2.0 HISTORY OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE, tarikh al ma’rifat al insaniyat
A. Adam And The First Human Knowledge
B. Development Of Language
C. Development Of Writing
D. Knowledge From Revelation
E. Development Of Empirical Knowledge
3.0 SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE, masadir al ma’arifat:
A. General Concepts
B. Revelation As A Source Of Knowledge
C. Empirical Observation As A Source
D. Intellect As A Source Of Knowledge
E. Other Sources Of Knowledge
4.0 CLASSIFICATION OF KNOWLEDGE,
tasnif al ma’arifat
A. Concept And Purposes Of Classification
B. On The Basis Of Innate And Acquired
C. On The Basis Of Source, Masdar
D. On The Basis Of Learning And Use
E. On The Basis Of Nature And Content
5.0 LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE,
mahdudiyat al marifat
A. Innate Limitations, Huduud Dhaatiyyat
B. The Unseen, Ghaib
C. The Past And The Future
D. Changes And Transitions
E. Retention Of Knowledge
1.0 BASIC CONCEPTS, mustalahat/mafahiimasasiyyat:
A. QURANIC TERMINOLOGY FOR KNOWLEDGE:
Knowledge and information: The term
‘ilm is used in the Qur’an to refer to knowledge. It is also used to
mean information or informing (p. 822 2:60, 2:65, 7:160, 11:79, 12:73, 13:89, 24:41, 46:4, 49:13, 60:10, 66:3).
Various types of knowledge: The term
'ilm is used to refer to various types of knowledge. Knowledge about human life
(p 822 15:26, 5:28, 23:12-14, 39:6, 71:18, 75:4, 75:36-39, 76:1-3, 77:20-22, 86:5-7, 96:2). Knowledge about animal life (p
822-823 5:3, 6:38, 16:5, 16:6-9, 16:66, 16:68-69, 16:79-80, 24:41, 24:45, 27:16-22, 36:72-73, 67:19, 88:17). Knowledge about
the earth (p 824-825 2:36, 7:74, 13:41, 15:19-20, 16:15, 16:65, 16:81, 21:31, 21:44, 22:5, 27:60-61, 27:88, 36:33-36, 39:5,
86:12). Knowledge about the seas and oceans (p 829 10:22, 16:14, 25:53, 27:61, 36:41, 55:19-20, 55:22, 55:24, 69:11, 81:6,
82:3). Knowledge about astronomy (p 833 2;22, 2:29, 6:96-97, 6:125, 13:2, 14:33, 15:16-18, 16:16, 17:44, 21:30, 21:32-33,
22:65, 23:17, 23:86, 31:10, 36:37-40, 37:5-10, 41:11, 41:12, 41:53, 42:29, 51:7, 51:47, 53:1, 55:5, 55:29, 55:33, 55:35, 55:37,
56:75, 65:12, 67:3-5, 71:15-16, 77:8-9, 78:12-13, 79:27-29, 81:1-2, 82:1-2, 86:1-3, 86:11). Knowledge about agriculture (p.
528 6:141, 12:47, 13:4, 14:37, 16:11, 18:32, 26:148, 32:27, 39:21, 44:26, 48:29, 50:9, 56:63-64, 80:24-31). Knowledge about
mathematical quantities (p 786 2:80, 2:184-185, 2:203, 3:24, 9:36-37, 10:5, 17:12, 18:11, 18:22, 23:112, 72:24, 72:28). Knowledge
about counting (p 785 , , 19:84, 19:94, ,
23:113). Knowledge about addition (p. 524-525 2;196, 6:143-144, 7:142, 18:25, 38:23-24). Knowledge about multiplication (p.
p 525 2:261, 8:65). Knowledge about subtraction (p. 525 29:14). Knowledge about division (p. 525 2:237, 4:8, 15:44, 43:32,
51:4, 54:28). Knowledge of the last day, 'Ilm al sa'at, is only with Allah (p.
p 25 6:31, 6:40, 7:187, 12:107, 15:85, 16:77, 18:21, 18:35-36, 19:75, 20:15, 21:49, 22:1, 22:7, 22:55, 25:11, 30:12, 30:14,
30:55, 31:34, 33:63, 34:3, 40:46, 40:59, 41:47, 41:50, 42:17-18, 43:61, 43:66, 43:85, 45:27, 45:32, 47:18, 54:1, 54:46, 79:42).
