Knowledge and Action

Knowledge and Action

Note on Knowledge and Action

The basis of all life revolves around knowledge and action. By instinctual and innate inclination and yearning, all living beings from birth seek the truth about the reality around them, and then affirm it one way or another and act towards that which benefits and brings pleasure and happiness. This is the positive impulsion for action and for love.  The natural corollary to protect themselves is to negate falsehood and abstain, repel and hate that which is harmful and brings misery and pain. This affirmation and negation, symbolized by plus and minus, is the basic binary code of all life. They are the positive and negative impulses and charges of all knowledge and action: receiving perceptions and then reacting to various stimuli seeking to attain pleasure and avoid pain. As the highest form of life on earth, man by instinctual desire will search with his faculties to find the truth, the beneficial and what pleases him. Love instinctually is for the truth and the beneficial, whereas hatred is instinctually for the falsehood and harmful, unless of course, he is corrupted by compound ignorance, and false and destructive desires.  Thus correct knowledge and voluntary action is necessary to receive the truth and then to act accordingly to the desired beneficial goal. Ignorance, misinformation, and false and destructive desires only lead to misery and pain.  The existence around us has material and spiritual realities, which can only be understood through attaining the knowledge about these realities, and then either to accept or reject them.

Knowledge is naturally developed stage by stage, as Allah the Exalted said:

﴿﴾وَاللّهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْسَّمْعَ وَالأَبْصَارَ وَالأَفْئِدَةَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُون َ ﴿﴾

“Allah brings you forth from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing, and gives you hearing and sight and hearts that you might give thanks.” (16:78)

Knowledge has four degrees or levels as mentioned by the scholars. The beginning of knowledge is doubt (Shakk) since one is still ascertaining the truth or falsehood of something and is yet undecided until receiving the decisive evidences.   Then it becomes a bit stronger as a conjecture and idea (Thann) which one takes to be correct even though it remains under scrutiny if new evidence appears (and accordingly, the assumption is divided into the overwhelmingly stronger assumption and the weaker assumption –respectively the Thann ar-Rajih or called Ghalabat ath-Thann and the Thann al- Marjuh).  It then becomes firm knowledge (Ilm), meaning the recognition of a truth and a fact of reality. The highest degree of knowledge is an exact and unwavering certitude (Yaqeen).  We find these four degrees all in one verse of the Qur`an, wherein Allah tells us what the Jews said about Messiah Jesus, peace be upon him:

﴿﴾وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ وَإِنَّ ﴿﴾

الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُواْ فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلاَّ اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا﴿﴾

“That they said (boastfully), ‘We killed Jesus Christ the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’ but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it was made to appear to them so. Those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but they only follow conjecture, for of a surety they killed him not.” (4:157).

Sometimes these terms are used loosely and interchangeably in their wider linguistic meanings like when the Prophet, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, mentioned about the story of Abraham, peace be upon him, referring to the verse:

” نَحْنُ أَحَقُّ بِالشَّكِّ مِنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِذْ قَالَ[رَبِّ أَرِنِى كَيْفَ تُحْىِ الْمَوْتَى قَالَ أَوَلَمْ تُؤْمِن قَالَ بَلَى وَلَـكِن لِّيَطْمَئِنَّ قَلْبِى]”

“We are more liable to be in doubt than Ibrahim (Abraham) when he said, “My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.” Allah said, ‘Don’t you believe” Ibrahim said, “Yes (I believe), but (I ask) in order to be stronger in faith.’” [1] This is the story when Abraham asked to see how Allah resurrects the dead back to life, and as the scholars explain, the Prophet’s statement means here, ‘we are more liable to seek to attain to certainty’ and it is not a doubt of Allah’s Omnipotence and ability to bring back to life. Abraham wanted to gain more knowledge and a higher degree, as the Messenger of Allah peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said:

لَيْسَ الْخَبَرُ كَالْمُعَايَنَةِ

“The (one who hears) news and information, is not like the one who sees (the actual reality for himself).” [2]

The Prophet himself, peace and blessings be upon him, only knew what he knew about the matters of the unseen and the hereafter by revelation from Allah as he was taught in incremental stages. If he did not know, he was commanded to say ‘I do not know.” It is said proverbially that to say, “I don’t know” is one half of knowledge since one may know that he knows, or know that he does not know, and even that is knowledge. The truly ignorant are those who do not know that they do not know and compound ignorance is to believe that you know when actually you do not.

