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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,

Jurnal Qalbu 2.3 (Okt 2017): 63-103

TA’DIB AND THE CONCEPT OF THE PERFECT MAN:


A GHAZALIAN-ATTASSIAN INQUIRY

Muhammad Hasanul Arifin Zawawi

Master of Philosophy (Islamic Civilization)


Centre for Advanced Studies in Islam, Science, and Civilization,
School of Graduate Studies,
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia,
Jalan Semarak, 54100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Email: hasanularifin28@gmail.com

Abstract
One of the most fundamental epistemic challenge brought about by
Western secular worldview is the idea of Man as homo economicus which
subsequently influences the capitalistic and materialistic direction of
education and its interpretation of academic excellence. A resolution that
is rooted in our own Islamic tradition, therefore, is required. In light of this,
al-Ghazali (1058-1111) as one of the most authoritative scholars
representing the Islamic intellectual tradition comes to mind, with al-Attas
as his most profound modern commentator. As such, this paper will aim to
describe and clarify the concept of education as ta’dib, described by al-
Ghazali as the means towards attaining human perfection. Through a
semantic and conceptual analysis of key terms associated with education,
human psychology, and epistemology found in al-Ghazali’s corpus of
writings as well as Al-Attas’ elaboration on the subject matter such as
ta’dib, ta‘lim, tarbiyah, tahdhib, riyadah, kamal, and insan, an alternative
framework of education and academic excellence based on the worldview
of Islam that comprehensively addresses not only cognitive, theoretical,
and instructional concerns but also extends towards fulfilling social,
ethico-moral, and spiritual needs can now be developed.
Keywords: Education, man, perfection, happiness, knowledge.
TA’DIB DAN KONSEP MANUSIA SEMPURNA: PANDANGAN
AL-GHAZALI DAN AL-ATTAS
Abstrak
Salah satu asas cabaran epistemik yang dibawa oleh pandangan dunia
Barat sekular adalah idea manusia sebagai homo economicus yang

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
Jurnal Qalbu 2.3 (Okt 2017): 63-103
kemudiannya memengaruhi arah pendidikan yang kapitalis dan materialis
dan interpretasi akademik cemerlang. Oleh itu, resolusi yang berakar
umbi di dalam tradisi Islam diperlukan. Memandangkan ini, al-Ghazali
(1058-1111) difikirkan sebagai salah satu ulama berwibawa yang
mewakili tradisi intelektual Islam dan al-Attas adalah pengulas moden
paling mendalam beliau. Kertas kerja ini bertujuan untuk menerangkan
dan menjelaskan konsep pendidikan sebagai ta’dib, yang diterangkan oleh
al-Ghazali sebagai cara untuk mencapai kesempurnaan manusia. Melalui
analisis semantik dan konseptual terma-terma utama yang dikaitkan
dengan pendidikan, psikologi manusia dan epistemologi yang terjumpa di
penulisan korpus al-Ghazali serta penjelasan al-Attas mengenai perkara
seperti ta’dib, ta’lim, tarbiyah, tahdhib, riyadah, kamal dan insan, sebuah
rangka kerja alternatif bagi pendidikan dan kecemerlangan akademik
berdasarkan pandangan dunia Islam yang membincangkan secara
komprehensif bukan sahaja isu-isu kognitif, teori dan pengajaran tetapi
juga mengembang ke arah memenuhi keperluan sosial, etika-moral, dan
rohani juga dapat dibangunkan sekarang.
Kata kunci: Pendidikan, manusia, kesempurnaan, kebahagiaan,
pengetahuan.
Introduction
As mentioned in the Synopticon to the Great Books of the Western
World, education remains one of the perennial practical problems
for which men cannot discuss without involving his deepest and
most fundamental considerations such as metaphysics,
epistemology, psychology, axiology, politics, and economics.1 This
has led to many differences in views concerning education.2 For
instance, different conceptions of the nature of man and of the
relation of his several capacities necessarily lead to the different
interpretations on the ends and objectives of education.3 Despite the
diversities of views in this regard, there is one common consensus
on the objective of education as perceived by Western authors
throughout the ages:4
“…it would seem to be a common opinion in all ages that
education should seek to develop the characteristic excellences of

1
The Synopticon: an index to the great ideas, 8th ed., vol. 1 (Chicago:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2005), 296.
2
Ibid.
3
Ibid.
4
Ibid., 297.

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
Jurnal Qalbu 2.3 (Okt 2017): 63-103

which men are capable and that its ultimate ends are human
happiness and the welfare of society.”
This agreement, being made a special emphasis by the
father of Western capitalism Adam Smith, leads to another general
agreement across all Western interpretations of education; the
objective of education as the means to prepare Man for his vocation
and station in life.5 This profession-centred objective of education
becomes central especially in contemporary discourses on
education that is heavily influenced by the intellectual hegemony of
neo-liberalism.6 Yet, this should not be a surprise considering
Smith’s conception of man as homo economicus. In this view of
Man and his psychology, Man is essentially driven by self-interests
and vanity.7 Although Smith asserts that Man is distinct from animal
species by virtue of his intellectual faculties that gives rise to the
ability to reason and speak, the unique application of such
intellectual faculties lies in “the propensity to truck, barter, and
exchange one thing for another”.8 In this Capitalist view of human
psychology, individual self-interests and greed are no longer seen
as a vice and can be manipulated for public benefit.9
Given that greed is obviously a negative attribute and that
the understanding of Man is not limited to his economic aspects
according to the worldview of Islam and its framework for ethics
and morality, especially from the perspective of Sufism, what is
fundamentally needed in order to intellectually engage this Western
conception of education and of Man is a framework of education
that is rooted in the nature of Man and the psychology of the human
soul as conceived by the worldview of Islam. In this respect, al-
Ghazali (1058-1111) as one of the most authoritative scholars
representing the Islamic intellectual tradition comes to mind, with

5
Ibid., 298.
6
Susan Harris, The Governance of Education: How Neo-Liberalism is
Transforming our Policy and Practice (London: Continuum, 2007), 21-
23.
7
Lee Bolderman, The Cult of the Market: Economic Fundamentalism and
Its Discontents (Canberra: ANU E Press, 2007), 113-114.
8
The Synopticon: an index to the great ideas, 8th ed., vol. 2 (Chicago:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2005), 4.
9
Lee Bolderman, The Cult of the Market: Economic Fundamentalism and
Its Discontents (Canberra: ANU E Press, 2007), 107, 113 & 121.

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Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas (1931-) as his most profound


modern commentator. Therefore, this paper aims to address, albeit
briefly, two fundamental issues: the concept of man and the concept
of education as conceived by al-Ghazali and al-Attas.
THE CONCEPT OF THE PERFECT MAN
In his semantic analysis of the term insan which conveys the
meaning of “man”, al-Attas clarifies that it is derived from nisyan
which means forgetfulness.10 Therefore, Man is essentially
composed of forgetfulness in the sense that, having testified to
himself the covenant (mithaq) that he has made with God in the
realm of the spirits which necessitates obedience of His commands
and prohibitions, forgets about it.11 Therefore, this forgetfulness
defines his ultimate purpose of existence; to actualize his potential
to recover the state at which the covenant with God is realized. This
movement from a state of potentiality and actuality is known as
perfection.
There are two terms used by al-Ghazali to convey the
meaning of perfection. The first term is tamma which al-Ghazali
refers to as that which is not in need of the assistance of some other
thing for the acquisition of some characteristics, having everything
possible present within them.12 The second term is kamal which he
refers to as the agreement of a thing with its essential purpose and
reality.13 As such, kamal already presupposes tamma because when
a thing conforms to its essential and real purpose, it can be said to
have acquired completely all characteristics necessary to realize its
purpose.

10
Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur:
ISTAC, 1995), 144.
11
Ibid.
12
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 150. Also see
Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the
Path of Self-Knowledge” 327.
13
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 126. Also see
Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the
Path of Self-Knowledge” 271.

