Sensual Faculty

Chapter No.: 

Man learns through the sense of touch about the temperature of a thing and its consistency. His sense of smell helps him to distinguish between noxious and pleasant smell. The sense of taste informs him whether the eatable is sweet, sour, bitter, pungent or delicious, which enables him to relish it well and also helps him to avoid harmful food. Much of the knowledge comes through his hearing and optical senses. He observes the universe and its strange phenomenon with his eyes. Books and electronic visual aids go a long way in adding to his knowledge. Another important sense is auditory. Man goes on hearing different things right from his birth and stores that knowledge in his memory centre of the brain.

This sensual experience plays a tremendous role in man’s acquisition of knowledge. There are three schools of thought regarding acquisition and efficiency of knowledge for realization of the ultimate truth. One section of people believes that sensual experience is useless. They withdraw from the world and its beauties and preach self-abnegation and ascetic life. This was the dominant feature of Christianity in the middle ages. Another section believes in only sensual experience and the faculty of intellect. They think that the knowledge gained through five senses and crystallised by the intellect can lead to the realisation of the Ultimate Truth. They include the Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and their followers along with some of the modern scientists. This group and their ideology will be discussed later on in some detail, Insha-Allah.

The third group believes in the Qur’an. The Qur’an teaches that an empirical attitude is very essential for the spiritual life. The Qur’an always encourages man to use more and more of his sensual experience in understanding the Truth. It does not teach self-abnegation and withdrawal from the world.

The Qur’an says:

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ

“Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of Night and Day, there are signs for men of understanding. “ (3:190)

أَفَلَا يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَى الْإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ () وَإِلَى السَّمَاءِ كَيْفَ رُفِعَتْ () وَإِلَى الْجِبَالِ كَيْفَ نُصِبَتْ () وَإِلَى الْأَرْضِ كَيْفَ سُطِحَتْ()

“Do they not look at the camels, how they are made? And at the sky, how it is raised high? And at the mountains, how they are fixed firm? And at the earth? How it is spread out? (88:17-29)

These and the other Qur’anic exhortations about acquiring sensual knowledge have culminated in the birth of modern science.

This is the primary and important factor behind the Renaissance in Europe. Church opposed learning during the middle ages. In Europe It often opposed acquisition of knowledge, and science was branded as black magic and consequently its study was prohibited in the Christendom in Europe. Church preached Ptolemaic system which was opposed by Copernicus, who put forward Copernican system and it falsified the Biblical view of the Cosmology. The Church authorities felt insulted and prosecuted the scientists like Copernicus, Galileo and others. In contrast, the Muslims had far advanced knowledge in many fields under the Qur’an inspirations, which repeatedly exhorts man to study the universe, its physical, biological and celestial components and their changes. Europe was quite ignorant about these tremendous advances that were being made in the Islamic world till the Muslims conquered Spain. When this Islamic Scientific approach reached Europe through Spain, they began to imbibe it, culminating in the scientific revolution, which the world is witnessing these days.

But this sensual method of acquiring knowledge too has its own limitations, which will be discussed later on, Insha Allah.