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Certainty

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Certainty (Arabic: اليقين) is a high level of spirituality and human perfection, which consists in complete trust in God, being deeply mindful of Him, and turning away from anything other than him. Those who achieve certainty find a state of profound calmness that is not changed by the vicissitudes of life. According to Muslim ethicists, certainty has three levels: knowledge of certainty, vision of certainty, and truth of certainty; the latter level is achieved only by those who reach the highest levels of spirituality.

There are numerous hadiths on certainty in the Shiite tradition. According to these hadiths, certainty is a level higher than Islam (outward profession of faith), Iman (faith), and taqwa (God-wariness), and some of its signs are sincerity, asceticism, striving for doing righteous deeds, humbleness, and avoiding quarrels.

Indubitable, True, and Immutable Belief

In lexical, ethical, and exegetical sources, certainty is defined as a kind of belief higher than ordinary knowledge; for instance, according to al-Raghib al-Isfahani, certainty is a kind of knowledge that is stable and higher than acquaintance and understanding. In one part of his al-Mizan, Allama Tabataba'i counts certainty as a strong belief that does not vanish or weaken and, elsewhere in the same source, he defines it as a kind of knowledge that is indubitable. According to al-Tusi in Awsaf al-ashraf, certainty is a kind of belief that is indubitable, accords with the reality, an does not vanish. Such a belief embodies knowledge of something and knowing that its opposite is impossible. Ethicists consider this definition of certainty as referring to 'ilm al-yaqin (knowledge of certainty), or the first level of the three above-mentioned levels of certainty.

Certainty in Ethics

Fayd Kashani defines certainty as a state in which one fathoms that everything is from God, does not pay attention to anything other than Him, realizes that God is the one who provides sustenance for him, and believes that only what God decrees takes place. Fayd Kashani cites a hadith of Imam al-Sadiq (a), according to which, "Certainty is to fear nothing besides God."


Importance

Mulla Mahdi Naraqi regards certainty as a virtue of paramount importance and states that he who attains certainty has reached the highest level of felicity. He also considers certainty as an elixir achieved only by few prominent mystics and people of wisdom.

In his Akhlaq-i Nasiri, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi states that human beings are divided into four ranks based on their nearness to God: the people of certainty, the people of beneficence (ahl- al-ihsan), the pious (abrar), and the triumphant (fa'izun); the highest rank among these four is that of the people of certainty, which is the rank of prominent divine scholars. In the hadith collection Mizan al-hikma, approximately 130 hadiths have been collected under the topic of certainty. In some of these traditions, certainty is introduced as the pillar of faith, the scarcest treasure, the best worship, and higher than Islam, faith, and God-wariness.

The Levels of Certainty

The scholars of ethics maintain that certainty has various levels. Fayd Kashani writes that the prophetic hadith "Jesus son of Mary used to walk on water, and had he have more certainty, he would have walked in the air as well" indicates that certainty has endless levels, and that even the prophets (a) were not in the same level of certainty.

In many ethical sources, the following three levels have been suggested, based on Quranic verses, for certainty:

  • 'Ilm al-yaqin (knowledge of certainty): This is the first level of certainty, which is achieved through arguments and evidence. For instance, when we discover the existence of fire by seeing its smoke, we have this type of certainty.
  • 'Ayn al-yaqin (vision of certainty): This level of certainty is achieved when we directly perceive something, such as when we directly see fire and become certain of its existence. This level of certainty is achieved through spiritual wayfaring and self-purification.
  • Haqq al-yaqin (truth of certainty): This is the highest level of certainty, in which the one who has certainty about a reality becomes united with that reality or sees himself as part of that reality, such as when one falls into fire and burns. This level is attained by those servants of God who get so close to Him that they see themselves merely as manifestations of God's existence. According to Jami' al-sa'adat, this level can be achieved only through tireless efforts on the path towards God and after the complete abandonment of worldly attachments.

Certainty and Annihilation in God

According to Mulla Mahdi Naraqi, in the third above-mentioned level of certainty, although one becomes connected to the object of his certainty, he still finds his existence different from the existence of the object of his certainty, such as a person who falls into a fire but has not started to flame. However, according to Naraqi, certainty has a further stage, in which the mystic sees his own existence annihilated in the existence of God. He calls this stage, the station of annihilation (fana') and likens it to the state of a person who has not only fallen into a fire but also has turned into flames. He reports that mystics call this level the truth of the truth of certainty (haqiqat haqq al-yaqin). This definition of annihilation is mentioned in the writings of al-Tusi, although he does not use the word fanaʿ (annihilation) and does not consider it a different level than the level of the truth of certainty.

The Signs of the People of Certainty

In his Jami' al-sa'adat, Mulla Mahdi Naraqi mentions a number of signs and characteristics for the people of certainty. According to him, the people of certainty focus their attention only on God, they do not trust anyone other than Him, they do not regard any power or influence for anyone other than the Almighty, and they know that what is decreed for them, whether good or bad, will undoubtedly take place. Being healthy or sick, rich or poor, and honored by people or humiliated by them is equal for them. Humbleness before God, turning away from anything other than Him, and fulfilling obligatory and supererogatory duties are among other characteristics of the people of certainty, mentioned in Jami' al-sa'adat. Naraqi adds that the origin of these characteristics is the fact that those who reach the level of certainty know God and His greatness and firmly believe that the Almighty is aware of their manifest and hidden affairs and that they will be brought to account for all their actions.

According to a hadith in Tuhaf al-'uqul, the Prophet (s) counted the following as the signs of the people of certainty:

  • Firm belief in God
  • Being mindful of death
  • Firm belief in Paradise and longing for it
  • Firm belief in the Resurrection of the dead
  • Firm belief in Hell and striving to be saved from it
  • Firm belief in the reckoning on the Day of Judgment

Sincerity, asceticism, striving for doing righteous deeds, staying away from quarrels, and humbleness are among the other signs of the people of certainty, mentioned in traditions.


References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from یقین in Farsi WikiShia.