Hayy ibn Yaqzaan SEPI AssignmentGroup# 611:30-1245Originally from 2:30-3:45 slot Groupmembers:· Mohammad Faaiz Iftikhar-14208· Areebah Hassan-14252· Wasif Samad-14207Hayyibn Yaqzaan, Arabic for ‘Alive, Son of the Awake’, is a philosophical talepenned down by the 12th century Islamic philosopher, scholar andtheologian Ibn Tufayl. This story is immensely influenced by the philosophicaltales concocted by the eminent philosopher Avicenna. Ibn Tufayl’s tale wasintended as a rejoinder to one of his students query pertaining to theattainment of mystic reality and whether anyone can reach the spiritual levelwithout any kind of communication or guidance. Ibn Tufayl puts encapsulates thecrux of the story quite beautifully: “The tale points a moral for all withheart to understand,, a reminder for anyone with a heart or ears to listen andto hear.” Fromthe onset, we are confronted with two, deviating narratives regarding the birthof Hayy. According to one, he was born without a mother or father. A fictitiousnarrative has been concocted, according to which he was born out of clay, afterit became exposed to the intense heat and humidity of the temperate climate ofthe previously uninhabited island where this story is set:c “…a mass of clayworked until hot and cold, damp and dry were blened in just the proper way,their strengths perfectly balanced.
” As opposed to this story of the spontaneous generation ofHayy, the other narrative takes on a more realistic approach. According tothis, He was born to the sister of a tyrant king, who married one her kinsmansecretly and bore him a son. Out of fear and apprehension which the thought ofher brother entailed, she manoeuvred her son into an ark and furtively it intothe ocean. It reached the banks of an island, devoid of human presence. Hayy found solace in the companionship of a doe, whointercepted the ark and was drawn towards it owing to the infant’s wailingnoise. She, perhaps, mistook him for her lost fawn, tending to him and feedinghim her very milk. We gain a glimpse of Hayy’s observation of hissurroundings when he reaches the age of two.
He constantly compares himselfwith to the animals around him and realises that he is unlike any of them: “He observed theanimals from this perspective and saw how they were clothed in fur, hair orfeathers , how swiftly they could fight, and what apt weapons they had for defenceagainst any attacker—horns, tusks, hooves, spurs and claws. No maimed or deformedanimal he could find was at all like himself.” When Hayy reached the age of seven, the doe passed away,leaving her feral child in a state of grief and bewilderment. He examined allher external body parts but found nothing wrong with any of them. He yearned toreach the place where she was hurt and aimed to take it away, in the hope ofspringing her back to life: “He knew that whenhe shut his eyes or covered them, he saw nothing until the obstruction wasremoved; if he stopped his ears with his fingers he could not hear until theobstacle was gone; and if he held his nose he would smell nothing until thepassageway was clear again. These observations led him to believe that not onlyhis sense, but every one of his other bodily functions was liable toobstructions that might block its work.”Seeing no visible damage,he realised that the hurt must be in some organ unseen within the body whichwas so central to its functioning that without it no other body parts couldfunction. This was evident from how inactivity was not confined but spreadthroughout the doe’s body.
His past observation suggested that this central organwas situated in either the head, chest or abdomen, as those parts were hollow.However, it seemed most likely to be situated in the “central of the threesince all the other organs were equally dependent on it”. This line ofreasoning struck me with awe as it is difficult to conceive someone who hasmerely crossed the seven-year age barrier to come up with such a sophisticatedpretention and decipher the significance of the ‘centre’ or ‘middle’. Moving on, Hayy believed that the vital organ must besituated in the chest, contending that “he could feel that there was somethingthere”. He even goes onto assert that he could conceive living on without mostof his external organs, even his head. This fallacious claim not only helped tocounter the observational excellence of Hayy’s that Ibn Tufayl gave us aglimpse of and remind us that Hayy was not infallible and a mere child. It alsoclarifies that Hayy mainly resorted to relying in his intuition. That isprobably what provided the impetus for his conjecture/speculation regarding theimportance of the central position.
Therefore, I feel that most of hisarguments at and before this stage were mere intuition/conjecture, for whichHayy failed to put forward any rationale. Out of curiosity and sheer desperation, Hayy decided todissect the doe in pursuit of the indispensable organ and discovered the heart,immaculately positioned in the mid-chest cavity, “wrapped in an extremely toughenvelope and bound by the strongest ligaments”. Its central position and thefact that it was well protected than any other organ convinced him.
Hayy cutopen the heart and found the left ventricle to be empty. He was dumbfoundedsince by then he knew “that every organ existed to carry out some specific function”. H e reached theconclusion that whatever had occupied this region had abandoned it, haltingbodily motions.