Most important type of knowledge:
The most important knowledge is knowledge of the attributes of Allah, ma'arifat al
laah (p. 828 2:194, 2:196, 2:209, 2:231, 2:233, 2:235, 2:244, 2:260, 2:267, 5:34, 5:98, 8:24-25, 9:2, 9;36, 9;123, 47:19,
OTHER QUR'ANIC TERMS FOR KNOWLEDGE
The term ma’rifat is also translated as knowledge. It is knowledge of
a lesser degree of certainty than ‘ilm. The term ma’arifat is preferred in most discussions of human knowledge because of the uncertainty of human knowledge.
Hikmat is a higher level of knowledge that interpretes and uses factual information within a moral context. Hikmat is above 'ilm. The Qur'an has described hikmat as knowledge and understanding (p 344 2:12, 2:151, 2:230, 2:251, 2:269, 3:48, 3:81, 3:164, 4:54, 4:113,
5:110, 16:125, 17:39, 31:12, 33:34, 39:20, 43:63, 54:5, 62:2).
basiirat is a divinely guided use of the senses such that their perceptions are correct (p. 1986:104, 12:108, 20:96, 22:46, 75:14).
Ra’ay is opinion based on rational considerations; it may be right or it may be wrong (p. 462 11:27).
Dhann is a term used to refer to conjecture ie knowledge that is not certain. The Qur’an condemns both paying attention
to or following dhann (p. 766-767 2:78, 3:154, 4:157, 6:116, 6:148, 10:36, 10:66,
17:52, 28:38-39, 38:27, 41:22-23, 45:24, 45:32, 53:23, 53:28, 84:14).
Certainty, yaqeen, is the opposite of dhann
(p 1334 4;157, 45:32).
Proof or evidence, burhan. (p 190-1 2:111),
Correct or valid knowledge is the truth.
B. QUR'ANIC TERMS FOR LACK/ABSENCE
Ignorance, jahl, is used in the Qur’an
as the antonym of knowledge, ‘ilm. Ignorance can be simple when the person
knows he does not know. It is compounded if the ignorant person is not aware of his ignorance. The term jahl has been used to refer to a state of ignorance with respect to specific information or explanation (p 309
2:273, 4:77, , 12:89, 16:119, 49:6). This state of ignorance could be temporary
ending with the acquisition of the missing information or explanation. The term has also been used as an attribute of a person
who may have some moral reason for ignorance (p. 309 2:67, 6:35, 7:199, 10:89, 11;46-47, 12:33, 2:63, 28:55, 33:33). The extreme
form of ignorance is represented by rejection of Allah, kufr ( p 309 2:22, 3:154,
5:50, 5:104, 6:100, 6:108, 6:111, 6:140, 6:144, 6:148, 7:28, 7:138, 11:29, 16:56, 16:75, 19:43, 21:24, 22:3, 22:71, 27:55,
27:84, 30:39, 39:29, 39:64, 40:42, 46:23, 48:26, 53:27-30, 53:33-35).
C. CHARACTERIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE
SUPREMACY OF KNOWLEDGE, SIYADAT AL 'ILM:
The Qur'an has talked about the supreme
position of knowledge (p 832 , 2:145, 2:247, ,
44:32). Knowledge is the basis for leadership (p. 832 2:247, 12:55). Those who know are a grade higher than those who do not
know (p 832 39:95, 58:11).
VIRTUE OF KNOWLEDGE, FADHL AL ILM:
The Qur'an refers to knowledge as
good thing or a virtue (p. 832 4:83, 39:9, 58:11).
GRADES OF KNOWLEDGE:
Knowledge, 'ilm, is of various
degrees. Knowledge that is certain with no doubts and ehich represents finality, 'Ilm
al yaqeen (p. 836 2:260, 5:113, 20:135, 24:25, 25:42, 28:75, 37:158, 54:26, 68:17, 72:24, 78:4-5, 81:14, 82:5, 102:3-5).
Knowledge that is empirical but is of lesser degree than 'ilm al yaqeen since it is based on observation by human senses
that are not perfect,'ayn al yaqeen (p
1334 102:7). The truth behind reality, haqq al yaqeen (p 1334 56:95, 69:51). Some
argue that the term ‘ilm should be used for ‘ilm al yaqeen only.
