanding. He wrote that it is like the difference between knowing the definition of healthy and actually being healthy. At this point al-Ghazali felt he was caught in a thicket of attachments and was dealing with unimportant sciences instead of attaining eternal life.
It had already become clear to me that
I had no hope of the bliss of the world to come
save through a God-fearing life
and the withdrawal of myself from vain desire.
It was clear to me too that the key to all this was
to sever the attachment of the heart to worldly things
by leaving the mansion of deception and returning to that of eternity,
and to advance towards God most high with all earnestness.
It was also clear that this was only to be achieved
by turning away from wealth and position
and fleeing from all time-consuming entanglements.1
Al-Ghazali could no longer bring himself to lecture nor even to eat properly. So he left and went to Damascus for two years, living in solitude and practicing spiritual exercises to cleanse his heart and improve his character by constantly focusing on God. Then he visited Jerusalem and Egypt before going on pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Pleas from his children drew him home, and these anxieties of his family allowed him only occasional glimpses of pure ecstasy. So after making arrangements for his family, he gave away his wealth to become a reclusive Sufi. He found that the heart must sink completely into God and ultimately will be absorbed in God. Eventually one may perceive visions of angels and the spirits of prophets; but beyond this the higher states cannot be described by language.
In 1106 al-Ghazali was persuaded by Nizam al-Mulk's son to return to teaching at Nishapur, and he believed that now he was calling people to a knowledge that gives up worldly influence for real worth. Al-Ghazali came to believe that God sends a prophet at the beginning of each century after Muhammad and that perhaps he was the one teaching after the five centuries since Muhammad's migration that founded the Muslim calendar. He wrote his spiritual books The Revival of the Religious Learnings, The Forty Principles of Religion, and The Alchemy of Happiness. Shortly before he died in 1111, al-Ghazali returned to his native Tus, where he taught Sufism in a monastery. As one of Islam's greatest theologians and philosophers, he made Sufism more acceptable to many people.
Al-Ghazali often referred to the ethics of the Sufi Muhasibi and the philosopher Miskawayh. Al-Ghazali believed that only those purified of vices by virtues could attain mystical knowledge by intuition. Thus in his comprehensive Revival of the Religious Learnings he recognized the value of reason as well as mystical intuition in moral life. He began with the premise that whoever knows oneself knows God. Angels contemplate God and are free of animal characteristics. If we are of angelic nature, then we should realize our origin and be released from lust and anger. The first step of self-knowledge is to become aware that in the body is the heart or soul, which rules the body. He compared the body to a kingdom in which the soul is king, the senses an army, reason the prime minister, passion the tax collector, and anger the police. The soul which lets the lower faculties dominate is like turning an angel over to a dog or Muslims to the tyranny of an unbeliever. Beyond the five senses, the heart has a wonderful window into the unseen world. The first concern is to protect and nurture the soul; second is to take care of and nourish the body. Al-Ghazali described the duties of a teacher as being kind to students, following the ways of the prophet Muhammad, not withholding advice, carefully without harshness dissuading students from evil ways, not belittling other subjects of learning, teaching students according to their ability, and practicing what one teaches.
For al-Ghazali the soul is a substance, not an accident; so it exists by itself, and the body depends on the soul. Vices and virtues develop and may become stronger or change by their constant interaction. The soul knows God while its members are followers, servants, and instruments, and it uses the body the way a master uses a slave, a shepherd his sheep, or a worker his tool. Al-Ghazali described four elements of human nature that develop in stages. The first is the animal desire to eat, sleep, and copulate. The second is bestial protection of the body that includes anger. The third develops about the age of seven when discrimination allows one to use the mind for deception. The fourth to develop is the spiritual mastery of the soul that uses mature judgment. These four faculties correspond to the classical virtues of temperance, courage, wisdom, and justice.
In his ethics al-Ghazali adapted Aristotle's eudemonism to the next life by arguing that happiness in the world to come is many times longer and more valuable than happiness in this world because the soul is eternal. Pleasure in this world is impure, though the pleasures of knowledge are less impure than sensual pleasures. Al-Ghazali did approve of pleasures from lawful sexual intercourse and the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter. One may prepare for happiness in the next world by controlling human qualities in this life. Spiritual happiness has no end, joy without sorrow, knowledge without ignorance, and is sufficient. Al-Ghazali believed that all improvement of human virtues is for the good of the soul, and in comparison to experiencing divine beauty all sensual pleasures are worthless. He categorized the means by which happiness may be attained into four groups of goods - goods of the soul, bodily goods, external goods, and goods of divine grace. The goods of the soul are knowledge of revelation and practical religion and the good character of temperance and justice. The bodily goods are health, strength, long life, and beauty. The goods external to the body are wealth, influence, family, and a good birth. The goods of divine grace are divine guidance, direction, leadership, and strengthening.
Al-Ghazali adapted Aristotle's doctrine of the mean to various vices and virtues. The virtue of wisdom is the intelligent mean between the extreme vices of stupidity and wickedness. Courage is a mean between rashness and cowardice. Temperance moderates between greed and the annihilation of desire. Al-Ghazali did not consider justice a mean although Miskawayh suggested it was a mean between doing injustice and suffering injustice. For al-Ghazali the mean is discovered by using reasoning and the Shari'a (Islamic law). Like angels, souls must be free from attachment to the world in order to be saved. Although he considered politics outside of the field of justice, al-Ghazali did write that political justice is the distribution of the government's wealth in appropriate ways.
Al-Ghazali emphasized changing character and described four levels that affect the ease of change. The ignorant are simply negligent and can be corrected rather easily. The ignorant, who have gone astray by persisting in bad deeds they enjoy, need more effort to change. Those who believe their evil dispositions are right are almost impossible to cure, and the most vicious are the corrupt who compete to gain fame by accomplishing as much evil as they can. Al-Ghazali recommended three methods of acquiring good character. First is divine generosity that bestows natural good character from birth. Second is the more common way of achieving it by mortification and self-discipline. The third way of achieving good character is by observing good people and associating with them; this is the main method for training children, who are more imitative than adults. Children especially need to be protected from evil associates. Al-Ghazali wrote that evil may be corrected in four ways. One may follow a spiritual guide, ask an honest friend, learn from an enemy, or correct in oneself the defects seen in others. One should listen to a spiritual guide just as one listens to a medical doctor for physical ailments.
Al-Ghazali recommended both knowledge and action as he believed these two were always interacting. Removing a vice by action is the practical remedy, but it requires patience to change the pattern, which also includes the disposition as well as knowledge. An especially difficult trait may be removed in steps by deflecting it with a less evil trait. For example, a miser may be encouraged to give away wealth to impress others. Once the miserliness is removed, one can then deal with the love of influence. In opposing one vice one must stop at the mean in order to avoid going to the opposite extreme. In the introduction to his treatise "On the Training of the Soul, the Refinement of Character, and the Treatment of Diseases of the Soul" al-Ghazali wrote that God incites humans by dread and cautioning to make their characters beautiful. He believed that only by the grace of God can one efface the smallest vice.
The root vices that al-Ghazali believed needed removing are gluttony, excessive sexual desire, wrong speech, strong anger, envy, rancor, love of the world, love of wealth, miserliness, love of influence, hypocrisy, pride, and conceit. Temperance is the virtue that controls immoderate eating and sex. Speech may err in cursing, making false promises, lying, slander, and finding fault. Al-Ghazali justified lying in some circumstances such as to protect someone from harm, to gain advantage in war, or to please one's wife. He also wrote that anger was needed in holy war (jihad) and to prohibit others from doing wrong; but anger that overpowers reason becomes reckless. Courage is important in struggling against one's own passions. He defined rancor as the persistence of anger, and it may be cured by justice or forgiveness.
Envy is wrong because it wants to take away another's good even though one will not gain by the removal. Humility may cure envy by removing its causes, which are pride, conceit, enmity, love of influence, and greed. For al-Ghazali love of the world also causes many vices, but these enjoyments are only found before death. Yet al-Ghazali acknowledged that many must produce worldly goods so that a few may turn away to seek the spiritual joy that comes mostly after death. He observed that enjoying superfluous things hardens the mind. Temperance also moderates the greed and extravagance that comes from the love of wealth. This is done by knowing the purpose of wealth for basic needs, not acquiring wealth in unlawful ways, preserving what one needs oneself while giving excess to those in need, being cautious in spending, and having the correct intentions in acquiring, preserving, and spending. The virtue of generosity is the mean between the miserliness of keeping wealth when it should be spent, and the extravagance of spending it when it should be kept. Al-Ghazali even went further than Aristotle in recommending altruism as the highest generosity in giving wealth despite one's own need.
Love of influence is the desire for power and fame. Ostentation is the hypocrisy of pretending to be pious when one is not; but in trying to deceive others one may deceive oneself but not God. The worst kind is to use piety to try to cover up crime. Al-Ghazali considered pride the worst of all vices, and he found dignity in humility. Conceit is similar but is so self-absorbed that one does not even need another person of less merit. The antidote to pride is prayer, and conceit may be corrected by self-knowledge.
Al-Ghazali described the main virtues that are means to an end as repentance, patience, hope, fear, poverty, and asceticism. They are supported by intention, sincerity, truthfulness, vigilance, self-examination, and meditation. Virtues that he considered ends in themselves are gratitude, faith, and love. Al-Ghazali believed that repentance should be acquired first so that one may become aware of the harm of sin. As one acquires the disposition of regret, one may act to abandon vice and atone for sin. Atonement may be accomplished by giving the poor wealth wrongly acquired or by seeking forgiveness of the one wronged. Al-Ghazali considered patience a quality that can control desires and anger. He called this a mental patience that is superior to the physical patience of enduring pain. Al-Ghazali defined legitimate hope as the expectation of a desirable thing after one has done all one could. He wrote that real hope is found in working to attain nearness to God. Fear is a virtue for al-Ghazali because it helps one to avoid what is harmful. The higher piety restrains one from whatever is doubtful.
