The Islamic faith is based on belief
in Allah. When a person believes that the heavens and the earth and the
world around him have been created by Him, and it is He who is governing
them and it is He who will one Day call all mankind to account, then this
is the beginning of religious awareness. Quite obviously, it is necessary
that people have a true conception of their Creator. For this, they must
have knowledge of the rational grounds of His existence as well as knowledge
about gaining His correct recognition (ma`rifat).
a) Faculty of Intuition: Certain a priori information exists in every person's intuition: it pertains to the knowledge which is not learned through the senses but which is innate and inborn in an individual. This innate information consists of various concepts. For example the concept of contradiction is an information present in our intuition. This concept, of course, is not a tangible thing. However, we apply this concept to a certain phenomenon and conclude that contradiction exists. Similarly, the fact that a thing is smaller than another is a concept which exists in our intuition and has no external form. Harmony, part and whole, unity, cause, space (up, down), time (before, after), etc are other examples of such concepts present in a person's intuition since his very birth. Human emotions like love and hatred, etc and human conscience, which discriminates between good and evil etc are some other examples of information which are present in our intuition.
b) Faculty of Sense Perception: Similarly, man receives knowledge through his five senses from the external environment. A person's senses are his receptors, which link him to the outside world. He sees, hears, touches, smells and tastes a thing and gets information about it. Moreover, this information gathered by the senses is transmitted to the later generations and such information becomes established history.
c) Faculty of Reason: Now, the human faculty of reason collates the information that it receives through the senses with the innate information present in human intuition. This internal analyses produces results, which, if proven correct, become facts and add to the treasure of human knowledge. One form of this analysis is called induction ie general laws are deduced by analysing particular examples. Many conclusions reached in this regard are not tangible facts. In fact, these conclusions are supported by evidence that exists in the external world. Most scientific laws which have been discovered are of this nature. One does not see the force of gravity, yet undeniable proof exists of its existence. Similarly, it is a fact that the earth is rotating on its axis at a very high speed and also, at the same time, revolving round the sun. Obviously, these are things our senses do not register; yet this rotation and this revolution are irrefutable realities. The point which is being made is that besides knowledge received through the senses and through intuition, there is another kind of knowledge in which knowledge and information are gathered through the process of induction and analysis. Such facts are not seen or heard or touched or tasted or smelt but are arrived at after evaluating what is perceived through the senses and what is already present in our intuition. This particular source of knowledge, it seems, is something which distinguishes man from other species which inhabit this earth.
In the light of this analysis, consider now how we have knowledge of the existence of the Almighty. No doubt, our senses have no means to perceive the Almighty. A person's intuition, on the other hand, has ample testimony within it which corroborates the existence of a Supreme Being. However, if a person does not pay heed to the testimony of his intuition, the third source of knowledge makes the existence of Allah the most manifest reality in this universe. This universe is brimming with certain signs and indications that point to the existence of a Creator. We shall allude to some of these:
Their exists a certain order and control in the universe. It is, in fact, this order to which we owe our very existence. Man till now has been able to explore a major part of the solar system in which he dwells on a very tiny part of it. His knowledge of the solar system and of what is beyond it shows that definite physical laws control the movement of all heavenly bodies. The precision and accuracy in these movements is astounding. Like mechanical parts of a machine each heavenly body seems to be controlled by a central system which is working without blemish. The sun and the moon, the two heavenly each person can observe, show remarkable consistency in following a particular schedule. Similarly, the coming of day and night at their appointed times has become an unerring phenomenon. Moreover, man's own body is a whole compound of extraordinary systems, which work with unimaginable order. In other words, there exists a tremendous order and control in this universe, both at the cosmic and the human level.
With this Order and Control, there exists a great amount of Providence in this world. All phenomena of nature seem to be directed at the obedient service of man. The sun rises and sets for him and the moon waxes and wanes for him. The waves of the sea serve man and the waters of the springs are for his comfort. It is he for whom the clouds burst with rain and it is he for whom the stars shine to show the way. This Providence is evident in the tiniest of nature's manifestations.
A person who lives in this world experiences the Benevolence and Mercy of some Superior Being. It is the wish of every individual who lives in this world to live as long as possible. To escape death as much as he can is a strong desire within him. His love for this world and for the attractions within it is unceasing. This attitude of man clearly shows that he considers his existence an act of benevolence and mercy.
The whole world seems to be created with a certain purpose. It seems as if man and woman, families, tribes, civilizations all have certain objectives to fulfil. Similarly, there exists a tremendous amount of harmony between diverse manifestations of nature, which seem to be assisting one another to achieve a common goal. It is this aspect of the striking amount of creativity around us that we call Wisdom.
This macrocosm in which is present this immense control, this boundless benevolence, this profound providence and this overwhelming wisdom induces human reason to ponder on it. The curiosity within a person motivates him to find a plausible explanation of these great manifestations. The Quran says that the only explanation of all this is that a Cognizant and Responsive Being has brought this world into existence who from the very beginning is running its affairs:
The existence of the Almighty is the only
plausible explanation of this universe. For something to be the only explanation
of a phenomenon it is necessary that it fulfil all the requirements and
requisites of that phenomenon. For example, if for some reason we tear
a piece of writing to pieces and throw them in a waste paper basket, and
later the written paper is needed, what we do is that we gather all the
pieces of paper from the basket and by joining them together try to reconstruct
what had been written. After some effort, we succeed in our efforts. Disjointed
words and scattered phrases became a meaningful piece of writing. What
is now infront of us is an undeniable reality in which words have been
knitted together in a particular pattern of arrangement. No other arrangement
of words is possible to make the writing seem meaningful.
We now address ourselves to the second issue, viz how can the correct recognition (ma`rifat) of the Almighty be obtained in this world? In this regard, the Quran says that it is not possible to observe the Almighty. In other words, it is not possible for us to attain his recognition through visual experience. The Quran says that whatever concept we have of the Almighty is with reference to His attributes since we have no means to comprehend His Being. The reason for this is that we can only have knowledge of someone's being when we are either able to perceive it through our senses or we are able to comprehend it by considering it to be analogous to beings which our senses can perceive. It is clear that the Almighty's Being cannot be conceived since both these means are not available to us. Consequently, the Quran says:
When Moses, (sws) one the most distinguished of Prophets, asked Allah to give him the chance of directly observing Him, he was clearly told that his wish could not be fulfilled:
The Quran positively asserts that the
recognition of the Almighty must be obtained through His attributes. The
reason for this is that we find a reflection of these attributes in our
own selves. We are aware of mercy, power, wisdom, justice and control in
our own selves to some extent. Consequently, we are able to conceive
the Almighty with respect to His attributes. The Quran says that man should
restrict himself to this conception of the Almighty. This concept is enough
to fulfil all the requirements which belief in Him entail. To acknowledge
the oneness of the Almighty, to prostrate oneself infront of Him, to seek
help from Him, to obey all His directives and to worship Him are what belief
in Him entail. If we have knowledge of His attributes, we have His recognition
(ma`rifat) after which all these requirements can be fulfilled.