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Jami' al-asrar wa manba' al-anwar (book)

Jāmiʿ al-asrār wa manbaʿ al-anwār
Author Sayyid Haydar Amuli
Original title جامع الاسرار و منبع الانوار
Language Arabic
Series 1 vol.
Subject Mysticism
Published 1347 Sh/1968
Publisher Sherkat-i Intisharat-i Ilmi wa Farhangi

Jāmiʿ al-asrār wa manbaʿ al-anwār (Arabic: جامع الاسرار و منبع الانوار) is a mystical book in Arabic written by Sayyid Haydar Amuli, a Shi'a mystic and exegete of the Qur'an in the 8th/14th century known as Sayyid Haydar Amuli. The book is also known as Jami' al-anwar, Majma' al-asrar and Manba' al-anwar.

Contents

Date of Writing

Sayyid Haydar Amuli wrote the book in Najaf when he was old. So it seems that the claim that it was written in 752/1351 when the author was only 32 years old is wrong. Sayyid Haydar wrote Jami' al-asrar after writing essays such as Muntakhab al-ta'wil, al-Arkan, al-Amana and al-Tanzih.

Motivation for Writing

As the author says in the introduction of Jami' al-asrar, the motivation for writing the book was the request made by some "righteous and mystic brothers" to write a comprehensive book concerning the secrets of the prophets and saints of God, especially the secrets of monotheism and its types, consequences and implications and to unveil the truths, subtleties, and secrets of tawhid, and to investigate the principles, ancillaries, branches, objections, doubts and fallacies associated with those secrets in accordance with the rules of people of monotheism and researchers of God and Sufis and the principles of Twelver Imamiyya, such that the conflict between Sufism and Shiism is removed and no other book is required to settle their dispute.

According to Sayyid Haydar Amuli, Jami' al-asrar involves no verbal or conceptual repetitions and it covers all the secrets and mysteries of the prophets and saints with respect to both the interior (batin) and the exterior (zahir), and it is characterized by al-maqam al-Muhammadi (the Position of Prophet Muhammad (s)). Its main goal is to explicate monotheism. The book can be comprehended only if one pays full attention, has a clear mind, a pure belief, fully surrenders, and resorts to a complete mystic.

Features

One feature of Jami' al-asrar is the variety of its methods. The author appeals to transmitted (naqli) evidence, such as Qur'anic verses and hadiths, rational reasons, mystical intuitions, his own and his masters' mystical revelations, and to prove some claims, such as the infallibility of the Imams (a), he appeals to issues of theology as well.

Contents

Jami' al-asrar has three main parts that the author has called "asl", that is, ‘principle', and each principle involves four sections called "qa'ida", that is, ‘rule'.

  • The first principle, which is the largest, concerns tawhid and its types, including the four following rules: on the virtues of monotheism, on the definition of monotheism, on the classification of monotheism, and on the quality of monotheism.
  • In the second principle, Sayyid Haydar appeals to verses of the Qur'an and hadiths by the Prophet (s) and the Imams (a) and the remarks by masters of Sufism to analyze the nature of monotheism. In the first rule of this principle, he makes an appeal to the words of God, in the second to those of the prophets, in the third to the words of the Imams and the saints, and in the fourth to the remarks by masters of mysticism. In the second rule he rests content to citing the words of the Prophet Muhammad (s), in the third he rests content to the words of Imam 'Ali (a), and in the fourth he rests content to the words of Khwaja 'Abd Allah al-Ansari in his Manazil al-sa'irin .
  • The third principle concerns the consequences and implications of the secrets of divine shari'a. All the rules under this principle are based on three fundamental mystical notions of Shiism: the first rule is devoted to the sharia, tariqa (mystical path) and haqiqa (the truth). The second rule concerns the mysteries and secrets of prophecy, divine mission and wilaya, and it includes two issues: the specification of the seal (khatam) of absolute or unqualified saints of God, and the specification of the seal of qualified saints of God. The third rule concerns revelation, inspiration (ilham) and mystical intuitions (kashf). It also deals with the difference between acquired knowledge (al-'ilm al-kasbi) and inherited knowledge (al-'ilm al-mawruth), and the way formal knowledge and true knowledge should be acquired. The fourth rule is devoted to Islam, faith and certainty (iqan).

