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Rationality is the mental ability of humans to observe natural phenomena and then contemplate on them on the basis of reason. Rationality can prove or reject certain behaviors, phenomena or hypothesis on the basis of explanation of cause and effect, good or bad and true or false. Rationality is the basic differentiating characteristic of humans and animals. Tradition and science both accept the importance of rationality in our lives. Different philosophers from very different times have tried to answer the question of validity or the importance of reason and rationality in finding the true, good, and beautiful. Leo Tolstoy and Dr.Ali Shariati also tried to answer the same question. Rationality is not the only way of finding the true, good and beautiful but it is an important source of knowledge which along with faith can lead us to what is true, good, and beautiful. In this paper I will discuss in detail what these two authors argued about the importance and limitations of reason in finding the true, good, and beautiful and the questions which they considered important to be answered. In first part of the paper I will discuss the arguments of Leo Tolstoy and Dr.Ali Shariati regarding rationality and that will include the importance and limitations of rationality. It will also attempt to discuss the basic questions regarding life which according to both of them were very important and throughout this discussion I will discuss the validity of superstition or miracles which very much related to rationality. Towards the end I will discuss that how our education system helps or hinders our search for true, good and beautiful.
            Leo Tolstoy lived a life of a very rich man. He gained fame and wealth through what he wrote for his readers. He in his work A Confession wrote about his ambitious past life and his thrust for wealth, fame and glory. He committed bad things in gaining what he wanted but at the end he was not satisfied with his life and he started to find solution for his dissatisfaction. He felt ashamed when he recalled the time in which he regarded themselves the leaders and teachers of this world. He loathed the way he was living his former life because he considered comfort to be the real purpose of life. Disillusioned with his state of life he started to observe the lives of men of his times, both believers and the unbelievers. Questions arisen in his mind regarding life. Questions which he considered easy, “childish” and simplistic to answer were found to be very difficult to answer. Those questions were: what is good and what is evil? What is life for? What does it lead to? Why we live without any aim when we know that after all I will perish and death will annihilate all that I am making for myself or my children? Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything? What will come of my whole life? (Tolstoy 13).He starts to find answers for these questions and he first goes to experimental science and then abstract science or philosophy.
            Tolstoy did not find the answer to his question about life in experimental science. Though experimental science was praised everywhere for its research and ‘progress’ but it was unable to help him in finding those very basic questions of life. Science can do better when it works in those fields which are unrelated to what he wanted to find. But when science attempts to find the answers to his questions regarding life its results are vague and unclear as he describes, “I understood that the clearer they were the less they met my need and the less they applied to my questions.”(Tolstoy 22). Science only can say that:
            “You are what you call your ‘life’; you are a transitory, casual cohesion of particles.
The mutual interactions and changes of these particles produce in you what you call
your “life”. (Tolstoy 25).
Experimental sciences gave him some laws and principles governing life such as the law of evolution which states:
“Everything develops and differentiates itself, moving towards complexity
and perfection, and there are laws directing this movement. You are a part
 of the whole.”(Tolstoy 24).
 At first when he is young and his muscles are developing he finds himself as part of the same system but when he grows older and he finds that his muscles are weakening and his teeth falling, he finds in the laws of science a great contradiction. The other type of science i.e. the abstract science also tries to answer the questions in these words:
“All humanity lives and develops on the basis of spiritual principles and ideals
which guide it. Those ideals are expressed in religions, in sciences, in arts, in
forms of government. One should consider himself a part of humanity, and
therefore his vocation should be to forward the recognition and the realization
 of the ideals of humanity.” (Tolstoy 33).
Tolstoy argues that if universe as according to abstract science is infinitely developing then there must not be a meaning of our lives. Tolstoy is not satisfied with what both sciences tried to give him to answer his questions regarding life. He argued that the stupidity and contradictions of science is because it cannot be used to answer the questions regarding life. In his views, experimental science was mostly concerned with the material phenomena and abstract science was mostly concerned with the essence of things. According to Tolstoy, both sciences are unsuccessful to answer his questions of life.
            Tolstoy then tries to find the answers in words of great men having great minds, who had already tried to answer the same questions regarding life. These men were Buddha, Solomon, Schopenhauer and Socrates. He finds their answer valid just like Socrates said:
“We approach truth only inasmuch as we depart from life when preparing for death.
