In this chapter Imam Ahmed al-Mastur AS explains the various crafts that humankind undertake. He identifies three crafts that are essential, with all remaining crafts serving to ensure that these three crafts are carried out in the best possible manner. Imam AS writes:
My brother, know that certain crafts are of ‘primary intention’, in that necessity calls for them. Other crafts follow-on from them, serve them, and complete and perfect them, while some crafts are for beauty and adornment. The three crafts which are by ‘primary intention’ are cultivation, stitching and construction. All other crafts follow, serve and complete them.
Since a human being is born in his delicate skin, bare of any hair, wool, shell, feathers and all similar coverings that are present in other animals, necessity calls for him to clothe himself through stitching. However, the craft of stitching cannot take place without knowledge of spinning, which too is incomplete without an understanding of ginning. Therefore, these crafts are associated with stitching and serve to complete it. Similarly, only knowing how to stitch does not lead to clothes being made, thus the crafts of seaming and sewing, bleaching, darning and embroidery all complete and perfect it.
Secondly, the human need for nourishment and sustenance, either from the seeds of plants or the fruits of trees, necessitates the craft of cultivation and plantation. However, cultivation and plantation requires tilling the land and digging channels with shovels, and ploughing, which in turn necessitates knowledge of carpentry and ironwork. Ironwork, in turn, requires an understanding of minerals and mining, among other crafts. All of these crafts lead on from and serve the craft of cultivation and plantation. Furthermore, since seeds and fruits are crushed and ground, knowledge of these crafts also becomes necessary. However, grinding alone does not prepare a meal, which is why an understanding of baking and cooking is required. In this manner, one craft aids in bringing another to completion.
Thirdly, the human need to remain safe from the elements, protected from wild animals and store food, necessitates the craft of construction. Construction requires knowledge of carpentry and ironwork, each of which require other crafts that aid it and help in completing it.
Crafts that focus on beautification and adornment include making silk and attar. Ultimately, skilfully discharging a craft requires one to give form to raw material, and complete and perfect it so that he can benefit from it during his time in this world.
My brother, know that people are either craftsmen or businessmen, wealthy or poor. Craftsmen are those who use their selves and instruments for various crafts; giving it form, engraving upon it, dying it and shaping it. Their purpose in doing so is to seek something in return for their efforts in order to better their worldly lives. Businessmen are those involved in purchasing and selling; their aim in doing so is to make a profit in their trade. The wealthy are those who own these products, both natural and manmade, with their fear of poverty causing them to accumulate and safeguard these products. Finally, the poor are those who are in need of these products, with their goal being the acquisition of wealth.
Know, that the reason why the majority of people are poor while the wealthy fear poverty is to encourage them all to learn a craft or trade and establish themselves in it. Learning a craft or trade will ensure the better fulfilment of needs, especially for those whose are facing hardship. The fulfilment of needs will result in people possessing goods and provision for some time. The purpose in providing them material wealth and provision for a certain amount of time is so that the soul can attain perfection by attaining true knowledge, noble characteristics, correct perspectives and carrying out pure deeds. The purpose in securing the soul’s perfection is for it to then be able to ascend to the kingdom of the skies. The purpose behind its ascension is for it to attain salvation from the sea of primordial matter and the confines of the physical world, and leave the pit that is this world of creation and destruction for the expanse of the realm of souls; to remain there in a state of happiness, joy and pleasure for all eternity.