Rafed English

Ultimate Questions in Philosophy of Religion

Ultimate Questions in Philosophy of Religion by : Shaykh Mansour Leghaei


If you would be a real seeker of truth,

You must at least once in your life doubt,

As far as possible, all things.

“Discours de la Méthode”; Descartes. 1637.
The Sleepwalkers
Khalid Gibran, the well known Lebanese poet and artist of the early twentieth century, says in prose poetry named ‘The Sleepwalkers':

“ In the town where I was born lived a woman and her daughter, who walked in their sleep.

One night, while silence enfolded the world, the woman and her daughter, walking, yet asleep, met in their mist-veiled garden. And the mother spoke, and she said: "At last, at last, my enemy! You by whom my youth was destroyed -- who have built up your life upon the ruins of mine! Would I could kill you!"

And the daughter spoke, and she said: "O hateful woman, selfish and old! Who stand between my freer self and me! Who would have my life an echo of your own faded life! Would you were dead!" At that moment a cock crew, and both women awoke. The mother said gently, "Is that you, darling?" And the daughter answered gently, "Yes, dear.”!

How can we really prove we are not sleepwalkers in our so-called life?

Let me share a personal experience with you. Some years ago, I left my hometown to live in Sydney where I still live today. As I had been missing my parents and relatives, I would often dream of being with them. However, I would wake up realizing that it was all just a dream.

During one particular dream, I said to myself “I know it's a dream again”; but in an attempt to dispute this, I decided to wash my face, thoroughly. “It is real this time,” I said to myself.

Guess what? When I suddenly woke up, I realized, yes, this was also just a dream!

My purpose in this chapter is to make you aware of how important the question of existence is. Let me therefore share with you the brief historical background of this ultimate question.
Ancient Sophism
As far as western philosophy is concerned, Sophism is perhaps the most ancient Greek belief, being born there over 2400 years ago. Sophists believe that nothing actually exists and if it does, it is incomprehensible to man. As such, man has no ability to access it and even if it were comprehensible to him, he would be unable to communicate it and explain it to others.

Amongst the ancient Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle's crushing criticism seriously wounded these roving teachers of rhetoric. In fact, philosophy and logic were founded as a response to sophism.
After the demise of Aristotle, Skepticism was founded by a Greek philosopher called Pyrrho. His philosophy was that every object of human knowledge involves uncertainty; therefore, he argued, it is impossible ever to arrive at the knowledge of truth. According to Skepticism we only know how things appear to us, but are ignorant of their inner substance.

The diversity of opinion amongst the wise, as well as the ignorant proves this. Therefore, we ought never to make any positive statements on any subject.

It is related that Pyrrho acted on his own principles to such an extreme, that his friends were obliged to accompany him wherever he went, in case he might be run over by a carriage or fall down from a cliff.

Pyrrhonists suggest that we should never say, “it is so”. Rather we should say, “ it seems so”, or “ it appears so”. Examples of Illusion & Delusion

Pyrrhonists sometimes supported their argument with numerous examples of various optical illusions such as: mirage, looming, seeing sparkling stars around when you all of the sudden stand up from a sitting position, as well as other types of illusions of length, shape, touch, temperature, etc. on the one hand, and numbers of false reasoning and arguments on the other.

The only conclusion we can arrive at from this is that all so-called human opinions are delusions caused by illusions. The followings are just some examples of many false reasoning:
Example One
Statement One: Water is fluid (flowing).

Statement Two: Ice is from water

Summation: Ice is fluid!

The conclusion is invalid, though the premises are valid.

Example Two

Statement One: That dog is a father.

Statement Two: That dog is his.

Summation: That dog is his father!

Again, the conclusion is obviously invalid, in spite of the validity of the premises.

Example Three

Statement One: All dogs are mammals.

Statement Two: All cats are mammals.

Summation: All dogs are cats!

Throughout the history of mankind we have learned about many people who faced these questions and failed to find a satisfactory answer. As a result, they were drawn into the whirlpool of uncertainty and doubt.

Schopenhauer, Sadegh Hedayat and Abul-Ala Ma'ari are just a few examples of many such people. Unfortunately committing suicide appeared to them as the only solution to end all uncertainty.

I would like to end this chapter with the first part of “The Simile of the Cave” presented by Plato. It is a very good example of those involved in the divided line of this world and the hereafter. In his simile we are asked to picture a group of people sitting inside a dark cave, their hands and feet are bound in such a way that they can only look at the back walk of the cave.

Behind them is a wall, and beyond that wall pass human-line creatures carrying equipment and the like. Due to the fact that there is a fire behind them they cause flickering shadows on he back wall of the cave.

The only thing that these cave dwellers can perceive is this shadow-play. Their knowledge is based solely on the shadows, which form their world. They have been sitting in this position since they were bon so they believe that all they can see is all that there is.

Please read this simile carefully and, if necessary, more than once, trying to imagine yourself as one of the prisoners. Then, see how you could assure yourself that the world you are living in is not a mere illusion. Make sure you have thought enough about the issues raised in this chapter before you proceed to the next.
The Simile of the Cave (First Part)
‘I want you to go on to picture the enlightenment or ignorance of our human conditions somewhat as follows. Imagine an underground chamber, like a cave with an entrance open to the daylight and running a long way underground.

In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children, their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads.

Behind them and above them a fire is burning, and between the fire and the prisoners runs a road, in front of which a curtain-wall has been built, like the screen on puppet shows between the operators and their audience, above which they show the puppets'.

‘I see.'

‘Imagine further that there are men carrying all sorts of gear along behind the curtain-wall, including figures of men and animals made of wood and stone and other materials, and that some of these men, as is natural, are talking and some not.'

