No doubt, it’s very difficult to precisely understand ‘divine matters’ (ilahiyyat) – you know, things having to do with God, His relation to us, and the like. But why? The source of the difficulty is due either to: (1) something about the very nature of such objects, (2) something about us as knowers, or (3) something else entirely. 

For the shaykh, the difficulty is not due to (1); for he says the mufaraqat – immaterial substances, the divine things – are, ipso facto, the most intelligible objects of knowledge. Nor, remarkably, do we fail to perceive them, he says, because of (2) some fault in us as agents of cognition. Rather, he opts for (3), stating that we come up short in perceiving such entities ultimately because of our connection to the body(!).  Here’s the passage, it comes at Al-Shifa’Fi’l-nafs V.5, 303 (ed. H. Amoli, my emphasis):

The intellect (al-‘aql) fails to conceptualize the things which are the highest in intelligibility (ghaya al-ma’quliyya) and abstraction from matter neither due to something in the essence (dhat) of those things nor due to something in the inherent nature (ghariza) of the intellect. Rather, it is due to the soul being occupied (mashghula) with the body and by the body, needing the body in many affairs, and so the body keeps it away (yab’aduha) from the most excellent of its perfections.

Let that sink in for a while.


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