Conflicts and Contradictions in Human Thought and the Approach to the Holy Quran (Prof. Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque)

The Trail of human thought, from Grecian to the most recent time philosophers and scientists, is fraught with conflicts and contradictions. In the beginning, the universe in its nature, to the human thought, was simply a dune of inanimate clay.

Nature of Universe.

Now it is found that it is not such a heap of clay but a “pure movement” or “abstract energy” in its origin. It brought two questions to the human thought: what is the origin of the absolute energy; how the diversified fickleness and wondrously awe-inspiring novelties gushing forth? The human mind to these questions is still struck with awe and finds no head or tail of what he has discovered over years for understanding the nature of universe.

Life and Consciousness.

The human mind pondered over the nature of life and consciousness, and eventually concluded that it came out of itself merely on the basis of mechanistic process of its evolution from the organic matter, but when maturity prevailed over his experiments and experiences, he changed his mind and inferred that life and consciousness can never be the outcome of this mechanistic process; it has its origin somewhere else. Again the searching question to the mind was “where does lie its origin? The human thought till now finds no clue to it to go ahead.

Ethics: Good and Evil in Life.

The other questions flashed in the human mind were about the occurrence of the events: why does man labor under the vicissitudes of calamities and misfortunes? Why is he yoked in the well of life as an oppressed and suppressed person? Eventually what is his fault in case of failure? Why is evil let loose in the universe? Why does ‘good’ not prevail everywhere? What is, ultimately, the remedy to the human ills and misfortunes? He reflected deeply over these issues. But his insight was trapped when he found that the solution, he discovered was itself a riddle of a perplexing enigma. He searched for other pragmatic solutions but soon became disparaged and discouraged of what he had invented. Now his final analysis of the things is that “good” is what synchronizes permanent values and “evil” is what is discordant to these values. Here again new questions popped up: what are the permanent values? Why are these permanent? Where do these values come from? Unfortunately the human reason could not answer these questions. He is, at present, awfully wonder-struck at this point and finds no clues to these questions.

Politics: The Form of Governance.

Then this trail of human thought caught another question: when the man has to live his life socially on this biosphere, which form of governance be lived so that there be no wedges of human interests creating clashes and chaos among the contending groups of masses? It was confoundingly a confusing question to him. The human mind struggled days in and days out for its satisfactory solution but enchanted every time by the solutions he discovered he remained deceptively oligarchic. Now he is of the view that there should be a universal law operative in the universe under a single state of the whole of mankind. He had not moved further when other questions clasped his faculty: which would be the universal law that could entail satisfaction to the confronting and contradicting segregations of the human beings? From where would that law be made available? And what would be the pragmatic test of the fact that this law accomplished what it purports to accomplish? He is today wonder-struck standing and reclining at the crossroads of life he wants to live by.

Economics: Dissipation of Earnings.

Then, there came again another problem of the same similitude and magnitude: basic needs of human life are limited but the area of his rapacious desires and wants for more than what he needs abounds the very limits imposed on, then how could that be managed, so that the entrepreneurial aspect of the society is not hampered and consequently every body is provided with the necessities of life smoothly? Seemingly it was a basic problem to the human vision but its satisfying answer put the human thought in the whirlpool of chaos and confusion to the extent that though he spent a lot of his time and energy on its solution, it remained paradoxically a quagmire for the human intellect. The human faculty could neither solve it nor it was empowered potentially to solve it. Today the human reason is standing at the confounding crossroads where one school of thought says ‘depriving man of his hard earnings is an injustice to him’ and the second school of though roars ‘every one should work to the best of his potential and be given only what is enough for him to make his both ends meet’. The human reason is awe-struck on this crucial point and is probing the way to proceed righteously further and farther. This was the economic aspect of human life and reflected no exception to the multi-variate impediments the human reason has been confronting incessantly on the walk of life.

Internal Conflicts Within Man.

Though confused, man never forgot to exercise the option of his choice and will. In doing so he got trapped on way to his path where there was no external danger encountering him; it was only the will-o’-the-wisp clung to the apron of his intellect at every measure he suggested. It was his new adversary whom he did not understand. It was invisibly a plague to him and now, wherever he goes; it follows him advertently or inadvertently. This was both a melee and affray within human reason and his desires, and made human thought awfully peevish and petulant.

Mysticism or Religion.

To get rid of this affliction, he coined a series of arcane techniques but of no use. He became so confused of the hardened crust of the way of his life, the extended journey he traversed, the intensity of the conflicts he encountered and the difficulty of the new mixed metaphors in his life that he decided to bereave his own intellect and opt for something else, irrational and illogical, the taken-for-granted paradigm.