Mystics prefer poverty to the wealth that distracts one from seeking God. Al-Ghazali described asceticism as turning away from desiring one thing for something better. The ascetic knows that this world is insignificant compared to the next, and the world's delights are much inferior to heaven's. Al-Ghazali agreed with those who defined asceticism as giving up everything that comes between a person and God. Al-Ghazali described intention, sincerity, and truthfulness as interrelated. Will or intention is guided by knowing what is most useful in this world and the next. The sincere motive is to attain nearness to God, but for this one must control desires for bodily pleasures. In truthful action one's outward behavior matches one's inner self. Al-Ghazali's conception of vigilance and self-examination included struggling, reproaching, and punishing oneself. He recommended that novices examine their day in the evening to see if they fulfilled their intentions. The ultimate means to the end for al-Ghazali is meditating on God.
According to al-Ghazali gratitude is the first of those virtues that are ends in themselves, and it is necessary for the gifts that God bestows on humans. The appropriate action in response is to do good to all people. Faith is trusting in the unity of God. The highest stage of this trust is the mystic's annihilation in God. This faith implies that God is the only agent of action, has perfect wisdom, complete power, and is merciful to everyone. Al-Ghazali believed that love is the highest virtue and the ultimate station in pursuing God. The more one loves God in this world the higher will one's happiness be in the next. Al-Ghazali argued that all love comes from the divine. Love of one's own existence leads to loving one's things and relatives. Love of doing good or receiving good is really love of goodness. Also love of the beautiful is really the love of beauty. Thus all love points to God. Al-Ghazali described the fruits of love as the consequential virtues of yearning, intimacy, and satisfaction.
Al-Ghazali related duties to rights. In a community if an individual has a right, then other individuals have a duty to fulfill that right. Since children have a right to education, parents have the duty to make sure they are taught. The golden rule of treating people as you would like to be treated was also the general principle for al-Ghazali. He suggested that its higher aspect is to respect all and make them happy by doing good, and the lower aspect is at least not to harm others. Al-Ghazali delineated the duties to relatives, neighbors, and brother Muslims. He believed that women are weaker than men both intellectually and morally, and thus men should use moderate harshness for the evil tendencies and extra kindness for the weakness. He warned men against being too jealous. Al-Ghazali also recommended religious acts of devotion to God as a way of purifying oneself. He recommended love and friendship as the best way to become near God.
Ibn Bajja (called Avempace by Western scholastics) was born late in the 11th century at Zaragoza and died in 1138 at Fez. He was a musician, physician, poet and became vizier to the Almoravid Governor ibn Tifalwit, though his collaboration with these Muslim conquerors may be why he was briefly imprisoned. Later he was arrested by an Almoravid ruler for heresy, but he was released by the grandfather or father of Averroes. Ibn Bajja was Vizier at Fez for twenty years under Governor Abu Bakr ibn Tashfin. Ibn Bajja was influenced by Plato,
Aristotle, Galen, and al-Farabi,
and he emphasized the unity of the soul. In his Rule of the
Solitary ibn Bajja suggested individuals needed a medicine
for the soul. He believed that the ideal state could not be established
by force or even by social reform but rather by people disciplining
themselves and that a society needing judges and physicians is
already dysfunctional. In a just society the wise rule; but in
an imperfect society the wise are like weeds and must work privately
by using the active intellect to discover the spiritual forms.
Only by acting rationally can one be free. The enlightened may
find a home by traveling to other planes.
Ibn Tufayl (Abubacer) was born early in the 12th century in Granada and died in Morocco in 1185. He studied ibn Bajja and became a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, poet, and was court physician and perhaps a judge for the second Almohad prince Abu Ya'qub Yusuf (r. 1163-1184). Ibn Tufayl is famous for his philosophical romance Hayy the Son of Yaqzan, which is based on characters from a visionary recital by Avicenna. In the introduction he recommended the illuminative philosophy of Avicenna, and he reviewed the philosophies of ibn Bajja, al-Farabi, Avicenna, and al-Ghazali. Hayy son of Yaqzan, which means "Alive son of Awake," is born alone on an island and is raised by a gazelle until he is seven years old. He observes nature and learns how to take care of himself. When the doe dies, he learns of the spiritual principle of life found in the heart. By the time he is 35, Hayy has become absorbed in contemplating the creator and necessary being, whom he believes will lead him to eternal bliss. He recognizes that divine essence of the soul and observes in animals what relates to his body. He finds that emulating this animal element interferes with the higher vision, which begins to open when he turns to the second emulation within himself. Pure vision comes from the third emulation of the necessary being.
In analyzing food Hayy decides that fruit is the most pure, followed by early plant growth in vegetables; animals and their eggs can be eaten when the others are not available, but no species should be exterminated. He keeps his body pure by washing it and using aromatic herbs. His contemplation of the necessary being is enhanced by closing his senses and by spinning himself rapidly like the celestial bodies. Hayy falls into the error of identifying himself with God, but divine mercy helps correct this. From a nearby island Asal gives his money to the poor and comes there to be a hermit. At first Hayy communicates by gently stroking Asal, who eventually teaches him language. Hayy describes the essence of truth, and Asal tells him about the inhabited island. Hayy is surprised that people waste their time on superfluous things, but he agrees to go and teach them what he knows. However, people soon became hostile to his ideas that challenge their way of life, and they are content following the authorities. So Hayy asks to be forgiven and says he believes they are guided on the right path. Asal goes with Hayy back to the solitary island, where they worship God until they die. Ibn Tufayl concluded that he wrote this book because others may wish to climb the heights that eyes fail to see.
Ibn Rushd, known in the West as Averroes, was born into a family of distinguished jurists at Cordoba in 1126. He knew the first Almohad ruler 'Abd al-Mu'min at Marrakesh in 1153 and wrote a book on medicine. In 1168 the court physician Ibn Tufayl introduced Averroes to that ruler's son and successor Abu Ya'qub Yusuf, who asked him to write commentaries on Aristotle. The next year Averroes was appointed a judge at Seville, and in 1171 he returned to Cordoba and later was chief judge there. In 1182 he replaced the retiring Ibn Tufayl as court physician. Averroes fell out of favor during a holy war against Spain in 1195, and all his works were burned except those that were considered scientific. After a brief exile he lived in retirement at Marrakesh until he died in 1198. Best known in Europe for his extensive commentaries on Aristotle, the writings of Averroes were translated into Hebrew and Latin and had considerable influence in bringing the ideas of Aristotle to Jews and Christians.
Averroes criticized the philosophic criticisms of al-Ghazali in his Incoherence of the Incoherent. Averroes blamed democracy for emphasizing private life and for its lack of control of people's desires, and in his commentary on Plato's Republic he concurred with the government deceiving people in order to maintain its class system. Believing that truth was not always persuasive, Averroes advised compelling people also as though they were children. Yet he regretted that women were not treated equally in Islamic society. He wrote that one of the causes of poverty in their cities is that women are not allowed to do anything except procreate and raise children. He agreed with Plato that women could be philosophical governors.
Averroes wrote The Decisive Treatise Determining the Nature of the Connection between Religion and Philosophy about 1180. He believed that everyone should follow Islamic law but that only the elite could understand philosophy. Averroes argued that the law commands the study of philosophy and that this is best done by demonstrative reasoning. Thus the religious thinker as well as the lawyer must study logic. He believed that the demonstrative and dialectical methods are superior to the rhetoric used for the common people. For Averroes demonstrative truth and scripture could not conflict. If the apparent meaning is different, then the scripture must be interpreted allegorically. This stimulates the learned to greater study, but metaphorical interpretations must never violate the Islamic consensus that is certain.
Averroes argued that al-Ghazali's criticisms of al-Farabi and Avicenna were only tentative, and he contended that the Aristotelians do believe God has an omniscient awareness that does include particulars. Averroes warned against the learned setting down allegorical interpretations in popular writings, as al-Ghazali did, because they can confuse the common people, who rely on the apparent meaning. Thus he warned that the philosophical view of scripture should not be taught to the majority. Everyone must attempt to understand the symbols by their own ability because to tell someone the inner meaning without helping them to understand it destroys their simpler belief without replacing it with something better. Even worse is to give people allegorical interpretations that are false. He argued that hostile sects arose in Islam because of the wrong use of allegory by the Mu'tazilis and the Ash'aris. Averroes believed that these harms could be cured by teaching people the apparent meanings, but he supported the Muwahhid policy of censoring any deviation from the consensus of Islamic law.
Khwajah Nasir al-Tusi was born February 15, 1201 in Tus; his father was a prominent Shi'i jurist. Al-Tusi studied at Nishapur, and he joined the administration of a local Isma'ili prince. Al-Tusi wrote many books on a variety of subjects. When the Mongols destroyed the Alamut fortress in 1256, he and the historian al-Juwayni helped to preserve the library and astronomical instruments. He served Hulagu when the Mongols attacked Baghdad and was stationed at the gate to protect innocent people. Although it was reported by some that he saved the lives of many Muslim scholars, others said that al-Tusi destroyed the libraries of his adversaries and persuaded Hulagu not to fear killing the last 'Abbasid caliph. After helping Hulagu consolidate his authority in Baghdad, al-Tusi went to the Shi'i center of learning at Hillah to see the Shi'i jurist Muhaqqiq-i Hilli. Tusi supervised the construction of the astronomical observatory at Maragha, which was sponsored by Hulagu and became a great center of learning. After Abaqa' Khan was wounded by a bison while hunting, al-Tusi supervised the surgery. Tusi died at Baghdad in 1274, the same year as the death of Thomas Aquinas to whom he has been compared.
The Nasirean Ethics of Tusi was written in 1235 when he was already a celebrated scholar. Tusi based his ethics on the knowledge of God, the prophet Muhammad, and the succeeding imams, and he recommended cultivating the virtues of asceticism and the fear of God. He considered injustice and tyranny the worst vices, and he denounced the material gains of the world. He believed that accumulating wealth is unnecessary, futile, and bad; greed and avarice should be avoided. He argued that poverty is better than wealth just as truth is better than a lie; being trustworthy is better than being unreliable; and silence is better than speech, because too much talk is hazardous. For Tusi the highest virtues also include being kind, patient, forgiving, and controlling anger. One should be neither envious nor hostile. Humility is a virtue, and arrogance is a vice. Being generous is better than being stingy. One should be brave and control desires. He recommended companionship with the wise and good friends while avoiding those who are ignorant and do wrong.
