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Nov 21, 2008, 4:43 AM | Article By: Alhagie Ousman M. Jah (founder adn secretary general of ICFH)

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To determine the relationship between knowledge and faith, we first have to have a clear definition of what these two concepts mean most especially to the Muslim.

In simple terms knowledge means «information about something divine or corporeal»

(Dr Akhtar VolXII No 3.)

Knowledge is also defined by the (Oxford English Dictionary) variously as:

Expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

What is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information or

Awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. Philosophical debates in general start with Plato's formulation of knowledge as «justified true belief». There is however no single agreed definition of knowledge presently, or any prospect of one, and there remain numerous competing theories.

For the Muslim, knowledge is very crucial to his faith, for Islam emphasizes the importance of knowledge by the fact that the Islamic revelation started with the word Iqra' (which means read! Or Recite!). And the several numbers of times the word 'Ilm' has been mentioned in the Holy Quran is a manifest of how knowledge and education is important in one's faith. For the word ilm goes beyond its simple interpretation as «knowledge». It is an all embracing term covering theory, action, and education.

Knowledge comes under question when the Islamic conception and interpretations of the world which are the basis of faith are not acceptable, because it is contrary to rational or scientific principles.

What one must ask is, whether there exist any conception of the world and interpretation of life which is rational and at the same time fit to be the infrastructure or building blocks of a particular faith.

I believe obviously not, certainly not the Charles Darwin «Theory of evolution» or other scientific theory of existence.

The most important angle of this discourse is to see how both knowledge and faith affect man. You see where knowledge gives man light and power, faith gives us love, hope, and warmth. Where knowledge helps us make implements and appliances and accelerates progress, faith helps us to determine the purpose of our efforts and gives direction to them, while knowledge makes the world a man's world; Faith makes life the life of humanity. As knowledge truly trains man's temperament, faith reforms man. Knowledge beautifies reason and thought, while faith beautifies spirit and feelings. Knowledge harmonizes the world with man and faith harmonizes man with himself.

It is clear enough how man needs both knowledge and faith for with the absence of one the result is bound to be catastrophic, as it is always evident in our modern world how education/knowledge alone does not produce a full fledged man, scientific training can produce only a unilateral and healthy man and not a virtuous and multi lateral being. The two i.e. faith and knowledge must supplement one another. For absence of faith in knowledge evidently brings about its lack in human aims and goals. Take a look at Spencer's theory on education for example giving a definition of education as «bringing man in harmony with his environment». Clearly enough knowledge makes us familiar with nature, reveals the laws of nature to us and makes us aware of ourselves. But we must also acknowledge that an «education purely scientific can produce nothing but tools and modern mechanics. It alienates man from beauty and estranges him from wisdom.»

(Pleasures of Philosophy, P.P 168, 169, New York 1953).

(To be continued in the next issue)