Truth, False & Probability

The usage of testing True or False are connected intimately to the Theory of Probability. This is scientific way to look at the subject of Truth, False, and Ignorance as I have explained before.

Any statements, to be known whether it is True is tested through Probability statements. And hence, an experimenter, after getting the data, will perform statistical tests, and conclude with say 99% confidence that the statement is True (i.e. The Null Hypothesis is True against the Alternative Hypothesis).

Hidden in all of these exercise, is one major assumption: that the process of the data (that are observed or collected) are KNOWN, and to be following some form of probability functions that converges, stationary, as well testing methods exhibits minimum errors as possible. What we could say here is that: the experimenter is NOT IGNORANT about all these subject matters (or at least assumed to have full knowledge about it).

The second problem, which can never be solved is the hidden Null Hypothesis, that is ALL the assumptions regarding the probability functions and data are TRUE. Therefore, any statistical test is always a joint test of the actual Null Hypothesis in question and the Hypothesis about Probability.

The problem is, the joint Null Hypothesis is never directly tested. In fact there is always the possibility of the joint hypothesis is done with ignorance. In fact, we don’t know whether the data follows such process (i.e. the probability functions) or not. Most of the time we have very limited knowledge as well as information to determine with certainty that such process even exists or present.

For that reason, many researchers, I observed are so quick to go right into statistical testing, and jump into conclusions based on whatever test they have designed; without truly having thought and investigated the process in question. This happened a lot in finance and economics, as well as many social science research.

Truly, the domain of probability is in the domain of ignorance (i.e. little that we know). What I meant here is not the Mathematical Statistics, which is called as the “Calculus of Probability”; but the existence of the Probability itself, or sometime it is called the “Epistemic Probability”. It is quite a big mistake for us to jump into the Calculus of Probability itself, without even knowing the essence of the probability itself – which could leads to massive errors.

For example, we always used past data (or historical data) as the benchmark, to conclude that such data are stationary and exhibits some statistical properties (such as normal distribution). While such is commendable (i.e. it has been proven well to work in many cases), it is mired with so many hidden problems. So many things are obscured from the researcher such that all these hidden errors crop into the testing process. Most often than not, the statement that “I found a statement to be 99% confidence to be True” is so vacuous that it means nothing. And worst still, if it use to predict future events, that “I have 99% confidence that the same thing is True” for the next observation as well.

The deep discussion on this subject relates to the subject of Ignorance that I allude to earlier.

 

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Truth, False, and Ignorance

This is a continuation of the previous subject on “Degrees of Truth & Ignorance”.

The opposite of Truth is always thought to be False. This is not exactly correct. As described before, the exact opposite of Absolute Truth is Absolute Ignorance. In between are various degrees of Truth. Similarly, the exact opposite of Absolute False is also Absolute Ignorance (rather than Absolute Truth). This is a very important concept to understand, because the general perception that Truth must be absolute, and the opposite of such Truth is False is a major mistake that we commit ourself most often.

Let us explain this in more details.

First: we must admit that any fact that Absolutely True, implies the opposite fact must be Absolutely False. Which means, any statement that is Absolutely True, explains Absolute False as well. For example the statement that “all swans are white” is False, which means the statement that “not all swans are white” is True. And the reverse is also the same. So any True or False statement has the exact opposite. Hence, any Absolute Truth will have an equivalent Absolute False.

Second: Not all matters can be investigated by looking for Absolute Truth, but instead it can only be investigated by looking at Absolute False. For example the statement “all swans are white” and “some swans are black”. The first statement can only be falsified – hence by searching for a single swan that is NOT white, we have proven that it is False. Whereas, the second statement, can only be proven to be True by observing a single black swan.

Third: In between our search for Absolute Truth or Absolute False, is where Ignorance play its role. If we have Absolute Ignorance, we can’t say that something is Absolute Truth neither we can admit it as Absolute False. The presence of this “intermediate phase” called Ignorance is what obscures us from concluding into anything, except that we have to admit that we don’t know.