Tusi included ethics in practical philosophy along with social and political issues. He distinguished natural virtues which do not change from conventional virtues that do alter because they depend on community consensus. The human soul is the subject of ethics because it is the origin of good and bad acts and because humans are more noble than plants and animals. The noblest humans are prophets and saints. The ultimate goal of knowledge is serenity and certainty while the ultimate end of action is to achieve harmony and balance in relationships and society. Al-Tusi criticized those who make enjoyment of things their purpose in life because they have subjected the soul to ephemeral lust. The bestial and savage aspects of the soul can be controlled by the angelic admonishing soul. He believed happiness comes from wisdom, courage, piety, and justice.
Tusi wrote that correction disposition is the noblest of disciplines. He adopted the psychology and classical virtues of Socrates and the ancient Greeks. Wisdom is the virtue of the theoretical faculty, justice the virtue of the practical faculty, courage the virtue of the irascible, and continence the virtue of the appetites. Within wisdom he defined the seven virtues of wit, understanding, mental clarity, learning, intellect, retention, and recall. The eleven virtues he described as part of courage are greatness, bravery, high-mindedness, perseverance, mildness, calmness, vigor, patience, humility, honor, and compassion. The twelve species under the virtue of continence for Tusi are shame, meekness, right guidance, peace, tranquillity, fortitude, contentment, gravity, moderation, order, freedom, and liberality. He also found under liberality the eight virtues of generosity, preference, forgiveness, manliness, attainment, charity, supererogation (doing more than required), and leniency. Twelve virtues under justice are sincerity, amity, fidelity, concern, care of kin, requital, fellowship, fairness, affection, acceptance, reliance, and devotion. Tusi suggested that love is the quest for nobility, virtue, and perfection, and the more one yearns for perfection the easier it is to attain it.
Tusi believed that disposition can be changed by education and that ethics is a noble art. Justice is the most noble virtue, and as with music, it depends on balance. He suggested that justice depends on what he called mahabbat, which means "loving kindness" or "friendship." Happiness is physical, social, and spiritual. Physical happiness depends on acquiring knowledge that benefits the body's health. The knowledge that aids social happiness is political, economic, social, religious, and cultural. Spiritual diseases are healed by curing vices such as anger, envy, vanity, stubbornness, frivolity, enmity, fear of death, lust, idleness, and sadness. In domestic ethics Tusi suggested that a good wife is a partner to her husband in wealth and management of the household and his representative when he is absent. He did not recommend polygamy although he did still believe that a wife should fear her husband, should be concealed from strangers, and should not be encouraged to follow her desires.
Tusi described six stages in the path of purifying the soul. The first starts the movement and requires faith, persistence, intention, honesty, trust in God, and purification of all thoughts, words, and deeds. The second stage of overcoming barriers is achieved by repentance, asceticism, poverty, hardship, introspection, and abstinence from sin. In the third stage of progress in the spiritual quest one must master solitude, thinking, fear, hope, patience, and gratitude. In the fourth stage success depends on will, ecstasy, love, knowledge, conviction, and serenity. In the fifth stage of completing the quest the virtues are faith, contentment, surrender, monotheism, unity, and oneness. The sixth and final stage assimilates all the preceding stages and annihilates the individual in God so that there is no longer a seeker or seeking. Tusi believed that on the day of judgment all concealments would disappear, and reality will shine as good and bad acts are accurately measured. By drawing on the philosophy of the Greeks, Indians, and Persians in addition to the teachings of the Qur'an and the traditions Tusi provided a more comprehensive ethics than the theologians who depend only on the Islamic law.
Moses Maimonides was born into a distinguished family of Jews at Cordoba on March 30, 1135 and was well educated by his father Maimon. In 1148 the fanatical Berber Almohads led by the Mahdi ibn-Tumart conquered Cordoba and gave the Jews and Christians the choice between converting to Islam, exile, or death. The Maimon family continued to practice Judaism privately but hid by outwardly appearing as Muslims. About 1159 they went to Fez in Morocco. Moses studied rabbinical Judaism, philosophy, and medicine. After his teacher Rabbi Judah ibn Shoshan was arrested for his religion and was executed in 1165, the Maimon family moved to Palestine for a few months before settling in Egypt near Cairo. There Jews could practice their religion unless they had previously submitted to Islam, in which case they were put to death. After his father died, and his brother David, a jewelry merchant, lost his life and the family fortune in a shipwreck, Moses took up the profession of a physician. He became quite successful and even treated the famous Sultan Saladin and his son al-Afdal, to whom he dedicated a popular collection of health rules. Maimonides also taught and became the leader of the Cairo Jewish community in 1177. Ten years later he was accused of being a renegade but was acquitted because he had never really adopted Islam. Maimonides argued that the Torah revokes all obligations made under compulsion. When Saladin conquered Palestine, Maimonides persuaded him to let Jews settle there.
Maimonides was only 16 when he began writing on logic and the calendar. He spent ten years writing, also in Arabic, his commentary on the Mishnah that was completed when he was 33. Then he began his magnum opus on the code of Jewish law called the Mishna Torah, which was written in Hebrew and took another ten years. He wrote in Arabic a shorter Book of Precepts for less sophisticated readers, and he wrote in Hebrew a digest of the Palestinian Talmud called the Laws of Jerusalem. In 1176 Maimonides began his Guide for the Perplexed, which took fifteen years and applied rational philosophy to Judaism. He wrote this in Arabic but with Hebrew letters so that it could only be read by Jews; he supervised a Hebrew translation. The Guide for the Perplexed was translated into Latin and many other languages, becoming his most influential work. Maimonides died at Cairo in 1204. His writing often caused controversy in the Jewish community, and in 1233 The Guide for the Perplexed was burned as heretical by Rabbi Solomon of Montpellier in France. In reaction others had Solomon arrested and put to death. Maimonides became recognized by many as the greatest Jewish philosopher, and his creed was used as a part of the orthodox liturgy.
In his introduction to The Guide for the Perplexed Moses Maimonides explained that he aimed to enlighten religious people who believe in the holy law and conscientiously fulfill its moral duties, but because of philosophical studies their reason finds it difficult to accept a literal interpretation of the scripture. He hoped that his work would alleviate that perplexity and anxiety by explaining the obscure metaphors that are found in the prophetic books. To teach in these disciplines without using parables and metaphors one would have to resort to expressions so profound and transcendental that they would be no more intelligible for understanding the divine will just as one must follow the laws of nature in regard to the body. Maimonides emphasized the general principle of abstaining from excessive indulgence in bodily pleasures which Solomon compared to a married woman who is a harlot.
In the first part of his Guide for the Perplexed Maimonides gave five reasons for not beginning with the study of metaphysics. First, it is too difficult, subtle, and profound; second, human intelligence is insufficient; third, long preparatory studies are required; fourth, moral conduct and the development of character are also indispensable for intellectual progress as the passions of youth must be moderated; and fifth, responsibilities for the material needs of the body, especially for a wife and children and even more if one desires superfluities, retard such study. Influenced by Avicenna, Maimonides declared that God exists as a necessity without a cause, is intelligent and therefore incorporeal. God is really beyond human knowledge. The divine attributes of intelligence, omnipotence, wisdom, mercy, love, unity, and will are absolute when applied to God and thus have a completely different meaning than their human qualities.
In the second part of the Guide Maimonides agreed with 25 philosophical propositions; but he challenged the Aristotelian idea that the universe is eternal because it contradicts the creation and miracles by God. He defined prophecy as an emanation sent by God through the active intellect, using both the rational and imaginative faculties, and he considered it the highest human attainment. Yet prophecy transcends the human development of the rational and imaginative faculties. In addition to perfecting the mental and imaginative faculties the wise must also achieve moral perfection by suppressing every thought of bodily pleasure and every foolish ambition. He noted that the imagination is affected by the body because prophecy can be blocked by mourning, anger, and other emotions. The divine influences the various degrees of intelligence and enables us to think. By means of the intuitive faculty the intellect can pass over all the causes and draw inferences instantaneously, enabling some to foretell coming events. Prophets must have highly developed intuition and courage. Prophets using intuition are able to conceive ideas that reason alone cannot comprehend nor ordinary imagination envision. Maimonides described humans as social beings who naturally seek to form communities. As nature's most complex species the human race has the greatest diversity of individuals.
Maimonides takes up ethical questions in the third part of his Guide. He warned against our desire for eating, drinking, and sensuality, writing,
Intelligent persons must, as much as possible, reduce these wants,
guard against them, and feel grieved when satisfying them,
abstaining from speaking of them, discussing them,
and attending to them in company with others.
Man must have control over all these desires,
reduce them as much as possible,
and retain of them as much as is indispensable.
His aim must be the aim of man as man,
viz., the formation of ideas, and nothing else.
The best and sublimest among them is
the idea which man forms of God, angels,
and the rest of the creation according to his capacity.
Such men are always with God.2
A good constitution helps the soul rule over the body; but a bad constitution may be conquered by training. Solomon and others advised reducing the desires of the body and all the vices originating from lust and the passions. Thoughts about sin are even more dangerous than the sin itself, for one sins only by the animal nature; but thinking is the formal faculty of the nobler self that should know better. It is therefore ignoble to use this faculty in service of the lower desires.
Maimonides argued that evil is only a relative condition that implies the non-existence of a good condition. Thus all evils are negations or privations. Death is lack of life, illness lack of health, poverty lack of wealth, and ignorance lack of knowledge. God cannot create evil because all God's works are perfectly good. God creates only the possibility of evil in the creation of the corporeal element that can be destroyed. Incorporeal beings are not subject to destruction or evil. Humans cause great evils because they lack wisdom as the blind man without a guide stumbles and does injury to himself and others. So humans in their ignorance may harm themselves and others; but knowledge of the truth removes hatred and quarrels, preventing mutual injuries. Ignorant people see much evil in the world because they mistakenly believe that everything exists for them; but if they considered the whole universe and their small portion of it, they would find the truth and see their error. Humans are exposed to various evils, but these can be exposed as defects in the persons themselves.
