Human action

Another important point is al-Tawhldl’s belief that philosophy should involve the analysis of human conduct or action. Based on his understanding that knowledge has no merit by itself but only becomes valid when it is accompanied by action,255 al-Tawhldl expounds:

Knowledge (al-‘ilm) and action (‘amal) are the two ends of philosophy. Each one of them [oscillates] between two rivals. Knowledge [oscillates] between truth and lies while action [oscillates] between righteousness and evil.256

Thus, striving for the common good should be the ultimate goal of a philosopher’s quest for knowledge. A true philosopher is a person of action and counsel, for theory cannot be perfect without being implemented. This expresses how al-Tawhldl sought a form of philosophy which not only contemplated the nature of things, but helped one acquire practical knowledge for living the best form of life. In this way, al-Tawhidi’s view of philosophy’s role differs from that of most other philosophers. For many philosophers, including Ibn Suwar (d. 404/1014), the perfect virtue of the philosopher can only be achieved in contemplation and in an ideal society, and this is why a philosopher should abandon society and eschew all that prevents serenity.257 Similarly, al-Sijistanl sees knowledge and virtue as belonging to the supernal world, indicating the disengagement of philosophers from practical matters.258 An ideal philosopher is not interested in material concerns, but purely in the essence of things.259 This idea of a detached philosophical life, according to Kraemer, resembles the Neoplatonic apragmon bios.260

Al-Tawhldl, however, believes that knowledge, and philosophy as one of its branches, should be made accessible to a wide audience and not only to the educated philosophical elite:261 there is a spiritual reward, eternal praise (dhikr) from God, an enduring repute, and delight in spreading wisdom.262 This approach to philosophy can be seen in al-Tawhldl’s attempt to make philosophical ideas more accessible.263 Rowson suggests that al-Tawhldl attempted to redefine the role of philosophers within wider Islamic culture, and to find a readership beyond the confines of rigid intellectual disciplines. This is similar to the Brethern of Purity’s attempt to simplify philosophy for a wider audience.264

In summary, there are four basic constituents that formed al-Tawhldfs views of the world and by which man can achieve perfection (yuntaha- ila- al-kama-l): first, religion (d-n); second, morals (khuluq); third, knowledge (‘ilm); and, fourth, reason (‘aql) which supervises the first three components.265 “Religion contains guidance and benefits”,266 while “morals are the order of good and well-being”.267 Valid knowledge linked to ‘amal “is what combines them”.268 It sets religion right and makes morals evident. Man gains facility and eternal knowledge when religion is established by proof and purified from doubt, turmoil, and hypocrisy, and when morals are purified from filthy habits, greed, baseness, and meanness.269 The perfection of all three components, religion, morality, and knowledge, can be achieved through reason; it is the greatest gift from God and the door to happiness in this life and the next.270

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