Rafed English

Self-Recognition for Self-Improvement

Self-Recognition for Self-Improvement by : Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi


In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Self-making and attaining to the highest level of perfection have ever been the final objectives of every human being, knowingly or unknowingly.

Never the less, this is not an easy task, as it requires, first of all , that one should recognize oneself, improves one's faculties and abilities, and then advance towards the said objectives.

Guiding people to achieve this great objective has been the obligation undertaken by the divine prophets and Godly reformers.

This book, presented by the Islamic Propagation Organization to you, dear reader, a helping hand along the road, to guide you, extends Self-Recognition for Self-Improvement, according to the heavenly teachings of Islam, presented by one of the most celebrated scholars and theologians.

It is our dearest hope that you may get the best benefit from this valuable book.

Islamic Propagation Organization
International Relations Department
Man becomes the subject of various branches of science from different aspects: psychology, sociology, history, ethics, medicine, and even physiology and biology are branches of science which deal with man from a specific point of view. The present book aims at discussing man from the viewpoint that he is a being who can undergo perfection. We will deal with the ultimate form of perfection and the way it can be reached.

We will endeavor to recognize the way to reap more and better benefit from internal faculties and external facilities to reach perfection and true prosperity by means of reflecting in our own being, finding elements in our nature which are established to lead to and fulfill the main objectives, and recognizing inclinations existing for sublime human causes as well as relations which tie us with one another and enable us to make ourselves more powerful and prepared for progress and development by using them and striving to solidify and strengthen them. May Allah (SWT) willing, we take a stride towards the development of ourselves and others.

Thus, the subject put to discussion is man from the viewpoint that he is a being who can undergo perfection. The goal behind and use of this, is recognition of true perfection and the way to reach it. The method (of approaching it) is analysis of one's insights to retrace the desires and inclinations for perfection set in our being and elements which pave the way for us to teach it as well as investigation of conditions which can be used for this purpose.

To prove these issues, we will try to suffice with moral perceptions and simple rational reasoning and to discover the unknown by using the most lucid and definite things known and to refer- to complex rational and historical reasoning when the necessity arises.
The Necessity of Self - Recognition
For a being that is, by nature possessed of self-love, it is perfectly natural to engage in self-recognition and try to recognize (the elements of) his perfection and the means to reach it. As a result, understanding the necessity of self-recognition does not require complex rational or arbitrary reasons. For this reason, negligence towards this reality and absorption in matters which are by no means effective in (leading man to) perfection and prosperity is unnatural and leads to deviation.

And the reason behind this matter must be sought and means of establishing soundness and salvation from it must be recognized.

Principally, all human endeavors, be they scientific or practical, are carried out to provide the enjoyments, interests, and benefits to man. As a consequence, recognition of man himself, his beginning, his end, as well as the perfection which he might reach, is prior to any other issue. Without the recognition of man's reality and his true value, all other discussions and efforts will rather be futile and baseless.

The insistence of heavenly religions, religious leaders, and scholars of morals on self-recognition and self-awareness is entirely a guidance to this innate and rational truth. The Holy Qur'an regards forsaking the soul as the requisite for forsaking Allah (SWT) and as the punishment of this sin:
“….وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنْسَاهُمْ أَنْفُسَهُمْ
"And be not like those who forsook Allah, so He made them forsake their own souls... (59:19)."
Elsewhere it says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ ۖ لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ۚ”
إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ“…
"... Take care of your souls: he who errs cannot hurt you when you are the right way... (5:105)."
Although divine verses pay heed to the universe and the souls, the Holy Qu'ran states:
”سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ“…
"We will soon show them our signs in the universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth... (41:53)."
It however, accords a special status to the verses pertaining to the soul with such an interpretation:
”وَفِي أَنْفُسِكُمْ ۚ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ“
"And in your own souls (too); will you not then see (51:21)?"
The Holy Qur'an has reproached those who do not endeavor for self-awareness and who do not see divine signs within themselves.

The Holy Prophet (SA) has also maintained an exceptional significance for self-recognition and has introduced it as the means of theism:

"Whoever recognizes himself has recognized his Lord."

In this regard, numerous traditions with various contexts have been related from the Amirul -Mu'minin (AS). Late Amadi has cited about thirty of them in Ghurarul-Hikam. Among them are the following aphorisms:

"Self-recognition is the most beneficial of all recognition."

"I am surprised at one who seeks what he has lost while he has lost himself (i.e., his identity and essence) and does not search for it."

"I wonder how a person who does not recognize himself can recognize his Lord."

"The ultimate point of Knowledge is for man to reach self-recognition."

"The greatest triumph belongs to one who reaches self-recognition."

The Imam is also related as saying: "The more the man gains knowledge, the more he endeavors for himself and strives in the way of being educated and reformed.”1
Necessary Explanations
As in this discussion certain terms are used which might be used exactly or similarly in other discussions with different meanings, we will provide the following explanations to preclude (any form of) misunderstanding:

(A) Self-recognition, as has already been pointed out, refers to recognizing the human being from the viewpoint that he possesses the gift and faculty for the attainment of human perfection. As a result, a degree of speculative knowledge which any one has with respect to himself does not make us needless of this discussion.

Likewise, here we do not intend to deal with the perfect speculative knowledge which is acquired in the midst of moral evolution and by which man openly observes his truth, because this is an outcome of self-cultivation and not a preliminary for it. This hears no relation to our discussion, just as knowing the body organs and their functions which is used in physiology, is not related to our discussion. Here we are not concerned with knowing the soul and internal forces in man as discussed in psychology, even though some definitive psychological issues might be used as the bases for discussion.

