The Basis of Knowledge

Surah Yusuf (108)

Say thou: "This is my way: I do invite unto Allah on evidence clear as the seeing with one's eyes I and whoever follows me: Glory to Allah! And never will I join gods with Allah!"

(Yusuf Ali Translation)

Say [O Prophet]: "This is my way: Resting upon conscious insight accessible to reason, I am calling [you all] unto God - I and they who follow me"

And [say:] "Limitless is God in His Glory; and I am not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him!"

(Muhammad Asad Translation)

The challenge of the secular consensus of the West to Islam is firstly expressed in the very foundations of human understanding. What can we know? What does it make sense to accept as true? The secular consensus is that religion is essentially something we cannot know, something we cannot accept as true.

The challenges can be stated essentially as:

Religion makes claims about reality which science has shown are factually wrong.


Faith is irrational.

Knowledge in the Western mind is considered to be discovered from only two sources: observation and reasoning analysis. All other sources are considered invalid and ignored. This, coupled with the above statements on the status of religion, amounts to a complete dismissal of any religious understanding of existence.

Claims to religious knowledge are tolerated only if they seem to depend on the dubious and hence invalid source of ‘spiritual’ experiences. In this way the non-religious person can disregard such claims as nonsense and evade any guilt for rejecting the claims of each and every religion.

My approach in response to this is to show that the challenges set out above are factually wrong: Islamic ‘faith’ is rational. Scientific fact and true Islam have never contradicted each other. Moreover, I intend to demonstrate that belief in Islam makes much more sense than disbelief.

However, to do this we need to examine what are the sources of knowledge: Can religion fit into a framework based solely on the two defined valid sources of knowledge commonly accepted or must we move to a new (actually older1) system of thought defined by the claims of Islam and including the processes of observation and analysis?

The present framework: What is knowledge?

Limitations of scientific knowledge

Knowing maths

Religious claims in the present framework

The change of framework

A closer look at observation

The Islamic framework

1 Seyyed Hossein Nasr - Islamic Science - An Illustrated History


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