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Arguments from Religious Experience

There have been arguments presented for the existence of God which are non-analytical, and do not rely an purely logical or empirical premises. There is a strong strand within classical Islamic philosophy, beginning with Al-Ghazzali, to strongly put forth this view, and at the same time deny the legitimacy of the purely theoretical arguments for God's existence. Muhammad Iqbal will also defend this view, however, he attempts to provide reconciliatory possibilities of reason with religious experience in concert with his organic world-view.

The principles for an Islamic epistemology are laid out in the Quran as it defines three avenues for knowledge [Wan Daud, p. 65]. These are namely,

1. Certainty by Sense-Perception (ain al-yaqin) or empirically derived knowledge; 2. Cognitive Certainty (ilm al-yaqin) or knowledge by pure reason; 3. Absolute Experienced Certainty (haqq al-yaqin) or knowledge by intuition.

These are sometimes called modes of knowledge. A Muslim Sufi (mystic) philosopher explains: The sensory mode is experienced through we eat and smell, the cognitive is through knowledge, whether self-evident or acquired, while the intuitive is similarly divided: It can either be self-evident or acquired. However, he who has access to intuitive, which is to say divine knowledge, knows instinctively what other must acquire through the exercise of their cognitive faculties. [Awliya, pp. 160-161]

It is this last form of knowledge, the intuitive, that the arguments from religious experience aim at. There is some disagreement on the significance of intuitive knowledge and even if it is necessary, is it sufficient for an Islamic epistemology of metaphysics? Ghazzali argues in the affirmative, however modern philosophers Iqbal and Al-Attas assert that intuitive knowledge must work in concert with other 'modes' of knowledge as well.

Adapted from the book: "Groundwork in Islamic Philosophy"

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