We complain and seek relief from our own faults;
we suffer from the evils which we, by our own free will,
inflict on ourselves and ascribe to God.3
The first kind of evils Maimonides described results from our having a body that is subject to a beginning and destruction. The second class of evils some humans cause to others by using their strength in violence or theft. Yet these are rare occurrences except in wars, which are also not usual. The third class of evils is what one causes to oneself by one's own actions. For Maimonides this is the largest class because they come from vices. The ignorant may constantly be in trouble and pain because they cannot get all the superfluous things they desire. Thus they may expose themselves to great dangers and suffer the consequences. Their error is in believing the universe should satisfy all their excessive desires; but the wise and virtuous understand the wisdom of God displayed in the universe.
Those who observe the commandments of the law and know their purpose see God's mercy and truth, and they seek what the Creator intends for them which is comprehension. They preserve the body but do not strive for what is superfluous, being contented with what is indispensable. When we seek what is unnecessary, we may have difficulty in finding what we need. The more we desire the more difficulties we encounter because our strength and resources are spent on what is unnecessary. Maimonides observed that the most necessary items to human existence are the easiest to acquire. Air is most necessary and most plentiful. Water is needed often but is easy to find, and the most basic foods are cheaper. The rarest luxuries are the most expensive to acquire. Maimonides divided human actions into those that are in vain, purposeless, unimportant, and good. An action is in vain if it's object cannot be attained because of obstacles. Sometimes people act without thinking of a purpose. He defined unimportant actions as those that seek something trivial. Useful actions are good because they serve a proper purpose.
In his commentaries on Jewish law Maimonides had carefully described 613 precepts, which in the Guide he summarized as having the following purposes:
Every one of the six hundred precepts serves
to inculcate some truth, to remove some erroneous opinion,
to establish proper relations in society, to diminish evil,
to train in good manners, or to warn against bad habits.
All this depends on three things;
opinions, morals, and social conduct.4
Another object of the law is to make humans reject, despise, and reduce desires, which may disturb the social order and the economy of the family. Lust diminishes intellectual energy, injures the body, shortens life, multiplies worries, and increases envy, hatred, and violence in taking what others possess. Maimonides believed the law also promotes politeness and sensitivity to one's neighbors. The law is intended to increase purity and holiness by reducing sensuality. Maimonides divided the 613 precepts into the following fourteen classes: fundamental principles (repentance and fasting), prohibition of idolatry, moral improvement, charity, preventing wrongs and violence, punishments and fines, business transactions, holidays, religious rites, the temple, sacrifices, ritual purity, forbidden foods, and sexual conduct.
The first class is most important because it involves learning, teaching, and prayer. Believing in the results of repentance enables us to improve. In the fifth class on damages readers are reminded that we are responsible for every damage caused by our actions or property. Maimonides condones killing a person who is about to commit either murder or rape. The rule for punishment is that it should be according to the crime except that injuries can be compensated by payment. Four conditions that affect punishment are the greatness of the crime, its frequency, the amount of temptation, and whether it was done secretly. Involuntary transgressions should not be punished. Sins committed in ignorance are blamable because one should be more careful and considerate. For crimes committed knowingly one must pay the penalty prescribed by law. Maimonides believed that one who sins insolently seeking publicity should be put to death. He also recommended capital punishment for crimes that destroyed religious faith as well as those prescribed for many crimes in the Torah.
Maimonides advised meditating by yourself in intellectual worship of God. He emphasized that loving kindness (hesed), judgment (mishpat), and justice (zedakah) are to be practiced on the earth. Justice means giving everyone their due and showing kindness as it is deserved. When we walk in the way of virtue, we act rightly toward our intellectual faculty. Judgment is the act of deciding what is right, whether merciful or punishment. Loving kindness is prompted by the moral conscience and is what enables us to attain perfection of the soul. Maimonides delineated four levels of perfection. The lowest is acquiring property. The second involves the health of the body. The third kind of perfection is the moral improvement of character. The fourth is perfecting the highest intellectual faculties and gaining the correct metaphysical beliefs about God. For Maimonides moral improvement prepares one for the highest human aim, which is knowledge of God. He concluded his treatise urging his readers to seek God, who is near to all who call in truth and turn to God. Those who go towards God without going astray will find God.
Moses Maimonides married late in life, and his son Abraham Maimonides (1186-1237) also became a religious leader of Jewish mysticism called hasidut that was strongly influenced by Sufism. Abraham's Compendium for the Servants of God was a monumental treatise on law and ethics similar to his father's Code of Laws (Mishna Torah). Abraham Maimonides argued that much of Sufism was based on the ancient traditions of Israel's prophets that had been lost in the exile, including their simple dress, solitary meditation, and the guidance of a master. Abraham's son Obadyah Maimonides (1228-1265) also carried on the tradition and wrote a mystical manual on ethics for the spiritual traveler called The Treatise of the Pool, which used many Sufi terms.
A Sufi master is called a pir, and 'Abd-al-Qadir Gilani (1077-1166) was one of the most popular teachers of the mystical doctrine. As a boy his mother sewed eighty gold coins into his coat and sent him to Baghdad for religious education, warning him never to speak falsely. When a robber of the caravan asked him if he had any money on him, Gilani admitted he had the hidden coins. Gilani explained to the chief robber he could not begin his religious quest by telling a lie, and the chief was converted from his life of crime. At Baghdad Gilani was severely disciplined by a syrup vendor and then practiced night worship on his own, reciting the entire Qur'an. Pir Gilani lectured at a madrasa college on the Qur'an, the traditions, and the law. When he was about fifty, he decided that marriage was a social duty. Gilani took four wives and had 49 children. Gilani preached outside the city to large crowds in a building that was constructed for him. He received large amounts of money which he distributed to the poor. He founded the first fraternal order (tariqa) that was named Qadiriya after him. These fraternal orders became the social groups for the Sufis.
Some of Gilani's sermons on practical morality were collected
by one of his sons as Revelations of the Unseen. He expounded
on ten virtues he believed led to spirituality even though none
of them is required by Shar'ia law. First, do not swear
by God, either truthfully or falsely. Second, speak no untruth,
even in jest. Third, do not break a promise. Fourth, do not curse
or harm anything. Fifth, do not pray for or wish for harm to anyone.
Sixth, do not accuse anyone of religious infidelity. Seventh,
do not attend to anything sinful. Eighth, do not impose any burden
on others. Ninth, do not expect anything from human beings. Tenth,
only notice in others what may be superior to oneself.
The Persian philosopher Suhrawardi (1153-1191) was called the Master of Illumination and the Martyr. He studied philosophy and psychology at Isfahan and was influenced by Zoroastrian concepts of angels. Suhrawardi traveled widely to meet Sufi masters and practiced asceticism in spiritual retreats. At Aleppo he tutored the Governor Malik Zahir Shah, a son of Saladin. However, his theosophical views were disliked by the orthodox jurists. The famous judge al-Fadil advised Saladin to have Suhrawardi put to death, and by the Sultan's order the prince had him executed the year King Richard arrived at Acre.
Suhrawardi believed that mysticism and philosophy are compatible
because the principles of philosophy can be validated by the experience
of illumination. Suhrawardi was having difficulty understanding
how humans know, but in his meditation he saw Aristotle
telling him that first one has to know oneself. Suhrawardi wrote
The Philosophy of Illumination for those who seek knowledge
that is both mystical and discursive. He believed that those who
master both philosophical reasoning and the wisdom of illumination
are "vicegerents of God" (khalifat Allah). He
identified the source of being as light, which is essential to
all cognition, and all beings are illuminations of the Light of
Lights (God). He adopted the classical psychology that is also
found in Avicenna's work that distinguishes the vegetative, animal,
and intellectual aspects of the soul. Suhrawardi described the
five internal senses as sensory communion, fantasy, apprehension,
imagination, and memory. The moral virtues of the Sufi path he
emphasized are truthfulness, humility, compassion, honesty, and
not being jealous of others. The degree of one's purification
in this world will determine the ontological status of the soul
in the next world. Suhrawardi wrote more than fifty works in his
short life and had much influence on the Illuminationist tradition.
Muhyiddin ibn 'Arabi was born in an Arab family at Murcia in Andalusia on August 7, 1165. He was educated in Seville and sought Sufi masters in Spain and North Africa. As a youth he met Averroes at Cordoba, and he was initiated into Sufism at Tunis. Ibn 'Arabi went to Mecca in 1201 and wrote love poems, Interpreter of Desires, to a young woman, whom he believed symbolized wisdom. He wrote that forgiveness is better than capital punishment. He lived an ascetic, saintly existence. When someone gave him a palace, he quickly gave it to a beggar. Ibn 'Arabi suggested that four things are needed for salvation-serving those in need, a pure and peaceful heart, good will to believers, and thinking well of everyone. He traveled to Egypt, Baghdad, and Aleppo; he spent years at Mecca but completed the 560 chapters of his Meccan Revelations at Damascus, where he died in 1240.
Ibn 'Arabi found imagination to be the link between sense perception
and the intellect. He taught perpetual transformation leading
to a mystical union of the self with the real. The images that
manifest the deity are constantly changing, and each is valid
but only for the moment. Clinging to an image leads to idolatry.
The infinite is paradoxically within all and beyond all, identical
and other, immanent and transcendental. This theological view
that God is both in the entire universe and transcendent beyond
it is called panentheism. The polished mirror of the human heart
is capable of every form. Joy and sorrow are experienced as one
passes away in union with the beloved. The mystic does not become
one with God but rather realizes that one already is one
with God. As the images change, one may participate in the perpetual
co-creation, continually annihilating and re-creating. Ibn 'Arabi
called Muhammad the Logos
of God, and he identified all true prophets with this universal
person who is cosmic, prophetic, and mystical. He believed in
the essential unity of all religions, and he found that the essence
of this one religion is love. Because of the unity of God, in
his Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom he argued that
the soul should rule in humans just as humans are kings on Earth.
The theosophical ideas of ibn 'Arabi were later systematized by
his followers. His ideas especially influenced Persians such as
the poet Jami, Mahmud Shabistari who summarized them in his Secret
Rose Garden, and the great theosophist Mulla Sadra.