For instance, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said

ما أدري تبع ألعينا كان أم لا ؟ وما أدري ذا القرنين أنبيا كان أم لا ؟ وما أدري الحدود كفارات أم لا ؟

“I do not know whether ‘Tuba’a was accursed or not, and I do not know whether Dhul-Qarnain was a prophet or not, and I do not know whether the legal punishments are expiation of the sins or not.” [3] The Prophet’s statement, peace and blessing be upon him, means here that he was not sure at that time about these things and expressed this uncertainty.  Later he received the revelation and gave further information, for in a narration he said:

لا تسبوا تبعا فإنه قد كان أسلم

“Do not curse Tuba’a, for indeed he accepted Islam.” [4]

And another narration explains that eventually it became known to him that punishment is expiation, for Ubadah ibn Samit, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Prophet said, peace and blessings be upon him:

بايعوني على أن لا تشركوا بالله شيئا ولا تسرقوا ولا تزنوا ولا تقتلوا أولادكم ولا تأتوا ببهتان تفترونه بين أيديكم وأرجلكم ولا تعصوا في معروف فمن وفى منكم فأجره على الله ومن أصاب من ذلك شيئا فعوقب به في الدنيا فهو كفارة له ومن أصاب من ذلك شيئا ثم ستره الله عليه في الدنيا فهو إلى الله : إن شاء عفا عنه

وإن شاء عاقبه ” فبايعناه على ذلك

“Pledge to me that you will not associate partners with Allah in idolatry, neither steal, nor fornicate or kill your children, and will not bring a fabricated lie from between your hands or legs, and that you will not disobey in any commonly known good thing. And whoever fulfills this among you then his rewards is with Allah; and whoever commits one of these sins and he is punished in the life of this world then it absolves him in his sin, and whoever commits one of these sins and Allah keeps it hidden by covering its exposure in the life of this world, then Allah may, if He wills, punish him (in the hereafter) or if He wills, pardon him. ” Ubadah ibn Samit, may Allah be pleased with him, said: We pledged our commitment to this. [5]

The affair of Dhul-Qarnain, whether he was a prophet or not, remains in the realm of that which we do not have definite proof of one way or another.  It is an example of a piece of news that is not necessary for us to know about and so if we did receive knowledge, then fine, and if we did not, then this doesn’t harm us since it is a lesser affair and detail and it is not concerned with the commands of actual practice which are of the utmost importance.

Man cannot know about the nature of some things except through direct observation and intuition or by being informed by a more knowledgeable authority. Knowledge of the unseen necessitates the revelation of God, the Creator, because the unseen realm is unfathomable to man, beyond his senses and ability to dissect empirically and to test by trial and experiment. He can only know about this realm by revelation and the Word of Allah through the Prophets and Messengers.  As Allah says

﴿وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الرُّوحِ قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا ﴾

“And they ask you about the soul.  Say, ‘The soul is of the affair of my Lord.  And you have not been given of knowledge except a little.” (17:85)

Certainty (yaqeen) itself has three degrees as subdivisions, since Allah has mentioned in His Scripture: ilm-al-yaqeen (certainty of knowledge); ain al-yaqeen (certainty of seeing); and haqq-al-yaqeen (certainty of the actual truth and experiencing the reality). The scholars give an example of a traveler in the desert who knows that behind this particular stretch of sand dunes is an oasis with a gushing spring of water. The knowledge of this oasis is the first stage of certainty and is ‘ilm-al-yaqeen.’   When he surpasses the stretch of sand dunes and he sees the oasis and the water he has achieved ‘ain al-yaqeen.’ When he goes to drink and wash and swim in the water he actualizes its truth and reality: this is the ultimate ‘haqq-al-yaqeen.’ Another example is the knowledge of the fire, seeing of the fire, and experiencing its heat and burning in the fire – may Allah the Most Forgiving and Merciful save us from punishment.

