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Alchemy of Happiness

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Event Name: Alchemy of Happiness
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 3/29/2019 8:41:01 PM
Transcript Version: 1


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ten ritualised and people tend to forget what they were originally there for and begin to really make that outward aspect of the religion the sole aspect of the religion. That is extoericism. Esotericism is when you focus on the inwards aspects of the religion and forget the outward aspects of the religion. In Islam, probably the most significant example that is Ismailism. The Ismailiyah were probably the most significant example of esotericism where the religion is all secret esoteric meanings and the exoteric religion is for the common people. It is for the people who do not understand what the true religion is that they need those outward forms and during Imam al-Ghazali’s time probably the biggest threat to religion after philosophy was esotericism. So not only did he defend Islam from the philosophers, he defended Islam from the Ismailis. That is why they do not like him to this day. The Ismaili batinists do not like Imam al-Ghazali because much of his emphasis was against the batinists. Now one of the aspects of the batinists were the assassins who were very powerful at the time. They were like terrorists, they really did terrorise the rulers. They were assassins, they would live amongst a ruler for ten years, get their secret message then just one day in the court literally stab the ruler. Everybody thought it was a loyal servant but he was actually a spy for the assassins. So he was fighting these and you cannot imagine the courage of the man because it was an incredibly dangerous thing to do at the time so he had immense courage in doing that.

 

Now what happens to Imam al-Ghazali in his late 30’s, he begins to have an internal crises, what some people might call a midlife crisis but he was deeply troubled by his personality and he was troubled by the fact that all the things that he was teaching, he was not really practising and so he was having this crises of being the teachers who was not practising. One of the things that he says in the Ihya is he says the zakat of waaw, the zakat of being a preacher is practising what you preach. That is the zakat of waaw, you cannot tell others. The Quran says “do you command others to righteousness and forget about yourselves?” and he was aware of that, that he was teaching and was not practising. It was really troubling him and his personality was bothering him. He noticed that kibr, the Quran says that avoid the outward sins and the inward sins. Avoid the outward sins and inward sins. So he felt that the formulists what he called the people of the form of the religion. He said that the ulema of his time were people of the form of the religion, they had really turned Islam into a formulist tradition and he said the spirit of Islam was lost and he said that the esoterists on the other hand had removed the form and had this esoteric tradition that did not have the protection of the exoteric tradition.

 

So he saw this crisis in Islam that the inward and outward were not unified and so that was another challenge that he took up but he realised that that he could not do that if he was not real. If he was not living that thing, he could not do that. He could not tell people that this religion is about purifying the heart and his heart was not pure. He could not do it. So at the age of about 38, at the height of his eminence literally everybody knew about this man, his book of ethics was the book that had surpassed with all the previous works of ethics, Ibn Miskawayh, Raghab al Misbahani, many great ethicists but it was his book everybody was reading. His book on logic, his book on aqeedah, his book on usool it is still considered I mean I asked Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah because he is the master of usool, I asked him of all the books on usool which one did he...I asked him if you were on a desert island and you can only have one book of usool, what would it be? He said Al-Muwafaqaa which is Imam Shatibi’s book. I said but that does not really have all the books of usool, it does not deal with all the subjects of usool. He said well if I had to have a book that dealt with it all, it would be Al Mustasfi by Imam al-Ghazali.

 

Imam al-Ghazali, he really is the first person to develop the science of the maqasid. Imam Shatibi took it to another level but it was Imam al-Ghazali who really developed the science of the maqasid, maqasid a shariah. So Imam al-Ghazali at that time he said that internally one day he would say you have to give up all this dunya and you have to turn away and the next day he would say how can you give up, you cannot give up your position and this is just whispering so shaytan would come and say things. It was happening internally he was going back and forth between these two states and then one day he went to class and he could not talk literally. He just looked out which would be incredibly embarrassing for a teacher obviously to come and literally could not talk. So he is looking at hundreds and possibly thousands of people many of them ulema and he cannot talk literally, just imagine that state and he....they take him home the doctors come and he has described all this. The doctors are all looking and scratching their heads. Some say it is this, some say it is that. This humour is over in the other humours. He needs blood-letting, he needs this, he needs that and finally the doctors concluded this is not in his body, it is in his soul and they said we are not psychiatrists, we are physicians so he needs a psychiatrist. At that time, they said ilm a nafs, he needs somebody who knows psychiatry, the knowledge of the self.