Ibn 'Ata'illa was a teacher in the Shadhili Sufi tariqa (path) at Alexandria, and he wrote his Book of Wisdom before his own master died in 1288. His aphoristic sayings are designed to help Sufi students on the mystical path. He asked how the heart can be illumined while the forms of creatures are still reflected in its mirror? Or how can one journey to God while shackled by passions? How can one enter the presence of God without purifying oneself of forgetfulness? How can one understand the mysteries if one has not repented for offenses? It is better to look out for vices hidden in yourself than to look for the invisible realities that are veiled. Actually reality is not veiled from you, but you are veiled from seeing it. Ibn 'Ata'illa wrote that no action arising from a renouncing heart is small, and no action coming from an avaricious heart is fruitful. When God's justice confronts you, no sin is minor; but when God's grace faces you, no sin is major. Unless hope goes with action it is merely wishful thinking.
The Persian poet known as Sana'i was born in the middle of the 11th century in the Ghaznavid empire that ruled Afghanistan and parts of India and Iran. He wrote panegyrics to his patron, Sultan Bahram Shah. Sana'i wrote the first great Sufi poetry in the verse forms of ode (qasida), lyric (ghazal), and rhymed couplet (masnavi). His Enclosed Garden of Truth (Hadiqat al-haqiqa) contains 10,000 couplets and was written about 1131. In the first book of The Enclosed Garden of Truth Sana'i of Ghazna began by praising God and suggesting that reason is unable to attain knowledge of God. Prayer can lead to God by polishing the mirror of the heart. He told the parable of how an elephant is perceived differently in a city of the blind by those who handle its ears, trunk, and legs, which seem to be like a rug, pipe, and pillars. Because no mind knows the whole, fools are deceived by fanciful absurdities. He asked how can anyone who does not know one's own soul know the soul of another? How can the Godhead be known by the hand or foot? Sana'i suggested that the steps to heaven are many and are best attained by wisdom and work, for sloth results in impiety.
Sana'i recommended worshipping God in both worlds as if one could see God with the outward eye; though you do not see God, your Creator sees you. When you have grappled with death, you will no longer turn away from death and will come to know the world of life. Only in the annihilation of one's own existence does one enter the road to eternal life. The pious are those who give thanks for divine kindness and mercy; but unbelievers complain the world seems unjust. Sana'i advised his readers to end all imitation and speculation so that your heart may become the house of God. Your own soul distinguishes unbelief from true religion and colors your vision. Selflessness is happy, but selfishness is most miserable. In the eternal there are no unbeliefs and no religions.
Sana'i described the journey on God's road as belonging to the person with sharper vision and wisdom. To turn your face toward life you must put your foot down on outward prosperity, put out of your mind rank and reputation, and bend your back in divine service to purify yourself from evil and strengthen your soul in wisdom. By looking on divine truth cut yourself off from the false world, leave behind those who contend with words, and sit before the silent. Travel from the works of God to the divine principles, and from the principles to the knowledge of God. From knowledge one enters the secret and reaches the threshold of poverty. When you have become a friend of poverty, your soul destroys the impure self, and your self becomes the soul inside you. Ashamed of all its doings, it casts aside all its possessions and melts on the path of trial. When your self has been melted in your body, your soul by steps accomplishes its work. Then God takes away its poverty; when poverty is no more, God remains.
Sana'i believed that the phantoms of sleep are ordained so
that humans may understand their hopes and fears. Then his poem
proceeds to interpret the meaning of various symbols in dreams.
He warned against making your understanding captive to your body
in the three prisons of deceit, hatred, and envy. No one who regards
the self can see God; whoever looks at the self has no faith.
Sana'i recommended that if you are on the path of true religion,
cease for a time contemplating yourself. He believed that anger,
passion, hatred, and malice are not among the attributes of the
one God, the creator, who is merciful. God draws you by kindness
that may appear like the anger of a noose. So long as one seeks
for love with self in view, there waits the crucible of renunciation.
For those new on the way of love, renunciation is a key to the
gate. Desire for a mistress brings gladness, but it is far from
God. The legion of your pleasures will cast you into fire; but
desiring God will keep you as safe as a virgin in paradise. To
Love God says, "Fear none but me." To Reason God says,
"Know yourself." God tells Love to rule as king. When
the reasonable soul finds the water of life and expends it in
the path of the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit rejoices in
the soul, and the soul becomes as pure as Primal Reason.
Farid al-Din 'Attar was born at Nishapur in northern Persia on November 12, 1119, but sources on his date of death vary from 1193 to 1234. According to legend he was killed in 1221 after he was captured by the Mongols of Genghis Khan at Mecca; he advised against accepting a ransom of gold until it was increased but then suggested accepting an offer of straw. His name indicates that he may have been a chemist or sold perfumes, and a legend tells that a dervish induced him to leave his father's profession to study Sufism. 'Attar traveled for 39 years to Egypt, Syria, Arabia, India, and Central Asia before settling in his native Nishapur. He wrote at least 45,000 rhymed couplets and many prose works, and he was greatly admired by the Sufi poet Rumi. 'Attar wrote biographies of Sufi saints, but the allegorical Conference of the Birds, completed in 1188, is considered his greatest work.
'Attar began The Conference of the Birds (Mantiq al-tair) with an invocation praising the holy Creator in which he suggested that one must live a hundred lives to know oneself; but you must know God by the deity, not by yourself, for God opens the way, not human wisdom. 'Attar believed that God is beyond all human knowledge. The soul will manifest itself when the body is laid aside. One cannot gain spiritual knowledge without dying to all things. When the birds assemble, they wonder why they have no king. The Hoopoe presents herself as a messenger from the invisible world with knowledge of God and the secrets of creation. She recommends Simurgh as their true king, saying that one of his feathers fell on China.
The Nightingale says that the love of the Rose satisfies him, and the journey is beyond his strength; but the Hoopoe warns against being a slave of passing love that interferes with seeking self-perfection. The Parrot longs for immortality, and the Hoopoe encourages the Peacock to choose the whole. The Duck is too content with water to seek the Simurgh. The Hoopoe advises the Partridge that gems are just colored stones and that love of them hardens the heart; she should seek the real jewel of sound quality. The Humay is distracted by ambition, and the Owl loves only the treasure he has found. The Hoopoe reprimands the Sparrow for taking pride in humility and recommends struggling bravely with oneself. She states that the different birds are just shadows of the Simurgh. If they succeed, they will not be God; but they will be immersed in God. If they look in their hearts, they will see the divine image. All appearances are just the shadow of the Simurgh. Those loving truly do not think about their own lives and sacrifice their desires. Those grounded in love renounce faith and religion as well as unbelief. One must hear with the ear of the mind and the heart.
A total of 22 birds speak to the Hoopoe or ask questions about the journey. Short anecdotes are told to illustrate the Hoopoe's points. The Hoopoe says that it is better to lose your life than to languish miserably. The Hoopoe says,
So long as we do not die to ourselves,
and so long as we identify with someone or something,
we shall never be free.
The spiritual way is not for those wrapped up in exterior life.5
You will enjoy happiness if you succeed in withdrawing from attachment to the world. Whoever is merciful even to the merciless is favored by the compassionate. It is better to agree to differ than to quarrel. The Hoopoe warns the sixth bird against the dog of desire that runs ahead. Each vain desire becomes a demon, and yielding to each one begets a hundred others. The world is a prison under the devil, and one should have no truck with its master. The Hoopoe also says that if you let no one benefit from your gold, you will not profit either; but by the smallest gift to the poor you both benefit. She says,
Good fortune will come to you only as you give.
If you cannot renounce life completely,
you can at least free yourself
from the love of riches and honors.6
A pupil becomes afraid in facing a choice between two roads, but a shaikh advises getting rid of fear so that either road will be good. The Hoopoe tells the eighth bird that only if death ceases to exercise power over creatures would it be wise to remain content in a golden palace. The ninth bird is told that sensual love is a game inspired by passing beauty that is fleeting. The Hoopoe asks what is uglier than a body made of flesh and bones. It is better to seek the hidden beauty of the invisible world. An anecdote about Jesus yields the following lesson:
Strive to discover the mystery before life is taken from you.
If while living you fail to find yourself, to know yourself,
how will you be able to understand
the secret of your existence when you die?7
The Hoopoe advises the eleventh bird that giving yourself over to pride or self-pity will disturb you. Since the world passes, pass it by, for whoever becomes identified with transient things has no part in the lasting things. The suffering endured is made glorious and is a treasure for the seer, for blessings will come if you make efforts on the path. The fifteenth bird is told that justice is salvation, and the just are saved from errors. Being just is better than a life of worship. Justice exercised in secret is even better than liberality; but justice professed openly may lead to hypocrisy. A story of two drunks teaches that we see faults because we do not love. When we understand real love, the faults of those near us appear as good qualities. When you see the ugliness of your own faults, you will not bother so much with the faults of others.
The journey of the birds takes them through the seven valleys of the quest, love, understanding, independence and detachment, unity, astonishment, and finally poverty and nothingness. In the valley of the quest one undergoes a hundred difficulties and trials. After one has been tested and become free, one learns in the valley of love that love has nothing to do with reason. The valley of understanding teaches that knowledge is temporary, but understanding endures. Overcoming faults and weaknesses brings the seeker closer to the goal. In the valley of independence and detachment one has no desire to possess nor any wish to discover. To cross this difficult valley one must be roused from apathy to renounce inner and outer attachments so that one can become self-sufficient. In the valley of unity the Hoopoe announces that although you may see many beings, in reality there is only one, which is complete in its unity. As long as you are separate, good and evil will arise; but when you lose yourself in the divine essence, they will be transcended by love. When unity is achieved, one forgets all and forgets oneself in the valley of astonishment and bewilderment.
The Hoopoe declares that the last valley of deprivation and death is almost impossible to describe. In the immensity of the divine ocean the pattern of the present world and the future world dissolves. As you realize that the individual self does not really exist, the drop becomes part of the great ocean forever in peace. The analogy of moths seeking the flame is used. Out of thousands of birds only thirty reach the end of the journey. When the light of lights is manifested and they are in peace, they become aware that the Simurgh is them. They begin a new life in the Simurgh and contemplate the inner world. Simurgh, it turns out, means thirty birds; but if forty or fifty had arrived, it would be the same. By annihilating themselves gloriously in the Simurgh they find themselves in joy, learn the secrets, and receive immortality. So long as you do not realize your nothingness and do not renounce your self-pride, vanity, and self-love, you will not reach the heights of immortality. 'Attar concluded the epilog with the admonition that if you wish to find the ocean of your soul, then die to all your old life and then keep silent.