Knowledge must be built on solid proofs and evidence, called “Burhan” in Arabic, whether physical and material or intellectual and rational, and not mere whims and unsubstantiated claims, for Allah the Sublime said:

﴿﴾ وَقَالُوا لَنْ يَدْخُلَ الْجَنَّةَ إِلَّا مَنْ كَانَ هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَى تِلْكَ أَمَانِيُّهُمْ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿﴾

“And they say, ‘None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.’ These are merely their hopeful desires. Say: ‘Produce your proof if you are truthful.” (2:111) And Allah the Exalted said:

﴿﴾ أَمَّنْ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَمَنْ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَئِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿﴾

“Who is it that originates creation and then recreates it (for resurrection), and Who is it that provides for you (sustenance) from heaven and earth? Is there any god with Allah? Say, ‘Bring forth your proofs, if you are truthful.’” (27:64)  And Allah the Glorified said:

﴿﴾ أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ آَلِهَةً قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ هَذَا ذِكْرُ مَنْ مَعِيَ وَذِكْرُ مَنْ قَبْلِي بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ الْحَقَّ فَهُمْ مُعْرِضُونَ ﴿

“Or have they taken other gods for worship besides Him? Say: “Bring your proof! This (the Qur’an) is the Reminder for those with me, and the Reminder for those before me, but most of them know not the Truth, so they turn away.” (21: 24)

And yet Allah has made all of the major articles of faith dependent upon faith in the things that are unseen, like belief in Allah and the angels and the revealed books and Day of Resurrection and Judgment and the Paradise and Hellfire, so what are the proofs of these “other worldly” things that cannot be materially seen, heard, and touched in the life of this world? How can we believe in that which we cannot put under physical observation and experimentation?  Here man must use his natural intelligence to discern the truth and falsehood of these men who call themselves Prophets of God and bring revelations from Allah.  Can these really be from Allah or are they fabrications of wicked liars and tricksters? Here we look what are the evidences. If we live in their times we see their miracles, or hear of them from many reliable sources, but what when we come later and do not witness ourselves.

One example of the Quran guiding to the use of our innate intelligence as a proof may suffice here. By simple reason we may conclude in our belief in Allah, for example, by looking into the proofs in the creation. Allah the Exalted said:

﴿ أَمْ يَقُولُونَ تَقَوَّلَهُ بَلْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿﴾ فَلْيَأْتُوا بِحَدِيثٍ مِثْلِهِ إِنْ كَانُوا صَادِقِينَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ خَلَقُوا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بَل لَا يُوقِنُونَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ عِنْدَهُمْ خَزَائِنُ رَبِّكَ أَمْ هُمُ الْمُسَيْطِرُونَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ لَهُمْ سُلَّمٌ يَسْتَمِعُونَ فِيهِ فَلْيَأْتِ مُسْتَمِعُهُمْ بِسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ ﴿﴾ أَمْ لَهُ الْبَنَاتُ وَلَكُمُ الْبَنُونَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ تَسْأَلُهُمْ أَجْرًا فَهُمْ مِنْ مَغْرَمٍ مُثْقَلُونَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ عِنْدَهُمُ الْغَيْبُ فَهُمْ يَكْتُبُونَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ يُرِيدُونَ كَيْدًا فَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا هُمُ الْمَكِيدُونَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ لَهُمْ إِلَهٌ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ ﴾

“Or do they say, ‘He has made it up in fabrication?’ But they do not believe. *  Then let them produce a statement like it, if they should be truthful. * Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators (of themselves)? * Or did they create the heavens and the earth?  But they are not certain. * Or do they have possession of the (bountiful) depositories (of provisions) of your Lord? And are they the controllers (and distributors of them)? * Or do they have a stairway (leading up into the heaven) by which they listen (to the revelation)?  Then let their listener produce a clear authority (proving their truth). * Or does He have daughters while you have sons? * Or do you (O Muhammad) ask payments from them so they are burdened by debt? * Or do they have (knowledge of) the unseen, so that they can write it down? * Or do they intend a strategic plan (against us)?  But those who disbelieve, they are the object of a plan (of ours against them). * Or do they have a deity (worthy of worship) other than Allah? Exalted is Allah above whatever they associate with Him.” (at-Tur, 52:)

