In a certain country no one had ever seen an elephant. From India the first elephant was brought to this country. It was placed in a dark building where the eyes could not see the dark coloured elephant. Many viewers came along to see the animal. They were allowed to touch the elephant and then draw conclusions as to what an elephant was. According to which part of the elephant they had touched, they drew their conclusions by analogy and in this manner each one had a different opinion.
The one who touched the ear-lobes of the elephant exclaimed: The elephant was like a huge fan. The one who touched its back exclaimed: "The elephant is like a platform". The one who touched its leg exclaimed: "No, you are all wrong. This is like a pillar". The one who touched the trunk of the elephant said: "According to my opinion, this elephant is long and hollow within".
So, in this manner all of them had different versions of an elephant. Maulana Rumi (R.A.) now says that if in their hands they had a lamp, all these differences of opinion would have disappeared. "If everyone of them had a lamp in his hand, They would all have been safe from differing".
Lesson from this Story
These days there are much differences of opinion in this world regarding the concept of Allah, Messengership, Prophethood, the aim and object of life on earth and the resurrection. Many people, in this darkened world, independent of the light of revelation try to understand the links between the worldly life and the life of the hereafter. They try to understand the relationship between the Creator and His creation simply and only by using reasoning powers, or who try to understand these things through the reason of him who does not rely on revelation; They are all like those mentioned in this story. Not one of them will be able to reach the truth.
One blind man, whether he tries to tread the path of his own accord or through following another blind one, in both cases he will be treading towards destruction and be deprived of reaching the required destination. If a traveller and guide, are blind - no matter how many they may be, the sum total will still be blindness. Hence, to understand the reality of things, logic and reason alone is not enough. Light of revelation is also required. In the story all those who touched the elephant, were rational beings, only light was missing.
Thus Muslims should not look towards men of science and philosophy to research the affairs of the hereafter and fix the object of human life on earth. Those men of science and philosophy lack the light of revelation and as such they will conclude that man is just a machine which manufactures faeces. They will conclude that the object of this life is merely to eat, drink and exude faeces - nothing else.
The light to which we refer is divine revelation. It is the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. The light is the same which was revealed in the Cave of Hira fourteen centuries ago. May Allah protect us from any modern light.
"O new light, may your face be blackened.
In your heart is darkness and your outside is enlightened".