Hayy from 2:30-3:45 slot Group members: · Mohammad Faaiz



Hayy ibn Yaqzaan



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Originally from 2:30-3:45 slot






Mohammad Faaiz Iftikhar-14208

Areebah Hassan-14252

Wasif Samad-14207

ibn Yaqzaan, Arabic for ‘Alive, Son of the Awake’, is a philosophical tale
penned down by the 12th century Islamic philosopher, scholar and
theologian Ibn Tufayl. This story is immensely influenced by the philosophical
tales concocted by the eminent philosopher Avicenna. Ibn Tufayl’s tale was
intended as a rejoinder to one of his students query pertaining to the
attainment of mystic reality and whether anyone can reach the spiritual level
without any kind of communication or guidance. Ibn Tufayl puts encapsulates the
crux of the story quite beautifully:

“The tale points a moral for all with
heart to understand,, a reminder for anyone with a heart or ears to listen and
to hear.”  

the onset, we are confronted with two, deviating narratives regarding the birth
of Hayy. According to one, he was born without a mother or father. A fictitious
narrative has been concocted, according to which he was born out of clay, after
it became exposed to the intense heat and humidity of the temperate climate of
the previously uninhabited island where this story is set:c

            “…a mass of clay
worked 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 of
Hayy, the other narrative takes on a more realistic approach. According to
this, He was born to the sister of a tyrant king, who married one her kinsman
secretly and bore him a son. Out of fear and apprehension which the thought of
her brother entailed, she manoeuvred her son into an ark and furtively it into
the ocean. It reached the banks of an island, devoid of human presence.

            Hayy found solace in the companionship of a doe, who
intercepted the ark and was drawn towards it owing to the infant’s wailing
noise. She, perhaps, mistook him for her lost fawn, tending to him and feeding
him her very milk.

            We gain a glimpse of Hayy’s observation of his
surroundings when he reaches the age of two. He constantly compares himself
with to the animals around him and realises that he is unlike any of them:

            “He observed the
animals from this perspective and saw how they were clothed in fur, hair or
feathers , how swiftly they could fight, and what apt weapons they had for defence
against any attacker—horns, tusks, hooves, spurs and claws. No maimed or deformed
animal 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 all
her external body parts but found nothing wrong with any of them. He yearned to
reach the place where she was hurt and aimed to take it away, in the hope of
springing her back to life:

            “He knew that when
he shut his eyes or covered them, he saw nothing until the obstruction was
removed; if he stopped his ears with his fingers he could not hear until the
obstacle was gone; and if he held his nose he would smell nothing until the
passageway was clear again. These observations led him to believe that not only
his sense, but every one of his other bodily functions was liable to
obstructions that might block its work.”

Seeing no visible damage,
he realised that the hurt must be in some organ unseen within the body which
was so central to its functioning that without it no other body parts could
function. This was evident from how inactivity was not confined but spread
throughout the doe’s body.

            His past observation suggested that this central organ
was 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 three
since all the other organs were equally dependent on it”. This line of
reasoning struck me with awe as it is difficult to conceive someone who has
merely crossed the seven-year age barrier to come up with such a sophisticated
pretention and decipher the significance of the ‘centre’ or ‘middle’.

            Moving on, Hayy believed that the vital organ must be
situated in the chest, contending that “he could feel that there was something
there”. He even goes onto assert that he could conceive living on without most
of his external organs, even his head. This fallacious claim not only helped to
counter the observational excellence of Hayy’s that Ibn Tufayl gave us a
glimpse of and remind us that Hayy was not infallible and a mere child. It also
clarifies that Hayy mainly resorted to relying in his intuition. That is
probably what provided the impetus for his conjecture/speculation regarding the
importance of the central position. Therefore, I feel that most of his
arguments at and before this stage were mere intuition/conjecture, for which
Hayy failed to put forward any rationale.

            Out of curiosity and sheer desperation, Hayy decided to
dissect the doe in pursuit of the indispensable organ and discovered the heart,
immaculately positioned in the mid-chest cavity, “wrapped in an extremely tough
envelope and bound by the strongest ligaments”. Its central position and the
fact that it was well protected than any other organ convinced him. Hayy cut
open the heart and found the left ventricle to be empty. He was dumbfounded
since by then he knew “that every organ existed to carry  out some specific function”. H e reached the
conclusion that whatever had occupied this region had abandoned it, halting
bodily motions.

