Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Faith & Reason

Latest scientific research done in the West indicates that analytical thinking extinguishes faith. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=losing-your-religion-analytic-thinking-can-undermine-belief). At first, someone who reads such results might think that there is no place of reason in faith. So it is important to investigate the real role of reason in faith in Islamic epistemology (theory of knowledge).

First, it is important to realize that the origin of knowledge is Allah (SWT) Himself - Al Aleem.

"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)

Allah (SWT) gave humans the capacity to pursue knowledge by themselves. He (SWT) taught Adam the "names" of things, implying he gave him reason to pursue independent knowledge. While other religions might be anti-reason, Islam is pro-reason. 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 the Prophet (SWAS) made the pursuance of knowledge obligatory on all Muslims -- male and female. The purpose of knowledge is to know Allah (SWT), while that 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)

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 farasa (Islamic intuition) will make him penetrate the mysteries of this life.

We must realize that the research cited in the beginning of this article was done in the Western world with mostly Christian subjects. There are many illogical concepts in Christianity like the Trinity and Original Sin. Thus if someone uses his reason he will realize the contractions of the Church doctrine and lose his faith. The very opposite is true in Islamic epistemology.

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