 

Imam al-Ghazali at that point realised that he had to set out on this journey. So he puts his family in a situation where they were taken care of, he had daughters, his only son died. Hamid. His wife was taken care of and he said he was going to go on Hajj and set out. He spends ten years of his life pretty much just travelling in the Muslim world and not telling people who he was and living in a total state of abasement. His livelihood was done by copying books out. He used to copy books and then sell them and he actually became a janitor. He became a janitor at the Ummayad mosque in Damascus. So he used to sweep the mosque and then he was given a room there. He used the room as a khalwa. Actually nobody knew who he was. They were teaching his books in the mosque and he came upon places where they were teaching his books. He was one in a madrassah and one of the teachers was saying like the great Shaykh Imam al-Ghazali said, he said he had to leave because he feared the ujb coming into his heart, really amazing person.

 

For ten years that is what he did. There is actually at one point there was a group of ulema sitting and this man came up and he asked a question. Imam al-Ghazali was literally sleeping nearby and he heard this man ask this question and none of the ulema could answer so Imam al-Ghazali saw this man and he was worried that he was not getting the guidance that he needed. So he went upto the man and he told him the answer to your question is this. The man looked at him and started laughing. He said all those ulema could not answer me and you think I would believe you, you are just a janitor. Somebody from the thing called him over and he said what are you going on about? He said that he said the answer to the question was such and such. All these men were amazed at that and he said he had to leave. He left at that point again. He just did not want anybody to know who he was and that was his state so at the age of 48 he goes back partly because he missed his family and he wanted to see his daughters and also because he had accomplished what he set out to do. In that time he wrote the Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din. So he does back and he did not want to go back to teaching and he actually went back to Nissapour. He went back to Tus, his city. He set up a little place and then because the ruler there imposed upon him to teach he started to give the public classes but he basically had just private teaching and during that time he wrote Ihya al-Walid and he wrote a few books during that time.

 

But one of the scholars at that time who had known him, Al Ghafir al Farsi said that I remembered what an arrogant and pompous person he was and I heard that his character had completely transformed and I did not believe it so I wanted to go see. He said that he went and he watched him and he said initially I thought he was just faking it. That he was just faking the humility. He said as I watched the man I came to realise that he was completely transformed as a person and so Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din wrote the book Ihya Ulum al-Din. In the book what he did was he joined the esoteric and the exoteric aspects of Islam.

 

He did something that nobody had done before which is he made a book of fiqh like he has Bab of Tahara, Bab ul Zakat, Siyam. He made a book of fiqh into a spiritual treatise. So instead of learning the formulistic rules of fasting, he was also teaching the secrets of fasting, why you are fasting. So he was teaching the maqasid, the spiritual maqasid of fiqh and nobody had done that. They had done it in separate books but nobody had the idea of putting these two together and saying this is the way you should teach this to people because they have to know why they are doing these things because if they do not know why they are doing them you will turn this religion into this formalistic meaningless ritual in which people do not know why they are doing these things. They do not know what the purpose it is. So that is what he did and it is really the incredible contribution to the Islamic tradition and for that reason the Ihya was taught all over the Muslim world and really became one of the most important books. Many scholars said that was really the only book after the Quran that people needed. Many many scholars have said that. If you look at the Yemeni tradition, like the way they teach in Tarim, the entire tradition is based on the Ihya literally the entire tradition. Imam al Haddad all of his books are based on the Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din and on the books of Imam al-Ghazali.

