... it is a guidance for the righteous,
Who believe in the unseen...1
O BELIEVE IN THE 'UNSEEN' is a fundamental constituent of the Muslim faith as mentioned in the verse quoted above. But as has been well demonstrated in the previous chapter, the Quran is a book of reason and rationality which roundly condemns coercion or threat in any form to change human ideas. Thus to interpret this verse to indicate that it promotes blind faith by requiring man to believe in the 'unseen' would stand counter to this Quranic emphasis. Quite to the contrary, to believe in the spurious without evidence and solid justification is what the Quran attributes to the non-believers. It further condemns them for attempting to change the views of the believers by sheer brutality. What then, does the phrase 'Belief in the Unseen' mean? This is the important question which needs to be fully addressed.
One must make an in-depth study of this phrase as a specific term coined by the Quran. The failure to grasp its true meaning may result in serious consequences as happened in the medieval ages during the scholastic debates between different Muslim schools of thought. Some rigid and uncompromising Muslim scholars disallow the use of rationality altogether in matters of faith. They state that the revealed truth by itself is all-sufficient and as such it should be accepted without any rational investigation. Others who oppose this view quote many Quranic verses requiring everyone to abide invariably by the dictates of reason at every stage of decision making and give priority to rationality over blind faith.
But what is faith? How can one have faith without satisfying one's sense of inquiry? Is it not a reality that the majority of common people belonging to all religions believe without actually comprehending the meaning of their belief? They just happen to believe and that is all there is to it.
This is the dilemma which necessarily requires one to address the issue of faith versus reason, and the need to determine the nature of their interrelationship becomes all the more important. As this question is sufficiently covered in the chapter entitled European Philosophy, we shall endeavour not to unnecessarily repeat what has already been covered therein. What is left therefore is to acquire a more elaborate understanding of the term 'unseen'.
To begin with, let us point out that the lack of knowledge about things does not necessarily mean that they do not exist. They may exist, but lie hidden behind the veil of the unknown. Later, either through the course of human investigation or through the agency of Divine revelation, they emerge from the realm of the unseen to that of the seen.
The term 'unseen' in its wider application is employed to cover everything which is not directly visible or audible. Likewise it also covers all that is not directly accessible through other human sensory faculties. In this respect we may also define the unseen as a domain which covers all forms of existence which lie beyond the direct access of the five senses. The things which belong to this category do not remain permanently inaccessible. They are inaccessible only with reference to a given period in time.
All hidden knowledge of perceivable things, whether it pertains to the past, the present or the future, lies within the scope of this category. In other words, we are required to believe in the existence of things which are not known at a given point in time, but do exist and may become known at another point in time. This belief cannot be dubbed as blind faith. The Quran does not require the believers to have faith in anything which is not supported by irrefutable arguments. Hence the unseen covers only such things as may become accessible through the instruments of reason, rationality and deductive logic. The point to be noted here is that the unseen as defined, though not directly perceivable by the senses, is yet verifiable. The rationale of this Quranic injunction is fully supported by human experience.