‘Go in any direction you want, and return from any place; the axis of kndowledge, certainty, and belif is Wisdon.’

(Translation of “Insaan Kay Khyalaat”, written by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan)

Among various miracles of the Divine Power, the ideas of man are exceptionally incredible. We observe that creatures of the same type possess the same ideas. Actions and the responses of animals they have because of being animals and the entity which is the cause of those actions and reactions, directly or indirectly, name it anything, but that is the same thing which the humans know as the Idea.
All functions and movements of animals are undoubtedly intentional, and there is no doubt that the dynamics are above intention. The cause of all their actions is, directly or indirectly, material profit, for example, food, shelter, etcetera. It can also be a non-material reason, e.g., pleasure, happiness, good luck, or the Idea of repelling material or nonmaterial harm. We fail to find a man who has anything more than this. Undoubtedly, we find animals have limited ideas, and humans have unlimited.
However, the fact surprises us that if creations of the same kind have the same ideas and all of them believe in those ideas with the same quantum of trust, then all the humans, although they belong to the same kind of living being, why don’t they possess the same ideas and the same beliefs?
At times we understand that, because of the scarcity of animals, their ideas are similar, and because human ideas are unlimited, therefore, they do not possess that quality. However, this is unacceptable because being different is unnecessary to be endless. So, as far as we get familiar with human ideas, we know the wonders of divine powers more clearly.
I had an idea, “Have I to do as much as is required from other animals or more?”
However, I had another idea that except humans, for all living creatures, the things they need, their creator has created everything along with them. They do not need to produce those things; they get their food without struggle and labor. Animals of colder regions have beautiful warm clothing on their bodies. For protection from rains, birds have raincoats sewed on their bodies. Animals of the hotter areas have clothing according to their environs tailored to their bodies. However, for man, nothing has been done; we come to understand that he has to do all this himself.
Then I had another idea: animals do not become dependent upon others to learn trade and skill; they are born learned and knowledgeable. Nobody teaches honeybee the identity of the best sources to suck the juice and to construct their homes so beautifully that it surprises an engineer. Nobody teaches a honeybee to build such a beautiful and secure home, but a man can do nothing without learning.
Then I had one more idea: animals’ limbs or other faculties perform actions on their own, but these actions are very limited. Man’s range of actions, on the other hand, is unlimited. These ideas led me to think that a man has to do more than other animals.
Then I had another idea: such a great creator who has made man more helpless than other animals, and has put him to a variety of difficulties, what has he provided to man so that he can do all things and conquer all the problems? Meanwhile, my heart exclaimed that it was Wisdom.
Upon hearing this, I began thinking, “Is it the truth?” Nevertheless, I rethought. Wisdom cannot do this. Wisdom cannot do it; neither can it do itself, nor can this problem be solved without its aid. It is a tool to achieve another thing. Just like gold and silver do not satisfy our hunger, they provide something that meets our needs.
After a great search and struggle, I thought: what is that to obtain for which even Wisdom is just a tool? I had another idea: that it is knowledge, which means to know. Then I thought that I had to do more than the animals to discover the truth about everything.
I thought that knowledge and trust were concomitant. The thing about which I will know undoubtedly, I will trust in that and vice versa. Therefore, I felt that belief without knowledge and knowledge without trust is not true and perfect.
I thought it was proper. I thought that, for example, I know 3 and 10; therefore, I have the certainty that ten is greater than 3. If anyone says vice versa, and for the proof of the statement may say, “I will make a snake out of this piece of wood and do as I claim.” I am puzzled, there would be nothing strange, but it shall not weaken my certainty that ten is greater than 3.
I thought that for the religion of Muslims, it is the issue of faith that confession by tongue and affirmation by heart is undoubtedly the genuine issue. Its first part is related to worldly things, but the real meaning is in its second part. Although affirmation by nature and certainty is the same thing, the words affirmation by heart are more wonderful and carve the definition on the heart…. therefore, I had the Idea that belief without certainty and certainty without knowledge is unattainable.
