Home

ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES-03

0101-REVELATION and INTELLECT

Background reading for session of 1st year students on 13th January 2001

A. 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 MEDIUMS 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. Thus the only reliable source of knowledge about the past is revelation.

 

EMPIRICAL OBSERVATION AS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE

Allah gave humans senses to enable them get empirical knowledge from their environment (p 836 16:78, 17:36, 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.

 

B. 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 KNOWLEDGE

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).

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. January 2001