Be Like Adam's Son: Dreading Knowledge

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Michele Foucault asserted in The System of Discourse that the modern human still dreads knowledge, that he/she has "a very deep scare of the 'logos'" in his words. This fear of knowledge will not go away as long as we are engaged in this game of the master and the slave; we are very deeply wary of accepting the equality of men. Accepting dealing on a footing of equality will do away with the oppressor, and it will also do away with the oppressed, but we are still trapped in this vicious circle. But can we just decide to walk out of the circle? There was a time in our history when we stopped this game of the oppressor and the oppressed, but alas not for long! But can we now achieve this breaking of the sinister link?

It is both an easy step and a most arduous one. We may understand history as an overarching power that would not give us respite. But the change is really within reach, for God did not create a human to be another passive creation. If a human fails to learn from the toll already paid, then he/she will have to learn from more, and perhaps much higher, toll. The problem is that so far one does not give up being oppressed but to be an oppressor. Men fail to perceive a third alternative: men as equals. It is something like magic that blinds men's eyes to the facts, and I do realize that the prophets had to pay so dearly for attempting to lift the scales from men's eyes, and they were charged with being mad. So anyone of us who tries now to undo the magic can be easily charged with madness. But the attempt is worth the risk. Is not pulling humankind out of their quagmire of idolatry worth much? Indeed, at this time humankind is just pushed towards this new era of liberation. And yet it is no easy feat to make men see possible what they see as impossible!

The thing that Adam's son achieved is remarkable. He succeeded in getting out of the game of the oppressor and the oppressed, the killer and the killed, the dominant and the dominated. It is as you see the same game, whether one is the first party or the second party. Whether one manages to be the first party or succumbs to be the second, he is perpetuating the situation, and giving it legitimacy. And he is doing it even when he climbs to be the higher party, or falls to be the lower one. And there will be no democracy finding its way to a land where this game of the dominant and dominated does not come to an end.

Have I delivered my message to even a handful of persons? Or do they still take me to be crazy? Honestly I do not see that the message has really settled in the minds of even a handful of persons. But I do not lose hope. For even stones will be affected by the drops of water. The Qur'an tells us about that, "For among rocks there are some from which rivers gush forth; others there are which when split asunder send forth water." (2:74). Nor is this situation too far off. I do remember when I wrote my first book, The Way of Adam's son, (in the mid-sixties of last century) some of my best friends took me to task for it. "You discourage the dedicated Muslims from offering what they can," they said (meaning that without tyrants' fear of some violence, they will not correct their ways.) But I remember how, twenty years after that, one of those critics came to say, "You know, I did speak against that book, but now I see that it is the only way!"

We need to have faith, faith enough to carry us through this long process of transferring people from misguidance to guidance; we need, too, to express things clearly enough, as the Qur'an says, "Truth stands out clear from error." (2:256) I do realize how challenging this quest is: this verse, which Muslims take the first part of, "Let there be no compulsion in religion" to be abrogated, I undertake the task of making it abrogating not abrogated.

What really this endeavor implies is a new perspective on faith: that to be a real believer, you must accept to stand on equal footing with the other. Let what you believe in and what the other believes in be measured by the same test, the test of the benefits and the harm of convictions, as the Qur'an says, "the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of humankind remains on earth," (13:17) and "Not your desires, nor those of the People of the Book can prevail: whoever works evil, will be requited accordingly." (4:123) It is history that is to give the verdict on our acts. The truth of our verbally declaring, 'There is no god but God' will be seen in our own life. It will help us that the belief in one God is something inborn in humans.

It is one aspect of belief in the one God that He is the One Creator. This aspect seems now to be unanimously agreed upon: no one would now claim that he has a hand in the act of creation. Idolatry in this connection is seen when some people claim that they are the intercessors between men and God; and when some people find some good dead men to be their intercessors with God.

There is another aspect of the Oneness of God about which people often err: that the final word belongs to God and to no one else. Pharaoh would not let people choose for themselves – they were forced to take him as the one who must be obeyed. This type of idolatry survives.

I say this to draw the reader's attention to the connection between two verses of the Qur'an: the Qur'an's greatest verse, as is generally acknowledged, is verse 2:255 "Allah! There is no god but He – the Living, …" and the verse immediately next to it, "Let there be no compulsion in religion; Truth stands out clear from error," for faith in the One God, with the submission to the One God, is not accepted unless one accepts it with conviction. One will not have embraced religion without doing it whole-heartedly.

Another thing is that one may have faith, but faith in a wrong belief. It seems that most people are not aware of this fact, that those who believe can be believers in something right or wrong. Nor is the readiness to sacrifice life or wealth a proof of the rightness of one's faith!

Therefore we say that the only criterion of the rightness of what one believes is experience and history, the law of "the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of humankind remains on earth." (13:17) Add to this that what is right and good at one time does not have to be right and good at another time. Hence, time becomes a factor in deeming something to be right or wrong, beneficial or harmful, good or bad.

Now we can better appreciate that God's signs come in the form of verses of His scriptures, and come in the form of the facts of history and the signs of the universe around us. And the Qur'an accepts the signs of the world, the visible signs, to be the witness that it is the true book. Despite this fact, Muslims have not given history its real value. They will not look with any seriousness at the facts of the Soviet Union, or the European Union – as if things do not happen in accordance with laws, and as if the laws that apply to others have nothing to do with us.