At several points of the work, the author cited other people's remarks without any changes, and then examined and criticized them and sometimes supplemented them with additional remarks.

Issues in the Book

True Shi'as

The most fundamental problem tackled in Jami' al-asrar is that true Shi'as are Sufis, and true Sufis are Shi'as. The book rejects the view that divine secrets are exclusively possessed by the Imams (a) and so Sufis cannot have those secrets. On the other hand, the author rejects the view of Sufis according to which the Imams (a) do not have mystical virtues, taking this to be out of their ignorance. According to the author, the only right Sufi sect is one that has divine secrets at its disposal and has exterior and interior faith in the Imams (a). He believes that the Imams (a) are sources of knowledge and treasuries of secrets, and Sufis have received the secret of wilaya from the Imams (a), and the only right Shiite sect is the Twelver Imamiyya.

Wilaya

With respect to the specification of the Seal (Khatam or the last) of Wilaya, Sayyid Hayadr has transformed some of the main doctrines of Muhyi l-Din al-'Arabi and his commentators, especially al-Qaysari. Unlike Ibn 'Arabi and some of his followers who take Jesus the Christ to be the seal of absolute or unqualified saints, and Ibn 'Arabi to be the seal of qualified saints, he takes Imam 'Ali (a) to be the seal of absolute saints of God, and Imam al-Mahdi (a) to be the seal of qualified saints. According to Sayyid Haydar, Ibn 'Arabi and Qaysari made such a mistake because they followed, and had a bias to, the Sunni Islam. According to Henry Corbin, with this change or correction, Ibn 'Arabi's doctrines have been integrated into Shiite wisdom.

The Author's New Ideas

Here are some new ideas by Sayyid Haydar in Jami' al-asrar:

  • Reducing the Five Presences (al-hadarat al-khams) to the Three Presences (al-hadarat al-thalath).
  • Cashing out the unity of existence (wahdat al-wujud) in terms of existential tawhid (al-tawhid al-wujudi).
  • Couching mystical problems in a wholly Shiite framework, that is, emphasizing the mystical profile of Shiism.
  • In Jami' al-asrar, Sayyid Haydar emphasized on the Trinity of the world (whether conventional triadic individuality or external triadic individuality), and tried to provide a triadic presentation of mystical issues. Thus he reduced the Five Presences to Three Presences, and presented the third principle of his book in terms of three fundamental notions of Shiite mysticism, and he accepted the Prophet Muhammad (s)'s trinity (perfumes, prayers and women) and divine trinity (knowledge, will, and order), although he rejected Christian Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

Rejecting the Views of Other Sects

In Jami' al-asrar, sharia, tariqa (mystical path) and haqiqa (the truth) are taken to be one single reality that is considered from different respects. The author explains the deviation of the Isma'iliyya in terms of their failure to understand the superiority of wilaya to prophethood, and explains the deviation of the Nusayriyya (a sect of Ghalis in areas of Syria) in terms of their failure to understand the nature of wilaya and its features.

Sayyid Haydar criticized the views of Muslim philosophers regarding the principle of oneness (or qa'dia al-wahid, according to which many things cannot be emitted by one thing) and their negation of divine knowledge of particulars, and the views of Mu'tazilis and Asha'ira concerning the existence, the essence of God, and the identity or distinctness between divine attributes and His essence. He believed that not only one cannot acquire knowledge of God by learning official and acquired disciplines (such as theology and philosophy), but one's doubts will increase by this.

From the Viewpoints of Others

Prominent philosophers and mystics, such as al-Shaykh al-Baha'i and Qutb al-Din al-Nayrizi, were familiar with the book, Jami' al-asrar and took its author to be a highly respected sayyid and a mystic who believed in the unity of existence.

Manuscripts

Several manuscripts of Jami' al-asrar written in different periods are available, which shows that the book was known by intellectuals and scholars. The book was edited by 'Uthman Isma'il Yahya and Henry Corbin and was published with introductions by them, together with a bibliography of Sayyid Haydar Amuli written by 'Uthman Yahya in 1347 Sh/1968. It was reprinted in 1368 Sh/1989.

References