It can be shown in a diagram below:

Truth False IgnoranceThis is important to be understood so that we don’t equate non-presence of Absolute Truth as the presence of Absolute False necessarily.

This is best explained by the issue of religion: e.g. Islam is the True religion, and other religion are False. This is definitely a controversial and sensitive matters to many readers; since for example a Muslim, will say with absolute affirmation that is True; and say another person, who is a Christian, will say that it is absolutely false. And we can go on and add more and more people into the debate. Everyone, will say that their position is True, and others are False. So where do we “actually stand”.

If we understand what I am trying to explain here, then we can find the answer: None is absolute, but almost everyone is stuck in the realm of Ignorance. In fact, I would claim that most are very near to the “Absolute Ignorance”, rather than on Absolute Truth or False domain.

That’s why the debates about religion is best left to the Scholars and educated people, rather than to the Ignorants.

 

 

 

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Degrees of Truth & Ignorance

Truth is between 100% Truth, or 100% certainty; which is the absolute Truth, and anywhere below 100% to 0%, which would be some “degrees of Truth”; where at 0% is absolute Ignorance. Anywhere in between, x% Truth and (1-x)% Ignorance. So what we have is the two extremes, absolute Truth (100% Truth and 0% Ignorance), and absolute Ignorance (0% Truth, and 100% Ignorance), and the rest would be the trade-off between Truth and Ignorance.

So any Truth that we hold, unless it is absolute Truth, would only be a mix of Truth and Ignorance. Very rarely we could hold absolute Truth,since that is the domain that would generally be true to ourself (e.g. we know with absolute knowledge that we are lying), but not of the others. This is the problem that we face all the time in our life.

For example, Muslims would say that Islam is the true religion, and hence hold the Truth. Does he profess that because he is has the full knowledge and authority to do so? Does he has the full knowledge and free from any Ignorance (i.e. 0% Ignorance), so that he can make such claims? The problem that I would like to point out is “Ignorance”. There are off course some degrees of Truth in his claim, but also at the same time, the claim was made with lots of Ignorance. Ignorance is what bothers me, and should bothers all of us, for sincere Truth seekers.

Even on matters which are simple fact of life, we have lots of Ignorance; and therefore, the Truth is veiled from us, due to such Ignorance. What more if we talk on matters or religion, faith, and immortality of the Soul. For we are really Ignorant of the many facets when comes to these matters.

My worry is, as we discussed about religion, each group or parties, claimed and upheld that they are the one holding the true path or the Truth. But all of these claims are with loads of Ignorance plaguing them, deep from within. Few, I would say,understand Islam (or any other religion for that matter), with least Ignorance in them. And few are humble enough to admit that they are by and large are Ignorant about many things in relation to religion, and in particular Islam.

For example, the issue of Hudud laws, are full of remarks that are Ignorant; in particular from those proponents of Hudud (which the burden of explaining is on them). Very few of the Ustaz and Tok Guru (if any) are really proficient with the subject matter. For example, I would ask them, if they could tell how was Hudud being implemented, say during the Ottoman empire, or during the Mamluks of Egypt? I would dare to say that few, if not none, who could give clear answers. If we study the history of the Islamic history, one will stop and wonder, with all the killings between the various ruling elites (for example, the Ottoman’s practice of of fratricide), were tolerated. And how Hudud laws would treat such things or cure such things?

I have never doubted that Hudud is the Law of Islam, and enjoined by the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (saw). But I doubted the forms, versions, methods, understanding of Hudud among those who profess to implement it within the society as laws. The problem that I have is with the claims of upholding the Truth (i.e. Hudud as the ultimate laws), versus the levels of Ignorance.

As indicated above, Truth has many degrees, as well as, on the diametrical side of it, is degrees of Ignorance. My worry, is if the Ignorance far outweigh the Truth, then we are really pushing for troubles, because Ignorance leads to many other problems that might not even know or understand.