CORRELATES OF KNOWLEDGE:
The Qur’an has used the term
‘ilm correlated with other concepts to show the inter-dependence. Knowledge
is closely related to iman (p 823 2:282, 3:7, 3:18, 4:162, 6:97, 7:32, 9:11, 10:5,
10:101, 16:27, 16:75, 16:101, 17:107, 22:54, 27:52, 27:61, 28:80, 29:8, 29:43, 29:64, 30:22, 30:30, 30:56, 31:25, 34:6, 35:28,
39:29, 39:52, 41:3, 44:39, 4:3-6, 4:26, 58:11, 96:1-5), intellect al 'ilm wa al ‘aql (p 834 4:43, 29:43), the heart, al ilm
wa al qalb (p. 834 9:93, 30:59), understanding Allah's signs, al ilm wa ayat al
llaah (p 54 6:37, 6:97, 7:32, 9:11, 10:5, 27:52, 29:49, 30:22), and consciousness of Allah, al ilm wa al taqwah (p 834 2:194, 2:196, 2:203, 2:223, 2:731, 2:233, 2:282, 9:36). History has recorded many intellectual
crises, azmat ’aqliyyat, whenever humans failed to use their intellectual
In many verses the Qur’an made
the case for evidence-based knowledge, hujjiyat al burhan, and always challenges
those who make claims or allegations to produce their evidence (p 190 2:111, 3:93, -11,
24:4, 27:64, 28:75, 52:38). The story of Ibrahim (2:260) illustrates the significance of evidence-based empirical knowledge.
Ibrahim knew and believed from revealed knowledge that Allah resurrects the dead. He, however, asked Allah to show him how
the dead were resurrected not out of weak faith but because being human be could understand and internalise knowledge that
comes from empirical observation. Allah ordered him to carry out an experiment and to observe the phenomenon of resurrection
for himself. Thus empirical knowledge extended and reaffirmed revealed knowledge.
SEAT OF KNOWLEDGE:
The question ‘where in the
body is the seat of knowledge?’ is unanswerable. Both the intellect, ‘aql,
and the heart, qalb, are candidates. Modern medical science points more to
the brain. The heart could not be excluded because the Qur’an did mention it many times. Our scientific knowledge today
can not shed any more light on this matter.
VARIATION IN AMOUNT OF KNOWLEDGE:
Human knowledge is potentially wide
and is continuously expanding, si'at al ilm (p 832 12:76, 18:109, 20:114, 31:27).
The limit of knowledge is with Allah. An individual or community can only know a little bit of the knowledge and must have
the humility to know and acknowledge that there is a lot that is not known. There is a difference in knowledge (quantity and
quality) among humans as individuals and as communities. Some humans know more than others. Many do not know (p. 829-830 2;26,
2:14, 2:151, 6:38, 7:62, 7:131, 8:34, 10:55, 12:21, 12:40, 12:68, 12:86, 13:43, 18:65-82, 26:197, 34:28, 34:36, 36:26-27,
39:9, 42:18, 43:86, 47:16, 58:11). The Qur'an describes some individuals as possessing very deep knowledge, al rasikhuun fi al ilm (p 508 3:7, 4:162).
OWNERSHIP OF KNOWLEDGE:
Any human knowledge is public property.
It is a sin to hide or try to monopolise it (p 829 2:146, 2:159-160, 2:174, 3;187, 4:37, 6:20, 7:169, 12:51, 12;81). Knowledge
is not property, mal, that can be traded. It is a common property of all and those
who have it must disseminate it to others. Payments made to teachers and researchers are not in exchange for the knowledge
they have; they are for the purposes of maintaining them and their families so that they may concentrate on researc and teaching.
