Insan al-Kamil

In the Islamic intellectual and spiritual tradition, there are three stages or steps which precede the “perfection” of one’s character (Ihsan) and thus the becoming of a “complete person” (Insan al-Kamil). First, there is the acquisition of knowledge (Ilm) which is both empirical and spiritual in nature. Second, there is the “wisdom” (Hikmah) which is derived from the acquisition of knowledge. And third, there is “asceticism” or “detachment” from worldly concerns (Zuhd) after the acquisition of wisdom. These points have been made in previous blog posts, but a contextualization and reiteration of such points is perhaps worthwhile for certain readers.

In turn, the peak of wisdom which in turn prompts Zuhd and thus the perfection and completion of the human constitution is the acceptance and internalization of two particular verses in the Holy Quran, namely, verses 26 and 27 of Chapter 55: “Everything that is on earth is bound to perish, and all that will remain is the Countenance of your Lord, full of majesty and glory.” Anything short of the acceptance and internalization of these two particular verses is considered by the Islamic intellectual and spiritual tradition as constituting proneness and vulnerability towards corruption and “the heat and cant of ignorance” as well as the hysteria of ignorance. Hence, these two particular verses are in essence “The Holy Grail” of the Islamic religion and in turn “The Holy Grail” of the Islamic intellectual and spiritual tradition.

Generally, human identity is based on two factors, namely, one’s home country and environment on one hand, and one’s blood or race on the other hand. Whether blood or race or whether one’s home country and environment weigh most heavily and is preponderant in the determination of one’s identity is a question worth exploring for scientists. However, the latent or potential identity inherent in virtually every human being which then supersedes blood, race, and environment is that of the “becoming” and the actualization of “completeness” and “perfection” which renders a person as “Insan al-Kamil” in the Islamic religion and the Islamic intellectual and spiritual tradition.

One of the main attributes of the “Insan al-Kamil” is the exercise of power over others, but more specifically, the ability to overpower others in what are seemingly miraculous ways. There is also a cosmopolitan and urbane disposition and dimension to the “complete person” of the Islamic religion and the Islamic intellectual and spiritual tradition, a fact which is often overlooked by many people. But in the broadest sense, and in general, there are two types of people. For one, there are the “Elect” (Khaas), and then there are ordinary people (Aam). The “Insan al-Kamil” falls under the category of the “Elect” (Khaas). In turn, the ability of the “Insan al-Kamil” to exercise power over others in strange and peculiar ways is implied by a “Hadith Qudsi.”:

“Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it; I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.”

The “Hadith Qudsi” are a collection of forty divinely inspired sayings of the Prophet Muhammad that are considered by Muslims as divine revelations which are not inscribed in the Holy Quran. But what applies in the most basic sense to both the “Elect” (Khaas) and ordinary folks (Aam) is the most basic rule of Islam, namely, that all mistakes and sins are forgiven and can be atoned for as long as one avoids “attributing divinity” to anything other than God himself (Shirk). But the challenge for scholars and jurists has been in determining what it is that exactly constitutes “attributing divinity” to anything other than God. Thus, the Afghan expression: “Shirk is as invisible as a tiny black gnat hidden underneath a black stone laying in black soil in the middle of a pitch-black night.” Hence, the calamities, disasters, misfortunes, and so forth which now seem to be occurring exponentially, which in turn prompts the utmost care and utmost vigilance necessary to avoid falling into such calamities, disasters, and misfortunes.  

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