Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I love the etymological root "gnosticus"

I love the etymological root "gnosticus"... from etymonline.com:

gnosticus, from Late Gk. gnostikos, noun use of adj. gnostikos "knowing, able to discern," from gnostos "knowable," from gignoskein "to learn, to come to know"

When you recognize the blessings of Allah, you are a believer, if you are fully cognizant of Allah and all his attributes, you are also a gnostic, if you fail to do both, you are agnostic.

It's very similar to the arabic root: 'Aa Ra Fa / Ya' ri fu ... which also means "to know".... and whoever it was that translated the word / name / title / spiritual state 'Aarif into "Gnostic" really knew what s/he was doing... it's a perfect translation.

And I really like the word "agnostic"... it's the perfect word to describe that somnambulant state people are in nowadays. They have all the blessings in the world, and are completely agnostic of The Provider of the blessings.... like how on thanksgiving, people say "I'm thankful for ____"... they never say "i'm thankful to God for ___". If you're thankful, you have to be thankful TO someone, or it doesn't make sense, instead you should say "i'm glad that ____"... but it isn't thanks. "To Thank" is a transitive verb.

If you look at the etymology for the word "know" or "knowledge"... it says that even that comes from "gno" which sounds similar to "gnosticus" and it makes me wonder if there is a connection.

On a related note, if you look at the ayah in the Quran in surah baqara (2:31)

وَعَلَّمَ ءَادَمَ ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَہُمۡ عَلَى ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنۢبِـُٔونِى بِأَسۡمَآءِ هَـٰٓؤُلَآءِ إِن كُنتُمۡ صَـٰدِقِينَ
And He taught Adam all the names [of things], then showed them to the angels, saying: Inform Me of the names of these, if ye are truthful. (31)

(That ayah (and the ones that follow) has been on my mind nagging me for the longest time to figure out its meaning, it's a very deep ayah)

If you look at the definition of gnosticus, it says "able to discern"... well able to discern what? the names of things? ie, the ability to identify one thing from another? This is what light allows us to do. In darkness, nothing is distinguishable, but with light, things are differentiable, and in Islam we are taught that knowledge IS a light. So, is this what knowledge is at the most basic level, the ability to identify?

If you look at the two approaches at education: Traditional islamic education, and the western way, one striking difference is how for the former memorization is so heavily stressed, and in the latter it is more about learning how to process stuff.

At the end of several years of western education, one realizes that they really don't KNOW too many things, but have a very strong ability to process stuff. After a traditional islamic education, people actually know a lot of things, but often (nowadays) can't really process as much -- which, of course, wasn't always the case, eg. the formulation of usul al fiqh over a thousand years ago, and the generations that have developed it.

It's like nouns versus verbs: In arabic ALL words are nouns, verbs, or particles.

- Nouns are independent of time.
- Verbs are dependent of time.
- particles have no meaning in and of themselves (like at, in, with, of, etc).

So is knowledge primarily a matter of learning nouns -- learning how to differentiate one thing from another, or how to process things.... or is it both? They are of course both creations of Allah -- Allah has created us and all that we do.... but what is knowledge?

And the idea that "Knowledge is a Light," is very interesting, because light is dual-natured: It behaves both as a wave, and as a particle. My physics book in high school described it as a "wavicle". Maybe knowledge is the same way: it is the ability to identify things, and the ability to process things. Allahu 'Alam.

I dunno why I'm sointrigued by this root. Studying the underpinnings of knowledge itself is really enjoyable..."metaknowledge" ... i probably sound kind of insane right now, haha.


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