Look at the intensive succession of arguments posed as a series of questions. Reflect and answer each of these questions honestly and truthfully. If you say that Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him fabricated the Quran, then simply produce a similar book, or some verses like it, but can you? If you say that you do not have any creator then were you created without some basic physical matter, or did you create yourselves in all these minute biological details, or did you create the awesome heavens and earth in their expansiveness? Do you not have certainty and a sense about the Creator? Do you provide for yourselves, or does your Lord Creator provide for you? Do you have a pathway to receive special knowledge of the unseen, or some partners who listen for you? What is your proof for us to see of this? Does the Messenger ask you for money for receiving the guidance from Allah so that you are burdened? Do you possess the unseen and can you write its secrets? Can you oppose Allah in Allah’s plan?  Is there any god or deity that you can truly say with reason and intelligence is rightfully worthy of worship except Allah the Exalted? Just some few verses of the thousands of Allah’s verses and signs, yet with profound questions for man to ponder.

As Jubair ibn Muta’am mentioned from his father, may Allah be pleased with him, when he was still a polytheist and was taken as a captive:

سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسـلم: يقرأ في المغرب والطور فلما بلغ هذه الآية ﴿ أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ ﴿﴾ أَمْ خَلَقُوا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بَل لَا يُوقِنُونَ ﴾ كان يطير قلبي   وقال  وذلك أول ما وقر الإيمان في قلبي

“I heard the Messenger of Allah recite in the sunset recital of prayer the chapter of at-Tur (the Mountain) and when he reached this verse ‘Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators (of themselves)? * Or did they create the heavens and the earth?  But they are not certain,’ my heart was fluttering.” And he said: “That was the first time that faith settled into my heart.” [6]

Certainty about any truth is ultimately a gift from Allah. It is said that ex USA President Ronald Reagan, a committed Christian evangelical believer, used to joke that he would like to have a splendid gourmet meal with an atheist and then say, ‘Do you think this was made without a cook?’ This is one form of a famous practical argument about God’s existence, attuned to American fixation and infatuation for good food. They know intuitively that there cannot be a creation without a Creator.

Belief in the unseen is a test from Allah the All-Wise. Will man affirm or belie the truth of the Prophets and the Books of divine revelation that they bring as a message to man from God, their Creator? The companion Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Prophet said, peace and blessings be upon him:

« إن لله ملائكة يطوفون في الطرق يلتمسون أهل الذكر، فإذا وجدوا قوماً يذكرون الله تنادوا هلموا إلى حاجتكم قال فيحفونهم بأجنحتهم إلى السماء الدنيا، قال فيسألهم ربهم عز وجل ـ وهو أعلم منهم : ما يقول عبادي ؟ قال يقولون يسبحونك ويكبرونك ويحمدونك ويمجدونك . قال فيقول : هل رأوني ؟ قال فيقولن لا والله ما رأوك، قال فيقول : كيف لو رأوني، قال يقولون : لو رأوك كانوا أشد ذلك عبادة وأشد لك تمجيداً وأكثر لك تسبيحاً : قال يقول : فما يسألوني ؟قال يسألونك الجنة قال يقول : وهل رأوها : قال يقولون لا والله يا رب ما رأوها، قال فيقولون فكيف لو أنهم رأوها ؟ قال يقولون : لو أنهم رأوها كانو أشد عليها حرصا .وأشد لها طلباً . وأعظم فيها رغبة .قال .فمم يتعوذون ؟ قال يقولون : من النار . قال يقول : وهل رأوها . قال فيقولون : لا والله يا رب ما رأوها : قال يقول : فكيف لو رأوها  قال يقولون : لو رأوها كانوا أشد منها فراراً،وأشد لها مخافة، قال يقول : فأشهدكم إني قد غفرت لهم . قال يقول ملك من الملائكة فيهم : فلان ليس منهم، إنما جاء لحاجة، قال : هم الجلساء لا يشقى جليسهم

