The Alchemy of Happiness (Homes)/Notes

Note A, p. 54.

Preserved Table. This record-tablet of Mohammed, may have been suggested to his mind by the two tables of stone of the Ten Commandments of Moses. A clear view of what this table is, may be obtained from the following extract from a treatise of Berkevi explaining the Mussulman dogmas, which is at the present day a text-book in the Turkish schools.

"It must be confessed, that good and evil and every thing in short happens from the predestination and foreknowledge of God,—that all which has been and will be, was decreed from eternity and is written upon the preserved table,—that nothing can happen contrary to it,—that the faith of the believer, the piety of the pious man and his good works are foreseen, willed, predestined and decreed in writing on the preserved table, are produced, accepted and loved by God;—but that the infidelity of infidels, the irreligion of the wicked and their bad actions happen indeed with the foreknowledge of God, by his will, and as an effect of his predestination inscribed upon the preserved table, and by the operation of God,—but not with his satisfaction or affection."

Note B, p. 56.

Mystics. Wherever this word is found in this treatise, it is to be understood that the original word is soofee, and sometimes the word has been allowed to stand untranslated. Soofee does not necessarily mean any one particular society of Mussulmans, but includes all persons as well as orders and congregations, who embrace mystical or transcendental modes of interpreting the Koran and who conform their life in a greater or less degree to their mystical notions. Soofee, Dervish and Fakir, are different words for various classes of oriental monks and mystics. They are found wherever there are Mussulmans, and the differences between them and other Mussulmans bear a considerable relation to the differences developed by mystics, pietists or puritans in Christian churches. They differ also much among themselves in their modes of spiritualization and in their ceremonies and practices. There is also much jealousy of each other, between the dominant orthodox clergy and doctors of religion, and the mystics, dervishes and preachers. The orthodox clergy admit only the grammatical and literal—the external meaning of the Koran; but many Soofees pretend that the outward meaning is but the shell, and that they seek for and expound the inward or mystical meaning. The reverence and esteem for the Soofees and Monks is so great with the people, that the clergy and doctors usually conceal their opposition and jealousy.

"Soofeeism has existed in one shape or other in every age and region; its mystical doctrines are to be found in the schools of ancient Greece and in those of the modern philosophers of Europe. It is the dream of the most ignorant and the most learned: it is to be found in the palace and the cottage, in the luxurious city, and the pathless desert."

The fundamental doctrine, and the great object of longing of the oriental mystic is union with God. The whirling Dervishes as they are popularly called, imitate the founder of their particular order and whirl around on their toes for an hour to the sound of soft music and muttered chants: and they imagine that the dizziness which is created and the prostration which follows is an inspired ecstacy and an approximation to the desired union. Mussulman mystics are extensively accused as are also a class of perfectionists in the Christian church, of regarding external actions as morally indifferent to those who are spiritually enlightened. Their doctrines have been abused among themselves by fanatics to lead them to the commission of crime, as in the case of the attempt to assassinate the shah of Persia by the Babis. We should no more be led to think that there was any tendency to abuse for evil purposes from reading this treatise of Ghazzali, than to infer the same from devotional and mystic writings of the western world. Ghazzali, is as much disposed to censure hypocritical pretence among Soofees, as some writers on Persia have been to class nearly the whole body as hypocrites.

Note C, p. 82.

The Mohammedan calendar being regulated by the lunar months, every twelfth lunar month is devoted to fasting, and it is of the greatest importance that the very first appearance of the moon should be watched, to know just when to commence the fast. Certain months and days of the month are peculiarly appropriate to works of charity. The days on which the caravans of pilgrims ought to arrive at Mecca, and the days for going around the black stone of the Caaba, occur also on certain fixed days of lunar months. The au vantages and moral ends of having a moon, must be looked at ofrom the point of view of the theological theqry of the author, which is nothing less than that the moon was created on purpose to render possible, and to aid in carrying into effect, the ordinances of the uncreated Koran.

Note D, p. 14.

Interpretation of the Koran. The extract belew from the work of Ghazzali, the Tehafeti Felaséfé or Destruction of Philosophy, while it shows the position he assigns to the doctors of the law, exemplifies also the character of his genius, and the measure of independent thought tolerated among Mussulmans. He fearlessly adopted whatever discoveries in science could be established by proofs, and defended them even when apparently opposed to the language of the Koran: the dogmatical interpretation of the Koran must yield to stubborn, undeniable facts in science. I translate it from Hajji Khalfa's Jihani Numa, or View of the World, where it was introduced by him to enforce the claims of scientific evidence to be received by the faithful.

"Know that the differences of opinion between philosophers and mankind generally are of three kinds. The first kind of difference is simply a verbal one. As for instance they speak of the maker of the world as essence or substance (jouhar), while at the same time, they explain the word to mean that which exists by itself and independent of place.

"The second kind of difference refers to questions, where there is no difference between their system and the principles of our religion, and where there is no occasion of appealing to the prophets in confirmation of the matter in dispute. For instance the philosophers say, that an eclipse of the moon is an indication that its light is obstructed on account of the earth's coming between it and the sun, seeing that the moon derives its light from the sun, and that the earth is a sphere surrounded by the sky on all sides, and therefore when the moon falls into the shadow of the earth, its light is cut off. The Philosophers also say that an eclipse of the sun arises from the moon's standing between the observer and the sun, and from a conjunction of the two at the same moment.

"The same may be said in regard to this language as was observed in reference to the disputes about words,—that one need not be anxious about refuting it. Whoever imagines that it is a religious duty to dispute upon this subject, has in fact attacked religion, and injured his own cause. For in truth these positions are fortified by mathematical proofs, about which there can be no doubt. Whoever investigates an eclipse, can establish it by demonstration, and can point out its peculiarities, the period of its commencement, the extent of it, and the period of duration until the reillumination begins. And if some one tell him that the demonstration is contrary to doctrine, let him not doubt the demonstration, but rather let him doubt the interpretation given to the law (of the Koran). The wrong done to the law by those who defend it with false interpretations, is greater than the wrong which is done to it by those who find fault with it on a correct interpretation,—as says the proverb, 'a wise enemy is better than a foolish friend.'

"If some person should argue, that as according to a tradition, the Prophet once said, 'When God manifests his glory upon anything, it humbles itself before it,' and that therefore this is to be taken as an indication that an eclipse arises from an act of humility in the presence of God, we reply, that this report is not a genuine tradition, and that even on the supposition of its genuineness, it would be better to throw light upon its meaning, than to make use of it for altercation in categorical premises. For when the proofs are definite, we ought not to be controlled to such an extent by unexplained texts of the Koran. It is a cause of great joy to the infidel when the apologist fur the faith pretends that such views are contrary to the faith, for it then makes it easy for him to refute the law. The world is now disputing whether it is a genuine tradition or merely ancient. But if its genuineness should be established, it would still be a matter of indifference, whether the earth were round or flat, or whether the heavens above and what is below are more or less than thirteen layers—seeing the thing sought to be proved is, that at any rate they arc all the work of God.

"We come next to the third difference of opinion, in which the matters disputed about are at the foundation of religion, as the creation of the world, the attributes of the creator, and the resurrection of the body. In this case it is without doubt our duty to refute the error with convincing arguments."

The work of Degerando, Histoire comparé des systèmes de philosophie, Tome iv, Paris, 1823, may properly be referred to, for comparison with Smölders's Essai, to aid farther in appreciating the principles of Ghazzali in interpreting the Koran, and the grounds of his opposition to Aristotle. His picture of the stand-point of Ghazzali seems accurate and just. See also, Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences, 3d edition, 1857.