Saturday, March 28, 2020

Reclaiming Faith and Reason in Islam

By Irshad Ahmad Bhat and Zahid Sultan Magray, New Age Islam

27 March 2020
 “Trust in God, but tie Your camel”
-        Prophet Muhammad

Islam today is the religion of more than 350million Muslims occupying a wide belt stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, across Africa, Parts of Europe and Asia. However, many Muslims in our times might be offended by the assertion that Holy Quran wants people to use their reasoning and power of intellect. For such, Faith should be blinded, followed with emotions and demonstrated through traditions, customs and rituals by Clerics and Forefathers.

The Quran specifies that the characteristic that distinct humans from other Animals is of Aql (Rationality). As Quran Puts,” For the worst of beasts in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb- those who understand not.” (8:22). When one goes through Quran; Allah asks people again & again to ponder over the signs in the universe; stars, moon, earth, Creation, Rains, and others. A system is being set in motion to the use of mankind so as to extract benefits from it. 

Had creator, wished, He could have asked immediate or complete faith, without giving arguments related to both the heart and the mind. However, Allah prefer to provide liberty and choice based on the exercises of intellect, reason and will. He presents reasons for and wisdom behind all his instructions and demonstrated that evidence is essential for any truth to be proven (10:11,2:111,21:22). Allah wants humans to reflect , ponder and deliberate before any belief or action .Every action has a cause and effect , as penned by Quran when Allah ordained humans to learn from history of previous nations; “ Do they not travel  through the land, so that their hearts( the mind) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts “(22:46)

One also comes To know that Holy Quran suggested people to ask questions, provided they do so with sincerity and the desire to understand the truth. Ali ibn Abi Talib has beautifully said,” ask in order to understand, and do not ask in order to find fault”. Quran answers every one of these questions, patiently and consistently (21:7).  Allah has given us rationality, so has he limited the powers of the human mind. Yes, some matters transcend the human powers of logic and rationality. The recognition of such limitations is also a result of human rationality: “And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge “……

Eminent Iranian philosopher, Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahhari, cites four possible reasons for pitfalls or errors in reasoning by humans, as outlined by Quran.

First, our failure to adopt a neutral and objective stance and, instead, base our beliefs on heresy , assumptions ;

Secondly, to follow the belief of others, particularly of one’s forefathers, despite knowing that everyone of us is responsible for one’s own belief, must reflect and think for oneself;

Thirdly, to be swayed by emotions, personal desires, whims and motives so that the search for truth becomes obscure, and;

Finally, is a sickness of heart, corruption of human self through continues exposure to and delving in sinful acts without any retrospection and penance.

When Reason is emphasized to such an extent, to claim inconsistency with science is in itself contradictory in nature. God’s scheme of this world is Rationally designed. But Religion must not be used to alter science and vive- versa. Our value system must test on the scale of rationality, provided we are humble enough to understand that it has limitations. our soul manifests itself through our conscience even though we may not use our endowed six senses. Rationalism and traditionalism must be balanced properly where both can keep social order intact.

The debates on the ongoing covid-19 of whether to continue prayers at mosque or not is a result of such improper balancing of faith and reason. However, in the advisories issued by WHO To national government at national level to our local administration in J & K, nothing is in contradiction to faith. instead, Strong traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are clearly supportive of such instructions. The Mutazilis and Asharites had both tried to build a bridge between revelation and natural science. The notion that modern science   is now considered “Abysmal “, as Eminent Pakistani noble Lurate Adus Salam, once, put it, haunts eastern scholars. “Muslims have a kind of nostalgia for the past, when they could contend that they were dominant cultivators of science “. 

It may be summed up fairly that in Islamic scripts both reason and faith or rationalism and traditionalism are interlinked and interdependent. They are also to be found supportive of each other. And, one of the two can’t be separated from each other without causing unfolding suffering to humanity. it was only because of this balanced combination that Islam as an educated force not only inspired Muslims to cultivate knowledge and learning, but also infused in them the spirit of scientific inquiry which is vary life and soul of modern science. Golden Age of Islam is witness to this where scientific temper reached its zenith.  Albert Einstein has rightly put it,” Science without religion is blind; while religion without science is lame.” 

-Irshad Ahmad Bhat and Zahid Sultan Magray- The authors are doctoral fellows of political Science

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