He was subsequently bombarded with numerous questionsregarding the ‘being’, which had once, according to he speculated, reposed inthe, now empty, chamber. He realised that the entire body was simply a tool ofthis ‘being’, analogous to the sticks he used to combat animals. In themeantime, Hayy came across fire and discovered some similarity between it andthe ‘being’: “His newinfatuation with fire, based on its power and all its beneficial effects , gavehim the notion that what had abandoned his doe-mother’s heart was of the sameor similar substance. This supposition was reinforced by his observation thatbody heat in animals was constant as long as they were alive, but that theygrew cold after death.” In order to discover that ‘being’, he decided to carryout the same operation, which he had previously performed on the doe, on aliving animal. He unearthed the same chamber, but this time it was filled witha ‘steamy gas’.
Poking the chamber resulted in the animal’s death. Thisconvinced Hayy that the ‘hot vapour was what imparted animation to the and thatevery animal has something corresponding: When this departs, the animal dies’.This led to the discovery of that ‘being’ which was the source of power thatdrove the entire body. All actions emanated from the spirit which governed allthe organs that collectively formed the body. It merely employed them as agentsto carry out its functions. Around the age of 21, Hayy became engrossed in theobjects that he found around himself.
Observing them meticulously, he concludedthat in as much as things differ they are many, but in as much as theycorrespond they are one. Viewing himself in light of the diversity of hisorgans, he realised that all were inter-connected all their actions emanatedfrom the spirit ‘which was one and his real-self’. It governed all other organsof the body and used them as intermediaries or tools. Hayy reasoned that all objects, whether living or non-living,must have something special to emulate their own idiosyncratic ways and givethem their particular qualities to the senses and their ways of motion.Furthermore, he contended that all bodies are a composite of a ‘corporealfactor and another non-physical factor’. The former, physical factor was commonacross different bodies while the latter belonged exclusively to the spirit: “…it dawned on himthat the animal spirit, which lives in the heart and at which he had firstprobed with his dissections, must itself have a principle over and above itscorporeality which would enable it to carry out all its wonderful, as truesubject of the various modes of sensing, apprehending and moving.
” This became further accentuated when he disembarked onanother experiment, whereby he moulded clay into various shapes, altering theratio of its length, breadth and height. His experiment suggested to him thatall bodies were compounded of two factors, which we just mentioned, oneanalogous to the clay and the other to the various dimensions it took on: “The variablefactor, which can present a succession of many different faces, that isextension, corresponds to the forms of all other bodies. The other factor whichremains constant like the clay of the example, corresponds to materiality inall other bodies.” Hayy knew by necessity that everything has a cause.
Herealised that the ability of any body to incorporate certain kinds of motionwas due to its ‘disposition or form’. All these actions were brought aboutthrough them by another ‘Being’, which is superior to corporeality and issuedfunctions through the form. Reachingthe age of 28, Hayy turned his attention towards celestial bodies and stumbledon the conundrum whether the worldis eternal or produced in time:”Seeing the wholeuniverse as in reality one great being, and uniting all its many parts in his mindby the same sort of reasoning which had led him to see the oneness of all bodiesIn the world of generation and decay, Hayy wondered whether all this had cometo be from nothing, or in no respect emerged from nothingness but alwaysexisted.”ThoughHayy found this dilemma to be insuperable and left it unanswered, he realisedthat the implication of these diverging arguments/stances was the same sincethey entailed embracing the notion that the universe had a Maker, who wasindependent from all corporeality and beyond perception through merely thesenses: “Hewas no longer troubled by the dilemmas of creation versus eternity, for eitherway the existence of a non-corporeal Author of the universe remained unscathed,a Being neither in contact with matter nor cut off from it-for all these terms,’contact’ and ‘discontinuity’, ‘inside and ‘outside’ are merely predicates ofthe very physical things which He transcends.
“Advocatingfor the corporeality/temporal existence of the Maker would lead to furthercomplications since the Maker Himself would in turn require a “cause” orcreator, adding further convolutions to the argument. Hayy’s argumentsbefuddled me. Though he managed to realise that the Maker was beyondcorporeality in light of the preceding argument, he never contested the scepticismresulting from it. Even if the Maker is beyond temporal existence, any rationalhuman would wonder as to how could the Creator be not created Himself and emulatea pre-existent and eternal form. What augmented the intensity of this concern isthe fact that though Hayy managed to recognize and address this conundrum whencontesting for the non-corporeality of the Maker, where he conceded that aphysical being would in turn require a ’cause’ or creator, he failed to extend hisargument further. Aftergaining this insight, the way Hayy perceived the world revolutionised sincewhatever he saw reminded him of the power and omnipotence of the Maker.
