Index  Previous  Next 


On the whole it is the final section on the Veils-Tradition which, though really of the nature of an appendix, contains the most numerous and the most interesting problems for the study of Ghazzâlî's inner life, thought, and convictions. This tradition speaks of "Seventy Thousand Veils of Light and Darkness" which veil pure Godhead from the human soul. The origin of the tradition is, it is safe to hazard, Neoplatonic, and it therefore lent itself completely to the gnostic and theosophical mode of

{p. 7}

thought which so soon invaded Muslim Sûfism after its less successful effort to capture orthodox Christianity. Accordingly Muslim mystics seem to have seized upon the tradition with avidity, though they interpret it variously. For an entirely Neoplatonic, theosophical interpretation, as expounded by Rifâ`i dervishes, the translator's "'Way' of a Mohammedan Mystic" may be consulted.[1] According to this version, the soul, in its upward Seven-fold Way to Union with pure Deity, is at every stage stripped of 10,000 of these Veils, the dark ones first and then the bright. After that the naked soul stands face to face with naked Deity, with Absolute Being, with an unveiled Sun, with unadulterated Light. Ghazzâlî's treatment is different. According to him, these Veils are various according to the varieties of the natures which they veil from the One Real. And it is the classification of these natures, which is thus involved, that supplies rich material for an unusually inside view of Ghazzâlî's real views concerning men, doctrines, religions, and sects. It

[1. The Moslem World, year 1912, pp. 171 seqq., 245 seqq.; as separatum, Otto Harrassowitz, pp. 9, 10.]

{p. 8}

is not the orthodox schoolman, the fierce dogmatist, the rigid mutakallim, who is now speaking. We have the sensation of overhearing Ghazzâlî as he speaks aloud to his own soul, or to a circle of initiates. It is hardly less than an outline of a philosophy of religion with which we have to do. He divides mankind into four classes: those veiled with veils of pure darkness; those veiled with veils of mixed darkness and light; those veiled with veils of pure light; and those who attain to the vision of the Unveiled. Every line of this part of the work merits and requires the closest study. It is not possible to give this detailed study here--it has been given elsewhere, and to that the reader must be referred.[1] But a summary of Ghazzâlî's classification of souls and creeds may be given here, for thus, even more effectively than by an extended study, may a vivid preliminary appreciation be gained of the importance of this section for students of the Ghazzâlî problem. He begins at the bottom and works up the light-ladder, rung by rung, to the very top, thus giving a gradation of

[1. Der Islam, year 1914, in Nos. 2 and 3: by the present writer.]

{p. 9}

human natures and human creeds in respect of their approach to absolute truth. Sometimes the grades are definitely identified by the author. In other cases they may be certainly, or nearly certainly, identified from the description he gives. In the following summary Ghazzâlî's own identifications are given between round brackets; inferred identifications certain or nearly certain, between square brackets.

Class I.--Those veiled with Veils of pure Darkness


(a) Naturist philosophers whose god is Nature,

(b) Egotists whose god is Self.

Subdivisions of (b):--

(1) Seekers after sensual pleasures (the bestial attributes).

(2) Seekers after dominion ("Arabs, some Kurds, and (the very numerous Fools").

(3) Seekers after filthy lucre

(4) Seekers after vainglory

(2-4) (the ferocious attributes).

Class II.--Those veiled with Veils of mixed Darkness and Light

{p. 10}


(1) Image-worshippers. [Polytheists of the Hellenic (? and Indian) type.]

(2) Worshippers of animate objects of physical beauty. (Some of the most remote Turkish tribes.)

(3) Fire-worshippers. [Magians.]

(4) Astrologizing Star-worshippers. [Star-worshippers of Harran: ?Sabîans.]

(5) Sun-worshippers.

(6) Light-worshippers, with their dualistic acknowledgement of a supreme correlative Darkness. (Zoroastrians of the cult of Ormuzd and Ahrimân.)


(who worship a One Being, sitting [spatially] on his throne).

(1) Corporealists. {p. 11}

[Extreme Hanbalites: Zâhirites.]

(2) Karrâmites.

(3) Those who have eliminated all spatial ideas in regard to Allâh except the literal "up-above".

[Ibn Hanbal.[1] Hanbalites.[2]]


[Various sorts of Mutakallimîn]

(1) Anthropomorphists in respect of the Seven Attributes of Allah, "Hearing, Seeing," etc., and especially the "Word" of Allah.

(Those who said that the Word of Allah has letters and sounds like ours.) [Early literalists; Hanbalites: early Ash`arites.]

(2) Those who said that the word of Allah

[1. Faisal al-Tafriqa, p. 10.

2. Averroes adds to these (with justice) the Koran; Mohammed himself; the "Early Fathers"; al-Ash'ari; and the early Ash`arites--before the time of Abul Ma'âli," says Averroes, loc. cit. i.e. of al-Juwainî, The Imâm al-Haramain, our author's Shaikh, d. 478 (see his al-Kashf 'an manâhij al-adillâ', ed. Müller, p. 65, Cairo ed., p. 54.)

3. For according to Ghazzâlî the genuine axiomata of the pure intelligence are infallible. See p. [10], and an important autobiographical passage near the beginning of the Munqidh.]

{p. 12}

is like our mental speech (hadith al-nafs.)

[Later Ash`arites.]

Class III.--Those veiled by pure Light

[i.e. purged of all anthropomorphism (tashbîh)]

(1) Those whose views about the Attributes were sound, but who refused to define Allah by means of them: replying to the question "What is the Lord of the World?" by saying, "The Lord, who transcends the ideas of those attributes; He, the Mover and Orderer of the Heavens."

[Hasan al-Basrî, al-Shâfi`î, and others of the bilâ kaifa school.]

(2) Those who mounted higher than the preceding, in declaring that Allah is the mover of only the primum mobile (the Ninth and outermost Heaven), which causes the movement of the other Eight, mediated by their respective Angels.

[Sûfî philosophers. (?) Al-Fârâbî.]

(3) Those who mount higher than these {p. 13} again, in putting a supreme Angel in place of Allah, Who now moves the heavens by commanding this supreme Angel, but not immediately by direct action.

[Sûfî philosophers. Al-Ghazzâlî himself when coram populo (Munqidh, p 11)!]

Class IV.--The Unveiled who Attain

Those who will predicate nothing whatsoever of Allah, and refuse to allow that He even issues the order for the moving of the primum mobile. This Commander (Mutâ`) is now a Vicegerent, who is related to the Absolute Being as the sun to Essential Light or live coal to the Element of Fire.

(1) Adepts who preserve self-consciousness in their absorption in this Absolute, all else being effaced.

(2) Adepts whose self-consciousness is also effaced ("the Fewest of the Few") [al-Hallâj and the extreme Mystics],

(a) who attain to this State with a single leap--as Abraham "al-Khalîl" did, {p. 14}

(b) who attain to it by stages,--as Mohammed "al-Habîb" did [at the Mi`râj].

Next: IV. Ghazzali Problems Raised By The Foregoing