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Islamic perspective on gnostic ethics

Gnostic ethics is to approach ethics based on the gnostic journeys, route and proceeding along the spiritual way and levels, and it is founded on the purification of heart and the assumption of "moral good' through asceticism and austerity, in this approach, inward and intrinsic endeavour and performance are necessary and it does not end up with just intellectual and rational progress.

Rather, it goes beyond intellect and intellectual training to intrinsic training, and towards perceiving God's self-disclosure it proceeds through burnishing the mirror of the soul, and it delineates man's line of progress along two lines of "descending arc' and 'ascending are.The Gnostics conceive the movement along the descending extrinsically and the movement along the ascending is for them is intrinsic; they seek knowledge inspired and granted by God. Inbuilt in moral gnosis and gnostic ethics, there are subtle insights and spiritual purification proceeding from spiritual levels.

To sum up, in this part we are concerned with those books written by Muslim gnostic scholars regarding the training of the soul, considered as an introduction to intuition and consideration and reaching intuitional perfection because in moral philosophical books, training the soul is a prerequisite for meditating and thinking and reaching the intellectual perfection; and in moral-gnostic books, knowledge about and purification of the soul and its training are prerequisites for attaining at the Holy Lord's Realm and His Presence.Therefore, proceeding toward Allah involves moving through arranged and determined levels and it has been formulated and interpreted in a set of spiritual attentiveness along with man's ascendance to perfection. Of course, such an approach has a long history and has emerged based on the Holy Qur'an and traditions, particularly traditions from the Prophet, traditions from Imam 'Alī, and supplications.

As Mutahhari says: "Gnostic ethics is ethics propagated by mystics and it is based on spiritual journey and training and intuition, and of course it has utilized a great extent of the Holy Book and the Sunnah. Therefore, the key features of gnostic ethics and the books dealing with it include Gnostic and mystic ethics.

Reliance on the purification of the soul to attain intuition and get nigh to God. After this foreword, in the following part, the moral-gnostic books are briefly introduced and reviewed tersely. Ausaf al-Ashraf, written by Khajah Nasir al-Din Tüsi. This book has been revised by Nasrullah Taqavi and Kayvan Razavi has written an introduction to it.The book has been published in Tehran. The book, although brief in content, contains powerful and profound materials on ethics and spiritual journey and training, and covers all the levels of spiritual training. Allamah Jawadi Amuli describes it as: "The Gnostics, who view the world through the self-disclosure of the Divine Names, interpret the methodical ethics and the practical spiritual training differently, however, if a scholar decides to express the gnostic materials in a technical form, so that they neither dispense with the Qur'anic verses and traditions nor they overlook wisdom and intellect, he can follow the way proposed by Khajah Nasir al-Din Tüsi in his book Awsaf al-Ashraf. Regarding the levels of the spiritual journey and training, he has rendered six parts, and for each part, he has foregoing six principles, except the last part which deals with getting united in The Truth; there are no limits for the ranks and steps in this last part and it has no boundaries."Allamah Jawadi Amuli has composed an itinerary as a moral-gnostic manual for spiritual journey and training, following the order presented in Awsaf al-Ashraf. In this work, now and then he clarifies, analyzes and criticizes the levels. In regard with his work, Khajah Nasir al-Din Tusi writes: "After writing the book Akhlaq Näsiri, which contains issues on noble character and the policies by the Gnostics approach, I decided to provide a brief account on the journey picked up by the ones of the highest rank [in ethics] and the ones with insight; I intended to arrange this work by the approach of the followers and the seekers of the truth based on rational and narrational rules and accurate theoretical and practical tenets, symbolizing the most essentials of this procedure.”

Rosalita al-Sayr was al-Sulük [A Treatise on Spiritual Journey], Sayyid Bahr al Ulam. This book, too, has been written based on gnostic ethics and with an emphasis on the approach of spiritual enterprise and austerity and purification of the soul. In this book, there are valuable instructions and precious recommendations for those who wish to travel in this way. Sayyid Bahr al-'Ulum writes: "The traveller in this journey reaches the destination when his voyage in the universe becomes purity, rather than an effort to attain purity.

The truth of journey and the key to it is bringing the body and the soul under the control of the faith, which is clarified through the [religious] regulations on the body organs: using this resolution of the soul and spirit under the divine control, all the levels and steps get included through this level."This book has dealt with passing through the levels in the journey in a stepwise manner including the number forty, realization of the destination, arriving at the realm of purity and realizing it, the forty-step route of the universe of purity in the journey toward Allah, clarifying the spiritual journey in details, the outcomes of the spiritual journey and the author's way of saying prayers.

This book can be considered one of the most important books for those who wish to study Gnosis and give the spiritual journey a try. Allamah Tabataba'i, once an instructor of this book, quotes his teacher, Sayyid Ali Aqa Qazi, praising the book as: "I have never seen any such praiseworthy treatise like the late Sayyid Bahr al 'Ulum's one on the spiritual training and journey." In addition to its depth of content, this book has a very favourable and attractive tone. Tadhkirat al-Muttaqin, written by Shaykh Muhammad Bahari Hamadani. The book, without any preface and introduction on the way it has been written and compiled, has been published by Noor Fatimah Publications in Tehran, containing 242 pages.The late Shaykh Muhammad Bahari Hamadani describes his book and the instructions included in it as: "Although I have written this book as a manual of instructions for laymen, others may find it useful to consult, as well." This book has been written based on a gnostic approach and spiritual training and journey and has been organized in two parts: The first part deals with the principles of the spiritual journey (practices, repentance, caretaking. friendship, Sunnah toward one's spouse, training one's children, pilgrimage and hajj); the second part reveals truths for warning the traveller and at the end, the characteristics of true scholars and arrogant people have been foregoing.

At the final part (of the foregoing edition) three treatises have been added, including instructions by Ayatollah Sayyid Ahmad Musawi Ha'iri, preaches by Mulla Husayn Quli Hamadani and some advice and recommendations from Aqa Muhammad Bidabädī. Sharh Jumud "Aql was Jahl [An Exposition of the Troops of Reason and Ignorance], written by Imam Khomeini, published by the Institution for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini's Works.The book contains an introduction, six articles and twenty-five epistles. In the introduction, Imam Khomeini, through a review of the moral books written by the ancient scholars - whether rational-philosophical books or the scientific ones regarding ethics-has proposed a new style for writing books on ethics. 

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