Monday, January 13, 2014

Sayings of Ibn Sīnā on Wisdom

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Sayings of the Shaykh al-Ra’īs, may his innermost self be sanctified:
   Wisdom is dearer to its people than this world and all that it contains. For verily, through wisdom they have known its real worth; thus they have found it repugnant, they have recoiled from it in disdain, and have abandoned it to its people and its children. They have realized that carcasses are suited for dogs, and that he who is assisted by God does not quarrel over them.
   Thus they have directed their efforts to the acquisition of knowledge and that which is beneficial. They have been diligent in performing acts of piety, and have devoted themselves to humble supplication in solitary retreats. They have taken upon themselves to edify their soul and to refine their morals according to wisdom, until they have purified their understanding, released their mind from error, purified their soul, and perfected their intellect. And so they have apprehended the universal and eternal realities, they have mingled with the spiritual, entered the company of the everlasting, the immaculate, pure, and perpetual beings.
   Their innermost self has revolved around the Throne, and their sight has become blind to all things besides Him. Thereafter they have journeyed to God, they have turned their back on what is not Him, until they arrived. Then they have known His majesty, and have beheld His beauty. They have rejoiced in His encounter, and have found delight in His splendor. They have remained poised between love and yearning, wonder and communion; they have stood in contemplative silence, as kings in tattered robes before that which discourse does not elucidate, expression does not clarify, and of which speech discloses nothing but the image.
   Thus. As for me, though I am not one of the sages, nor of the group of the learned and the pure ones, but rather recognize my shortcomings in these matters – tied as I am to ignorance and deficiency, though I hold that their aim is unachievable and their ends insurmountable, still I possess a lofty aspiration and a proud soul that abhors trivial things, that does not give her attention to vain hopes and delusions, that is not deceived by vile things, nor drawn to base things. –
   She is wont to say:

                  Of the high places, I aspire to the highest;
                        I am not content with a vile rank!
                  So, may I achieve the end (ghāya) of my desire,
                        Or else let death put me to rest!

– Rather, she directs her ardour and her gaze to the exalted beings, occupying herself with conceiving universals and abstracting intelligibles. She continuously sighs after the spiritual realities, and yearns for the perpetual and everlasting beings. Having known the Lord, she no longer craves for the vile things of this world, nor occupies herself with acquiring its debris, and no longer busies herself with gathering its dates and its spathes. 
Peace. Praise be to God, to Him alone; and blessings on Muhammad and on his godwary family.

[my translation]
Source: “Paroles d’Avicenne sur la Sagesse,” edited and translated by Jean Michot, in Bulletin de Philosophie médiévale 19, Louvain: S.I.E.P.M., 1977, pp. 45-49.

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