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In the context of Man, Man is of the genus of organic


natural bodies (jism ṭabi‘i ’ali), as of plants and animals.14 Plants
are considered by al-Ghazali as the first perfection (kamal awwal)
of organic natural bodies, having the capacity to absorb
nourishment, growth, and reproduce its kind.15 Animals, while
having all the capacities exhibited by plants, also apprehends the
particulars and moves at will, making it more complete and hence
more perfect than a plant.16 However, Man is most perfect among
all things from the genus of organic bodies, because the human soul
(nafs insani) possess the capacity of performing actions by rational
choice (ikhtiyar ‘aqli), drawing inferences from thinking, and
apprehending universals while at the same time also having the
capacities exhibited by plants and animals.17
In other words, why Man is more perfect than other
creations is due to two distinguishing features: his capacity for
cognition and his capacity for deliberate praiseworthy action in
accordance to knowledge; these form his true purpose of creation
and the conditions for his perfection, happiness, and well-being
(salah).18 Pertaining to the capacity for cognition, since Man is from
the genus of organic natural bodies distinguished from inorganic
physical objects without will19, Man has a dual nature consisting of

14
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 14-16. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 33-36.
15
Ibid.
16
Ibid.
17
Ibid. Ikhtiyar as explained by Al-Attas is not merely making a choice
between many alternatives, but between good and bad where the good
alternative is chosen over the bad. As such, ikhtiyar means the
“cognitive act of choosing for the better of two alternatives in
accordance with virtues that culminate in justice to oneself and which,
as such, an exercise of freedom.” See Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the
Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995), 33-34.
18
Md. Asham Ahmad, “Abu Hamid al-Ghazali on Human Action: An
Exposition and Analysis of its Constituents” (Master thesis, ISTAC,
2002), 16-17.
19
Al-Ghazali, Tahafut al-Falasifah, trans. Micheal E. Marmura, The
Incoherence of Philosophers (Utah: Brigham Young University Press,
2000), 145. In the Tahafut al-Falasifah, trans. Micheal E. Marmura, The
Incoherence of Philosophers al-Ghazali criticizes the philosophers’

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both physical and spiritual substances, where the spiritual aspect


that forms his essence (dhat) refers to his potential to apprehend
intelligibles or intellectual objects (ma'quliyyah).20 However, al-
Ghazali, and then followed by Al-Attas, limits his discussion of
Man’s essence (dhat al-insan) only to the attributes (awsaf) and
states (ahwal) and not its very essence (haqiqatuha fi dhatiha) since
an inquiry into the knowledge of the essence of the spirit has no
direct bearing with Man’s practical and ethical life. 21
Therefore, in his discussion of the essence of Man, al-
Ghazali uses four different terms that connote essentially the very
same thing: the spirit (ruh), the soul (nafs), the intellect (‘aql) and
the heart (qalb).22 The ruh describes Man’s angelic nature and

inability to distinguish between willing motion of animal species and


natural motion of celestial bodies. Md. Asham Ahmad, “Abu Hamid al-
Ghazali on Human Action: An Exposition and Analysis of its
Constituents” (Master thesis, ISTAC, 2002), 26-28.
20
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs (Cairo:
Maṭba‘ah al-Sa‘adah, 1927), 18-19. Trans. Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-
Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the Path of Self-Knowledge”
(PhD diss, Hartford, 1958), 38-40.
21
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din,
published as Book 5 of 9 Books (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2011), 13.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart (Louisville: Fons Vitae,
2010), 5. Md. Asham Ahmad, “Abu Hamid al-Ghazali on Human
Action: An Exposition and Analysis of its Constituents” (Master thesis,
ISTAC, 2002), 8. As al-Attas elaborates on the inquiry into the nature
of man: “..it refers to knowledge of accidents (sing.’araḍ) and attributes
(sing. sifah) pertaining to the essences of things sensible and intelligible
(mahsusat and ma‘qulat) so as to make known the relations and
distinctions existing between them, and to clarify their natures within
these domains in order to discern and to understand their meanings, that
is, their causes, uses and specific individual purpose.” See Al-Attas,
Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC,
1995), 5.
22
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 10-13. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 22-29. Also see al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah
al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah Rasa’il al-Imam al-Ghazali, (Beirut: Dar
al-Kutub ‘Ilmiyyah, 2013), 59-63. Trans. Margaret Smith, The Message
From On High (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 2010), 11-23. Also,

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Divine origin which is its quiddity (mahiyyah), while the other


terms indicate specific functions.23 The nafs describes the
immaterial entity where both blameworthy attributes and divine
influences inhere, depending on whether it is the animal or rational
aspect of it that predominates, therefore referring to the affective-
executive dimension of Man.24 On one hand, both ‘aql and qalb are
the cognitive aspects of Man’s essence, with the former relating to
the discursive mode of knowing and the latter relating to the
intuitive mode of knowing.25 On the other hand, qalb is also used to
refer to the principle of movement or the loci of intention through
which its state determines the morality of a certain action, hence can
be categorized as the conative dimension of Man in addition to the
cognitive.26 Hence, in the context of Man his perfection refers to the
excellent nurturing of all of four aspects of Man’s essence.27

see al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, trans.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 5-11.
23
Ibid.
24
Ibid.
25
Ibid.
26
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-Niyya wa al-ikhlas wa al-sidq of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-
Din, published as Book 9 out of 9 Books (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2011),
26-27. Trans. Shaker, A. F., Al-Ghazali On Intention, Sincerity and
Truthfulness: Book XXXVII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences
(Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 2013), 19. As summarized by
Al-Attas about these various names or accidental modes or states of the
soul in al-Ghazali’s psychological framework: “when it is involved in
intellection it is called ‘intellect’; when it governs the body it is called
‘soul’; when it is engaged in receiving intuitive illumination it is called
‘heart’; when it reverts to its own world of abstract entities it is called
‘spirit’.” See Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala
Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995), 148.
27
Al-Attas clarifies this issue with the following words: “With reference
to the meanings of the four terms used in relation to the soul when they
pertain to the soul of man, they all indicate an indivisible, identical
entity, a spiritual substance which is the reality or very essence of man.
In this sense, they point to a unifying principle referred to as the kamal
or perfection of a being, to the mode of existence of that which
transforms something potential to something actual.” See Al-Attas,
Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC,
1995), 148.

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What leads to this perfection is the acquisition of


knowledge and wisdom which nourish the heart and preserve its
vitality (ghidha’ al-qalb al-‘ilm wa al-hikmah), just as food
nourishes the body.28 With this, it can be implied that Man in his
quest for perfection is in a state of constant need for intellection and
nourishment through true education. Yet, it is his preoccupation
with his bodily and worldly needs and wants that distracts his soul
from performing intellection and vitally nourishing his spiritual
self.29 Since knowledge and wisdom is necessary to preserve the
vitality of Man’s essence and attain perfection, how does learning
occur?
According to al-Ghazali, there exists two modes of
learning: teacher-directed learning (al-ta‘allum al-insani) and God-
directed learning (al-ta‘allum al-rabbani), where the former is
related to the acquiring of knowledge through the intermediary of
sense data, and the latter through direct apprehension otherwise
known as intuition.30 Pertaining to teacher-directed learning, sense
data undergoes a process of intellection in order to remove its
material attachments to form pure, abstract and universal

28
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din published as Book 1 of
9 Books (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2011), 30. Trans. Nabih Amin Faris,
The Book of Knowledge (Kuala Lumpur: Dar Al-Wahi, 2013), 30. Also,
trans. Honerkampf, K. Al-Ghazali Kitab al’Ilm (Louiseville: Fons Vitae,
2015), 11. See al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, trans. Jay R. Crook,
Alchemy of Happiness, 2nd Ed., (Chicago: Great Books of the Islamic
World, 2008), 56-57. John Dewey seems to have used similar words, but
replaced the soul with social life: “What nutrition and reproduction are
to physiological life, education is to social life”, indicating society as the
ultimate end of education as opposed to the individual. See John Dewey,
Democracy and Education (New York: The Free Press, 1966), 9.
29
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 28-29. Yusuf
Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the Path of
Self-Knowledge” 58-60. al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of
Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 50. Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart,
37.
30
Al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah Rasa’il al-Imam
al-Ghazali, 67. Also see Margaret Smith, The Message From On High,
38.

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intelligibles via a process known as abstraction.31 Abstraction, on


the other hand, occurs through various cognitive and spiritual stages
which will be clarified in the successive sections.
Man’s First and Second Stage of Perfection: The Sensitive and
Imaginative Spirit
Abstraction occurs in Man in varying degrees depending on the
extent of Man’s perfection of his organs of cognition.32 In the first
stage of perfection, to acquire knowledge though the intermediary
of sense data, especially from seeing (hassat al-basar) and hearing
(hassat al-sam’), Man is given external sensory perception (al-
hawass) which acts as instruments to gather data from external
reality, and the common sense (al-hiss al-mushtarak) which sorts
and combines similarities and dissimilarities from the external
sensory perception but does not preserve them, making the
continual presence of the external object necessary for
apprehension.33 By this, al-Ghazali gives the example of an infant’s
desire to get hold of a thing when he sees it, and forgets about the
thing as soon as it is out of sight, making the external sensory
perception as well as the common sense the most basic cognitive

31
In clarifying the process of abstraction in al-Ghazali’s theory of
discursive cognition al-Attas comments: “The process of abstraction of
sensibles to intelligibles, which is in reality an epistemological process
towards the arrival of meaning, undergoes various grades of completion
leading to perfection. It begins already in the initial act of perception by
sense; then it attains to a slightly higher degree of completion by means
of the imagination, and a more refined one by the estimation even before
attaining to complete and perfect abstraction by the intellect.” See Al-
Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur:
ISTAC, 1995), 156-157.
32
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 48-49. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 101-104.
33
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 32-38. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 66-76. See al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat,
trans. Jay R. Crook, Alchemy of Happiness, 2nd ed., (Chicago: Great
Books of the Islamic World, 2008), 11.