‘An odd picture and an odd sort of prisoner.'

‘They are drawn from life,' I replied. ‘For, tell me, do you think our prisoners could see anything of themselves or their fellows except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of the cave opposite them?'

‘How could they see anything else if they were prevented from moving their heads all their lives?'

‘And would they see anything more of the objects carried along the road?'

‘Of course not.'

‘Then if they were able to talk to each other, would they not assume that the shadows they saw were real things?'


‘And if the wall of their prison opposite them reflected sound, don't you think that they would suppose, whenever one of the passers-by on the road spoke, that the voice belonged to the shadow passing before them?'

‘They would be bound to think so.'

‘And so they would believe that the shadows of the objects we mentioned were in all respects real?'

‘Yes, inevitably.'

Further reading: http://www.secretbeyondmatter.com [6]

Are you inside the universe? Or is the universe inside you? Browse on the above website.
Further into the Night

[In order] to create Light!

In the previous chapter, I shared with you examples of some thinkers who worked on issues of existence, but whose solutions to such thought produced unfavourable outcomes.

In this chapter we will start waking up to ourselves in order to create light for us, and those around us, who may be in need of this light.

Firstly, let me share with you two positive examples of thinkers who also worked on issues of life, and in managing to find satisfactory answers to their questions, resulted in a more positive outlook on life.

I think, therefore I am!

René Descartes was a French philosopher and mathematician of the 17th century AD. He is sometimes called the father of modern philosophy.

Before his time, philosophy had been dominated by the method of Scholasticism, which was entirely based on comparing and contrasting the views of recognized authorities. Rejecting this method, Descartes stated, "In our search for the direct road to truth, we should busy ourselves with no object about which we cannot attain a certitude equal to that of the demonstration of arithmetic and geometry."

He therefore determined that one should hold nothing true until grounds had been established for believing it true. Descartes reviewed all his knowledge from sensible and perceptible as well as rational and traditional sciences.

He then invalidated all this knowledge, which resulted in all his knowing platforms from sensible to rational collapsing, leaving him swimming in the suspense of the ocean of doubt and uncertainty.

As he was drowning in his whirlpool of doubt, he realized that whatever else he doubted, he could not doubt his doubt. He said to himself: “God, I doubt myself, my senses, my mind and the world around me, but I cannot doubt that I doubt.”

He immediately concluded that if one doubts, one is able to doubt.

From this single fact which he expressed in the famous words, ‘ Cogito, ergo sum', “I think, therefore I am”, he began his investigations.

Throughout his investigation and sincere search for truth, he studied different schools of thought, which were accessible to him. He confirmed through the conclusions reached from this investigative work, his belief in the existence of God, and accepted Christianity as the best religious path available to knowledge, at that time.

He did however agree, that there could be a better religion than Christianity, giving the land of Persia (Iran) as an example of a place where one might be able to find such a religion which at that time, he was not aware of, to believe in!

We will investigate the validity of this famous saying later in this chapter.
The Inner Intuition
Al-Ghazali (also known as Algazel in the West) the most famous Iranian Muslim Sufi of the mid 11 and the early 12th century AD, is an eastern example of this same intellectual journey in search for truth.

Although honored by his appointment as a Professor at the Nizamiyah University of Baghdad, which was recognized as one of the most reputed institutions of learning in the golden era of Muslim history,

At the age of 53, he gave up his academic pursuits and worldly interests in search of truth. This was a time of mystical transformation and occupied about 10 years of his life.

In his book “The Rescuer from Delusion” (Al-Monqeth Menal-Dhalal) which is his account of his spiritual journey in search for truth, he states that his journey began with doubting all his sensible and rational knowledge.

He writes: “I could not convince myself that one's whole life in this world is not a mere dream. Did not the Prophet (of Islam) say: “People are asleep, they wake up when they die ”? If so, what do we have to guarantee that we are not sleepwalkers!

This situation was so puzzling to me that I ended up in bed for about two months until, my heart was enlightened by the sparkle of a divine light which needed no rational explanation.”

He solved the puzzle of his existence in his famous words: “Our existence is what we are aware of and find within ourselves”. He later called this fundamental bedrock of knowledge ‘The Inner Intuition (Al-Kashf)’.
Avicenna Vs Descartes
Abu 'Ali al -Hussain lbn 'Abd-Allah lbn Hasan Ibn 'Ali lbn Sina, (which was Europeanised into Avicenna), the Iranian Muslim philosophy genius, mathematician and physician of the late 10 th and early 11 th Century AD, discovered the fallacy of Descartes' famous words of “I think, therefore I am”, more than six centuries before the birth of Descartes.

In the third section of his book “ Hints & Notices” (Al-Esharat Wa Tanbeehat), he argues: “If anyone claims that ‘ he thinks therefore he exists'; he has fallen into the trap of creating a vicious circle of circumstances for himself, because, he is trying to prove his own existence by means of his own thought.

In other words, to accept that ‘you’ think or ‘you’ doubt , you would already have needed to accept ‘ you ' exist, which is exactly the original claim.”

Therefore, the expression of ‘I think, therefore I am ' is not the first platform of knowledge.

The fallacy of Descartes' so-called single sure fact can be shown by means of prepositional logic utilising the truth-table method.

The meaning of Descartes' statement in a logical structure is:

Premise 1: All those who think, exist.

Premise 2: I think.

Conclusion: I exist.

