Every human being who comes into the world must deal, at one level or another, with the question of what constitutes Reality. Consciously or otherwise, each one of us lives with his own individual understanding of what makes up the totality of existence. This reality concept determines to a great extent how we relate to the universe, our comprehension of the purpose of our existence, and what role we play in this world.
Is the physical universe - what we can see, touch, measure or perceive with our faculties or instruments - all there is, or is there something more? Where did we come from, and where do we go from here? Is it all the result of blind chance and randomness, or is it part of a purposeful, meaningful scheme and plan?
Is there Someone in charge of it all Who is Himself the Ultimate Reality or not? Does the human being's life itself have any reason or ultimate significance, or is the human being just a perishable physical entity who will cease to exist like all other living things? Is this life the only life, or will it be followed by some other state of existence, and if so, of what kind?
In fact, an individual's conception of Reality - his answers to these and many other related questions - is nothing less than his basic orientation to the universe, his perception of his place and the role he is to play in it. Upon this conception rests, in effect, all that a human being is and strives to become, his relationship with himself, with others and with the world around him, and above all, with his Creator.
At this time in history many people are asking: "Is there really Anyone out there or not? And if there is, does it really matter?" Such questions are a mirror of the modern person's total alienation from himself and from his Source, and, as a result, from the universe and his fellow human beings as well. The technology oriented, mechanized environment of the Western world has trained many people to disbelieve in what is termed "the supernatural," even though they may profess to believe in God. Science, one of the greatest of present-day deities, has taught us to regard as having reality only that which can be seen, observed, measured or perceived through our senses, mental capacities or inventions. Consequently, while many people in the Western world today may not absolutely deny the existence of what they are unable to perceive, in practice they often act as if it does not exist by ignoring it altogether, or feeling that even if it does exist it has no relevance or importance in the scheme of things. Although many people profess to "believe" in God, this is often a static belief, a mere opinion that God exists rather than that He does not exist which has no significant practical consequences and does not in any affect the way they live their lives.
Others do believe, and very strongly in the "supernatural." However, their beliefs are incomplete and unreliable, depending largely on guesswork. The accuracy and validity of such beliefs cannot in any way be depended upon since they are based on one’s own or others' subjective experiences; hence they cannot be taken seriously as a means of gaining accurate knowledge of the ultimate Reality of existence, especially of God as the Center and Source of that Reality, nor as constituting valid guidance for the living of life. The current preoccupation with extrasensory phenomena may be a step in the direction of acceptance of a Reality greater than the physical universe, but it consists largely of speculation coupled with the attempt to subject non-material phenomena to scientific analysis which must, in the long run, due to the nature of the material under study, be self-defeating; moreover, it cannot by any means address itself to the question of God's nature or attributes, or even His existence. That many psychic phenomena are related to and inspired by Satan rather than being spiritual experiences connected to God seems a strong probability, and hence such phenomena are a very uncertain and risky foundation for either beliefs or for living.
Islam deals in a clear, straightforward manner with all these issues. In fact, Islam itself poses the questions asked above and many more, insisting that meaningful answers to them, compatible with the observed phenomena of the universe and with reason, must be sought by anyone who possesses a mind.
There is a realm of existence, Islam proclaims, which is not accessible to human sense or awareness nor bound by the limitations of the human intellect. This realm, which is beyond the human being's perception, is termed al-ghaib , that is, the Hidden or Unseen, while that which is known and perceptible is termed ash-shahadah, the Evident or Witnessed. And in Islam belief in this unseen realm is a prerequisite for belief in and understanding of God and of that part of His creation which the human being's senses and faculties cannot perceive but which is nonetheless of fundamental importance to his existence. The section which follows, concerning Islam's articles of faith, deals with these Unseen Realities.
Islam asserts that what is visible and perceptible to human faculties - ash-shahadah - is only a part, and perhaps a very small and insignificant part, of the totality of what exists. Although the human being cannot grasp the totality of existence, this does not in any way negate the reality of more than he is able to grasp any more than, say, an ant or an elephant can determine the totality of what exists on the basis of its limited experiences and perceptions. The fact, which it is often strangely painful for many of us to admit, is simply that the human being is a quite finite, limited being with faculties and understanding which are equipped to take in and comprehend just so much and no more. Yet the "more" is there nevertheless, that wider Reality, the totality of which is known only to its Creator.
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