(B) Self-cultivation and, on the whole, awareness of the self, is intended to mold and give direction to vital activities and not to limit and stop them. And, in other words, the purpose behind this discussion is for us to learn how to regulate our scientific and practical endeavors and how to direct them, so that they would be effective in reaching true perfection.

Thus this discussion does not require the negation of objective realities, of the value of knowing them, or of any form of idealistic inclination which has a negative aspect just as pragmatic tendencies, which are based on the genuineness of the practical bearing on material and worldly life and which serve as the manifestations of humanism, cannot be a true indication of this discussion. We will rather see that it is contradictory to it, unless, for some of these philosophies, they make interpretations based on a sublime and vast world, something which the founders and followers of these schools do not have in mind.

(C) Introversion, introspection and self-examination here are intended to mean that by examining one's being, potential powers and inherent drives, one should get to know the true objective, the ultimate (point of) perfection, and the path towards true prosperity and progress. It does not purport that man should wink at his existential ties with others and negate facilities for progress and development provided in the light of social life and cooperation. As a result, the positive associations of these interpretations are aimed at. They should not be confused with terms such as individualism, introversion, self-conceit, egotism and the like which are used in psychology, ethics and elsewhere, and which have negative associations.

D) There are a group of other terms which have various idiomatic technical meanings and which are used in different branches of science with different meanings. It is even possible that some terms might have various meanings within one branch of science; for instance, the terms such as: wisdom, the soul intuition, sense, perception, imagination, faculty, power, instinct,...

In these cases, being tied down to a particular terminology would put both the speaker and listener in a narrow pass. For this purpose, to derive and specify the intended meaning, one must rely on verbal contexts. And those who are familiar with only a particular scientific or philosophical terminology should not restrict themselves to the framework of that very terminology so as not to misunderstand (the matters).
1. Mustadrakul wasail vol 2, p310.
Although the meaning of perfection is clear and needs no definition, we are forced to provide an explanation in this regard, so that mistakes would not be made in certain instances.

Without doubt, perfection is an existential trait with which a being is endowed. But when we compare an existential matter with various things, we find that there is perfection as compared to some, while as compared to others, there is no perfection, rather it might occasionally lead to deficiency and decline of its existential value. Likewise some others principally do not have the talent to possess some forms of perfection; for instance, becoming sweet is a sign of perfection for some fruits such as pears and honeydew. On the contrary, being sour or having other flavours might be a sign of perfection for some other fruits.

Another example is that acquirement of science and knowledge is perfection for man while stones and wood are not qualified to possess it. The secret behind the matter is that each being is accorded a specific substantial limit and boundary. Going beyond this boundary would turn that being into another form which is, by essence, inconsistent with it. Substantial changes might be coupled with a change in the molecular structure, increase of decrease of their atoms, elemental or inner changes in the atoms, transmutation of matter into energy or vice versa.

At times, it is possible that while the quantity and quality of the atoms and molecules of two things is the same, their essence is different, as the artificial seed of the plant is devoid of the vegetable property, growth and development while it is exactly similar to the natural seed in terms of elements and the form of composition.

In any case, each intrinsic value, on the basis of natural expedience is compatible with some traits and will be apt to reach the same brand of perfection. But the emergence of a novel intrinsic value does not always require the obliteration of former perfections. Many beings assume various functions alongside one another and preserve their former perfections, as, in plants, atoms and minerals are exactly present and the vegetable function is positioned above all and alongside them. The same holds true for animals and human beings.

In these types of beings, former perfections might, to a degree, facilitate the emergence of a more sublime (form of) perfection. But it is not that their progress would absolutely lead to perfection of the last function and be a new form or at least make no interference with it.

Rather in many cases the attainment of a perfection appropriate to the last form requires the restriction of former perfections, just as having a great deal of foliage interferes with a tree's process of bearing sufficient fruit or being exceedingly fat prevents a hound from reaching its ideal perfection of speed in gamboling and running. As a result, the true perfection of every being consists of a trait or traits which he can possess in tune with his last function. Other matters will be preferential perfection and the preliminary of perfection to the extent that they are useful for the attainment of a being's true (form of) perfection.
The Chain of Perfections
When we compare a tree with gravel or a heap of sand, we realize that the tree actually possesses especial capacities not found in stone and sand. Despite the similarity in their atoms and molecules, effects are derived from the tree that cannot emerge from stone and sand.

We will express this truth in this way that there is potential perfection in the tree which is the plant feature and the origin of all activities and of produce exclusive to plants.

In like manner, plants are potentially possessed of perfections which inanimate objects are incapable of attaining, just as the sapling of a fruit-bearing tree is apt to bear loads of sweet fruit while no such capacity exists in stone and wood.

Evidently, by possessing the said function and faculty, the plant not only does not lose its physical qualities and natural powers but also uses them to promote its functions and to go through the path of its functions and the path of its development. Consequently, one can reach the conclusion that to reach perfection, a plant reaps benefit from natural powers and, of course is in need of them but to the extent that it can use them to reach perfection.

Likewise, an animal possesses vegetable qualities plus sense and voluntary movement which is a requisite of its animal state. In the same manner, it employs vegetable qualities to reach human perfection. It needs these qualities to the extent that they are beneficial for its animal development. In like manner, man possesses natural, vegetable, and animal qualities plus powers which emanate from humanity. Man employs all subordinate powers at the service of his human development. For this purpose, he needs them all to the extent that they are effective in reaching his human perfections. But as excessive foliage is not at all advantageous to the apple tree, one cannot regard the unconditional use of vegetable and animal powers useful for man.