DEVIATION FROM KNOWLEDGE, mukhalafat al ilm:
Knowledge is always the source of
strength and leadership if used well and with good intentions.The Qur'an severely
condemns deviation from the truth represented by knowledge (p. 831-8322:75,
2:77-78, 2:80, 2:89, 2:101, 2:113, 2:120, 2:145-147, 2:188, 3:19, 3:71, 3:75, 3:78, 6:20-21, 8:29, 10:93, 13:37, 16:83, 23:69,
30:29, 42:14, 45:9, 45:17, 45:23-24, 58:14, 61:5). The Qur'an urges getting knowledge instead of following blindly (p 834
5:104; p 244 2:170, 5:104, 7:28, 21:52-54, 26:74-77, 26:136-137, 31:21, 34:43, 37:69-71, 38:7, 43:22-24). The Qur'an also
makes it obligatory to follow where there is knowledge, wujuub ittibai al ilm (p
835 2:22, 2:168-169, 2:184, 2:28, 3:61, 3:66, 3:71, 3:135, 4:157, 5:83, 6:148, 7:28, 9:41, 10:68, 10:89, 13:37, 16:43, 16:95,
17:36, 17:102, 19:43, 21:7, 23:84-89, 24:33, 29:16, 43:20, 45:18, 53:28, 56:62, 61:11, 62:9).
KNOWLEDGE AMONG NON-HUMANS:
Knowledge is not confined to humans.
Angels and jinns have knowledge. Living animals also have some forms of knowledge.
We have no textual or scientific evidence for existence of knowledge in plants or micro-organisms. Our thinking is that knowledge
does not exist in plants or micro-organisms because they lack purposive and pre-meditated action. Purposive action is found
only in humans and animals.
D. THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE
DEFINITION OF EPISTEMOLOGY:
Epistemology is the science of knowledge,
‘ilm al ‘ilm. It is the study of the origin, nature, and methods of
knowledge. The aim of epistemological studies is truth, yaqeen.
Defining an Islamic epistemology,
nadhariyyat ma’rifiyyat Islamiyyat,is the biggest challenge facing Muslim
intellectuals. Such an epistemology must be Qur’ an-based and within the tauhidi
paradigm. It must have fixed parameters from the Qur’anand sunnat and many variable parameters to take into account varying spatio-temporal circumstances. Knowledge from
revelation or empirical observation could be misunderstood if the human intellect is biased away from objectivity. Objectivity
is defined by the Qur'anic term, istiqamat, which implies staying on the path of
truth and not being swayed by whims and desires.Istiqamat comes only next to
iman, as the Prophet said 'qul amantu bi al laahi thumma istaqim'. Modern epistemological
thought has posed two concepts that Muslim scholars have not addressed properly yet: relativity and probability.
E. PROBABILITY and RELATIVITY of
The concept of relativity has caused
much confusion both in social and natural sciences. What needs to be emphasized is that some knowledge and some facts are
absolute and do not change by time or space. Other facts change when the frame of reference changes, nisbiyat al haqiqat. Relativity refers to this change of facts with the change of the reference frame. Thus for
complete description of a physical fact, the frame used must be defined. The Qur'an mentioned the relativity of time when
it mentioned that a day infront of Allah is equivalent to 1000 (32:4-5) or 50,000 (70:4) years in the human reckoning of time.
The problem facing contemporary western epistemology is that nothing is fixed or is absolute. Everything is relative and changeable.
In such a flux there is no meaning to the concept of truth. The Islamic position is that there are some established truths
that do not change with time or place.
The concept of probability concretizes
the limitations of human senses. Knowledge based on human senses in approximate. The aim of scientific research is to increase
the probability of truth but can not reach perfect truth. No scientific fact is absolutely right or correct. Each has a calculable
probability of being correct. The higher this probability, the nearer it is to the truth. The probabilistic nature of knowledge
arises out of limitations of human observation and interpretation of physical phenomena. The challenge to Muslim intellectuals
is to relate the concept of probability to the concept of grades of knowledge mentioned in the Qur'an: 'ilm al yaqeen, 'ayn al yaqeen, and haqq al yaqeen.
2.0 HISTORY OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE, tarikh al ma’rifat al insaniyat
A. ADAM AND THE FIRST HUMAN KNOWLEDGE
Adam was the first human in recorded
history to have acquired knowledge through an active process. He learned the names of things so that he might classify and
identify them; most knowledge however complex starts with naming and classification. The historical record is silent about
what happened in terms of knowledge and scientific development after Adam. The archeological record however shows that humans
in various habitats made progress in learning scientific concepts as well as developing simple technology such as use of fire,
making and using tools, building durable homes, animal husbandry, and agriculture. Progress was slow and was mostly by trial
and error. Technological development was fastest when humans lived together in large communities where they could interact,
learn from one another, and share their creative endeavors. Big spurts in the growth of human technological knowledge always
coincided with discovery of new forms of energy in the following succession: fire, animal muscles, wind, hydro, explosives,
steam, internal combustion engine, electricity, and nuclear energy. Technology has led and determined the growth of all other
disciplines of human knowledge by bringing about major changes of social organisation. Social and human sciences have developed
in response to challenges posed by technology.
