Kimiya: Alchemy/transformation/to make something valuable/a formula or prescription for life.
In its essence Kimiya represents a complete conception of the universe and relations between earthly beings and the cosmos. Imam Ghazali was a believer that everything on Earth is a manifestation of God’s spirit, thus everything belongs to Kimiya.Spiritual attainment has frequently been described as alchemy – a transformation whereby a human’s leaden, dull nature is returned to its golden state
Alchemy did not derive from a desire to enrich oneself by transmuting base metals into gold as had originally been conjectured. Rather, the gold came to represent a spiritual state attained by the alchemist.
In the Islamic world – alchemy represents process and signifies the summation of a process – usually the process of the soul attaining its highest state.
Sayyed Hossein Nasr describes alchemy as:
Alchemy, which is at once a symbolic science of material forms and a symbolic expression of the spiritual and psychological transformations of the soul, became a link between Sufism and art, and its language the means whereby the maker and the artisan has been given the possibility of integrating his outward and inward life, his work and his religious activity.
Kimya was also the name of the great Mawlana Jalaludin Rumi’s adopted daughter, a spiritual saint in her own right, who learnt from him the science of spirituality.
In his introduction to the Kimiya-e-Sa’adat (Alchemy of Happiness), Imam Ghazali explains:
“Know, O beloved, that man was not created in jest or at random, but marvellously made and for some great end. Although he is not from everlasting, yet he lives for ever; and though his body is mean and earthly, yet his spirit is lofty and divine. When in the crucible of abstinence he is purged from carnal passions he attains to the highest, and in place of being a slave to lust and anger becomes endued with angelic qualities. Attaining that state, he finds his heaven in the contemplation of Eternal Beauty, and no longer in fleshly delights. The spiritual alchemy which operates this change in him, like that which transmutes base metals into gold, is not easily discovered, nor to be found in the house of every old woman. It is to explain that alchemy and its methods of operation that the author has undertaken this work, which he has entitled, The Alchemy of Happiness. Now the treasuries of God, in which this alchemy is to be sought, are the hearts of the prophets, and he, who seeks it elsewhere, will be disappointed and bankrupt on the Day of Judgment, when he hears the words, “We have lifted the veil from off thee, and thy sight to-day is keen. God has sent on earth a hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets to teach men the prescription of this alchemy, and how to purify their hearts from baser qualities in the crucible of abstinence. This alchemy may be briefly described as turning away from the world to God.”
Eethar: selflessness/altruism/preferring others over yourself
Al-Eethar means giving preference to others over yourself and considering their happiness and welfare before your own. It is to relinquish some of the pleasures of life to others; they enjoy them and you lose them. When we say that a person has given preference to another one over himself, it means that he preferred this person to himself for the sake of the reward of the hereafter.
Imam Ghazali says in his book Al-Ihya (The Revival), that there are three levels/grades of al-Eethar:
First- to give your brother what you would give to a servant, i.e. you eat and give him your leftovers.
Second- to treat him just like yourself, i.e. you give him what you would take for yourself.
Third- to prefer him over yourself, i.e. provide his needs before yours.
The greatest Eethar in this life is to seek Allah’s pleasure over that of mankind, yourself, or any other thing.
Allah says in the Qur’an (59:9) in a verse describing the believers,
But those who before them, had homes (in Medina) and had adopted the Faith – show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot). And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls – they are the ones that achieve prosperity
Eethar is to forsake one’s worldly share for your brother/sister in Islam to benefit from it, and to prefer someone else before one’s self with the intention of being rewarded by Allah in the Hereafter.
Al-Eethar consists of a few elements which if implemented, would identify a good practising Muslim. Some of these are: to maintain good relations with people, to be tolerant and understanding, patience, concern, forgiveness and mutual kindness. One of the companions (ra) said: “The Prophet (saw) never denied anyone something which he owned.”
The Prophet (saw) also said: “None of you will have faith till he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
Al-Eethar was naturally a part of the Prophet (saw). When witnessed by many, they actually embraced Islam.