Compulsive Knowledge

Compulsive Knowledge

Knowledge is categorised into badihi (self-evident) andnazari (acquired).[1] Badihi is said to be spontaneously acquired without thought and deliberation, whereas nazari is considered to be derived, through thought and deliberation, from badihi. As a result of this categorisation, badihi stands as fundamental and every other form of knowledge its corollary. Philosophy began with discussion and analysis of the external world. Afterwards, when the reality of the sensory perception came to the forefront of philosophical discussion and badihiwas regarded as fundamental, itwas understood to be that knowledge which no one disagrees with. But as man has a tendency to disagree with anything, this tendency finally took over, and doubts and speculations started to emerge. Now the situation is that (out of the four major schools of sceptics),[2] one school insists that we only know what is perceptible to us, and that is foundational, since all thoughts and ideas originate from what we perceive through our senses. The brain is a tabula rasa, i.e., a clean slate with nothing registered in there prior to our sensory perceptions. The second school claims that knowledge is a function of the self and, except our conscious self, we do not certainly know of anything else that exists. The third school claims that nothing is certain except for the perceptible effects. The fourth school has declared that both the sensory data and thought cannot be trusted; therefore, nothing in this world can be referred to as absolute and certain.

What is the outcome of these schools? The first school has negated the intellect, the soul within man, God, and the resurrection; the second does not accept the existence of the external world; the third disagrees with both of them and does not recognize anything except for 'ilm-e-mahd (sheer knowledge),[3] whereas, the fourth completely denies knowledge and certainty and is not ready to accept any of the aforesaid entities. When Descartes (d. 1650) professed: "I think; therefore, I exist" he, after Socrates and Aristotle, once again attempted to free knowledge and philosophy from such scepticism.[4] However, in the post-modernist era, the same "sophist" mind-set wants to prove its point through dissolution of language. It claims that no symbol or word (signifier) of a language defines the meaning of any particular entity (signified), since no particular entity has any absolute existence. The meaning of each word is determined on the basis of other words present within a sentence. If you add or subtract one word, the meaning of the whole sentence would alter. Thus, meaning is neither in words nor sentences; it does not exist. No word in a sentence carries meaning completely on its own; therefore, it defers the meaning to some other word or words of the sentence. Thus using a collection of words, meanings indicate their direction; context of a passage continuously keeps changing them; they can never be certain and final. Therefore, the values associated with words are also meaningless; they too cannot be absolute.[5] This is the account of those who tried to pursue truth without divine guidance. Iqbal (d. 1938) was not wrong when he remarked:

ہے دانش برہانی حیرت کی فراوانی[6]

In contrast to this, the Qur'an places its argumentation and reasoning on that fitri (natural) knowledge which is revealed within the human mind. All human knowledge and action, thought and reasoning is, in fact, based on fitri knowledge. No doubt, what catches the eye in the first place isbadihi (self-evident) knowledge; therefore, on its basis man starts his intellectual quest. He does not realize that it is, in fact, his fitri knowledge that leads him to badihi concepts and further to higher ideas and theories. If fitri knowledge were not there, neither badihi nor thought and reason would be possible. This is because what we receive from the external world aremerely subjects. We do not receive any verdict (predicate or copula) associated with them from the external world; the verdicts to be associated are already present within our minds.[7] It is the mind that passes verdicts on subjects and continuously transforms them into new subjects to pass new verdicts on them.[8] This (fitri knowledge innate within the mind) manifests as human relish and perception, where the relish is the source of action and the perception the source of knowledge. It is this knowledge which is the source of discrimination we make between the self and its attributes, possessor and possession, action and reaction, good and bad, wisdom and foolishness, and personality and its disorders. On the basis of the effects that reach our mind through our senses, the very knowledge enables us to argue for the effectors – this is what gives us conviction in the existence of the external world. As long as one is a human being, one cannot deny the conclusions and verdicts of fitri knowledge, for it reigns over the human mind. Therefore, submission to the verdicts of this knowledge is not optional but man is as bound to accept them as he is to accept his instincts. You may ask when man can deny anything, why can he not deny fitri knowledge? Of course, he can do so in words but as soon as he utters this denial, his actions and state of affairs negate him. Thus, it becomes evident on every humble man that this denial is obviously stubbornness. This is why Imam Hamid al-Din Farahi (d. 1930) referred to fitri knowledge as idtarari (compulsive) and rightly claimed that the human mind possesses a place which is divinely guided – the place that should be called the centre. This centre yields the knowledge that we would call fitri. After this come badihi (self-evident) andnazari (acquired). Therefore, knowledge should not only be classified into these two but into jadhri (foundational),[9] fitri (natural), badihi andthen nazari, respectively, as this is what the facts demand. Let us proceed in the light of the above discussion.

