Divine Revelation, Human Reason and Science



by Ayatullah `Abdullah Jawadi Amuli 

Knowledge and Action 
Man is a thinking creature whose action is guided by his thought. It is neither possible to deprive him of thought nor to suspend his faculty of action and turn him into an inert, inactive object. It is also impossible to ignore the relationship which exists between human action and thought.
Therefore, human existence is a mixture of knowledge and action, in which action is based on and guided by knowledge. That is, besides the fact that man is an active and aware `being, his knowledge and awareness demarcate the outlines of his activity, and his work benefits from his vision. His knowledge finds concrete expression in his activity and his activity stimulates his knowledge. This is a vital fact of human life. If knowledge does not manifest itself in action and action is not guided by knowledge, and if there is no fusion between the two, life, which is the result of a fusion and harmony between them, will cease to exist. In other words, a “living” being is an active intelligence in which the leadership of knowledge and the obedience of action are fully realized. [1]

Eternal life as a Fruit of Knowledge and Action 
Since the life of man is directly dependent on his thought and action, and the quality of his thought and action directly affects the quality of his life, the deeper his knowledge, the wiser his action, the stronger the ties between his thought and activity, and more rational and fruitful his life would be. This is because the significance of life is as much as the significance of its constituent factors, and their value is the same as the value of life.
Therefore, the best life, which is the eternal life, is the result of the best knowledge and the most profitable action and effort, and existence of an unbreakable fusion and coordination between such knowledge and effort.

The Leading Role of Knowledge 
Since the highest aim of Divine Revelation is revival of humanity [2] the three principles mentioned above (that is the principle of knowledge, the principle of action, and the principle of leadership of knowledge over action and subservience of action to knowledge have occupied a prominent position in the teachings of the prophets (A). This so because, with their realization life comes into existence, and these principles are abandoned, human life would deteriorate.
This is clearly stated in the Qur’an, so that sometimes it praises “certain knowledge” and encourages “firm action”, exhorting human beings to strengthen the bond between knowledge and action. At other times, it denounces ignorance, idleness and disunion between knowledge action. [3]
The Qur’an thus attempts to provide grounds for correct action and accurate knowledge and a harmonious relation between the two which is the basis of the “rational life” of individual and society. Thereby it seeks to safeguard humanity from falling into the abyss of ignorance, inertness and death, and to vitalize it. Furthermore, in order to make it easier for humanity to traverse this path and reach its sacred end, the prophets, as perfect human beings who had attained to “rational life” on the basis of the three principles mentioned, accepted the responsibility of guiding humanity towards realization of this ultimate goal.

Theoretical and Practical Knowledge 
The relationship between knowledge and action in the human being is such that all its actions are based on its knowledge, dictated by, it, and follow its leadership. However, not all of man’s knowledge directly affects his actions. In fact, some of man’s knowledge has a purely speculative and theoretical aspect, having no direct or clear-cut in�fluence over his activities; whereas other aspects of his knowledge: directly affect his actions and provide the plan and framework for them. Thus, the domain of human knowledge is wider in scope than , that of human action. In other words, knowledge is something unlimited, while action is something limited.
That is why knowledge enjoys a stature completely denied to and out of reach of action. The reason for this is that some of the things known by the mind transcend the `, arena of human life, and the human being plays no role in their realiza�tion. On the contrary, the human being owes its existence to some of these realities and is an “effect” of which they are the “cause”. Other things known to man, however, fall within the domain of his life, and their realization depends on his will and efforts, so that if man did not exist these things would also not exist.
It is, at this point that division of knowledge into “theoretical” or speculative” science and “practical” science (al-hikmah al-nazariyyah and al-hikmah al-`amaliyyah) is established, and the influence and limits of human knowledge in each of these areas are studied. Furthermore, it is here that the role of Divine Revelation in each of these fields can be examined. Such analysis would clearly show to what extent man is capable of attaining knowledge of reality, and clarify the’ new approaches suggested by Divine Revelation with respect to the human Sciences.
We shall know then what is to be done if there arises any incongruity between human discoveries and the Revelation, what authority to consult in such cases and which of them to consider prior to the ‘other. Basically, is it possible for any difference to occur bet�ween definitive and certain human knowledge and Divine Revelation, or not? And supposing that such incongruity is possible, can it be over� come? Each one of these issues could be studied separately.

