Perceiving By Means Of Sense Organs


Things that can be perceived through sense organs are limited in number. Knowledge beyond this limit cannot be understood through sense organs, or they may be misunderstood. Furthermore, man's perceptive powers are mostly weaker than those of animals. Man may find and comprehend through his mind the things which he cannot comprehend through his sense organs, yet mind, too, has a limit of comprehension. Mind cannot find or comprehend the knowledge beyond this limit. If mind attempts to understand the things which it can never grasp, it will go wrong. In such knowledge, mind cannot be relied on. For example, Allahu ta'ala's Attributes, the things in Paradise and Hell, the way of performing 'ibadat (worshipping) and much of religious knowledge cannot be grasped by mind. If mind contradicts narration about such knowledge, narration will be followed and it will be decided on that mind is mistaken about this matter.

Four kinds of knowledge are declared in the Qur'an: iman, ahkam, qisas and akhbar. Iman, the knowledge of what must be necessarily believed, can never be changed. The beliefs of every prophet and umma have been the same. There is no difference among their beliefs. Ahkam, Allahu ta'ala's commands and prohibitions, can be altered, but only by Allah, who made such alterations through His prophets. Qisas are the 'descriptions of the states and lives of the past peoples and ummas' [1] , and akhbar tells about 'the happenings that took place in the past and those which will take place in future'. Among such reports are that the creatures live with water, what the signs of the coming of the end of the world are and that there are rivers in Paradise. No change can be made in qisas and akhbar. And if some religious teachings seem to contradict one another, they cannot be adapted to mind, either. They will be adapted to one another. A piece of teaching that has several meanings should be understood so as not to contradict another piece of teaching that has been declared clearly. Here, reason's task is, of the two teachings that seem opposite, to understand the right meaning of the one that has several meanings in accord with the one that can be understood clearly.

[1] umma(t) followers of Muhammad ('alaihi 's-salam); the community, body of believers, of a prophet.