However, the fallacy of Descartes' theorem is shown by, the need to admit to the existence and accuracy of self-evident arguments of formal logic, before admitting his thinking.
Axiom (Self-evident knowledge)
In order for us to truly answer the question of our existence or any other question about the existing world, we need to know the fundamental source of human knowledge. With exception of Sophists, most philosophers, whether eastern or western, contemporary or ancient, agree that human knowledge is divided into two categories:

- Self-evident knowledge

- Theoretical knowledge

Axiom or Self-evident knowledge is the type of knowledge that we accept as true without the need of proof or reasoning.

Examples of axioms are:

• “No sentence can be true or false at the same time.” (the principle of contradiction)

• “If equals are added to equals, the sums are equal.”

• “The whole is greater than any of its parts.”

The most certain of human knowledge is mathematics. Pure mathematics begins with axioms from which other theorems are driven. This procedure is necessary to avoid circularity, or an infinite regression in reasoning and as such it is impossible to provide any proof for them.

An Axiom can be defined as ‘self-evident truth' for it does not need any analysis. Rather it is the bottom line and foundation for all types of human analysis and acquired knowledge. All it requires is attention, sound mental health, and lack of fallacy.

Theoretical knowledge is a type of knowledge, which requires thinking and reasoning. An example of this would be algebraic equations.

If you would like a better understanding of the types of human knowledge mentioned above, then take the example of your personal computer. In order for you to run your PC for any other application, your PC needs to have an operating system by which the computer can be run.

The operating system is what the manufacturer installs in your computer and you are advised not to delete it from your machine, otherwise you will not be able to run any other application.

I believe that self-evident knowledge, especially the ‘ impossibility of the conjunction of contradictories ' (the law of contradiction), is the very fundamental human platform for obtaining knowledge. Even the Sophists claim, that without such a platform, any human knowledge, would not be possible. I will endeavour to provide you with more explanation in regard to the fallacies of the Sophists and Skeptics.

Therefore, Al-Gazaali's experience of ‘inner intuition' to prove his own existence is more accurate than that of Descartes' theorem.

If you still find the above explanation a bit too obscure, let me put it to you like this:

Consider this theorem:

All Aussies are mortal. We evaluate the truth of this sentence in the following manner:

-All humans are mortal.

-All Aussies are humans.

All Aussies are mortal.

The validity of the first premise is also known from another theorem, which is:

- All animals are mortal.

-All humans are animals.

All humans are mortal.

Similarly, the validity of the first theorem is also known from yet another theorem, which is:

- All living creatures are mortal.

- All animals are living creatures.

All animals are mortal.

The ladder of theorems will continue until you end up to a premise which is in itself so self-evident that you do not need proof, otherwise a vicious circle or infinite series of theorems will emerge, both of which are impossible.

[Immanuel Kant: Prolegomena to Any future Metaphysics, Section 45]
Philosophy Vs Sophism
Let us first define ‘Sophism'. Sophism is derived from the Greek ‘sophisma” meaning acquired skill or clever device. It is different from the word ‘Sufi' which is from the Arabic f , literally meaning "woolen" (perhaps because of their woolen garments).

The rise of philosophy was in fact a response to the fallacies of Sophism. Contrary to Sophists who deny or doubt the existence of the external world, philosophers believe in the reality of this world and that this reality- whether partial or total, is accessible and communicable.
Types of Human Perception
Philosophers divide human perception into three main categories and explain that the task of a philosopher or a logician is to distinguish between them.

1) Real Perceptions: Consist of perceptions that have real existence from the human mind.

2) Agreed Perceptions (E'tebariat): Such as the term ‘human being' which is a common perception driven from all examples of human kind. E'tebariat, therefore, exists only in the mind but its examples and applications exist in reality. In other words, there is no ‘ human being' in the external world. What exists in the outer world are examples of human beings.

The concept of the ‘human being' is something that our mind extracts from previous experiences of numerous examples of human beings. What exists in reality is tom, dick and harry. The generic term 'human being' is an extractive concept that we drive from those examples.

Thus, ‘human being' has no existence out of our mind and imagination except in the form of its examples. Another example is numbers. What we have in real life is ‘apple', or ‘apples', then we extract the concept of ‘one apple' or ‘two apple' etc. Thus, numbers don't exist by themselves in reality.

3) Illusion and imagination - have no real existence, such as a man born with two snakes on his shoulders! 1
Rebuking the Sophists

Instinctive Knowledge
1. Instinctive knowledge is the knowledge with which we are born. Like the ROM (Read Only Memory) of the computer. In computer science, semiconductor-based memory is that which contains instructions or data that can be read but not modified. To create a ROM chip, the designer supplies a semiconductor manufacturer with the instructions or data to be stored. The manufacturer then produces one or more chips containing those instructions or data.

2. When we study the biography of the most skeptics or sophists, we without exception find, that none of them were actually born sophist, not believing that nothing exists or if it exists it is not comprehensible, otherwise they would not have sucked the milk from their mothers' breast.

3. Have you ever known any sophist cry when it is time to laugh, use his hands to watch something, or hear a voice with his eyes?! We know, as mentioned in the previous chapter, that it is related that Pyrrho acted on his own principles to such an extreme, that to safeguard him being run over by carriages or falling off a cliff, his friends were obliged to accompany him wherever he went.

Even if we accept the validity of his argument, based on the principle of ‘uncertainty' one could have asked Mr. Pyrrho how would he be able to guarantee that his friends would be able to save him? What proof did he have of the likelihood of a real carriage running by?

Thus, it is obvious that the arguments of the Sophists are mere fallacy and no doubt all sophists are realist in their practical life. I would dare any sophist to jump from a cliff if there is no real life and certainty, or if life is a mere dream.