In the Book of Affliction (Musibat-nama) 'Attar described forty stages in spiritual progression as a wayfarer asks different creatures how to find God until the ultimate truth is given by the prophet of Islam himself in the ocean of one's own soul. These stories reflect outwardly the mystical experiences of disciples during forty days of meditation.
In the Book of God (Ilahi-nama) 'Attar framed his mystical teachings in various stories that a caliph tells his six sons, who are kings themselves and seek worldly pleasures and power. Twenty-two discourses are preceded by a long exordium that praises God, the prophet Muhammad, and the first four caliphs. The first son is captivated by a virgin princess, and his father tells him the adventures of a beautiful and virtuous woman who attracts several men but miraculously survives their abuse and then forgives them. They acknowledge that carnal desire is necessary to propagate the race but also recognize that passionate love can lead to spiritual love, which can annihilate the soul in the beloved. One story indicates that even a homosexual may be more sacrificing than a scholar or a descendant of 'Ali. Other stories indicate the importance of respecting the lives of other creatures such as ants or dogs. One only thinks oneself better than a dog because of one's dog-like nature.
The second son tells his father that his heart craves magic; but his father warns him against the work of the devil. A monk tells a shaikh that he has chosen the job of locking up a savage dog inside himself, and he advises the shaikh to lock up anger lest he be changed into a dog. The father suggests that this son ask for something more worthy and tells an anecdote in which Jesus teaches a man the greatest name of God. The man uses it to make bones come alive into a lion, which devours him, leaving his bones. Jesus then says that when a person asks for something unworthy, God does not grant it. Birds and beasts flee from people because people eat them. God tells Moses to watch his heart when he is alone, to be kind and watch his tongue when he is with people, the road in front when he is walking, and his gullet when he is dining. A saint tells a shaikh that love is never denied to humans, for only the lover knows the true value of the beloved. Another saint warns that unless you pray for protection from negativity (the Devil), you shall not enter the court of God.
The third son of the caliph asks for a cup that could display the whole world. 'Attar concluded a story by saying that Sufism is to rest in patience and forsake all desire for the world, and trust in God means bridling one's tongue and wishing for better things for others than for oneself. This son asks why his father seems to disparage the love of honor and the love of wealth which all seem to possess. The caliph replies that in the crazy prison of the world one can achieve greatness only by devotion. Since one speaks to God through the heart and soul, it is difficult to speak with God of worldly things. The third son asks if he can be allowed to seek power in moderation; but the father still warns that this will place screens between him and God. Each screen created by seeking power will create more screens. One must see both the good and the bad inside and outside oneself to understand how they are connected together. Saints who reach their goal see nothingness in all things, making sugar seem like poison and a rose like thorns. Ayaz advises the conquering Sultan Mahmud to leave his self behind since he is better being entirely We. In the last story for his third son, the father says that thousands of arts, mysteries, definitions, commands, prohibitions, orders, and injunctions are founded on the intellect. What cup could be more revealing than this?
The fourth son seeks the water of life, and his father warns him against desire. A wise man considers Alexander the Great the slave of his slave because the Greek conqueror has submitted to greed and desire, which this wise man controls. If the son cannot have the water of life, he asks for the knowledge that will illuminate his heart. In one story 'Attar concluded that if you are not faithful in love, you are in love only with yourself. The fifth son asks for the ring of Solomon that enables one to communicate with birds and other animals. The Way is summarized as seeing the true road, traveling light, and doing no harm. The father tells this son that he has chosen an earthly kingdom because he has not heard of the kingdom of the next world. He advises this king that since his sovereignty will not endure not to load the whole world on his shoulders. Why take on the burden of all creation? The caliph suggests that his son practice contentment, which is an eternal kingdom that overshadows even the sun. When Joseph was thrown into a pit, the angel Gabriel counseled him that it is better to notice a single blemish in yourself than to see a hundred lights of the Unseen.
The sixth son desires to practice alchemy, but his father perceives that he is caught in the snare of greed. Gold is held more tightly by a miser than the rock grips the ore. The son observes that excessive poverty often leads to losing faith, and so he asks God for both the philosopher's stone and for gold; but his father replies that one cannot promote both faith and the world at the same time. In the epilog the poet commented that since he receives his daily bread from the Unseen, he does not have to be the slave of wretched men. 'Attar concluded this work with the satisfaction that he has perfumed the name of God with his poetry.
Jalal al-Din Rumi was born on September 30, 1207 in Balkh (Afghanistan). His father Baha' Walad was descended from the first Caliph Abu Bakr and was influenced by the ideas of Ahmad Ghazali, brother of the famous philosopher. Baha' Walad's sermons were published and still exist as Divine Sciences (Ma'arif). He fled the Mongols with his son in 1219, and it was reported that at Nishapur young Rumi met 'Attar, who gave him a copy of his Book of Mysteries (Asrar-nama). After a pilgrimage to Mecca and other travels, the family went to Rum (Anatolia). Baha' Walad was given an important teaching position in the capital at Konya (Iconium) in 1228 by Seljuk King 'Ala' al-Din Kayqubad (r. 1219-1236) and his Vizier Mu'in al-Din. Rumi married and had a son, who later wrote his biography. In 1231 Rumi succeeded his late father as a religious teacher. His father's friend Burhan al-Din arrived and for nine years taught Rumi Sufism. Rumi probably met the philosopher ibn al-Arabi at Damascus.
In 1244 Rumi's life changed dramatically when he met the dervish Shams al-Din of Tabriz. Rumi spent so much time with him that his disciples became jealous until Shams was murdered in 1247. To the music of flute and drums Rumi invented the circling movements of the whirling dervishes and began writing mystical love poetry to his departed beloved; his disciples formed the dervish order called the Mevlevis. After 1249 the Seljuk governors paid tribute to the Mongol empire. As vassal of the Mongol Baiju, Mu'in al-Din governed Rum for twenty years starting in 1256, and he patronized the mystical poet. Rumi was also inspired by love for a goldsmith named Salah al-Din Zarkub until he died in 1261. His disciple Husam al-Din Hasan urged Rumi to write mystical poetry and tales called Masnavi in the style of Sana'i and 'Attar. Rumi completed six books of these before he died on December 17, 1273. Many of his talks were written down in the book Fihi ma fihi, which means "In it what is in it" and is often referred to as his Discourses.
In the prolog to the Masnavi Rumi hailed Love and its sweet madness that heals all infirmities, and he exhorted the reader to burst the bonds to silver and gold to be free. The Beloved is all in all and is only veiled by the lover. Rumi identified the first cause of all things as God and considered all second causes subordinate to that. Human minds recognize the second causes, but only prophets perceive the action of the first cause. One story tells of a clever rabbit who warned the lion about another lion and showed the lion his own image in a well, causing him to attack it and drown. After delivering his companions from the tyrannical lion, the rabbit urges them to engage in the more difficult warfare against their own inward lusts. In a debate between trusting God and human exertion, Rumi quoted the prophet Muhammad as saying, "Trust in God, yet tie the camel's leg."8 He also mentioned the adage that the worker is the friend of God; so in trusting in providence one need not neglect to use means. Exerting oneself can be giving thanks for God's blessings; but he asked if fatalism shows gratitude.
God is hidden and has no opposite, not seen by us yet seeing us. Form is born of the formless but ultimately returns to the formless. An arrow shot by God cannot remain in the air but must return to God. Rumi reconciled God's agency with human free will and found the divine voice in the inward voice. Those in close communion with God are free, but the one who does not love is fettered by compulsion. God is the agency and first cause of our actions, but human will as the second cause finds recompense in hell or with the Friend. God is like the soul, and the world is like the body. The good and evil of bodies come from souls. When the sanctuary of true prayer is revealed to one, it is shameful to turn back to mere formal religion. Rumi confirmed Muhammad's view that women hold dominion over the wise and men of heart; but violent fools, lacking tenderness, gentleness, and friendship, try to hold the upper hand over women because they are swayed by their animal nature. The human qualities of love and tenderness can control the animal passions. Rumi concluded that woman is a ray of God and the Creator's self.
When the Light of God illumines the inner person, one is freed from effects and has no need of signs for the assurance of love. Beauty busies itself with a mirror. Since not being is the mirror of being, the wise choose the self-abnegation of not being so that being may be displayed in that not being. The wealthy show their liberality on the poor, and the hungry are the mirror of bread. Those recognizing and confessing their defects are hastening toward perfection; but whoever considers oneself perfect already is not advancing. The poet suggested driving out this sickness of arrogance with tears from the heart. The fault of the devil (Iblis) was in thinking himself better than others, and the same weakness lurks in the soul of all creatures. Heart knowledge bears people up in friendship, but body knowledge weighs them down with burdens.
Rumi wrote how through love all things become better. Doing kindness is the game of the good, who seek to alleviate suffering in the world. Wherever there is a pain, a remedy is sent. Call on God so that the love of God may manifest. Rumi recommended the proverb that the moral way is not to find fault with others but to be admonished by their bad example. The mosque built in the hearts of the saints is the place for all worship, for God dwells there. Rumi began the third book of his Masnavi as follows:
In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.
The sciences of (Divine) Wisdom are God's armies,
wherewith He strengthens the spirits of the initiates,
and purifies their knowledge from the defilement of ignorance,
their justice from the defilement of iniquity,
their generosity from the defilement of ostentation,
and their forbearance from the defilement of foolishness;
and brings near to them whatever was far from them
in respect of the understanding of the state hereafter;
and makes easy to them whatever was hard to them
in respect of obedience (to Him) and zealous endeavor (to serve Him).9
A sage warns travelers that if they kill a baby elephant to eat, its parents will probably track them down and kill them; yet they do so, although one refrains from the killing and eating. As they sleep, a huge elephant smells their breath and kills all those who had eaten the young elephant but spares the one who had abstained. From foul breath the stench of pride, lust, and greed rises to heaven. Pain may be better than dominion in the world so that one may call on God in secret; the cries of the sorrowful come from burning hearts. Rumi also told the story of the Hindus feeling the different parts of an elephant in a dark room. He emphasized that in substance all religions are one and the same because all praises are directed to God's light. They err only because they have mistaken opinions. Sinners and criminals betray themselves especially in times of passion and angry talk. Prophets warn you of hidden dangers the worldly cannot see. Humans have the ability to engage in any action, but for Rumi worship of God is the main object of human existence.