The following conclusions can be drawn from this discussion:

(A) Corporal beings can be classified on the basis of existential perfections. Among beings with which we are familiar, inanimate objects occupy a lower position while animals are in the middle and human beings occupy the sublime position. Obviously, in this classification, the type and value of the perfection, and not its volume and amount, is taken into account.

Therefore, it should not be said that if man is more perfect than other animals, why can't he eat as much as a cow, run as fast as a deer, and devour like a lion?! Just as in the case of the superiority of plants over inanimate objects, it is not said that if a tree is superior to stone and sand, then why is not it as weighty as the Himalaya Mountains and why cannot mines of gold or oil wells be found in it?!

(B) Each corporal being which possesses a more sublime degree of existence has inferior powers to be employed in the way of its development.

(C) Employment of the inferior powers should be to such an extent that is useful for the attainment of more sublime perfections, else it will lead to stagnation and termination of the trend of development. And it will occasionally lead to decline and deterioration.

(D) With respect to the previous discussion, it can be concluded that the true perfection of every being consists of that which its last function demands, although this perfection has various degrees as bearing apples is perfection for the apple tree but it has various degrees. But other perfections which are substantially different from this one and which are naturally in a lower state are not actually regarded as the perfection of this being and are only deemed as a preliminary and a device.

Thus perfection can be divided into genuine and organic or actual and relative. Degrees can also be specified for genuine perfections.

E) To determine the extent of exploitation of inferior powers, it is necessary to take in mind the actual and genuine perfection. In other words, the inferior existential traits can be recognized even as an organic and preliminary perfection for something, in case they serve as rudimentary for an elevated and actual form of perfection. Here, once again, emphasis is laid on the necessity of recognizing man's actual perfection.
Perfection and the perfectibility movement of a being consists of gradual changes coming over it as a result of which its potential power to obtain an existential feature (perfection) is made active. These changes occur by way of powers deposited in the nature of the perfectible being and by the use of external conditions and facilities.

For example, when grain is planted and when water, wind, warmth, light and other required conditions are provided, it is split and then it develops stem and leaves. Then it becomes a cluster and finally about seven hundred seeds are produced from it. The changes which occur in the grain from the very first to the emergence of seven hundred perfect seeds are termed as the perfectibility process. The powers, which exist in the said grain and by which the required material are absorbed and the harmful material are discharged and through which the absorbed material are turned into similar seeds by action and reaction, are called the causes of development. Water, wind, light and other external factors are called "the conditions of development."

Evidently, recognition of the amount of development and, in other words of the extent of the zone of existence and sphere of perfection of a being, as well as the causes and conditions of development, is usually possible by way of experience, even though the possibility of reaching recognition through other means cannot be negated.

Certain questions arise at this point: Do all beings undergo change and transformation or are there beings among those that we know or those that possibly exist without our awareness which are essentially unchangeable and which undergo no change and transformation at all? Is any change in the substance, in the appearance, in the attributes, in the proportions and in the additions an actual and real change? Or is it that change in proportions cannot be classed as an actual change? Would any actual change lead to the development of a perfectible trait or is it possible that the outcome of a movement be the loss of a group of existential traits? These are all relevant questions but as our discussion does not revolve around their answers now, we will abstain from answering them.
Scientific and Non - Scientific Movement
In the case of the vegetable seed, the changes which result in the division of a seed into several seeds are not due to scientific understanding and finding. The same holds true for changes which occur in an egg until it leads to the hatching of the egg. The difference is that the perfectibility process undergone by the chicken to become a developed hen hinges on perceptions without which the chicken cannot reach its befitting perfection.

If supposedly, the chicken could not sense hunger, thirst, warmth and coldness, and if it could not differentiate grain and water from stone and wood and if cold water and fire were the same for it, then it would not undergo any growth and development.

Rather it would, by no means be able to carry on living. Thus we get to the conclusion that perfectibility processes can be divided into two main types: perceptual and natural or scientific and non-scientific.
Instinctive and Non - Instinctive Perception
The perception required for a group of perfectibility movements is at times naturally and inherently present, even though the creature (possessing it) is not fully aware of it, such as the instinctive perceptions of animals. At times, this is acquired gradually and by way of learning. Naturally, the creature is fully aware of it, such as sciences learned by man.

At this point, some questions arise which must be answered elsewhere: Are plants devoid of all forms of perception or is it possible that some type of perception exists in a group of them? Are all animal perceptions instinctive or do some of them reap benefit from acquired perceptions? Supposing that animals possess acquired perception, does it have any inherent difference with man's acquired perceptions or not?
Voluntary and Involuntary Movement
At times, the development movement occurs spontaneously and involuntarily as soon as the required conditions are met for the being possessed of sufficient capacity for a particular form of development. In certain instances, it depends on the implementation of will and authority, as we explicitly realize our optional activities and clearly differentiate them from natural and involuntary acts.

Obviously in the voluntary processes, the rate of progress and development depends on the will and choice of the mobile creature. In other words, inability to reach the desired perfection is not due to the deficiency of innate faculties or to the presence of unfavorable external conditions and possibilities. It rather depends on the will and choice of the being as well.

As choice and selection is not possible without knowledge and awareness, good choice hinges on sound knowledge and recognition. The vaster the range of knowledge and the greater the possibility of acquiring positive learning, the greater the possibility of soundly using them for voluntary developments will be, as voluntary acts will be more freely carried out with a vaster range of action and a variety of external conditions.