For what do we, who love truth, strive after in life? To free ourselves from the body,
and from all the evil that is caused by the life of the body! If so, then how can we
fail to be glad when death comes to us?”(Tolstoy 28).
He finds them valid because he observes that even the believers of his time who fear death and sorrows of life and they wish for material comfort in their lives. He argues that these comforts are meaningless as one lives his life in a circle, earning for buying food again and again only to preserve his material body. He argues that these comforts are meaningless because death (which is the ultimate reality) will annihilate all those comforts one day. As Solomon says that:  
“All that is in the world — folly and wisdom and riches and poverty and
 mirth and grief — is vanity and emptiness. Man dies and nothing is left
of him. And that is stupid”. (Tolstoy 29).
Tolstoy argues that if life is evil and if it is a joke then we should end this evil and try to run away from this evil towards a state that is true, good, and beautiful. It is better to end this life and end this joke. The only way to escape this evil and joke is to commit suicide. According to Tolstoy there were four ways to cope with a situation like this. First, don’t try to know that life is senseless and evil. A second way was to know the meaning of life but do not think for the future. Third was to end this life so that there exist no evil. Fourth one was the way of Solomon, to know that life is senseless and vanity and still keep on continuing to live in a tormenting position. He finds himself in this fourth condition which he describes as very contradicting. He thought that because reason is higher than all things, then it should manifest the existence of life. But now in this condition, reason is compelling him to end his life. Other contradiction was that Milliards were living even though they knew that their lives were senseless. He started observing the working-folk or the Milliards. They lived even though they had sorrows in their lives and accepted what life was giving them. They justified their life and death with clear arguments. Tolstoy felt ashamed when he came to know these people. Because he was applying his conclusion about life to few people only who had comforts in their lives, not to those who lived working and doing labor with sorrows and miseries in their lives. He finds that reasonable knowledge excludes life while the majority of population which lives without having reasonable knowledge manifests that there is a type of knowledge which compels them to live. That knowledge is irrational knowledge and is called “faith”.
            Tolstoy argued that faith makes people to believe in those super-natural beings and superstitious phenomena e.g. miracles which are rejected by reason. To have faith for Tolstoy was to reject reason or rationality. He argues that rational knowledge has been beneficial to him only to the extent that it indicated to him that it should include finite and infinite in the question regarding life. The real answer came from the irrational knowledge or faith which included the unity of finite and the infinite within the answer. Faith makes it possible for people to live their lives knowing the meaning of life. Faith is knowledge of the meaning of human life in consequence of which man does not destroy himself but lives. Faith is the strength of life. If human beings understand the illusory nature of the finite, they must believe in the infinite. Without faith they cannot live. Faith remained to Tolstoy as irrational as it was before, but he could not but admit that it alone gives mankind a reply to the questions of life, and consequently it makes life possible. The superstitious beliefs which are rejected by rationality and experimental sciences such as the conception of an omnipotent God, the divinity of soul and men’s conception of moral goodness are the conceptions formulated in the hidden infinity of human thought; they are those conceptions without which neither life nor they should exist.
            Dr.Ali Shariati also discusses the issues related to the questions of true, good and beautiful through his work Hajj (The Pilgrimage). I selected Dr.Ali because his arguments about rationality and superstition are very much alike to that of Tolstoy’s arguments. His main concern in finding true, good, and beautiful was to know about the validity of rationality and faith. Equally important for him were the sequence of knowledge, consciousness and love and the limitations of rationality in finding the true, good and beautiful. He is also interested to find the significance of Umma (the community) in reaching to Almighty Allah.
At the start of Hajj, Shariati says that people from all over the world come to Mecca to offer the great pilgrimage. They come for pilgrimage not only because this is a religious obligation but also because they want to perfect and purify themselves. They are here to exercise death before actually experiencing it because they all know that all of us have to experience the same fact. As Quran says:
“To Allah we belong and to Him is our return”. (Quran II: 156 & XLII: 53) (Shariati 23)
So this is a preparation state where people come and prepare themselves for the life of eternity. Man is reminded of the final meaning of his life. He is reminded that you have to prevent yourself from the bad behavior of money, sex, greed, aggression and dishonesty. To go for pilgrimage is to approach Allah and to approach Allah is to honor oneself with the blessings of perfection, beauty and dignity. All these people belong to different tribes and different cultures but when they approach Mecca they become one Islamic community. Here at Miqat they wear simple white dress called “Ihram”. Ihram is to signify that nobody is distinct and nobody is discriminated. All of the people belong to the same community. “Allah's way is the way of the people.”(Shariati 15). Therefore for approaching Allah we must do whatever we can for the welfare of the community even if we are to face sufferings, captivity and exile. In other words, to approach Allah you must first approach people. This negates the ideals of rationality which are individualism and selfish accumulation of wealth. Moreover, Ihram has white color just like Kaffan which symbolizes death.