He, within the fold of his own vision close to the lap of an ice-covered mountain of reason and rhyme, saw an enchanting orchard bestowing shady groves, showering cold winds with peaceful calm rivulets and providing silence and solace with absolutely no sigh of any leaf. Enchantingly he jumped there and felt so sleepy that he forgot the spectrum of his own goal and destination he had been endeavouring so far. This fascinative, intoxicative, rapturous and solace-infusing orchard is the mysticism, which the tired philosophers of the West termed as religion and God. To human thought, this is now the ultimate consequence of the human conflicts and the final answer to all those questions, which have kept him, perplexed throughout the whole of his life career. This is the halt where the human vision has put up today.

Basic Infirmity of Human Thought.

But this is not the first halt in the life span of human thought where he has made this alluringly intoxicating envisioned garden the product of his life. So often this has happened earlier that whenever he confoundingly became tired of the hard realities and wearisome conflicts of life, he opted for escape. Mysticism (the other name of personal concept of God and religion) is the last resort to escapism. Even the history of human thought stands witness to this fact that the horn of tranquility has never been any cause of solace for a long period of time to the human thought. Now, after he passed the plateau of tiring mental activity, he has again started probing for virtuous satisfaction and real consolation; so the western philosopher, perplexed with the conflicting state of life today, is searching for the blissful solace in the garb of religion, which could not be any cause of satisfaction any longer. He would, in real sense again come out in the search of that ideal world where he hopes he might find the satisfying solution to those problems which have kept him in the state of agony, grief and restiveness for the whole of his life.

These are the multi-variate issues of human life for the solution of which the human thought has traversed such a long mental journey and these are the halts where he has stood today awe-struck, confounded and is wandering about in a depressed state of mind! He will again come forward and take initiative to start his mental traverse. This is not despising to him. On the contrary these trails of human thought are appreciative and facilitative. If you have to weigh and watch of what he brought, just visit the Negroes of Africa or America and Australia and the high sounding philosopher and inventing scientist in the contemporary world, the difference of the mental vision/horizon found in the mores and cores of these two segments of people would make it clear that all this has become possible only due to this tedious and long intellectual journey of the human thought, and this constant struggle is a thing of beauty as a joy for ever. But the basic infirmity of the human thought is that man proceeds on the axiom of hit and trial, coins a way for himself without knowing whether it would lead him to the destination sought or to the caverns of destruction and annihilation. But before reaching its farther end, he finds that cognizance of the ultimate reality is beyond the scope of human intellect. Hence man follows the way opened to him, faces dacoits and buccaneers, combats with the beasts of the jungle where the brutalities of wilderness in man, find blood streams gushing out during the clashes, and the humanity broken, tortured, exploited. But the human thought remains outpouring continuously. Sometimes it so happens that the way he has been moving to, leads to somewhere else he did not visualize earlier. These are the halts where the human thought reclines deadly tired and consequently the Western thought is now searching for these refuges like the ‘Rosicrucians’, the ‘mystics’, the ‘sages’, the ‘hermits’ folds at present.

The Problem in Real Sense.

The question is whether the human thought be left to itself to operate on the process of hit and trial or there is any other mechanism which leads the humanity to its goal of life. In other words: is he endowed with the faculty to really solve the problems compatibly to the urges of his life he has? If man has no other means leading him confidently and safely to his destination, there is no alternative except his own hit and trial mechanism and hence the calamities and disasters so encountered be faced bravely with perfect calm and patience. Compulsion has no remedy in the world. But if there is a way leading man to his destiny safe and sound, it would surely be a psychopath who would not prefer to follow it. This problem has become the real crux of the matter today.

The fact is that man is a finite being and the powers with which he is endowed are necessarily limited in scope. Human reason is no exception. It has serious limitations. But the glorious successes of reason led man to over-estimate its capacity: he expected that reason would give him absolute knowledge. When this expectation was not fulfilled, he became disillusioned with reason and went to the other extreme in rejecting reason outright and forgot that only a few aspects of reality are accessible to reason and reality has an infinity of aspects. There is also no denying the fact that human reason can subdue the forces of nature-the history has proved it-but this is also a stark fact that it cannot find by itself a satisfactory solution to the complexity of the problems of mankind, even its manifestations, the sciences, do not and cannot possibly help to solve these problems of human life. If a nation adopts a wrong course of action, it may be years before it begins to experience its effects because reason can legitimately function within its own sphere and ceases to be reliable the moment it steps beyond it. We can put it to the best only when we know what it can do and what it cannot.