“Allah has (among His angels) those angels who circulate around and have no other task (to attend to but) to be present at the assemblies of “Dthikr” (Remembrance of Allah).  When they find such assemblies of Dthikr they sit in them and some of them surround the others with their wings till the space between them and the sky of this world is fully covered. When they disperse they go upward to the heaven and Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, asks them – although He is best informed about them – saying, where have you come from? They say, We come from Your servants upon the earth who had been glorifying You (saying Subhan-Allah), repeating praises of Your Greatness (saying Allahu-Akbar) and uttering the statement of Your Oneness (Saying LA ILAAHA ILLALLAH) and praising You (Saying al-Hamdu Lillah), and supplicating You.  He says: What do they ask of Me? They say: They supplicate You asking Your Paradise. He (God) says: Have they seen My Paradise? They say: No, our Lord. He says: (What it would be then) if they were to see My Paradise? They (the angels) say: They also seek Your protection and refuge in You. He (the Lord) says: Against what do they seek protection of Me? They (the angels) say: Our Lord, from the Hell-Fire. He (the Lord) says: Have they seen My Fire? They say: No. He (the Lord) says: What it would be if they were to see My Fire? They say: They ask of Your forgiveness. He says: I grant pardon to them, and confer upon them what they ask for, and I grant them protection against which they seek protection. They (the angels) say again: Our Lord, there is one among them, so and so, a simple servant who happened to pass by (that assembly) and sat along with them, but is not of them. He (the Lord) says: I also grant him pardon, for they are a people whose companions sitting with them are not unfortunate.” [7]

This narration emphasizes some of the wisdom of keeping the unseen realm hidden from man. Another narration also emphasizes this wisdom in another way as the Prophet said, peace and blessings be upon him:

إني أرى ما لا ترون و أسمع ما لا تسمعون أطت السماء و حق لها أن تئط ما فيها موضع أربع أصابع إلا و ملك واضع جبهته لله تعالى ساجدا و الله لو تعلمون ما أعلم لضحكتم قليلا و لبكيتم كثيرا و ما تلذذتم بالنساء على الفرش و لخرجتم إلى الصعدات تجأرون إلى الله

“I see what you do not see, and I hear what you do not hear. The sky creaks (with the heavy weight), and it is right that it creaks since there is not a little handbreadth of space but an angel is prostrating there with his forehead. If you knew what I know you would laugh but a little and cry profusely and you would not be able to take pleasure with women on the beds, rather you would go out to the open places crying loudly (in pain) to Allah.” [8] Glory be to Allah, Lord of the Hosts.

Every being and even the masses of matter, pray in praise, glorification and salutation to Allah, their Creator and Lord, all the angels, animals and birds, each according to their unique makeup as Allah said:

﴿سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ عُلُوًّا كَبِيرًا () تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدَهِ وَلَكِن لاَّ تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًا ﴾

“Glorified, High and Exalted is He from (the great falsehood) that they say! The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him.  There is not a thing but glorifies His Praise, but you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving.”  (17:42-44)

And Allah the Exalted and Majestic said of the animals:

﴿ أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ ﴾

“Do you not see that it is Allah whom they glorify, whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, and the birds with wings out-spread (in their flight). Each one of them knows indeed his Salat (prayer) and his glorification, and Allah is All-Aware of what they do.” (24:41)

Even the masses of matter praise and glorify Allah, for the Exalted and Majestic said of the inanimate objects of creation:

﴿ وَيُسَبِّحُ الرَّعْدُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَالْمَلاَئِكَةُ مِنْ خِيفَتِهِ وَيُرْسِلُ الصَّوَاعِقَ فَيُصِيبُ بِهَا مَن يَشَاءُ وَهُمْ يُجَادِلُونَ فِي اللّهِ وَهُوَ شَدِيدُ الْمِحَالِ () لَهُ دَعْوَةُ الْحَقِّ وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ لاَ يَسْتَجِيبُونَ لَهُم بِشَيْءٍ إِلاَّ كَبَاسِطِ كَفَّيْهِ إِلَى الْمَاء لِيَبْلُغَ فَاهُ وَمَا هُوَ بِبَالِغِهِ وَمَا دُعَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ إِلاَّ فِي ضَلاَلٍ () وَلِلّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ طَوْعًا وَكَرْهًا وَظِلالُهُم بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالآصَالِ ﴾

