Islam Doctrines on Equality, Realism, Wisdom and Mysticism (5)

Islam Doctrines on Equality, Realism, Wisdom and Mysticism (5)

Knowledge and Wisdom from the Point of view of Islam

The person who has made a cursory study of the religions and creeds of the world will have no doubt that the dignity and honor which Islam has accorded to knowledge and wisdom and the extent to which it has encouraged their acquisition is unparalleled in any other religion or ideology, whether revealed or non-revealed. It is the Holy Quran which asks, "Are those who know equal to those who do not?(1)

and which praises the exalted station of knowledge in the most eloquent manner. And it is the Holy Prophet who has said "The pursuit of knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim,* Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave" and "Seek knowledge, even unto China." Again, it is the Holy Quran which commands its followers never to stray from the way of knowledge nor to follow what is only supposed or assumed, and never to accept without deliberation what passes before their sight or crosses their minds, for they will be responsible for their beliefs. "(O man), follow not that where of thou hast no knowledge. Lo! The hearing and the sight and the heart-of each of these it will be asked."(2)

As has become clear Islam encourages its followers to acquire knowledge with all the powers at their disposal, and in this respect it has designated knowledge of religious jurisprudence or doctrinal sciences, and the injunctions of the religious law (Shari'ah) as mandatory." And the believers should not all go out to fight [in the holy war]. Of every troop of them, a party should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion.(3)

A point which must be kept in mind is that the capacity of individuals for the comprehension of scientific and intellectual truth varies. There are people who have no talent for logical thought and who, with their simple minds, live in a surrounding of physical labor and on a level of purely material life, where there are others whose thought is logical and who by their very nature take a special joy in comprehending profound concepts and scientific theories.

Still others have cut their attention from both thought and physical labor and, having a special aversion for the dark world of matter and its deceiving beauty and fleeting pleasures, find in themselves a particular attraction towards the transcendent world and a peculiar fascination for its lasting and infinite beauty, of which the beauty of this world is only the reflected image. Such men easily comprehend the verities and mysteries of the transcendent world by means of inner illumination.

It is with a view to this diversity, which is clearly visible among men, that Islam instructs each of these three groups in its own terms and language. One group it has taught by means of the external and formal aspect of religion and a second group by way of intellectual demonstration, while the third group it has instructed to struggle against the carnal soul and to purify the heart. In the same way, in the Quran God has struck a similitude about His Own utterances and expressions: "He sendeth down water from the sky, so that valleys flow according to their measure."(4)

The Holy Prophet has said, "We prophets have been commanded to speak to men according to the measure of their understandings." Those among its followers who have not the taste for rational demonstration and who would face the danger of error and deviation if they were to attempt to traverse this path, Islam has charged with no more than the measure of their ability, and beyond the three principles of religion (Divine Unity, Prophecy and the Last Judgement) it only instills them with simple practical injunctions such as command to do good and prohibitions from committing evil; this type of formulation is found in a great number of Quranic verses and in saying of the Prophet and the Shi'ite Imams.

Of course, in the case of the three principles of religion, man in his primordial nature can engage in a simple form of rational demonstration, and hence he will have accepted nothing but definitely proven knowledge. And in fact this method provides him with rational proof of the remaining teachings and injunctions which he has accepted without rational demonstration, for the truth of the principle of prophecy proves in a definitive manner the validity of all of the saying which have reached us from the Prophet.

The way of rational demonstration-Islam teaches those people who are endowed with sound minds and who have the capacity to comprehend scientific theories and intellectual and logical arguments through logical and rational demonstration. In other words, it guides them towards that which their uncorrupted and reality-seeking primordial nature immediately perceives. It does not first impose upon them its doctrines and beliefs and then defend these by reasoning and proofs.

The Book and the Tradition, that is, the verses of the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Prophet and of the Shi'ite Imams-which make clear the meaning and purpose of the Quranic verses-are full of this type of rational demonstration. In them the Islamic beliefs and doctrines are explained in detail by means of the simplest forms of expression and the most convincing proofs, and likewise, mention is made in them of the general and universal benefits and advantages of the Islamic laws and injunctions.

Obviously, we must not overlook the fact that the meaning of discussion and demonstration of the benefits and advantages of the Islamic laws and injunctions is not that if an individual Muslim or Islamic society in general does not understand a particular injunction, that injunction should be rejected. For as we have already mentioned, these laws were promulgated by means of prophecy, and the proof of the validity of prophecy is a summary proof of the validity of these laws, even if we do not possess the detailed reason for this.

The way of purification of the soul-The third group of men are those who are ready and eager to sever all material attachments and to turn their attention away from the deceiving adornments and illusory desires of this world. Such men are prepared to forget all that is other than God and to close their eyes to every beauty and ugliness and every sweet and bitter experience of this transient and illusory existence. Opening the eye of discernment.

Towards the eternal world, they are prepared to contemplate without the veil of materiality the radiance of the Majesty and Grandeur of God, to traverse the stages of human perfection which must be crossed upon leaving this fleeting life, and to enter into the Proximity of the Divine. With such men Islam converses secretly of the divine mysteries in a language which they alone understand, and thus it guides them from the depths of ignorance to the pinnacle of knowledge and wisdom.

Continue in the next article: ( Islam Doctrines on Equality, Realism, Wisdom and Mysticism (6) )



1. (The Holy Quran XXXIX, 9)

2. (The Holy Quran XVII, 36)

3. (The Holy Quran IX, 122)

4. (The Holy Quran XIII, 17)