This provides a solid reason for the necessity of recognizing the objective as well as recognizing the correct path (of reaching it) because, as already pointed out, choice hinges on knowledge and awareness and man's development - or at least, part of it - is voluntary. Of course, if Allah (SWT) willing we will discuss the emergence of will power and elements conducive to it.

Another question comes up here: apart from man, are there any other beings possessing free choice? And supposing that there are such beings, is there a more perfect being than man among them or not?

But it is clear that a positive or negative response to such questions bears no impact on the discussion underway.
It is obvious that man's actual perfection, i.e. moral perception and intuitive knowledge, is possible only for those who have reached it. But as the attainment of voluntary perfections depends on knowledge and awareness, it is necessary that these perfections be somehow recognized beforehand, so that they would become favourable and voluntary, and be obtained by choice and will-power. If the means of recognizing them was exclusive to findings, their acquirement would never be possible.

Thus, the recognition needed beforehand is not of the intuitive type. It is rather the same subjective recognition and is termed as ‘acquired knowledge’ which is obtained through reasoning and deduction from rational premises or inference from indisputable historical principles. Basically, this discussion is for researchers who intend to recognize perfection and to find a way to reach it. One who has reached true perfection is no longer in need of such discussions.

Therefore, expecting to recognize the truth of human perfection prior to reaching it in the same way that we recognize our own moral perceptions is totally out of place. We have no choice other than finding a subjective, and not an intuitive knowledge towards it by way of reasoning and realizing its specifications by the aid of reason and tradition.

Of course, we will try to select the preliminaries of reasoning from the simplest and clearest positive and moral teachings, so that both the conclusion would be clearer and more assuring; and the benefit would be more general. But, in the meantime, we will also refer to some traditional reasonings or to more complex rational proofs well.
Can Man's True Perfection Be Recognized by Experience?
One might possibly reflect that in the same manner that the perfection of a tree or an animal can be recognized through experience and experimentation, in the case of man too, the issue can be solved with the help of scientific experimentation.

That is to say, can a large number of people be subjected to experimentation at various times and in different places so as to see what perfection they reach and what their ultimate limit is? And with this very means, one can retrace the criteria of development and the way of reaching ultimate perfection.

But a little deliberation indicates that the issue on man is not so simple because primarily all kinds of vegetations and animals are inferior to man in terms of existential perfections. For this reason, all human beings could recognize and investigate their perfections, but those human beings who have not attained true perfections could not basically understand the origin of these perfections and the ones who possess them. In this respect, they resemble children who want to test a perfection exclusive to mature people. Rather only experts who have, at least realized the primary degrees of man's true perfection can have a share in this investigation.

Secondly, the perfection of every type of vegetation and animal has a specific and limited boundary which can be easily learned and recognized. Over the centuries, no difference in terms of type of perfection and its ultimate limit has been seen among the members of one species. In this way, by examining a number of them, one can become confident that their typical perfection is that which has been recognized so far; for instance, the perfection of an apple tree is to bear a fruit with a specific flavour, colour, fragrance and size. Or the perfection of the honeybee is to live according to a particular system and to produce a sweet and fragrant fluid called honey.

Of course, it is possible that apple and honey possess properties and advantages which man has not realized as yet. But whatever these advantages are, they belong to the apple and the honey which this tree and animal have (respectively) produced all through the centuries. But when we glance at man - this strange and mysterious being - we find that despite his relatively small size and his similarity with other animals in many material ways, he has features which make him completely distinguished and distinct. It is man whose existential secrets are diurnally unveiled and who divulges a new facet of his skills. It is man who has not stopped moving and changing for a minute since creation.

Each day man makes more apparent the various manifestations of his teachings and industries all over the world. Still these salient and astonishing developments are all the material fruit of this wonderful tree; yet the recognition of its moral fruit is not so easily possible. It might be that man's spiritual and moral wonders are greater than his material ones as those who tread the world of spirit express matters which cannot be understood by others and perform acts which cannot be justified and rationalized with material laws and which can in no way be denied. With all this in view, can one say that recognition of man's existential limits is thoroughly practicable in the same way that the perfection of vegetations and animals is realized?

Thirdly, only sense perceptions can be directly put to examination while spiritual perfections and moral virtues cannot be directly experimented and weighed. Even if the signs of many of them can, to some extent be experimented, indeed the recognition of the spiritual source from which these signs originate and the evaluation of its perfection cannot be experimented.

With respect to the afore cited points, it is not strange that philosophers and scientists are in disagreement over the recognition of man's actual perfection.
Views of Philosophers on Man's Perfection
With regard to differences which philosophers and thinkers have in their world views, it is natural that they should express different views about man. But analysis of all these views and of their relationship with various isms renders no significant benefit. For this reason, we will suffice with only mentioning a few basic views.

(1) Man's perfection is obtained by ever more enjoyment of material pleasures. To reach them, one must employ learning and technology to reap benefit from natural resources and riches, so that a more peaceful and enjoyable life would be procured. This view is based on materialism, Epicureanism and individualism.

(2) Man's perfection rests on the collective enjoyment of natural blessings. And to reach it, effort must be made for the welfare of all classes of society. The difference between this view and the former one is that this view is based on socialism.

(3) Man's perfection is in spiritual and moral progress which can be attained through mortification of the flesh and struggle against material pleasures. This view is the exact opposite of the preceding ones.

(4) Man's perfection is in intellectual progress which is obtained by way of learning and philosophy.

