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REVELATION. At the basis of Islam is the idea that God periodically reveals his will, providing precise information to guide human affairs and to lead to a happy afterlife. The term wahy, from the Arabic verb waha, “to put in the mind,” is sometimes understood as “inspiration”; the Qur’an uses this term not only for divine inspiration to humans but also for spiritual communication between other created beings.

Revelation, however, refers specifically to the wahy that is divine inspiration given to select humans, known as prophets, for the purpose of guidance. Beginning with the first human and prophet, Adam, this process of revelation has continued throughout human history until the message of the revelation was finally preserved intact in the form of the Qur’an.

Muslims accept not only the Qur’an but also the Torah, the Psalms of Dawud (David), the Gospels of Jesus, and other works as links in the chain of divine revelation. They believe that each contains the same basic message; however, the cultural, historical, and linguistic terms of particular revelations correspond to the time and place in which each was revealed. It is the ultimate principles within the revelation that transcend time and place to provide a message of universal significance to humankind.

Understanding revelation requires careful consideration of both the particulars of context and the universals of the message for humankind. Since revelation is given to guide human affairs, then intellectual understanding and practical implementation through a reliable example are also necessary. Thus the prophets were both messengers and models.

Recent Muslim thinkers have expressed the need to free interpretation of the Qur’anic revelation from narrow literalism and the verse-by-verse, atomistic methods of earlier exegetes. This has led to a new hermeneutics that addresses the universal relevancy of the revelation in a world of rapid and radical change. Such hermeneutics agree with the traditional opinion that revelation is a special body of knowledge linking the divine creator to humans who possess free will and an independent capacity for reasoning.

Throughout Muslim history debates have raged over the relative value of knowledge received from divine revelation and knowledge arrived at through independent reasoning. According to some philosophers, human reason can be sufficient to guide affairs and therefore equal to revelation on occasion. If the Qur’an is revelation of God’s will, however, it must be unchallengeable and without equal. Orthodox Islam-although by no means denying the reasonableness of revelation-opposes the idea that all things can be known by human reason alone. Humanity requires revelation for clear information about such areas as the unseen-the hidden mysteries of existence that inform us of the relationship between the absolute and the manifest.

No amount of literal and philological analysis can reveal information about the inner dimension of divinehuman exchange. Since such information-which cannot be known through empirical means or through logical, sense-based reasoning-is nevertheless considered vital to correct guidance, humanity cannot come to know the ultimate truths except through divine revelation. Thus revelation is considered a unique and necessary area of knowledge.

[See also Prophethood; Theology.]


Arberry, A. J. Reason and Revelation. London, 1967. As the title suggests, a thorough discussion of the subject.

Izutsu, Toshihiko. A Comparative Study of the Key Philosophical Concepts of Sufism and Taoism: Ibn `Arabi and Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, Part One. Tokyo, 1966. Revised as Sufism and Taoism. Berkeley, 1984. Thorough linguistic analysis of Ibn al-`Arabl’s philosophical outlook. With regard to revelation, it includes a discussion of the dilemma of communication between the transcendant and the materially manifest world.

Qadir, C. A. Philosophy and Science in the Islamic World. London, 1988. Critical and historical overview of philosophy and science as sources of knowledge in Islam.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/revelation/

  • writerPosted On: July 16, 2017
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