Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Concept of Knowledge in Islam


The Concept of knowledge

“ العلم ” as an Arabic word means to know, to understand, to perceive , to be familiar and acquainted with intensive knowledge.

It has been used in different form in the Quran.
i. Past tense ( الفعل الماضى ) :
وَإِذْ اسْتَسْقَى مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبْ بِعَصَاكَ الْحَجَرَ فَانفَجَرَتْ مِنْهُ اثْنَتَا عَشْرَةَ عَيْنًا قَدْ عَلِمَ كُلُّ أُنَاسٍ مَشْرَبَهُمْ كُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا مِنْ رِزْقِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ(60)
“And remember Moses prayed for water for his people, We said: “Strike the rock with thy staff.” Then gushed forth there from twelve springs. Each group knew its own place for water. So eat and drink of the sustenance provided by Allah, and do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth.” (2: 60)

أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَى نِسَائِكُمْ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَهُنَّ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنْكُمْ (2: 187)

ii. Present Tense ( الفعل المضارع ) :
مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ(106) (2 :106)

وَأَنزَلَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَكَ مَا لَمْ تَكُنْ تَعْلَمُ وَكَانَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكَ عَظِيمًا(113)
“For Allah hath sent down to thee the Book and Wisdom and taught thee what thou knew not (before), and great is the Grace of Allah unto thee.” (4: 113)

iii. Amr (الفعل الأمر ) :
فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنْبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَاكُمْ(19)
“Know, therefore, that there is no god but Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for Allah knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes.” ( 47: 19)

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ أَرِنِي كَيْفَ تُحْيِ الْمَوْتَى قَالَ أَوَلَمْ تُؤْمِنْ قَالَ بَلَى وَلَكِنْ لِيَطْمَئِنَّ قَلْبِي قَالَ فَخُذْ أَرْبَعَةً مِنْ الطَّيْرِ فَصُرْهُنَّ إِلَيْكَ ثُمَّ اجْعَلْ عَلَى كُلِّ جَبَلٍ مِنْهُنَّ جُزْءًا ثُمَّ ادْعُهُنَّ يَأْتِينَكَ سَعْيًا وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ(260) (2: 260)

Word “ ‘Ilm ” ( علم) was occurred in 140 places in Quran, while “al-‘Ilm”
(العلم) in 27 places. In All, the total number that was used in 704. There are also some relevant and different terms such as a book/al-Kitab (الكتاب) : in 230 verses , pen/al-Qalam (القلم) : in 2 verses, mind/al-‘Aql (العقل) : 49 verses , think/al-Fikr (الفكر) :18 verses , understand/al-Fiqh ( الفقه) and coming to know/al-Ma’rifah (المعرفة) : in 61 verses.

Al-Ma’rifah is another term used in the Quran to denote about knowledge. Al-Ma’rifah means to know, to explain, to confess, to comprehend a certain thing with the use of thinking.

Synonym of al-‘Ilm details
1 Al-Ma’rifah ( المعرفة) Coming to know by experiment or by reflection
2 Al-Fiqh (الفقه) Understanding
3 Tadabbur (تدبر ) Meditation / Observation
4 Basiran (بصيرا) Mental perception
5 Tazakkur (تذكر) Rememberance
6 Tafakkur (تفكر) Thought
7 Huda (هدى) Guidance
8 Syu’ur (شعور) Feeling

The antonym of al-‘Ilm (العلم) - Ignorance (الجهل) .

The definition of knowledge from the Islamic perspective

1. The opinions of Muslim philosophers
“Knowledge means the picture produced about something in the mind/intellect”

for example: when we picture a car in our mind: what will be pictured in our mind are the shape of the car, tyre, engine, steering, car seat and others. This means that we have knowledge about the car.

2. The group of sunnah (Ahl al-Sunnah) have the opinion, which is as follows:
“Knowledge is what one knows about something/ what makes one knowledgeable about something.”

