A Philosophical Discourse

Amirul Jamea Dr Yusuf bhai saheb Najmuddin saheb (QS)

Of the over 10,000 verses that Syedna Taher Saifuddin (AQ) composed in his lifetime, 177 form the Qasida Mubarakah known as “Falsafato Faydhil Aql”. This qasida deals with the concept of ‘Aql’ (intellect) and the first 25 verses were the subject of a book in English by D`awat-e-Hadiyah’s pre-eminent scholar – Amirul Jamea Dr Yusuf bhai saheb Najmuddin saheb (QS).
What follows are excerpts from the book “A Philosophical Discourse”. The essay will cover the first 9 verses of this book.

“Al-Aql in man is the loftiest substance
Luminous like the moon in his soul”

This book of philosophy, written in verse form, seeks to elucidate the traditional thought process of the Fatemi Imams. It opens with the consideration of ‘al-Aql ‘ in man which, as commonly understood, bears broad reference to the intellectual faculty of man. Pointing out where al-Aql exists and how it functions he says it is located in the soul of man; functioning like the luminous moon which, though a substance in itself, does not radiate any light of its own – becoming lustrous only by absorbing light from the Sun and reflecting it as its own. Likewise, al-Aql, though a substance in its own right and of the highest status at that, does not shine by itself but only by receiving light from outside.

“Al-Aql is the first in Creation
And verily that merits the command; “Come forth and turn around”

(The second verse) draws attention to a Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (s.a.). He says:
“What Allah created first was al-Aql.” He then ordered al-Aql to “come forth” and he came forward. Then Allah said, “turn” and he turned; then Allah declared, “By my power and majesty I have set you at the peak of Creation. Through you shall I reward and through you shall I punish.”

In this second verse the subject of al-Aql in man leads on to the supreme one al-Aqlul Awwal. This is natural as in the ultimate analysis Aql in man derives light from al-Aqlul Awwal – the first of Allah’s creation.

“Al-Aql – the first – comprehends himself by himself
And he is pure in source and origin”

The author here gives expression to the Fatemi view that al-Aqlul Awwal realized that he was powerless to know the Creator….
As the first in Creation he comprehends that he, being the created, could not himself be the Creator.

“Al-Aql indeed is a substance which comprehends
Everything that is made, created or formed”

Aql in its pure and untainted condition has the power to comprehend all that which is the subject of creation and all that is made or formed. It, therefore, excludes the power to comprehend the Creator.
(However) Aql cannot exercise the power (to comprehend) to its fullest extent when it is tainted. Aql must purify itself….the greater the degree of purification, the greater will be the power of comprehending.

“Man, through Aql, perceives the truth
In everything as a discerning observer”

Here the author) postulates that in all things the truth exists per se. He next postulates that such truth is capable of (being perceived) … through the exercise of al-Aql and that this process of perception is for the discerning observer.
The phrase discerning observer’ refers to a genuine seeker of truth who has, in advance, carefully determined what he wishes to know, his reasons for knowing it and his awareness that of the several views possible one and only one is tenable.
…the word ‘discerning’ has within it, inherent, the notion of the need for light.

“Aql in man is in need of light
Which radiates from a higher luminous stage”

…the author proceeds to state that such comprehending power is set at naught unless light is available to Aql. Such light illuminates its path and guides and leads it.(Animals need no guidance or teaching) – for example, a newly hatched duckling, if thrown into the water, instinctively swims… but a human infant is utterly helpless. The knowledge of how to survive has to come from outside.One rightly ponders why the requisite knowledge given to animals has denied
to man – in the beginning. The answer lies in the view held that man, being endowed with Aql, his problem was not alone of survival but also more important – his emancipation was to be provided for, as the author points out, through the intervention of the light from the higher source.

“Like the eye which, without light accompanying,
Such light as banishes darkness – it will not perceive.”

A thought of philosophical significance is skilfully couched in a simile. The eye, as an organ having the capacity to see, nevertheless cannot do so except with the aid of light (of the right quality and intensity)…..a correct and
true picture is possible only when the eye is aided by light of the required nature. Where it is not so the picture can be blurred, indistinct or obscured.Similarly al-Aql in man cannot perceive the truth except with the aid of light from outside, from the proper source, of the right quality and intensity for al-Aql’s needs.

“The ‘radiant Sun of Wahye’ whose light shines
O’ man kindle your Aql by it”

In this metaphorical couplet the ‘Sun of Wahye’ personifies the Holy Prophet Muhammed who is chosen, by virtue of his perfection amongst men, for the transmission of the ‘radiant grace’ emanating from al-Aqlul Awwal. The
messenger of Allah now reveals the Book of Allah to mankind. The revelation transmitted to man from the higher source through the Messenger; being instant and direct, is pure and unblemished. The rays of the Sun of Wahye being dazzling cannot directly be received or absorbed. The…metaphorical Moon becomes imperative. The Moon absorbs the dazzling light of the revelation and sheds it again as a gentle light, the heat and power of which is conducive to Aql in man. Appropriately the commentary to this verse is ended with a Hadith of the Holy Prophet:

“I am the City of Knowledge and Ali is the gateway. Whosoever seeks knowledge must come to the gateway.”

“A Philosophical Discourse” by Dr Syedna Taher Saifuddin (AQ)
Commentary by Dr Y. Najmuddin (QS)
Al-Jameatus Saifiyah
1st print April 1963
4th Print Dec 1995