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instrument. Both these faculties are collectively known as the


sensitive spirit (al-ruh al-hassas).34
At his second stage of perfection, the sensitive spirit rises
to the level of the imaginative spirit (al-ruh al-khayali), also
described as the attainment of an internal sensory perception
(masha’ir baṭinah).35 Internal sensory perception consists of the
representative faculty (al-quwwah al-khayaliyah) that preserves
particular forms from the common sense, the estimative faculty (al-
quwwah al-wahmiyah) that infers particular meanings, the
retentive-recollective faculty (al-quwwah al-hafizah wa al-
dhakirah) that retains particular meanings apprehended by the
estimative faculty, as well as the imaginative faculty (al-quwwah
al-mutakhayyilah) which sets the contents of both the representative
faculty and the retentive-recollective faculty into motion (al-tahrik)
so that the soul may use it in whatever way it desires.36 Al-Ghazali
describes the imaginative spirit as akin to glass; it serves the
important function in the early stages of the cognitive process by

34
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, trans. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights (Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1998), 36.
35
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, trans. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 36. al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs,
149. Also see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine
Through the Path of Self-Knowledge” 324.
36
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 38-40. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 73-79. Also see Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The
Sources of Knowledge in al-Ghazali’s Thought (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC
Master Theses Series Vol. 2, 2002), 18-19. Shammas translates al-
quwwah al-khayaliyah as ‘retentive imagination’ whereas Al-Attas
translates it as ‘representative faculty’. The example given for particular
forms retained by al-quwwah al-khayaliyah is the ability to discern that
the taste of a thing pertains to an object and not another, although the
object is absent. However, the forms are not retained; they are merely
projected and re-presented in the mind. As such, we have chosen to
follow Al-Attas’ translation. The example given for the particular
meanings apprehended by the estimative faculty is the apprehension of
enmity and love of a particular thing, just as how a sheep recognizes a
particular wolf as its enemy. This differentiates the representative
faculty from the retentive-recollective faculty.

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ensuring that the light of knowledge is preserved from scattering.37


At this stage of intellectual maturity, Man attains sensible
discernment (al-tamyiz), yet that which is apprehended is not
universal in nature because it still contains particular material
attributes of quality and quantity.38 As such, the contents that are
apprehended by the imaginative spirit, designated as the sensitive
imagination, cannot stand independently. Like glass derived from
dense clay that is essentially opaque and must be purified, refined,
polished and organized in order for the light of knowledge to radiate
through it, sensitive imagination must be directed and guided by
higher cognitive processes in order for it to be rendered as
universally true.39 Errors in cognition occur when sensitive
imagination and its material concomitants are regarded as absolute
and universal. In this case, sensitive imaginations become a veil to
knowledge like opaque glass to light; this pertains to false beliefs
that are upheld due to the soul’s preoccupation with outward
forms.40 It is in this potential for error that al-Ghazali also describes
the imagination as the dwelling of Satanic influences.41 Yet, at the

37
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, trans. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 39.
38
Al-Ghazali’, Al-Munqidh Min al-Ḍalal, trans. R. J. McCarthy, Al-
Ghazali’s Path To Sufism: His Deliverance From Error (Louisville:
Fons Vitae, 2006), 59-60. Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The Sources of Knowledge
in al-Ghazali’s Thought, 21-22 & 50-51. This is this stage where a child
approaches the age of seven and starts to grasp things beyond the world
of sensibles. It is a stage preceding the development of the capacity for
intellection. Yet it is not restricted to children; it gradually develops
from childhood into adulthood until the person reaches approximately
40 years old.
39
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, trans. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 39.
40
Al-Ghazali, Jawahir al-Qur’an, trans. Muhammad Abul Quasem, The
Jewels of the Qur’an (Kuala Lumpur, Islamic Book Trust, 1977), 9.
41
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 64. Also see
Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the
Path of Self-Knowledge” 135. In his Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, al-Ghazali lists
two other destructive influences apart from Satanic which are bestial and
predatory influences derived from undisciplined faculties of appetite
and anger. See al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, trans. Jay R. Crook,
Alchemy of Happiness, 14-15.

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same time, al-Ghazali notes that it can also possibly be the dwelling
of angelic influences if it undergoes a process of refinement, leading
to praiseworthy ethico-moral action and, by extension, the
discovery of proper ways of managing worldly affairs and the
development of crafts.42 What refines these sensitive imaginations
is in fact higher cognitive processes such that they becomes parallel
to the rational meanings (al-ma‘na al-aqliyyah) and directs the soul
towards them.43 As such, Man as imaginative spirit is already
distinguished from the animal kingdom because the higher faculties
of imagination can be potentially used for the purpose of cognition,
which is absent in animals.
Man’s Third and Fourth Stage of Perfection: The Intelligential
and Cogitative Spirit
Higher cognitive processes aided by the imagination occur at the
third and fourth stages of perfection that al-Ghazali assigns as the
intelligential spirit (al-ruh al-aqli) and the cogitative spirit (al-ruh
al-fikri) respectively. At the third stage, perception of meanings
beyond sense and imagination begin to occur.44 Al-Ghazali
describes this noetic stage as a capacity that is uniquely human.45
Additionally, it is also described as a stage where universal self-
evident knowledge (al-ma‘arif al-daruriyah al-kulliyah) is possibly
perceived.46 Furthermore, it is also the means through which
reports, whether transmitted on the authority of the Prophet or on
the authority of a group of trustworthy people (tawatur), becomes
acknowledged as true.47 Moreover, it is also the medium through
which knowledge is acquired through negation.48

42
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 40-41. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 82-84.
43
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 39.
44
Ibid., 36.
45
Ibid., 36.
46
Ibid., 37.
47
Al-Ghazali, al-Mustasfa Min ‘Ilm al-Usul. transl. Ahmad Zaki Mansur
Hammad, “Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Juristric Doctrine” (PhD diss,
University of Chicago, 1987), 312 & 548-553.
48
Ibid., 740.

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From his clarification of the meanings of ‘intellect’, this


third stage refers to two qualities or capacities that is innate (bi al-
ṭab’) in all men49: the first is the innate quality (al-wasf) or natural
disposition (gharizah) by which man is able to acquire discursive-
speculative knowledge (qabul al-‘ulum al-nazariyah),
differentiating him from the animal kingdom.50 The second refers
to another innate capacity to apprehend necessary knowledge (al-
‘ulum al-daruriyah) such that the possibility of possible things
(ja’izat) and the impossibility of absurd things (mustahilat) can be
discerned by the soul of a discerning person (dhat al-ṭidl al-
mumayyiz).51 From al-Ghazali’s perspective of the development and
perfection of the intellect, the first capacity corresponds to a state of
pure disposition or absolute potentiality analogous to the potential
state of an infant to writing, whereas the second capacity
corresponds to a state where all necessary a priori intelligibles have
been obtained, analogous to the state of a child who has learned
about the inkpot, the pen and the single letters.52 It is the
intelligential spirit concerning the intellect as a natural disposition
that provides Man with the potential to recall and recollect on the
basic elements of the reality of his existence.53
On the other hand, at the fourth stage assigned as the
cogitative spirit (al-ruh al-fikri), al-Ghazali describes it as an
acquired capacity where the ability to acquire and expand
knowledge from syllogistic reasoning becomes possible.54

49
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 314. Nabih Amin Faris,
The Book of Knowledge, 268-269. Honerkampf, K. Al-Ghazali Kitab
al’Ilm, 252-255. Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The Sources of Knowledge in al-
Ghazali’s Thought, 22.
50
Ibid.
51
Ibid.
52
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 40-43. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 85-89.
53
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 318-320. Nabih Amin
Faris, The Book of Knowledge, 271-273. Honerkampf, K. Al-Ghazali
Kitab al’Ilm, 259-260.
54
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 37. al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 314. Nabih
Amin Faris, The Book of Knowledge, 268-269. Honerkampf, K. Al-
Ghazali Kitab al’Ilm, 255). The term tajarib bi majari al-ahwal is

75
Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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Additionally, from the view of intellectual perfection, it


corresponds to the capacity in which one has obtained, in actuality
as opposed to potentiality, all possible intelligibles as if he has
stored them within himself such that he is capable of accessing them
whenever in need and masters them.55 Moreover, it is also described
as a capacity analogous to the expert scribe and his knowledge of
writing where even though the scribe may not be engaged in
writing, the art and science of writing is still accessible to him
whenever he decides to engage in it.56
It is at this fourth stage where the imaginative faculty is
used as the instrument of the intellect to deal with intellectual
matters; this can be understood as the appearance of cognitive
imagination which is to be distinguished from sensitive imagination
that is present in lower noetic faculties.57 In cognitive imagination,
the imaginative faculty becomes the instrument of the cogitative
faculty (mufakkirah), acting as the intermediary between the realm
of sensibles (‘alam al-shahadah) and the angelic world of
intelligibles (‘alam al-malakut).58 By interpreting the imaginative
symbols in the realm of sensibles, realities posited in the realm of
intelligibles become inferred and understood, otherwise they cannot
be apprehended except through death.59 What is meant by this is that
empirical experience becomes the means through which higher

translated literally by Nabih Amin Faris as “experience in the course of


events”, yet an ordinary meaning of the term makes little sense in the
context of intellection. Therefore, following Treiger, we argue that what
al-Ghazali actually meant was syllogistic reasoning where necessary
axiomatic premises are derived from empirical experience. See
Alexander Treiger, Inspired Knowledge in Islamic Thought: Al-
Ghazali’s Theory of Mystical Cognition and its Avicennian Foundation
(Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2012), 24-25.
55
al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 40-43. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 85-89.
56
Ibid.
57
Ibid.
58
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 39.
59
Al-Ghazali, Jawahir al-Qur’an, transl. Muhammad Abul Quasem, The
Jewels of the Qur’an, 38-39.