Method of Reasoning in Speculative and Practical Sciences 
The axis around which the discussions of the speculative sciences revolve, and the rational basis of arguments involved in these branches of ,human knowledge, are completely and fundamentally distinct from those of the practical sciences. The very axis of study in the speculative sciences is something whose reality .transcends the domain of human ` will and science and whose realization or non-realization is not affected by man’s being.
This is true whether the subject under discussion is the general principle of being and non-being, or that of the being or non being of a finite object; the first class of questions belongs to the domain of philosophy, and the second class of questions belongs to the domain of mathematical and experimental sciences.
The foundations of the reasoning in the speculative sciences, especially philosophy and metaphysics, are self-evident axioms, whose validity is beyond doubt. All complicated theoretical statements must refer to that series of self-evident axioms, so that their complexity is resolved and their validity or invalidity can be determined.
In order to do this, we are forced to discover the series of self-evident truths and their interrelationships so as to reach complex propositions, and then to analyse the complex propositions with utmost care by referring them to basic, self-evident truths. In other words, both the axiomatic material through synthesis of which, or through reduction to which, complex propositions are solved; must be self-evident and certain, and the method of synthesis or analysis and the reasoning process must be self-evident and certain.
This is, necessary, because if ,either the axiomatic material or the reasoning method have the slightest- uncertainty about them, the conclusions attained would be uncertain, and the theoretical problem under consideration would retain its peculiar complexity ambiguity even though a partial aspect of it may be clarified. Thus one cannot rely on conjecture, analogy, imagination or fantasy and the like, either in regard to the axiomatic material or in regard to the method of reasoning. The only thing that can be relied upon is pure reason. Discussion about the primary axiomatic material and the method of inference is the task of philosophy and logic.
However, as said above, the axis of the study of the practical sciences is situated within the realm of human existence and these sciences depend on human initiative and will for their existence. Things such as justice and injustice, humility and pride, contentment and greed etc., are examples of problems that practical philosophy (al-hikmah al-amaliyyah) is concerned with, and all of them are of the `do’ and `don’t’ variety. The method of reasoning for reaching conclusions is based on self-evident moral values and criteria.
In other words, those things whose “evilness” and “badness” (fujur) are indubitably ate certainly perceived by the mind, serve as the reference points and foundations upon which all inference regarding the `don’ts’ is based,’:; whereas all those things the “goodness” and “desirability” (taqwa) of which are indubitably clear to the human mind serve as the foundation on which all judgements regarding the `do’s’ are based. [4]
All the complex and difficult problems of practical philosophy are solved through: reference to primary and self-evident goods and evils: We reach solutions to our problems either through synthesizing these primary value with one another, or by analysing the complex problems, reducing them to a series of simple and self-evident values. In any case, there is no alternative to reference to these primary and self-evident values; either in the form of synthesis or in the form of analysis and reduction:’
If there is an imperfection in any of the two-that is either in the basic, underlying axiomatic material or the method of inference, or in other words, if the “goodness” and “badness” of a thing is not self-evident, or if the method of inference is not absolutely reliable-the conclusions reached would lack certainty; as a result, that particular problem of practical philosophy which we are dealing with would retain its former complexity and ambiguity, even if some aspects of the problem may resolved. We must conclude, then, that neither in the axiomatic material used for our arguments nor in the form of reasoning used, is there any room for conjecture, fancy, personal prejudices, desires, likes and dislikes.
The only things which can be relied upon are pure reason and healthy instinct. Passion and desire should influence neither the material of our arguments nor the method of reasoning. Description and definition of -the primary ‘evils’, and `goods” and the form of reasoning-whether in the form of synthesis or analysis-are amongst the duties of ethics (`ilm al-‘akhlaq) and practical ` philosophy (al-hikmah al-`amaliyyah).

