Al-Ghazali's Treatise on Direct Knowledge from God (al-Risala al-Laduniya)


         Know that one of my friends told me about a certain scholar who rejected [the existence] of "direct knowledge from God, knowledge of the unmanifest world" (al-'ilm al-ghaybi al-laduni), upon which knowledge the elect of the Sufis rely and to which the folk of the Way (tariqa) are connected--such Sufis stating that "knowledge from God" is more powerful and rigorous (ahkam) than the forms of knowledge acquired through study and attained by learning. 
        My friend told me that this so-called scholar (mudda'i)  states, "Since I am not able to conceive of the knowledge of the Sufis, I do not think that anyone in the world can speak of 'true knowledge' (al-'ilm al-haqiqi) by way of a contemplative act and an intuitive vision (fikr wa-ru'ya), instead of through learning and studious effort (ta'allum wa-kasb)." 
     So I said, "He does not seem to be cognizant of the paths of attaining [such knowledge] and is not aware of the matter of the human self (al-nafs), its qualities, and how it receives traces of the unmanifest world (al-ghayb) and knowledge of the 'suprasensible world' (al-malakut)." 
    My friend replied, "Yes, indeed this man says that knowlege consists only of jurisprudence (fiqh), Qur'anic exegesis (tafsir), and dogmatic theology (kalam), beyond which there is no knowledge, and that these forms of knowledge are only attainable through learning and disciplined study (al-ta'allum wa-al-tafaqquh)." 
     Then I said, "Yes, but how does one learn the science of exegesis, since the Qur'an is the vast ocean encompassing all things, and all of its meanings and the truths of its exegesis are not mentioned in these [exegetical] compositions well-known among the masses?!  Rather, exegesis is something other than what this so-called scholar knows." 
     Then that man replied, "He only considers to be [legitimate] exegeses the well-known exegeses written by Qushayri, Tha'labi, Mawardi, and the like." 
     So I said, "He is far from the path of the Truth (manhaj al-haqiqa).  In fact, Sulami has compiled an exegesis consisting of the sayings of those who realize truth (muhaqqiqin), an exegesis that is  virtually the realization of truth (shibh al-tahqiq).  And these sayings are not mentioned in other exegeses.   Yet that man who only considers valid knowledge to be jurisprudence, theology, and exegesis of mass appeal, it is as if he does not know the various kinds of knowledge, their elaborations, levels, truths, and their outer and inner dimensions.   It is customary, however, that one who is ignorant of something rejects it.  And that so-called scholar has not tasted the wine of the Truth and is not cognizant of direct knowledge from God (al-'ilm al-laduni), so how can he accept it?!  And I would not be satisfied with his acceptance, out of imitation or conjecture, of what he does not know." 
    Then my friend said, "I would like you to note down something about of the stages of knowledge and the attestation of this [direct] knowledge [of God], since you attribute it to yourself and accept its affirmation." 
     I replied, "Indeed the elucidation of what you are seeking is very difficult, but I will begin an introduction to it according to my state and in harmony with my experience of the moment and with whatever appears in my consciousness." 
al-Risalah al-laduniyah, pp. 87-88, translation © A. Godlas, 1998. 

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