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realities beyond sense experience are understood because


intelligibles possess a correspondence with sense data.60
Yet, such correspondences need proper interpretation and
evaluation, or else, one would fall into error. Evaluation of
correspondences is brought about when the cogitative faculty
weighs them against primary intelligibles (al-ma’qulat al-ula) that
are innately developed in the soul, gaining inference of realities and
forming necessary conclusions through an orderly and gradual (‘ala
tartib wa tadrij) discovery of the middle term of syllogisms to
produce more composite and higher cognitions known as secondary
intelligibles (al-ma’qulat al-thaniyah), thereby expanding the
repository of knowledge.61 Hence, this cogitative faculty (quwwah
nazariyyah), also known as theoretical intelligence (al-‘aql al-
nazari), is responsible for both the logical and creative aspects of
thinking, with the logical aspect relating to its evaluative function
whereas the creative aspect relates to the inventive or innovative
function.62 This creative function of the intellect leading to the
expansion of the stock of knowledge by virtue of multiplying a
single meaning or by unifying many meanings depends on the
partial illumination of the intellect by the Divine light, reflecting al-

60
Al-Ghazali, Al-Maqsad al-Asna fi Sharh Asma’ Allah al-Husna, transl.
David Burrell & Nazih Daher. The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God
(Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2012), 38-39.
61
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 40-43. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 85-90. One of the examples of primary
intelligibles given is the belief that the whole is greater than its part. al-
Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 37.
62
Mohd Zaidi Ismail, Islam and Higher Order Thinking: An Overview
(Kuala Lumpur: IKIM, 2014), 23-26. As Al-Attas elaborates on this
creative function in al-Ghazali’s theory of cognition: “The soul is
therefore not something passive; it is creative and through perception,
imagination and intelligence it participates in this ‘creation’ and
interpretation of the world’s sense and sensible experience, of images,
and of intelligible forms and ideas.” See Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the
Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995), 171

77
Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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Ghazali’s Ash’arite Occationalist position of ultimate dependency


on God’s will.63
Al-Attas summarizes al-Ghazali’s theory of abstraction as
serving four fundamental cognitive purposes: 64
1) The isolation of single universals from particulars
by way of abstraction of their meanings from
matter and from material connections and
connective relations; and consideration of the
common and differentiating factors in their
essential and accidental existence. Through this
process the soul acquires the principle of ideas by
utilizing the imagination and the estimation, such
as the genus and the differentia, the general and
particular accident.
2) The establishment of comparative relations and
ratios between the single universals in the manner
of negation and affirmation.
3) The acquisition of empirical premises, which are
obtained by means of senses through sensible
experience, and by means of the process of
reasoning from parallel cases, or analogy, through
repeated observation.
4) Reports that are successively transmitted on which
rest true beliefs.

However, as we have indicated and elaborated earlier,


abstraction as the cognitive process in teacher-directed learning is
merely a basic method of knowledge acquisition. There exists a

63
Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The Sources of Knowledge in al-Ghazali’s Thought,
32. For a more comprehensive treatment of al-Ghazali’s view of
causality, refer to Hamid Fahmi Zarkasyi, Al-Ghazali’s Concept of
Causality (Kuala Lumpur: IIUM Press, 2010), 189-226.
64
Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur:
ISTAC, 1995), 166.

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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more superior mode of knowing that is known as God-directed


learning with intuition as the main source of knowledge acquisition
without the need for sensory intermediary, which will be elaborated
in greater detail in the next section.
Intuition as Perfection of Man’s Theoretical and Practical
Intelligence
Apart from abstraction, it is also possible to apprehend realities
directly by virtue of intuition without the medium of sense data and
sensory perception. Perception in this noetic mode is ethereal,
metaphysical, and spiritual in nature (laṭifa rabbaniyya ruhaniyya),
brought about by an intellect or heart that is mature, pure and in the
complete form of absolute actuality (nisbah ma bi al-fi’l al-muṭlaq);
a heart or intellect that is devoted exclusively to the remembrance
of God such that it comes in direct contact with realities imprinted
upon the First Intellect (al-‘aql al-awwal), Active Intellect (al-‘aql
al-fa‘al), the Universal Soul (al-nafs al-kulli), the Universal
Intellect (al-‘aql al-kulli), the Preserved Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfuz),
the Pen (al-qalam) or the Angel Gabriel (ruh al-quds).65 This state
of perfection is known as the holy prophetic spirit (al-ruh al-qudsi
al-nabawi)66 which is the highest stage of perfection of the human
cognitive potential. Even at this stage, there are different levels
ranging from the saints to the prophets, with the latter witnessing in
wakefulness what the former may witness in dream state.67 Intuition
is only made possible when five impediments of knowledge, which
are inadequate natural development, acts of disobedience,
distractions, prejudices, and ignorance of logic as rules of correct

65
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 89-90. Al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah
Rasa’il al-Imam al-Ghazali, 67-68. Margaret Smith, The Message From
On High, 38-39. Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum
al-Din, 13-18 & 77 Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 6-
9 & 60). Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The Sources of Knowledge in al-Ghazali’s
Thought, 38-39.
66
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 37.
67
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 34-35.

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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reasoning and inference, are removed.68 On the other hand, al-


Ghazali puts special emphasis on the removal of the second and
third type of impediment through self-discipline and purification.69
This is possibly because deficiency by natural development can be
removed with time, whereas prejudices and ignorance of logical
rules can be removed with instruction (ta‘lim). Self-discipline and
purification, however, is more difficult because it depends on the
personal struggle of one against his own self.70 Furthermore, it is
through spiritual striving and struggle and not through instruction
and thinking alone that Man is returned to his primordial state where
the original instinctive knowledge embedded within him becomes
realized.71 As such, intuition is not exclusive only to prophets,
although intuition of normal man designated as inspiration (al-
ilham) or insight (al-hads) differs in quality, content as well as the
form of transmission.72
The process of intuition, like abstraction, is also intricately
connected to the faculty of imagination. When the intellect or the
heart is in direct contact with the Universal Soul (al-nafs al-kulli)
or Universal Intellect (al-‘aql al-kulli) where all realities are
imprinted upon, it is illuminated totally and wholly as opposed to
partially and gradually as in the case of abstraction.73 As such,

68
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 67-73.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 51-56.
69
Ibid. Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The Sources of Knowledge in al-Ghazali’s
Thought, 61. Al-Attas clarifies this matter in the following excerpt:
“When, however, consciousness of the body and of the subjective self or
ego is subdued, the intellect will be able to make contact with the Active
Intelligence and will then be capable of perceiving the abstract realities
as they are.” See Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam
(Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995), 169.
70
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 46-47. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 94-96.
71
Al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R. Crook, Alchemy of
Happiness, 21-22.
72
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 62-63. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 132.
73
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 62. Also see
Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the

80
Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
Jurnal Qalbu 2.3 (Okt 2017): 63-103

intelligibles in its true form would appear all at once as unveiled


knowledge in the imagination in the form of revelation (wahy),
inspiration (ilham) and intuitive insight (hads) whether in the state
of dreaming or in wakefulness.74 While revelation is an exclusive
property of prophets, as we have mentioned, unveiled knowledge is
still possible for Man, the highest of them being the intuition of
Existence where one gains vision of Truth-Reality and access to the
Transcendent and Immanent aspects of God manifested in a unified
manner.75 Through this, he becomes illuminated by the light of
theoretical wisdom and gains an understanding of the fundamental
knowledge of the Qur’an and the works of God which is the
wellspring of all ancient, contemporary, and future sciences and
disciplines of knowledge.76
This highest stage of perfection of human cognitive
potential, however, is not to be misunderstood as a perfection that
is purely theoretical and separate from practice or action. According
to al-Ghazali, this perfection corresponds to the submission of the
practical intelligence (al-‘aql al-‘amali) to the theoretical
intelligence such that one possesses the capacity to know the ends
of things and one is able to subsequently subdue the temptations of
his carnal urges in view of the ends.77 In other words, the perfection

Path of Self-Knowledge” 131-132. The analogy given by al-Ghazali to


describe the intuitive process is the instantaneous formation of images
in the mirror when it is directed at another mirror; this other mirror refers
to the heavenly soul (nufus samawiyah) where it is said that all
knowledge is imprinted upon.
74
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 62-63. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 132. Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The Sources of
Knowledge in al-Ghazali’s Thought, 50.
75
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 16-18. Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The Sources of Knowledge in al-
Ghazali’s Thought, 62-63.
76
Al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of
Lights, 10. Al-Ghazali, Jawahir al-Qur’an, transl. Muhammad Abul
Quasem, The Jewels of the Qur’an, 7-9. Mohd Zaidi Ismail, The Sources
of Knowledge in al-Ghazali’s Thought, 57.
77
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 314. Nabih Amin Faris,
The Book of Knowledge, 269. Honerkampf, K. Al-Ghazali Kitab al’Ilm,
255.