 

So that is his contribution and people really have no idea. I do not think they have any idea of this man’s stature in the history of Islam but also that he has this incredible honour of being literally the man who saved Islam. That is who Imam al-Ghazali is. He is the man who saved Islam and even though Islam is Allah’s religion, He protects it, He protects it nonetheless through people and that is the man that Allah chose to do that. The reason which is very clear, I think is because of his ikhlas and that is really his focus of his entire work. He is saying if you should do one thing in your life, it is to get ikhlas. That is really the whole point is to be sound in your heart and if you do one thing in your life, you should do that. All of the accolades that go with life, all of the positions that go in life, all the things that people strive after what he is saying is that all of those things are completely irrelevant if you have not worked on your heart. Not only are they relevant they will destroy you and so he was willing to completely give up all of that out of fear of being destroyed because he says very clearly I was afraid of being firewood for the hellfire. He states it very clearly that that was my fear and I was willing to do anything to remove myself from that state and that is what he did. That is why he is who he is and that is why we honour him today. That is why he has this position that he has. That is why Allah elevated him because he abased himself for the sake of Allah and so he is somebody eminently worth studying and he has written no book that is not a masterpiece. Even before he had some criticisms of the books that he wrote before his spiritual period and he only lived 6 years after he came out of his ten year khalwa. He died at the same age as his teacher, Imam Shafi, not his direct teacher but he did not live to be 80 or 90. You could not even imagine what he could have produced. He wrote over 200 books so we could not even imagine what he would have produced had he had a very long life. He had a life filled with barakah.

 

So he wrote a book and this is the Arabic version of it, he wrote a book called Kimyaye Sa'adat which means the Alchemy of Happiness and he wrote this book, it was in Persian, the initial book and he wrote it for the common people. It is an abridgement of his Ihya but then he wrote a very small Arabic treatise which he called Kimyaye Sa'adat also called the Alchemy of Happiness about the heart and he begins:

 

Praise be to the One who elevated the bodies at the purified ones with struggle, He engendered happiness in the hearts of the awliya with witnesssing (divine witnessing) and He ornamented the tongues of the believers with remembrance and He cleared the thoughts of the gnostics of the people who know with mediation and protected the majority of His servants from corruption and He constrained the people of zuhd of giving up what was right and upright and He saved the people of taqwa from the oppression of their desires and He purified the spirits of the people of certainty from the oppression of doubtful matters and He accepted the works of righteous people but through the performance of their prayers and He helped the qualities of free people, the virtues of free people by giving them connection to Him. I praise Him, the praise of One who sees the signs of His power and strength and witnessed the witnessing of His uniqueness and His unity and has traversed the path of His secrets and His birr, righteousness, and has picked the fruits of his knowledge from the tree of His glory and generosity. I thank Him the thanking of one who has forged and drunk from the river of his bounty and generosity. I believe in Him the belief of a man someone who believes in his book in everything He has stated, in his prophets, in His pure ones, in His promise, in his threat, in his reward and in his punishment. I testify that there is no God but one true God Allah the unique who has no partner and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, the One who sent to the children of the wretched and the profligates as One who breaks their back and to the handles or those things that the atheists and the heretics cling to break it and to the transgressor with doubt and shirk who overwhelms them and for those who follow the truth and virtue, He gives victory.

 

Then he says in the beginning of this book, the chapter on knowledge of the self. Know that the key to the knowledge of Allah is knowledge of yourself. Allah says Glory be to Him, We will show Our signs on the horizon and in themselves until this becomes clear to them that it is true”. Whoever knows and the Prophet said, it is generally not considered a hadith, some of the ulema do consider it a hadith, but it is generally not considered a hadith but it is a sound statement “whoever knows himself certainly knows his Lord” and it is said it is a statement of Yahya bin Mu'adz Ar-Razi and Imam Nawawi says it is not thabit, not a confirmed hadith and some of them said it means whoever knows himself if you know that you are finite you know your Lord is infinite. If you know you are created, you know your Lord is uncreated. There are many interpretations of that statement but generally some of the ulema wrote entire books just explaining that statement.