“And the thunder glorifies and praises Him, and so do the angels because of His Awe, He sends the thunderbolts, and therewith He strikes whom He wills, yet they dispute about Allah. And He is Mighty in strength and Severe in punishment. For Him  (Alone) is the Word of Truth. And those whom they invoke, answer them no more than one who stretches forth his hand with open palms for water to reach his mouth, but (after spilling out) it reaches him not, and the supplication of the disbelievers is nothing but an error. Unto Allah falls in prostration whoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and so do their shadows in the mornings and in the afternoons.” (13:13-15)

And the Exalted said:

﴿ وَالنَّجْمُ وَالشَّجَرُ يَسْجُدَانِ ﴾

“And stars and the trees both prostrate (to Allah).”  (55:6) And the Exalted said:

﴿ أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَسْجُدُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ وَالنُّجُومُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَالشَّجَرُ وَالدَّوَابُّ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنَ النَّاسِ وَكَثِيرٌ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِ الْعَذَابُ وَمَن يُهِنِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِن مُّكْرِمٍ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يَشَاءُ ﴾

“Do you not see that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and moving living creatures, and many of mankind? And there are many (men) on whom the punishment is justified.  And whomsoever Allah disgraces, none can honor him.  Verily, Allah does what He wills.” (22:18)

Since our focus will be on mercy we cannot mention here the many authentically recorded physical miracles of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, which are clear proofs of his prophet-hood.  We will suffice to note that his greatest and everlasting proof is the amazingly eloquent and enlightening revelation of the Quran that he brought from his Lord.  This proof remains alive and vibrant and all people can easily access the miracle, for it is there for anyone to read and reflect. This is a book the likes of which no man can produce by himself.  A book that guides to every kind of proof, if only the people would read and understand and reflect. To enumerate the many aspects of the miraculous nature of the Quran is not our focus and we will just mention what the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said about the Quran:

«ما من الأنبياء من نبي إلا قد أعطي من الآيات ما آمن على مثله البشر و إنما كان الذي أوتيته وحيا أوحاه الله إلي فارجو  أن أكون أكثرهم تابعا يوم القيامة »

“There was no prophet but that he was given the signs by which the people believed in him, and I have been given revelation which Allah revealed to me, therefore I hope to be the prophet from among them that has the most followers on the day of resurrection.” [9]

Allah gave all the Prophets many miracles, evidences and proofs as signs that testify to the truth of their message and to convince the people. These may be physical miracles or intellectual miracles. Indeed the greater of the two is that which is intellectual, for physical miracles occur and witnessed by a few and then the next generations only hear about them. Intellectual miracles can be witnessed by millions even billions and remain living forever, and they are more appropriate for the latter age when man is proud of his scientific and technological achievements which are based upon using intelligence and ingenuity to advantage.

Another important principle to remember is that we humans can only know so much and may not reach to the unseen or details even in these worldly affairs. All our judgments must therefore be based upon the open clear proofs and cannot be based upon some kind of claimed esoteric or hidden knowledge. All scientific advancements need open investigation for confirmation. All judicial verdicts need clear proofs. Allah will judge everyone with absolute knowledge and justice according to their open acts and their inner intentions. We humans cannot know the unseen and can only judge a case by its appearance, surmising some intentions by various actions that are indicators of intent, yet the inner heart is only known to Allah. Even the Prophet who was given divine revelations and prophesies about many matters of the unseen, did not know the unseen without revelation, and he, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said:

“…إني لم أومر أن أنقب قلوب الناس ولا أشق بطونهم…”

“…Verily I have not been sent to delve into the hearts of the people, not to rip open their bellies…”[10] This in itself is a legal maxim: that we only know the outward affairs and Allah the Sublime and Omniscient takes care of all the inner affairs, and unseen.