            Dr.Shariati in order to explain the conflict of love and rationality takes the example of Hajjar who is the mother of Hazrat Ismail. Allah had ordered Hazrat Hajjar to go to the dessert of Mecca and stay there. But Hajjar had a child who needed milk. Hajjar also needed support as she was a woman and the helpless mother of Ismail in the lonely dessert of Mecca where there was no water. Shariati argues that Hajjar came here because of the love of Allah and Allah had promised to give her comfort. But when she reaches there, she finds no water therefore she starts running in the desert between the mountains of Safa and Marwa to find water for her child. When she comes back she sees that a stream of water has emerged because of the movement of the child’s feet. Dr.Shariati argued that Hajjar came here because of love for Allah but when she didn’t find water she started to use her reason. When Zam Zam (the water) emerged this clearly demonstrated a lesson to the whole humanity. That lesson was that:
“To find water by "love" not by effort but "after the effort". (Shariati 22).
 Zam Zam still remains the manifestation of that lesson. The lesson is that we should use our reason and effort but the ultimate decision comes about on the basis of faith and love. And because of that effort by Hajjar, her actions are repeated now by every pilgrim in the Hajj in the form of Say’y and Tawaf. Allah also gave her a place in His house near Ka’aba. It is because of her love for Allah that this place was not given to any prophet but her. The lesson also serves to solve the contradiction between superstition and rationality. Now miracles are not the things to be judged on the basis of reason and rationality, even the very existence of this universe is a great miracle.
                Shariati also takes the shape of Ka’aba to show that what metaphysics and philosophy have not been able to find the very nature of God he himself has shown in the shape of Ka’aba. Shariati argues that Ka’aba the Qiblah for all the Muslims creates an impression in the minds of all the people that it must have an architectural ornamentation on it. But when they approach it they find it empty of such ornamentation or visualization. They only see a cubic room which signifies that Allah has no shape, direction and color. He is unique. The very structure of Ka’aba is unique. It has six directions but symbolizes no direction.
            Shariati discusses the love of Hazrat Ibrahim for Allah-Almighty. Shariati argues that Ibrahim was rebellious against the idolaters like Nimrud and his own father who was an idol-maker. Nimrud punishes Ibrahim by putting him into a giant fire but because of his love for Allah, Allah helps him. He is saved from the heat of fire because Allah takes the heating and combusting ability of fire. This manifests the same thing that even though reason may say that you should not rebel Nimrud because he may put you into fire or kill you but love on the other hand says that whatever happens, it happens only because of the will of Allah. And this is here we see the limitation of reason very clearly. Would he not been able to rebel against Nimrud he might have done mistake. Allama Iqbal says:
Bey khatar kood para aatish e Namrood mein ishq
Aql  hei mah’ve tamasha-i lab-e-baam abhi
Love dives into the furnace of Nimrod without any hesitation
Logic is still standing dumb-founded
Ishq farmooda e qasid se subuk gaam e amal
Aal samjee hi nahi maanee e pegaam abhi

Also a Pashto poet Rehman Baba says:
“With their only one step they reach out to the vestiges of the Arsh
I have observed the speed of those Darwish (Sufis)”
            Shariati also discussed another instant when Ibrahim was ordered to sacrifice his son for the Love of Allah. This is a superb example of the contradiction between rationality and superstition. This also clearly shows the limitations of rationality. When Ibrahim sees in his dream that he is sacrificing his son Ismail in the way of Allah-Almighty, he asks himself, is that the message from Allah or a mere superstition? Ibrahim does not carry out the sacrifice because he uses reason as a guide. But after the sacrifice appears again and again in his dreams, he calls his son and discusses the matter with him. Ismail comes to know the state of mind of his father. He accepts what Allah wants from him. Ibrahim binds his eyes with a cloth and ties the hands and legs of Ismail and starts cutting the throat of Ismail with a knife. But the knife does not cut it rather Allah sends a sheep from heaven which is sacrificed in place of Ismail. Allah only wanted to test Ibrahim because Ismail was his very big weakness. As is written in Quran:
Even the love for your son is a way of "testing" you! (Quran VIII: 28) (Shariati 53)

This shows the ultimate love of Ibrahim for Allah and in return Allah rewarded him not only in this life but also in the life after his death and now Muslims sacrifice animals on the that day every year.    