4. Any Sophist who expresses his or her opinion, have unconsciously admitted that they have tongue to talk with, there is someone around them to talk to and there is a means of communication. These facts are against the so-called principles of Sophism.
Answers to Dreams and Illusions
The fact that we know we have dreamed is a proof by itself that there must be a real life that we have already experienced which is comparable to what we have learned about the dream world. Similarly, the fact that we know there are many optical as well as other types of illusions, is enough to prove that there must be real sight which in comparison to it, we conclude illusions.

The same explanation can be sited about the following arguments, which although logically sound true, we know to be false. Indeed, without having any distinct and real measurement, how would it be possible for us to distinguish truth from falsehood?

Have you ever seen anyone forge a $15 note? Of course not, simply because there is no such thing as a $15 note to counterfeit from. Hence, contrary to sophist's fallacy, we may say all dreams and illusions are indirect proof of the real world around us.

In conclusion, the fact that we make mistakes in some of our thinking or seeing does not denote the validity of our knowledge overall. In fact, the task of various types of science from philosophy and logic to physical sciences is to help us learn from those mistakes.

Consider the following statement: ‘Some dogs are Dalmatians; therefore all dogs are Dalmatians!' Obviously the conclusion that was reached is incorrect. However, we all know the physical explanation of why and how a mirage happens or why a stick looks broken in the water by an optical law of refraction. 2
Answers to Logical fallacies
Formal logic was founded by Aristotle to create a mathematical basis for disclosing the fallacy of the Sophists' theorems. The fallacy of all the examples mentioned so far and a logician can easily disclose many other such fallacies.

In the following examples, I will just show you the fallacy of the first example used in the first chapter and leave the rest to your interest in logic. However, before you indulge too much into logic, remember again the fact that you are able to identify that the theorems were false, even though you can't necessarily explain why. This again is further proof for instinctive self-evident knowledge.

In the first example, a Sophist fooled us by the means of a conjuncture only. Let us revise the theorem again:

- Water is fluid (flowing).

- Ice is from water.

-Ice is fluid!

The fallacy of the theorem is easily disclosed when the conjuncture ‘from ' is highlighted in a different colour. Obviously, ice cannot be water in order to apply all the characteristics of water on it, rather it is from water.

Let me show you the fallacy of the theorem in a very clear, mathematical way:

All A = B

Some C = A

All C = B

Now it is obvious that the theorem is a mere fallacy and there is no truth in it. As a matter of fact, if there were no reality and there was no self-evident knowledge within each and every human, do you think we would be able to unveil the falsehood?

Before I end this chapter with the last part of the Simile of The Cave, which would answer the first part, one should remember that if some thinkers do not follow the rules set, even those set by themselves, whether in logic or philosophy, this does not surmise that logic or philosophical rules are useless; rather we should blame those who infringe the law on us, not the law itself.
The Simile of the Cave (Last Part)
‘Then think what would naturally happen to them if they were released from their bonds and cured of their delusions. Suppose one of them were let loose, and suddenly compelled to stand up and turn his head and look and walk towards the fire, all these actions would be painful and he would be too puzzled to see properly the objects of which he used to see the shadows.

So if he was told that what he used to see was mere illusion and that he was now nearer reality and seeing more correctly, because he was turned towards objects that were more real, and if on top of that he were compelled to say what each of the passing objects was when it was pointed out to him, don't you think he would be at a loss, and think that what he used to see was more real than the objects now being pointed out to him?'

‘Much more real.'

‘And if he were made to look directly at the light of the fire, it would hurt his eyes and he would turn back and take refuge in the things which he could see, which he would think really far clearer than the things being shown him.'


‘And if,' I went on, ‘he were forcibly dragged up the steep and rocky ascent and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight, the process would be a painful one, to which he would much object, and when he emerged into the light his eyes would be so overwhelmed by the brightness of it that he wouldn't be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real.'

‘ Certainly not at first,' he agreed.'

‘Because he would need to grow accustomed to the light before he could see things in the world outside the cave. First he would find it easiest to look at shadows, next at the reflections of men and other objects in water, and later on at the objects themselves.

After that he would find it easier to observe the heavenly bodies and the sky at night than by day, and to look at the light of the moon and stars, rather than at the sun and its light.'

‘Of course.'

‘The thing he would be able to do last would be to look directly at the sun, and observe its nature without using reflections in water or any other medium, but just as it is.'

‘That must come last.'

‘Later on he would come to the conclusion that it is the sun that produces the changing seasons and years and controls everything in the visible world, and is in a sense responsible for everything that he and his fellow-prisoners used to see.'

‘That is the conclusion which he would obviously reach.'

‘And when he thought of his first home and what passed for wisdom there, and of his fellow-prisoners, don't you think he would congratulate himself on his good fortune and be sorry for them?'

‘Very much so.'

‘There was probably a certain amount of honour and glory to be won among the prisoners, and prizes for keen-sightedness for anyone who could remember the order of sequence among the passing shadows and so be best able to predict their future appearances.

Will our released prisoner hanker after these prizes or envy this power or honour? Won't he be more likely to feel, as Homer says, that he would far rather be “a serf in the house of a landless man”, or indeed anything else in the world, than live and think as they do?'

‘Yes,' he replied, ‘he would prefer anything to a life like theirs.'

‘Then what do you think would happen,' I asked, ‘if he went back to sit in his old seat in the cave? Wouldn't his eyes be blinded by the darkness, because he had come in suddenly out of the daylight?'


‘And if he had to discriminate between the shadows, in competition with the other prisoners, while he was still blinded and before his eyes got used to the darkness - a process that might take some time - wouldn't he be likely to make a fool of himself?

And they would say that his visit to the upper world had ruined his sight, and that the ascent was not worth even attempting. And if anyone tried to release them and lead them up, they would kill him if they could lay hands on him.'

‘They certainly would.'