This example is so blatant in the case of ISIS. There is little Islam (or Truth) in their claims and actions – but full of Ignorance. So far, we have seen how devastating the results are. Off course Hudud is not ISIS, but the parallel are rather worrisome.

In fact, we are suffering from too much Ignorance and too little Truth. We have to work hard to uplift our Ignorance and get nearer to the Truth first, before we could claim any demands of upholding Truth. This is true in life, and more so in religion.

 

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UNDERSUNDERSTANDING TRUTH AND POLITICS

We all want to know the truth in anything, it help us to be content and satisfied; even though the truth might not be something that we like or lean to our favor. But in reality, Truth is always hard to come by. Even Truth as we see it, is never the Truth, except only as what we see it through our own opinion. Based on that, the Truth as we hold on to, could never be more than a version of it, which is in our mind. Whether that is the same version as the rest of the people or not, it would never be fully known; and even if, let say 90% of the people hold almost a similar version, we can’t tell for sure whether the real Truth lies with this 90% or with the balance 10% of the people, or none at all. This is the dilemma of dealing with Truth which we all faced on almost all the time in our life.

Let us now take an example: the RM2.6 billion donation to Dato’ Seri Najib (DSN) – which has two contrasting version: A) that it was a donation from some rich Arabs from Saudi Arabia – version upheld by DSN; and B) that it was stolen from 1MDB – version upheld by Tun Dr. Mahathir (TDM). Which one is true? Both could be the Truth, and we could never tell one is more “True” than the other – that is the dilemma that we face. Let me go about and explain what I meant.

The statement that “it was a donation from some rich Arabs” could be technically true, since it can be proven with the traces of money transfers and other documentary evidences. But the question doesn’t stop there – we can go on make some conjectures: how does the Arab gain the money? From their own accounts or from some other business dealings? Are those dealings, if any, relates to 1MDB? If so, is it a “proper” dealing or “improper” (i.e. according to business ethics and norms)?  And so on, which can be almost a never ending regress. Based on this never ending regress, TDM came up with the statement that “it was stolen from 1MDB”. Which is the same statement as the conjectures. And the fact remains: conjectures will remain as conjectures. The problem is, nobody talk about the conjectures (and probably none are interested in it because it would too complex and to go deep on each conjectures would almost be unfeasible), but everyone makes their mind up on which “Truth” to hold, based on their own opinion (and imagination). The opinion is based not on the fact of the matter, but on the person making the statement – would I believe DSN or TDM? So it is finally judged based on the test of character of the person making the statement in question. The public at large would then, be “trapped” into such dilemma, and make their version of Truth in their minds. Such Truth are not the Truth, but each individuals’ opinion and nothing more than that.

In this battle for the “Truth”, DSN won hands down, because he could force the “official version of the Truth”. However, we could say that he have won the first round, since it is clear that he remains in position after all the saga has been watered down. But, that could be really a false victory, if the objective of TDM was NOT to unseat DSN through whatever means that was told, but instead, to imprint in peoples mind his version of the Truth. If TDM succeed on that, then the real test would be the next General Election (GE14). As Yogi Berra says, “it’s aint over until the fat lady sings” – it’s not over until it is really over. But everything as I have explained above – has nothing to do with the Real Truth. It is of least importance to DSN or TDM, and for that matter all the politicians and pundits alike. The public are just victims, as they always were and are; save for few who would think through very carefully, and they are absolute minority.

