Allama was always interested in Human life; he understood it as absolute truth that must be taken seriously. He also believed that “The Nahj-al-Balagheh is a great manifest of the various aspects of a dynamic man on the path to supreme perfection. He regarded the book as original source of knowledge far from “baseless hallucinations or mortal moods of poetic imaginations.” However, some people accept to travel on the path of knowledge while others reject and thus distinction is made among believers and non-believers. The 2nd volume of his commentary on Nahj-al-Balagheh, which discusses the choicest values and behaviors that could guide man to the highest ideals in his life, has laid the foundation of this treatise on intelligible life. He thinks that most of the human beings choose to live in a steel trap of their own uncalculated desires and wishes, simple-mindedly calling it “free life”. It is a life molded by “selfish” emotions and actions, busy in breaking rules of nature, thus fighting against God’s will, people bring disaster and death to themselves and others. However, Allama would not leave the desperate convoy of humanity to reach its doom. He is quite optimistic in his approach and confidently says: “We can state, according to historic documents and man’s spiritual qualities, that man can always start from square one again; he can always degrade to zero, and restart his development. He may even get to zero from subzero levels, and then determine his new path . . . he earnestly prays: Dear God! Will there come a day when these beings who call themselves man and claim to have dominated the universe come to themselves, for they have not yet done even the slightest thing to solve their simplest problems?”
Allama would never leave mankind to drown in his “what there is;” he always called man to “what there should be.” It would be a sin to leave human life indulged in worldly affairs and some sins are deadly for the development of consciousness in human beings; not only they make the conscience stop functioning, but actually destroy it, creating something “anti-conscience. It is being done by following hedonistic, material and utilitarian approaches in life, which are promoting determinism and fatalism at all levels. He says that “In the confusion of the 20th century, the 21st civilization has put all of mankind up for sale like goods.” He said: “No conscience, no sound mind could be satisfied with present situation of morality, ethics and virtues; it will ask itself, ‘With all the natural forces and niceties I have, why shouldn’t I use them to serve human beings? Men who have no advantage over others in love, and no supernatural factor—God, in fact—to prove their popularity, either. This is the unsolved mystery Bertrand Russell and I wrote to each other about and discussed. He, however, had no solution.”
Throughout the book he has criticized the material social scientists whose hegemony has arrested the development of humanity as a whole. Naturalism has been the product of desperate attempt of some modern philosophers to align Philosophy with the scientific method of Francis Bacon to pursue knowledge in material world with the five material senses only. Such pursuit has promoted fatalism and determinism of the worst kind, because naturalists tend to see every behavior as biologically determined and adaptive to one’s socio-physical environment; human traits and potential is seen as fixed having limited capacity to develop. The pursuit of physical pleasures thus becomes the sole objective in life, as life is temporary and short-lived and it ends here forever. Neither, there is any concept of life-hereafter, nor any realization of divine accountability. Hence, system of meta-values is regarded perennial, unnecessary and must be discarded at the earliest. Personal intelligence is considered enough to code personal morality for oneself. It is not that naturalists completely reject the existence of inner life; they make every attempt to reduce it to the physiology of brain. For them mind is an emergent condition, the function of brain and nothing else. Naturalism defies the existence of supernatural elements like deity, gods or angels and the naturalists negate the existence of a universal mind altogether, not to speak of the capacity of the individual mind to connect with the universal mind.
Therefore, human consciousness is fixated to his life-world-the world of personal perception; a person creates during his her life-time based upon personal experiences with outer reality. It does not merely constitute physical world of objects but social and cultural experiences as well. What is natural means what is common among most of human beings and is included in everyday life experiences; and it constitutes the life-world. It does not include the un-common supra-natural experiences, e.g. mystical experience, and other experiences with high degrees of moral underpinning, such as sacrifice, martyrdom, etc. Allama says: “A life empty of prayers and divine attraction is like an empty cup we stick to our lips when we are born, and throw away at death. It is equivalent to death.”
“For any conscious man, each day is like a book full of new lessons. Therefore, we can correctly say that there is a continuous factor called time that can change our ignorance into wisdom . . . but first, we need those who are really eager for wisdom!”
According to him:
Ideal life means watering and nurturing the ideals of our passing, mortal life from the spring of evolutionary life, finding man and the universe in ourselves, and fulfilling the human character on the path toward eternity. Ideal life is a conscious movement, and passing each stage makes us more eager for the next. The more the eagerness, the greater will be the harmony between the future and the past. This endeavor is led by the human character. A passer of infinity and seeker of eternal perfection by nature, the human character seek the eternal truth, a gust of which has caused waves in the mortal facts of this world. That is ideal life. If a society can give its members a taste of it, it has indeed achieved a truly original civilization.
He is of the view that man is frustrated by the lack of a philosophical system capable of answering all his questions. But we do not need extra ordinary intelligence to embark on this path; only we need to be the seekers of originality—the truth—the idol breakers. There is no need to break away from the tradition either. If somebody is not a hard core modernist and an innovator or is older, even then he/she can take part in reconstruction of knowledge and society. He defines intelligible life as: “ . . . a conscious form of life in which the fatalistic forces and activities of natural life are, by means of development, freedom and growth flourished by free will, are adjusted onto the path of relatively evolutionary goals, and the human character is gradually improved in this path until it reaches the supreme aim of life, which is participating in the general harmony of the universe, all of which depends upon divine perfection.” Allama Muhammad Taghi Jafari was both: the religious-mystic and an open-minded thinker, a combination which is quite rare in Islamic world. In this book we observe a harmony achieved between open mindedness of scientific aptitude, fortitude of religiousness and deep compassion for humanity. He was able to conquer and command the unknown fortresses of “being” and “changing,” and with his passion he was able to discover the rule of love that ultimately governs life—the telos of life—the intelligible life. Allama Jafari believes that once we study the history of human life tells us that people usually choose between two broader styles of life: absolute natural life and intelligible life. Intelligible life style promotes conscious living. Intelligible life style executes personal consciousness in a way that helps individuals to achieve greater self autonomy, control and exercise of free will. It regulates the deterministic and pseudo-deterministic forces governing natural activities while individuals strive to progress towards higher goals. The scope of intelligible life according to Allama is above and beyond various religious doctrines and ideologies. He prescribes it as the way and means of overcoming the multiple crises Western culture is trapped in, which is enhancing unhappiness, neuroticism and disillusionment among individuals and societies.