‘Now, my dear Glaucon ,' I went on, ‘this simile must be connected, throughout, with what preceded it.

This is a more graphic presentation of the truths presented in the analogy of the Line. In particular, it tells us more about the two states of mind identified in the Line Analogy as Belief and Illusion.

We are shown the ascension of the mind from illusion to pure philosophy, and the difficulties, which accompany its progress. The philosopher, having achieved the supreme vision, is required to return to the cave and serve his fellows. His very unwillingness to do so, however, being his chief qualification.

The simile is the moral and intellectual condition of the average man from which Plato starts, and though clearly the ordinary man knows the difference between substance and shadow in the physical world, the simile suggests that his moral and intellectual opinions often bear as little relation to the truth as the average film does to real life.

Now if you would like to enlighten your life as well as your fellows, and if you would also like to raise yourself from the present world situation with all its calamities, meaningless, doubts and hectic properties, to rest forever in the ocean of peace, tranquility and certainty, then join me in this intellectual journey and read the following chapters thoroughly and carefully and think about them.

The choice is yours!
1. This imaginary character was named ' Zahhak ', in the ancient Iranian tale.

2. The change in direction that occurs when a wave of energy such as light passes from one medium to another of a different density, for example, from air to water.
And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. Verily, in that are indeed Signs for men of Sound knowledge. The Holy Qur'an [30:22]

Knowing that we really do exist and there is an existing world around us, the next question arises as to what the reality of knowledge is and how can we gain knowledge about ourselves and the world around us? What types of Tools of Knowledge do we have? What is the relation between the knower and the object known? How much of the real world is accessible to us?
Types of Knowledge
Human knowledge is divided solely into two types:

1. Knowledge by presence. Like the knowledge everyone has about one's self. Such as the knowledge you yourself have about your feelings. In this type of knowledge the knower and the known object are unified.

2. Acquired knowledge. This is most types of human knowledge and is also the one that we will mainly deal with in this chapter.
Definition of Knowledge
Imagine a picture of a natural scene is shown to you. The size of the picture is 10 X 15 cm. In the picture you see a landscape that you know is about 5 square kilometers surrounded by tall mountains.

A river which you approximate it's width to be fifty meters is crossing the middle of the view. At the river's bank from both sides you can see tall white silver firs lined up. Your family is also seated under the trees having their lunch. I could go on more, describing further details of the picture.

Now, if your friend were to ask you if the picture you have at hand contains all the length, width, depth and physical characteristics of that landscape, how would you reply?

“Obviously not”, you will reply without hesitation. All that would not fit in such a small space. What are really on the paper are some colourful spots. Yet, it is the image of the landscape.

The function of our mind is similar to a camera, or a mirror, which reflects the image of the object known.

Although knowledge does not really need any definition, it is sometimes defined as:

“The presence of the image of an object in mind.” [al-modhaffar: Al-manteq] Therefore, knowledge is the bridge of converting a real external object, in its true form, to its reflection in one's mind.
Differences between Mind and Mirror
Despite similarities between the function of the mind and that of the mirror, there are at least five differences, which uniquely characterise the function of mind.

1. Reflection of meaning: A Mirror reflects solely optical images. In other words, if a man is standing in front of the mirror, it will show his body shape, colour and size. The mirror under no circumstances reflects his knowledge, feelings, hatred or love for others etc. However, the mind can reflect not only the sensible objects but emotion and feelings as well.

2. Non-correction power: If the mirror is concave it shows the object bigger than its real size, and smaller if it is convex. It has no power of knowing its mistakes or any ability to correct them. However, the human mind can uncover the mistakes of illusions and is also able to correct them explaining why and how the illusions and delusions occur.

3. Self-reflecting: no mirror in the world can reflect its own image to itself, whereas the mind is capable of reflecting others images as well as its own. Rather the mind's own reflection is far more accurate, a phenomenon called ‘knowledge by presence'.

4. Generalization: A mirror will only reflect objects put in front of it. It has no power of reflecting any other object around it. However, the human mind recognizes and reflects sighted objects as well as being capable of linking them to numerous similar objects and applying the same rules to them. Scientific laws are derived from the means of this characteristic of the mind.

5. Deepening: Any mirror will only reflect the object in front of it. It cannot convert the reflected object to another mirror to reflect another object. By contrast, our mind is able to change an object known to another reflective object reflecting the reality of a third known object. This is called a ‘ Sign Knowledge ', which will be explained later in this chapter.
Ignorance and its types
Before we proceed any further to discover the sources of human knowledge, let me share with you the meaning of ignorance and two types of it.

Ignorance by definition is ‘lack of knowledge on the part of one who is able to obtain knowledge.' Thus, a piece of wood or a rock, are not ignorant as they are not capable of obtaining knowledge.

Ignorance is also divided into two types:

1. Simple Ignorance: This means a type of ignorance where the person is aware of his ignorance. The famous saying of Socrates “Wisest is he who knows what he does not know” refers to this first type of ignorance.

2. Compound Ignorance: Is a type of ignorance where the ignorant is unaware of his ignorance and moreover assumes that he does know. Compound ignorance is the combination of two types of ignorance; firstly ignorance about the truth and secondly, ignorance of the fact that he does not know the truth. The example of compound ignorance is optical illusions such as mirage.
Tools for Acquiring Knowledge

Sense experience
Nature is the first human source of knowledge and our five external senses are the tools of accessing this source.

From the time we are born, we hear sounds around us, we see objects and people around us, we touch and taste and smell things and through each we gain some knowledge accordingly.

Human beings are similar to animals at this level, with the only difference being in the level of perception between humans and some animals. For instance, the sense of smell in dogs and ants is stronger than in humans, as are the navigational skills of a bat stronger than a human. Dogs see are only able to see the colour gray etc.

