Theory of Knowledge
Reconstruction of Qur’anic Thoughts with an Attempt to Unify Rationalism and Empiricism
By S.M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)
(Author’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
6. Process of knowledge Creation
Children acquire knowledge by the trial-and-error process: they have no knowledge that was programmed in their brain before they were born, though most Muslims wrongly believe that God sent man to earth with knowledge. A child, for example, comes to know that fire is dangerous only after having its hand burnt while trying it and thus having the experience stored in its brain. Much to the surprise of the common believers, the Qur’an says what their observations and discoveries have led scientists to believe that knowledge needs to be acquired. A child has no pre-knowledge except a thrust of instinctive curiosity and an inherited potential or frame of mind. Needless to say, the scientific equivalent of such trial-and-error method is the variety of observation techniques, measurement methods, reasoning process, choosing from alternatives or decision-making, etc. Here is a verse in which God speaks of how He helps and makes man learn:
Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea because of what the hands of men have earned, so that He may make them taste a part of what they have done, so that they may come back (from the harmful course of action to the right one) (30: 41).
Here God explicitly says that He lets man have the opportunity to know what the outcome of choosing from among alternatives can be. And that He does only by exposing him to the consequences of his choice of particular courses of action. Man cannot know what he is doing until he sees what consequence it produces. He returns to the right course of action when he finds that his wrong choices bring about consequences that tend to destroy him. Thus he learns by acting and making mistakes and then observing and measuring the outcome, the crudest form of which is seen in children as the trial and error process. It is for this reason that God always instructs man to do empirical research to find the truth:
Do not those who disbelieve SEE that the heavens and the earth were closed up (in one mold) and We have separated them (afterwards) (21: 30)?
In the above verse God prescribes SEEING, that is, SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATION. It may be inferred that here God refers to the so-called BIG BANG THEORY. That God prefers real observation to mere theoretical speculation is very clear from the following verse:
And thus did We SHOW Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth so that he might be of those who are SURE (in their belief and knowledge) (6: 75).
If even a messenger of God, like scientists and scholars in different branches of knowledge, needs to OBSERVE reality to be SURE in KNOWLEDGE (of the seen) and belief (about the unseen), then observation must be a compulsory method for acquiring knowledge for all humans. Therefore, knowledge creation, given the definition of knowledge in this paper, refers to the identification of the structure of facts in the logical space. And no identification is possible without observation. Here are the elementary facts about knowledge creation:
The starting point of knowledge creation is consciousness, because it is only consciousness that can tell one that one is ignorant.
So, in the last analysis, knowledge creation refers to building or constructing theories.
According to the Qur’an, wisdom = knowledge + consciousness. So in view of the need of the time, what we need is not knowledge, but wisdom. The present age is the age of living BY WISDOM, not just by knowledge.
Afanasyev, V.G., Marxist Philosophy (translated by David Fidlon), Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1980