Please Wait...

Al Ghazali' s - Mishkat Al-Anwar (The Niche Lights)

Al Ghazali' s  - Mishkat Al-Anwar (The Niche Lights)
Item Code: NAJ597
Author: W.H.T. Gairdner
Publisher: Kitab Bhavan
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 8171510302
Pages: 106
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 255 gms

About The Book

This is the English translation of Imam Ghazali’s mystical treatise on the Light Verse the of Holy Quran: “Allah is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. The parable of His Light is as if there was a Niche and within it a Lamp enclosed in Glass: The Glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed Tree, an olive, neither of the East nor of the west.

A brief but crucial contribution tounderstanding Ghazal’s mystical insight.


Author's Preface

I AM SO conscious that my general equipment was insufficient to warrant my having undertaken an introduction to this treatise (in addition to the translation), that my utmost hope is this,-that what I have written may be regarded by lenient Orientalists as something to elicit-provoke, if you will-the necessary supplementing and formative criticism; or as useful materials to be built into some more authoritative and better-informed work: and that they may from this point of view be inclined to pardon what otherwise might seem an unwarrantable piece of rashness and indiscretion.

A still greater presumption remains to be forgiven, but this time on the ground of the great human simplicities, when I venture to inscribe this work, in spite of everything, to the beloved memory of


-that golden-hearted man-e-who in 1911 introduced me to the Mishkat; and to join with his name that of


who first introduced me to the Mishkat's author. Of these twain, the latter may perhaps forgive the lapses of a pupil because of the filial joy with which, I know well, he will see the two names joined together, howsoever or by whomsoever it was done. As for the former, in Abraham's bosom all things are forgiven.


THE MISHKAT AL-ANWAR is a work of extreme interest from the viewpoint of al-Ghazzali's inner life and esoteric thought. The glimpses it gives of that life and thought are remarkably, perhaps uniquely, intimate. It begins where his auto- biographical Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal leaves off. Its esotericism excited the curiosity and even the suspicion of Muslim thinkers from the first, and we have deeply interesting allusions to it in Ibn Tufail and Ibn Rushd; the celebrated philosophers of Western Islam, who flourished within the century after al-Ghazsali's death in 1111 (A.H. 505)-a fact which, again, increases its importance and interest for us.


There is no way of fixing the precise date of this treatise; but it falls among his later ones, perhaps among the latest; the most important hint we get from Ghazzali himself being that the book was written after his magnum opus, the Ihya’ al-'Ulum (p. [9]). Other works of Ghazzali mentioned by him in this treatise are the al-‘ llm, Mahakk al-Nazar, and al-Maqsad al-Asna.

The object of the opuscule is to expound a certain Koran verse and a certain Tradition. The former is the celebrated Light-Verse (S. 24, 35) and the latter the Veils-Tradition. It is divided into three sections, of which the first is considerably the longest.

In this first section he considers the word" light" itself, and its plural "lights", as applied to physical light and lights; to the eye; to the intelligence (i.e. intellect or reason); to prophets; to supernal beings; and finally to Allah himself, who is shown to be not the only source of light and of these lights, but also the only real actual light in all existence.

In the second section we have some most interesting prolegomena to the whole subject of symbolic language in the Koran and Traditions, and its interpretation. Symbols are shown to be no mere metaphors. There is a real mystical nexus between symbol and symbolized, type and anti type, outer and inner. The symbols are infinitely numerous, very much more numerous than those mentioned in Koran or Traditions. Every object on earth "perhaps" has its correlative in the unseen, spiritual world. This doctrine of symbols reminds us of the Platonic" ideas" and their earthly copies, and of the" patterns of things in the heavens" and " the example and shadow [on earth] of heavenly things" in the Epistle to the Hebrews. A notable deduction is made from this doctrine, namely, the equal incumbency of keeping the outward letter (zahir) of the Law as well as its inner meaning (batin). Nearly all the most advanced Sufis were zealous and minutely scrupulous keepers of the ritual, ceremonial, and other prescriptions of the Sunna law, and Ghazzali here supplies a quasi-philosophical basis for this fidelity-a fidelity which some of the bolder and more extreme mystics found illogical and "unspiritual".

In the third section the results of this symbolology are applied to the Verse and Tradition in question. In the former the beautiful, and undeniably intriguing, expressions of the Koran-the Light, the Niche, the Glass, the Oil, the Tree, the East and the West-are explained both on psychological and religio-metaphysical lines; and a similar exegesis is applied to the tradition of the Seventy Thousand Veils.


