Ibn Hazm on Knowledge Part 2
11. The mysterious branches of knowledge are like a strong drug which benefits a strong body but damages a weak one. In the same way, the esoteric branches of knowledge enrich a strong mind and refine it, purifying it of its flaws, but destroy a weak mind.
12. If a madman threw himself as deeply into good sense as he throws himself into madness, he would surely be wiser than al-Hasan al Basri,Plato of Athens and Vuzurgmihr the Persian.
13. Intelligence has its limits; it is useless unless it is based on the guidance of religion or on good fortune in this world.
14. Do not harm your soul by experimenting with corrupt views in order to demonstrate their corruption to someone who has consulted you, otherwise you will lose your soul. If you shield yourself from acting in a detestable way, any criticism that can be thrown at you by a man of corrupt beliefs because you disagree with him is better than his respect and better than the bad effect on both of you if you committed these detestable acts.
15. Guard against taking pleasure in any way that will harm your soul and is not required of you by the religious law nor by virtue.
16. Knowledge no longer exists if one has ignored the attributes of the Almighty Great Creator.
17. There is no worse calamity for knowledge and for scholars than when outsiders intrude. They are ignorant and think that they are knowledgeable; they ruin everything and believe that they are helping.
18. Anyone who is seeking happiness in the Hereafter, wisdom in this world, the best way to behave, the sum of all moral qualities, the practice of all the virtues, should take as his model Muhammad, the Prophet of God - God grant him blessings and peace - and emulate as far as possible the Prophet's morals and behavior. May God help us to take him as an example, by His grace, amen [amen]!
19. The ignorant have annoyed me on two occasions in my lifetime. First, when they spoke of things they did not know, at a time when I was equally ignorant; the second time when they kept silent in my presence [in the days when I had learned something). In the same way they were always silent about matters which would have benefited them to speak about, and spoke about matters which brought them no benefit.
20. Scholars have brought me pleasure on two occasions in my lifetime: first, they taught me when I was ignorant; the second time was when they conversed with me after I had been taught.
21. One of the merits of religious knowledge and asceticism in this world is that Almighty God does not put it with-in reach of anyone except those who are worthy of it and deserve it. One of the disadvantages of the great things of this world, wealth and fame, is that they mostly fall to the lot of people who are unworthy of them and do not deserve them.
22. Anyone who is seeking after virtue should keep company with the virtuous and should take no companion with him on his way except the noblest friend, one of those people who is sympathetic, charitable, truthful, sociable, patient, trustworthy, loyal, magnanimous, pure in conscience and a true friend.
23. Anyone who is seeking fame, fortune and pleasure will keep company only with people who resemble mad dogs and sly foxes: they will take for their traveling companions only people [inimical to his belief] who are cunning and depraved in nature.
24. The usefulness of the knowledge [of good) in the practice of virtue is considerable: anyone who knows the beauty of virtue will practice it, though it may be rarely. Knowing the ugliness of vice, he will avoid it, though it may be rarely. The man with knowledge of the good will listen to soundly-based praise and desire it for himself. He will listen to talk of evil and desire to avoid it. From this premise it necessarily follows that knowledge has a part in every virtue, and ignorance has a part in every vice. A man who has had no instruction in the knowledge [of good) will not practice virtue unless he has an extremely pure nature, a virtuous constitution. It is the particular state of the Prophets (peace and the blessings of God be upon them!) for God has taught them virtue in its entirety, without them having learned it from men.
25. It is true that I have seen among the common people some who, by their excellent behavior and morals, were not surpassed by any wise man, any scholarly, self-controlled man. But this is very rare. And I have seen men who have studied the different branches of knowledge, who have a good knowledge of the messages of the Prophets - peace be upon them - and the advice of the philosophers and who nevertheless surpass the most wicked in their bad behavior, their depravity, both internal and external. These are the worst of all creatures. This is very common and I therefore perceive that these two [moral attitudes] are a favor which is granted or withheld by Allah the Almighty.
Ibn Hazm on Knowledge
Author: Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi
Source: Al-Akhlaq was-Siyar (trans. M Abu Laylah)