Rumi wrote that Sufism is to find joy in the heart whenever distress and care assail it. He believed the power of choice is like capital yielding profit, but he advised us to remember well the day of final accounting. Many of his stories are designed to show the difference between what is self-evident by experience and what is inferred through the authority of others. His philosophy of evolution of consciousness is encapsulated in the following verses:
I died as inanimate matter and arose a plant,
I died as a plant and rose again an animal.
I died as an animal and arose a man.
Why then should I fear to become less by dying?
I shall die once again as a man
To rise an angel perfect from head to foot!
Again when I suffer dissolution as an angel,
I shall become what passes the conception of man!
Let me then become non-existent, for non-existence
Sings to me in organ tones, "To him shall we return."10
When the love of God arises in your heart, without doubt God also feels love for you. The soul loves wisdom, knowledge, and exalted things, but the body desires houses, gardens, vineyards, food, and material goods. Rumi also believed that there is no absolute bad; the evils in the world are only relative. A serpent's poison protects its own life, but in relation to a person it can mean death. When what is hateful leads you to your beloved, it immediately becomes agreeable to you. Solomon built the temple by hiring workers, for humans can be controlled by money.
Men are as demons, and lust of wealth their chain,
Which drags them forth to toil in shop and field.
This chain is made of their fears and anxieties.
Deem not that these men have no chain upon them.
It causes them to engage in labor and the chase,
It forces them to toil in mines and on the sea,
It urges them towards good and towards evil.11
Rumi warned against bad friends who can be like weeds in the temple of the heart; for if a liking for bad friends grows in you, they can subvert you and your temple. He also warned against the judges who confine their view to externals and base their decisions on outward appearances; these heretics have secretly shed the blood of many believers. Partial reason cannot see beyond the grave; but true reason looks beyond to the day of judgment and thus is able to steer a better course in this world. Therefore it is better for those with partial reason to follow the guidance of the saints.
In the fifth book of the Masnavi Rumi included several stories to illustrate why one should cut down the duck of gluttony, the cock of concupiscence, the peacock of ambition and ostentation, and the crow of bad desires. The story of how Muhammad converted a glutton who drank the milk of seven goats and then made a mess after being locked in a room shows the humility of the prophet in cleaning up the mess himself. He concluded that the infidels eat with seven bellies but the faithful with one. The peacock catches people by displaying itself. Pursuing the vulgar is like hunting a pig; the fatigue is extensive, and it is unlawful to eat it. Love alone is worth pursuing, but how can God be contained in anyone's trap? The most deadly evil eye is the eye of self-approval. The greed of the gluttonous duck is limited as is the greed of the lusty snake; but the peacock's ambition to rule can be many times as great. Worldly wealth and even accomplishments can be enemies to the spiritual life. These are the human trials that create virtue. If there were no temptations, there could be no virtue. Abraham killed the crow of desire in response to the command of God so that he would not crave anything else, and he killed the cock to subjugate pernicious desires.
Rumi suggested that God uses prophets and saints as mirrors to instruct people while the divine remains hidden behind the mirrors. People hear the words from the mirrors but are ignorant that they are spoken by universal reason or the word of God. Ultimately God will place in people's hands their books of greed and generosity, of sin and piety, whatever they have practiced. When they awake on that morning, all the good and evil they have done will recur to them. After enumerating their faults, God in the end will grant them pardon as a free gift. To tell an angry person of faults, one must have a face as hard as a mirror to reflect the ugliness without fear or favor. Like 'Attar, Rumi wrote of the mystic's attaining annihilation, but he explained that the end and object of negation is to attain the subsequent affirmation just as the cardinal principle of Islam "There is no God" concludes with the affirmation "but God," and to the mystic this really means "There is nothing but God." Negation of the individual self clears the way for apprehending the existence of the One. The intoxication of life in pleasures and occupations which veil the truth should pass into the spiritual intoxication that lifts people to the beatific vision of eternal truth.
In the Discourses Rumi presented his teachings more directly. In the first chapter he suggested that the true scholar should serve God above the prince so that in their encounters the scholar will give more than take, thus making princes visitors of scholars rather than the reverse. Rumi advised stripping prejudices from one's discriminative faculty by seeing a friend in Faith, which is knowing who is one's true friend. Those who spend time with the undiscriminating have that faculty deteriorate and are unable to recognize a true friend in the Faith. Rumi taught the universal principle that if you have done evil, you have done it to yourself; for how could wickedness reach out to affect God? Yet when you become straight, all your crookedness will disappear; so beware but have hope! Those who assist an oppressor will find that God gives the oppressor power over them. God loves us by reproving us. One reproves friends, not a stranger. So long as you perceive longing and regret within yourself, that is proof that God loves and cares for you. If you perceive a fault in your brother, that fault is also within yourself. The learned are like mirrors. Get rid of that fault in yourself, for what distresses you about the other person distresses you inside yourself.
Rumi taught that all things in relation to God are good and perfect, but in relation to humans some things are considered bad. To a king prisons and gallows are part of the ornament of his kingdom; but Rumi asked if to his people they are the same as robes of honor. He argued that faith is better than prayer because faith without prayer is beneficial; but prayer without faith is not. Rumi explained to his disciples that the desire to see the Master may prevent them from perceiving the Master without a veil. He went on,
So it is with all desires and affections, all loves and fondnesses
which people have for every variety of thing-
father, mother, heaven, earth, gardens, palaces,
branches of knowledge, acts, things to eat and drink.
The man of God realizes that all these desires are the desire for God,
and all those things are veils.
When men pass out of this world and behold that King without those veils,
then they will realize that all these things were veils and coverings,
their quest being in reality that One Thing.
All difficulties will then be resolved,
and they will hear in their hearts
the answer to all questions and all problems,
and every thing will be seen face to face.12
Rumi suggested God created these veils because if God's beauty were displayed without veils, we would not be able to endure and enjoy it just as the sun lights up the world and warms us. The sun enables trees and orchards to become fruitful, and its energy makes fruit that is unripe, bitter, and sour become mature and sweet. Yet if the sun came too near, it would not bestow benefits but destroy the whole world.
Rumi compared this world to the dream of a sleeper. It seems real while it is happening; but when one awakes, one does not benefit from the material things one had while asleep. The present then depends on what one requested while asleep. God teaches in every way. A thief hanged on the gallows is an object lesson as is the person whom the king gives a robe of honor; but you should consider the difference between those two preachers. Even suffering is a divine grace, and hell becomes a place of worship as souls turn back to God just as being in prison or suffering pain often urges one to pray for relief. Yet after people are released or healed, they often forget to seek God. Believers, however, do not need to suffer because even in ease they are mindful that suffering is constantly present. An intelligent child that has been punished does not forget the punishment; but the stupid child forgets it and is punished again. The wickedness and vice of humans can be great because they are what veil the better element, which is also great. These veils cannot be removed without great striving, and Rumi recommended that the best method is to mingle with friends who have turned their backs to the world and their faces to God.
Sa'di took his pen name from the family name of two princes he served and to whom he dedicated his two best-known works, The Orchard (Bustan) and The Rose Garden (Gulistan). He was born at Shiraz in Persia about 1213 and died in 1292. He was educated at the Nizamiya college in Baghdad. He apparently traveled widely from India and Central Asia to Egypt and North Africa. He was captured by the Franks and made to dig ditches for the fortress at Tripoli. According to his writing Sa'di was ransomed by a Muslim merchant from Aleppo but was obliged to marry his daughter; later he divorced her. In the Bustan Sa'di wrote that he once killed a Hindu priest in a temple after he was caught discovering the mechanism for the idol's miraculous movements. He spent his later years in his native Shiraz. His famous Gulistan was published during the summer of 1258 only a few months after the destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols.
In the prolog of The Rose Garden Sa'di praised the atabeg Abu Bakr ibn Sa'd ibn Zangi for bringing peace to a country that had been entangled by men shedding blood like wolves or sharp-clawed tigers. He noted that humans may do this because within they have a good disposition like angels. The poet also praised the wisdom of the Creator for causing a servant to make the general welfare a duty. Those who live a good life will find eternal happiness. Sa'di organized his Garden of stories, poetry, and moral maxims into eight chapters.
The first and longest chapter in The Rose Garden is "The Manners of Kings." In the first story when a king condemned a man to be executed, the prisoner vented his anger in a foreign language; but the vizier told the king he was praying for forgiveness, and the king pardoned him. Then the vizier's adversary said that the man had insulted the king, who became displeased, saying that the lie of compassion was more acceptable to him than the truth motivated by malice. Sa'di wrote that whoever does not have sympathy for the troubles of others is not worthy of being called human. He noted that those with a clear conscience have nothing to fear. "Straightness is the means of acceptance with God. I saw no one lost on the straight road."13 Sa'di warned tyrants that they do not remain long in the world but suffer a curse forever. He realized that a few may have the physical strength or power of position in the government to plunder the people; but though a hard bone may pass down the throat, it will tear the stomach.
Sa'di's second chapter, "The Morals of Dervishes," exposes religious hypocrisy and explores real piety. He warned that whoever enumerates the faults of another to you will probably carry your faults to others. A king meets a holy man and asks if he remembers him so that he can get presents; he replies that he does whenever he forgets God. Sa'di recommended helping the distressed when one is prosperous because comforting the poor averts evil from yourself. If you do not give something to a beggar, an oppressor may take it by force. Sa'di summed up the true qualities of a dervish this way:
The way of dervishes is praying, gratitude,
service, obedience, alms-giving, contentment,
professing the unity of God, trust, submission, and patience.
Whoever possesses these qualities is really a dervish,
although he may wear an elegant robe.14
The luxurious, sensual, and lazy who eat anything and speak whatever comes into their heads are profligates even if they wear the garb of a dervish.
The third chapter of The Rose Garden is on the value of contentment. Sa'di lamented the degradation of begging and believed that poverty is better than diminishing one's honor. The shortest chapter is on the advantages of silence. Those looking with enmity see virtue as a fault; Sa'di suggested that his rose is a thorn to his enemies. Two wise people do not quarrel nor does a scholar fight with someone contemptible. If an ignorant person is rude and speaks harshly, an intelligent person tenderly reconciles the heart. In his stories on love and youth Sa'di found both women and young men attractive. In the sixth chapter on weakness and old age he advised learning patience. Sa'di recalled how he shouted at his mother when he was young. As she sat weeping in a corner, she asked him if he had forgotten his infancy that he is so harsh to her.