 

Imam al-Ghazali, if there is one area where he was not considered a master in, it is the science of hadith but I will say by today’s standards he would probably be the greatest muhhadith alive so when he says he was not a master of hadith and he says that himself, it does not mean in anyway that he did not know, he knew hadith very well but he was at a time where the collections of hadith had directly been gathered so a lot of people tended to focus on fiqh, usool and kalam. So that was his environment but towards the end of his life he did begin to seriously study ilm a hadith. That is one of the things he was doing in the last portion of his life. So those who criticise his knowledge of hadith are ignorant and another thing that is important to remember, many of the ulema had their own chains, they had studied, they had taken hadith, there are many hadith, that is why Hafith al-Iraqi who did a critical edition of the Ihya and looked at all of the hadith in the Ihya will often say “I didn’t find a source for this hadith”, they do not say “I didn’t find a source for this hadith”, they do not say there is no origin for this hadith whereas these people knew that are hadith, we might not know the chain so they would say I did not find a source for this hadith or if they knew it was fabricated, there are hadiths that we know are fabricated, then they would say it is madou. So he does have weak hadiths in his collection but again like many of the scholars have pointed out, he was not doing anything that people did not do at his time. Weak hadiths were used in Fadail Amal. Most of the books of exaltation were filled with weak hadiths. Even the greatest of the ulema have books...even the people accused him having weak hadiths have books with weak hadiths in them like Ibn Jawzi critised some of his books. In fact Talbis Iblis who a lot of people quote he has some criticisms of Imam al-Ghazali, he got the name of his book from Imam al-Ghazali. Talbis Iblis was, Imam al-Ghazali said I hope to write a book which I am going to entitle Talbis Iblis to show how Iblis has tricked so many of the sufis and people so Ibn al Jawzi wrote the book Talbis Iblis to show how the Sufis had been tricked by Iblis. He got the idea from Imam al-Ghazali but he criticised Imam al-Ghazali in the book. Ibn al Jawzi was a great alim, and he was from the people of wilaya insha’Allah. So the ulema criticised each other and that is just part of what ulema do so I would not take those things seriously. There is a lot of foolish people that read the criticisms of ulema of other ulema. There are a lot of reasons why they criticise each other. Sometimes it is just hasad, flat out, very common and sometimes it is because they think that this is a genuine problem and they could be wrong and sometimes it is because during their time they do have a problem. In Ibn Jawzi, there was a real problem of extremism in Sufism so he wrote his book as a corrective which is why Sidi Ahmed Zarruq says you have to be careful with that book because he wrote it as a corrective and when you write a corrective book you will often go to the other extreme in order to create a corrective so that is important to remember.

 

So anyway he mentions this hadith and he says there is nothing closer to you than you own self. If you do not know yourself, how are you going to know your Lord? If there is nothing closer to you than yourself, if you do not know yourself, how can you know anything else? So if you say to me I know myself, I say to you, you know your outward form. You know the hand, the foot, the head, you know the body. You do not know your internal reality. I am talking about that aspect of yourself where if you get angry you want to argue, you do not know, why do you get angry? Or if you become desirous you look for what is going to satisfy your desire or if you get hungry you are suddenly looking for food. That is you get thirsty you go looking for drink. You do not know why you do those things. What is the thirst mechanism? Animals share all those things that I just mentioned. Animals have all these things. If they get hungry, they go eat. If they get thirsty, they go drink. Animals have that so you have the knowledge of the animals.

 

So it is an obligation upon you to know yourself in reality, the reality of yourself so that you will know who are you. You will know who you are and where you came to arrive at this place and why you were created. Through which things is your felicity and through which thing is your damnation. In you certain qualities have been gathered, their attributes that have been gathered in you, amongst them qualities of ruminants like goats, cows, sheep and in them qualities of predators like lions and tigers and in them qualities of demons and in you have been gathered qualities of angels. The ruh is the reality of your essence, you are not a body. The reality of your essence is your ruh and everything other than that is alienated from you. It is a stranger and it is only borrowed. It is on loan, aria, it is a loan. So it is absolutely necessary that you know this and to know that each one of these qualities that are there, the ruminants, the predators, the demons and the angels, they have nourishment and they have joy so each one of them has something that nourishes, strengthens them and also makes them happy.

 

So yesterday we looked at the section, knowledge of the self and why it was important and then he talked about the different types of attributes that are in people. The ruminant attribute, the predatory attribute, the demonic, the angelic and then this section he begins by saying bismillahir rahmaanir raheem if you want to know yourself, know that you are composed of two things. The first is the heart and the second is called the nafs or the ruh and the nafs is the heart that you know through the inward eye so the nafs and the heart are the synonyms for the same thing.