B. DEVELOPMENT OF LANGUAGE
Development of language was also
closely related to growth and sophistication of human knowledge. Language provided verbal symbols that could represent concepts
or objects. The human intellect could then manipulate these symbols in description, analysis, or synthesis. Natural language
developed incrementally over time with its words changing meaning and significance as well as picking up more than one meaning.
It is thus not very exact and has been an impediment to scientific thought and communication. Mathematical language on the
other hand is exact and precise. Mathematics starting in its simplest form, counting and use of numerals, enabled humans to
understand magnitudes and to put objects or concepts in some form of logical order. Mathematics has propelled scientific growth
by providing an exact communication medium. It has enabled scientists advance their conceptual and abstract thinking to very
high levels of sophistication.
C. DEVELOPMENT OF WRITING
When early humans settled down in
communities they needed a means of efficient communication and record keeping. Various civilisations experimented independently
with various forms of writing. At the beginning a picture told the whole story. Then a picture was used to depict just one
word as in modern mandarin. A later stage of development was using a letter to represent a sound. Both the Arabic and the
Roman alphabets are of this type. Use of a combination of consonants and vowels provided an infinite permutation of words
and sounds. Development of writing was a major step in the growth of knowledge because it enabled preservation and transmission
of knowledge. Over most of recorded human history only a very tiny proportion of the population could read or write. There
were only 17 literate persons in Makka at the start of the Prophet's mission. Reading and writing in Arabia at that time were
considered such an important asset that Badr prisoners of war were let free if each could teach 10 Muslims the art of reading
and writing. Elites of societies have always wanted to control access to knowledge and information by limiting reading and
writing to a few people. The elite that monopolised literacy could thus easily control the ignorant masses. The modern industrialised
nation-states are doing the opposite with the same aim. Literacy is encouraged and schooling is made compulsory because the
operation of the industrial economy requires a literate worker and consumer able to get the information that the elite want
him to get. That information is a means of control.
D. KNOWLEDGE FROM REVELATION
Throughout human history knowledge
has been acquired by revelation, through the agency of prophets, or by empirical observation and experimentation. Prophets
were basically teachers who transmitted knowledge (p. 834 2:129, 2:151, 3:164). Knowledge of the unseen, ‘ilm al ghaib, is through revelation. Knowledge of the seen, ‘ilm
al shahadat, is acquired by direct interaction with the physical environment. Both methods of acquiring knowledge require
the use of human intellect, ‘aql. It is a mistake to try getting a particular
type of knowledge from the wrong source. Empirical knowledge is primarily from observation.
E. DEVELOPMENT OF EMPIRICAL KNOWLEDGE
THE ANCIENT WORLD:
The history of modern science disciplines
is very brief. Europeans and their descendants in the Americas,
Australasia, and other parts of the world dominate science and technology today because of the head-start
that their forefathers gave them during the European renaissance. This domination may make some people forget that modern
science and technology is a common heritage of all humans and that all people contributed to its growth. The Babylonians observed
stars with no attempt at analysing and synthesising the phenomena they saw. The ancient Egyptians also had many developments
in astronomy, mathematics, and medicine. The Greeks studied Egyptian and Babylonian mathematics and medicine. They tried to
find theoretical explanations for phenomena but loathed experimentation. Romans used some of the Greek science and made additions
but mostly practical ones. With the decline of the Greek and Roman civilisations science was forgotten in Europe
but it had a new beginning in the then ascendant Muslim world. Muslims used knowledge from the Greeks, improved it, and made
new discoveries of their own.
FROM THE EUROPEAN RENNAISSANCE TO
THE MODERN PERIOD:
Starting in the 1500s Europeans rediscovered
Greek science largely by learning from Muslims who had preserved and developed this knowledge. This led to renaissance in
Europe and the rise of western Europe to being a world power. Many theoretical and conceptual break-throughs
were realised during and after the renaissance. Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton discovered many new physical
laws. The industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries was an application of the newly discovered
scientific knowledge. The 20th century also witnessed many theoretical break-throughs. Albert Einstein showed that
mass and energy were interchangeable and that time and distance were relative. Werner Eisenberg proposed the uncertainty principle
ie that you can not know both the location and speed of an object accurately at the same time.