            He was subsequently bombarded with numerous questions
regarding the ‘being’, which had once, according to he speculated, reposed in
the, now empty, chamber. He realised that the entire body was simply a tool of
this ‘being’, analogous to the sticks he used to combat animals. In the
meantime, Hayy came across fire and discovered some similarity between it and
the ‘being’:

            “His new
infatuation with fire, based on its power and all its beneficial effects , gave
him the notion that what had abandoned his doe-mother’s heart was of the same
or similar substance. This supposition was reinforced by his observation that
body heat in animals was constant as long as they were alive, but that they
grew cold after death.”

            In order to discover that ‘being’, he decided to carry
out the same operation, which he had previously performed on the doe, on a
living animal. He unearthed the same chamber, but this time it was filled with
a ‘steamy gas’. Poking the chamber resulted in the animal’s death. This
convinced Hayy that the ‘hot vapour was what imparted animation to the and that
every animal has something corresponding: When this departs, the animal dies’.
This led to the discovery of that ‘being’ which was the source of power that
drove the entire body. All actions emanated from the spirit which governed all
the organs that collectively formed the body. It merely employed them as agents
to carry out its functions.

            Around the age of 21, Hayy became engrossed in the
objects that he found around himself. Observing them meticulously, he concluded
that in as much as things differ they are many, but in as much as they
correspond they are one. Viewing himself in light of the diversity of his
organs, he realised that all were inter-connected all their actions emanated
from the spirit ‘which was one and his real-self’. It governed all other organs
of 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 give
them their particular qualities to the senses and their ways of motion.
Furthermore, he contended that all bodies are a composite of a ‘corporeal
factor and another non-physical factor’. The former, physical factor was common
across different bodies while the latter belonged exclusively to the spirit:

            “…it dawned on him
that the animal spirit, which lives in the heart and at which he had first
probed with his dissections, must itself have a principle over and above its
corporeality which would enable it to carry out all its wonderful, as true
subject of the various modes of sensing, apprehending and moving.”

            This became further accentuated when he disembarked on
another experiment, whereby he moulded clay into various shapes, altering the
ratio of its length, breadth and height. His experiment suggested to him that
all bodies were compounded of two factors, which we just mentioned, one
analogous to the clay and the other to the various dimensions it took on:

            “The variable
factor, which can present a succession of many different faces, that is
extension, corresponds to the forms of all other bodies. The other factor which
remains constant like the clay of the example, corresponds to materiality in
all other bodies.”

            Hayy knew by necessity that everything has a cause. He
realised that the ability of any body to incorporate certain kinds of motion
was due to its ‘disposition or form’. All these actions were brought about
through them by another ‘Being’, which is superior to corporeality and issued
functions through the form.          

the age of 28, Hayy turned his attention towards celestial bodies and stumbled
on the conundrum whether the world
is eternal or produced in time:

“Seeing the whole
universe as in reality one great being, and uniting all its many parts in his mind
by the same sort of reasoning which had led him to see the oneness of all bodies
In the world of generation and decay, Hayy wondered whether all this had come
to be from nothing, or in no respect emerged from nothingness but always

Hayy found this dilemma to be insuperable and left it unanswered, he realised
that the implication of these diverging arguments/stances was the same since
they entailed embracing the notion that the universe had a Maker, who was
independent from all corporeality and beyond perception through merely the

was no longer troubled by the dilemmas of creation versus eternity, for either
way 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 of
the very physical things which He transcends.”

for the corporeality/temporal existence of the Maker would lead to further
complications since the Maker Himself would in turn require a “cause” or
creator, adding further convolutions to the argument. Hayy’s arguments
befuddled me. Though he managed to realise that the Maker was beyond
corporeality in light of the preceding argument, he never contested the scepticism
resulting from it. Even if the Maker is beyond temporal existence, any rational
human would wonder as to how could the Creator be not created Himself and emulate
a pre-existent and eternal form. What augmented the intensity of this concern is
the fact that though Hayy managed to recognize and address this conundrum when
contesting for the non-corporeality of the Maker, where he conceded that a
physical being would in turn require a ’cause’ or creator, he failed to extend his
argument further.  

gaining this insight, the way Hayy perceived the world revolutionised since
whatever he saw reminded him of the power and omnipotence of the Maker. He
maintains the world and is superior to it in the order of His being as well as
by 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, in
light of all his corporeal wonders, He must be an epitome of impeccability,
endowed with complete perfection and “transcending all privations”.