Allama Jafari has cautioned that living merely a natural life is akin to animalistic life and those who are immersed into it are struggling for the survival of bodily life preoccupied with satisfaction of their primal instincts and basic needs. Since human existence becomes burdened under the yoke of individuals’ carnal desires, all of its promising and elevating dimensions are neglected by following such a life style. Moreover, travelling down the path of human history, we witness that ‘absolute natural life’ has left but negative impact upon human will, thought and action. Some of these negative outcomes are as follows: The departure of constructive love (Ishq) and ambition from our lives, confrontation of right against might, narcissism and self-centeredness, relationships grounded in selfish motives and personal wellbeing, viewing the ‘self ’ as the end and others as the means while understanding that ends would be justifying the means, shattering traditions without any moral reason, absence of Telos, philosophy and objective of life, nihilism, insecurity and anxiety about the future, self-alienation, inability to reach balanced relationship between self and society, the dissolution of the feeling of “transcendental unity in existence”, loosing grip over various aspects of one’s life by gradual weakening of sublime feelings and humane thoughts, making life-giving foundations of noble cultures unstable, and finally the regrettable failure in interpreting and analyzing connection between relative and absolute issues. Allama has identified following principles governing the intelligible life:
1. Escalated Consciousness: An individual leading intelligible life chooses to live rationally. The person experiences complete freedom of thought and action and consciously picks values and principles for building up his/her personality and character. Such persons feel complete autonomy in self governing their activities, which are not outcome of any blind following of lives and behaviors of others.
2. Following the trajectory of elevating goals: While traveling the path of intelligible life, persons seek excellence both in speech and action; even a singular neural activity is an effort to transform itself into a better one. Intelligible life is seen as progression through certain stages in life; however, it is a continuous journey and at none of these stages of life the wayfarer believes that he/she has reached perfection; therefore seeking continuous improvement in one aspect of life or the other is the job in which seekers are happily engaged throughout their lives.
3. Charging the free will: The person who is en route to intelligible life is well aware of the deterministic factors that surround him/ her. Taking charge of deterministic and pseudo-deterministic forces of life and making them subjugate to serve one’s higher aims and moral purpose of life is the mission of such persons and they enjoy absolute freedom while striving to reach the sublime stage of free will. The more a person utilizes freedom towards free will, the more exalted he/she may feel in realizing the ultimate goal of intelligible life.
4. Realizing moral purpose of life: if a person succumbs to the deterministic and pseudo-deterministic desires of the “natural self,” then that individual is incapable of reaching the highest goal in life. To reach the most sublime goal in life, one must learn to make intelligent use of mind, which is in harmony with pure conscience and innate perceptions. Finally, one must have a strong will and a serious resolve in order to make sincere efforts to realize the ultimate purpose in life.
5. Reaching true happiness: Persons will use internal and external faculties in the most suitable manner on their path to self actualization. As individual’s actual potential is realized he/ she is able to reach true happiness. During this process raw and elementary sentiments are transformed; they are no more realized as cultural feelings but are sublimated into positive emotions removing negative vibes from life. The persons no more feel themselves dependent on trivial needs of life; instead they develop higher forms of attachments seeking construction in life and society.
Allameh Mohammad-Taqi Ja'fari (1923 - 15 November 1998) born in Tabriz was an Iranian scholar, thinker, and theologian. After elementary school, Muhammad Taqi studied at the Talebieh seminary, and then moved to Tehran and Qom, where he studied under some of the leading religious scholars of his time, before leaving for Najaf and attending the Najaf School of Theology. Muhammad Taqi Jafari spent 11 years in Najaf and learned from great scholars. His progress was so spectacular that he was conferred on the greatest degree of jurisprudence – ijtihad – when he was only 23. When Jafari returned to Iran, he continued to study the new waves of thought that were rapidly spreading throughout intellectualism. He undoubtedly approved the basic idea of intellectualism, which was what had drawn him from decadent, traditional thoughts to study modern ones; the study that dominated his 60-year academic career. As an explorer of anthropological domains, Muhammad Taqi endeavored to discover mankind accurately, so he began by practically showing value for human beings, and presenting the highest of moral values and constructive patterns in his behavior. Maybe it was his moral excellence that helped him accomplish so much in a rather short period of time. Allameh wrote many books on a vast variety of fields, the most prominent of which are his 15-volume Interpretation and Criticism of Rumi's Masnavi, and his unfinished, 27-volume Translation and Interpretation of the Nahj al-Balagha. These two major works of Jafari contain his most important thoughts and ideas in fields like anthropology, sociology, ethics, philosophy and mysticism.
This is an interesting work for students of social sciences and anybody who is interested in comparative sociological investigations. The author has lucidly approached perennial questions within a modern context based on the parameters of primordial school of social theory.
seyed javad miri