‘Self-knowledge is the foundation of the way of the wayfarers’
writes Imam Al-Ghazzali (r.a) (1058-1111) in his Ihya ‘Ulum ad-Dïn [Revivification of Religious Sciences]. Commenting on this sentence, the 17th century Muslim scholar and theologian, Faidh Al-Kashani (r.a), wrote a short treatise titled Maqâmât al-Qalb [Stations of the Heart]. The following text is a translation of Faidh’s introduction to the Stations of the Heart.
اَلقَلبُ هُوَ العٰالمُ باللّهِ ۞ وَهُوَ العامِلُ للّه ۞ وَالسّٰاعي إلٰی اللّهِ ۞ وَهُوَ المُتِقرّبُ إلَيهِ ۞ وَهُوَ الکٰاشفُ لِمٰا عِندَ اللهِ ۞ وَإنّمٰا الجَوٰارِحُ أَتبٰاعٌ لِلْقَلبِ ۞ والْبَدَنُ آلَةٌ يَسْتَخْدَمُهُ القَلبُ۞ وَيَستَعْمِلُها اسْتِعمٰالَ المٰالکِ لِلْعَبيد ۞ وَاسْتِخدٰام الرٰاعي للرعية ۞ وَالصٰانعُ للآلة
It is the heart that knows God; and performs actions for God; it is the heart that moves towards God; and seeks nearness to God; it is the heart that discovers the divine mysteries. The bodily organs are all subservient to the Heart; the body itself is an instrument in the hands of the Heart; the Heart controls the body as a king controls his slaves; and as a shepherd leads his flock; the heart uses the body as an artisan uses his tools.
۞اَلقَلبُ هُوَ الْمَقبولُ عِندَ اللّٰهِ إذٰا سَلِمَ مِنْ غَيرِ اللّٰهِ ۞ وهُوَ الْمَحْجوبُ عَنِ اللّٰهِ إذٰا صٰارَ مُستَغْرَقًا بِغَيرِ اللّٰهِ ۞ وَهُوَ المُطٰالَبُ وَهُوَ الْمُخٰاطَبُ ۞ وهُوَ الْمُثابُ وَهُوَ الْمُعٰاقَب
The heart is accepted by God when it is cleansed from all things other than God; and it is veiled from God when it becomes drowned in things other than God; it is the heart that is sought by God; it is the heart that God addresses; it is the heart that is rewarded; it is the heart that is punished.
۞ اَلقَلبُ هُوَ الَّذي يَستَعِدُّ للقُربِ ۞ فَيُفْلِحُ إذٰا زَکّٰاهُ ۞ ويَشقٰی إذٰا دَسّٰاهُ
The heart is that which is capable of drawing close to God; he who purifies the heart wins; he who defiles his heart loses.
۞اَلقَلبُ هُوَ المُطيعُ للّهِ ۞ والَّذي يُظْهَرُ عَلیٰ الْجَوارحِ مِنَ العِبٰادٰاتِ فَهيَ أنْوارُهُ
It is the heart that obeys God; the acts of worship manifested through the bodily organs are but rays of light issuing from the Heart.
اَلْقلَبُ هُوَ الْعٰاصي وَالْمُتَمَرِّدُ عَلیٰ اللّٰهِ ۞ وَإنَّما مٰا يُظْهَر عَلیٰ الأَعضٰاءِ مِنَ الْفَواحِشِ فَهُوَ آٰثارِهٖ ۞ وَبإِظلامِ الْقَلْبِ وَاستِنٰارَتِهٖ تُظهَر مَحٰاسِنُ الْظاهِرِ وَمساوَتِهٖ ۞ کُلُّ إِنٰاءٍ يَتَرَشَّحُ بِمٰا فيهِ ۞
It is the heart that disobeys God and rebels against Him; vicious actions manifested through the bodily organs are but the footsteps of the heart. It is the blackness of the heart that gives birth to bad actions; and it is the luminosity of the heart that brings forth luminous actions. A container can only pour out what it contains.
أَلْمَرءُ إذٰا عَرَفَ قَلبَهُ عَرَفَ نَفسَهُ ۞ وإذٰا عَرَفَ نَفسَهُ عَرَفَ رَبَّهُ ۞ وَإذٰا جَهِلَ قَلبَهُ جَهِلَ نَفْسَهُ ۞ وَإذٰا جَهِلَ نَفْسَهُ فَقَدْ جَهِلَ رَبَّهُ ۞ وَمَنْ جَهِلَ رَبَّهُ فَهُوَ بِغَيرِهٖ أَجْهَلُ
Once a man knows his heart, he knows his inner self; once he knows his true self, he knows his Lord. One who does not know his heart does not know himself; and whoso is ignorant of his self, is ignorant of his Lord. One who is ignorant of his Lord is even more ignorant of other things.
The majority of men do not know their hearts; therefore, they are veiled from God and from their true selves: These men are those about whom God has said in the Holy Quran:
And be ye not like those who forgot Allah; and He made them forget their own souls! Such are the rebellious transgressors! [Qur’an al-Hashr (59):19]