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The Contradiction Between a Rational Argument & Argument Based on the Report, By Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

The Contradiction between a Rational argument & argument based on the report

Translated By: Professor Muhammad Hasan Askari & Karrar Husain
Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani

Answer to Modernism

Seventh Principle

(7) Only four situations are rationally possible in which there can be a contradiction between a rational argument and an argument based on the report:

  • (1) Both arguments should be final and conclusive. Such a situation cannot exist, as it is impossible for two truths to contradict each other.
  • (2) Both should be approximative. Although in this situation there is room for reconciling the two arguments by turning them away from the literal sense and giving them some other interpretation, yet, according to the regular rule of human language that the basic sense in all words is the lite literal and apparent one, we would take the report in its literal sense, and would not consider the connotation of the rational argument as valid.
  • (3) The argument based on the report should be final, while the rational argument should be approximative. Here the report would certainly be given precedence over the other argument.
  • (4)The rational argument should be final, while the argument based on the report should be approximative, either in respect of its connotation or in respect of its authenticity. Here the rational argument would be given precedence, and the report would be interpreted in a nonliteral sense.

Thus, the last situation is the only one in which Reason (Dirayah) is to be given precedence over Tradition (Riwayah). And it is not justifiable to adopt this procedure in all possible situations.

Explanation

It is self-evident what a “rational argument” is, while an “argument based on the report” is the information provided by a truthful reporter, as has been explained under principle No 4.

Contradiction: As for a “contradiction”. It is the opposition of two statements in such a manner that if we accept one of them to be true, we must necessarily consider the other to be false.

Example of Contradiction: For example, a man reports that Zaid took a train for Delhi at 10 a.m. this day. Now, another man reports that Zaid was sitting with him in his house at 11 a.m. the same day. The opposition of these two statements would be called a “contradiction.”

How to resolve Contradiction: Since, in the case of a contradiction, it is necessary for one of the two statements to be false so that the other may be true, two valid arguments can never enter into such a contradiction. When two arguments contradict each other, the problem would be solved like this. If both are equally valid, we shall turn one of them away from its literal sense, and by giving it a secondary interpretation accept it. and we shall accept the other as well in retaining its literal sense, thus reconciling the two arguments. On the other hand, if one of the arguments is valid while the other is not, we shall accept the former and reject the latter. For example, in the case cited above, if one of the reporters is trustworthy and the other is not, we shall accept the report of the one who is trustworthy and reject that of the other who is untrustworthy. If both of them are equally trustworthy. We shall judge the matter in the light of other indications, and thus accept one of the reports literally, and give some kind of a secondary interpretation to the second in order to reconcile the two. For example, if we come to know for certain on the basis of other kinds of evidence too that Zaid did not go to Delhi at all, we shall assume that the second reporter had made a wrong surmise about Zaid’s departure, or that Zaid left for the station and then came back without boarding the train, but the second reporter had no information of his return or something else like this.

Situations of Contradiction between a Rational argument and argument based on the report

Having learnt this rule we should now consider that sometimes there is an apparent contradiction between a rational argument and an argument based on the report. In such a case, we shall, according to this rule, have to judge whether:

  • (a) both the arguments are certain and final, or
  • (b) both are approximative, or
  • (c) the argument based. on the report is final, while the rational one is approximative; or
  • (d) the rational argument is final, while the argument based on the report is approximative, either in respect of its authenticity or in respect of its connotation. (That is to say, an argument based on the report can be approximative in two respect:

Firstly, it may be approximative in respect of its authenticity. For example, a tradition of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم which has not been widely and consecutively reported.

Secondly, it may be approximative in respect of its connotation. For example, a certain verse of the Holy Qur’an, which is certainly and finally authentic, but yields two connotations neither of which is conclusive.) These, then, are the four situations in which a contradiction can arise.

ruling on four cases of Contradiction

1) As for (a), where both the arguments are final in respect of authenticity as well as in respect of connotation, and yet contradict each other, such a situation cannot possibly exist. For, when the two are certainly true, how can truths contradict each other? If they do, it is not possible for them to be equally true. Let a man try for all he is worth, he can never produce a single instance of such a situation.

