(p. 194)

If you say: "It is clear to me that treading the path of felicity is the determination of the intelligent (folk) and its neglect is the heedlessness of the ignorant.

How could someone travel this road without any knowledge of it?

How could I know that knowledge and action are the path [to felicity] in order to tread upon it?"

You have two ways of knowing it:

First, one that is agreeable to the prior methodology, and it is that you should consider what the three groups agreed upon.

Indeed they were united in [the belief] that success and salvation will not be achieved save by knowledge and action together.

They have agreed that knowledge is nobler than action. It is as though action is its achievement. Knowledge steers action to arrive at its destination.

Allah, the Most High, states:

{To Him pious speech rises, And the righteous action advances it higher}

The pious speech is known through study of knowledge. It [pious speech] is what is elevated and falls in place. Action is like a servant; it elevates and bears it. Indeed this is a remark pointing to the prestige of knowledge.

(p. 195)

The teaching of the first group who are the ones that subscribe to the first definition of the literalist who link salvation with knowledge and action. Proving this is beyond enumeration.

The majority of Sufis and philosophers who believe in Allah and The Final Day are all in agreement that felicity is reached through knowledge and worship, even though they differed in its mode.

Their differences are in the minute exposition of knowledge and action. The suspension (of action) in light of this [above mentioned] agreement is imbecility.

Whosoever is overwhelmed by an ailment and the consensus of medical texts and consultations, with their varying specialties, state that the cure for the malady is a "cold cure".

The abstention (from taking the cure) by the patient is a stupidity in his intellect. Indeed, it is a requirement of intellect to initiate the measures [of taking the cure].

Indeed, he may then find [an independent] means; until that is realized, not by imitating the masses on the contrary by verifying the true reality of the malady and the ways that are valid for its cause to be cured. He will then rise with clear vision if he searches, becomes independent, surge above the perigee of imitation (mimicry) and compliance to the apogee of scrutiny.

The Sufis and other groups claim that it is possible to reach the realization [of that station] with cognition and verification.

Not realizing the reality of death is the removal of the instrument from useful function to the annihilation of the user. Knowing that the felicity, delight and repose are attaining its distinctive perfection

Knowing the distinctive perfection of humanity is the realization of the reality of rationals for what it is, not by what is illusionary and sensible, which it has in common with animals.

(p. 196)

Knowing that the soul itself is thirsty for it, [knowledge and action], and by its nature, has prepared for it. What distracts the body is overwhelming afflictions and its occupation with carnal desires. However, he may destroy and over power those desires and free himself from its servitude and bondage.

If he has devoted (himself) to contemplation and meditation in the majesty of the heavens and earth, indeed in contemplating the marvels of what is created in himself then he would have attained his personal [level of] perfection.

Indeed, then he would be blissful on earth for there is no significance of felicity save for the soul's attainment of its potential perfection; even though the levels of perfection are countless.

However, he will not feel that delight so long as he is in this world prohibited by senses, illusions, and afflictions of the soul. [The situation is] similar to the person who was presented with a savory dish but his taste buds are numb and [numbness] dissipates then he will sense the ultimate delectation.

Death is like the dissipation of anesthetizing for I have heard from elite Sufis, saying that the advanced student to the way of Allah will perceive paradise while he is on Earth and that the loftiest Firdaws is within his heart if he would only attain it.

Its attainment is by freeing oneself from the trappings of the world and the placement of all his effort in contemplating divine matters until the divine revelation is clearly manifested to him.

This is achieved when his soul is purified from these [earthly] defilements. The attainment of this station is true felicity. Action is the aid in its fulfillment.

Those are a group that claimed gnosis by knowledge and action towards felicity. What they have said is sound and, they claim, will not be known except by struggle and devotional exercises.

As Allah most high has stated:

{and those that struggle in Our path We will guide them to Our path}

Your only path is to struggle and dedicate yourself to the cause; conceivably the reality of the situation will be manifested either by negation or substantiation.

It is enough [proof] for you to embark on knowledge and action. The consensus of the three [groups] is [enough], if your aim of the question is not argumentative. Indeed, if your aim is the achievement of success, just like the ill who seek a cure, not disputation. If you seek it with the consensus of various classes of medical experts.

Being a translation of a chapter from al-Ghazali’s Criterion of Action (Mizan al-‘Ammal) Ed. By S. Dunyah (dar al-Marraif Press, Cairo, 1964) pp. 194-197. Translation by Muhammad Hozien

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