What do they know of Islam?

Who only Islam know

What do the following questions have in common? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? Is there a God? And if so, what is His essence? Who created Him? How does He reach down from beyond space and time to communicate and interact with a universe that is inexorably bound in space-time constraints? What is consciousness? How did it come about in living matter? How did life itself pop up in lifeless matter in the first place? How did matter, before that, suddenly materialize out of nothing? How can a just God guide some and leave others to proceed blindly in their errant ways? How can an All-powerful and All-knowing God be All-good as well?

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The list goes on…

What is knowledge? How do we know what we think we know? Can we be certain that it is reality, however distorted, that in some sense or form gets known by us? What objective reason, if any, is there to believe that it is not just a dream? Do other people exist or are they merely figments of our imagination? Do we have free will or are we predetermined to do whatever it is that we end up doing? What is the essential nature of this world? Does mind control body or is mind an extension or just another manifestation of body? Or is it a case of some sort of a duality where mind and body operate simultaneously but independently of one another?

This is still by no means an exhaustive list. One could go on indefinitely, for which there is neither enough space nor time available. Fortunately, a complete survey is not needed to make the relevant point. The commonality between all these questions is that philosophers have been grappling with them for centuries now without having resolved any of them to anybody’s satisfaction. And it was the philosophers themselves who realized that they had been going around in circles without having anything to show for their efforts. But they reached this conclusion in stages spanning hundreds of years.

First, they abandoned thinking about ontology and took up epistemology in its stead. Having scarcely better luck in this arena, they shifted for a while to language. The search for objective philosophy gave way to existentialism and postmodernism, before the philosophers finally settled (till last reports) for phenomenology. What a spectacular fall from grace!

Where philosophers have failed so miserably, the Quran has been an absolute breath of fresh air. It addresses all these questions (and more) in one of three ways: Some questions it answers by correcting man’s point-of-view. For the correct perspective takes away much of the mystery from many a question. In case of other questions, it points out how they are faultily constructed in the first place. As they are rephrased to get rid of the fault, the mystery too has usually been eliminated in the process. Responding to yet other questions, the Quran advises man to know the limits of his knowledge and warns against wasting his time running after unattainable holy grails. It tells man to be humble and understand that there are certain things that he cannot possibly wrap his head around until after the Day of Judgment. That it is no limitation of God’s but an unavoidable part of the human condition that accounts for this fact. Also, that man’s conduct is not contingent upon answers to numerous questions, and that many of those will therefore only be made known to him in the next life. That to know what cannot be known is as important as striving after what can be known.

It is true that those who know Islam superficially merely by virtue of having been born to Muslim parents cannot appreciate what Islam brings to the table. Those, however, who take their religion seriously enough to consult the Quran and who are also well-versed in the history of thought can appreciate how much sense Islam makes and how uncomplicated it makes life thereby.

It is true that those who know Islam superficially merely by virtue of having been born to Muslim parents cannot appreciate what Islam brings to the table. Those, however, who take their religion seriously enough to consult the Quran and who are also well-versed in the history of thought can appreciate how much sense Islam makes and how uncomplicated it makes life thereby.

Those who, in addition to the history of philosophical speculation, are also familiar with the mythologies of Greek theology, the hocus-pocus of mystic religions and the complex theology associated with Christianity, are amazed by the simplicity brought in by Islam. In contrast to unfathomable concepts such as Trinity, and the original sin, and absurdities such as stories of one deity wrestling with another for dominance, or temptation of angels by goddesses; the intelligibility and clarity offered by Islam is breathtaking to say the least.

Especially those who have had the singular misfortune of having to defend such undefendable beliefs know firsthand the toll this task tends to exact. Those, therefore, who revert to Islam from other religions or those who have formerly put their trust in reason alone for any length of time can appreciate the power of Islam like nobody else can. While anybody can benefit from the uncomplicated philosophy of Islam, the value of the wisdom that Islam has to offer can fully be appreciated only by those who answer to one of these descriptions.

Hasan Aftab Saeed
Hasan Aftab Saeed
The author is a connoisseur of music, literature, and food (but not drinks). He can be reached at www.facebook.com/hasanaftabsaeed

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