and Religious Experience (continued)
It is the lot of man to
share in the deeper aspirations of the universe around him and to shape his
own destiny as well as that of the universe, now by adjusting himself to its
forces, now by putting the whole of his energy to mould its forces to his own
ends and purposes. And in this process of progressive change God becomes a co-worker
with him, provided man takes the initiative:
Verily God will not
change the condition of men, till they change what is in themselves (13:11).
If he does not take the
initiative, if he does not evolve the inner richness of his being, if he ceases
to feel the inward push of advancing life, then the spirit within him hardens
into stone and he is reduced to the level of dead matter. But his life and the
onward march of his spirit depend on the establishment of connexions with the
reality that confronts him.26 It is knowledge that establishes these
connexions, and knowledge is sense-perception elaborated by understanding.
When thy Lord said
to the Angels, "Verily I am about to place one in my stead on earth,"
they said, "Wilt Thou place there one who will do ill and shed blood, when
we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?" God said, "Verily
I know what ye know not!" And He taught Adam the names of all things, and
then set them before the Angels, and said, "Tell me the names of these
if ye are endowed with wisdom." They said, "Praise be to Thee! We
have no knowledge but what Thou hast given us to know. Thou art the Knowing,
the Wise". He said, "O Adam, inform them of the names." And when
he had informed them of the names, God said, "Did I not say to you that
I know the hidden things of the Heavens and of the earth, and that I know what
ye bring to light and what ye hide?" (2:30-33).
The point of these verses
is that man is endowed with the faculty of naming things, that is to say, forming
concepts of them, and forming concepts of them is capturing them. Thus the character
of mans knowledge is conceptual, and it is with the weapon of this conceptual
knowledge that man approaches the observable aspect of Reality. The one noteworthy
feature of the Qurźn is the emphasis that it lays on this observable aspect
of Reality. Let me quote here a few verses:
Assuredly, in the
creation of the Heavens and of the earth; and in the alternation of night and
day; and in the ships which pass through the sea with what is useful to man;
and in the rain which God sendeth down from Heaven, giving life to the earth
after its death, and scattering over it all kinds of cattle; and in the change
of the winds, and in the clouds that are made to do service between the Heavens
and the earth - are signs for those who understand (2:164).
And it is He Who
hath ordained for you that ye may be guided thereby in the darkness of the land
and of the sea! Clear have We made Our signs to men of knowledge. And it is
He Who hath created you of one breath, and hath provided you an abode and resting
place (in the womb). Clear have We made Our signs for men of insight! And it
is He Who sendeth down rain from Heaven: and We bring forth by it the buds of
all the plants and from them bring We forth the green foliage, and the close-growing
grain, and palm trees with sheaths of clustering dates, and gardens of grapes,
and the olive, and the pomegranate, like and unlike. Look you on their fruits
when they ripen. Truly herein are signs unto people who believe (6:97-99).
Hast thou not seen
how thy Lord lengthens out the shadow? Had He pleased He had made it motionless.
But We made the sun to be its guide; then draw it in unto Us with easy in drawing
Can they not look
up to the clouds, how they are created; and to the Heaven how it is upraised;
and to the mountains how they are rooted, and to the earth how it is outspread?
And among His signs
are the creation of the Heavens and of the earth, and your variety of tongues
and colours. Herein truly are signs for all men (30:22).
No doubt, the immediate
purpose of the Qurźn in this reflective observation of Nature is to awaken
in man the consciousness of that of which Nature is regarded a symbol. But the
point to note is the general empirical attitude of the Qurźn which engendered
in its followers a feeling of reverence for the actual and ultimately made them
the founders of modern science. It was a great point to awaken the empirical
spirit in an age which renounced the visible as of no value in mens search
after God. According to the Qurźn, as we have seen before, the universe
has a serious end. Its shifting actualities force our being into fresh formations.
The intellectual effort to overcome the obstruction offered by it, besides enriching
and amplifying our life, sharpens our insight, and thus prepares us for a more
masterful insertion into subtler aspects of human experience. It is our reflective
contact with the temporal flux of things which trains us for an intellectual
vision of the non-temporal. Reality lives in its own appearances; and such a
being as man, who has to maintain his life in an obstructing environment, cannot
afford to ignore the visible. The Qurźn opens our eyes to the great fact
of change, through the appreciation and control of which alone it is possible
to build a durable civilization. The cultures of Asia and, in fact, of the whole
ancient world failed, because they approached Reality exclusively from within
and moved from within outwards. This procedure gave them theory without power,
and on mere theory no durable civilization can be based.
There is no doubt that
the treatment of religious experience, as a source of Divine knowledge, is historically
prior to the treatment of other regions of human experience for the same purpose.
The Qurźn, recognizing that the empirical attitude is an indispensable
stage in the spiritual life of humanity, attaches equal importance to all the
regions of human experience as yielding knowledge of the Ultimate Reality which
reveals its symbols both within and without.27 One indirect way of
establishing connexions with the reality that confronts us is reflective observation
and control of its symbols as they reveal themselves to sense-perception; the
other way is direct association with that reality as it reveals itself within.
The naturalism of the Qurźn is only a recognition of the fact that man
is related to nature, and this relation, in view of its possibility as a means
of controlling her forces, must be exploited not in the interest of unrighteous
desire for domination, but in the nobler interest of a free upward movement
of spiritual life. In the interests of securing a complete vision of Reality,
therefore, sense-perception must be supplemented by the perception of what the
Qurźn describes as Fuźd or Qalb, i.e. heart:
God hath made everything
which He hath created most good; and began the creation of man with clay; then
ordained his progeny from germs of life, from sorry water; then shaped him,
and breathed of His spirit unto him, and gave you hearing and seeing and heart:
what little thanks do ye return? (32:7-9).
2, 3, 4, 5,
Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:02:54 AM
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