Hemaintains the world and is superior to it in the order of His being as well asby His eternity. He bestowed His creation with knowledge, teaching animals,rather instinctively, how to use their body parts for their desired purposes.Hayy determined the degree of His power on all created things and knew that, inlight of all his corporeal wonders, He must be an epitome of impeccability,endowed with complete perfection and “transcending all privations”.AsHayy reached his 35th year, he was completely entangled in resolving themystery of the Eternal One: “Now heknew that every, thing that was produced anew must needs have some Producer.And from this contemplation, there arose in his mind a sort of impression ofthe maker of that form, though his Notion of him as yet was general andindistinct.
” Hewas sure about the facts that He was his Creator and definitely exist, it wasnot some wild feeling of his self, but a reality indeed. Now being sure of Hisexistence, he wanted to find know how did he came to know of His existence. Hereasoned that it cannot be through His senses or any such physical thing thatbrought him to the idea of existence of the One. As all this was divisible andtransient, and thus could not enlighten him about some perpetual, indivisiblebeing. He believed that as the nature of the Necessarily Existent, i.eindivisible and everlasting, what edified him about this Being must also havethe same nature, and be the essence of his own being. He resolved that it washis soul, which informed him about Him.
He thus came to know that the NecessaryBeing was exempt of all kinds of faults and corruption, and was perfect in Hisexistence; there was none like unto Him. He saw by this that the perfection ofone’s soul can be attained only by constant reasoning, & one who diedwithout reasoning in his life, wasted his soul. He also realized that once hehas realized the existence of God & turned away from Him chasing thetemporary, he will lose the intuitive vision and put himself in suffering,while if he wholly turns towards his God, he will enjoy eternal bliss. Theseconsiderations led Hayy to search for divine trance by contemplating andconcentrating his thoughts only on the Necessary Being. Having apprehended the manner by which thebeing like the Heavenly Bodies was peculiar to him above all other kinds ofAnimals whatever, he perceived that it was a Duty necessarily incumbent uponhim to resemble them, and imitate their Actions, and endeavour to the utmost tobecome like them. He perceived also that in respect of his nobler Part, bywhich he had attained the Knowledge of that necessarily self-existent Being hedid in some measure resemble it, because he was separated from the Attributesof Bodies, as the necessarily self- existent Being is separated from them. Hesaw also that it was his Duty to endeavour to make himself Master of theProperties of that Being by all possible means, and put on his Qualities, andimitate his Actions, and labour in the doing his Will, and resign himself whollyto him, and submit to his Dispensations heartily and un- feignedly, so as torejoice in him, though ‘he should lay Afflictions upon his Body, and hurt, oreven totally destroy it’. Hayy realised that he resembles on one hand theNecessary Existent through the noble part of himself-his soul, on the otherhand he resembled the animals through his body.
From this he came to theconclusion that his actions should be carried out on three levels: 1.Actions emulating those of animals 2. Actions emulating the celestial bodies3.
Actions emulating the Necessary Being. It eventually became clear to him that his ultimate endlie in the third emulation which is not obtained without long concentration andpractice in the second one, and that the continuation of the second depends onthe first one. He also realized that the first one although is necessary but isalso a hinderance and will help only accidently, thus he forced himself toreduce the first emulation to bare necessity i.e strictly consume the required amountbelow which animal spirit would not survive. What is worth mentioning here is how was Hayy able tothink without being acquainted with any language.
Though he acquired linguisticknowledge from Absal, but before becoming abreast with it he was only familiarwith sounds uttered by wild animals and mimicked them. It’s beyondapprehension, at least for me, as to how Hayy managed to decrypt and organisehis thoughts in the absence of any sophisticated communication channel torepresent them. This is because when we think of anything and have thoughts goingaround in our minds, we perceive them in the form of the language we know and interactthrough. In conclusion, I would like to contend that this philosophicaltale has been aptly titled ‘Hayy ibn Yaqzaan’ or ‘Alive, Son of the Awake’.This, unprecedented and seemingly convoluted, title bears the connotation of vigilanceand encapsulates the mindset and approach of Hayy, who was able to decipher thegreater realities of life through physical observation, reason and mysticalexperience.
It clearly is a tale to gain inspiration from, perpetuating thenotion that God gives guidance to everyone, at least once, throughout theirlives. What we need to do is to remain ‘vigilant’, cash-on the opportunity, andmake an effort to gain unison with the Almighty.