2) As for (b), there are sound arguments that make it necessary to accept an argument based on report which approximates to being true, as one can see by referring to the books on the fundamental principles of the Shariah and on ‘llm-ul Kalam. On the other hand, there is no sound argument to make it necessary to accept a rational argument which approximates to being true. So, in this situation, we shall give precedence to the argument based on report, and shall consider the rational argument to be erroneous. Indeed, the very fact of its being approximative in itself indicates the possibility of its being erroneous. So, in holding it to be erroneous, we shall not be goingagainst the requirements of reason. Although, in this situation, one way of accepting the argument based on report could also be to turn is away from its literal sense in order to reconcile it with the rational argument, yet, unnecessary indulgence in secondary interpretations being forbidden and there being no real need for it here, the Shariah prohibits the adoption of this procedure as being an “innovation”, and it is not commendable even rationally, as we have just explained.

3) As for (c), it must be dealt, with all the more like situation (b), because when an argument based on report is, in spite of being approximative, to receive precedence over an approximative rational argument, a final argument based on report is all the more worthy of receiving precedence over an approximative rational argument. Argument based on report is all the more worthy of receiving precedence over an approximative rational argument.

4) As for(d), we cannot reject the rational argument, for it is final in its validity, but we can no more reject the argument based on report also, for sound arguments make it necessary to accept it—as we have shown while discussing situation (b). So in this situation, we shall give the approximative argument based on report a secondary interpretation, and accept it only by bringing it into consonnance with the rational argument. This is the only specific situation which justifies thecontention that Reason (Dirayah) is to be given precedence over Tradition (Riwayah). But it is not permissible to make such an assertion or to act upon it in situation (b) and (c) as we have already proved in detail.

The fifth and sixth situation of Contradiction and their ruling

Of course, a fifth and a sixth situation can also arise that is:

  • The argument based on the report should be approximative while the rational argument should be hypothetical and fanciful, or
  • The former should be final while the latter should again be hypothetical. But it goes without saying that in both situations the argument based on the report will be given precedence, and the rational argument will be rejected. For, when a rational argument, in spite of its approximating to being true, is given a secondary position and rejected, a hypothetical and fanciful argument deserves this treatment all the more. A precedent for this has been cited while situation (c) was being discussed.

This, then, is the detailed account of the situations in which a contradiction may arise between rational arguments and arguments based on the report. It clearly exposes the error of those who give an absolutely principal position to a rational argument and only a subordinate one to an argument based on the report, even if the former is not approximative but only hypothetical, and the latter is final.

We shall give illustrations only for situations (b) and (d). For, situation (a) cannot possibly exist, while (c) is all Ute more to be treated like (d) as we have shown above. So, the two illustrations would be quite sufficient.

Here is an illustration for (b)

The Holy Qur’an says:

وهو الذي خلق اليل والنهار واشمس والقمر كل في فلك يسبحون          

“And it is he who has created the night and the day. The sun and the moon all swim in the sky”. (21:33)

The explicit sense of this verse establishes the fact that the sun moves from one position to another. On the other hand, certain scientists believe that the sun only rotates on its axis. But there is no final rational argument to establish this contention. So, it will be rationally necessary to reject this opinion and to affirm that the sun moves from one position to another.

Now, an illustration for (d)

Conclusive and final rational arguments have established the fact that the sun is disjunct from the earth, and never touches it in any position of its motion. Now, the Holy Qur’an says:

وجدها تغرب في عين حمئة  

“He found it setting in a muddy spring”. (18:86)

The apparent sense of these words may lead one un-fleetingly to surmise that the sun always set in a muddy spring. But this apparent sense would, on reflection, seem to arise from what a man may imagine at first sight. So, this verse will be interpreted to mean that Dhul Qarnain, looking at the sun, though as it was setting in a muddy spring, just as to the people, traveling on the sea, it seems as if the sun were setting in the sea. Allah alone knows best!

SOURCE: Answer to modernism, By Maulana Asharaf Ali Thanvi

To read the first Intimation about Matter, Click on the link below:

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Posted in Answer to Modernism, Contemporary studies, Culture & Ideology, Various Islamic studies

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