Josef van Ess
October 11, 2018
The topic of this article is the K. al-Makāsib (“A Note on Earnings”), an early theological text, written by al-Muḥāsibī (d. 243/857). While several studies on the first part exist, the second part has been largely ignored. Its subject is the concept of waraʿ (“scrupulousness”). The article contains a full translation and a commentary of the second part of the K. al-Makāsib , based on the only preserved manuscript. At the beginning of the text, waraʿ is defined as “to abstain from anything which displeases God.” This is about more than just the avoidance of what is forbidden and the fulfilment of what is commanded. There exist doubtful things ( shubuhāt ), for which it is unclear whether they fall under the forbidden or not. Piety demands avoidance of them. While religious law relates to human actions only, al-Muḥāsibī insists on the significance of “acting with the heart”. The pious must undertake a soul-searching ( muḥāsaba ) before taking any action. Many concrete examples of scrupulous behavior are mentioned. One topic is how to earn a living. Some recommend earning it by the work of one’s hands, others prefer begging, and yet others prefer to live off rubbish, or even off herbage alone. Asceticism with its different forms of starvation is discussed. A larger topic is the question of cooperation with a potentially immoral government, and, more narrowly, how to proceed when illegal money is received, particularly in the case of inheritance, or what it means “to help” someone else by committing forbidden acts.