On the same point, another example would be the “conviction of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim (DSAI)” on Sodomy II. The highest court upheld the conviction based on the evidence of the trial of the High Court judge on the matter. The question in mind is did DSAI commit such acts (as alleged) or not? If that is the Truth that we are interested – then, this would be the right statement to ask. The problem, is, we can never get to the bottom if it. And that’s why I found it to be a problem to go into the public (and the open) with such accusation, in the same manner the statement that “it was stolen from 1MDB” is. It is all based on series of conjectures, which are unfeasible to be determined with full certainty. And nobody really wants to go through these conjectures as they are almost of never ending regress. Some will say that the court already makes the decision – but it could be questioned, that such decisions are based on what? Evidences could be provided (and fabricated), and suppressed. And finally, it boils down to the “opinions” of the judges. And they make their decisions based on what were presented to them; because it was not their duty to investigate, but to ponder upon evidences presented. If there are faults in that process, then they will be make faulty decision, even though technically they are right (i.e. in accordance to the written laws and its interpretations); and they are obliged by their profession to hold on to that, despite all the possible (conjectures) shortcomings. The problem boils down to the same issue: the Public is left with the dilemma of discerning the Truth. What remains are just opinions in the mind of the people. And politically, in my view, that’s the only thing that matters to politicians and politics. It has nothing to do with the Truth.

If Truth is only a matter of opinion, rather than the Truth itself, then what matters most is the perception to be created. Perception can be manufactured, and from perception, once it is overwhelmingly strong, can create consent. Public consent is what politics are after.

My personal view and stand on these matters could be surmised as follows:

“Never accept any explanations by any politicians on any matter, without being absolutely critical about their intentions. Unless I could understand their intention and purpose (which is another impossibility), I would not be trapped into making any judgments. And if I am interested in the Truth of any matter, I would go on with a very open mind, and not to create any opinion (of the Truth) in my mind, so as not to be trapped into any sides whatsoever.”

This is the standpoint of an absolute minority; and if you could do the same –then you are part of this absolute minority.

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DOUBTS

I can take no teacher;  

For a teacher is nothing more than his ideas.

If his ideas are of any truth;               The veracity of the truth is unproven.

If his ideas are based on logics;       The logics are mired with imperfections.

If his ideas are speculations;             There are suppositions to match it rigours.

If his ideas are accepted with blind faith;   I can’t have blind faith, since it is a delusion.

I turn to Religion;

Religion promises of ultimate salvation.

Alas, but religion is matter of interpretations; The interpretations are narrow winded paths.

Alas, the preaching does not match the conducts; Conducts affirms the veracity of meanings.

Alas, I cannot cheat myself in matter of seeking Truth; I must extricate Truth from pretences.

Avoidance of pretence took me to philosophy;

It promises the land of enlightenment.

Philosophy is not on teachers, but on strings of arguments;  Conclusion could be deduced with clear sights.          

Philosophy couldn’t conflict religion; Illuminations strengthen the beliefs.

Philosophy is nevertheless, an infinite quest; Yet my life is too short to comprehend the final truth.

I have to use the best of my intellect;

It is the paramount chance that I have.

Intellect is prone to disease;     It is called doubts.

Intellect requires proofs;      Proofs are never final.

Intellect hence mingles with doubts;   Doubts upon doubts.

But, I am responsible on me;  No others do.

But, I must be free;   Otherwise I am in vain.

By teachers;   I found none

By religion;   I found hypocrisy

By philosophy; I found infinite regress

By intellect;   I found doubts

What shall I do?

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ON HUMAN FREE WILL

The discourse between whether the world (or human life) is deterministic and hence, there are no such things as human’s free will; against the opposite argument that there are no such things as deterministic world, but rather everything is in-deterministic , and hence human are to make their choices, which are truly of their own free will. This argument, for and against, of free will among philosophers, has been like a pendulum, swinging from the support of a deterministic world (of Kant, and scientifically, the discovery of Newton laws of physics), and later on towards non-deterministic world (of later philosophers, and the Relativity Theory of Einstein).

The short answer by some today’s Muslim is (based on Asha’arite Sunni and Shafie theological arguments): that World is determined by Allah, and we human, are allowed and commended to make some (limited) choices that Allah makes available in front of us. Hence, the World is neither deterministic nor non-deterministic, in the sense of philosophical arguments set above.