In spite of the differences in depth of sensory perception between humans and animals, it is common-sensical that for a healthy human being, external senses are the first tools of obtaining knowledge to the extend that it is said in Arabic: “One who misses a sense misses a knowledge”.

However, there are different opinions among philosophers from ancient times to the present about the validity of our sense of perception. Plato, for instance, did not accept nature as a source of knowledge; his reason being the relationship between mankind and nature is interlinked and therefore cannot bring about knowledge.

Descartes and Kant also hold the view that sensory perception is good for daily life experiences yet it is not a reliable tool for obtaining knowledge. 1

In contrast, empiricists assert that human knowledge arises from what is provided to the mind by the senses or by introspective awareness through experience. John Locke, the English philosopher of the 18th and 19th century, was the first to give this systematic expression to empiricism followed by George Berkeley and David Hume.

According to empiricism sensory and sensational experience are the only tools to feed the human mind with knowledge. Thus, we can only understand what we can physically perceive. Even when one imagines a mountain of gold, is it because you have already seen a mountain of gold? Or rather because you have seen a mountain and you have seen gold? Your mind then combines these two sensational perceptions into one.

Positivists, such as French mathematician and philosopher Auguste Comte of the 19th century, further developed the idea of empiricists and based their philosophy on experience and empirical knowledge of natural phenomena, in which metaphysics and theology are regarded as inadequate and imperfect systems of knowledge.

During the early 20th century a group of philosophers who were concerned with developments in modern science, rejected the traditional positivist ideas that held personal experience to be the basis of true knowledge and emphasized the importance of scientific verification. In short, the main theory of empiricists is that without sensory perception, we have no knowledge about the world.
Characteristics of Sensory Perception
a. Individualist: The first characteristic of sensory perception is that it is obtained individually. For instance, a child gradually gets to know her mother, then father then brothers and sisters and so on. She has no idea of human kind in general.

b. Appearance: Sensory perception also shares with us the appearance of the objects. For instance, your eyes can only bring knowledge about colours and shape and size of an object. It cannot show us the depth and the nature of it.

c. The Present: Sensory perception belongs only to the present time. It cannot show us the past or the future. In other words, you cannot observe the events prior to your birth. (remember the film of past events is not the event itself.)

d. Regional: Sensory perception is also limited by place. Human and animals can obtain sensational knowledge of the area, which is within their vision or hearing. For instance, as far as sensory perception is concerned, we have no sensational knowledge about the surface of the moon, for in order to do so, one would have to have had personal sensational experience of it.
Comments on Empiricism
Although it is agreed that sensory experience is the first and foremost elementary tool of knowledge for humans and animals, we do not limit the tools for which to gain knowledge, to the senses for the following reasons:

1) Senses can only show us objects. The relationship between them is uncovered by the means of rational thinking. For instance, our eyes can see the key and the lock, but the functioning relationship between them is known by the rational law of cause and effect. In other words, no scientific law could be possibly obtained without rational analysis attached to the sensory experience.

Unfortunately some of the empiricists such as Hume have denied the law of cause and effect, as it would not be compatible with the theory of empiricism. He explained that the relation between the unlocking by means of a key exists by what he calls ‘mere association' which makes us believe the relation is permanent.

His point is that all human knowledge is based on the theory that ‘if A therefore B' and includes his hypothesis ‘or else'. He cannot, however, suggest a certain idea either. (Pay attention!)

It is important however to note that in addition to linking objects by cause and effect, so many objects of natural phenomena come into association with each other such as day and night, pen and pencil, book and library, yet we never relate them to each other as cause and effect.

2) Sensory experience cannot denote the impossibility of the impossible. For example, sensory experience cannot denote the existence of a triangle with four angles, simply because the senses have no ability to experience such things.

3) Mathematics is the most certain science yet it is not experimental. In fact, many of its concepts cannot be experienced by the senses. For example, there is no circle in the real world where the distance between its perimeter and the centre is exactly the same from any point.
Rational perception
In light of the above explanation, it is obvious that reasoning and rational analysis are the second necessary tools for obtaining knowledge in humans. In addition to this, there are certain types of mathematical knowledge such as geometry, which is considered the ideal for all sciences and philosophy.

However it is important to note that there are certain geometrical rules that are universally agreed upon as to their certainty by the means of reasoning alone.

This fact has obligated some philosophers such as Rene Descartes and Immanuel Kant, to form the doctrine of Rationalism, which emphasises the unique role of reasoning in obtaining knowledge, in contrast to empiricism, which emphasises the role of sensory perception to obtain knowledge.

We believe reasoning is the higher tool of obtaining knowledge and is the very tool, which distinguishes the realm of humans from the kingdom of animals.

Nonetheless, we do not agree that reasoning is the sole tool of obtaining knowledge. In fact, the main problem of empiricists as well as rationalists is that each one tries to generalize a tool beyond its own world.

Empiricists are correct in a sense that most natural knowledge cannot be obtained without enjoying sensory experience, just as it is impossible to explain to a born blind the difference between the different colours. Thus, it amazes us to learn that Beethoven, one of the greatest musicians of all time, had lost the sense that he would have relied on most, his sense of hearing. However, he was not born deaf.
One of the greatest tools of obtaining knowledge is what is introduced to mankind by the Holy Quran, named ‘ the tool of Sign'.

The contemporary Iranian Muslim philosopher; Motahari is perhaps the first who discovered this as a tool of human knowledge. Most human knowledge is in fact obtained by the means of signs. According to Motahari and other Muslim philosophers “epistemologically there is no difference between knowing about Napoleon Bonaparte and knowing God in a sense that we people of the 21st century have not eye witnessed any of them.

