The Alchemy of Happiness

I won’t go into deep philosophical thoughts, 3ashan mabafhamsh awy fiha, but I found interesting parts that makes sense to me, way better than those self help books that fill whole rows on Virgin Mega Store.

Knowledge of self is the key to the knowledge of God, according to the saying: “He who knows himself knows God,”[1] [1. Traditional saying of Muhammad.] and, as it is Written in the Koran, “We will show them Our signs in the world and in themselves, that the truth may be manifest to them.” Now nothing is nearer to thee than thyself, and if thou knowest not thyself how canst thou know anything else? If thou sayest “I know myself,” meaning thy outward shape, body, face, limbs, and so forth, such knowledge can never be a key to the knowledge of God. Nor, if thy knowledge as to that which is within only extends so far, that when thou art hungry thou eatest, and when thou art angry thou attackest some one, wilt thou progress any further in this path, for the beasts are thy partners in this? But real self-knowledge consists in knowing the following things: What art thou in thyself, and from whence hast thou come? Whither art thou going, and for what purpose hast thou come to tarry here awhile, and in what does thy real happiness and misery consist?   (…)

For the carrying on of this spiritual warfare by which the knowledge of oneself and of God is to be obtained, the body may be figured as a kingdom, the soul as its king, and the different senses and faculties as constituting an army. Reason may be called the vizier, or prime minister, passion the revenue-collector, and anger the police-officer. Under the guise of collecting revenue, passion is continually prone to plunder on its own account, while resentment is always inclined to harshness and extreme severity. Both of these, the revenue-collector and the police-officer, have to be kept in due subordination to the king, but not killed or expelled, as they have their own proper functions to fulfil. But if passion and resentment master reason, the ruin of the soul infallibly ensues.  (…)

Any one who will look into the matter will see that happiness is necessarily linked with the knowledge of God. Each faculty of ours delights in that for which it was created: lust delights in accomplishing desire, anger in taking vengeance, the eye in seeing beautiful objects, and the ear in hearing harmonious sounds. The highest function of the soul of man is the perception of truth; in this accordingly it finds its special delight.

The Alchemy of Happiness

Oh I forgot to mention the source that aroused my curiosity about El Ghazali, it was a mail from one of the rarest girls who actually think (thanks Amani 🙂 ), she sent a very interesting mail:

Religious knowledge seem to have become of no use than for authorities to issue fatwas (verdicts), for someone to argue for self-centered desires, or to preach in rhymed verses with the aim of enchanting masses” (1). The Muslim world is torn apart between a theological, political, cultural, and geographic conflict between Sunni and Shi’i states(2). Even within sects, some theologians would “dismiss common people as unbelievers and claim that whoever does not know theology in the form they recognize … is an unbeliever” (3). Intellectuals free themselves from the bond of the Holy Law that applies to common people, claiming that the soul of a philosopher is superior to that of an ordinary man, or even that of the prophet, by virtue of greater understanding (4). Masses of ordinary Muslims carry out religious rituals mechanically and soullessly as advocated by the intellectual/theological elite. Political assassinations are becoming more frequent each day(5). And finally armies are being assembled in a foreign land aiming for attack (6)… The year is 488 Hijri/ 1095 A.D.

  • (1) Al Ghazali’s, The Revival of Religious Sciences (إحياء علوم الدين)
  • (2) Abbasid Sunni State in Baghdad and Fatimid Shi’i State in Cairo
  • (3)  Al Ghazali’s, The Restraining of Commoners from the Science of Theology (إلجام العوام عن علم الكلام)
  • (4)  Al Ghazali’s, The Deliverance from Error (المتقذ من الضلال)  criticizing sayings of Farabi and Ibn Sina. Some of the passages that  Al Ghazali would probably have found offensive may be found in A.J. Arberry, Avicenna on Theology.
  • (5) Hassan-e-Sabbah’s fanatical followers known for political assassinations
  • (6) First Crusade (1096-1099)

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