Reason and Revelation, Conjecture and Certainty 
Revelation consists of witnessing all those truths and realities the knowledge of which is necessary for man’s rational existence through `direct experience’ (al-`ilm al-huduri), as well as attainment of complete understanding and comprehension of them after revelation (al-nuzul) through `acquired knowledge’ (al-`ilm al-husuli), which is absorbed in the form of perceptible signs and comprehensible concepts.
Since the source (al-mabda’ al-fa`ili) of such Revelation is a creator who has absolute knowledge of the totality of existence, and is free from any trace of ignorance, forgetfulness or neglect, and since the carrier of the Revelation is the knowing and truthful angel (Gabriel), and since its receiver (al-mabda’ al-qabili) is the infallible consciousness of the Prophet (S), consequently, if the message can be verified as being Divinely revealed, it can be also said to correspond to absolute truth. In other words, it is impossible for something to be indubitable Divine Revela�tion and still admit the possibility of even the smallest amount of error.
The issue of the infallibility and reliability of Revelation is arrived at by the rational mind through the process of either analysis or synthesis, the basis of both of which are the self-evident, primary `propositions. However, if there is any doubt about something being Divine Revelation, it means that there can be no certainty ‘about its infallibility either. In other words, since the necessary correspondence between Divine Revelation and reality depends upon its immunity from mistake, ignorance, and forgetfulness-even as the reliability of philosophic reason depends on its purity from any contamination by conjecture, surmise and prejudice-it can be relied upon only when its being Divine Revelation has been proved beyond doubt.
If there is uncertain�ty about its being Divine Revelation it cannot be the source and foundation of “speculative philosophy”, whose realm lies outside the domain of `do’s’ and `don’ts’. Moreover, purely rational statements, if they are not self-evident, or incapable of being reduced to basic self-�evident truths, shall be devoid of authority and acceptability in theologi�cal matters. Accordingly, `conjectural revelation’ (al-wahy al-zanni), as well as rational statements based on conjecture and surmise are outside the scope of our discussion.
Their sole worth lies in problems of “practical philosophy” and in issues relating to `do’s’ and `don’ts’ as “conjec�tural evidence” (dalil zanni) That is, it is subject to limitation and restriction if a more definite evidence is found. In a case where conjectural revelation has a general applicability and is found to be contrary to a certain rational evidence, the general application of “conjectural revelation” be it based on verses of the Qur’an or on the prophetic traditions or on traditions traced to the Imams -must be abandoned` because “conjectural evidence” (dalil zanni) can never be maintained when “definitive evidence” (dalil qat`i) is available.
If, on the one hand, we have a dalil naqli (a statement handed down by tradition) whose authenticity of source, is as certain as that of the Qur’an, but whose literal purport is not precise and clear but is based on interpretation and conjecture and which, moreover, has a general applicability, and if on the other hand, we have indubiterational reasons to the contrary, its general applicability is superceded by the dalil qat`i, even though the dalil naqli’s authenticity of source, may be certain.

Characteristics of Wahy Qat’i 
“Wahy qat`ti” refers to Revelation that has been proven beyond doubt to have originated from one of the Ma’sumun (the Prophet and Imams) and which is clear and precise in its content and purport and which allows of no ambiguity, or multiplicity of interpretation to contrary. Moreover, the statement must have been issued with the purpose of expressing true judgement, not for the purpose of dissimulation, (al-taqiyyah).
If something definitely possesses the three characteristics just mentioned, it can be said to be “wahy qat’i”. And if all the three or any one, of the above characteristics cannot conclusively be shown to belong’, to it, then its being a revelation is conjectural (zanni) rather than definitive (qat`i). In other words, if the claim that one of the Ma`sumun made certain statement cannot be proven beyond doubt, or if the content of’ the statement is not perfectly clear and unambiguous, or if it cannot be categorically proven that it was issued for the sake of announcing a hukm (command), such a statement cannot be judged to be wahy qat`i, rather it must be considered to be “wahy ghayr qat`i”, that is “uncertain” or “conjectural revelation”.