Therefore, since we know about Napoleon by means of some historical signs affirming his existence and life, similarly we know about the existence of God by the means of natural, rational and other types of signs glorifying His existence. The Holy Qur'an considers the entire world “Divine Signs”. For instance, consider the Ayat of 20-22 in chapter 30 of the Holy Qur'an:

“ And of His signs is that He created you from dust, then lo! Ye are human beings scattering (in the world). And of his signs is that he created for you from your selves, mates that ye may dwell (inclined) unto them, and caused between you love and compassion: Verily in this are signs for a people who reflect. And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the variety of your languages and your complexions; verily in this are signs for the learned (ones).”

When your teacher gives you a lesson, how would you know about his knowledge level? Is it that his eyes, face, height, or any other part of his appearance reflect his knowledge, or is it that the subject he is sharing with you is like a sign (secondary mirror as explained in the beginning of this chapter) reflecting his knowledge to you?

When you really pay more careful attention to most human knowledge, you will agree that most of our knowledge is in fact obtained in such a manner. Therefore, the one who is limits his knowledge to whatever he can experience by his surgical knife instead of the library has already closed his eyes to most human knowledge.
1. This, incidentally is in spite of the fact that when Descartes was asked about his library by one of his friends he took him to his backyard showing him the dissection of a calf as being his library.
“The starry heaven above me and the moral law within me”. I. Kant
Self Purification
When one hears about purification, one initially thinks of water or air purification for example. Therefore you may wonder what self-purification is all about. How are we supposed to purify ourselves? How does self-purification gain knowledge for us?
As we mentioned in the previous chapter, the human mind is like a mirror, which, by reflecting objects, creates knowledge about them for us. Despite differences between the mind and mirrors, there are some similarities as well.

One such similarity is that external and internal obstacles can affect the accuracy and power of reflection of both of them. For example the dustier a mirror, the less reflective it will be. Similarly, obstacles can affect the human mind, whether totally or partially. Prejudice is considered one of the obstacles of the mind in seeing the truth.

Rumi, in the First Book of Mathnawi, gives an allegorical example of self-purification. He narrates of a competition between Chinese and Romans to create a painting masterpiece. Two houses opposite to each other were given to each of them to paint. The Chinese painters gave a big list of the materials they needed for such a project to the king and finally created a magnificent painting.

Surprisingly, however, the Romans did not ask for any materials. All they did was to polish the house as much as they could. On the day of the exhibition, each group unveiled their masterpiece. Amazingly, whatever design could be seen in the Chinese house, the same, even brighter, could be observed in the Romans' as well.

From this allegorical example, Rumi concludes that the real house is the human heart and the Romans are those who purify themselves.

Self-purification therefore means the removal of all various types of dust and rust as obstructive elements in the search for truth.

The supporters of this tool regard it as the highest tool of knowledge without which all sensory and rational perceptions are in vain. They believe at least certain types of knowledge will be gained solely by the means of self purification. “Clear your mind and soul and the knowledge of the truth is there,” they say.

Examples of many who changed their lifestyle and to a certain extent gained that knowledge are John Milton and his dream, Fodhail Ibn 'Ayadh, and Zaid Ibn Harethe.
The Spectrum of Self Purification
Although the primary levels of self purification are necessary to obtain all types of knowledge the main spectrum of self purification as it is meant in this context is in three realms:
1) Intuition
Intuition is a form of knowledge or cognitive independent of experience or reason. Intuitiveness is therefore generally regarded as instinctive knowledge that we are born with. The mathematical idea of an axiom (a self evident proposition) as discussed in the previous chapter as well as previously mentioned humane instincts are the best example of intuitive knowledge.

From the ancient Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras to Spinoza, Kant to Henri Bergson, intuition has always been regarded as the higher form of knowledge. Bergson (1859-1941) the French philosopher and Nobel laureate, considered intuition as the major source of morality and religion in “The two sources of Morality and Religion”. He also considered intuition the only means of knowledge.

Believing in God is a humane, instinctive and intuitive of knowledge. This instinctive knowledge is however, sometimes overshadowed by obstacles. Particular incidences of life can stimulate the mind and bring this instinct to the conscious as did indeed happen to Pascal. At the age of 31, just 8 years before his death, he was driving a four in hand carriage the horses ran away.

The two horses at the front, dashed over the parapet of the bridge at Neuilly and Pascal was saved only by the traces breaking. He considered this a special summons to abandon the world. He wrote an account of the accident on a small piece of parchment, which he wore next to his heart, for the rest of his life, to perpetually remind him of this covenant. This accident turned the currents of his thoughts to a religious life.

In order for you to have a clear understanding of your instinctive knowledge, I need to take you on a short tour from the world of physical objects around you through to the kingdom of animals to finally embark on the issue of human instinct.

a. The Natural World:

In the world around us there are numerous physical and chemical objects. Scientists distinguish them from each other by their physical and chemical properties. For instance, the chemical properties of Hydrogen gas are that it is highly flammable whereas the chemical property of water is that under standard atmospheric pressure, its freezing point is 0° C (32° F) and its boiling point is 100° C (212° F). This characteristic is essential to all water or Hydrogen gas in the world. In other words, it is in the nature of water, any water, to boil at 100° C.

b. The Kingdom of Animals:

Instinct in zoology and in the kingdom of animals is an unlearned pattern of behaviour, enabling members of a species to respond approximately the same to a wide range of situations in the natural world. Examples of such are feeding, mating and parenting. Instinctive behaviour can be extremely complex even in relatively simple animals.