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of the human cognitive potential is described by al-Ghazali as the


complete cognition of the form, order, and goodness in material,
intellectual and spiritual existents resulting in the perception of
Absolute Beauty, Absolute Good and Absolute Grace, thereby
being impressed upon with its characteristics leading to
praiseworthy human action that conforms to its course.78
This conformity to beauty, goodness and grace is known as
practical wisdom (hikmah khulqiyyah) which guides deliberate or
voluntary movements (harakah ikhtiyariyah) produced by Man.79
Unlike animals, voluntary movements produced by man are are not
only restricted to action (harakah fi’liyyah), it extends towards
thoughts (harakah fikriyyah) and speech (harakah qawliyyah) as
well.80 Therefore, the framework of ethics and morality in Islam
otherwise designated as practical wisdom is not restricted to the
external that is observable and performative, but extends to the
internal such as the states of the heart (ahwal al-qalb).81 Since
willing or voluntary movements is possible in human beings, there
must exist a volitional capacity responsible for its production; this
is known as the human will (iradah) which is the conative
dimension of Man, distinguishing him above the animals.82
According to al-Ghazali, iradah refers to the rousing of the heart
towards what it thinks accords with its present or future goal.83

78
Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the
Path of Self-Knowledge” 274-275.
79
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 30. Also see
Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the
Path of Self-Knowledge” 63.
80
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 30. Also see
Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the
Path of Self-Knowledge” 63.
81
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 14-15. Nabih Amin
Faris, The Book of Knowledge, 15-16. Honerkampf, K. Al-Ghazali Kitab
al’Ilm, xlv-xlvi). al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R. Crook,
Alchemy of Happiness, 2 & 8.
82
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 30. Also see
Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the
Path of Self-Knowledge” 63.
83
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-Niyya wa al-ikhlas wa al-sidq of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-
Din, 20. Shaker, A. F., Al-Ghazali On Intention, Sincerity and
Truthfulness: Book XXXVII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences, 11.

82
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When the will (iradah) is combined with the motive (ba‘ith)


through the precept of desire (al-nafs) and inclination for whatever
agrees with the present or future goal (gharad ba‘ith), intention
(niyyah) is formed.84 Intention is described as an intermediary
attribute (al-sifah al-mutawasiṭah) between knowledge and action,
or the soul’s motivation, orientation and inclination towards what
appears to it to contain purpose in this world or the next.85 In this
case, the capacity for movement (quwwah muharrikah) is directed
by the faculty of reason (al-quwwah al-‘aqliyah), stimulating the
power (al-qudrah) to produce movements of the body based on the
soul’s (al-nafs) presuppositions of what attracts benefit or repels
harm.86 These presuppositions are supplied by the appetitive faculty
(shahwah) which influences the soul into pursuing what he
considers to be beneficial or by the irascible faculty (ghadab) which
influences him to flee from what he considers to be harmful.87
In other words, ethico-moral action is not possible without
the capacity to know what is beneficial and what is harmful to the
soul because it is through the medium of cognition (rasul al-‘ilm)
that action becomes possible.88 Presupposition or cognition of

Despite their apparent synonymy, will and intention actually do have


different nuances. According to Asham, will is more related to causality
of action whereas intention relates to morality of action. This is treated
comprehensively by his study of al-Ghazali’s theory of action in
Chapters 2 and 3 of Human Action: An Exposition and Analysis of its
Constituents.
84
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-Niyya wa al-ikhlas wa al-sidq of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-
Din, 21 & 47. Shaker, A. F., Al-Ghazali On Intention, Sincerity and
Truthfulness: Book XXXVII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences, 13
& 37).
85
Ibid.
86
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 61-67 & Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 130-142. al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib
al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 26-29 Walter James Skellie, The Marvels
of the Heart , 17-20). al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R.
Crook, Alchemy of Happiness, 453.
87
Ibid.
88
Ibid. Also, see al-Ghazali, “Minhaj al-‘Abidin ila Jannati Rabbi al-
‘Alamin”. Transl. Muhtar Holland, The Path of the Worshipful Servants
to the Garden of the Lord of All the Worlds (Florida: Al-Baz, 2000), 20.

83
Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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benefit and harm that is derived internally, on the other hand, occurs
in the faculty of imagination (quwwah khayaliyyah), which, in turn,
is also influenced by external involuntary suggestions (khawaṭir)
derived from either angelic influences (ilham) or satanic influences
(wiswas) that may cause the soul to either continue or deviate from
his intended course of action.89 That which drives the soul to
continue with the intended course of action is resolution (‘azam) in
spite of external influences such that action and not mere inclination
is produced, which is described as the sustenance and nourishment
for the intention to eventually stir the soul into action.90 Therefore,
it is the combined effect of both intention and resolution that
eventually rouses the motor members of the body to produce an
action.91
Consequently, since intention of the heart precedes action,
the extent of its purity determines whether an action is considered a
vice or a virtue.92 For instance, the purpose of the act of prostration
(sujud) during prayers is to establish the virtue of humility.93 Yet, if
it is performed with an inattentive heart, the virtue of humility will
not be established.94 Similarly, if it is performed for ostentation, it

One of the conditions of submission (taklif), according to al-Ghazali, is


the capacity for cognition leading to volitional-intentional action,
without which blame cannot be accorded even if the action is
reprehensible. As such, ethico-moral rules does not apply to the insane
nor to the immature. See al-Ghazali, al-Mustasfa Min ‘Ilm al-Usul.
transl. Ahmad Zaki Mansur Hammad, “Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s
Juristric Doctrine” 409-417.
89
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 96-98.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 77-79.
90
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-Niyya wa al-ikhlas wa al-sidq of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-
Din, 27. Shaker, A. F., Al-Ghazali On Intention, Sincerity and
Truthfulness: Book XXXVII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences, 19.
91
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 96-98.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 77-79.
92
Al-Ghazali, al-Mustasfa Min ‘Ilm al-Usul. trans. Ahmad Zaki Mansur
Hammad, “Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Juristric Doctrine” 409-417.
93
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-Niyya wa al-ikhlas wa al-sidq of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-
Din, 25-30. Shaker, A. F., Al-Ghazali On Intention, Sincerity and
Truthfulness: Book XXXVII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences, 17-
23.
94
Ibid.

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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is the vice of pride and not the virtue of humility that is


established.95 Yet, good intentions alone does not make an action
virtuous; acts of disobedience (ma‘asi) will remain as sins towards
God even if it is performed with good intentions.96 Such a state,
according to al-Ghazali, is in fact a state of ignorance, necessitating
the significance of seeking knowledge of the religion and its
precepts in order to remove it.97 In this sense, whether an act is
considered as virtuous depends both on good intentions as well as
knowledge of good and praiseworthy actions.
In light of intentions being an intermediary attribute,
according to al-Ghazali, intentions are not a matter of choice (al-
niyyah ghayr dakhilat tahta al-ikhtiyar); one cannot intend
something just by professing it in the heart, orally, or by thinking
about it.98 As mentioned earlier, intention is merely an effect arising
from the combination of both the will and the motive that is supplied
by the cognitive and imaginative faculties. Moreover, prompted by
involuntary suggestions derived from satanic influences, the
practical faculty can become dominated and governed by appetitive
and irascible faculties, producing extreme actions, vices, and acts of
disobedience.99 Likewise, when the angelic influences
predominates, the appetitive and aggressive sub-faculties will be
governed harmoniously, producing virtuous actions and
behaviors.100 As such, the role of education in this case is to nurture
the cognitive and imaginative faculties such that right action can be
distinguished from wrong, and right action can be resolutely
produced despite the presence of external satanic influences or the
absence of external angelic influences.

95
Ibid.
96
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-Niyya wa al-ikhlas wa al-sidq of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-
Din, 31-36. Shaker, A. F., Al-Ghazali On Intention, Sincerity and
Truthfulness: Book XXXVII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences, 24-
28.
97
Ibid.
98
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-Niyya wa al-ikhlas wa al-sidq of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-
Din, 47. Shaker, A. F., Al-Ghazali On Intention, Sincerity and
Truthfulness: Book XXXVII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences, 37.
99
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 39-46.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 29-34.
100
Ibid.

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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Man then has to struggle against himself (mujahadah) until


the desire and anger is made to submit to the control and authority
of the intellect even in the presence of satanic influences or the
absence of angelic influences.101 To understand this better al-
Ghazali provides a parable where the soul is like a ruler, the body is
its kingdom, the intellectual powers is its sincere advisor and
minister, the appetitive faculty is the evil slave who brings food and
provisions to the kingdom and the irascible faculty is the chief of
police.102 When the ruler seeks the advice of the minister, shuns the
counsel of the evil slave, and utilizes the chief of police to make the
slave subject to orders and directions and not be subjected to the
slave’s orders and directions, the kingdom will be in a state of
justice.103 In another parable, the intellect is like a horseman who
has gone out hunting, his appetitive faculty is his horse and his anger
is his dog.104 The horseman would succeed if he is proficient and
both his horse and dog are trained and disciplined.105 Likewise, he
would fail if he is clumsy, his horse ungovernable and his dog
disobedient.106 Successful development of the practical intelligence
would enable one to attain a stable state of interior equilibrium
known as the tranquil soul (nafs muṭma’innah) where beautiful and
praiseworthy actions and movements proceed from a firmly
established condition (hay’a) of the soul without any need for
deliberation.107 When this sound and balanced condition is achieved
in accordance to wisdom (hikmah) that distinguishes true from false

101
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Riyadat al-Nafs of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, published as
Book 5 of 9 Books, (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2011), 199-206. Transl. T.
J. Winter, Al-Ghazali On Disciplining The Soul (Cambridge: Islamic
Texts Society, 1995), 24-30. al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of
Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 42. Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart,
31). al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R. Crook, Alchemy of
Happiness, 712-713.
102
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 26-29,
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 17-20. al-Ghazali,
Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R. Crook, Alchemy of Happiness, 11-13.
103
Ibid.
104
Ibid.
105
Ibid.
106
Ibid.
107
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 16-17.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 7-8).