Non-contradiction between Wahy Qat’i and `Aql Qat’i 
It would be impossible for wahy qat’i (definitive Revelation) and `aql qat`i (correct reason) to contradict each other, and if, hypothetically, such a conflict were to arise, it would be impossible to resolve. That is, as it is not possible for two definitive rational statements to contradict, each other or for two statements definitely based on-Revelat�ion to contradict each other; it is also impossible for two statements, one of which is based on wahy qat’i (definitive Revelation) and another on `aql qat’i (definitive or correct reason), to contradict each other.
Moreover, if such a contradiction between two definitive rational statements or two definitive revealed statements, or two statements one of which is based on reason and another on Revelation, were it to arise, it would be impossible to resolve. Any such hypothetical conflict would imply that each of these definitive statements is self-contradictory. This is so because the foundation of all categorical’ and definitive logical propositions is the law of contradiction, which says that “nothing can be both A and not A” and, when applied to propositions, that “no proposition can be both false and true”.
It means, that nothing with all its characteristics such as subject and predicate, potentiality and actua�lity, generality and particularity, time and place and relations, be existent and non-existent. Whenever a proposition is said to be defini�tive it means that on the basis of this eternal and irrefutable law, it is impossible for it to contradict with another definitive proposition.
Since `aql qat`i (definitive reason) affirms the necessity and infal�libility of wahy qat`i (definitive Divine Revelation) and the wahy qat’i affirms the authority (hujjiyyah) of `aql qat’i, presents its message in .the form of ratiocinated statements, calls upon all rational human beings to join the intellectual struggle on the side of righteousness and truth, and all its teachings meet the criteria of `aql qat’i, it follows that wahy qat’i and `aql qat’i cannot contradict each other; since such a contradiction would, in essence, be self-contradiction.
Moreover, if such a contradiction were, hypothetically speaking, to occur, it would be incurable, because preferring one to the other would bring about the collapse of both. This is so because both of them are based on one principle, namely, the law of contradiction, and if any one of them is moved off this base, it means that its foundation is destroyed. When the foundation is destroyed the other edifice would also collapse.
Moreover, since all definitive propositions in the field of acquired knowledge (al-`ulum al-husuli) are based on the law of contradic�tion, there would be no solution to any contradiction, whether bet�ween two definitive propositions of Revelation (wahy qat’i), or between two definitive rational statements (`aql qat`i), or between two propositions each of which is drawn from wahy qat’i and `aql qat`i.
Now, as far as Divine Revelation is concerned, its reality is that of direct apprehension of the truth and “knowledge through presence” (al-`ilm al-huduri) and does not rely on acquired knowledge. (al-`ilm al �husuli). It, therefore, has no need of affirmation by reference to the law of contradiction. In other words, Divine Revelation is, its own justification arid requires no extraneous justification.
However, it is something experienced only by the Ma’sumun (A), and is a shrine closed to all others. It, therefore, transcends the limits of our present discussion. What is referred to here as “wahy qat’i”, then, is that which has been passed down to us in the form of acquired knowledge (al-ilm al-husuli) and the authenticity of which is judged through the triple criteria of “definitive origin”, “definitive interpretation”, and “intended definitive issuance of Divine command.”

