The First Part
The Element of Truth
The following twelve premises form the ladder we will climb to reach our aim.
The First Premise
It is an established methodological principle (in the Islamic sciences) that when any item of religious knowledge reported to be based on either the Qur’an or the Sunna of the Prophet appears to be in conflict with reason, the judgment of reason—provided that it is genuine—takes priority and, consequently, the item in question is subjected to interpretation.5
It is also an established fact that the Qur’an throughout all of its verses aims mainly to establish and confirm four basic, universal truths: the existence and Oneness of the Maker of the universe; Prophethood; bodily Resurrection; and worship and justice. It is the Qur’an alone which is able to give the correct and most persuasive answer to the questions asked of creation by philosophy, namely, “From where and by whose order do you come into existence? Who directs you? Who is your guide and spokesperson? Why do you exist and what is your purpose here? What is your final destination?” Except when they are used as evidence to support basic, universal truths, “natural” facts are referred to by the Qur’an only parenthetically, and then simply in order to show how the workings of the cosmos can be understood as leading logically to the All-Majestic Maker through the Divine art on display throughout creation. For clearly there is a magnificent order at work in the universe. This order, which bears decisive witness to the existence of the Maker, to His purpose for the creation of the universe and to His Will, is so apparent throughout the universe that it presents its magnificence and beauty before wisdom and philosophy with the utmost clarity. It is as though each being is a voice praising its Maker’s wisdom; indeed, each species indicates this and testifies to it. Since the main purpose of the Qur’an in mentioning the book of the cosmos or in referring to the facts of creation is to prove the existence and Oneness of the Maker, and since one of those facts which is apparent throughout the universe is its order, exactly how the universe was created is not really the issue when we approach the Quran: more important for us is the fact that the universe is a proof of its Creator’s existence.
Any cosmic phenomenon that is mentioned in the supreme assemblage of the Qur’an has the following four functions:
Firstly, it proclaims the grandeur of the All-Majestic Maker through the voice of the order of which it is a part, and through being in perfect harmony with all other parts or elements of creation.
Secondly, since it is the subject matter of a particular science, it shows that Islam is the bedrock of all sciences.
Thirdly, since it is representative of a whole species, it clearly exhibits the concord which exists between Islam and the Divine laws at work in the universe. Perceiving this concord allows for Islam to be better understood. For since it is a religion which is, in all of its aspects, in accord with the Divine laws of creation and life, Islam has a distinguished place among the religions, and in particular above those that encourage vacillation between desires and caprices and leave their followers without help; or those which sometimes give light and at other times leave their followers in darkness; or those that are exposed to rapid change and transformation.
Fourthly, since each of the cosmic phenomena is a manifestation of the truth, it serves to arouse, direct, and encourage minds towards the truth.
In short, it serves as a warning to those people who are reluctant to deliberate upon the things on earth and the celestial bodies by which God swears in the Qur’an, the importance of which is stressed therein. Each of the oaths in the Qur’an can be seen as a staff that strikes those who are in the deep sleep of neglect and indifference.
Since this is the truth, there can be no doubt that the guiding Qur’an, which stands at the pinnacle of eloquence and the like of which no person has ever been able to produce, be it even a single verse, has chosen for itself the most appropriate linguistic style and the most concise and direct way of argument. For this reason, and because the vast majority of people do not have expert knowledge of scientific facts, it considers the feelings and sense perceptions of ordinary people in order to convey to them its main themes and guide them to the truth. In other words, it tells us about the perfect order of the universe, which constitutes evidence for the truth of the matters it seeks to establish, in such a style that it does not go unnoticed, even by the average person. Nor is it ambiguous or confusing for them, and it does not leave them in doubt or uncertainty. Had it been otherwise, the evidence would be more indistinct and unclear than the thesis itself; clearly this would not have been in conformity with the guidance, eloquence and inimitability of the Qur’an.
For example, the Qur’an might have declared, “O humankind! Ponder on the earth as it moves through space in orbit around the sun; and the sun which, though moving, is stable on its axis; and the law of general gravity, which ties the celestial bodies one to the other; and the interrelations among the fruits of the tree of creation, which has stretched out its branches through seemingly infinite space! Deliberate upon these facts and consider the grandeur of the Maker of the universe! Also, look with the eye of intellect at a single drop of water with its world of innumerable microorganisms so that you can confirm how powerful the Maker is.” Had the Qur’an proceeded in this manner, would the evidence not have been more indistinct and abstruse than the thesis (the purposes it pursues)? Would it not also have been an attempt to explain a truth to the average person by using examples which are unknown or obscure to them? Would it not have seemed like a pedantic attempt to impose on them something which appears irrational and which does not accord with their sense perceptions? The reality of the matter, however, is that the linguistic inimitability of the Qur’an is so elevated and removed from the laborious and the irrational that nothing abstruse or dysfunctional to its pure style can find a place within it.
Another point to mention here is that just as the Qur’an of miraculous expression indicates its basic purposes through the fabric of its verses, it also sheds light on them through the apparent meanings which those verses enshrine.
It is another established principle that truth or falsehood, or confirmation or denial, cannot be gleaned from the apparent meaning of allusive and figurative expressions. It is found in the purpose for which they are uttered or what is meant by them. For example, if we say that a tall person has a sword with a long handle, this is true even if that man does not have a sword, for what we have uttered is a figurative statement designed purely to indicate the height of the man. Moreover, one of the words in this figurative statement has been used metaphorically and gives the statement its meaning. Similarly, some of the verses of the Word of God—the Qur’an— all parts of which are interconnected, point to the gems of truth contained in other verses: they translate the secrets which lie in the hearts of their neighbors.
In short, one who does not consider this fact and is unable to judge the verses as they should be judged stands ridiculed in the face of the truth: he is like a dervish who attempts to make an excuse for his neglect of the daily Prayers by saying, “The Qur’an orders us: ‘Do not come forward to (stand in) the Prayer!’”, but conveniently omits the end of the verse, “while you are in (any sort of) state of drunkenness until you know what you are saying.”
5 Genuine reason is that which has been taught and enlightened by the established truths and foundational principles of Islam, and which is implemented by one who possesses accurate knowledge both of God’s creational laws and of the laws enshrined in the Divinely-revealed religious code or Shari‘a. (Trans.)