- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
What is Truth?
There is only one straight line from one point to another; so there can only be one path leading a person to God. This is the true path. The question is: what does truth consist of and how can it be found?
Fortunately for us, there are not several truths to choose from. There is only one truth for us to accept. This solitary truth consists of the teachings of Muhammad, the Prophet of God, on whom be peace and God’s blessings. Anyone who earnestly seeks the truth will find that no exacting choices have to be made. The choice is between truth and falsehood; there are no two truths to choose from.
For at least five thousand years philosophers have searched in vain for truth. Their tedious investigations have only exposed their inability to provide conclusive answers. Philosophy seeks truth by means of rational contemplation, not realizing that knowledge of the entire cosmos—something beyond the range of the limited human intellect—is a pre-requisite for genuine gnosis. The philosopher can never attain to cosmic knowledge, so that he cannot conceive of an accurate idea of reality.
Science has never claimed to be in a position to explain the truth. It only looks into matters which can be repeatedly proved experimentally. Science discusses the chemistry of flowers, but not their fragrance, for the chemical parts of a flower can be analysed; its odour cannot. Science has itself restricted its scope, making it clear that it will deal only with partial truth and is in no position to expound on universal realities.
Some spiritual adepts claim, or their followers believe, that they know all about truth, and can communicate absolute information concerning it, but their belief is groundless. They claim to have reached the truth by means of spiritual disciplines. The socalled spiritual disciplines are in fact of a physical nature, and spiritual discovery by means of physical discipline is an unfeasible proposition in itself. Secondly, no spiritual adept is free of the limitations to which all men are subject. The obstacles which prevent others from reaching a full understanding of truth also block his path. No self-discipline can enable man to transcend these natural limitations and convey to him a knowledge of absolute truth.
So, the stage is left to the Prophet. A prophet is a human being who asserts that God has chosen him and revealed true knowledge to him for the purpose of conveying it to others. Intrinsically, this is the only plausible claim so far, for only God, who is eternal and omniscient, can have actual knowledge of truth. God’s divinity itself is proof of His all-pervading knowledge of reality. The claim of one who asserts that he has received knowledge of truth from God is worthy of consideration.
Here the question arises of there having been not just one prophet. There are many divine scriptures and many prophets have been sent to the world; which of them should be followed? A person who is really sincere in his search for truth, however, will have no trouble in finding the answer to this question. There is no doubt that in the past God has raised many individuals to the status of prophethood, but one can judge an event only by virtue of its historical credibility and only one prophet possesses credentials which make his prophethood a historical certainty rather than just a belief. Of all those who have claimed prophethood, only Muhammad, on whom be peace and God’s blessings, can be said to have achieved full historical credibility. Everything about him is established historical fact. We are just as well informed about the Prophet of Islam as we are about any contemporary person, or even more so. Apart from him, all prophets are legendary figures. No complete historical record of them exists, nor are the scriptures they left preserved in their original state. Only the life of Muhammad has been completely chronicled. The book which was handed over to people as the inspired word of God is also present in its original form. So, looking at the matter rationally, there can only be one answer to the question. “What is truth?” From a practical as well as a theoretical point of view, we should accept the only realistic answer there is. We should not try to select a solution from a wide range of alternatives.
This truth is the word of God and the word of God is immutable. God’s commandments never change, either with respect to man or the rest of creation. The terrestrial and celestial orders have not altered despite the passing of billions of years. The principles which govern vegetation and water in one location are equally applicable in another. That is the way with God’s commandments to man also: they are the same now as they were thousands of years ago. That which applies to one nation applies with equal force to all.
Some factors in life, such as transport or architecture, are continually being altered, but truth always remains the same. Truth is attached to that side of human nature which never changes. The truth is concerned with matters like whom one should accept as one’s Creator and Master; whom one should worship; whom one should love and whom one should fear; according to what criteria one should assess success and failure; what the purpose of one’s existence is and the focal point of one’s emotions; according to what code of conduct one should deal with people. Truth deals with matters which are not affected by time and place. Everyone at all times and in all places is confronted by these questions. Just as God is one and everlasting, so the truth is also one and will always remain so.
Source: Introducing Islam