Truth and its Perception

Perception, Between Truth and Error

There are many important issues on which people disagree, yet each of them may think he/she has the correct position. Clearly, at least some of the people must be mistaken – in part or totally – for there cannot be contradictory truths about the same matter.

Caliph `Ali (may Allah be well pleased with him) is reported to have said that a shubhah (confusion or misunderstanding) is so named in Arabic because it resembles (tushbihu) the truth in some respects. In this light, we summarize here the main scenarios of perception, between truth and error.  Perhaps it will be useful to those who want to honestly evaluate themselves.

  1. A complete perception of the truth, along with all of its elements, parts and characteristics. This is somewhat rare, especially for matters related to the unseen. [See Qur’an[17:85] for example]
  2. An incomplete perception, whereby one has perceived part of the truth, but not all of its elements, parts and characteristics. We need to humbly acknowledge our deficiencies and limitations.
  3. Blurring of some of the boundaries of the truth, often arising from ignorance, or insufficient knowledge, or misconceptions.
  4. Exceeding the boundaries of the truth, under the impression that the excess is also part of the truth. e.g. unjustified generalization, such as judging a school or philosophy based on a single factor attributed to it, or a single individual who claims to follow it.
  5. A partial conformity to the truth, analogous to someone who intends to aim a searchlight at a certain building, then proceeds to do so, except that the searchlight falls on only one wing of the building, while the person does not realize this, and imagines what he sees to be the entire building.
  6. A complete miss of the truth, such as if the searchlight from the above analogy misses the targetted building entirely, and instead strikes another building, or nothing at all, with the person being under the false impression that he is now seeing the building he targetted.

[These six categories are summarized from: Basa’ir li’l-Muslim al-Mu`asir, by Shaykh `Abdur-Rahman Hasan Habannakah al-Maydani, a contemporary Muslim scholar.]”


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