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Ibn-e-Sina on Prophetic Knowledge:Rationalization of Religious Propositions

Ibn-e-Sina, or Avicenna, the greatest of Islamic philosophers, has said certain very important things about the nature of prophetic knowledge.
According to Avicenna those who think that prophetic knowledge or the knowledge acquired through revelation is not logical and does not follow the Aristotelian definition of scientific knowledge are wrong.
According to Aristotle, one is said to be in possession of scientific knowledge or know something in a scientific manner, when one is able to establish that something exists and can also demonstrate the cause behind the existence of that thing.
So, if someone claims that he has the knowledge of this universe, then that person should know this fact as a necessity along with the causes behind the existence of this universe.
This knowledge can only be grasped through grasping a syllogism that necessarily and essentially establishes this fact. A syllogism is a form of argument, in which there are two premises on the basis of which a conclusion is drawn.
Example of a syllogism:
1.    All Men are Mortal
2.    Socrates is a Man
3.    Therefore: Socrates is Mortal
In above syllogism there are two premises 1& 2. These premises are known to the person who demonstrates the argument and to any other person who wants to know.
According to Aristotle, knowledge is the knowledge of such syllogisms. All proper knowledge is expressible in the form of syllogisms, formed by two premises, already established and known, and a conclusion drawn through the premises.
In above example, No.3 is the conclusion.
According to Avicenna(ibn-e-Sina), prophetic knowledge is also syllogistic, even poetic knowledge is syllogistic.
Thus, when a poet says ‘morning of life’, in this metaphor there is a syllogism:
1.    Life has a beginning and an end
2.    Day also has a beginning(Morning) and an end(Evening)
3.    Therefore , it can be said that metaphorically that , life has its morning(beginning) and its Evening(End)
In prophetic knowledge, a prophet, though he has a higher level of knowledge, expresses only conclusions and not the premises. However, this does not mean that these conclusions are not based on premises. Every proposition of prophetic knowledge, according to Avicenna, can be explained and demonstrated logically as a syllogism.
A prophet’s intellect is such that it directly reaches the conclusions and does not need premises.
However, the task of believers is that they should strive to find out the premises on which the conclusion, the prophetic knowledge is based.
That is why reason and rationality, and philosophy is required. To rationalize the religious, and to make a belief known in terms of its ground, is the task of Islamic thought.
So, if prophet says that, Muslims should fast in the month of Ramadan, this conclusive knowledge is not devoid of reason. There are reasons, necessary and essential behind this proposition. It also follows a syllogistic argumentation. So the task of a believer is to find out the necessary and essential reasons, in the form of proposition or premises, on which the conclusive proposition, “Muslim should fast in the month of Ramadan “, is based.


Khalid Jamil Rawat


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