Reason and Revealation

By: Saidul Islam

Respected member Mr. Syed M. Islam asked: “It seems only reasonable to point out that member Saidul Islam does not know, first of all, whether his image of Allah is the correct one, and second, whether He really showed anything to anyone as he believes it.”

This kind of question has been asked by the same member many times in this forum.

In fact, this is a question (“whether God exists” and if so, what is the facts/proofs)- that has been asked by people since time immemorial. The same question was posed to the last prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as well, and the Qur’an responded very nicely. If I have time, I will inshaAllah discuss this issue one after another in this forum in near future. Your frequently raised issue or question on “Facts versus faith/beliefs” is still hazy to me. Can you really separate “facts” from “faiths”? Are they always ‘rival contender’, in your case, or ‘complementary’ too? Quite frankly, is there anything that is faith free?

Even in scientific investigations, there are certain assumptions, which are unprovable and unproved, but they are taken as granted before we go for any scientific inquiry. (I will later on explicate the details of those assumptions). Why? The ways by which the so-called “facts” are discovered are based on faiths! What’s the point of rejecting or marginalizing “faiths” when the very facts you are taking about have sole dependence on certain faiths? What’s the problem if I base my argument on a strong faith that Allah exists (and I have enough proofs to believe in that)? If you depend on rationality/reason to generate a “fact”, why do you think that rationality/reason is the one that lead to the “facts”, and why not revelation and intuition as a valid and true route to discover “facts”. Again the answer may come, “because I believe”. Again you can not get out of beliefs/faiths. Even the whole notion of ‘atheism’ is based on certain beliefs. Can you provide any concrete facts, of course that have to be free from beliefs, that will prove that there is no God? Does the notion of atheism based on facts? If so, what kind of facts? Are those facts free from beliefs/faiths? One of the philosophers, Jacques Maritain, who has written an essay called “God and Science” can be helpful to get the answer to the question you posed. His ideas are close to Prof. S. H. Nasr in the sense that rational, empirical, scientific knowledge is valuable but that it is only one form of knowledge that is encompassed and superseded by intuitive understanding, of the sort provided by religion. Religion is pre-scientific, not in A. Comte’s sense of an earlier stage of explanation that withers away after science comes on the scene, but in the sense of being meta-scientific, or at a more abstract level than science.

Scientific understanding of the world is based on observation and verification of empirical reality only – if one thinks that Reality is only material, empirical reality then probably there is not much that can convince the atheists, as the Quran itself states, “let them be for they will soon come to know”. But it might be useful to remind these people that even preeminent scientists such as Einstein, Heisenberg and Oppenheimer were, in Maritain’s words, “liberal scientists” who admitted that there is more to reality than simply our empirical observations of it, i.e., reality is more than material reality. Even in the realm of sociological theory, the question of science and religion is not as A. Comte has formulated it. Durkheim, for instance, although his version of religion and the sacred in modernity strikes us as being much too secular (ie. the society is the divine), argues that religion is the foundation of all knowledge categories. For Durkheim, even scientific knowledge is based on religion in that modern science reworks religious categories in order to make better use of them. Religion and science share the same goal. Weber, on the other hand, thought that religion and science represent two different non-complementary fields. While he thought that religion contributed to the process of rationalization, ie. providing more and more abstract formulations (e.g. the notion of a transcendent impersonal God), he saw science as the apex of the process of rationalization. But then he was pessimistic about the potential of science to provide answers to the deepest questions confronting humanity (the “Big Questions”: where are we from, where will we go, what is the purpose of our life?….). Weber saw that science could not lead us out of the quandary that it places us in, e.g. environmental damage, nuclear threat, etc. For that we need to turn to the source of our basic fundamental values (for Weber that is politics, not religion in the contemporary world.), which most people agree still derive from religion. I hope that this is a useful beginning for the discussion.

Indeed, it is a lifelong discussion.

Allah Hafiz, Ali Zaidi Saidul Islam

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