Priority of Wahy Qat’i and `Aql Qat`i over Wahiy Zanni and `Aql Zanni 
As has been already said, in any conflict between `aql qati wahy zanni, that is, between “definitive reason” and “conjectural, revelation”, priority and preference always lies with `aql qat`i. In general, in any conflict between wahy qat`i and wahy zanni, and between `aql qat’i’ and `aql zanni, priority and preference always lies with the qat`i over the zanni. That is, the definitive is always preferred to the conjectural.
This so because conjectural propositions owe their validity to the definitive propositions, while the definitive propositions have inherent validity and priority and authority, and serve as the principle on which the validity of the conjectural propositions depends. We can say, therefore, that conjectural propositions are on a different plane than that of the definitive propositions. On the basis of this difference of planes, they cannot contradict with the definitive propositions, because contradiction is possible only when propositions are on the same plane.
It should be kept in mind, however, that definitive rational propositions are rarely found outside the field of metaphysics and mathematics, because their realization in the natural sciences such as biology and medicine is extremely improbable, while their attainment in the humanities and the social sciences such as law, sociology, psychology, etc., is most difficult.
If we carefully consider the meaning of “certainty” (yaqin) and preconditions necessary for its attainment-as they have been enumerated in Ibn Sin’a Shifa’ in the section on logic-we shall realize that in many fields of humanities and the social sciences, attainment of a hundred-percent certainty, if not impossible, is at least very difficult �even in such fields as astronomy, the problems of which appear at first glance to have definite answers; yet many of these answers lose their unchallengeable certainty when examined through the eyes of such a profound and brilliant logician and philosopher as Ibn Sina.
It is neither possible, therefore, to use a series of experimental laws, laboratory hypotheses and such, to produce certainty, and then to delude oneself into attacking Divine Revelation and its products; and finally try to establish the superiority of reason (`aql) over tradition (naql); nor is it possible to depreciate tradition by relying on conjectural rational evidence: (dalil zanni `aqli) and then to judge Revelation while standing on – such shaky grounds considering it opposed to reason and science.
This, according to Ibn Sina, is caused either- by failure ‘to understand what “certainty” is, or by an inability to judge fairly. Because it is a manifestation of weak thinking to ignore “definitive evidence” and the limitations it puts on the application of any ruling , based on a superficial and literal interpretation of quoted evidence. Similarly, to rely on superficial and literal meanings in fields other than practical philosophy, such as the experimental sciences, which are outside the realm of `do’s’ and `don’ts’ and giving them precedence over the accumulated knowledge and experience of man, seems rather unreasonable.
Much the same charge can be leveled against those who, relying on certain conjectural pieces of evidence and inconclusive experiments, abandon the literal meaning of quoted evidence in the field of practical philosophy, mistake hypothetical and theoretical postulates for self-evident axioms, and confuse imitation with research, and surmise with certainty. All this is caused by careless reasoning and inept synthesis between conflicting views, arising probably out of a refusal to completely obey the teachings and instruc�tions which have been conveyed through Divine Revelation.
Accordingly, if in any problem of one of the fields of practical philosophy, such as ethics, jurisprudence, or law, any conflict arises between a ruling based on “conjectural experimental evidence” (dalil tajrubi zanni) (the kind of evidence which relies on hypothesis rather than on self-evident truths) and a ruling based on “conjectural jurispru�dential evidence” (dalil fiqhi zanni), we cannot abandon the jurispru�dential ruling and give preference to the “conjectural experimental evidence” (dalil tajrubi zanni) over the “jurisprudential evidence” (dalil fiqhi) which, in fact, is the same as conjectural revelation (wahy zanni).
In the case of the branches of the natural sciences, such as biology and physics, if any conflict arises between “conjectural experimental evidence” and “literal quoted evidence” (dalil lafzi naqli), one cannot give preference to the “literal quoted evidence”, because the issues in hand are not in the realm of moral obligations and duties and do not fall into the category of `do’s’ and `don’ts’. In all such cases, therefore, preference belongs to the “conjectural experimental evidence”. It is clear, therefore, that conflict between reason and Revelation is readily solvable in the field of natural sciences; that is, either it does not arise, or, if it does, it is superficial and easily solvable.

True Reason is the Same as Revelation
What is important is the conflict between reason and Revelation in metaphysics and -cosmology, that is, in regard to Divine Unity (tawhid ), prophethood (al-nubuwah), resurrection (al-ma`ad) and other general conceptions which are related to these three principles. However, as has already been mentioned, there is no possibility of any conflict arising between “definitive Revelation” and “definitive reason”, and if, hypothetically, such a conflict were to arise, it would be insolvable. As said before, this insolvability is caused by the fact preference of one over the other would require the destruction of the common base which is the law of contradiction, and the destruction. the common base would automatically mean the collapse of both which are superstructures.
Because, the foundation on which belief in the truth of Revelation and the necessity of obeying its command is based, is definitive reason. Relying on axiomatic propositions, `aql qat’i rules that the existence of Divine Revelation and prophethood is necessary, and that it may be received only through miraculous means. Miracle is essentially different from other occult “sciences” such as magic, witchcraft, astrology, and palmistry. Miracle is the sign of the Divine mission and prophethood of one who performs it. In any case, miracles and other things like it are irrefutable evidence when it comes to the question of Divine Revelation and prophethood and when they are confirmed and proved by `aql qat`i.
If moreover, all these speculative matters are resolved by `aql qat’i with the final result that Revelation and prophethood are proved, to invalidate the judgement of `aql qat`i on account of a dalil lafzi (superficial or literal evidence), which is, of course, a piece of “conjectural revelation” rather than “definitive Revelation”, would mean giving priority to “conjectural evidence” over “definitive evidence” and its certain conclusions.
The final consequence of such a process would be the collapse of all those metaphysical beliefs which were affirmed and proved through `aql qat`i.
In the impossible condition when a wahy qat`i be opposed toa dalil `aqli qat`i (definitive rational evidence), if we attempt to give preference to wahy qat’i over the “definitive rational evidence”, this would necessitate invalidation of `aql qat`i. Consequently, invalidation of the dalil `aqli qat`i means nothing less than total collapse of the metaphysical foundations, belief in the validity of which forms the basis on which wahy itself is proved (this point should be noted carefully).
To put it in another way, attempting to invalidate definitive rational evidence by the means of definitive Revelation is like attempting to deny the existence of a ladder after one has climbed it rung by rung and’ is now standing on its top-most rung. If there was no ladder with its hierarchy of rungs, climbing to such a height would have been impossible. In the same way, if definitive rational evidence had no validity, how could the necessity of Revelation and the authority (hujjiyyah) of its message be confirmed?

