By Maulana Farooq Khan (ViewsHeadlines)
Knowledge is the only distinctive feature of humanity. It is knowledge that is behind honor, respect and distinction for human beings. Other living beings neither possess that knowledge nor do they have the ability to process the knowledge that humans do posses. This ability is behind the enormous material development that the world has undergone over the centuries. The airplanes that crisscross the world, trains that traverse the highlands and lowlands and different other means of transportations are the manifestations of the knowledge that humans possess. Humans have done wonders in architecture, art and culture. Science is one aspect where humans, through ages, have developed. Electricity and atomic powers are the outcome of research and painstaking hard work in the field. Humans’ exploits in metaphysics is nothing short of marvelous.
On the contrary, the lives of birds and animals have vegetated on the same pattern they used to have millions of years ago.
There are three sources of human knowledge and until the man exploits these three sources, he is not expected to reach the zenith of success that awaits him. The three important sources of knowledge are:
1-Direct (self evident)
2-Reasoning and logic
3-Revelation and Divine inspiration
1-Direct knowledge – Whatever we see and experience directly in the course of our daily lives, gives us direct knowledge about those things. The direct experience convinces us about their existence. We see the morning sun go up in the sky, shining brightly. As we have direct experience of the sun and its enormous light, we don’t need further evidence, proof or confirmation about it. Similar is the case of rain. If it is raining, the sky is full of dark clouds and the rains are dampening us. These give us direct knowledge, adding to our experience. There are many a things we know through our own direct experiences and therefore we don’t have any iota of doubt about them.
While the knowledge we accrue through this method is not unimportant, but apparently such knowledge is not enough for us. Therefore we have to take the ladder to other sources of knowledge. The other source of knowledge is reasoning and logic.
2-Reasoning and logic – We add to our knowledge, through intelligence. Our quizzing nature also adds to our knowledge. Knowledge accrued or gained through wisdom, understanding and reasoning is different from the knowledge we gain through direct experience. This knowledge is gained through contemplation, deliberation and meditation in the world and its creation. Qur’an repeatedly says that believers do study and reflect on the creation of the universe and then realize that this all cannot be futile or useless and there is going to be some real implication of it. The believer realizes that what we see of the world, it gives more information about it and its consequences can be fatal. Therefore, in order to save himself from deadly and lethal consequences he takes to prayers.
The amount of music that we find in the world is simply amazing. Every leaf of every tree inspires beauty. The chirping of birds is amazingly melodious. It makes us realize that there is definitely a creator of the universe. If there is so much beauty and splendor scattered in every part of the world, there must be a source, a fountainhead of the beauty. The source and the fountainhead will simply be mighty and magnificent. While this is reasoning, but this reasoning is neither boring nor wearisome. This reasoning gets the support of heart and its attestation. This is not a boring theory either. While we pass through a garden full of blooming flowers of different varieties, we smell the presence of the garden even without seeing it from our own eyes. The closer we get to the garden, the more distinct smells we tend to feel and finally we tend to claim that this is the smell of rose and then name different flowers to describe their distinct scent and aromas. This is notwithstanding the fact that we haven’t yet seen the garden from our own eyes and the flowers are still far away from our own gaze.
In reasoning, we use wisdom. We see that everywhere in the universe and even in our own creation and the distinct features of our physic and body, there are innumerable manifestations of mercy, kindness and benevolence of a higher personality. Realizing the massive knowledge, skill, expertise and intelligence, man finally realizes that someone higher, more knowledgeable should be behind it. He realizes there must be a supreme and powerful entity behind the creation who is also the fountainhead of all the knowledge, beauty and intelligence that we experience.
While the knowledge accrued through reasoning is very important, but a sensible person cannot feel satisfied merely through personal reasoning. This is due to the fact he knows the limitation of our intelligence and reasoning and understands well that the knowledge gained thus is incomplete.
The knowledge we thus gain through reasoning leaves some sort of doubt in our minds. We continue to be haunted by some lingering doubt regarding the outcome and the result of our personal reasoning. What if it is wrong? And we want to know the truth with much more certainty. Obviously, wisdom and intelligence has its own limitations. It cannot go much beyond its limits. Even after the attestation of heart, the testimony by the mind too cannot remove all the doubts. Therefore, man has been seen in the search of a source of knowledge that gives him complete satisfaction of both heart and mind. This source is obviously revelation.
3-Revelation: – In revelation, the truth actually lays itself bare before the man. This is direct knowledge from the Creator and there is no reason to doubt it. The nature of divine knowledge is such that it saves the man from any doubt, mistrust and uncertainty. His mind will be at peace as is his heart. The transformation that this realization brings in his life is all encompassing and very pleasant. Through prophets we can benefit from this source of knowledge. Through prophets, God Almighty reveals this knowledge to humans and guides them. It has nothing to do with material world.
The scriptures are revealed on prophets through this source. This source, as we mentioned earlier is through revelation. While in reasoning, we take the help of wisdom and intelligence. Prophets are sent to us in order to ensure that we don’t remain devoid of this most important source of knowledge. It provides man with knowledge that is beyond any doubt, uncertainty or disbelief. A prophet is like eyes for his followers and through him they see and experience. He is like a contented heart for them through whom they realize the truth from very close. The character and personality of the prophet is so high that he becomes more important for his followers than their own lives and honour. His respect and unquestioned belief in him becomes the most important part of our lives.
While the revelation, at the highest level, can be experienced only by the prophet, but in different ways, Allah makes us experience this revelation too. This is simply to ensure that we too have complete faith in the revelation that was revealed on the prophet. Through human instincts we come to have complete faith in it. This is notwithstanding the fact that our intelligence was neither behind it, nor was there any external source. For example, many a times, we tend to have premonition about something that is going to happen or see it in our dreams. We have no idea as to how it happens. But we can be sure that we have other sources of knowledge beyond our eyes, ears and nose.
It will be a blunder to limit the knowledge to the known sources of information. Even while awake, we tend to have some thoughts that seem very precious and new that we didn’t had any inkling about earlier. We should realize that the life is not limited to the known and recognized. Therefore it will be a huge mistake on our part to ignore the source of knowledge that prophets benefited directly from and guided us towards it later.
(Maulana Farooq Khan is a renowned Delhi based Islamic scholar, author and translator of the Holy Qur’an)