Path to Knowledge – Part 2

Before I continue with my discourse on Man’s viceregency, I have to dedicate some posts to one of the most important doctrines in Islam, and that is the Islamic concept of knowledge.

In this post, a quote from Martyr Mutahhari’s epic book Man and Universe’ on the relation between knowledge and faith:

‘Unfortunately certain parts of the Old Testament have in the Christian world created an idea of contradiction between knowledge and faith. This idea which has cost dearly to knowledge and faith both has its root in the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament. Narrating the story of Adam and the Forbidden Tree, the Book of Genesis, Chapter II, verses 16 and 17 says:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”.

In the Chapter III, verses 1 – 7 it says:

“Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”.

In the verse 22 – 23 of the same chapter it says:

“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: “

According to this conception of man, God, knowledge and disobedience, God wants that man should not be aware of good and evil. The Forbidden Tree is the tree of knowledge. Man attains knowledge only if he rebels against God’s command (disobeys the teachings of religion and the Prophets), but for that very reason he is driven out of God’s Heaven.

On the basis of this conception all evil insinuations are those of knowledge, and reason is the insinuating Devil.

In contrast, we learn from the Holy Quran that Allah taught all names (realities) to Adam and then ordered the angels to prostrate themselves before him. The Devil was condemned because he refused to prostrate himself before the vicegerent of Allah, who was aware of the realities. The Prophetic traditions have told us that the Forbidden Tree was that of avarice, greed and such like things, that is the things related to the animality of Adam, not to his humanity. The insinuating Devil always insinuates what is against reason and what answers the base desires. It is concupiscence and not reason that represents the Devil within man. Contrary to all this what we find in the Book of Genesis is really very amazing.

It is this conception which has divided the European history of culture during the past 1500 years into two distinct periods, namely the age of faith and the age of science, and has placed science and faith in opposition to each other.

In contrast the Islamic history of culture is divided into the period of advancement of knowledge and faith and the period in which both of them declined together. We Muslims should keep ourselves away from the wrong conception which has caused an irreparable loss to knowledge, faith and humanity, and must not blindly regard the contradiction between knowledge and faith as an indisputable fact.’

And:

‘Humanity of man depends on his knowledge of Allah. Man’s knowledge is not something separate from him. The more man attains knowledge of the universe, its system and its source, the more will develop his humanity, the 50% substance of which consists of knowledge.

From the point of view of Islam, especially the Shi’ah doctrine, there is not the least doubt that the attainment of the knowledge of Allah, irrespective of its practical and social effects, is in itself a goal of humanity.’

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