3. Imam al-Haramain
“Way to visualize the purpose of knowledge about something by differentiating it with other things”
For example: differentiating between a horse with a car.
4. al-Qadhi al-Baqilani : knowledge is
”Knowing something known as the form and condition of itself in such a way”

5. Naquib al-Attas , said :
“Knowledge has been understood to mean the holy Quran, laws of the syariah, faith, spiritual knowledge, wisdom, ma’rifah and others.”

6. Al-Jurjani , has viewed that :
“al-Ma’rifah (المعرفة) and al-‘Ilm (العلم) mean to comprehend something as it appears with the use of senses from ignorance.”
Knowledge is the realization of something based on its true nature through different level of understanding such as application, comprehension, synthesis and judgement.

It is a product of learning about all kinds of things which requires mental apprehension or cognition.

7. Imam al-Ghazali :
“Knowledge is the acquisition of that information through which one can successfully attain the true goal of life”

He looked the knowledge as the picture about something in the heart. That means the knowledge known by the heart is more genuine and secure because it is from Allah. This is because Imam al-Ghazali, as a sufi, thought “kashaf” (the seeing of the pure heart) as a source of knowledge when it is guided by iman with the help of the sound mind”

The knowledge of Allah is the benefit for the end of life. Therefore, knowledge can guide man successfully in this world and hereafter. Al-Quran says :
اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ
“Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth…” (24: 35)
And also He said in the same verse:
نُورٌ عَلَى نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ
“Light upon light, Allah guide whom he will His light.”

In conclusion (about the definition of knowledge):

Knowledge is what we know about something, whether it is good or otherwise
In Islamic perspective, “ al-‘Ilm (العلم) is a system of learning to be developed and disseminated in a manner that recognizes Allah as the Lord and Creator of the universe and man His servant as well as vicegerent (khalifah of Allah) .

The knowledge of human being as beings as a gift of Allah in which they cannot excel his knowledge. Men are ignorant by nature. Later they were equipped with intellect and sence as tools to equire knowledge.

Allah is the only source of knowledge because he knows both the “ghaib” (unseen) and “zahir” (external). Man’s knowledge is limited. He knows only zahir but also limited. The Quran says:
وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ الرُّوحِ قُلْ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُمْ مِنْ الْعِلْمِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا(85)
“They ask thee concerning the spirit (ruh), say: The spirit of the command of my Lord of knowledge. It is only a little that is communicated to you.” (17 : 85)

The Definition of knowledge from western perspective

1. Augusta Comte defines :
“Knowledge as the reality of roles, pertains to natural phenomena that can only be done through experiment.”

2. Emile Patro defines :
“Knowledge is only limited in positivistic ideas resulted from logical thinking”

3. Rousel viewed :
“Knowledge is as a process of learning that should be according to nature. By nature means natural ways or natural systems which lead the world and all creations such as activity by a child, his experience, exploration of is enviroment on the satisfaction of his present need and interest.”

The Conclusion (knowledge from western perspective)

Knowledge from the western perspective is a system that gains from effort of human being based on hypothesis, observation, natural laws and experiment.

The western theory of knowledge refutes the metaphysical world, unseen and all kind of knowledge which are derived from the revelation.

They only use ‘aql (intellect) and reason to recognize knowledge ( don’t recognize “wahy” (revelation) as a source of knowledge).

Differences between Islamic and western theory of knowledge

Islamic Perspective
Western Perspective
1. Based on revelation
Based on human mind and sensory
2. Both of revelation & intellectualism
Only intellectualism
3. Consider Allah as the original source of knowledge
Reject Allah as the source of knowledge
4. Discuss the existence of Allah, His attributes, the origin of man, universe, their purpose, final destiny, prophethood & responsibilities of Islam etc.
Ignores all these aspects.
5. Encompasses physical and metaphysical world. Only physical world.

The position of knowledge in Islam

i. Knowledge is the first revelation in Islam

It is well-known in Islam that the first revelation revealed by Allah swt to the Prophet saw is surah al-‘Alaq that deals with knowledge..
Allah says:
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ(1)خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ(2)اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ(3)الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ(4)عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ(5)
“Read ! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created- Created man, out of a leech-like clot. Read ! And thy Lord is most Bountiful. He who taught (the use of) the Pen, Taught man that which he knew not.” (96: 1-5)

This ayat shows the virtues/advantages of knowledge over other things. With knowledge, one will be able to do things perfectly.