Allah the Most Exalted and Wise said in the Sacred Scripture of the Qur`an:

﴿ أَلَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ خَلَقَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ ﴾

“And doesn’t He know what He created? He is the Perfectly Sublime, the All- Acquainted” (67: 14)  And Allah the Magnificent in Glory said:

﴿..وَمَا يَعْزُبُ عَنْ رَبِّكَ مِنْ مِثْقَالِ ذَرَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ وَلَا أَصْغَرَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ وَلَا أَكْبَرَ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ ﴾

“… and nothing is neglected by Your Lord neither the weight of an atom in earth nor in the heaven and nothing smaller than that or larger than that but that it is (recorded) in a clear Book” (10:61)

The crucial point is that in order for us to learn knowledge, we must endeavor, seek and ask openly. There are many examples of this principle and one will suffice here, as one of the companions narrates:

“خرجنا في سفر فأصاب رجلا منا حجر فشجه في رأسه ثم احتلم فسأل أصحابه فقال هل تجدون لي رخصة في التيمم فقالوا ما نجد لك رخصة وأنت تقدر على الماء فاغتسل فمات فلما قدمنا على النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أخبر بذلك فقال قتلوه قتلهم الله ألا سألوا إذ لم يعلموا فإنما شفاء العي السؤال إنما كان يكفيه أن يتيمم ويعصر أو يعصب شك موسى على جرحه خرقة ثم يمسح عليها ويغسل سائر جسده”

“We set out on a journey, and one of us was wounded by a stone on his head. [When he slept] he had a wet dream and asked his companions, ‘Do you see any concession for me to perform tayammum (symbolic wiping with hands with dust on them instead of full ablution of wudu`)?’ They replied: ‘We do not see any concession since you are able to use water.’ Upon that he took bath and then he died. When we came back to Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, he was informed of this occurrence. He said: ‘They killed him, may Allah kill them! Why didn’t they ask if they didn’t know? Indeed the only cure for ignorance is to ask. [It would have been enough for him to perform ‘tayammum’ or bandage his wound, wipe over the bandage and bathe the rest of his body.]” [11] The expression used here is one of disapproval and does not mean the actual verbatim words, a common idiomatic manner in the Arabic language.

And in the wise counsel, the Messenger of Allah, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said:

” إنما العلم بالتعلم، وإنما الحلم بالتحلم، ومن يتحر الخير يعطه، ومن يتوق الشر يوقه.

“Knowledge is only by learning, and patience is only by exerting oneself to be patient, and whoever strives earnestly to find the good, will be given it, and whoever strives earnestly to avoid evil, will be protected from it.”  And in another reliable version of this narration he said:

” يا أيها الناس إنما العلم بالتعلم والفقه بالتفقه ومن يرد الله به خيرا يفقهه في الدين

وإنما يخشى الله من عباده العلماء”

“O people, verily knowledge is only by learning, and (having) religious understanding is only by learning jurisprudence, and if Allah wants good from a person He will make him gain religious understanding (of jurisprudence), and “Those who have the fear of Allah, from among His (Allah’s) slaves, are only those who have knowledge.” (35:28)[12]

We can summarize here that the path of true faith includes seeking and gaining correct knowledge and correct deeds.  In other words, it includes correct knowledge, confirmation of the knowledge with certitude and conviction, then loving that truth and following it by acting with sincere intentions according to the revealed law of the Quran and Sunnah. Those that deviate from this path deviate by incorrect knowledge or by incorrect intentions, or both.


[1] Reported by Bukhari and Muslim.

[2] Reported by Ahmad, and verified by al-Arna`ut and al-Albani in SJ #5373.

[3] Reported by Ibn Asakir verified as good by Sheikh al-Albani in his as-Silsalah as-Sahihah #2217

[4] Reported by Ahmad # 22931and at-Tabarani and and verified it as authentic verified by al-Arna`ut and by al-Albani in as-Silsalah as-Sahihah #2423.

[5] Reported by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others.

[6] Reported by al-Bukhari # 4854 and #4023

[7] Reported by Muslim and others.

[8] Reported by Ahmad, at-Trimidthi, Ibn Majah and al-Hakim, and verified as good by al-Albani in SJ #2449.

[9] Reported by al-Bukhari #4981 and Muslim # 152 and others.

[10] Reported by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others

[11] Reported by Abu Da`ud and others, and confirmed as reliable by Sheikh al-Albani in Sahih-al-Jami no.4362,  (except for the addition of what is in the brackets).

[12] Reported by Al-Khateeb Baghdadi in his Book of History, and confirmed as hasan (good ) by Sheikh al-Albani in Silsalah as-Sahaihah 1/605 no. 332. The second narration is confirmed as good tradition by reference to other traditions by Sheikh al-Albani mentions in Sahih at-Targheeb of al-Muthari.

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