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Theory of Knowledge

Reconstruction of Qur’anic Thoughts with an Attempt to Unify Rationalism and Empiricism

By S.M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)

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5. The Role of Consciousness


Knowledge, according to many sages of different religions, such as Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Mubarak (May God be pleased with him, see for example Shagor Shecha Manik, ed. Muhammad Hadiuzzaman, Mullik Brothers, Calcutta, India), Sri HWL Punja (in the book The Truth Is, Full Circle Publishers, India), has the following four stages :


1. I do not know that I do not know.
2. I know that I do not know.
3. I know that I know.
4. I do not know that I know.


The first stage is characterized by ignorance. So it is not knowledge; it has no content. Actually, it is not a consciousness either, because man can never have this thought in the mind as long as he is in that stage of the mind.

In the second stage too there is no knowledge because there is no content. Now, how do I know it? I know it by comparing my ignorance with others' knowledge or when I have a consciousness that has a reference to the absence of a content in the logical space. So this kind of 'knowledge' is consciousness, not knowledge as defined in this paper. It, however, can better be considered a kind of awareness, which is to be visualized as a wave in the infinite expanse of consciousness.

In the third stage there is knowledge because here I am conscious of a certain content in my thought. So, there are both consciousness and knowledge.

In the fourth stage there is knowledge but there is no consciousness of it. Now the knowledge has been earned and naturalized. So I do not need to be aware of it to be able to use or apply it. In this stage, knowledge gives its utmost benefit at the peak point of the learning curve; it gives both efficiency and effectiveness because in this stage knowledge becomes mechanical. It is about this stage of knowledge that the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) prudently said that: “Civilization advances by extending the number of operations which we can perform without thinking about them (Quoted in Myers 1983:41)."

If, meanwhile, we endeavor to relate the above model to theories of management; we will make a prudent link. It is quite apparent that management should utilize this mechanical nature of knowledge to the utmost. But this stage has its drawback too. It is in this stage that a person gets stuck in assumptions and trapped in old ideas, and it becomes hard for him to go beyond his mindset. This is the most notorious obstacle to the strategic management process in the present age of severe competition. In this case what hinders a person from earning further knowledge is his previous knowledge. We can identify each stage of knowledge by a two-dimensional point in the following manner.

Theory of KnowledgeTheory of Knowledge 







Figure: The four stages of knowledge (A similar model has been proposed by Carayannis, 1999, see for example Despres and Chauvel (2001) P-67.)
From the above figure it is evident that the 4th stage, though it is the peak of a certain paradigm of knowledge, leads back to the 1st stage, which blocks the possibility of a paradigm shift. This is because man’s existing knowledge, if he is unaware of it, conditions his thought in an already established pattern. Such a pattern becomes the guide of his future thought and consciousness. In other words, the dazzling light of his knowledge becomes the darkness of his eye. This unusual truth about the “knowledge trap” has been aptly pointed out in the Qur’an:

Their parable is like the parable of one who kindled a fire, but when it had illumined all around him, God took away their light and left them in utter darkness they do not see (2:17).

It is to be noted that here God talks of taking away ‘their’ light, not of the light of the fire. The implication is that man’s knowledge, when it accumulates into a body of assumptions, becomes his light beyond which he cannot see. The darkness of light, that is, the blindness created by the sheer presence of “self-binding” or “cyclic” knowledge, hinders man from seeing the naked reality. This kind of knowledge is, however, not a category, but a consequence, which makes our minds DARK:


Theory of Knowledge

Deluded (by the)


Affluence (of)





It is beyond all controversy that strategic management in the present times is principally focused on a 'paradigm shift.' And it is only consciousness that can help one get out of this black hole of assumptions and preconceptions or stagnant mindset. At this point it is to be noted that all consciousness comes from God, because He is the Aware (Al-Khabir), the Watchful (Ar-Raqib), and hence the Wise (Al-‘Hakim). Now we can define consciousness in fresh terms.
Definition-11: Consciousness


Consciousness is the unfolding of part of the logical space in the mind. If there is no content is the space, one becomes conscious of one's ignorance, and, conversely, if there is a content in the space, one becomes conscious of one's knowledge.


Thus we discover the following characteristics of consciousness:

Consciousness is a reference of the mind to a part of the logical space, i.e., thought structure. 

It may or may not have a content. When it has a content, it merges with knowledge.

When there is no reference from the mind to the logical space, then, even at the presence of knowledge, there is no consciousness.

Consciousness is the starting point and the motivation to knowledge.

Descartes mistook consciousness for knowledge. Indeed, his Innate Ideas were nothing but consciousness without a content.

Consciousness is time-free because it is a psychological reference to the mathematical space of the mind, which is not bounded by space-time. As a result, it is only with the help of consciousness that one can get out of the set boundary of a paradigm and can look into the future.

Consciousness is the tendency (or reference) of a part to a greater part or the whole. As a result, it makes knowledge more useful and effective.
Thought is solidified consciousness with a content.

The present age is the age of "managing the future". Therefore the role of consciousness in strategic decision-making can hardly be overstated. The theories and hypotheses developed and verified in this paper are meant to fuel the consciousness of strategic decision-makers.


Continued ...



Author of:

Secret Knowledge of the Qur'an