(5) Man's perfection is in intellectual and moral development which is attained through learning the sciences and acquiring virtuous habits. The last two views, like the third one, are inconsistent with materialism with this difference that in the third view, man's body is considered an enemy which must be fought and by victory over which (one can) reach human perfection. In the last two views, however, the body is deemed a device which must be employed to reach perfection. The difference between the fourth view and the fifth one is obvious but at times, the fifth view is regarded as the interpretation of the fourth view.

Evidently, each of the aforementioned views, as well as other views not put forward here, are based on particular philosophical principles which must be considered beforehand, pursuit of them requires a series of profound philosophical discussions which are not in tune with the trend of this discussion. As we noted in the introduction, the method of discussion here is to use the clearest moral and positive learning and to abstain from complex reasonings which necessitate a great deal of preliminary arguments. In this way, the discussion will be more advantageous, that is to say, people who are not too familiar with philosophical issues and traditional reasoning, can reap benefit from it.

Moreover, in the twists and turns of reasonings in which naturally, inclinations to a particular philosophical movement and a specific principle are found, we would not face the reaction of the proponents of other philosophical movements and the bias of the opponents. Furthermore, so long as there is the possibility of (going on) a short cut and a direct path, there is no use in treading crooked and inconvenient paths.

For this reason, we will try not to conduct the reasoning for the recognition of man's true perfection on specific philosophical bases which are accepted by only some movements or on specific verbal views which are acceptable for only a particular group. We will rather start the discussion from the simplest and clearest of our own learnings with regard to man. It is evident that the requisite of starting off from such preliminaries is not that in the course of reasoning and deduction no confrontation with some philosophical views would occur and that the conclusion drawn from the discussion would be accepted by all movements and religions. Such an expectation is principally like expecting the agreement of contradictory things which is necessarily impossible.
Man possesses numerous instincts, feelings, sentiments, desires, motives, spiritual qualities, psychological activities and reactions which have been, more or less, discussed by philosophers, psychologists and psychoanalysts. Different views have been expressed about the recognition of the truth, the classification and distinction of what is genuine from what is not genuine, the quality of development and growth, and the relation of these with bodily organs especially with the nervous system, the brain and the glands. Recounting and interpreting these ideas are not compatible with the nature of this discussion.

Here we will consider some of the most genuine innate desires which come to our mind without confirming or rejecting a particular philosophical, psychological or psychoanalytical movement. We will endeavor to survey their manifold manifestations and the trend of their development, as well as the efforts of man to satisfy them in various conditions and facets of his life, that we may thus seek a way to recognize man's true perfection and ultimate goal; this is because innate desires are the most genuine powers gifted by the creator in man's being, so that he would engage in movement, action, effort, endeavor as they require and would tread his path towards perfection and prosperity by using inborn and acquired powers, as well as external facilities.

Thus the direction or directions specified by these desires could lead us to the ultimate goal and path as the needle of a compass would provide us with the direction. As a consequence, it is apt to study and consider them meticulously and patiently and, by abstaining from hasty prejudgments and judgments, to derive a sound and decisive result from our reflections so that we would take hold of the key to the treasure of prosperity.
Perception and Its Degrees
Man bears an innate desire to know, become aware of, and encompass the realities of existence. This desire emerges in the early stages of childhood and is not taken away from man to the end of his life. The continuous questions posed by children are indicative of the presence of this inborn desire. The more talented will be a child, the vaster and more profound his questions will be. The more knowledge and learning he acquires, the greater unknown matters he will face and new issues will come up for him.

So the direction of sense perceptions, which are devices for the fulfillment of this innate desire, is towards a complete and all-embracing awareness of the world of existence. The sphere of this desire is so vast that no being falls outside it. Now we will study the scientific progress of man from the starting point. We will follow it up step - by - step to see where it will end.

Man's awareness of the world starts with the external senses and the contact of body organs with objects around him. By specific actions and reactions, each sense organ transfers first to the nerves and then to the brain impressions of light, sound, warmth, smell, taste and the like. In this manner, man becomes aware of such qualities and features which are related to material objects on the surface and which are located at a particular radius around him.

But for several reasons, sense perception is inexpressive and insufficient to satiate man's curiosity and instinct to seek the truth because firstly, it applies to particular qualities of the surface and form of palpable objects and not to all their qualities, their essence, their substance and not to impalpable objects. Secondly, the range of sense perception is limited and dependent on particular conditions. For example, the eye can see the rays whose wave length is no less than 4 % micron and no more than 8% micron. For this reason, ultra - violet and infra-red rays are invisible.

Likewise, the ear can hear sounds whose frequencies are between 30 to 16000 vibrations per second. In like manner, other sense perceptions also require specific conditions. Secondly, their duration in time is very short. For instance, the eyes and the ear can hold the effect of light and sound for only a second. And when sense organs lose contact with the outside world our perception is barred. The issue of slips of perception is another story which further clarifies the inadequacy of sense perceptions.

However, the means of awareness and recognition is not confined to sense perceptions alone. For example, man possesses another faculty which, after the body's contact with the material world is cut off, can preserve in a special form the signs it has received and can remember them when needed and can reflect them in the consciousness. Similarly, there is another faculty which can understand general meanings, which can prepare the mind for confirmations and propositions, and which can make possible the reflections and mental deductions, be they empirical or theoretical.

Through these internal faculties, man can expand the zone of his awareness and draw conclusions from innate and palpable experiences and perceptions. Development of philosophy, sciences and industries is indebted to these inward and mental faculties, with this difference that what is in mind in other sciences (apart from philosophy) is the recognition of features and effects of creatures so as to exploit them for better living. But the main objective in philosophy is to recognize the intrinsic qualities, as well as the cause and effect relation of objects. Complete recognition of a being is not feasible without recognizing its existential causes:

‘Ash-Shaykhur-Ra'is has expressed this rule in detail in his Kitabush-Shifa. As the chain of reason leads to the Almighty Allah (SWT), it can be concluded that man's rational movement leads to piety.