As indicated earlier we are witnessing the violent reaction against reason today. After a long period of unquestioned supremacy, its authority was challenged from various quarters: mystics, philosophers, scientists, psychologists because according to them, the intellect is compelled to invent specious reasons to justify the irrational operations of unconscious desires. Reason functions according to the role one gives it.

In voyaging across the uncharted seas of existence, the man cannot depend solely on the fitful flickering light of reason. The Qur’an sets forth a sustaining practical program for this inviting enterprise-the reason-and corroborates that human reason acting in the light of Revelation enshrined in Qur’an cannot miss the right path.

Approach to the Qur’an.

For this purpose our first task is to understand the real meaning of the Qur’an with the help of all the intellectual faculties we possess. We can then proceed to assess the value of its teaching. How are we to test the truth and usefulness of the Qur’anic teaching? The Qur’an itself helps us to answer this question. It proposes three ways in which it may be tested and offers to abide by the results of these tests. It is significant that the tests proposed are all acceptable to reason. Nowhere is the supernatural invoked. The appeal is invariably to human reason and experience.

Before proceeding to consider the tests, let us recapitulate the teaching of the Qur’an. The Qur’an enjoins man to believe in God, to follow His laws, to believe in one’s own self, to love and serve his fellow-beings, to act in a virtuous manner so as to develop and express the best in him, and finally to believe in and prepare for the Hereafter. All these we are invited to test in the light of reason. Is there anything in this teaching that is repugnant to reason? No doubt it is possible to doubt the existence of God and the reality of the Hereafter. But then, it is also possible to doubt the existence of the world. There is no conclusive proof of the existence of objective world and some philosophers have argued, in all seriousness, that belief in such a world is unjustified. All that we can be sure of is the actual momentary sensation. In spite of philosophical arguments our belief in objective reality remains unshaken. Life pays little heed to the cobwebs of such philosophers. The point to bear in mind is that suprarational realities are not less real because they cannot be proved by logical arguments. In applying the rational test it is permissible to ask whether there is anything in the teaching, which runs counter to reason and to that part of human knowledge which commands universal acceptance. The question as to whether every element in it can be logically proved is inadmissible, because, the teaching, if it is to be true to its nature, cannot avoid reference to realities, which transcend reason. In this case, the rational test will take the form of determining whether or not the teaching is in direct conflict with reason and whether it furthers the interests of humanity. It is needless to say that the Qur’an has stood the test of reason and proved itself to be in harmony with the best in man:

Say (O Muhammad! To the unbelievers): I say not unto you (that) I possess the treasures of Allah, nor that I have knowledge of the unseen, and I say not unto you: Lo I am malak. I follow only that which is revealed to me.

Say: are the blind man and the seer equal? Will ye not then reflect on this? (The Qur’an 6:50, 11:24)

Secondly, the Qur’an invites people to judge it in the light of history. It asks them to ponder over the rise and fall of nations. It assures them that if they seek the causes of the downfall of a people, they will find that the people had contravened the principles of right conduct and permanent values, which were communicated to them by the Nabi of their age. Right belief and right conduct enable a nation to rise to power and wrong beliefs and actions lead to its downfall. Time and again the Qur’anic teaching, which confirms the teaching of earlier Anbiya, was put to the test and was found to be a trustworthy guide to the good life. People who rejected it and followed the wrong path inevitably fell into decay and were overtaken by a dreadful fate. The Qur’an advises men to pay attention to the facts of history in order to discover the difference between the ways of life of the nations, which flourished and prospered and those, which perished. It will be brought home to them that the latter cherished false and harmful beliefs and their conduct was not in harmony with the eternal laws of God:

But they deny the knowledge that they could not compass and whereof the final result had not come unto them. Even so did those then deny? Then see what were the consequences for the wrong-doers (The Qur’an 10:39).

Finally we come to the pragmatic test. The unbelievers are repeatedly urged to apply this test and satisfy themselves about the truth and value of the Qur’an. A tree is judged by the quality of its fruit and a creed by its effects on the life and conduct of men. The believers who had accepted the teaching and had regulated their lives in accordance with it, provided irrefutable evidence of its value to man. Their character had been transformed overnight. Formerly they were mean, selfish, quarrelsome, narrow-minded and self-centered caring only for petty gains. Afterwards, they were united in the pursuit of noble ends, were bound to each other by ties of love and affection, were kind and just to their enemies and lived up to the high ideals, which they professed. The Qur’an had brought into existence a new type of man- self-respecting, self-reliant, conscious of his worth and desirous of enhancing it and fired with the ambition to set up a better social order in the world. These men by their lives and actions testified to the value of the Qur’an, the spirit of which they had imbibed. The Nabi, Muhammad PBUH, was fully justified in pointing to these men as a living testimony for the truth of the faith he preached. The astounding effect of the faith on the life of man was the strongest proof of its truth and values:

Say: O my people! Work in your own way. I too am working. Thus ye will come to know for which of us will be the happy sequel. Lo! The wrong doers will not be successful (The Qur’an 6:136).

