To be a believer in Islam, one needs to believe in Allah in all His Names and Attributes, in the angels, in the divine scriptures, in the prophets, in the Day of Judgement and in predestination. Each on of these are topics in themselves, which a person should study in order to believe in them. These concepts are not Islamic dogma as such but are from Islamic sources – the revelations from Allah in the Holy Quran and the actions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) – the Sunnah – as that was also inspired by Allah. The word “Islam” itself means submission to the Truth and these beliefs are part of the belief system that a person must submit to in order to be a Muslim.
These beliefs do not occur in a vacuum. The Quran contains many rational arguments and repeatedly asks the audience to ponder, use their reason, observation as well as their conscience to decide for oneself whether the beliefs that are elucidated in the Islamic sources make sense or not.
“Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.” (Quran 8:22)
“Thus, does Allah make clear to you His verses that you might use reason.” (Quran 2:242)
“Verily, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the ships which sail through the sea with benefits for people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every creature, and in His directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason”. (Quran 2:164)
“He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Verily, in that are signs for people who reason”. (Quran 16:12)
Umar Al Khattab (RA) said:
“The foundation of a man is his intellect, his honor is in his religion, and his chivalry is in his character.”
Islamic philosophers like Abu Hamid Al Ghazaali wrote the Revival of Religious Sciences in Islam, in which he took a rational approach logically walking through the reader to believe in each of the Islamic beliefs and practices. In his times, the scholars had become obsessed with Greek philosophy and rational arguments. Thus, he went about explaining the beliefs and practices of Islam in clear, rational arguments for his readers. In the Revival of Religious Sciences in Islam, Al Ghazzali wrote: “Reason is the source and fountainhead of knowledge, as well as its foundation. Knowledge sprouts from it as the fruit does from a tree, as light comes from the sun, and as vision comes from the eye. How then could that which is the means of happiness in this life and the Hereafter not be considered the most honored? Or how could it be doubted?” In supporting the validity of the natural sciences, Al Gazzali wrote: “As for natural sciences, they consist of examining the world of the heavens and the stars and the distinct substances that lie beneath them such as water, air, dirt, and fire, and the contingent substances such as animals, vegetation, and minerals, and the causes that alter them, transform them, and blend them. That is like the doctor’s examination of the human body, its primary and secondary parts, and the causes of change in its disposition. Just as it is not a condition of faith to reject medicine, neither is it a condition of faith to reject this knowledge.”
Ibn Sina believed that as long as Islam is properly interpreted it will be understood to be made up of an area of truth like philosophy, where a person can use his intellectual abilities to rationalize and follow logical arguments. The foundation of his theory was on the strong mutual compatibility of faith and reason. This agreed with the rational claims of earlier Greek philosophers while also being compatible with the principles of Islam. His studies in philosophy convinced him of the clear supremacy of Islam as a way of life. Ibn Rush also studied Greek philosophy and was less inclined to the belief of the mutual compatibility of faith and reason unlike Ibn Sina. In Incoherence of Incoherence, he attacked Al Ghazali's criticisms of using reason to explain religion. Nevertheless, Ibn Rushd did not think that rationality could explain all Islamic beliefs.
It is important to realize that the origin of knowledge is Allah Himself - Al Aleem – the Most Knowledgeable.
"Behold, your Lord said to the angels: I will create a viceregent on earth. They said: Will you place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood? While we do celebrate your praise and glorify your holy name. He said: I know what you know not" (Surah Baqarah V. 30).
"And He taught Adam the nature of all things, then placed them before the angels and said: Tell me the nature of these if you are right" (Surah Baqarah V. 31)
"They said: Glory to You of knowledge we have none, save what You have taught us. In truth it is You who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom" (Surah Baqarah V. 32)
In Islamic theology, it is Allah who gave humans the capacity to pursue knowledge by themselves. He taught Adam the "names" of things, implying he gave him reason to pursue independent knowledge. The Quran mentions those who use their reason and those that do not and compares them to the living and the dead or the seeing and the blind.
"Is then who does know that which has been revealed onto you from your Lord is the Truth like one who is blind? Is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition" (Surah Raad V. 19)
In fact, reason is so important that Prophet Muhammad made the pursuance of knowledge obligatory on all Muslims -- male and female. The purpose of knowledge in Islam is to know Allah, while the purpose of reason is to help one to come to the Truth. It is important to know the limitations of reason. Reason is not infallible, thus when a someone realizes that Islam is the Truth, he must submit to all of it, whether he completely understands it or not. In Western secular thought reason sits in judgement over the Truth, while in Islam reason is supposed to take you to the Truth and increase you in faith.
"Behold! Abraham said: My Lord! Show me how you give life to the dead. He said: Do you not then believe? He said: Yes! But to satisfy my understanding. He said: Take four birds, tame them to turn to you. Put a "portion" of them in every hill and call to them. They will come to you with speed. Then know that Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise" (Surah Baqarah V. 260)
The Islamic belief system is an integrated whole in which each part plays a role in supporting and enhancing the other, making complete holistic rational sense. In order to make sense of any of its parts, one needs to qualify for it. Among its qualification is the belief in its basics. Just like one can carry out elaborate proofs in geometry only after accepting certain geometrical laws to be true, the same way one can get to use reason, inductive/deductive logic in Islam after accepting the basics from the Islamic sources – the Quran and the Sunnah.
In the Islamic paradigm of reality, what is present in the unseen (ghaib) and the seen are an integrated whole. About the unseen, the Quran says:
“And He revealed unto His slave that which He revealed. The heart in no way falsified what it saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what he saw?” (Surah Najam V. 10-12)
Events taking place in the unseen affect the events in the seen and vice versa. In order to understand the unseen, the Muslim depends on the revelation – the Quran and the Sunnah as he does not have a direct access to the unseen except through true dreams. The seen world, on the other hand, can be subjected to observation and scientific inquiry in light of the revelations. It is through the combination of faith in revelation as well as observation and reasoning in light of the revelations that a Muslim tries to make sense of the universal reality.
It is through a continual process of studying the revelations, seeking knowledge, observation, reasoning and contemplation that a Muslim starts to get inner insights into reality while staying within the tenets of his faith. He feels ecstasy, spiritual and mental delight at uncovering truths which embellish his understanding of the complete Truth. Thus, his use of reason, enhances the conviction of his beliefs. It is this interconnected understanding of the whole system of reality that develops wisdom in him.
“He granted wisdom to whom he pleased and he to whom wisdom is granted is granted has received indeed a benefit overflowing. But none will grasp the message except men of understanding” (Surah Baqarah V. 269)
Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) has been reported as saying: “When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of religion.”
Thus, Islam is not a religion of blind faith. Having submitted to the Truth, one has the right to use reason in the path to understand things. A Muslim will develop an insight in to the Truth. His firasa (Islamic intuition) will make him penetrate the mysteries of this life.