I also thought knowledge or certainty, without which belief cannot be obtained, ought to be the same as the certainty that ten is more than three, so that it will not vanish anyhow. If it gets disappeared, then it would imply that it had not been knowledge or certainty in reality but a mere farce.
All these ideas frightened me, and I started looking around for knowledge or certainty; in other words, what is the modus operandi to attain belief?
I noticed thousands, lakhs, and crores of people have certainty about a host of things, and they do not have any difficulty. Why do I face such challenges? It is better to ask such people, how do you believe such things? The Jew said, “I am certain that God is one because Moses told it.”
The Christian said, “Gods are three, and I am certain about it because Yohana told it.”
Such disagreements frightened me; further, I thought if there is a disagreement between the knowledge and certainty of an issue, then it is not a certainty. Then why did they have other assurance? When I pondered it, I understood that they neither have confidence in one God nor three Gods but have certainty that Moses and Yohana said so.
The Jew said that Moses talked to God, converted a piece of wood into a snake, then what is the doubt in his teaching?
The Christian said, “Christ resurrected the dead, death could not kill him, from his grave rose to the sky, then what is the doubt in he being God?”
At first, I was caught in doubt that the arguments were convincing, but then I thought they had certainty about the fact Moses talked to God and converted the piece of wood into a snake and the fact Christ resurrected the dead and took rebirth, not whether God is one or three.
After all these discussions, I knew that to attain knowledge or confidence or belief, Wisdom is the only source that is the tool and the best guide to get all these things.
Then I thought, how can I rely upon Wisdom being infallible? I accepted that we could not be sure about it in reality. Nevertheless, when we continuously use Wisdom, one person’s mistake can be corrected with another person’s Wisdom, and the error of one epoch can be rectified with the Wisdom of another era. However, when knowledge, certainty, and belief are not founded on Wisdom, it is impossible to attain them in any epoch of time.
I doubted if Wisdom is the most outstanding guide; why did I think so? It is not possible that something more significant than Wisdom can defeat that. That is not the argument for its nonexistence if we do not know.
However, I thought the possibility of existence was unnecessary to us. We need to have its knowledge coupled with certainty; there is no guide except Wisdom if it is not so.
I thought of the dream; I felt in my heart, we dream during sleep, and in that situation, we believe it to be accurate, and we do not doubt its truth. Nevertheless, when we wake up we come to know it was not real but only an imagination. Then how come we believe, whatever we know and understand during the woken-up situation, is real? All this may be true according to a particular situation. However, a second situation is also possible, which has the same relation that a woken-up situation has with a dream situation. Then we shall come to know that our woken-up situation is nothing but the situation of a dream.
Nevertheless, then I thought the possibility of such a situation was not enough for our certainty. We ought to be sure there is an actual situation, and there is much difference between possibility and certainty. Then there remained no source except Wisdom.
Then I thought there could be a method beyond Wisdom that can change the complexion and quality of the soul; that change can be the tool for acquiring knowledge, certainty, or belief. There is precisely the exact difference between these two situations: a healthy man and a man who is just aware of being healthy.
Then I thought it is impossible to be aware of healthiness without being healthy; between the changed complexion, quality of the soul, and its earlier situation, which one is the situation of indisposition? What is that entity? That changed complexion and soul quality cannot spur; inevitably, it is the second entity; that second entity is nothing but Wisdom. Therefore, go in any direction you want, and return from any place; the axis of knowledge, certainty, and belief is Wisdom.
All these ideas advised me that this belief among the ordinary people that religion has nothing to do with Wisdom is incorrect. Furthermore, when I found Islam ideally following Wisdom, my belief in its truth and incorrectness of that belief was perfected.
(from Anwar Sidiqi, Intiqab-i-Mazameen Sir Syed, pp63-69)

The translator is a Sr Lecturer in Economics  [email protected]


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