Page last edited on 12 March, 2003
An important part of good thinking is to understand the point
at which something requires no further explanation. Most people are aware of the
series of questions that a child may ask as explanations of the world are given
to him or her. The child continually asks "Why?" no matter what answer
is given. Usually the parent runs out of answers at some point and says
something like "It just is!" or "Because I say so!". These
are not good answers. They are, in the first case, unreasonable and in the
second case a bold-faced lie. It is much more accurate and reasonable to say
"I don't know" once you reach the point at which you have no more
We should always expect that answers exist to the question
'Why?' (or 'How?') - it is an essential part of our reasoning nature. If at any
stage in the explanation I answered by saying 'It just is.' I would rightly be
accused of being unreasonable. No one could reason with me because I would be
stating that there is no reason for the explanation I have just given. To take
such a position is to assert that your explanation is the truth. This, besides
being unreasonable, is very arrogant. It doesn't recognise the limitations of
human knowledge as mentioned in the section on the basis of knowledge. In Islam
the first characteristic of the faithful (muttaqin) is belief in the unseen (al-ghaib).
This stresses that the first characteristic of a Muslim is acknowledgement that
his knowledge is in principle limited and that part of reality is always unknown
because it is unseen.
Asking 'why?' can be split into 2 meanings. The first is to
mean 'How?'. This question digs ever deeper into understanding the causes and
descriptions of reality. The second meaning is 'So What?!' and boils down to
asking what is the value of something. I have partially dealt with this element
earlier. The ultimate answer to the 'So What?!' type of question is the purpose
of all existence. It is why we exist.
In searching for ever better explanations of how existence
behaves we always expect a deeper level of description. Whatever answer I give
to describe some aspect of reality, it is always rational to ask why in the
sense of how. For example, Why is this piece of paper white? - Because the
molecules in it scatter the light. Why? Because the chemicals in the paper
reflect all wavelengths of light so that on average all wavelengths combine to
make the reflected light white. Why do the molecules reflect light?.... and on
and on and on. There are still many, many unanswered questions in science.
The point at which our reasoning comes to a stop is where our
knowledge ends. Asking for explanations beyond that must yield the answer
"I don't know". However, you may still theorise and ask 'what if ...'
type questions. The point at which this questioning could end would be the point
at which the concepts are beyond human understanding; when the explanation lies
outside of human experience and therefore is in essence inexpressible in human
language. This is the thing of which we cannot rationally ask 'how?'; it is that
which, by its nature, we have to say we can't know.
This point in our explanations is the ultimate explanation of
reality. It is the ultimate metaphysical reality.
You may have other names for it but it is the same thing - the
truth - the beginning and end of everything - God - Jehovah- Allah.
Continue to ...
[ 01- The Basis of Knowledge ] [ 02 - The Sin of Disbelief ] [ 03 - The Amazing Quran ] [ 04 - The Teachings of Islam ] [ Table of Contents ]