Many philosophers believe that man's scientific development ends at this point. For this reason, they regard man's perfection - or to put it more precisely, man's scientific perfection - limited to the mind's all-embracing awareness of the world of being. But further consideration of innate desires indicates than man's instinct to seek the truth is not fully satisfied with this degree of awareness and demands an objective awareness, as well as a speculative and intuitive understanding of the realities of existence. And such an understanding could not be reached with mental concepts and philosophical discussion.

No matter how extensive and clear the mental perceptions and concepts are, they cannot show us the objective realities. The difference between these and external realities can be compared to the difference between the meaning of hunger and its inward reality. Our conception of hunger is a state coming over man when his body is in need of food. But if a person has never experienced this state, he cannot understand it through this definition. In like manner, for (showing) the realities of being, ranging from Allah (SWT) to matter, philosophy can provide us only with such concepts while the recognition and realization of objective realities is far different from such definitions.

What thoroughly quenches our thirst for seeking the truth is the speculative knowledge and intuitive awareness of objective realities which is inseparable from understanding their existential appraisals and connections. And if all existing beings are viewed as dependent on and connected to the Almighty Allah (SWT), then in fact, all objective knowledge goes back to awareness of one independent and genuine reality, as well as His reflections, manifestations and signs.
Power and Its Manifestations
Among man's innate desires, mention can be made of the desire to wield power, to be capable of performing deeds and to have control over other beings. This desire also emerges in childhood and endures to the end of a person's life. Of course, this desire has degrees depending on age differences, period of life and external factors. A healthy infant's motions and movements of hands and feet and the untiring gamboling of children are indications of this innate desire. By and by, range of man's quest for power increases, extending to infinity.

At first, performing various deeds, establishing power and extending strength, occur by means of stimulating nerves and by muscles with the aid of natural powers alone. These constant movements made by the child on instinct help increase his physical power, by and by, his muscles become stronger and more ready to perform greater and more laborious functions.

This goes on until he reaches the peak of youth and the climax of physical power. From then on, he faces the period of stagnation and inertia. Then comes the period of senility and old age, gradually the physical powers are exhausted but the zest for power never dies down in man.

To extend the domain of his power, man does not suffice with natural powers. By the help of sciences and industries, man endeavours to find better devices to conquer the world and subjugate the universe. It goes without saying that scientific discoveries and inventions, especially in recent times, have greatly contributed to the satisfaction of this inborn desire and will later do so as well.

Man does not even refrain from using the power of his fellow creatures. In far as conditions and facilities permit, man uses others for his own benefit. Effort to reach social positions and to be honoured nationally, as well as the nation’s demand for superiority at the international level, are manifestations of this desire which at times, appear in a correct and sound form, while at other times, it appears in the form of aggression on the rights of others in various shapes of oppressive colonization and exploitation. The quest for increased power does not stop at this level. Rather it even embraces imperceptible and metaphysical powers as well.

Various branches of exotic sciences, spiritism, and different forms of sensual mathematics are all indicative of man's wondrous efforts to develop his abilities.

But supposing that man masters the perceptible and imperceptible forces, does his ability reach utter perfection then and is his thirst for power quenched in full? No matter how extensive and variegated these powers are, will they not finally be finite? Will they not intrude on the workings of similar powers? And will they not be doomed by more superior powers? With these limitations, how can they fulfill man's boundless demands?

It is crystal clear that this inborn desire cannot be fulfilled except by taking hold of an infinite source of power. Efforts made by people of high aspirations would not end without it.
Love and Worship
Man possesses another inborn desire which is not of the same form as the demand to know, to have ability, or to be aware of and to conquer the world. The desire to attract, to be attracted and to unite is related to existence and understanding. As this desire has not become clear for the psychologists and psychoanalysts, and a sufficient discussion and research has not been made with regard to it, it is difficult to clarify and explain it.

Deep inside, each person finds that he likes something and someone as though the latter constantly draws his spirit toward itself/himself like a powerful magnet. This attraction and drive has various degrees and signs. Differences of degrees are so much that they create doubts in their substantial unity.

The most salient manifestation of innate affection can be raced in a mother. Its sign is that a mother enjoys embracing, caressing, and taking care of her child. Motherly affection is one of the most glorious manifestations of innate love. Its manifestations have always been described and praised by poets and writers. The same holds true for father's love towards his child.

A similar form of affection exists among children, parents, sisters, brothers and other family members who are tied together with a specific natural bond. Another manifestation of this can be viewed among fellow creatures that are linked by the general relationship of human beings. This affection is increased in intensity in other forms of human relationship, such as being fellow city people, being neighbours, being of the same age, being man and wife, being of the same religion and of the same ideology, etc are added to it.

Another expression of affection is in man's attachment to objects which he uses in his material life and to which he is linked by the way they can fulfill his living requirements. Examples are attachment to property, wealth, clothes and place of residence.

Another demonstration of man's affection appears in man's love for beauties, exquisite objects and especially beautiful human beings. That is to say, it is man's love for objects which satisfy his aesthetic sense and which establish contact with his psyche.