Thus, a certain word is repeated 2 times. The word is Iqra’, that is
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ and اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ .The kalimah iqra’ ( اقرأ ) means read – which is the door for gaining knowledge.

ii. Make a practice of the knowledge gained

Furthermore, the second surah was revealed after surah iqra`, that is al-Muddathir (المدثر) :
يَاأَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ(1)قُمْ فَأَنذِرْ(2)وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ(3)وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ(4)وَالرُّجْزَ فَاهْجُرْ(5)وَلَا تَمْنُنْ تَسْتَكْثِرُ(6)وَلِرَبِّكَ فَاصْبِرْ(7)
“O thou wrapped up (in a mantle) ! Arise and deliver warning ! And thy Lord do thou magnify ! And garments keep free from stain ! And all abomination shun ! Nor expect, in giving, any increase (for thyself) ! But, for thy Lord’s (Cause) be patient and constant ! ” (74 : 1-7)

From this ayat, it can be understood that after gaining knowledge (in surah al-‘Alaq), Allah swt commands us to do good deeds, whether the deeds have something to do with mankind. The ayat is قُمْ فَأَنذِرْ – that commands us to do good deeds and forbid bad things.

- or the deeds have something to do with Allah, that is ayat وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ by performing ibadah, obeying His commandments and warding off His prohibitions.

- or actions/practices, which have something to do with oneself – like the ayat وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ that means self-cleanliness and warding off things that lead to damages/destructions.

Therefore, what we can comprehend from those ayats is: knowledge is required first before making a practice of something and it is a pre-requisite for one’s deeds to be accepted.

As such, it can be concluded that one obtains nobility in the eyes of Allah when he makes a practice of the knowledge he has gained in life.

iii. Knowledge as a pre-requisite for a deed to be accepted by Allah

Knowledge makes a deed/practice be accepted by Allah. Among the pre-requisites for a deed/practice to be accepted by Allah as a pious deed are two conditions:

i. Doing the deed with ikhlas (sincerity) – just to please Allah

ii. The deed is done according to the syariat – as set by allah. It requires knowledge to know the commandments, conditions for validness (sah) and invalidness (batal) and other things pertaining to it.

Rasulullah saw said:
1 حَدَّثَنَا الْحُمَيْدِيُّ عَبْدُاللَّهِ بْنُ الزُّبَيْرِ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ سَعِيدٍ الْأَنْصَارِيُّ قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي مُحَمَّدُ ابْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ التَّيْمِيُّ أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ عَلْقَمَةَ بْنَ وَقَّاصٍ اللَّيْثِيَّ يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِي اللَّهم عَنْهم عَلَى الْمِنْبَرِ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهم عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى دُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ إِلَى امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ *

" Indeed, every practice/deed is counted with intention (niat). And indeed every deed/practice is reckoned as a reward (pahala) or sin (dosa), based on intention (what was intended)." (al-Bukhari : Bad`u al-Khalq)

Knowledge is ibadah and it makes a person to be close to Allah swt.
As the Arabic saying goes: “Knowledge without practice is madness (fruitless) and practice without knowledge is in vain.”

iv. Knowledge elevates one’s nobility

Knowledge (that is beneficial especially Islamic knowledge) also elevates one’s nobility in the eyes of Allah swt. Verily those who fear (have taqwa) Allah most are those who have Knowledge (ulama). Allah says:
إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ
"Those truly fear Allah, among His servants who have knowledge (ulama)” (35: 28) .

The above ayat shows that those who have knowledge are nearer to Allah swt because with knowledge they are able to know Allah swt (as the Creator) and themselves as (Allah’s servants). Besides, they can differentiate between what is good and bad. By performing the commandments of Allah and warding off His prohibitions, mankind will have taqwa, which is a position/status that is highly valued by Allah swt..