Instances of Harmony and Mutual Support Between Revelation and Reason 
Just as the necessity of Revelation and prophethood is proved by `aql qat’i, and the integrity and reliability of its message is confirmed by rational arguments and evidence, the legitimacy and validity of reason and of the conclusions made by `aql qat`i are confirmed and strengthened by wahy (Divine Revelation). Therefore, the whole of the Qur’an is full of invitation to thought and reason. It commands the faith�ful to seek certainty, knowledge and clarity.
It warns the Muslims to stay away from ignorance and not to rely on conjecture, surmise, imagina�tion, probability, irrational doubt, and all unscientific and prejudiced views and positions. The Qur’an presents the heights of revealed truth in the form of logical arguments so as to demolish the arguments of those who deny the Truth, and to dissipate the conjectures of idolaters and materialists by presenting definitive arguments which demonstrate their inherent weakness and irrationality. For this reason the Qur’an is presented as “light”, that is something in which there is not a trace of uncertainty, doubt, ambiguity, or complexity-all of which are forms of darkness and have no place in Truth, which is absolute light.
Therefore great emphasis is laid by the Divine Revelation that man must always make an effort to attain certain knowledge and should not accept or reject anything without research and investigation. The following are a few examples of the harmony and mutual support that exist between Revelation and reason.

First Example
The sixth Imam, Ja`far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (A), has been quoted as saying that in two verses of the Qur’an God has commanded His creatures not to talk about something of which they are ignorant, and not to deny the validity of something which they do not understand. [5] The first verse is:
….Hath not the covenant of the Scripture been taken on their behalf that they should say concerning Allah nothing but the truth? (7:169)
The second verse is:
Nay, but they denied that the knowledge where of they could not compass, and whereof the interpretation hath not yet come unto them …. (10:39)
The purport of the first verse is that any speech, affirmation or acceptance of anything on theological matters must be based off“ and certain knowledge. The purport of the second verse is that` denial of validity of something must always be based on reason knowledge. Therefore, if man is to live a rational existence, all his affirmations and negations must be based on faultless reasoning and certain knowledge. Such statements as these are clear witnesses of categorical backing of reason and rational certitude by Divine Revelation.

Second Example 
The seventh Imam, Musa ibn Ja’far al-Kazim (A) has been as saying that God has given good tidings to the wise and the intelligent. He went on to mention some of the verses of the Qur’an that invite the faithful to reason and rationality. [6] Then he said:
God has two proofs against mankind: the “apparent proof” and the “hidden one”. The “apparent proof” consists of the messengers, the prophets, `and the imams (A), while the “hidden proof” is reason. In this statement, `aql qat’i is given the same weight as Divine Revelation and is considered to be equally reliable.