 

Your reality is the internal reality because the body is the first but the heart is the end, it is the last and the self is the end and it is the first meaning the heart so the body is the beginning of this world, this experience but the heart precedes it and in the end it is the heart that you take with you into the next world so the heart is the first and the last in reality. In the heart is not this lump of flesh that is in your breast inclining towards the left side because this is shared by animals and dead things. And everything that you can see the outward eye is from this world and this world is called alam al shahadah. So you have alam al ghayb and you have alam al shahadah and Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala says that He created both so everything that you can see he is saying from alam al shahadah the world that is witnessed or experienced. Now that includes things that we can see through machinery I mean you had in the 19th century you had some of these rationalists who attempted to say for instance that the shayateen were microbes and the unseen was really all of this microscopic world and things that we cannot see anymore so there was a trend amongst some of the scholars to try and do that but all of that is part of the mulk. Everything that we can see or even understand through material means so modern physics all of these types of things that enable us to know about subatomic articles all of this mulk which is the dominion here material world.

 

So he says but the reality of the heart which is consciousness really what he is talking about is consciousness and in the West you have a trend for sometime now that has been trying to prove biochemical foundations of consciousness. They want to prove that consciousness is actually material. This is the idea of mind and matter and part of the reason they want to do that it is because consciousness is a problem. It is a metaphysical problem. I mean I was at a martial art studio where one of my sons was taking a class and I started talking with one of the other parents and he was a biochemists PhD from Berkeley teaching biochemistry and he asked me what I did. I said I taught religion and ethics. I said I am on the other side of the coin and he said maybe less so than you think and I said what do you mean and he said well consciousness we cannot really explain that can we so he was a biochemist recognising that problem of consciousness. It is a problem in science. Where does our consciousness come from? How do we know anything? Where does infinity come from? Where does this concept come from? Animals do not have that. Why can we even think of something like infinity? Infinity, we do not see it anywhere. We are temporal, in the world but we can come up with concepts like that. That is consciousness. How can we even think about God? Just the idea of being able to contemplate God is an extraordinary thing. One of my favourite quotes is Einstein he said the only incomprehensible thing to me about the universe is its incomprehensibility. That is an amazing statement. The only thing incomprehensible to me about the universe is its incomprehensibility. How are we able to know the universal law of gravity? How is the human consciousness capable of something that extraordinary to understand the universal law of gravity? How do we know about strong and weak nuclear forces? How do we know about nuclear forces? How do we know about electromagnetism? How are those concepts even comprehensible to the human intellect? Because the intellect was designed to know them. That is what you have to conclude, there is a relationship between consciousness and between the objects of consciousness and that relationship is designed so he is talking here about al qalb this organ of consciousness.

 

So it is not from this world but it is from the unseen world. It is a stranger in this world. It is alienated from the world so consciousness itself is alienated from the world. One of the reasons, one of the Andalusian scholars said, one of the reasons why people have to sleep is because the ruh is not of this world, it is of another world, it is of another world and the ruh cannot take too much materialism. It literally has to go back into the unseen world in order to get rest from the dunya so sleep is a spiritual nourishment for the soul and that is why people that are sleep deprived become really agitated and have really hard times.

 

So this lump of flesh is the vehicle for consciousness. That is what it is, it is the vehicle for consciousness. And all of the limbs of the body are its soldiers and it is the king. And the knowledge of God and the witnessing of the beautiful presence, this divine presence, these are the attributes of this heart and all of the responsibilities upon the heart if you are not conscious, the qalam the pen has been lifted for the sleeper. If you are in a state of sleep there is no responsibility because there is no consciousness which is why alcohol is prohibited because you lose your consciousness, you lose your ability to think and this Lordly speech that is being articulated to us is to the consciousness. The Quran is speaking to your consciousness. It is not speaking to your body, it is speaking to your heart your ability to perceive. And in accordance with actions are by intention. The place of intention is the heart so all of your reward and punishment is based on what happens in the heart, the whole thing, it is all in the heart.