There have been periods in human
history when humans deviated from the correct ways of getting knowledge and therefore lived in ignorance. Superstition and
rejection of revelation denied access to ‘ilm al ghaib. Neglect of empirical
observation and experimentation led to deficiency of empirical knowledge. Failure to use their intellect properly deprived
humans of full understanding of revealed and empirical knowledge.
Rapid growth of the corpus of human
knowledge in the past 150 years is several-fold the growth of knowledge since the start ofrecorded human history. This momentum is likely to continue into the next century. It could slow down or stop altogether
when human mistakes, social or physical, lead to destruction or drastic change of the ecosystem and human social organisation
as we know them today. History is full of examples of previous civilisations that attained a high degree of scientific and
social sophistication only to fail and fall later. Islam can provide the philosophical context in which knowledge and civilisation
can grow and avoid the calamities that befell previous generations.
3.0 SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE, masadir al ma’arifat:
A. GENERAL CONCEPTS
ALL 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 fromtheir 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
HUMAN SEARCH FOR KNOWLEDGE, talab al 'ilm:
Seeking to know is an inner human
need that satisfies human curiosity. It is demanded by Allah when He orders humans to get knowledge 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 of the universe, 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, ‘ilm al 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, tahsilal ‘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.
B. REVELATION AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE
REVELATION IS KNOWLEDGE PAR EXCELLENCE
Revelation 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.
PROPHETS AS MEDIUM OF REVELATION
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 FUTURE
Knowledge of the past and the future
is best obtained from revelation because empirical observation is limited in the time dimension. Humans can extrapolate from
existing knowledge to predict the future but can never be sure.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE PAST
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.
C. EMPIRICAL OBSERVATION AS A SOURCE
Allah gave humans senses to enable
them get empirical knowledge from their environment (p 836 16:78, , 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.
D. INTELLECT AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE
INTELLECT AS A TOOL OF KNOWLEDGE
Intellect, ‘aql, distinguishes humans from other living things on earth. It enables them to understand and correctly
interpret the sensory perceptions of the signs of Allah in the universe and thus leads to stronger iman and 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.
INTELLECTUAL PROCESSES INVOLVED IN
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).
DEDUCTIVE and INDUCTIVE LOGIC
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.
INTELLECT and GUIDANCE
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).
E. OTHER SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE
CONTROVERSIAL SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE
There is lack of unanimity on the
following as additional sources of knowledge: al laduniy', ilham, hadas, instinct, jabillat, 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 KNOWLEDGE
Magic & 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 , 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;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 superstition. 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 & 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,
3.0 CLASSIFICATION OF KNOWLEDGE,
tasnif al marifat
A. CONCEPT and PURPOSES OF CLASSIFICATION
Knowledge can classified in different
ways. Cross-classifications are possible. Below are given several criteria of classification that can be used. We can not
say that one is better than the other. What matters is the purpose behind the classification
B. ON THE BASIS OF INNATE AND ACQUIRED
Innate knowledge is inborn. Acquired
knowledge is acquired post-natally. Knowledge of good and bad is innate in humans however they can be confused. That is why
acquired knowledge is needed to guide them in the gray areas. Acquired knowledge can be from revelation or from empirical
observation. The two sources of acquired knowledge reinforce the innate knowledge as well as reinforce each other. A good
example is the prohibition of riba. A human should innately know that earning interest from the poor or those in distress
is injustice. This is because there is gain without any effort. Those who take the loans with interest have no other alternative.
However this sense of injustice may not be clear to many. The revelation comes to point it out the injustice of riba reinforcing
the innate knowledge. Empirical observation of the inherent injustice between lenders and borrowers, whether as individuals,
companies, or countries, again reinforces the appreciation of the sense of injustice in riba transactions.
