Revelation As The Ultimate Source Of Guidance


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Revelation As The Ultimate Source Of Guidance

  1. 1. ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES029908- REVELATION AS THE ULTIMATE SOURCE OF GUIDANCEPaper presented at the 11th Regional Leadership Training Programme held in Hungary 21 July - 21 August by Prof Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.  E-M: omarkasule@yahoo.comOUTLINESGENERAL CONCEPTSREVELATION AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGEEMPIRICAL OBSERVATION AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGEINTELLECT AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGEOTHER SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGEINVALID SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE (MASADIR AL MARIFAT):GENERAL CONCEPTSAll knowledge is from Allah: It is a cardinal principle of Islam that all knowledge is from Allah (p 826-827 2:31-32, 2:151, 2:239, 2:251, 2:282, 3:48, 4:113, 5:4, 5:97, 5;110, 6:91, 6:114, 7:52, 11:14, 11:49, 12:6, 12;21-22, 12:37, 12:68, 12:101, 16:78, 18:65, 20:114, 21:74, 21:79, 26:132, 27:15, 28:14, 53:5, 55:1-4). Humans can get it in a passive way from revelations or in an active way by empirical observation and experimentation. Whatever knowledge they get is ultimately from Allah. Innate and acquired knowledge: Humans have some knowledge even before birth for example the knowledge of the creator. A human baby has limited in-born knowledge that is mostly needed for the intuitive and instinctive biological functions needed for survival at that tender age. Most human knowledge is learned. The learning can take place at the level of the individual or the community. The learning can be the result of observation or the result of teaching (p. 820 3:79, 6:105, 6:156, 7:16, 34:44, 68:37). Humans learn from transmitted knowledge or experience, 'ilm naqli. They can also learn from their own empirical experience and the interpretation or understanding of that experience, 'ilm 'aqli. Transmitted knowledge can be from revelation or from past history and experience. A lot of knowledge about social interaction is learned passively. Human search for knowledge, talab al 'ilm: Seeking to know is both an inner human need that satisfies human curiosity. It is demanded by Allah when He orders humans to get kowledge of essential things (p. 825 2:194, 2:196, 2:203, 2:209, 2:228, 2:231, 2:233, 2:235, 2;244, 2:267, 5:34, 5:92, 5:98, 8:24-25, 8:28, 8:40, 9;2, 9:36, 9:122, 9;123, 10:101, 16:43, 30:8, 47:19, 49:7, 51:21, 57:17, 57:20, 96:1-4). Revelation (wahy), inference (‘aql), and empirical observation (kaun) are major sources of acquired knowledge accepted by believers. Humans throughout history have quenched their thirst for knowledge from all the three sources. In terms of quantity, empirical knowledge (‘ilm tajriibi) comes first. In terms of quality revealed knowledge, wahy, comes first. There is close interaction and inter-dependence between revelation, inference, and empirical observation. ‘Aql is needed to understand wahy and reach conclusions from empirical observations. Wahy protects ‘aql from mistakes and provides it with information about the unseen. ‘Aql can not, unaided, fully understand the empirical world. Acquisition of knowledge, tahsil  al ilm: Allah has endowed some humans with the ability to study and get knowledge from its primary sources, dirasat al 'ilm. Most people, however, do not get knowledge directly from its sources. They have to follow others who have the knowledge, taqlid.  The process of taqlid has both positive and negative aspects. For those unable to get knowledge, following is required, mashuru 'iyat al taqlid. They however can not follow blindly. They must ascertain that those they follow have correct knowledge from the valid and primary sources. Obligation to get knowledge: Every man or woman is obliged to get the minimum essential knowledge to be able to live and follow the dictates of the diin, al ma'alum fi al ddiin bi al dharurat. REVELATION AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGERevelation is knowledge par excellence. It is true, relevant and essential knowledge. In addition to providing facts, it also provides a methodology that can be used by other sources of knowledge. Knowledge by revelation reaches humans only through prophets and messengers (p 1299 42:91; p. 827 2:31, 2:120, 2:129, 2:145, 2:151, 3:48, 3:61, 3:164, 4:113, 5:110, 12:21, 12:22, 12:37, 12:68, 12:86, 12:96, 12:101, 19:43, 21:74, 21:79, 21:80, 27:15-16, 27:47, 28:14, 62:2). Ordinary humans can not receive revealed knowledge on their own.  