The Islamic explanation above seems simple and easy to follow, as a creed, but unfortunately in life, people fall far short from all: from Islamic theological point of view (I meant Ashaarite), as well as from philosophical point of view (both deterministic as well as non-deterministic). These shortfalls are the evident of why we human and Muslims, falter and errs in our life in great many ways.

Let me explain these here in this article.

THE WORLD AS DETERMINISTIC PROCESS

The simplest way to understand a deterministic process is just to look at the pendulum of a (traditional) clock; the movement from left to right are clearly determined, from the past to the future. It will always took a second from one end to the other, and the length as well as the time is “determined”. Everyone knows it, either by direct observation (i.e. empirical tests), or by theory (Newton law of physics), or by accepted knowledge and wisdom (from past experiences, etc.). Nobody will argue against that. It follows the physical laws, which in Islam says, it follows the Sunnatullah (Sunnah or Laws of Allah). There are many phenomenon in life, could observe as such.

The same is extended to human beings, by taking the view that, human intellect are rational, and hence, on aggregate (we don’t look at individuals per se), their actions are also deterministic (hence predictable). For example, all human need food and will predictably eat at some time, with almost a certainty; or given a choice between rich or poor, they will choose rich; between pain and no pain, they will choose no pain, and so on. This is the dominant thought within the economic science, when it relied heavily on the theory of rational choice and rational being (the rational theories, as well as the utility theories).

The so-called, “non-deterministic” matters – i.e. when given choices, is only a question of human ignorance; there seems to be choices in front of us; these choices exists only because we don’t know the full picture (for example, whether something is painful or not). If those knowledge are revealed or be known to us upfront, there is not much issue about choices; it will be obvious. However, in life, there are so much obscurity that make us to be ignorant about the “reality” of things, and thus, we are forced to make choices (due to such ignorance). And it is almost a complete impossibility to “know everything” due to our limitation (i.e. time and data gathering, etc.), therefore, we are seemingly to make choices based on random outcomes, whereas, nothing is actually random, it is just our ignorance, make the choices seems to be random.

And if we take the cue from the Islamic faith on Qadha & Qadar, Allah has already pre-determined everything in this world, as the many verses from Al Quran and Hadith of the Prophet that “the Pen has dried”. So, the world is deterministic, and already being determined even before we exist, and what we do now is only to act out these pre-determined acts; our view of randomness, if ONLY because we are ignorant of the WILL of Allah. These ignorance arises out of the future events, which do not yet happen (to us, due to limitation of time, i.e. the future), but is fully known to Allah (as Allah is not bounded by time). But since we have faith in Allah, we act and do things, and the final outcome, will be His and His alone (the concept of Tawakkal).

THE WORLD AS NON-DETERMINISTIC PROCESS

To understand non-deterministic world, is to look at clouds; it’s shape, movements, and rains that occurs out of it – are far from deterministic, from the laws of physics. Even if we have the most sophisticated data gathering (such as satellites, air balloons, weather stations, reconnaissance planes, etc.), and if we built sophisticated models (mathematical and probabilistic), yet we can’t even have any reliable predictions to be made. There is another element at play, that is called element of chance, and chance is “pure randomness”, elements that are “totally unpredictable”. An example of pure randomness is “Brownian motion” which are observed in gasses and other natural phenomenon. Off course if we talk about movement of electrons and other sub-atomic particle, then we will have lots of “pure randomness” to be present. This is the exact counter argument against the deterministic nature of the world (at least on physical world).

In non-deterministic world, it is not ignorance that matter (since we are definitely ignorant of pure randomness, in any case, or by definition), but the problem is NOTHING can be based on causality; and this presents a massive problem for much of human affairs. That’s why, most scientist abhors non-determinism as it causes massive problems in most of our scientific theories and thoughts. Just imagine that if we throw a ball in the air, and we are not sure whether the ball will behave like a feather (flying away) instead of coming down to earth (as it normally does – i.e. predictably does).