Similar to this is love for spiritual beauties, such as the beauty of concepts, comparisons, metaphors, and ironies, as well as love for cadences in verse and prose which is the passion of poets and of those with good taste. Or it can be spiritual and ethical perfection and elegance which is lauded by psychologists and moralists. Or it can be beauty of sensibility like the elegance in the order of the world of being which the philosophers marvel at. Or it can be existential beauty which is perceived by gnostic intuition. On the basis of this perception, existence equals beauty:
“الَّذِي أَحْسَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُۖ”
"Who made good everything that He has created...(32:7)."
The more powerful the status of being, the greater will its beauty be and the more enjoyable will be its seeing.

In other words, to the extent of his capacity, each being will show a reflection of Divine Light. The more perfect he is, the greater manifestations of it he will reflect.

On the whole, three degrees could be designated for affection in terms of intensity and weakness:

First - The weak status which requires proximity to the beloved in normal conditions. But there is no sacrifice and selflessness in it.

Second - The average status which, in addition to the desire for proximity, requires sacrifice in the way of the beloved but to the extent that it does not interrupt general interests and basic personal interests.

Third - The status of captivation and selflessness when the lover refrains from no sacrifice in the way of the beloved. The lover regards the peak of enjoyment in following the will of the beloved’s traits and deportment or rather in existential attachment or better say, in subjecting himself to perdition for the sake of the beloved. Its sign is taking pleasure in expressing humility and homage to the beloved. Another sign of it is that he unconditionally attaches superiority to the will of the beloved as compared to that of other beings and other objects.

Without doubt, the greater the love for something, the greater will be the enjoyment experienced in reaching it. But on the other hand, intensity of enjoyment hinges on the degree of desirability and the existential value of the beloved. Thus if a person develops the strongest form of affection towards the most precious of all beings and realizes that being's existential merit, he will experience the greatest enjoyment when he is united with that beloved. In case, this act of being united is not confined to time, place and other limiting conditions and in case it is possible at any time and anywhere, this inborn desire is fully materialized and it will suffer no shortage.

As a result, the infinite direction of this inborn desire is in a burning love for an infinitely beautiful and perfect beloved who has the strongest existential ties with man and whom man can find himself living and dying for, and linked and related to. In this manner, he will reach true union and no factor can separate him from his beloved.

Love for a being that does not possess these conditions cannot fully satisfy this desire and will always be coupled with disappointment, defeat, separation, disunion, etc.
With a little consideration in his own being, each person can very clearly realize that he is by nature in search of pleasure, happiness and comfort, and that he escapes from pain and agony. The indefatigable efforts and endeavours in life are for the purpose of enjoying more powerful and more enduring pleasures and of escaping from or at least, diminishing the pains, agonies and illnesses. When these coincide, they are compared; that is to say, slight pain and hardship is endured for being released from greater pain and affliction, and a slight and limited pleasure is sacrificed for a greater and more enduring enjoyment.

Likewise, enduring slight pain to reach a great and lasting pleasure and dispensing with a slight pleasure to be relieved of great pain are the requirements of man's reason and nature. All rational functions are performed on the basis of these calculations. Differences seen in people with regard to preferring certain pleasures and pains are due to differences in discernment, mistakes in calculation and other factors which will be discussed later.

Therefore from one angle, pleasure is the motive behind activity and effort in life, and from another angle it is the outcome and result of this effort. From a final viewpoint, it can be regarded as perfection for sensible beings because it is an existential trait which human beings are apt to possess.

An act which provides pleasure and draws pain away is desired and wanted by man. Man likes and is fond of anything which is pleasurable to reach. Likewise, the term affection is used in the case of desirable deeds and traits. And this clears up the relationship among pleasure, determination and affection.

But it must be borne in mind that, at times, man aspires for a specific pleasure reaching which requires a great deal of preparations. As a result, he decides to carry out deeds, each of which might be a preparation itself. In fact, the determination to carry out each of the deeds is a reflection of the genuine will accorded to performing the main deed.

In the same way, genuine affection is given to a being that is genuinely desired by man. In the light of this, minor affections are developed towards its preparations and attachments, reaching each of which brings about a minor pleasure and conforms to its relationship with the genuine object of desire and pleasure.

In earlier discussions, we arrived at the conclusion that man's true perfection is the ultimate existential degree and the most sublime perfection which man is able to reach. All other perfections are like preliminaries and are organic or relative. Their being preliminary perfections hinges on their effect in making man reach his true perfection, even though the latter might be of various degrees.

As a consequence, true perfection is man's genuine desire and the desirability of other objects is minor and depends on their involvement in reaching true perfection. Likewise, the pleasure desired by man is one derived from reaching true perfection. Other pleasures are like preliminary steps, because, as already pointed out, genuine pleasure is derived from fulfilling a genuine desire.

Consequently, recognition of true perfection depends on recognition of genuine pleasure. Conversely, recognition of genuine pleasure hinges on recognition of true perfection. As genuine pleasure provides the greatest pleasure possible, recognition of genuine pleasure is accompanied by recognition of something which can provide man with the greatest, the most sublime, and the most enduring of all pleasures. For this reason, if we get to know the most pleasurable beings, we will also recognize the genuine pleasure and true perfection.

Thus it is befitting to ponder over the reality of pleasure and the reason behind differences in its degrees, so that we could recognize the most sublime and the most enduring pleasures of man.
What is Pleasure? And what Are the Most Sublime Pleasures of Man?
What we experience within us and interpret as pleasure is a conceptual state overcoming us when we reach a desired objective, provided that we consider that objective as desirable and that we be aware of it and pay heed (to it) upon reaching it. Thus if we do not regard something desirable, reaching it will bring about no pleasure for us. Likewise, if we pay no heed to reaching something, we will derive no enjoyment from it.

