Academic journal article Islam & Science

Unseen and Visible

Academic journal article Islam & Science

Unseen and Visible

Article excerpt

The concordance between anthropology, ontology, and epistemology yields a coherent view of the cosmos. In the religious outlook centred around tawhid all that exists in the physical and metaphysical domains finds a natural place in a vertical hierarchy of existence. This provides for multiple states of being along the path of descent and ascent.

Keywords: Hierarchies of existence; physical and metaphysical domains; tawhid as "unitive form"; stages of descent; stages of ascent; forms of being and motion.

Realms of Knowledge

Man is not separate from the world, nor is the world apart from man. Man subsists in the very substance of the world and the world manifests itself in and through man, expounding itself through his speech.

This bond and unity between man and the universe implies that the awareness and knowledge of the two are not separate and distinct from each other. He who in some fashion apprehends the world--synthetically and in harmony with man--comes to know man to the degree of his awareness of the world. From these preliminaries, the bond and concord between anthropology and ontology becomes evident. Since ontology and anthropology are but two fields of knowledge, a bond exists between them and between this connecting principle of knowledge and man's modality of cognition. This means that the ontological and anthropological perspectives of every man arise from the limits and scope of his understanding and knowledge. Likewise, his level of knowledge is proportionate to his awareness of man and the world.

Because every soul arrives at a harmonious understanding of man and the world according to the level of its awareness, and conversely, its apprehension is also in line with its understanding of man and existence, it can be concluded that there is a concordance (tawazun) between epistemology, anthropology and ontology. Thus, the person that is afflicted with doubt and scepticism in the realm of knowledge and awareness becomes a nihilist vis-a-vis his ontological perspective, and a humanist in his dealings with the phenomena of man.

The person given to sensory knowledge and awareness, on the other hand, thinking that the senses and experimentation are the exclusive means of attaining knowledge, finds himself left with a world that is entirely material. In this case, it is only natural that his anthropological perspective should gain validity and recognition only after it, like other material phenomena, is made empirical. The person who depends on the "researches of his mind" and with a rationalistic outlook regards rational processes as the only means of attaining knowledge, attempts--like Descartes--to prove the existence of man himself by way of rational thought, and denies--like Hegel--ontological reality and existence to all that does not measure up to the standards of rational thought.

Those who live in a world of myths are predisposed to speak, in their knowledge of being, of masters of species (arbab al-anwa') and a multitude of gods and goddesses. Their picture of man is likewise mythical. In a mythical understanding, the senses and reason do not play a major role and, in their stead, it is human desires, accompanied by imagination and fantasy, which receive emphasis. In this type of knowing, it is possible to perceive certain forms and visions of the intermediate and imaginal world, though these are only the preliminary stages in the hierarchy of intuitive and spiritual understanding.

Intuitive knowledge (1) and spiritual understanding, when not limited to provisional glimpses of the imaginal world, and after having acquired a supra-rational and intellectual dimension, call for a different type of ontological and anthropological perspective than what has so far been covered. From this perspective, man--in his body, soul and spirit--and the world--in its entirety--become the signs and words of God Almighty.

The highest kind of intuitive knowledge is Divine Revelation. …

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