Based on Islamic theology, this non-deterministic world is akin to say that Allah is “random” and “arbitrary” – which is totally rejected.

The problem is: the scientific arguments for a deterministic world, fails on too many counts (and frequently can be falsified and rejected); and the arguments for nondeterministic world is so far, cannot be rejected (i.e. couldn’t be falsified yet).

THE QUESTION OF HUMAN FREE WILL

All the above arguments leads us to the main question at heart: do we human have free will (under either case of deterministic or non-deterministic world)? The question of human free will is of utmost importance despite whichever side of argument that we want to hold on to (scientifically and/or religiously). Why this issue is important to us, because we are faced continuously on making choices and decisions, and we can’t wait for the debate to be settled (which might never be settled, in any case). So do we have free will? Are we really free to choose and decide (at least on matters that we are given choices)? To understand this, we need to go through various arguments as presented below.

First Level of Choices: the basic choices, which we have little determination is about our own self – such as our genetic make-up; whether we have hereditary disease such as diabetics or cancer, etc. Whatever the condition is – it is already there in us (if it is there). And we can know this to some degree (i.e. removing ignorance) by medical check-up, study of our parents and lineage, and could in general determine our conditions. Those are “pre-determined” and we can’t change it; but what we can do is to make choices such as our habits and lifestyle to suit a certain pattern in order to “avoid” or “reduce” the potential future event (of diabetes or cancer). We do have “free will” either to eat to our content, or to be careful in our diet. These are examples of simple and easy “level” of choices that we could make, on our own “free will”. The reason for this free will is, since we are dealing with “natural matters” and we could have a good “feel” of dealing with it, either by study, education, knowledge, experience, and others. It is based on our “senses” and “intellects”.

Second Level of Choices: these choices relates to choice that we make, that have relation to choices made by other people. A simple example would be: I choose to turn my car right, and the driver in the opposite of me can either brake (give way to me) or go straight. If he go straight (not braking) then we might have a collision, otherwise, I will turn right safely. Or I can wait for him to pass, and turn safely after that. My action (and choices) depends so much on the other person’s choices and action, and vice versa. Despite this simple example, it can be extended into a much larger example of millions people against another millions of people, and so on. The point is – how deterministic is such situation? Clearly none. But then are we exercising our own “free will”? The answer is yes, we are, but our free will is severely limited to the choices and actions made by others. An example would be that we want a party to win election and rule the country. Therefore, we exercise our free will by voting the party. But the result is not determined by us alone, by the total voters and the voting system at work. So we can say that our free will is also at best “our wishes”, rather than free will. Because despite the choice and action, the outcome is totally non-deterministic. This domain of choices relies not on our senses and intellects, but also our “wisdom”.

Third Level of Choices: these choices is related to the matter of “faith”. Would you believe that Allah exists, and the After-world exists, and there is Hell and Heaven; there are rewards and punishments, and so on. Of course, based on our free will – we can choose to believe or not to believe (and on the Second Level – to act or not to act on those beliefs). But the problem is how could we have faith “blindly”? Without relying on our senses, intellects, as well as wisdoms? This is where the so-called “free will” is truly FREE. Because the consequence are yet truly UNKNOWN, and could be purely “RANDOM” (as Pascal’s wager tried to solve). However, despite the so called free will to choose, the consequence could be extremely large and it is in the infinitum – the eternity. Therefore, the weight of choice, is no longer trivial, and the result could be devastating.

THE ISLAMIC VIEW

(The point that I am going to put forth here is purely from my understanding of Islam and Islamic faith).