As a consequence, in addition to the presence of one who takes pleasure (in something) and the object of desire, taking pleasure depends on having a specific perceptual power with which reaching the desired objective could be perceived. In the same way, it hinges on recognition of desirability and paying attention to reaching it. Various degrees of pleasure depend on the intensity and weakness of perception, as well as desirability or attention paid by man.

That is to say, a person's enjoyment of eating delicious food might be more than someone else's, as he might have a stronger and healthier taste. Or a person might derive more enjoyment from eating a particular type of food, as it might be more pleasurable for him. Or a particular person might derive more enjoyment from a special dish when he fully concentrates on the food rather than on other objectives. In like manner, two students might derive different types of enjoyment from learning a specific branch of science due to their different views on the desirability, utility and practicality of it.

It is also clear that the stability of the pleasure depends on the endurance of conditions which lead to its emergence. The supposed pleasure is cut off when the one taking pleasure or the object of pleasure is destroyed or when it is no longer desirable or when the person changes his mind or ceases paying attention to it.

The multiplicity seen among the person taking pleasure, the objective of pleasure and the conditions leading to the emergence of pleasure has general applicability in the case of ordinary pleasures. The essence of pleasure however, can be traced in other cases where no such multiplicity exists. In these cases, the word pleasure could be used with a kind of conceptual interpretation as is the case with regard to science and affection.

For example, to gain knowledge, the presence of the scholar, the object of learning and the trait of having knowledge is required, but its interpretive meaning also applies to the soul's speculative knowledge of itself or Almighty Allah's knowledge of Himself, even though in these cases, there is no multiplicity among knowledge, the scholar, and the object of learning likewise, the common meaning of affection requires the presence of the lover, the beloved, and the state of love but no such external plurality exists in the case of self-love.

As a consequence, instances of pleasure can be found which do not require the said multiplicity. For example, in the case of Almighty Allah, it could be said that enjoyment emanates from Him, even though in this case, the Bihjat interpretation is more befitting as some scholars have remarked. In the same manner, with regard to man, it could be said that he takes pleasure from his own being.

As his own being is dearer than anything else for him, the pleasure he derives from himself will be more than what he experiences in the case of other pleasures due to its desirability. In other words, all other pleasures serve as a reflection of his self-enjoyment because they have emerged in the process of reaching a phase and perfection in his being.

Failure to derive pleasure in normal conditions is due to inattention. Whenever man can pay full attention to himself and ignore aught else by the help of external factors such as great dangers, exercise and concentration, he will derive exceptional pleasure. For example, if a person is sentenced to death and considers the verdict binding, he will derive an unparalleled enjoyment when he later realizes that the verdict has been annulled.

Of course, in this example, pleasure is related to being brought back to worldly life after being disappointed at it. Yet it is a good example for our discussion, as it elucidates man's love for life and his enjoyment of himself.

The outcome of discussion is that the pleasure experienced by man is either derived from his own being or his own perfection or from other beings which he is in need of and is somehow related to. Thus, he will reach the most sublime status of pleasure if he can see himself tied to one who embraces all connections and links, and who makes man needless of any other dependence. If he finds his own being linked to Him and sees no independence for himself, he will take the pleasure of independence from Him.

As a consequence, man's true object of desire from whom he derives the greatest pleasure is one to whom he is inextricably linked. Genuine pleasure is derived from seeing his own relationship with Him or from seeing Him while he himself is linked to him or in fact, from viewing a reflection of His grandeur and elegance.
The Peak of Desires and Extreme Limit of Aspirations
The conclusion derived from earlier discussions is that man's innate desires extend to infinity. There is no limit or boundary to any of these desires they do not require restriction or halt at a particular level. On the contrary, they all lead man to the ultimate (point). Having boundless desires is verily one of the characteristics of man. Temporary and limited success does not content man. Even the non-religious philosophers do not deny man's innate desires. Rather this is regarded as one of the most important principal differences of man and animals.

Russel notes (as below):

"One of the most important principal differences of man and animals is that human desires, as opposed to those of animals, are boundless and cannot be fully materialized.1."

Although these wishes are variegated, they are all finally brought together and their ultimate satisfaction is summed up in one thing: relationship with the Infinite source of Knowledge, power, beauty and perfection. It is the feature of the states of being that the more severe, powerful and perfect they become, the more they incline towards unity and extension. Human faculties which are dispersed when belonging to the body are united when attached to the soul. While possessed of unity and extension, the soul embraces all human powers:

In like manner, the extreme point of each of the innate desires which extends to infinity and which is then united with other desires is, in fact, one ultimate desire perceived from various viewpoints and angles. And that is dependence on a perfect Infinite Being, that is to say, proximity to the Almighty Allah.

In such a state, man realizes his complete relationship with the creator. He sees himself dependent on and linked to Him or rather (he sees himself as) the incarnation of dependence on and relationship with Him. Before His presence, man observes no independence for himself. In this state, he sees all objects dependent on the holy divine Being and acquires speculative knowledge of the realities of existence. On the basis of his own existential involvement, he reaps benefit from rays of divine grandeur and beauty. Then man's innate desire to recognize the realities of existence is materialized.

Likewise, in this state, man finds a way to the source of infinite power. By being related to this source, man obtains the power to perform whatever he wills and wishes. Thus, his innate desire to seek power is satiated.

Similarly, in this state, man can reach the greatest degree of love for the most eminent of the beloved. And he can establish ultimate proximity, closeness, union and true relationship with Him. In other words, he can see his proximity and relationship very clearly and can consequently reach the best and most permanent pleasures:

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