Such are tests, which the Qur’an desires to be applied. Even bitter critics will have to concede that the tests are crucial, practical and provocative.

Again and again the Qur’an exhorts man to think and think hard. The man who uses his reason is held up to admiration:

The blind man is not equal with the seeing, nor is darkness equal to light, nor is the shadow equal with the sun’s refulgence; nor are the living equal with the dead (The Qur’an 35:19-22).

Those who think rightly can find the light of knowledge and can discover the path that leads to success:

Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed (The Qur’an 39:9).

Again:

Surely those who strive for Us, We guide them to our ways, and verily Allah is with those who lead a balanced life of goodness (The Qur’an 29:69).

The Believers (Mo’minin), according to the Qur’an, are:

Those who, when the revelations of their Rabb are presented to them, do not fall thereat deaf and blind (The Qur’an 25:73).

This is Iman! Not to accept even God’s revelations as the deaf and the blind.

Cosmic Process.

At present discussion emerges out of the question: why the Qur’anic Social Order which assures a peaceful, prosperous and glorious life to mankind has not been established anywhere in the world, not even in any Muslim state, although the Divine Guidance, enshrined in the Holy Qur’an, has been with us for fourteen centuries. The answer corroborative of the phenomenon is that cosmic process is slow, very slow when measured by serial or historic time. The point requires further elucidation. Evolutionary changes take place in the outer universe automatically, according to Divine plan, and by stages, each involving thousand and thousand of years to accomplish. This is cosmic process. In the case of man, however, this process works in a somewhat different way. Man (and here we mean man not travelling in the light of Divine guidance) when pressed by circumstances to modify any existing state of affairs, adopts a course which he thinks the best, works on it strenuously day in and day out, but finds at the end that the course adopted was wrong. He abandons it and embarks upon another course. This he has to repeat time and again. Often he feels exhausted during the course of his journey and leaves the experiment incomplete in dire frustration. Even when he reaches his destination, the labor involved and the time spent do not commensurate with the results achieved-the span of human life is so short and the distance to be traversed so lengthy. This process of “trial and error” is another form of cosmic process. Man has, however, not been left in wilderness to find his way out, un-aided by a guide or without any signposts on his way. He has been blessed with Divine guidance. If he adopts the course suggested by it straightaway, not only is he protected against pitfalls but the time taken to reach the goal also shrinks from cosmic reckoning to human calendar. Fourteen hundred years ago, a group of believers made this experiment most successfully, which, apart from the miraculous results it produced, proved that neither the Qur’anic Social Order was a utopia nor the program laid down to establish it was unworkable. Their later generations, however, abandoned that course; with the result that they met the same fate as did the past nations who acted similarly. (This, by the way, is the negative proof of the efficacy of the Divine Law governing the rise and fall of nations). The Divine course is still there and can be taken up by any nation who wished to reach human destination safely and within the shortest possible time:

Say: The truth from your Rabb is there; so let whosoever will accept, and let whosoever will reject (The Qur’an 18:29).

So why to waste time and shed blood! That nation will survive which strives to assure for all men a life of happiness, peace and prosperity. Armed might, control over the forces of nature and wealth will not avail a nation if its policies are detrimental to the interest of mankind. It is bound to pass away, for

Only that remains which is beneficial for mankind as a whole (The Qur’an 13:17).

REFERENCES

1. Berdeau: The Divine and the Human
2. Brend: Foundations of Human Conflict
3. Buber, Martin: Between Man and Man
4. Cobban, Alfred: The Crisis of Civilization
5. Haldan, J.S.: The Philosophical Basis of Biology
6. Hill, A.V.: The Physical Reasonableness of Life
7. Johnson, R.F.: Confucianism and Modern China
8. Kierkegaard: The Present Age
9. Moore, Thomas: Personal Mental Hygiene
10. Paul, Leslei: Annihilation of Man
11. Parvez, G.A.: What Man Has Thought (Urdu Version)
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14. Time-Special Issue: The New Age of Discovery, January, 1998
15. Toynbee, Arnold J.: The World and the West
16. Turner, H.H.: Introduction to the Foundations of Einstein’s Theory of Gravitation.

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