The question of faith – if we look carefully, matters less, whether the World is deterministic or non-deterministic – since it is irrelevant whether God created this world in either form. The question of free will also, if we look carefully, can really be an illusion (Ghuruur). Yes, at the very fundamental physical level, determinism could be observed and accepted, since God has created the Universe (the physical world) in such manner. We can study them, observe them, and accept His Greatness in such creations. At the same time, we can also appreciate non-deterministic matters, such as the weather, other human behaviours, and alike – with clear view that, whatever it is, it is all within the Knowledge (‘Ilm), Will (Iradah), Power (Qudrah) of Allah, and all His infinite attributes.

In fact, if we study and contemplate very carefully, Allah has created “orders” in the Universe. Some orders we have discovered, and too many other “unknown orders” we may have not yet discovered, or some, may not even be within our humanly reach. Whether we want to label these unknowns as random, or Sunnatullah, it is really up to our own imagination; because truly that’s the exact condition that Allah want us to be in – to be limited. We will be limited in our intellect, knowledge, physical properties, and so on. And we for sure can’t conquer time (and hence the knowledge of the future), except those that Allah has given him some limited power to overcome that (such as some Sufi’s, saints, etc.). Hence, in this case, we also accept that some parts of the World and Life, is nondeterministic (from our own point of view), but NOT from Allah (hence this is the epistemic position that we must take).

Because, truly, our absolute test is not on those deterministic versus non-deterministic matters – but on our faith (Al-Aqidah) and beliefs (Al-Iman). Because, while we exist in this “human form”, we are bounded to the World that we live in, and unless our spirits are “free” from this World, then the question of “free will” is illusory. The only real choice that we have is whether to have faith in Allah or not. That is the absolute choice that we must make. For that we are truly FREE TO CHOOSE, but the choice here is not for our Physical form, it is for our SPIRITUAL FREEDOM.

If we choose not to believe, then we will be BOUNDED to this World till our death; but if we choose to believe, we have chosen the process of liberating ourselves from this temporary World.

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AVOIDANCE OF ERRORS

This title is a slight change of the title of a short treatise by Imam Al Ghazali (Deliverance from Errors, “Al Munqidh min Al Dhalaal“). It was written after his exclusion (‘uzlah) for almost 12 years. It is really worth reading, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The subject that he deal with is mainly about seeking the Truth, how one could attain it? Through teachings by teachers? Through philosophy? Through study of (pure) science? Or through the ways of the Sufi (mystics)?

He started the whole discussions by balancing the efforts of seeking knowledge (i.e. the Truth) with “skepticism”. Blind acceptance of anything is by itself futile. Taqlid (holding something blindly) is a major fault. These are the major faults of teachings and teachers. But at the same time, logic and rational thinking are also faulted with many limitations. This is the problem with the philosophers. How could we then, as common people deal with this?

Al Ghazali commend that we have to start with the understanding of the purpose of Prophethood (Hakikah an Nubuwwah). Therein lies many hidden meanings that may pass us without realizing the meaning of it. As Al Quran says: “Laqad kaana lakum fi Rasulillahi uswatun hasanah, liman kaana yarjullaha wal yaumal akhir” (verily in the Prophet saw are the best examples for those who wish for meeting Allah and the hereafter). The Prophet is our link to the world of unknown-unknown (‘alam al ghaib wa al syahadah). Even how hard we try to fathom such world, through our senses and our intellect (‘Aql), it would never be to any extent that fulfill the goal of seeking the Truth.

Just like our sleep, during which we dream; the dream could never become something that’s real, except to remain in our imagination; and yet the dream is a true touch between us and the unseen (al ghaib). In the saying of the Prophet (saw): An Naasu niyamun, faiza maatu, intabihu. Mankind are sleeping, except only when death comes, he will be awaken! The concious world that we are currently in, is in fact a dream, while the unseen world, is the reality (awaken to the full truth of things). Only through death, and by death, we will finally see the Truth (al-Haqq). As the Quran says: “Hatta atakal Yaqiin” (until when the Final Truth comes to you), that is death.

