Preliminaries of Reflection by Shahīd Qadhi Ṭabāṭabāī (d. 1979)
Source: اللّوامع الإلهیة في المباحث الکلامیة by Jamal ul-Din Miqdad bin ‘Abdillah al-Asadi al-Suyuri al-Hilli – with footnotes of Shahīd Ṭabāṭabāī
Translated by Br. Mohammad Anwar – student at the seminary in Qom
To think and reflect (correctly) there are certain preliminaries that are necessary to be obtained. These preliminaries are numerous; they are anything that is required to achieve a definitive proof for the Usūl al-Dīn. To discuss all of these preliminaries would become too lengthy, however the most important of them can be summarized in six qualities. One who does not acknowledge any one of these six matters will not be able to reflect properly and will not reach the truth. The following is a brief description of these six matters:
1. To leave all intolerance. Intolerance in relation to the heart is like deafness for the ears. Just as deafness stops the ears from being affected and benefiting from sound waves, even though they may be present, intolerance becomes an impediment from the heart benefiting and being affected by the truth.
2. Moral braveness. That is, for one to say the truth all the time and to accept it once there is a definitive for it. One should not doubt the truth and should not follow his/her predecessors if what they followed goes against the truth. One should not care for any sort of assault from anyone who possesses the force to oppress another. One should believe in the truth and expose the truth despite any hardship or obstacle. To possess love for the truth itself eases many hardships.
3. Avoidance of wants (hawā). To make the soul compliant to accept anything that is proven through a definitive proof, whether or not it is compliant with one’s own desires. To avoid such desires is the path to freedom.
4. To leave delights and pleasures (shahwah). Ones absorption in such matters will take one away from reaching the truth, especially when one spends significant amounts of time engaging in such pleasures such as gambling. One must distance themselves from that which will take them further away from their own fiṭrah and that which will take away his greatest possession, which is the ‘aql.
5. To adopt patience and steadfastness as one thinks and pursues the truth. This requires one to dedicate specific time to thinking, and requires one to avoid becoming worried when the truth does not become clear right away. It is definitely not rational for one to spend their life with things that will perish whilst not dedicating time to think about matters that may be of the utmost importance in the long term.
6. To clear ones heart from any sort of ulterior motives, fallacies and bias when thinking and researching. One should empty their thoughts of anything they have heard from their ancestors and close relations that was said without any sort of proof. It should be as if the person is researching having faced the matter for the first time. The only thing that should be important is gaining knowledge of the truth.
These are some of the matters that are required to think and reflect correctly. If one does not possess some of these, then a barrier will manifest itself between the individual and the truth. It will be as if there is a veil on top of the individual’s eyes. The individual may be extremely accomplished and knowledgeable but because of this he will not be able to perceive and recognize the truth.
Sayyid Ali studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from the Islamic College of London in 2018. In the seminary he engaged in the study of legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is currently completing his Masters of Education at the University of Toronto and is the head of a private faith-based school in Toronto, as well as an instructor at the Mizan Institute and Mufid Seminary.