Knowledge elevates the status or position of its bearer and differentiates between knowledgeable person and ignorant person. The Quran says:
قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُوْلُوا الْأَلْبَابِ(9)
“Say: “Are those equal, those who know and who do not know?” It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition.” (39: 9)

Knowledge is needed to recognize and to introduce the existence of Allah as the Creator and Rabb (God) of universe. Allah says :

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ لِأَبِيهِ آزَرَ أَتَتَّخِذُ أَصْنَامًا آلِهَةً إِنِّي أَرَاكَ وَقَوْمَكَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ(74)
" Lo ! Abraham said to his father Azar: Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error.” (6: 74)

Knowledge distinguishes man from other creatures. Allah swt says in surah al-Baqarah :

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَنْ يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ(30)وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنْبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَؤُلَاء إِنْ كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ(31)

“Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent (khalifah) on earth.” They said: “Wilt thou place therein one who will make Mischief therein and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said : “I know what ye know not.” And he taught Adam the names of all things, then He placed them before the angles, and said: “Tell Me the names of these if ye are right.” (2: 30-31)

Therefore, we are supposed to make doa to Allah asking Him to grant us beneficial knowledge as in this doa:

which means: “Oh Allah, teach us beneficial knowledge for us and make the knowledge Thou bestowest upon as the benefits for us and increase the knowledge for us.”

v. The intellect (‘aql) and thinking as the tool for gaining knowledge

Allah swt also dignifies the intellect as the tool for gaining knowledge. Allah has repeated many times the recommendations for thinking and observing things as in His words:
" أفلا تعقلون" – "أفلا ينطرون" – "لعلكم تعقلون" – " لعلكم تتفكرون" –
" أولم ينطروا " – " أولم يتفكرون " – " لآيات لقوم يتفكرون " ...
All of the above ayats show that thinking is one of the important mediums for gaining knowledge.
Therefore, Islam really cares for the intellect so that is will not be ruined by destructive things which are against the intellect’s normal functions that act by nature (fitrah). As such, Allah prohibits liquor since it prevents the intellect from functioning normally. When the intellect does not function normally, it damages many things – whether the person having the intellect himself or society/other people. Allah says:

يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ(90)
“O ye who believe ! Intoxicants and gambling, sacrificing to stones. And (divination by) arrows, are an abomination- of Satan’s (Syaitan) handiwork, eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.” (5: 90)

vi. Rasulullah’s saw recommendations for us to seek knowledge

There are so many hadiths that recommend us to seek knowledge and whatever that has something to do with it.
Rasulullah saw said:
69 حَدَّثَنَا سَعِيدُ بْنُ عُفَيْرٍ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ عَنْ يُونُسَ عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ قَالَ قَالَ حُمَيْدُ بْنُ عَبْدِالرَّحْمَنِ سَمِعْتُ مُعَاوِيَةَ خَطِيبًا يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهم عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ مَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ بِهِ خَيْرًا يُفَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَإِنَّمَا أَنَا قَاسِمٌ وَاللَّهُ يُعْطِي وَلَنْ تَزَالَ هَذِهِ الْأُمَّةُ قَائِمَةً عَلَى أَمْرِ اللَّهِ لَا يَضُرُّهُمْ مَنْ خَالَفَهُمْ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ *
“Whoever Allah wants from him, goodness, Allah will grant him the understanding of knowledge about affairs of the religion (ad-Din)”

The word “ad-Din” means religion – that is the religion of Islam (the teachings of Islam) that must be implemented in our daily routines.

In another hadith, Rasulullah said:

4867 حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ يَحْيَى التَّمِيمِيُّ وَأَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْعَلَاءِ الْهَمْدَانِيُّ وَاللَّفْظُ لِيَحْيَى قَالَ يَحْيَى أَخْبَرَنَا و قَالَ الْآخَرَانِ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ عَنِ الْأَعْمَشِ عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهم عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ... وَمَنْ سَلَكَ طَرِيقًا يَلْتَمِسُ فِيهِ عِلْمًا سَهَّلَ اللَّهُ لَهُ بِهِ طَرِيقًا إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ ...
“Whoever walks (in a situation/in the state of doing something) for the affairs/gatherings of learning knowledge, Allah will ease his way to paradise.