This is the purpose of Prophethood, which is to make us realize, while in our “dream” (i.e. in our concious world) to be awaken to the reality of the unseen (or the real world of al akhirah). If by intellect and logic alone, we could discern the hereafter, then there would be no need of Prophethood, since by logic: we could use our intellect to find out what is the Truth.

The problem is, as Imam Al Ghazali pointed out in the treatise: we think that we may have found the Truth (either by teachings or by logic), but then at one stage later, we may found that there are flaws in that understanding of the Truth, and hence creates doubts within us about such Truth. This is a never ending cycle that affects anyone who is sincerely seeking the Truth.

I found this to be quite true, as I tried to study the philosophy of Aquinas, Pascal, Descartes, Spinoza, Schopenhauer and the later day western philosophers such as Kant, Nietzsche and others: it became quite circular, when it comes to the concept of God and Man (on what is termed as “the First Philosophy”, by Descartes – which is actually coined first by Al Kindi in his short letter to Caliph Al Ma’mun). Aquinas, Pascal, Descartes all argued for the existence of God, and it could be achieved by way of human intellect and reason – and yet, the later day philosophers could easily dispute their arguments and reasoning; to the point that Nietzsche would reject these arguments, and lean in favor of atheism. However, given the scientific discoveries of late, such as arguments by Einstein and Hawking, would give us better reason to hold on the belief of the existence of God. Even then, if we hold to these arguments, someone may come later on with other scientific discoveries that may make us to incline otherwise. Therefore it might goes in circle forever.

Off course, there are uses of logic and reasoning, in matters of better understanding of things, its nature, as well as developing ethical conduct of life. Similarly, scientific discoveries may help us to elucidate many things that are otherwise unknown to us. But one thing that we must be aware of is that, there are so many matters that would be in category of unknown-unknown (al ghaib), that we cannot simply conclude that whatever we hold as the Truth is infallible. The problem of unknown-unknown is that any “theories” of “propositions” could never be falsified, and hence could neither be proven or disproved. We could hold to logic, reasoning, and scientific discoveries as evidences that came to us, to falsify the “first Truth” and hence make us to favor an “updated” version of the “Truth”. But whatever that we hold as the “Truth”, could be never be concluded as the Final Truth. Hence, any “Truth” that we hold on to, could only be “partial Truth”, or even proven to be false, once more evidence is revealed to us in the future. That would be the ethical and correct way to deal with Truth seeking. Therefore, we must always be on guard, and continuously seeking the Truth, and never feels that we have reach the “safe ground”.

In finality, we must seek Truth by learning and understanding from those who already achieved it: The Prophet and the saints (auliya’). This where the argument that Truth could only be understood through the “Revealed Knowledge”; and in the case of Islam, through Al Quran and the Prophet (saw). However, blind faith must be abhorred, since blind faith doesn’t eliminate one problem: “doubts” (or called “Raibun“).

Those who followed faith blindly (i.e. Taqlid), in facts suffer from deep doubts within their own self, and this is evident from their own actions. Just like someone who has faith that fire is hot, will never touch the fire; but if in action, he carelessly touch the fire, then he must have “doubts” in himself that the fire is hot. In real life, it is true that we have absolute faith that fire is hot, and hence we took due care not to touch it. But in matters of faith, we violate all sorts of rule, despite our claim that we believe in the faith. This is a simple way to understand how deep and true our faith is. By that count, we could say almost everyone, including our self, are truly “doubters” of faith.

Relying on logic and reasoning, as well as scientific understanding, as was said earlier, poses severe limitations, and would only be applicable to people who delve deeply into it. For common people like us, to follow the approach of the philosophers and thinker would be extremely difficult and the path is so undefined.

The problem lies with our own self, that is to attain purity of self. Without attaining purity, whatever path that we took, we will be easily misguided. Because, the true enemy of discerning Truth is actually our own self – namely our desire, our own affinity with the worldly life.

Therefore, as Al Ghazali recommend, the first step to seeking Truth is by self purification first. And this is the way of the Prophet, and this is the safest way to follow.

 

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