Reason and Revelation, Conjecture and Certainty
Hawzah News Agency (Qom, Iran) - Revelation consists of witnessing all those truths and realities the knowledge of which is necessary for man's rational existence through 'direct experience' (al-'ilm al-huduri), as well as attainment of complete understanding and comprehension of them after revelation (al-nuzul) through `acquired knowledge' (al-ilm al-husuli), which is absorbed in the form of perceptible signs and comprehensible concepts.
Since the source (al-mabda' al-fa`ili) of such Revelation is a creator who has absolute knowledge of the totality of existence, and is free from any trace of ignorance, forgetfulness or neglect, and since thecarrier of the Revelation is the knowing and truthful angel (Gabriel), and since its receiver (al-mabda' alqabili) is the infallible consciousness of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), consequently, if the message can be verified as being Divinely revealed, it can be also said to correspond to absolute truth.
In other words, it is impossible for something to be indubitable Divine Revelation and still admit the possibility of even the smallest amount of error. The issue of the infallibility and reliability of Revelation is arrived at by the rational mind through the process of either analysis or synthesis, the basis of both of which are the self-evident, primary propositions.
However, if there is any doubt about something being Divine Revelation, it means that there can be no certainty 'about its infallibility either. In other words, since the necessary correspondence between Divine Revelation and reality depends upon its immunity from mistake, ignorance, and forgetfulness even as the reliability of philosophic reason depends on its purity from any contamination by conjecture, surmise and prejudice.
It can be relied upon only when its being Divine Revelation has been proved beyond doubt. If there is uncertainty about its being Divine Revelation it cannot be the source and foundation of “speculative philosophy”, whose realm lies outside the domain of `do's' and `don'ts'. Moreover, purely rational statements, if they are not self-evident, or incapable of being reduced to basic self-evident truths, shall be devoid of authority and acceptability in theological matters.
Accordingly, 'conjectural revelation' (al-wahy al-zanni), as well as rational statements based on conjecture and surmise are outside the scope of our discussion. Their sole worth lies in problems of "practical philosophy" and in issues relating to 'do's' and 'don'ts' as "conjectural evidence" (dalil zanni(
That is, it is subject to limitation and restriction if more definite evidence is found.
In a case where conjectural revelation has a general applicability and is found to be contrary to a certain rational evidence, the general application of "conjectural revelation" be it based on verses of the Qur'an or on the prophetic traditions or on traditions traced to the Imams, must be abandoned` because " conjectural evidence” (dalil zanni) can never be maintained when "definitive evidence" (dalil qat`i) is available.
If, on the one hand, we have a dalil naqli (a statement handed down by tradition) whose authenticity of source, is as certain as that of the Qur'an, but whose literal purport is not precise and clear but is based on interpretation and conjecture and which, moreover, has a general applicability, and if on the other hand, we have indubiterational reasons to the contrary, its general applicability is superceded by the dalil qat’i, even though the dalil naqli's authenticity of source, may be certain.
Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli, Divine Revelation, Human Reason and Science, Journal: Vol.1, N.2, Translated by Shahyar Sa'adat, Published by Ahlul Bayt World Assembly.