Knowledge of the past and the future is best obtained from revelation because empirical observation is limited in the time dimension. Archeology for example is an empirical observation of the past but is limited because with time the artifacts become changed and distorted. Even if not distorted they may not be interpreted correctly. The new discipline of futuristic studies relies on extrapolation from present-day trends. Its results can not be conclusive. EMPIRICAL OBSERVATION AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGEAllah gave humans senses to enable them get empirical knowledge from their environment (p 836 16:78, 17:36, 96:3-4). The concept of causality, sababiyyat, underlies most knowledge obtained by empirical observation. Simply stated this concept asserts that there is a material cause for every physical event that a human observes. He may be or not be aware of the cause but can not deny its existence. INTELLECT AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGEIntellect (‘aql) distinguishes humans from other living things on earth. It enables them to understand and correctly interprete the sensory perceptions of the signs of Allah in the universe and thus leads to stronger imanand taqwah. Intellect is so important that its misuse or under-use, ta’atwil al ‘aql, are severely condemned by the Qur’an  (p 818 2:44, 2:44, 2:86, 2:170-171, 3:65, 5:58, 5:103, 6:32, 7:169, 7:179, 8:22, 10:16, 10:100, 11:51, 12:109, 21:10, 21:68, 22:46, 26:44, 28:60, 29:63, 36:62, 39:43). Intellect is not in itself a primary source of knowledge. It is a tool that enables humans to generate deeper knowledge and understanding from the primary sources: revelation and empirical observation. 'Aql can be looked at as a series of intellectual processes that Allah has endowed the human with. The Qur’an has used several terms to describe intellectual processes:dirayat, fahm, idrak, tafakkur, tadabbur, and tafaqquh. The most often referred to intellectual process is that of thinking, tafakkur. It is noteworthy that the Qur'an mentions thinking with a form of empirical observation using the human senses. Thinking can be by looking,nadhar (p. 241 17:48, 22:15, 25:9, 27:27, 27:33, 27:41, 37:102, 27:59, 59:18, 74:21. Humans are ordered to look at the cosmos (p. 241 3:191, 7:185, 10:101, 29:20, 30:50, 50:6-7, 80:24, 88:17-20), and at themselves (p. 242 86:5, 30:8). Humans are ordered to think about the Qur'an, al tafakkur fi al Qur'an (p 929 4:82, 6:50, 7:4-6, 16:44, 17:45-46, 38:29, 47:24), about creation, al tafakkur fi al khalq (p. 399 2:164, 3;190-191, 6:99, 7:54, 7:185, 10:67, 10:101, 13:2-4, 16:10-17, 16:65-70, 21:30-33, 23:80-89, 26:24-28, 27:59-64, 28:71-73, 29:19-20, 30:20-25, 30:48-50, 31:10-11, 41:53, 42:28-29, 45:3-5, 51:20-21, 79:27-33, 80:24-32, 86:5-7, 88:17-20), and about the signs of Allah, al tafakkut fi al ayat (p 53-54 2;219, 2:266, 3:191, 10:24, 13:3, 16:11, 16:69, 30;8, 38:29, 39:42, 45:13). Understanding, faham (p. 909 21:79), is part of the thinking process. The thinking process can be extended backward in time by thinking about history and the lessons garnered from it, al 'ibrat min al tarikh (p 217-221 3:137, 6:6, 6:42-45, 7:4-5,7:94-95, 7:96-103, 8:52-54, 9:67-70, 10:13-14, 11:100-102, 11:120, 12:111, 14:9, 15:10-13, 16:26, 16:36, 16:63, 17:17, 18:32-44, 18:59, 19:74, 19:98, 20:128, 21;11-15, 22:45-46, 22:48, 24:34, 25:38-40, 27:69, 28:58, 29:38-40, 30:9-10, 32:26, 35:44, 36:30-31, 37:71-73, 38:3, 39:25-26, 40:5, 40:21-22, 40:82-85, 41:13, 44:6-8, 44:37, 46:27, 47:10, 47:13, 50:36-37, 54:4-5, 53:50-55, 54:51, 64:5-6, 65:8-9, 67:18, 69:4-12).  Basic analytical intellectual processes can be deductive or inductive. They are used either in parallel or in sequence depending on the problem being tackled. Careful study of the Qur’an shows the predominance of the inductive methods. In a neutral/natural state of fitrat the human intellect in enough to lead to guidance. It can lead to misguidance if there are corrupting influences in the environment or in the individual. Correct knowledge is the truth (haqq). Human observation and interpretation can be biased away from this truth by human desires/inclinations, hiwa al nafs (P 129 2;120, 2:145, 4:135, 5:48-49, 5:77, 6:56, 6:150, 13:37, 38:26, 42:15, 45:18, 79:40). OTHER SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGEThere is lack of unanimity on the following as additional sources of knowledge: al laduniy', ilham, hadas, instinct,  and firasat. The controversy is not whether they are sources of knowledge but whether they are sources independent of the three mentioned before. The Qur'an mentioned 'ilm laduniyy as knowledge directly from Allah (p. 834 18:65). Ilham is