 

And felicity and damnation, there is salvation in the akhirah and also damnation, they follow it, they follow the heart and this animal spirit what they used to call the vital force, it is what the Chinese call chi, the vital force is something that is in the body but is not of the body and it is what animates the body. The Arabs call it the living spirit. 20th century medicine really denied that aspect. They don’t really put a lot of credence in that but he is saying this vital spirit, or vital force is in everything subservient to it, and with it so you need this.

 

That is why there is a massive difference between the living and the dead. If you see a dead body, if you see someone you know it is really amazing to see a dead body of somebody who you knew because they have gone and it is very clear that they have gone, what animated the body has gone, the animus, the spirit, the animal so it is the same the animus, the same as the Latin.

So knowledge of its reality and knowledge of its attributes is the key to knowledge of Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala. So you must struggle until you come to know it because it is an inestimable precious essence from the nature the essential nature of the angels because the angels are light. They do not  have the dross of the body. Angels are pure consciousness. They are conscious creatures. They are aware of only their Lord so they have that consciousness and that is what he is saying that this is your essential nature and the source of its origin is from the divine presence. The soul was within the divine presence. We were all there in the divine presence and the pain and the alienation of the dunya is the recollection of that presence. That is why people are in the states they are in because they are alienated. The only people that have itminaan are the people of dhikr, everybody else is a mess.

 

From that place the consciousness came and from that place it goes back. That is where we came from and that is where we go back to. So he says what is the reality of the heart? As for your question what is the reality of the heart. They ask you about the ruh. Say the ruh is from the command of my Lord, because the ruh is from the collection, the summation of the divine power.

 

Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala is omnipotent so the ruh is basically the greatest expression of the divine power because obviously you can make life inanimate things is one thing. We can make forms do things with inanimate things, humans can do that but to put life in, people that have the greatest punishment are the form makers because Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala

says blow life into it now, put life into it because that is only Allah can do that so that ability to give life is the greatest expression of divine power that He can animate us and give us life and it is also an attribute of Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala. Al-Hayat is an attribute of Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala.

 

It is the ruh that gives us life. Does He not have the khalq and the amar? The creation and the command. So the command, the ruh is from the command of Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala and the command precedes creation so Allah creates but He creates by the command. When He wants a thing He just commands it to be and it is.

 

So that is the command of Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala. So the human being is from the created world from one aspect but He is from the world of command from another aspect because he has a ruh, so you have a body and a ruh.

 

Everything that can be measured that has place, that has quality, all of that is from the created world. But the heart does not have a space like that not does it have measurements, consciousness. That is what the scientists know, they do not know how to, they cannot measure it, they do not know how to give it a reality because they are materialists generally. They are working in the world of material so consciousness becomes the great problem because it does not have masaha, it does not have makdar so they cannot place it like they can other things now is it amenable to allotment. You cannot apportion it, you cannot say oh this part is here, this part is here, you cannot split it up, you cannot dissect it so it is not dissectible.

 

If you could dissect it then it would be from the created world. It would be from the aspect of ignorance, ignorant and from the aspect of knowledge, knowledgeable. Everything that has knowledge and ignorance it has the same attributes, it is impossible, you cannot join two opposites.

 

So another meaning here is it is from the world of the command. So the alam wal amar is a way of expressing something among created things that does not have masaha and taqdir. It does not have measurements, you cannot measure it. There is no way to measure it. So  some people because of this they thought that the ruh was eternal, the philosophers, they thought because they could not measure it, they thought then oh it must be eternal so he is saying this is a mistake to think that. The ruh is created but what he is saying is it has a different quality so Allah, He has the creation but He also has the command. The command is different from creation so the created world and the world of the command are different. He is describing the material world and what can be seen and the other is describing the immaterial world and what cannot be seen so they are differentiated, these two qualities.

 

But he is saying because of that differentiation some people mistakenly thought oh that must mean it is not created. It is eternal with Allah subhanahu wa-ta'ala and that was the belief of some of the philosophers. And some of them said oh it is an accident, an accident in logic is something whatever needs something else to exist so for instance you have the flower and then you have the colour. The colour is an accident because