            Dr.Shariati also found some very significant meanings in various actions apart from Twa’af and Sa’ay. For Example he argued that the sequence of Arafa’at, Mashar and Mina demonstrates us that how knowledge, consciousness and love are arranged in a sequence. From Arafa’at we get that because there is light therefore we can observe things and gain knowledge, experience and objectivity. In Mashar we have no light therefore we have time to think and improve the ability of consciousness, insight and subjectivity. Now consciousness is between science and faith. In Mina we get that faith or love when the pilgrims stay there for greater time. And it is here when he argues that if you totally depend on knowledge then you will become the prisoner of nature and reason. But if you rely on wisdom, consciousness and faith (the lights that were kindled on earth by the prophets) ,you will get a kind of  knowledge which will lead you to your self-discovery. This is the knowledge which will make you closer to Allah-Almighty (Shariati 55). Other faculties of science like sociology, anthropology and mathematics will help you to learn knowledge about society, culture and mathematical formulas but they cannot help you in finding yourself. Because science can help to liberate you from society and historical facts by simply learning sociology and history, but because man has his own unique instincts therefore science cannot liberate him from those instincts. The arguments of Dr.Shariati and Tolstoy about superstition and rationality are very much alike, if one talks about gaining knowledge from Muslim Umma the other focuses on the Milliards respectively. Both of them argue that if you totally rely on rationality you are liable to fall. Both of them emphasize that rationality is a supplement to the knowledge of faith. Both see religion as the right path to live life and imply that we have no choice in our material life but to embrace one religion, we don’t have the choice of not believing in a supernatural deity or Divine Being. The limitations of reason for Tolstoy are very severe and that is of suicide, which most of people according to him commit seeing no meaning in their life.
            Our teachers in the education system faces the same problem that even though they know that death is the ultimate reality and that we are liable to fail in what is the real exam of life if we do not know the real meaning of life and the real knowledge about things in this universe. They continue to push people away from that real path. Even though we have real knowledge in the form of tradition and religion, the teachers teach us to prepare for gaining the worldly gains. They teach us to make our lives better but again and again the vicious circle of gaining food and comfort and consuming it continues (also according to Tolstoy and Shariati). We are taught here feminism and that Islam is a patriarchal religion in which woman has no rights but we are prevented to study the story of Hajjar. As Shariati says:
“From among all humanity: a woman, From among all women: a
slave, and from among all slaves: a black maid!”(Shariati 24)
And that woman has been given a place near Ka’aba. How can feminism talk about the rights of women when we have such a clear example of a slave which is given this much honor? Again, we are taught about Environmentalism and we are prevented from the knowledge that nature can only be saved if sacredness prevails in nature. People can better preserve environment if they know that it is sacred. We are given the education of liberalism and individualism which creates bad human behavior like pride, greed and jealousy in us. Even we are aware of the straight path towards true, good, and beautiful we are still running in the opposite direction forgetting about all the consequences which will follow if we remained on the same wrong path. The biggest hindrance in the way of contemporary students is the very education system which compels the students to follow the wrong path. It creates the incentives and environment for the students that they are compelled to laugh at tradition and miracles. They regard all the super natural divine beings (regarded by religion as sacred) as superstitious. They are taught to loath the religious people on the basis of reason and rationality. In other words reason is given the top priority and faith is pushed aside. That is what Tolstoy and Shariati negate in their works and they regard this attitude to be viciously mistaken and leading the whole mankind towards the dragon of ignorance. In order to prevent the lives of all human beings from falling victim to that dragon we should make necessary changes in our education system either we would continue to follow the wrong path.
Written By: Asif Bahadur ( LUMS )

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