Bibliotherapy

Abd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī – About The Seven Sleepers

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The Arabic story of “Companions of the Cave” (Qissat Ahl el-Kahaf),1494 CE, origin unknown. Written in Arabic language. It was displayed at the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany, Exhibition of “Cinderella, Sindbad & Sinuhe, Arab-German Storytelling Traditions”, April 18, 2019, to August 18, 2019. Berlin State Library, Prussian cultural heritage, Orient Department (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Orientabteilung, Sprenger 1193).

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Another sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, an excerpt from Sachiko Murata’s trail-blazing and influential ‘The TAO of ISLAM, a sourcebook on gender relationship in Islamic Thought‘, State University of New York Press,  1992, where she quotes, from Chapter 10, ‘The Heart’, page 301, Abd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī on the subject of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus.

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‘…in another passage, Kashani clarifies his understanding of four different terms that are applied to the self from various points of view: Spirit, soul, intellect, and breast. As in the above passage, the development of human perfection is tied to the spiritual world, while loss and misguidance derive from limitations of the soul. He is commenting on the following verse: ‘You might have seen the sun, when it rose, inclining from their cave towards the right, and when it set, passing them by on the left, while they were in a broad fissure of the Cave’(18:17). This verse is found in the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, whom the Qu’ran calls the ‘Companions of the Cave’. Kashani has already suggested that the Seven Sleepers refer to seven spiritual realities found in the human being: Spirit (ruh), heart (qalb), theoretical intellect (al aql al-nazari), practical intellect (al aql al-amali), reflection (fikr), inmost mystery (sirr) and most hidden (akhfa). The ‘cave’ in which they sleep is the body:

‘–You might have seen the sun, that is the spirit, when it rose, that is, ascended through becoming disengaged from the wrappings of corporeality. Then it became manifest from its own horizon, inclining and turning through its love ‘from their Cave’, the body, towards the right, the direction of the world of Holiness. This is the direction of works of loving kindness: Good deeds, virtues, beautiful works, acts of obedience. It is the way of the lovingly kind, since they are the ’Companions of the Right’. And when it set, that is when the spirit sank into the body and became veiled by it, it became concealed by the body’s darkness and blights. The disconnectedness and dispersion of the companions of the Cave made the spirit’s light die down, since they are on the left, the direction of the soul. This is the path of evil works, so the Companions become absorbed in acts of disobedience, evil deeds, evils, ugly moral qualities, and the way of the ungodly, who are the ‘Companions of the Left’. While they were in a broad fissure of the cave, in other words, they were in the wide playing field of their body, which is the station of the soul and Nature. For within the body there is a spacious area in which the light of the spirit does not reach them.

You should know that the face of the heart that is turned towards the spirit takes illumination from the spirit’s light and is called ‘intellect’. It incites to the good and is the place to which the angel’s inspirations have access. The heart’s face turned toward the soul is dark through the darkness of its attributes. It is called the’ breast’. It is the place where Satan whispers in people’s ‘breasts’ (114:5).

When the spirit moves and the heart turns toward it through the face in the spirit’s direction, the heart becomes illuminated and strengthened through the intellectual faculty, which incites and causes yearning toward perfection. Hence it inclines toward good and obedience. But when the soul is set in motion and the heart turns toward it through the face in the soul’s direction, it becomes darkened and veiled from the light of the spirit. The intellect is darkened and inclines toward evil and disobedience. In these states the angel seeks access through inspiration and the satan through whispering.’

1715 Engraving by Carl Remshart from ‘Fortitudo Leonina in utraque fortuna Maximiliani Emmanuelis’.

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Sachiko Murata (村田幸子, born 1943) is a professor of religion and Asian studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.

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AboutAbd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī : https://hurqalya.ucmerced.edu/node/681🌿 About Sachiko Murata : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachiko_Murata 🌿About the book ‘Tao of Islam’: https://sunypress.edu/Books/T/The-Tao-of-Islam

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