14th January 2020, Tuesday
Some erroneously believe that religion contradicts reason and science. They view religion as the source of illusions, myths and superstitious beliefs while science and philosophy are the way to access systematic knowledge through application of scientific processes and methods. However, upon reflection, it becomes clear that this view is not completely accurate.
It is accurate from the aspect that a number of religions reject reason altogether or contradict it based on myths and superstitious beliefs that clearly contradict science.
However, it is inaccurate in that it makes assumptions that all faiths are the same with similar beliefs without considering the major differences that exist between religions with respect to their origin, themes, methods and evidence!
A closer look at the Qur’an, the primary source of Islam, which reveals beyond any shadow of doubt that Islam has granted the intellect a status that is not matched in other religions. A person who studies the Qur’an discovers that it urges and calls its readers to contemplate and reflect in depth. This is evidenced by the question, which is mentioned more than thirteen times, “Will you not use your intellect?”
The Qur’anic instructions to employ the intellect is evident in countless aspects including the following:
- The Qur’an addresses people who are open-minded and who are free from all forms of tyranny, arrogance, fear and ignorance. It proves the necessity of believing in God with logical reasoning and numerous rational proofs. For example, one verse says, “Were they created out of nothing, or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Surely, they have no faith” (52: 35-36).
- It Discusses the proofs of its opponents and rejects unfounded statements and arguments. The Qur’an (2:111) says, “Say, ‘Give your proofs if you speak the truth.’”
- It criticises those who do not use their intellect and describes them as though they are devoid of their senses because they do not benefit from the signs they see or hear in order to make the right decisions and choices. The Qur’an (22: 46) says, “Have they not travelled on through the land? And have they not hearts to understand with, or ears to hear with? For it is not their eyes which are blind, but blind are the hearts which are within their breasts.”
- It warns against those matters that affect man’s thinking. It not only urges people to use their intellect and senses and respect them but also warns against the pitfalls of mind due to the fact that human nature is torn apart by good and evil, which may otherwise lead to the wrong conclusions and sometimes deviate from the truth as a result of desires, fear or deception.
Obstacles to Clear Thinking According to the Qur’an
- Blind Following: Inherited beliefs and practices leading to negative thought patterns may affect people’s way of reasoning to such an extent that it becomes difficult to accept the truth and reject falsehood. It may prevent them from using their intellect altogether on the pretext of having been raised with specific thoughts, beliefs and practices. The Qur’an (2: 170) bluntly says about those who seek the truth, but blind traditions prevent them from following: “When it is said to them, ‘Follow that which God has sent down,’ they say, ‘Nay, we follow the ways of our fathers.’ What! Though their fathers were utterly ignorant and devoid of guidance?”
- Stubbornness and arrogance: A person may be convinced of the truth but may refuse to accept it in order to safeguard his interests, out of jealousy or as a result of disparaging the source from which it comes. As the Qur’an (27: 14) states, “They denied those signs out of iniquity and arrogance although their hearts were convinced of their truth …”
- Following whims and desires: A person may know the truth but may not rouse the courage to follow it due to following his whims and desires. The Qur’an (7: 175 176) gives us the example of a man who was given a great deal of knowledge; however, instead of acting on this knowledge and living by its dictates, he willingly gave it up in an effort to follow his vain desires and immediate interests. He indulged so immensely in his whims and desires that he could no longer make the right decisions.
Thus, the Qur’an always calls man to utilise his intellect under all circumstances. Intellect should be applied in asking questions, in taking heed, in employing reasoning and in contemplation for the incredible wonders within himself, in the universe and creation without employing preconceived ideas or blind convictions.
Only a person who fears enquiry and contemplation hides what is bound to contradict them. Indeed, the true religion must be from God who created man and endowed him with the reasoning faculty. In no way can God’s creation contradict the religion He has prescribed for humankind. There is no need, therefore, to fear asking questions and using one’s intellect and reasoning. As the Qur’an (7: 54) affirms, “His is the creation and His is the command. Blessed be God, Lord of the universe!”