Quran Does Not View Reason As Antagonistic
One of the grave challenges facing the Muslim youth today is to maintain their religious identity while living in the modern world. Although most of them are able to equip themselves with basic education and some even excel in their scientific and professional life, the challenges that they are facing especially from the modern secular value system have caused some of them to drift away from the religious norms and principles.
Recent research findings show that a number of Muslim youths including those in the Muslim majority countries are becoming more skeptical with some basic principles of belief in Islam. The Economist online version, for example, reported the result of the latest PEW Research Center findings that 23% of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. It also says that as the number of American Muslims increased by almost 50% in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims.
The cause of such a dilemma is mainly connected to the current zeitgeist of the modern world which is the rise of scientism and humanism among youths. Among the basic premises of the view is that religion is seen inferior to science especially in guiding human beings to interpret realities.
Since religion is strongly connected with revelation, there is a general inclination among the youths to look at reason or rational inquiry as a single sufficient source of guidance for their life including their normative and epistemological values. On the contrary, the understanding of religion based on the textual proofs (naqliyyat) is regarded as limiting the freedom of choice, thought and life.
Contrary to the above understanding, the position of reason in Islam, is more complementary to revelation. One of the meanings of ‘aql (reason/intellect) according to the renowned Muslim linguist, Muhammad ‘Ali al-Jurjani, is ‘the light in the heart that knows what is right and wrong and prevent the possessor of reason from deviating towards false path.’
The Qur’an itself does not view reason as something antagonistic to religion. People of reason, in the Qur’an, consistently referred to as those who are inclined towards religious values and the hereafter. The people of true reason (ulu al-bab), according to the Qur’an, are those who always contemplate on the lessons from the Qur’an as written signs of God (ayat maqru’ah) and from the natural world as perceived signs of God (ayat manzurah) “Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed Signs for men of understanding” (Surah Ali ‘Imran (3): 190).
Furthermore, many of the arguments of the Qur’an are presented in a rational way. God issues challenges to non-believers to bring forward their arguments to prove their position, “Say ‘produce your proof (burhanakum) if you are truthful” (Surah al-Baqarah (2): 111). The term burhan (proof) is known in the Islamic intellectual tradition as the demonstrative argument which is based on reason and empirical evidence.
Among important rational arguments used by the Qur’an is the verse which argues on the oneness of God, “if there were in the heaven and earth, other Gods besides Allah, both will fall into ruin” (Surah al-Anbiya’ (21): 22) According to al-Ghazali, rational principle such as deductive syllogism is already inclusive in the Qur’an.
It is thus clear from the above explanation that there is a symbiotic relation between reason and revelation. The Qur’an itself is revealed to rational men. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, one of the celebrated theologians after al-Ghazali has put ten rational criteria in accepting the certainty of a traditional proof. While Ibn al-Jawzi has placed rational agreement as one of the conditions to determine the authenticity of hadith.
The openness of the Qur’an to rational principle has influenced the development of Islamic intellectual tradition at least in two respects; first, in the discussion of Islamic epistemology, reason is regarded as one of the valid channels of knowledge apart from senses and true reports (khabar ṣadiq).
Second, the willingness of Muslim scholars to accept Greek logical traditions into the Islamic tradition. Early Muslim philosophers like al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd contributed a great deal in translating and commenting and in some sense, restructuring the Greek logical literature.
The same goes to Muslim theologians (mutakallimum) like al-Baqillani, al-Ghazali and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi who appropriated logical principles into theological discussions. Discussions such as conceptualisation (taṣawwur) and assent (taṣdiq), intellection (naẓar) are few examples of important preliminary topics in the Muslim theological discussions which can be seen in the writings of the later Muslim theologians. With this reception of rational methods in religion, gradually, logic became one of the important tools of knowledge in the Islamic classification of knowledge. Beginning from the 12th century, logic was placed hand in hand with Quranic sciences, theology and Islamic jurisprudence in the curriculum of Islamic education in many parts of the Muslim world.
Indeed, such are some of the important messages from the Qur’an and Islamic tradition for the Muslim youths of the modern world.