In the course of all this Ghazzali gives us, incidentally, much that excites our curiosity to the highest degree: though always, when we get to the crucial point, we meet a "perhaps ", or a patronizing allusion to the immaturity of his less-initiated reader. (Ghazzali's hesitations-" it may be," "perhaps," etc.-are worthy of study in this treatise. They do not so much leave the impression of hesitancy in his own mind, as of a desire to "fence" a little with his reader.) He himself writes "incommunicable mystery" across a number of these passages. Thus, the nature of the human intelligence and its peculiar affinity to the divine (pp. [6, 7 I) ; the mystic" state" of al-Hallaj, and other "inebriates ", and the expressions they emit in their mystic intoxication (p. [20])-" behind which truths," says Ghazzali, "also lie secrets which it is not lawful to enter upon"; the astounding passage (p. [24]) in which to the supreme Adept of the mystical Union with deity are ascribed features and functions of very deity; the real explanation of the word tawhid, involving as it does the question of the reality of the universe and the nature of the soul's union or identification with deity; the nature of the Commander (al-Mu{ii') of the universe, and whether he be Allah or an ineffable supreme Vicegerent; who that Vicegerent is, and why it must be he and not Allah who performs the prime function of the cosmos-ruler, viz. the issue of the command for the moving of the primum. mobile, whereby all the motions of the Heavenly (and the Sublunary) spheres are set a-going; and the final mystery of Allah-an-sich, a Noumenal Deity, in whose case transcendence is to be carried to such a pitch that gnosticism and agnosticism meet, and the validity of every possible or conceivable predication is denied, whether of act or attribute (see p. [55])-all these things are incommunicable mysteries, secrets, from the revealing of which our author turns away at the exact moment when we expect the denouement. The art is supreme-but something more than tantalizing. Who were the adepts to whom he did communicate these thrilling secrets? Were these communications ever written down for or by his brother initiates? Or did he ever communicate them? Was there really anything to communicate? If EO, what?



  Translator's Introduction  
I Date, Object, and General Contents 1
II. Mysteries left Veiled in this Treatise 2
III. A Ghazziilian Philosophy of Religion 3
Iv. Ghazzali problems raised by the foregoing 8
V. The problem of the Vicegerent in Ibn Rushd and Ibn Tufail 10
VI. One solution of the problem of the Vicegerent 13
VII. Another solution 18
VIII. AI-Ghazzali and the Seven Spheres 26
IX. Anthropomorphism and Theomorphism in al- Mishkat 28
X. Pantheism and al-Ghazzali, in al-Mishkat 34
  Translation of Mishkat Al-Anwar "The Niche For Lights"  
  Exordium and Introduction. The "Light" - Verse and the "Veils "-Tradition 43
Part I. LIGHT, AND LIGHTs: Preliminary Studies.  
1 Light as Physical Light; as the Eye; as the Intelligence 45
2 The Koran as the Sun of the Intelligence 52
3 The Worlds Visible and Invisible; with their Lights 53
4 These Lights as Lamps Terrestrial and Celestial; with their Order and Grades 55
5 The Source of all these Grades of Light, ALLAH. 57
6 The Mystic Verity of Verities. 59
7 The "God Aspect": an "advanced" explanation of the Relation of these Lights to ALLAH. 61
8 The Relation of these Lights to ALLAH: simpler illustrations and explanations 65
Part II. The Science of Symbolism.  
(i) The Outward and the Inward in Symbolism: Type and Antitype 69
1 The Two Worlds: their Types and Antitypes 70
2 An example of symbolism, from the story of Abraham In Koran 71
3 Fundamental examples of symbolism: especially from the story of Moses in the Koran 73
4 The Permanent validity of the Outward and Visible Sign: an example 77
5 Another example of this two-sided and equal validity of Outward and Inward. 79
(ii) The Psychology of the Humansoul: its Five Faculties, or Spirits 81
Part III. The Application of All The Foregoing To The Light-Verse And The Veils-Tradition  
(i) The Exposition of the Symbolism of the Light-Verse 84
1 The Sensory Spirit 84
2 The Imaginative Spirit 84
3 The Intelligential Spirit 85
4 The Ratiocinative Spirit 85
5 The Transcendental Prophetic Spirit 86
  Epilogue : the "Darkness"-Verse 87
(ii) The Exposition of the Symbolims of the Severnty Thousand Veils 88
1 Those veiled by pure Darkness 89
2 Those veiled by mixed Light and Darkness 91
(a) The darkness of the Sense 91
(b) The darkness of the Imagination 93
(c) The darkness of the (ratiocinative) Intelligence 94
3 Those veiled by pure Light 95
4 The Goal of the Quest 96

Sample Pages

Add a review

Your email address will not be published *

For privacy concerns, please view our Privacy Policy

Post a Query

For privacy concerns, please view our Privacy Policy

Related Items