C. ON THE BASIS OF SOURCE, masdar
‘AQLI and NAQLI
Classically, knowledge was classified
as 'aqli which includes empirical observation and rational reasoning and naqli which is revelation. This classification is
confusing. 'Aql is involved in both revealed and empirical knowledge. Both revealed and empirical knowledge can be naqli in
the sense that they can be transmitted passively. We will therefore adopt the classification of transmitted knowledge, naqli,
and non-transmitted knowledge, ghair naqli. The former includes both empirical and revealed knowledge. The latter is only
EMPIRICAL OBSERVATION, shahadat
Knowledge can be classified as knowledge
of the seen, ‘ilm al shahadat, and knowledge of the unseen, ‘ilm al ghaib. Humans know only the seen. They do not know the unseen (p. 879 5:109, 5:116, 6:50, 7:118,
11:31, 12:81, 19:78, 27:65, 52:41, 53:35, 68:47). Neither do the jinn know the
unseen (p. p 879 34:14). The unseen can be absolute, ghaib mutlaq, or relative,
ghaib nisbi. Humans can not in any way know ghaib
mutlaq except through revelation. Ghaib nisbi is something that is knowable
by humans by taking certain measures. For example the contents of a closed box are unseen by a human but when the box is opened,
the contents can become known. It is however shirk for a human to claim with certainty and affirmatively to know the contents
of a closed box if he has no evidence through the senses. The Qur'an has given examples of ghaib mutlaq as knowledge of the ruh, ilm a ruh (p. 878 17:85), knowledge
of the last day, ilm al sa'a (p. 878 6:31, 7:187-188, 12:107, 16:77, 20:15, 21:109,
22:55, 27:65-66, 31:34, 33:63, 34:3, 41:47, 42:17, 43:66, 43:85, 47:18, 72:25-26, 79:42-44) and knowledge of the time of death,
ajal al mawt (p 879 31:34). Any knowledge related to empirical observation can
be ghaib nisbi.
D. ON THE BASIS OF LEARNING and USE
ON BASIS OF OBLIGATION, takliif:
It is obligatory for women and men
to get knowledge, talab al ilm faridhat. This obligation differs for different
types of knowledge. Some knowledge is cosnidered collective obligation, fard kifayat.
Other knowledge is considered individual obligation, fard ‘ain. Fard kifayat includes knowledge of the basics of aqidat, tauhid, taharat,
salat, and other obligatory acts of ibadat. It is also obligatory to have knowledge
of any other specialised activity before undertaking it for example a person intending to marry must know the regulations
pertaining to marriage.Fard 'ain
refers to Islamic sciences, human sciences, and technological sciences needed to run the community well. If a sufficient number
of people in the community acquire these sciences, the obligation falls from the rest.
ON BASIS OF UTILITY:
Knowledge can be useful, nafiu. There is no concept of knowledge that is not useful but is harmless. Knowledge that has no immediate or
foreseeable use if considered harmful, dhaar. Sorcery is for example harmful knowledge.
All correct knowledge is useful. However even useful knowledge can turn harmful is not used properly.
ON THE BASIS OF APPLICATION
Knowledge can be basic or applied.
The distinction is sometimes more theoretical than real. For example the science of usul al fiqh is a basic science whereas
fiqh itself is an applied science. There are however many situations in fiqh that are of theoretical or hypothetical interest
and have no foreseeable use.
E. ON THE BASIS OF NATURE, CONTENT,
ON BASIS OF HOLINESS:
Some scholars make a distinction
between sharei’ & non-sharei’
sciences. Shariah disciplines are said to be superior to all other disciplines.
A distinction is also sometimes made between sciences of the world, ‘uluum al
duniyat, and ‘sciences of the hereafter, ‘uluum al ddin. We find
these distinctions to be irrelevant.
ON BASIS OF LEGALITY:
Most branches of knowledge are legal
and are encouraged. For example study of the Qur’an, medicine, and science are legal pursuits. On the other hand study
of sorcery is illegal because the knowledge is harmful. Between these two clear extremes are disciplines that are good or
bad depending on how their knowledge is used. Study of the chemistry of ethanol is legal if it will be used for industrial
purposes. It will rapidly become illegal if it will be used to make beer and other alcoholic drinks.
ON BASIS OF GRADE:
We have already discussed the three
grades of ‘ilm alyaqeen, haqq al
yaqeen, and ‘ayn al yaqeen
ON BASIS OF SUBJECT MATTER:
Sciences can be divided into the
biological & physical. Biological sciences study living things: animals, plants, and micro-organisms. Physical sciences
study inanimate things: the earth, water and the seas, astronomy, mathematics, agriculture.