In the seventh chapter on the effects of education a sage advises boys to learn a trade because one cannot rely on property and riches; gold and silver may be stolen by a thief, or one may spend them slowly. Yet a profession is a living fountain of permanent wealth. Sa'di believed that the severity of a teacher is better than the love of a father, and he warned against teachers who let children run wild. He found virility in being liberal and friendly, not in the physical figure. Rather than gaining the whole world, he suggested gaining the heart of one person if you can.
Sa'di debated poverty and wealth with a quarreling man who dressed as a dervish but did not act like one. The man said that the liberal have no money and the wealthy no liberality. Sa'di argued that the wealthy can be liberal because they have the ability to perform religious duties and the money to give to the poor. Their garments are clean, their reputations protected, and their hearts at leisure. Yet those who are hungry have little strength to give. Those preoccupied with subsistence do not have time for the happiness of piety. The destitute and bitter may engage desperately in wicked adventures regardless of the consequences; those not fearing punishment do not discriminate between right and wrong. The hungry steal bread, and poverty may drive a modest woman into profligacy. The other man argued that the wealthy are arrogant, greedy, and stingy; they look with contempt on the poor and scholars. They took their dispute to a judge, who noted that among the wealthy are the grateful and the impious and that some dervishes are tolerant and some are impatient. The greatest of the rich sympathize with the dervishes, and the best of the dervishes do not look to the rich but trust in God.
The seventh and final chapter of Sa'di's Rose Garden consists of maxims and admonitions. He began by suggesting that property is for comfort in life, not for accumulating wealth. If you want to profit by riches, be liberal to humanity as God has been liberal to you. Two means of useless trouble and striving without profit are to accumulate property without enjoying it and to learn without practicing what one has learned. He admonished us not to inflict every injury on an enemy because one day that person may become a friend. If you reveal a secret to a friend, that friend has friends too; no one can keep your secret better than you. If an affair can be arranged with money, one should not endanger life. Excessive anger results in alienation, and untimely kindness may destroy authority; do not be so harsh as to disgust people nor embolden them by being too mild. Whoever gives advice to the self-willed is in need of advice. The wise have said that being content with poverty is better than being wealthy without abundance. Whoever does no good when one is able will be distressed when one is unable. No one is more unlucky than the one who oppresses people because in the time of calamity the oppressor has no friend. "Whoever does not listen to advice will have occasion to hear reproof."15 To be kind to sharp-toothed tigers is to be cruel toward sheep. Sa'di warned against capital punishment.
It is quite easy to deprive a man of life.
When he is slain, he cannot be resuscitated again.
It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient
Because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more.16
Do not be surprised when a wise person ceases to speak in the company of vile persons since the harp cannot overcome the noise of a drum, and the perfume of ambergris is overwhelmed by the stench of rotten garlic. "Intellect may become captive to lust like a weak man in the hands of an artful woman."17 A liberal who eats and gives is better than a devotee who fasts and hoards. Whoever renounces appetites to get approval from people has fallen from licit into illicit appetites. When al-Ghazali was asked how he attained knowledge, he answered that it was by not being ashamed to ask about what he did not know. Whoever becomes noted for lying will not be believed even when telling the truth. Be advised by the misfortunes of others so that others will not be advised by yours. A beggar who comes to a good end is better than a king who comes to a bad end. Whoever has no mercy upon inferiors will suffer from the tyranny of superiors. A dervish prayed that God have mercy on the wicked because God has already had mercy on the good by making them good. One may freely warn kings if one neither fears to lose one's life nor hopes for money. Finally Sa'di thanked God for allowing him to complete his book before his life ended.
In the exordium to his Orchard Sa'di praised God, the messenger Muhammad, and the two kings who patronized him. The ten chapters of The Orchard he described as ten doors of edification. The first gateway is on justice, management, and good judgment and begins with the advice of Nushirwan to Hurmuz that he should be the guardian of the poor, for the emperor holds his crown by virtue of the people. He must take care to treat both merchants and envoys fairly. He advised giving trust to those who fear God's justice, not to those who fear only him. "Be generous, good-natured, and forgiving: as God to you, so be you to your servants!"18 The ruler should beware of hearing an interested party's words, or he may be sorry for acting on them. Subjects should be husbanded like a tree so that friends may eat the fruit with contented hearts. A peasant advises a tyrant to reform and warns that praise gives no aid while blame helps a ruler understand his character. In another tale a slave girl refuses to please the Caliph Ma'mun because of his bad breath. The sovereign was able to correct his problem and concluded:
To tell one lost he's going well
Is utter injustice and mighty maltreatment;
Whenever none tells you frankly your faults,
In ignorance you take your faults for virtues!19
A prudent man chides a tyrant that until good management is achieved, conciliating an enemy is better than conflict. Yet one may confront him if he seeks malice since kindness toward the malicious is an error. When an enemy asks for quarter, practice generosity; forgive, but beware of guile. Sa'di commended the counsel of wise elders and warned that forceful youths can overthrow foundations; yet he also cautioned against crafty elders, who can lead astray the impetuous youths.
In the chapter on beneficence Sa'di emphasized knowledge, liberality, and fear of God. The great bring good to those in need, fearing they may come to need others. Help those whose hearts are wounded, for you may be wounded in heart too. Sa'di cited Suhrawardi's counsels to look not hardly on the masses and not have self-regard for oneself. Shibli advises forgiveness, for people may be caught by kindness. Generosity, grace, and liberality can end the vileness of an enemy. Do no ill because good fruit will not grow from evil seeds. A king is kind to a man who reviles him. Sa'di made an exception for tyrants, for mercy to such is injustice to a world. Mercy to the robber strikes at the caravan. He believed that violence to the violent is justice and fair play.
The third chapter of The Orchard is on love, intoxication, and delirium. Saints do not desire anything of God but God. To achieve union one must strip away the attachments to renown and power. In the chapter on humility Sa'di suggested,
With mildness one may turn an enemy to a friend.
But treat a friend roughly and of him an enemy you'll make;
None like an anvil looks hard-faced
Unless he's borne upon his head the hammer of correction;
Be not severe in talking to a prince:
But should you see him to be hard, then softly go to work!
In manner, with everyone you see, practice accommodation,
Whether they be subordinate or those who hold their heads aloft:
For gently the latter may retract their stiff-necked stance
At pleasant speech, the former bow their heads.
With sweetness of tongue one may bear off the ball,
Whereas the man sharp-mannered continually bears off bitterness;
Learn to be sweet of tongue from Sa'di,
And tell the sour-faced man to go and die in bitterness!20
A wise person refuses to fight with a quarrelsome drunkard; the virtuous person suffers brutality but still shows kindness. Forbearance at first may seem like poison, but when grown in the nature it turns to honey. Those of heart will bear the burden of the impudent. Bahlul suggests passing by a quarrel-seeking Gnostic; for if the pretender knew the Friend, he would not engage in fighting. Junaid says that people of the way do not think themselves better than dogs, and in this they surpass the angels. A sage advises one to correct the faults pointed out by an enemy, and he considers lighting up his deficiencies as speaking well of him.
Acceptance is the theme of the fifth chapter; it is a human shield because destiny’s arrows cannot be turned aside. The sixth chapter suggests that contentment is what makes one truly wealthy. Why should one go before a prince when by putting aside desire, you are a prince yourself?
In the seventh chapter Sa'di wrote of the propriety that comes from the good management of character. Why be caught in conflict with strangers when you must first learn how the soul must conquer the lower self, the enemy that shares your house? The manly chastise themselves like a child. When you cannot even get the better of yourself, the political state of your bodily existence is full of good and bad. You are the ruler and can be the prudent minister by controlling the pride of passion and desire. Fancy and lust can be robbers and muggers too. If the ruler coddles the evil, what price in comfort must the prudent pay? If greed, hatred, and envy are nurtured, their heads will turn from purpose; but when intelligence is sharpened, burglars, rabble, and the meaner sort will not frequent areas that are watched. Sa'di warned against loose and excessive talking, recommending wise reticence. If you speak abusively, you will not hear blessings because you only reap what you yourself have sown. A dervish advises that three kinds of people can be disparaged correctly. The first is a ruler who approves what is blameworthy because this can cause great harm. Second are shameless persons who even rend the veil around themselves. Third, crooked people who are devious should have their evil deeds exposed.
The last three chapters of The Orchard are on gratitude, repentance, and close communion. Sa'di thanked the Friend for every gift and suggested that disappointment comes from pride. He advised people to repent while they still draw breath, to advance toward the door of reconciliation while it is still open. His book concludes with the plea of a drunkard to God for pardon.
1. Deliverance from Error 3:4 by Al-Ghazali, tr. W. Montgomery Watt in The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazali, p. 56
2. The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides, tr. M. Friedlander, 3:8, p. 262.
3. Ibid., 3:12, p. 268.
4. Ibid., 3:31, p. 322.
5. The Conference of the Birds 18 by ‘Attar, tr. Garcin de Tassy and C. S. Nott, p. 50.
6. Ibid., 23, p. 60.
7. Ibid., 26, p. 68.
8. Masnavi 1:5 by Rumi in Teachings of Rumi tr. E. H. Whinfield, p. 18.
9. The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi Volume 2 tr. Reynold A. Nicholson, p. 3.
10. Masnavi 3:17 by Rumi in Teachings of Rumi tr. E. H. Whinfield, p. 159.
11. Ibid., 4:2, p. 186.
12. Discourses 9 by Rumi, tr. A. J. Arberry, p. 46.
13. The Gulistan 1:16 by Sa‘di, tr. Edward Rehatsek, p. 82.
14. Ibid., 2:47, p. 136-137.
15. Ibid., Chapter 7, Maxim 30, p. 239.
16. Ibid., Admonition 18, p. 240.
17. Ibid., Maxim 39, p. 242.
18. The Bustan 294 by Sa‘di, tr. G. M. Wickens, p. 20.
19. Ibid., 945-946, p. 57.
20. Ibid., 2231-2237, p. 132-133.
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