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in all volitional acts, the irascible faculty produces courage


(shuja‘a) while the appetitive faculty produces temperance
(‘iffa).108 The condition in the soul where the mean between
extremism of both the irascible and the appetitive is achieved is
called justice (‘adl).109 As such, al-Ghazali arrives at the four
fundamental virtues (fadail) which are the indicators of the
perfection of the affective-executive dimension of man.110
However, in accordance with the worldview of Islam, al-
Ghazali says that absolute perfection belongs only to God whereas
perfection in other existing things is merely relative.111 Perfection,
according to al-Ghazali, is merely the degree of closeness to God.112
Therefore, perfection of Man is the extent at which Man attempts to
inculcate the Divine characteristics, bringing him close to the
Divine (rabbani).113 Furthermore, the goodness of a thing is
recognized not by virtue of the intellect alone, but by virtue of
religion and its laws (shari‘ah) which guides the intellect.114 As
such, the concept of perfection must be understood within the
boundaries set by the religion of Islam; a thing or an activity would
not constitute as a perfection if it lies outside the boundaries set by
God. Therefore, perfect men refer to those who have been brought
close to God (rabbani); the Prophets, followed by his Companions,
the Saints, learned men who are well versed in knowledge, and the
righteous, with the Prophet Muhammad being the most perfect
because he has attained the highest state of perfection of all the three
human domains described.115 As such, the Holy Prophet represents

108
al-Ghazali, Kitab Riyadat al-Nafs of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 194-198. T.
J. Winter, Al-Ghazali On Disciplining The Soul, 19-23.
109
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Riyadat al-Nafs of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 194-198. T.
J. Winter, Al-Ghazali On Disciplining The Soul, 19-23.
110
Ibid.
111
Al-Ghazali, Al-Maqsad Al-Asna fi Sharh Asma’ Allah al-Husna
(Damascus: Maṭbah Al-Sabah, 1999), 30.
112
Ibid.
113
Ibid., 149.
114
Al-Ghazali, al-Mustasfa Min ‘Ilm al-Usul, transl. Ahmad Zaki Mansur
Hammad, “Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Juristric Doctrine” 325-339.
115
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 22 & 197. Nabih Amin
Faris, The Book of Knowledge, 23 &167. Honerkampf, K. Al-Ghazali
Kitab al’Ilm, 6 & 153). al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R.
Crook, Alchemy of Happiness, 25. Because there is a living model for

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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the human model for the imitation of Divine characteristics,


possessing all qualities at the highest level of perfection,
establishing the absolute standard of achievement that every human
being should aspire towards.116 However, falling short of the highest
rank of perfection according to al-Ghazali does not mean that the
attempted pursuit of excellence is completely worthless.117 Human
excellence (fadilah) according to al-Ghazali is also relative in the
sense that each person attains perfection according to his own
station, and not everyone is expected to attain the highest level of
perfection that is restricted only to Divinely-chosen prophets
occupying the highest rank in the hierarchy of being and
existence.118 Therefore, human perfection has both absolute and
relative aspects, with the former relating to the Prophet as the model
of perfection and the latter relating to the attainment of perfection

all Muslims to emulate and not just an ideal man that exists in abstract
thoughts, Al-Attas argues that Islamic societies are not beset by a crisis
of identity. See Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam
(Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995), 81-84.
116
Al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R. Crook, Alchemy of
Happiness, 25. Al-Ghazali, Kitab Adab al-Ma'ishah Wa Akhlaq al-
Nubuwwah of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, published as Book 4 out of 9 Books,
(Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2011), 711-716. Transl. Leon Zolondek, Book
XX of al-Ghazali's Ihya' 'Ulum al-din, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1963), 19-23.
117
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 197. Nabih Amin
Faris, The Book of Knowledge, 167. Honerkampf, K. Al-Ghazali Kitab
al’Ilm, 153).
118
Ibid. al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche
of Lights, 21-24. A more comprehensive treatment of the nature of
prophecy being the exclusive property of divinely-selected prophets can
be found in al-Ghazali, Tahafut al-Falasifah, transl. Micheal E.
Marmura, The Incoherence of Philosophers 164 and al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij
al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 107-108. Also see Yusuf Easa
Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through the Path of Self-
Knowledge” 230-233.The idea of one’s spiritual rank or proper place in
the hierarchy of being and existence is central to Al-Attas’ philosophy
of education as clarified in the term adab, which he defines as the
“recognition and acknowledgement of the reality that knowledge and
being are ordered hierarchically according to their various grades and
degrees of rank, and of one’s proper place in relation to that reality and
to one’s physical, intellectual and spiritual capacities and potentials.”
Al-Attas, The Concept of Education in Islam, 27.

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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within his own proper place with the intent of seeking God’s
pleasure. With this, educational excellence is the progressive
attainment of the Prophet’s character.
In summary, by perfection, al-Ghazali means tamma which
conveys the meaning of completion, having everything possible
present within them, as well as kamal which is the attainment of
essential purpose and reality, with the latter being more
comprehensive than the former. In this regard, Man is considered to
be the most perfect among all creation because he is endowed with
the capacity to know as well as the capacity to act in accordance to
his knowledge, apart from having all other capacities exhibited by
plant and animal species. Moreover, it is these two capacities that
outlines his essential purpose of existence and reality as a spirit
(ruh), a soul (nafs), an intellect (‘aql) and a heart (qalb). Each term,
on the other hand, corresponds to a specific reality of Man; the spirit
refers to his Divine origin, the soul refers to Man’s reality in relation
to action, whereas the intellect and the heart refers to Man’s reality
as his capability for abstraction and intuition of knowledge
respectively. By abstraction, it is understood as the means through
which knowledge is attained through the medium of sense data,
gathered by the sensory perception of the sensitive spirit before it is
being processed and retained by the imaginative spirit, which
subsequently supplies the cognitive material for further appraisal by
the intelligential and cogitative spirits endowed with organs of
apprehension, evaluation, and innovation. By intuition, it refers to
the means through which knowledge is attained without the medium
of sense data, manifesting itself as revelation, inspiration, and
insight. Knowledge that is apprehended in this manner is known as
unveiled knowledge, and its attainment is made possible only
through the perfection of Man’s theoretical intelligence together
with his practical intelligence, that is, his attainment of sincere
intentions as well as his achievement of a state of equilibrium
known as the tranquil soul. Such states of perfection are attained by
the Prophets and the Saints who represent the models for perfection.
Therefore, perfection is said to be achieved when both theoretical
and practical perfection is attained like how it is manifested in the
character of the Prophets and Saints, and the role of education is
ultimately to arrive at this perfection. We then arrive at the question:
what kind of education?

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
Jurnal Qalbu 2.3 (Okt 2017): 63-103

EDUCATION AS TA’DIB
As profound thinkers, al-Ghazali and al-Attas have utilized
different terms to describe education such as ta’dib, riyadah,
tarbiyah, tahdhib and ta‘lim.119 Among all of these terms, it is ta’dib
that is most accurate in defining education because its meaning is
inclusive of all the other four terms, whereas riyadah (self-
discipline), tarbiyah (upbringing), tahdhib (purification) and ta‘lim
(instruction), meaning-wise, are particular aspects of education.120
Ta’dib, being derived from adab, is to bring forth (istikhraj) the
potentialities and latent character traits of Man (al-quwwah wa al-
khuluq) into action (ila al-fi’il) through the actualization of good
natural disposition (al-sajiyyah al-salihah).121 The movement from
a state of potentiality to a state of actuality, as we have clarified
earlier, is the movement from a state of forgetfulness yet being
potentially capable of recollection to a state where one actually
recalls what he has learnt in his state of natural purity (fiṭrah).122 By
this, al-Ghazali means the realization of the Divine trust (al-
amanah), of knowledge (ma’rifah), and of Divine unity (tauhid).123

119
Asmaa’ Mohd Arshad, “Ethical Dimension of Child Education of Abu
Hamid al-Ghazali: An Early Example of Islamization of Contemporary
Knowledge” (Master’s thesis, ISTAC, 2000), 13-36.
120
Asmaa’ Mohd Arshad, “Ethical Dimension of Child Education of Abu
Hamid al-Ghazali: An Early Example of Islamization of Contemporary
Knowledge”, 13-36. This conclusion is derived from Al-Attas’ analysis
of key terms in education. See Al-Attas, The Concept of Education in
Islam (Petaling Jaya: Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, 1980), 25.
121
Al-Ghazali, “Rawḍah al-Talibin,” in Majmu‘ah al-Rasa’il al-Imam al-
Ghazali (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2013), 11-12. Asmaa’
Mohd Arshad, “Ethical Dimension of Child Education of Abu Hamid
al-Ghazali: An Early Example of Islamization of Contemporary
Knowledge”,13. Al-Attas who follows the Ghazalian tradition further
defines ta’dib as “the recognition and acknowledgement, progressively
instilled into man, of the proper places of things in the order of creation,
such that it leads to the recognition and acknowledgement of God in the
order of being and existence.” See Al-Attas, The Concept of Education
in Islam, 25.
122
Al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah Rasa’il al-Imam
al-Ghazali, 71-73. Margaret Smith, The Message From On High 52-59.
123
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 47-59.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 44.

