The Self & the Universe
Before beginning the foundational topics of caqīdah, we must introduce some basic truths upon whose understanding, comprehension, and acceptance rest many tenets in reality. One of these preliminary issues is unveiling in a clear and logical manner the scope of the power possessed (امكانات الملكات) by mankind’s mental faculties, and the limits for those faculties when it comes to acquiring (الصلة) the secrets of the cosmos and uncovering what is in it.
The Ability of Human Perception:
Within the human being there is a powerful perceptive ability, however its grasp does not emanate from within, it only comes from the outside world. This perceptive ability in the human being possesses windows [or access points] through which it sees the outer world: these are the five senses (i.e. sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch). In a similar manner it possesses other contact points through which it sees the the realm of the self, and which imitate (تتمثل) the sensory organs’ stimulation (e.g. pleasure, anger, love, dislike, the sense of pain, the sense of balance, and the desire to satisfy a bodily need or craving, etc.).
To the same degree that these senses are able to pass on the true state of affairs to the perceptive ability, one is able to imagine and comprehend, break things down into their components and construct something out of several components, deduce general principles, and compare similar and equivalent things to each other; but it is not able to do anything else, nor anything more than that.
So blind people, for example, who are born without sight will not be able to conceive in their imagination any type of color no matter how much intelligence they were given, [and] no matter how much we try to clarify the concept by means of similes and examples, due to the fact that the reality of color, no matter which one it was, has never come to their faculty of perception by means of sight.
Thus, if you tell them: white, red, green, blue, etc. they will never be able to imagine a picture for these colors as long as the window of their sight does not reveal that which is present and they see multihued things presented before them. Only then, would they understand it, and imagine things similar and equivalent to it.
Similar are those who are born deaf: they will be unable to imagine any sounds, no matter how much intelligence they are granted, until the gateway of their hearing does not reveal that which is present and they listen to sounds.
Likewise is the case of a small child before puberty. No matter how gifted they may be, they will not be able to conceptualize the innate drive to have sexual relations, at all. They will remain in the midst of false conjectures until this natural impulse in its concentrated form gains ascendancy in them. Every human, man or woman, must pass through this very stage, so they accept this without dispute. Similarly, they are unable to grasp the reality of the rest of the amorous feelings and emotions as long as they have not experienced them.
We are all unable to imagine the flavor of something that we have never tasted, until we are given that thing and we actually taste it, and so on with the remaining senses in a human.
We may gather from what has preceded that the self only understands the things spread throughout this vast cosmos by means of those gateways through which it surveys the world; and that if it weren’t for these access points nothing of the outer existence would be grasped, and the human would remain completely ignorant. The Qur’ān alludes to this incontestable reality in His, Exalted is He, statement, “Deaf, dumb, blind, so they do not understand,” and His statement, “Indeed, the worst of animals in the sight of Allāh are the deaf and the dumb who do not understand.”