inspiration of knowledge into a person. Some revelations to prophets were by inspiration; they would just find that they knew something. The rest of the revelations were through the normal senses of hearing and sight. It also seems that humans before birth receive knowledge about right and wrong by inspiration, alhamaha fujuraja wa taqwaaha (91:8). Hadas is intuitive knowledge. It is most likely part of empirical knowledge that is stored in the human subconscious and is retrieved and used on given occasions. Humans and animals have instictive knowledge at birth. For example nobody teaches a newborn how to suck at the mother's breast. Animals rely more on instinctive knowledge than do humans. Humans have less need for instinct because of their highly developed cerebral cortex that has more flexibility in facing and solving problems. Geomancy ,firaasat, is a discredited science today. It assumes ability of a human to adduce knowledge by incomplete observation for example looking at a person’s face and deducing what type of character he has or what experiences he has gone through. This is an unscientific approach that could lead to wrong or even dangerous conclusions. There is no empirical proof of its validity as a source of knowledge. There is however divine intervention in human observation that is acknowledged by the Qur’an. Allah can give a gift to believers to see in a phenomenon more than others can see, firasat al mu’umin. This is a sort of divinely guided empirical observation and not telling the unseen from limited empirical observation. INVALID SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGEMagic, sihr; sorcery, sihr; astrology, tanjiim; foretelling, kahanat & tatayur; and other forms of superstition are not sources of true knowledge. They may lead to correct and verifiable facts but only by chance and coincidence. They most often lead to wrong and misguiding facts. Sihr is severely forbidden (KS 274-275). It is considered one of the major sins, kabair. He who indulges in it commits shirk. Astrology was also forbidden (KS 143). The Prophet went to the extent of saying that the astrologer is a liar even if his predictions turn out to be true. Magic: The Qur'an uses the term sihr to refer to both magic and sorcery. Magic refers to use of tricks to create visual or other types of illusions. The uninitiated may be misled into believing in the existence of supernatural power because of the illusions (p 566 15:15, 7:116). The Qur'an tells us that unbelievers rejected messengers and called them magicians (p 566 7:109, 10:2, 20:63, 25:8, 40:24, 43:30, 43:30, 43:49, 51:39, 51:52). Some prophets were accused of being under the spell of magic (p 566 17:47, 17;101). The revelations and messages or the prophets were also rejected as magic (p. 566 5:110, 6:7, 7:132, 10:76-77, 11:7, 20:57-58, 21:3, 26:34-38, 27:13, 28:36, 34:43, 37:15, 38:4, 46:7, 54:2, 61:6, 74:24). Pharaon asked his magicians to demonstrate their magical prowess against Musa (p 566 7;112-113, 7:116, 10:79-81, 20:66, 26:40-41, 26:46, 26:49). Musa was given power by Allah to counter the magic (p 566 20:69-73).  The Qur'an made it clear that magic was not effective (p. 566 26:46, 28:48, 52:15). Sorcery: The term sihr is also used by the Qur'an to refer to sorcery or the so-called black magic. It involves use of magical tricks with additional psychological conditioning that can lead to real psychological effects in people who believe that they are victims of sorcery; there are no effects on those who do not believe the supersitition. The Qur'an tells the story of 2 angels Harut and Marut who were sent to teach sorcery in the town of Babila (2;102). What they taught was harmful and its psychological effects could lead to the separation of spouses. The Qur'an made it clear that sorcery was dangerous knowledge. The question may be validly asked why Allah sent angels to teach something that was so dangerous. Interpreters of the Qur'an explain that at that time there were many people who pretended to be prophets and they used magic and sorcery to deceive and convince people. It was therefore necessary that people be shown magic and sorcery so that they may be able to distinguish them from the true miracles of the prophets. Astrology: is the magical forerunner of the modern science of astronomy. Astrologers pretend to predict events in a person's life by studying the movement of stars. Kahanat and tatayur: These are forms of fortelling. The prophet was accused of being kahin but the Qur'an cleared him (p. 1035 52:29, 69:42). Tatayur was mentioned in the Qur'an (p. 755 7:131, 17:13, 27:47, 36:18-19).<br />© Professor Omar Hasan Kasule August 1999<br />