The remarkable navigational and communication skills possessed by honeybees are such an example. A worker bee may fly a quarter of a mile or more from the hive in search of flowers that are a good source for food. The sun usually serves as an indicator of direction, but the bee can navigate accurately, even in a moderate breeze, when the sun is hidden by a cloud.

When it finds a good source of food, the bee has the capacity to calculate an accurate course back to the hive, allowing for wind and apparent movement of the sun. Upon returning to the hive, it communicates the location of the food through a ‘dance' that conveys information about distance and direction. All these complex behaviours occur without the necessity of learning. This process of ‘trial and error' is called instinctive behaviour of honeybees.

c. Human beings

Human beings have some instinctive patterns of behaviour in common with animals such as mating, feeding and parenting. There is, however, another type of instinct, which is beyond the scope of the animal kingdom. I will call it humane instinct. Humane instinct is similar to that of animal instinct except that unlike animal instinct, humane instinct is that found as part of human nature, that is humans find it naturally within themselves.
Types of Humane Instinct
Without limiting humane instinct to just the following examples, I would however, like to highlight the most acknowledged ones.
Example 1: Knowledge Lovers
The desire to learn and increase one's knowledge is instinctive in humans. This instinctive behaviour is apparent from infancy. As the baby grows up, his/her craving new discoveries increases to the extent that the baby becomes as curious as a scientist.

This increased awareness and curiosity stimulates the desire to learn, which can sometimes becomes intolerable to the parent when the child continuously bombards him/her with innumerable questions. This desire is, in cognitive psychology, known as ‘the sense of research'.

Abu Rayhan Birooni, the famous Iranian mathematician in the 10 th and 11 th century AD, was visited in the last hours of his life by one of his jurist friends. As soon as Birooni saw his friend he asked him a jurisprudential question although he was lying on his sick bed.

The jurist was astonished at this type of questioning, however replied: “You are too ill my friend for scientific discussions, are you sure you want me to answer you?”

With a weak voice, Birooni continued: “Yes my dear friend. Is it not better to know the answer to this issue and then die?” The jurist answered the question and fare welled his friend. Having only taken a few steps from Birooni's house, the jurist heard the cries of mourning relatives thus realising that a man so thirsty for knowledge had died.

Another narration highlighting this thirst for knowledge tells us of Pascal who was so preoccupied with his mathematical calculations and the formation of the relativity that he missed his wedding night.
Example 2: Virtue Lovers
The second humane instinct is one of moral and virtuous values. Kant was filled with wonder and awe at this instinct as can be seen in his saying: “the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me” . Man by nature loves discipline, social cooperation, justice and so forth. Consider the following phrase: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”.

These words of wisdom are universally mentioned in all major religions of the world. Such statements are needless of any experience of reason to be accepted. They, like ‘the total is bigger than all of its parts', are indeed self evident.

Some ethical philosophers, one of whom is Spinoza, have expressed a sense of moral values, at least as far as fundamental ethical codes are concerned, as intuitive and immediate, hence are universally accepted.
Example 3: Beauty Lovers
Man, by nature, loves beauty. This can be observed by the way a person dresses. Although the primary function of clothing is protection, beautification also plays a major role in its presentation. When you look at a masterpiece of a natural landscape, your eyes naturally celebrate and your mind flourishes. Art is the product of this humane instinct.
Example 4: Love Lovers
Perhaps the greatest and the most transcendental of human instincts is the sense of love. Man by nature needs to love something and be loved by others. This natural desire can appear in different stages of life, in various ways and situations.

First exposure to this desire for love begins with a platonic love relationship between mother and child, continues at some stages of life in a romantic fashion but doesn't last until the lover discovers the real Beloved One, who is eternal and cannot be missed.

The instinct of love is the same in all stages of life, although it appears in different formats. In other words, when one looks at a magnificent landscape painting and enjoy the view, when you love your partner to the extent that you tell him/her ‘I adore you', you are in fact instinctively in search of love of the real Beloved One as can be assumed the lost is on is found.

Ibn Al-Arabi (1165-1240), the greatest of Muslim mystics, nicely expressed this feeling by saying: “No one ever loves any one save the Creator; but He is sometimes hidden under the mask of Zaynab, Su'ad and Hind (female names in Arabic).”
2) Inspiration
Another spectrum of self purification is inspiration. Inspiration literally means ‘the drawing of air into the lungs as part of the breathing process which is required to promote life'. Thus, when a person is inspired it is assumed that he has received a heavenly gift to revive others.

Levels of inspiration include:

• Creativity

• Sparking of a sudden brilliant idea

• Wisdom inspiration

• Prophesy by a diving guidance and influence on human beings.
3) Revelation
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first or primary meaning of the term ‘revelation' is:

‘The disclosure or communication of knowledge to man by a divine or supernatural agency.'

It is derived from the Latin word ‘revelation' meaning uncovered or laying bare.

Revelation in its precise meaning may be defined as ‘a divine, infallible communication (of prepositional truths) to selected humans know as “Messengers” who observe the Truth in its unaltered form and to share it with the people or their time, exactly as it was revealed to them'.

The reality of revelation is beyond the scope of ordinary human comprehension, as they have never experienced it. Thus, divine revelation has always been and still is, one of the most fundamental of all theological questions and debates. Let us therefore look further to gain insight in to some of the issues of Revelation.
The Spectrum of Revelation
· Revelation through creation. The spectrum of revelation begins with the revelation through creation. The design and artistry within creation speak clearly of the Designer and Artist who brought it about.

· Revelation through Moral Consciousness. This humane instinct of moral consciousness is in fact a spectrum of revelation to mankind.

· Revelation through wisdom. Wisdom can be pla

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