The Qur'an (See 7:172-174) tells that it is within the nature of creatures to acknowledge their Creator; their being is such that it obligates a creator. If we need to affirm the existence of our Creator, we need not to indulge in any logical argument about it but simply mention it and, thus, remind each other. Therefore, it is a fact that no (cognizant) creature denies its Creator; instead, when reminded, it approaches Him with the similar zeal with which a famished approaches food. The Qur'an informs that when God asked mankind if He is not their Lord, all unequivocally replied that indeed He is. Nonetheless, we know that in this worldly life, man sometimes denies. This is merely haughtiness because the moment he is denying God, within his scope of knowledge, at the same time he is still looking for an actor for every action, a planner for every plan, a character for every characteristic, an agent for every outcome, and a knowledgeable and wise organizer for every organization.[10] His entire knowledge is the account of this contradiction. This is how the actions of such a person defy him and completely unveils the haughtiness behind his denial of God.

Similar is the case of the sense of good and evil. The Qur'an (91:7-8) states that the distinction between good and evil and the acknowledgment of good as good and evil as evil are revealed within man at the time of his creation. Nonetheless, man sometimes denies but this denial is, again, nothing but haughtiness. That is because, while denying, if man himself becomes a victim of evil, he without any hesitation refers to evil as evil and launches a strong protest against it. Not only that but if he receives something good, he shows respect and gratitude for it. Furthermore, whenever he forms a society, he certainly sets up a system of justice within it. His laws, courts, and international institutions, all bear witness to his inner sense of good and evil.

Similar is the case of meanings that words of a language communicate. The Qur'an claims that it is sent down as a criterion to distinguish between right and wrong (17:42) and as a judge to settle disputes (in religious matters) within mankind (5:48). It goes on to say that it has communicated its message with so much of certainty that, on its basis, mankind will be held answerable on the Day of Judgement, and people will either be destined to Paradise or Hell (See, for example, 26:193-195 and 39:28). This claim of the Qur'an is established on the innate faith that man has always had on the certainty and accuracy of his lingual ability and what he communicates through it. Thus, scholars of Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence state the following as an established principle: ماثبت بالکتاب قطعی موجب للعلم والعمل (what is mentioned in the Qur'an is definitive; it necessitates the beliefs and deeds.) Nonetheless, the Kalamists – inspired by the labyrinths of philosophy – do not accept this principle. They insist that the meanings that words of a language communicate are speculative; therefore, instead of the words of the Qur'an, rational arguments are the criterion for distinguishing right from wrong.[11] If critically analyzed, this also turns out to be outright haughtiness because the moment they are claiming this, precisely at the same time they are communicating their viewpoint in words without showing any hesitation whatsoever that their viewpoint will not reach their audience with full certainty. More so, while listening to others and reading their texts, they also never show any hesitation. When arguing and debating, their each and every word bears witness to their faith in words. This is the testimony of the human soul against itself; no other testimony could be greater than this. The Qur'an states:

بَلِ الْاِنْسَانُ عَلٰی نَفْسِه بَصِیْرَةٌ، وَّلَوْ اَلْقٰی مَعَاذِیْرَه(75: 14-15)

Man himself is a witness against his own soul, no matter how many lame-excuses he may invent.' (75:14-15)

Ibn Qayyim (d. 1350 AH) writes:

من ادعی انه لا طریق لنا الی الیقین بمراد المتکلم، لان العلم بمراده موقوف علی العلم بانتفاء عشرة اشیاء فهو ملبوس علیه ملبس علی الناس؛ فان هذا لوصح لم یحصل لاحد العلم بکلام المتکلم قط، وبطلت فائدة التخاطب، وانتفت خاصیة الانسان، وصار الناس کالبهائم، بل اسوأ حالاً، ولما علم غرض هذا المصنف من تصنیفه، وهٰذا باطل بضرورة الحس والعقل، وبطلانه من اکثر من ثلاثین وجهًا مذکورة فی غیر هذا الموضع. (اعلام الموقعین٣/ ١٠٩)

Those who claim that we have no means to acquire the message of a speaker with full certainty – arguing for this on the basis that the knowledge of what he intends to say is only possible if we first deny ten facts[12] – are not only muddled themselves but want to muddle others too. If what they claim were true, then the information within the speech of a speaker could never be acquired; talking would have been meaningless; man would have lost his distinctive asset that makes him a human being, and people would have become worse than animals. Even what this writer intends to achieve from this writing could not be identified. Therefore, intellect and sense both suggest that this claim is utterly wrong. There are more than thirty reasons why it is wrong, which I have listed elsewhere.[13]

(Translated by Junaid Hassan)


[1]. Badihiand nazari are also referred to as immediate and mediate knowledge, respectively (See Aristotelian logic). – Junaid Hassan (J. H.)