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This is ultimately the realization of the primordial covenant


(mithaq) with God both individually and collectively as souls of
mankind, recognizing and acknowledging Him as their Lord.124
This movement from potentiality to actuality which we
have already defined as perfection requires personal effort (kasb al-
adami) of righteous practice and self-discipline (husn al-mumarisah
wa al-riyadah).125 Just as plants need pruning (tashdhib) and
animals require training (tahdhib), Man also requires instruction,
strengthening and direction so that the correct movements of
thoughts, deeds and words are chosen.126 As such, efforts of
education are aimed at purifying human movements (harakat al-
insani) from falsehood (baṭil) in thoughts, dishonesty (kidhb) in
words and evil (sharr) in deeds.127 In another account, four realms
of an individual requiring disciplining is mentioned instead of three:
thoughts, words, deeds and intentions.128
In this regard, we can deduce two fundamental points.
Firstly, the primary object of education according to al-Ghazali is
individual Man and not society per se.129 Following al-Ghazali, al-

124
In clarification of the primordial covenant, al-Attas mentioned that
“The rightly guided man realizes that the very self, his soul, has already
acknowledged God as his Lord, even before his existence as a man, so
that such a man recognizes his Creator and Cherisher and Sustainer.”
See Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur:
ISTAC, 1995), 46 & 197.
125
Al-Ghazali, “Rawḍah al-Talibin,” in Majmu’at al-Rasa’il al-Imam al-
Ghazali (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2013), 11-12.
126
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 31-32. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge”, 64-66. al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar,
transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of Lights 23-24.
127
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 31-32. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 64-66. al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar,
transl. David Buchmann, The Niche of Lights , 23-24.
128
Al-Ghazali, “Rauḍah al-Talibin,” in Majmu’ah al-Rasa’il al-Imam al-
Ghazali, (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1998), 99.
129
In clarification of the issue, al-Attas explains that “The purpose of
seeking knowledge is to inculcate goodness or justice in man as man and
individual self, and not merely in man as citizen or integral part of
society: it is man’s value as real man, as the dweller in his self’s city, as

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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Attas clarifies that although the individual is central to such a


philosophy of education, this is not meant in a dualistic and
exclusive sense of denying the social and professional objectives of
education because social outcomes is also expected from the
education of the individual as exemplified in al-Ghazali’s idea of
seeking knowledge as a communal obligation (fard kifayah).
Furthermore, the ultimate concern of education according to al-
Ghazali is ethico-moral and character development which is
inclusive of how one develops and maintains good interpersonal
relationships.130
Secondly, with regards to efforts required to produce
correct movements, the educational process is brought about firstly
through upbringing (tarbiyah) which al-Ghazali explains as a
process towards a state of perfection or completion, hence its
meaning includes the non-human context such as animal and plant
species.131 In the context of the human soul, however, tarbiyah is
used synonymously with tazkiyah, referring to character
development through the guidance of a teacher without necessarily
involving the inculcation of knowledge in the process.132 Yet, the
success of the educational process is not only dependent on the
teacher. According to al-Ghazali, the outcome of education is
largely dependent on the personal efforts of the student as outlined
in the terms riyadah and tahdhib which convey the meanings of
self-discipline and purification of the student respectively.
Pertaining to riyadah, it is defined as the training of the soul
or the struggle (mujahadah) of man against his self such that a state

citizen in his own microcosmic kingdom, as spirit, that is stressed, rather


than his value as a physical entity measured in terms of the pragmatic or
utilitarian sense of his usefulness to state and society and the world.”
See Al-Attas, Islam and Secularism (Kuala Lumpur: ABIM, 1978), 141.
130
Al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah Rasa’il al-Imam
al-Ghazali, 64-65. Margaret Smith, The Message From On High, 30-31.
131
Al-Ghazali, Ayyuha al-Walad, transl. David C. Reisman, Bradley J.
Cook ed., “O Son!,” In Classical Foundations of Islamic Educational
Thought (Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2010), 100. al-
Ghazali, Kitab Riyadat al-Nafs of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 199-200. T. J.
Winter, Al-Ghazali On Disciplining The Soul, 25.
132
David C. Reisman, Bradley J. Cook ed., “O Son!,” In Classical
Foundations of Islamic Educational Thought, 100. Al-Attas, The
Concept of Education in Islam, 28-33.

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of equilibrium of the human intellect and his irascible and appetitive


faculties is attained through a gradual process starting from gentle
to intense effort such that difficult states and practices becomes
plain and simple.133 On the other hand, tahdhib as self-purification
refers to the need for obedience to God, because disobedience leads
to impurities that are heaped upon the face of the heart and
decreasing its potential for illumination of knowledge.134 Yet, like
upbringing, self-discipline and purification does not necessarily
involve knowledge and understanding.135
The process that supplies the cognitive content of education
is conveyed in the terms ta‘lim and ta‘allum which means teaching
and learning respectively. Literally, teaching and learning refers
only to the method of acquiring knowledge through studying with a
human teacher or teacher-directed learning (al-ta‘allum al-insani),
which al-Ghazali describes as a familiar method that is
acknowledged by all intelligent men.136 In this case, acquisition of
knowledge takes place from without (min kharij).137 This process is
described as the excitation of a student's attention through the
mediation of words of wisdom (kalam al-hikmah) derived by an
individual (al-shakhs) from another particular individual (al-shakhs
al-juz’i), otherwise known as a rightly-guided teacher (sheikh
murshid murabbi), re-directing the student’s attention away from
the realm of sense-perception and into the realm of ideas and
intelligibles.138 In this sense, the guiding role of proper teachers in

133
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Riyadat al-Nafs of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 207-208. T.
J. Winter, Al-Ghazali On Disciplining The Soul, 31-32.
134
Al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 49-50.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 36-37.
135
For a better understanding of moral disciplining as a process that does
not necessarily require an intellectual understanding of it, see Al-Attas,
The Concept of Education in Islam, 34.
136
Al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah Rasa’il al-Imam
al-Ghazali,, 67. Margaret Smith, The Message From On High, 38.
Margaret Smith translates al-ta‘allum al-insani as ‘human learning’, but
we choose to translate it as ‘teacher-directed learning’ instead in line
with modern parlance.
137
Ibid.
138
Ibid. al-Ghazali, Mishkat al-Anwar, transl. David Buchmann, The Niche
of Lights 9. David C. Reisman, Bradley J. Cook ed., “O Son!,” In
Classical Foundations of Islamic Educational Thought, 100.

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providing cognitive content in the education process is regarded by


al-Ghazali as fundamental because even though information can be
gathered through a multitude of resources, it is through a teacher
that the context and correct application can be correctly
apprehended.139 In another more psychological account of learning,
al-Ghazali describes the words of wisdom derived from such a
teacher as one of the means through which the middle term of a
syllogism is discovered, that is, the means through which a
conclusion can be deduced from two apparently separate premises
or ideas.140
However, al-Ghazali introduces another concept of learning
that is more comprehensive as compared to teacher-directed
learning. This is known as al-ta‘allum al-rabbani or God-directed
learning.141 In God-directed learning, knowledge acquisition takes
place in two stages: from without (min kharij) with acquisition of
knowledge through learning (al-tahsil bi al-ta‘allum), and
subsequently from within (min dakhil) with the preoccupation with
thinking (al-ishtighal bi al-tafakkur).142 In this sense, God-directed

139
Al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R. Crook, Alchemy of
Happiness, 471-476.
140
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 121. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 258. According to Ibn Khaldun, it is the
middle term that connect two extremes of negation (al-nafi) and
assertion (al-ithbat). See Ibn Khaldun, “Kitab al-‘Ibar”. Transl. with
Arabic text. Franz Rosenthal, Bradley J. Cook, ed., “Muqaddimah”, in
Classical Foundations of Islamic Educational Thought (Utah: Brigham
Young University Press, 2010), 213.
141
Al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah Rasa’il al-Imam
al-Ghazali, 67. Margaret Smith, The Message From On High, 38.
Margaret Smith translates al-ta‘allum al-rabbani as ‘Divine Learning’,
but we choose to translate it as ‘God-directed learning’ to make it
distinct from ‘teacher-directed learning’ introduced earlier. On the
surface, God-directed learning seems to agree with many descriptions
associated with independent learning or self-directed learning.
However, in line with the Qur’anic worldview where knowledge is not
produced in the intellect spontaneously but is always taught ultimately
by God, God-directed learning is a better substitute as a term for any
Muslim educationist. See Surah Al-‘Alaq (96) : 5.
142
Ibid.