Some disciplines are methodological
without a coherent and substansive subject matter for example epidemiology, mathematics, and usul al fiqh. Other disciplines are substantive for example fiqh, and
5.0 LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE,
mahdudiyat al marifat al bashariyyat
A. INNATE LIMITATIONS, huduud dhaatiyyat
The Qur'an in many verses has reminded
humans that their knowledge in all spheres and disciplines of knowledge is limited (p. 827 2:13, 2:16, 2:232, 3:66, 5:116,
6:50, 7:38, 7:182, 7:187, 7:188, 8:50, 9:101, 11:49, 12:44, 16:8, 16:70, 16:74, 17:85, 18:22, 22:5, 24:19, 30:7, 30:56, 32:17,
36:36, 38:88, 39:49, 48:25, 48:27, 68:44). Allah allows humans to know some things and not others. Humans do not normally
reach the full capacity of knowledge because of other limitations. One of these limitations is failure to exert themselves
to the maximum in the search for knowledge.
LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN SENSES
Human senses can be easily deceived.
Human vision is limited p 197 2:7, 6:103, 15:15, 36:9, 36:66, 45:23, 47:23, 53:17, 56:85, 69:38-39). Human senses of hearing,
smelling, tasting are relatively insensitive and some animals have more acute senses.
LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN INTELLECT
Human intellect has limitations in
interpreting correct sensory perceptions. There are basic limitations in the neurochemical functions in the brain. Humans
also have a limited data-base of prior knowledge to be able to interpret all new knowledge correctly.
B. THE UNSEEN, ghaib
TYPES OF THE UNSEEN
Humans cannot know the unseen, ghaib. The unseen can be absolute or relative. The absolute, ghaib mutlaq,such as the day of death, ajal, is known only by Allah. Humans have no access to ghaib mutlaq
except through revelations. The relative, ghaib nisbi, can be known by some people
in favorable time and space cirsumstances and not others or can be known if special and appropriate instrumentation is used.
The whole purpose of scientific research is to roll back the field of ghaib nisbi.
Ghaib nisbi can be contemporaneous, al zaman
al hadhir,ie things that exist at the moment but which are unknown (p. 879
4:34, 8:30, 12:52). Ghaib nisbi may be in past or historical events, al zaman
al madhi (p 879 , , 12:102,
, 30:2). Ghaib nisbi can be in the future, al zaman al mustaqbali (p. 879 10:20, 30:2-4, 72:26-27).
THE PAST AND THE FUTURE
Humans can operate in limited time
frames. The past and the future are unknowable with certainty. Both are part of the unseen, ‘aalam al ghaib. The only true and valid source of knowledge about the past is revelation.
D. CHANGES and TRANSITIONS
Humans operate in a limited speed
frame at both the conceptual and sensory levels. Ideas can not be digested and processed if they are generated too slowly
or too quickly. Humans cannot visually perceive very slow or very rapid events. Very slow events like the revolution of the
earth or its rotation are perceived as if they are not happening.
CHANGE OF MATTER-ENERGY
Modern physics has discovered that
matter and energy are interchangeable. One form of matter can change into another form just as one form or energy can change
E. RETENTION OF KNOWLEDGE
Human memory is limited. Knowledge
acquired decays or may be lost altogether. Humans would have been more knowledgeable if they had perfect memory.
fikr, ilm, marifat, ghaib
What do you understand by the term
‘knowledge is power’; is it always true?
What is the difference between knowledge
What instinctive knowledge does a
child have on birth?
How do you define intutition; how
reliable is it as a source of knowledge
What do you know about extra-sensory
perception; is it a reality or an illusion?
Define tadabbur and explain how it is used in the knowledge process
What does understanding (faham) imply? Is knowledge possible without understanding?
What does the term ‘fiqh’
mean in Qur’anic usage?
What do you understand by intellect?
How does human intellect function?
What is thinking? Is it necessary
What is meant by evidence-based knowledge?
What is meant by experiential knowledge?
Define the terms burhan, hujja, and daliil. How do they differ in Qur’anic usage?
What is the antonym of knowledge;
explain how you reach that conclusion
List as many ways as you can in which
human differs from animal knowledge
Look up verses in which the following
synonyms of knowledge are used: yaqeen, shu’ur, idraak,
hifdh, tadhkirat. What does each mean exactly
Describe how Allah’s knowledge
differs from that of humans