In another hadith, Rasulullah said:
3084 حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ أَيُّوبَ وَقُتَيْبَةُ يَعْنِي ابْنَ سَعِيدٍ وَابْنُ حُجْرٍ قَالُوا حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَعِيلُ هُوَ ابْنُ جَعْفَرٍ عَنِ الْعَلَاءِ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهم عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ إِذَا مَاتَ الْإِنْسَانُ انْقَطَعَ عَنْهُ عَمَلُهُ إِلَّا مِنْ ثَلَاثَةٍ إِلَّا مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ جَارِيَةٍ أَوْ عِلْمٍ يُنْتَفَعُ بِهِ أَوْ وَلَدٍ صَالِحٍ يَدْعُو لَهُ *

which means: When one dies, all his good practices (rewards for good deeds) are gone except for three things (the rewards are granted continuously): Knowledge that is beneficial, alms-giving (sadaqah – used by other people continuously) and pious children who prays for peace for their parents.

Therefore, we could see that among the specialties of knowledge is that the benefits are on-going even after death.

In conclusion, Islam has placed knowledge in a very high position as stated in the Quran and hadith and as the foundation for the “objective of the syariat” (al-Maqasid al-Syar”iyyah).

Classification of Knowledge

i. The Degrees of Knowledge in Quran

1. ‘Ilm al-yaqin :
- Means knowledge by inference resulting from man’s power of evaluation and judgement. It is logical, mathematical and empirical knowledge. Intellect is the principle of reason. Reason in relation to the intellect makes the ability to conduct a rational discourse. It depends on the truth of its assumptions as in deduction or on probabilities as in deduction. Allah says :
كَلَّا لَوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عِلْمَ الْيَقِينِ(5)
“ Nay, were ye know with certainty of mind, (ye would beware)” (102 : 5)

2. ‘Ain al-yaqin :
- Means knowledge by one’s perception and observation. It refers to the five senses of human being. Sensory knowledge is the human physical self conciousness which is transtable into his mental self conciousness as well. Allah says :
ثُمَّ لَتَرَوْنَهَا عَيْنَ الْيَقِينِ(7)

“ Again, ye shall see it with certainty of sight !” . (102: 7)

3. Haqq al-yaqin :
- Means knowledge of absolute truth with not possibility or error. It is the divine revelation. Allah reveals His signs through the observation and contemplation of the outer world (Afaq) and also through the inner experience of the mind (Anfus) . Allah says :
إِنَّ هَذَا لَهُوَ حَقُّ الْيَقِينِ(95)
” Verily, this is the very Truth of assured Certainty.” (56: 95)

- (Afaq) – may be gained by the natural phenomena and also historical events , Allah says :
قَالُوا يَاأَبَانَا مَا لَكَ لَا تَأْمَنَّا عَلَى يُوسُفَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَنَاصِحُونَ(11)
“They said : O our father! Why dost thou not trust us with Joseph, Seeing we are indeed his sincere well-wishers”(12:11)

(Afaq) wonders creation of Allah (natural phenomena) , Allah says:
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ(190)
“Behold ! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding.” (3 : 190)

- (Anfus) – the inner experience of mind which gives the higher / degree of certainty by means of the followings:
i. Instinct
ii. Intuition
iii. Inspiration
iv. Revelation

Instinct (Jabalat) :

A natural ability or tendency is a sacred knowledge. It is different from “Wahy” because this knowledge comes through spiritual vision or feeling in the heart, dream and intensive spiritual exercise. This kind of knowledge refers to only certain people who only are qualified.