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
Jurnal Qalbu 2.3 (Okt 2017): 63-103

learning builds from teacher-directed learning, yet excels it by also


preparing the student for the capacity to exercise personal judgment
through the process of thinking (tafakkur).143 By thinking, al-
Ghazali means the movement of the soul to a state that is gradually
nearer to ultimate knowledge of a thing such that a partial
apprehension of causes, effects and evidences is attained.144 The act
of thinking, coupled with self discipline, good upbringing and
purification, renders the possibility of ‘learning from within’
otherwise known as intuition. According to al-Ghazali, intuition can
be manifested in the forms of revelation (wahy), inspiration (ilham)
or intuitive insight (hads).145 Revelation is exclusive only to
Prophets that are appointed by God, whereas inspiration and
intuitive insight can be rendered possible for normal man once the
organs and instruments of cognition are perfected.146 Intuition is
distinguished from thinking by virtue that it involves a complete and
total unveiling of causes, effects and evidences as opposed to it

143
Al-Ghazali, “al-Qisṭas al-Mustaqim,” in Majmu’at al-Rasa’il al-Imam
al-Ghazali, (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2013), 33-39. Transl. R.
J. McCarthy, The Just Balance. In I. Lichtenstadter, Library of Classical
Arabic Literature, Vol IV (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1980), 318-
325.
144
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 121. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 259-260. According to Ibn Khaldun,
thinking can be classified into three degrees: the first degree of thinking,
performed at the stage of intellectual discernment (al-‘aql al-tamyiz), is
the development of understanding of things that lie beyond the external
world such that conceptions (tasawwurat) that are useful for his
livelihood are apprehended. The second degree of thinking is the
capacity to think such that ideas consisting of assent (tasdiqat) and
proprieties necessary in dealing with people are apprehended; this stage
is known as experiential intellect (al-‘aql al-tajribi). The third and
highest stage is the apprehension of knowledge or conjectures that
consist of both conception and assent of a thing beyond sense perception
without any practical activity in it. See Franz Rosenthal, Bradley J.
Cook, ed., “Muqaddimah”, in Classical Foundations of Islamic
Educational Thought, 211.
145
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 62-63. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 132.
146
Ibid.

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Muhammad Hasanul Ariffin Zawawi, “Ta’dib And The Concept Of The Perfect Man”,
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being only partially and gradually revealed.147 Furthermore, it is a


mode of cognition that does not involve sense perception as an
intermediary; it is the process through which knowledge is acquired
directly from God, hence classified as God-directed learning.148 The
object of intuition is unveiled knowledge (al-‘ilm al-mukashafah)
which refers to a total and holistic understanding of a thing.
Although unveiled knowledge involves any disciplines of
knowledge where understanding regarding is clear and holistic, the
highest among them is unveiled knowledge regarding the reality of
existence because knowledge of it corresponds with the experience
of true happiness.149 Yet, the attainment of al-‘ilm al-mukashafah

147
Al-Ghazali, Ma‘arij al-Quds Fi Madarij Ma‘rifat al-Nafs, 121. Also
see Yusuf Easa Shammas, “Al-Ghazali’s Ascent to the Divine Through
the Path of Self-Knowledge” 259-260.
148
Ibid.
149
Al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah Rasa’il al-Imam
al-Ghazali, 72. Also see Margaret Smith, The Message From On High,
56. al-Ghazali, Kitab Sharh ‘Ajaib al-Qalb of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 32.
Walter James Skellie, The Marvels of the Heart, 23). Mohd Zaidi Ismail,
The Sources of Knowledge in al-Ghazali’s Thought, 37. Al-Attas
clarifies the issue of intuition: “With regard to intuition, and at the
normal level of human consciousness, the higher levels to which men of
science and learning attain, in the moments of their decisive discoveries
of laws and principles that govern the world of nature, are levels that
commensurate with the training, discipline, and development of their
powers of reasoning and experiential capacities, and with the specific
problems that confront them to which reason and experience are unable
to give coherent meaning. That arrival at the meaning is through
intuition, for it is intuition that synthesizes what reason and experience
each sees separately without being able to combine into a coherent
whole. Intuition comes to a man when he is prepared for it; when his
reason and experience are trained and disciplined to receive and to
interpret it. But whereas the levels of intuition to which rational and
empirical methods might lead refer only to specific aspects of the nature
of reality, the levels of intuition at the higher levels of human
consciousness to which prophets and saints attain give direct insight
into the nature of reality as a whole. The prophet and the saint also
require preparation to receive and to be able to interpret it; and their
preparation does not consist only of the training, discipline, and
development of their powers of reasoning and their capacities for sense
experience, but also training, discipline and the development of their

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can only be made possible through the learning and practice of more
fundamental sciences categorized by al-Ghazali as knowledge of
religious practice (al-‘ilm al-mu‘amalah) which encompasses the
physical dealing with religious rituals (‘ibadah) and worldly norms
(‘adah), and the spiritual dealing with the conditions of the heart
(ahwal al-qalb) and qualities of the soul (akhlaq al-nafs).150
In summary, education is conveyed in ta’dib and adab,
which is to bring forth the potentialities of Man into action through
the actualization of good natural disposition. This outlines the
perfection of individual Man as the aim of education, and the act of
instilling knowledge gradually into Man as the means through
which human perfection is attained. The process of ta’dib involves
the following151: the guidance of a teacher as a fundamental source
of knowledge and cognitive content and as the means to prepare the
soul to exercise independent research and personal judgment
through thinking as outlined in tarbiyah and ta‘lim, the personal
efforts of the student in seeking knowledge as outlined in riyadah
and tahdhib, and the content of ta’dib itself which is knowledge.
The combined exercise of studying with a teacher, personal
struggle, and the sustained exercise of thinking renders the capacity

inner selves and the faculties of self concerned with the apprehension of
truth-reality.” See Al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam
(Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995), 120-121.
150
Al-Ghazali, Kitab al-‘Ilm of Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, 14-15. Nabih Amin
Faris, The Book of Knowledge, 15-16. Honerkampf, K. Al-Ghazali Kitab
al’Ilm, xlv-xlvi). al-Ghazali, Kimiya al-Sa‘adat, transl. Jay R. Crook,
Alchemy of Happiness, 2 & 8. Nabih Amin Faris translates ‘ilm
mu‘amalah as ‘science of practical religion’. However, we believe that
it should be translated as ‘science of religious practice’. Since
mu‘amalah is derived from ‘amal which means practice, it is ‘practice’
that must be emphasized as opposed to ‘religion’ which also
encompasses ethics. In the Risalah, however, al-Ghazali classifies the
disciplines that fall under ilm mu‘amalah into three: knowledge of what
is due to God, knowledge of what is due to man, and knowledge of what
is due to self. See al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah
Rasa’il al-Imam al-Ghazali, 65-66. Also see Margaret Smith, The
Message From On High, 31-32.
151
Al-Ghazali, “Al-Risalah al-Laduniyyah,” in Majmu‘ah Rasa’il al-Imam
al-Ghazali, 74. Also see Margaret Smith, The Message From On High
60-61.

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Jurnal Qalbu 2.3 (Okt 2017): 63-103

for intuition possible, which is the attainment of knowledge without


the intermediary of human teachers or sense data. In light of this,
cognition in education has two aspects: the wusul aspect that
describes the soul’s preparation as outlined in learning, self-
discipline and thinking, and the husul aspect that describes God as
the source of knowledge.152
Concluding Remarks
The concept and philosophy of education ultimately hinges upon
the concept of Man. Being derived from “educe” which means “to
bring out from human latency or potentiality”, if education is
discussed without clarifying properly what entails being truly and
actually human, what would be produced out of the educational
process would be a limited kind of human being that would not be
able to achieve his true potential and purpose of existence.
Therefore it is in this aspect that profound thinkers from the Islamic
tradition such as al-Ghazali and al-Attas can serve as guides such
that we can formulate an education framework that
comprehensively addresses not only cognitive, theoretical, and
instructional concerns but also extends towards fulfilling social,
ethico-moral, and spiritual needs. In fact, such an approach is
already adopted and practiced at the International Institute of
Islamic Thought and Civilization (1988-2002), at the Centre for
Advanced Studies in Islam, Science, and Civilization (CASIS), as
well as other institutions inspired by them. In light of this, further
research of this matter implores the study of the philosophy and
systems underlying these institutions.

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152
By classifying al-Ghazali’s theory of learning into wusul and husul, this
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the soul of the subject and the soul’s arrival (wusul) at meaning”. See
Al-Attas, The Concept of Education in Islam, 17.

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Biography
Muhammad Hasanul Arifin Bin Zawawi just passed his viva voce
held in February 2017 for his Master’s Thesis entitled “Academic
Excellence in al-Ghazali’s Educational Writings” pursued at the
Centre for Advanced Studies in Islam, Science and Civilization
(CASIS), UTM, and is now awaiting convocation. While doing his
research, he works full-time teaching Mathematics and Science at
Fuhua Secondary School in Singapore and lectures on a part time
basis at Institute Pengajian Al-Zuhri in Singapore teaching Islamic
Science and education-related modules. His research interests
include education, science, epistemology, psychology, and Malay
civilizational history and intends to continue furthering his studies
at PhD level at CASIS.

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