A Chapter on that a Body is incapable of Self-motion
Know, O brother, may Allah aid both you and us with His pneuma, that the material and matter that craftsmen work on, using their tool, instruments and bodies are all physical entities. Any physical entity, due to its physical state is incapable of self-motion, and all action requires motion. Thus, the source of motion for a physical entity is another essence, one which we term the soul. All souls, by virtue of their spiritual form are one essence, in the manner that physicality unites all physical bodies. Souls differ due to their varied strengths, which vary based on their deeds, knowledge and character; just as physical entities vary in their forms which are determined in accordance to their use.
Know, that the soul of this universe is one, in the manner that its body is also one. A body that incorporates the skies, stars, elements and its by-products. However, since this one soul manifests various capabilities and undertakes a range of actions in various species, classes and persons it is referred to in the plural, as souls. In a similar manner the body of the universe manifests various forms in order to fulfil a range of objectives. The actions of the soul of the universe range from setting in to motion the planetary orbits and stars from the east to west, and that they come to rest in their ordained locations. It ensures that every planet and star carries out its six movements, the four elements undergo their natural processes, the products of these elements, mineral, plants and animals, are realised and that mankind is able to carry out various crafts and skills, which have been mentioned throughout this epistle.
Know my brother, that the soul is a spiritual essence, one that has life as its intrinsic quality. Whenever it attaches itself to a physical entity it gives it life as well. An example of this is fire for which heat is an intrinsic quality. Whenever it comes close to a physical object it makes it hot like its self.
Know, that a soul has two capabilities, one pertains to knowledge, while the other to action. With the former, it extracts knowledge from various forms and matters in which it lays and gives it a form within itself. Then with the latter, it extracts the forms that are present in its thought and imprints them upon physical matter. In this manner, each individual who seeks to learn something potentially possesses the knowledge within him, and is able to realise this potential once he has completed the learning process. In the same manner, any person who seeks to learn a craft possesses the ability within him in potential, and following the learning process it is thus realised. Ta´llum – the ability of the soul to be able to comprehend what is known – is nothing more than a path which leads to one’s potential being realised. While, ta´leem – the awakening of a soul possessing the potential to become knowledgeable by a soul that already is – is nothing more than the guidance towards this path. Teachers and mentors are but guides and their teachings are the guidance. Ta´lum is the path and knowledge is what is sought and guided towards. The souls of children possess the potential to become knowledgeable, while those of teachers and mentors are so in actuality. Each soul that is potentially knowledgeable requires a soul that is actually so in order for it to realise its potential.
My brother, know that every craftsman requires a teacher from whom he learns his craft or knowledge. Similarly, that teacher too was in need of a teacher and so forth until we reach the one whose knowledge is not from a fellow being. In which case his knowledge can be said to be the outcome of either of two possibilities:
- His knowledge is the product of his reflection, contemplation and efforts, as assumed by philosophers.
- His knowledge was acquired from a plane that is beyond the human realm, as asserted by the Prophets, may Allah’s salawaat be upon them.
My brother, know with certainty that any individual –even prophets or philosophers – can only acquire proficiency in a field of knowledge to the extent that Allah decrees. All those who assume that they have mastered a field of knowledge or craft by virtue of their intellect, discernment and contemplation, would never have gained such understanding had they not pondered over the forms found in the natural world, observed, learnt and drawn analogies from them: all this amounts to ta´leem given to them by the natural world. Similarly, the natural world would not be in a position to do so were it not aided by al-Nafs al-Kulliyah (The Universal Soul), which, too, would not be able to offer aid were it not aided by al-Aql al-Kulli (The Universal Intellect), which is the first of the Creator’s creation and it is He, the Creator, who aids whomever He pleases. It is He who creates the means and aids the intellects of the intellectuals.
We have concluded our discussion on human crafts, their raw materials, objectives, value and benefits. Over the course of this deliberation we explained that that the best of all crafts – within the reach of mankind – is the establishment of divine faith, the details and conditions of which has been discussed in the epistle on Divine Faith.
Persevere, my brother, in learning its esoterica so that your soul may awake from its sleep of negligence and ignorance, enliven its self with the pneuma of intellectual understanding and lead a life as the one led by the worshipful scholars, ultimately, attaining the blessings of the spiritual realm in the presence of angels dear to the Almighty, for all eternity. However, if this is not possible then be sure to expend yourself for the faith by adhering to its tenets and abiding by its directives, so that you may attain salvation through the intercession of the faith’s upholders from this sea of corporeality, prison of nature and pit of physicality where all are to bear the pains of creation and destruction.
O Brother, may Allah inspire both you and us towards guidance, and all our brothers, wherever they may reside. He is honourable and benevolent. All praise to Allah, the Lord of the universe and His salawaat upon His Messenger and upon his descendants.