Intuition (Wijdad) :

It is the power of understanding or knowing something without reasoning or learning skill. In fact the people gain this knowledge by natural way after they born. It happens between Allah and man or his creations. The Quran says :
وَأَوْحَى رَبُّكَ إِلَى النَّحْلِ أَنْ اتَّخِذِي مِنْ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا وَمِنْ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعْرِشُونَ(68)
“And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills. On trees and in (men’s) habitations” . (16: 68)

Inspiration (Ilham) :

Inspiration is ideas which spark out or develop in the mind of man after deep thinking and realization. Allah says :
وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّ مُوسَى أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِي وَلَا تَحْزَنِي إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنْ الْمُرْسَلِينَ(7)

“So we sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: suckle (thy child), but when thou hast fears about him, cast him into the river, but fear not nor grieve. For We shall restore him to thee, and We shall make him one of Our messengers.” (28: 7)

Revelation (Wahy) :
“Wahy” is directly through Namusi Akbar (Jibriel) from Allah to His appointed prophets. It is the Holy Quran ( a guide book for all mankind). Allah says :
قُلْ مَنْ كَانَ عَدُوًّا لِجِبْرِيلَ فَإِنَّهُ نَزَّلَهُ عَلَى قَلْبِكَ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَهُدًى وَبُشْرَى لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ(97)
“ Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by Allah’s will, a confirmation of what went before and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe”. (2 :97)

2. Al-Ghazali’s Classification of knowledge

Al-Ghazali’s classification of knowledge (the sciences) is based on two main sources : The Book of knowledge of the Ihya` and al-Risalat al-laduniyyah. Al-Ghazali refers in these work four different systems of classification :-
i. Division into theoretical and practical sciences .
ii. Presential (huduri) and attained (husuli) knowledge.
iii. Religious (syar’iyah) and intellectual (‘aqliyah)sciences.
iv. Fard ‘ayn (obligatory on every individual) and fard kifayah (abligatory on all) sciences.

* Of the four systems, the one receives the most extensive treatment from al-Ghazali is the division into religious and the intellectual.

According to al-Ghazali, all four systems of classifications are valid even though they do not have the same degree of validity. Each classification is based on a particular aspect of the relationship between man and knowledge as well as on a particular perspective of looking at that relationship.

i. Division into Theoretical and Practical parts

In the “Maqasid al-Ghazali” divides philosophy or science of wisdom (al-‘ilm al-hikmi) into its theoretical and practical parts.

The theoretical part makes known the states of being as they are.
The practical deals with man’s actions. It aims at finding out the human activities conducive to man’s well being in his life as well as in the next.

Al-Ghazali maintains that the above division is based on the corresponding distinction between theoretical and practical intellect.

ii. Division into “Presential” and “Attained” knowledge

Presential (huduri) knowledge is direct, immediate, supra-rational, intuitive and contemplative. Al-Ghazali refers to this knowledge under several names. Among them are “ilm ladunni” (knowledge from on high) and “ilm al-mukasyafah” (knowledge of unveiling of the divine mysteries).

Attained or acquired (husuli) is indirect, rational, logical and discursive.

Presential knowledge is superior to attained knowledge because it is free of error and doubt and it confers the highest certitude concerning spiritual truths.

Sensual knowledge is also direct and immediate but it pertains only to the physical world. The division of knowledge into the presential and the attained is therefore based on the distinction between immediate and indirect knowledge concerning the intelligible or spiritual world.

iii. Division into Religious and Intellectual Sciences

In the book of knowledge, al-Ghazali defines the religious sciences (al-‘ulum al-syar’iyah) as “those which have been acquired from the prophets and are not arrived at either by reason, like arithmetic, or by experimentation, like medicine or by hearing like language”.

Al-Ghazali’s definition makes the religious sciences more specific than the transmitted / intellectual sciences (al-‘ulum al-’aqliyah) that means “those sciences which are attained by the human intellect alone”.