Third Example 
The eight Imam, ‘Ali ibn Musa al-Rida (A), in response to a question by Ibn al-Sikkit as to what is the proof (hujjah) of God against people of every age, is reported to have said: [7]
Through the use of one’s intellect one can recognize the true preacher of God and affirm him, (just as) one can recognize the man who falsely claims to preach for God, and deny him.
The purport of the statement mentioned above is that reason is the source of definitive proof needed for final affirmation or denial of any proposition and it is the criterion against which all propositions and views must be gauged. Upon hearing this answer, Ibn al-Sikkit said:
By God, that is the only complete answer.
Reason is the criterion for judging what is true and what is false, what must be affirmed and what must be denied. Furthermore, the fact that ibn al-Sikkit’s statement was made in front of an infallible Imam, and he, with his silence, affirmed it, is another proof of the ultimate and absolute authority of reason.

Fourth Example 
Arguing with the idolators of the Hijaz of those days and with the non-monotheists throughout history, the Holy Qur’an tells them: Your statements should either be backed by definitive rational evidence, or be confirmed by Divine Revelation. A statement which is neither proved by certain reason nor backed by quotations from sources known to have been: Divinely revealed, lacks all validity, and any claim that is not backed by one of these two sources of definitive evidence is merely baseless talk, which cannot serve as basis for any metaphysical or religious beliefs:
And they say, `Had the All-Merciful so willed, we would not have worshipped them’. They have no knowledge whatsoever of that; they are only conjectur�ing. Or did We give them a Book aforetime to which they hold? Nay, but they say, `We found our fathers following -a religion, and we are guided by their footprints.’ (43:20-22)
The polytheists accepted God as the Creator of the universe and as the Lord of totality of existence. However, they also believed that every region of this vast universe has its own god, who is independent in his province, and the responsibility for seeing to the welfare of his sub�jects rests directly on his shoulders. This is the case; although all these various and independent gods are under the authority of the “god of gods”, who is the Lord of the -universe.
Since these people were polytheistic with regard to the Lord�ship (rububiyyah) of God, they were also polytheistic when it came to worship (`ibadah) and obedience (ita’ah). As a result of this belief, they denied .revelation and prophethood. In principle besides, they believed the attainment of such a high station to be impossible for any human being. Their denial of the principles of prophethood and revelation based on their belief that God did not have any direct jurisdiction over human societies and, therefore; would not set any course for them to follow or give them any commands. The argument of their thinkers was’ stated in the above-mentioned verse put in the form of an “exceptional syllogism”.
The argument went like this: If God had wanted us not to worship the idols we would not have worshipped them, and since we do worship them it follows that God is not opposed to our worshipping them. Because, if this were the wish of God, we would have had no choice but to do things the way He wanted them done, since His will is superior to ours. It follows, then, that worship of God is not necessary and one should only worship the idols. The same kind of fallacious reasoning is mentioned in Surat al-‘An `am
The idolaters will say, ‘Had God willed, we would not have ascribed [unto Him] partners, neither our fathers, nor would we have forbidden aught. Thus did those who were before them cry lies [to God’s messengers] until they tasted of Our might. Say: ‘Have you any knowledge that you can bring forth for us? You follow only surmise, thereby conjecturing.’ Say: ‘To God belongs the argument conclusive; for had He willed, He would have guided you all.’ (6:148-149)
In Surat al Nahl we read:
And the idolaters say: ‘Had God willed, we would not have worshipped any�thing beside Him, neither we nor our fathers, nor would we have forbidden aught without [command from] Him.’ So did those before them argue. Are the messengers charged with aught save the delivery of the manifest Message? (16:35)
These groundless arguments of” the polytheists were put forward sometimes to deny the Unity of God, and at other times used to deny the reality of Revelation and the mission of the prophets of God. Their line of reasoning about the prophets went like this: If such a thing as prophethood did exist and had there been messengers from God, it would follow that the polytheists did not have any authority to forbid certain things in the name of law. And since whey have forbidden certain things and passed laws regarding them, it follows that no such things, either Revelation or prophethood, exist.
In short, their argument, both in proving polytheism and denying the Unity of God, or in proving the validity of independence and autonomy in religious matters and denying the reality of Divine Revela�tion and prophethood, was like this: `If God had wished to direct our vital affairs Himself, and had He, by sending prophets and Messengers and formulation of Divine laws, wanted to guide our individual and social lives, we shouldn’t have ever become polytheists and worshipped the idols, just as we would never have banned or prohibited anything in the name of law.