[2]. All parenthetical additions are mine. – J. H.

[3]. 'Ilm-e mahd implies that, though, it is a fact that something is in our knowledge but what it is, we do not know; we have no means to analyze it. It is just a state of knowledge that we find ourselves in. Neither do we know who the perceiver is, nor do we know what it is that is being perceived, nor do we know of anything (if at all) in the external world. (Information in this footnote was provided by the author in a personal phone conversation, Apr. 14, 2012).

[4]. Cogito ergo sum. This attempt of Descartes, like that of his predecessors, could not be decisive because he, too, did not base his argument on the foundation on which badihi concepts stand within the human nature. Thus, Jacques Derrida (d. 2004), first and foremost, criticizes this very tradition based on the metaphysical status of existence and insists that even "my own self" has no reality because it also has no absolute meaning.

[5]. Proponents of this view do not realize that this argument of theirs itself manifests their belief in the soundness of reason and intellect. Negation of a belief cannot be accomplished but by another higher belief; this is man's compulsion. Thus, the result of every attempt of negation (of one concept) is affirmation (of another concept), but man's tragedy is that he ignores facts in the heat of emotions. Individual freedom and individualism, for which these people strive hard, is also a value, so insisting on negating all values eventually leads to nothing but to the affirmation of yet another value. The situation is thus: نہ جاے ماندن نہ پاے رفتن (neither a place to stay, nor a foot to go).

[6]. Discursive reasoning is an ocean of confusion.

[7]. Appreciation of shapes (square, rectangle, or triangle) and colours, fragrance, music, or taste (sour, sweet, or bitter) etc. are already present within our minds as jadhri (foundational) knowledge. Whenever we encounter, for example, an apple in the external world, our mind applies its foundational (inherent) conception of colour and shape on it, which enables us to recognize the apple as a round, colourful object – a manifestation of foundational knowledge, which we refer to as fitri (natural) knowledge. (Information in this footnote is based on a telephonic conversation with the author, Apr. 14, 2012).

[8]. For example, our mind may pass the following verdict on crows: Crows are black, where "crows" are a subject, "are" a copula, and "black" is a predicate. After this, it may take "black" as a subject and pass a new verdict on it, such as: Black is a colour. – J. H.

[9]. Fitri knowledge is placed somewhere in the mind. Its sheer presence, before its manifestation, is referred to as jadhri knowledge. (Information in this footnote was provided by the author in a personal phone conversation, Apr. 14, 2012).

[10]. Here one may argue that this is not always the case. For example, Atheist Darwinists do not look for a knowledgeable and wise organizer for the organization present within a living cell; rather they attribute that to "blind, random, purposeless, and unguided" processes (mutation and natural selection) working over long periods of time. Actually, this is the very contradiction that the author intends to highlight here. Nowhere else in their lives would they accept to recognize an organized system without an organizer – such recognitions only show up when their faith in naturalism compels them to defy the supernatural. – J. H.

[11]. Post-modernist thinkers are striving to snatch this pillar of faith as well from man. After this, nothing would remain in man's hands except meaninglessness and extreme faithlessness. How far its painful consequences would reach, no one can estimate.

[12]. That is the denial of homonymyof words, figurative use of words, alteration (evolution) in the meaning of a word over time, specific and general connotations of words (according to the "universe of discourse" of the speaker), and such use of a word that makes the text contradictory to some logical premise (and, hence, forces the reader to take the word in some other or figurative meaning to avoid the contradiction) etc. (According to the sceptics, each of these contributes to muddle the meaning of what is said. – J. H.) For details, see 'Ali ibn Muhammad al-Jurjani, Sharh al-Mawaqif, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Cairo:1325 AH), 51.

[13]. Ibn Qayyim, I'lam al-muwaqqi'in, vol. 3, 109.

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