Revelation and reason (intellect) are conceived as mutually exclusive sources of knowledge. Al-Ghazali maintains that the religious and intellectual sciences complement each other and are never contradictory. But the limitations of reason as a mode of knowing and hence the subordination of reason to revelation, are greatly emphasized. The source of religious knowledge is revelation. Reason alone could not attain that knowledge. The source of intellectual knowledge is intellect.
Therefore, that al-Ghazali had drawn the distinction between religious and intellectual knowledge on the basic of their sources, that is whether they are based on revelation or reason.
Classification of the religious and intellectual sciences :

1. The Religious Sciences

A. The science of fundamental principles (al-usul)
i. The science of divine unity ( ‘ilm al-tauhid)
ii. The science of prophethood.
iii. The science of the hereafter or eschatology.
iv. The science of the sources of religious knowledge.
- 2 primary sources ( al-Quran and al-Sunnah)
- 2 secondary sources (Ijma’ and athar al-sahabah)

The science of the sources falls under two categories:
- Preludes or auxiliary (muqaddimat) : These include the science of writing and the various branches of linguistic science.
- Supplementary sciences (mutammimat) : These comprise :
a. The Quranic sciences including the science of interpretation.
b. The sciences of prophetic tradition such as the science of transmission of hadiths.
c. The science of principles of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh)
d. Biography – dealing with lives of the prophets, the companions and illustrious men.

B. The science of branches (furu’) or derived principles :
i. The science of man’s obligation to God. This is the science of religious rites and worship.
ii. The science of man’s obligations to society. This science comprises :
a. The science of transactions .
It deals mainly with business and financial transactions. Other kinds of transactions include “qisas” (just retaliation).

b. The science of contractual obligations
It deals mainly with family law.

iii. The science of man’s obligation to his own soul.
This is the science of moral qualities (‘ilm al-akhlaq)

2. The Intellectual Sciences

A. Mathematics
i. Arithmetic
ii. Geometry
iii. Astronomy and astrology
iv. Music

B. Logic

C. Physics or the natural sciences
i. Medicine
ii. Meteorology
iii. Mineralogy
iv. Alchemy

D. The sciences of beings beyond nature or metaphysics
i. Ontology
ii. Knowledge of the divine essence, attributes, and activities. Knowledge of God’s relation to the universe.
iii. Knowledge of simple substances, that is the intelligences and angelic substances.
iv. Knowledge of the subtle world
v. The science of prophecy and of the phenomenon of sainthood. The science of dreams.
vi. Theurgy (nairanjiyat) . This science employs terrestrial forces to produce effects which appear as supernatural.

The above classification is based on al-Ghazali’s enumeration of sciences in al-Risalat al-laduniyah and the “Book of Knowledge” (al’Ihya`).

iv. Division into “Fard ‘ayn” and “Fard kifayah” Sciences

The term “fard ‘ayn” refers to a religious obligation that is binding on every muslim.

The term “fard kifayah” refers to what is divinely ordained and binding for the muslim community as a whole but is not necessarily binding for each member of the community.

Al-Syafi’i defines it as “the obligation which if perform by a sufficient number of Muslim, then the remaining Muslim who did not perform it would not be sinful”.

The division of knowledge into the “fard ayn” and the “fard kifayah” is based on the distinction between two types of religious obligation pertaining to its acquisition.

There is a related classification based on the same legal principles. This is the tripartite division of knowledge into :
a. The praiseworthy (mahmud)
b. The blameworthy (Mazmum)
c. The permissible (Mubah)

The praiseworthy sciences comprise both the “fard ‘ayn” and “fard kifayah”. It is as a jurist that al-Ghazali deals with these two closely related classifications. The perspective of jurisprudence is assentially based on ethical considerations.


Muslim religious scholars do not reject the “intellectual sciences” as such but their attitude of “discounting them as not conducive to one’s spiritual welfare” could only be negative.

The basis of the division itself is epistemologically valid within a certain limit, insofar as it is true it is of a positive value.

Opposition to the intellectual sciences from among the religious scholars, especially the jurist, had been going on in Islamic society long before the explicit formulation of the religious intellectual division.

Many Muslim scientist and philosophers before as well as after al-Ghazali, accepted the validity of the division.

Al-Ghazali in reproaching his contemporaries for neglecting the “fard kifayah”, intellectual sciences, particularly medicine and for putting undue emphasis on jurisprudence, finds no contradiction in defending at the same time his religious-intellectual division of the sciences.

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