However, since we do worship idols and do prohibit certain things in the name of law, it is clear that God did not want us to be monotheists, and He did not wish to send us any prophets, Books or Revelation. It follows, therefore, that polytheism is the correct and the righteous path, and that there is no such thing as Revelation and Prophethood.’ This was the essence of what the thinkers amongst the polytheists set forth as justification of their beliefs. What their fol�lowers said was: `Since our ancestors, generation after generation, have been worshipping and honouring these idols, we shall remain loyal to their customs, beliefs and traditions inherited from them.’
Since the Holy Qur’an is the Book of truth, its call is always for rational investigation. The recommendation it makes to humanity is that every individual should – either investigate himself or follow someone who does. Such an imitation is tantamount to investigation. The Qur’an does not permit blind imitation, because it considers the views of those who are not men of research and investigation as worthless. Thus, the fact that the ancestors of a certain individual held a certain set of beliefs or worshipped in a particular manner, does not justify imitation. Such following would be nothing but blind imitation.
Then the Qur’an goes on to make a critique of the arguments set forth by the thinkers amongst the idolaters. In a number of places in its critique it states that an acceptable opinion is one which is either founded on reason and knowledge or is based on Divine Revelation. A position which is backed neither by definitive Revelation nor by definitive reason is groundless and should not be trusted:
….They have no knowledge whatsoever of that. They do but guess. (43:20)
That is, their statement is not based on certain knowledge and is founded on nothing except surmise and conjecture: They have not made a ‘scientific investigation into this matter
Or have We given them any Scripture before (this Qur’an) so that’ holding fast thereto? (43:21)
That is, the argument set forth by them is not backed by, Revelation either, because they have not been given a Divine Book which polytheism and idolatry are justified and recommended and the Unity of the Creator is denied. This restriction of valid reasons to those based either on `aql qat`i or on wahy qat’i can also be found in of verses of the Qur’an. One such example is in Surat al-‘Ahqaf:
Say (unto them, O Muhammad]: `Have you thought on all that you invoke beside God? Show me what they have created of the earth. Or have they a partnership in the heavens? Bring me a Book before this, or some vestige of’ knowledge (in support of what you say), if you are truthful.’ (46:4)
In other words, the worship of the idols could be justified only when they have independently created something in this world or have, had a hand in the creation of the heavens. Moreover, since such a thing has been affirmed neither by Divine Revelation nor proven by reason, it must follow that idolatry is nothing more than a deviation and a delusion. Much the same purport can be seen in Surat al-Fatir, a verse of which reads:
Say: `Have you considered your associates to whom you pray beside God? Show me what they created of the earth; or have they any partnership in the heavens?’ Or have We given them a Book, so that they act on clear proof therefrom? Nay, the evildoers promise one another naught but delusion. ( 35:40)
In this verse, polytheism and worship of idols is considered to be an intellectual and cultural fraud based on empty promises, because it is backed neither by rational evidence nor is based on Revelation.
Since worthiness of worship is based on creating or being a partner in the act of creation, and since the idols have no role whatsoever in either of these, there is no rational evidence for their worship. On the other hand, there is no evidence that Divine Revelation affirms them either.
Since polytheism or idolatry is backed neither by definitive reason nor by definitive Revelation, it must have its origins in nothing except surmise, conjecture, fancy, and self-centered desire (hawa). Because, if an opinion is not based on science and knowledge, it is conjectural; if it is not in harmony with the guidance of Revelation, it must have originated from selfish interests and desires. Accordingly, the Holy Qur’an considers all deviated and misguided schools of thought ‘opposed to monotheism (al-tawhid) as creatures of fancy and conjec�ture, which rely for their existence on the selfish desires of their followers:
….They follow only surmise, and what their selves desire. And now the guidance has come to them from their Lord …. They have no knowledge thereof; they follow only surmise, and surmise can never take the place of truth. (53:23,28)
….They follow only a conjecture, and they do but guess. (10:66)
….they have no knowledge whatsoever of (all) that; they do but guess. (45:24)
Moreover, the Holy Qur’an instructs humanity not to adopt beliefs, in general, beliefs the truth and the validity of which is not absolutely certain
[O man] follow not that whereof thou hast no knowledge. Lo, the hearing and the sight and heart-all of those shall be questioned of. (17:36)


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