Hayy reached his 35th year, he was completely entangled in resolving the
mystery of the Eternal One:

 “Now he
knew 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 of
the maker of that form, though his Notion of him as yet was general and

was sure about the facts that He was his Creator and definitely exist, it was
not some wild feeling of his self, but a reality indeed. Now being sure of His
existence, he wanted to find know how did he came to know of His existence. He
reasoned that it cannot be through His senses or any such physical thing that
brought him to the idea of existence of the One. As all this was divisible and
transient, and thus could not enlighten him about some perpetual, indivisible
being. He believed that as the nature of the Necessarily Existent, i.e
indivisible and everlasting, what edified him about this Being must also have
the same nature, and be the essence of his own being. He resolved that it was
his soul, which informed him about Him. He thus came to know that the Necessary
Being was exempt of all kinds of faults and corruption, and was perfect in His
existence; there was none like unto Him. He saw by this that the perfection of
one’s soul can be attained only by constant reasoning, & one who died
without reasoning in his life, wasted his soul. He also realized that once he
has realized the existence of God & turned away from Him chasing the
temporary, he will lose the intuitive vision and put himself in suffering,
while if he wholly turns towards his God, he will enjoy eternal bliss. These
considerations led Hayy to search for divine trance by contemplating and
concentrating his thoughts only on the Necessary Being.

 Having apprehended the manner by which the
being like the Heavenly Bodies was peculiar to him above all other kinds of
Animals whatever, he perceived that it was a Duty necessarily incumbent upon
him to resemble them, and imitate their Actions, and endeavour to the utmost to
become like them. He perceived also that in respect of his nobler Part, by
which he had attained the Knowledge of that necessarily self-existent Being he
did in some measure resemble it, because he was separated from the Attributes
of Bodies, as the necessarily self- existent Being is separated from them. He
saw also that it was his Duty to endeavour to make himself Master of the
Properties of that Being by all possible means, and put on his Qualities, and
imitate his Actions, and labour in the doing his Will, and resign himself wholly
to him, and submit to his Dispensations heartily and un- feignedly, so as to
rejoice in him, though ‘he should lay Afflictions upon his Body, and hurt, or
even totally destroy it’. Hayy realised that he resembles on one hand the
Necessary Existent through the noble part of himself-his soul, on the other
hand he resembled the animals through his body. From this he came to the
conclusion that his actions should be carried out on three levels:

Actions emulating those of animals

 2. Actions emulating the celestial bodies

Actions emulating the Necessary Being.

            It eventually became clear to him that his ultimate end
lie in the third emulation which is not obtained without long concentration and
practice in the second one, and that the continuation of the second depends on
the first one. He also realized that the first one although is necessary but is
also a hinderance and will help only accidently, thus he forced himself to
reduce the first emulation to bare necessity i.e strictly consume the required amount
below which animal spirit would not survive.



            What is worth mentioning here is how was Hayy able to
think without being acquainted with any language. Though he acquired linguistic
knowledge from Absal, but before becoming abreast with it he was only familiar
with sounds uttered by wild animals and mimicked them. It’s beyond
apprehension, at least for me, as to how Hayy managed to decrypt and organise
his thoughts in the absence of any sophisticated communication channel to
represent them. This is because when we think of anything and have thoughts going
around in our minds, we perceive them in the form of the language we know and interact

            In conclusion, I would like to contend that this philosophical
tale has been aptly titled ‘Hayy ibn Yaqzaan’ or ‘Alive, Son of the Awake’.
This, unprecedented and seemingly convoluted, title bears the connotation of vigilance
and encapsulates the mindset and approach of Hayy, who was able to decipher the
greater realities of life through physical observation, reason and mystical
experience. It clearly is a tale to gain inspiration from, perpetuating the
notion that God gives guidance to everyone, at least once, throughout their
lives. What we need to do is to remain ‘vigilant’, cash-on the opportunity, and
make an effort to gain unison with the Almighty.