The Quran says: Verily, the vilest of all creatures in the sight of God are those deaf, those dumb ones who do not use their reason. [Asad] (8:22)
إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِندَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ
Or dost thou think that most of them listen [to thy message] and use their reason? Nay, they are but like cattle - nay, they are even less conscious of the right way! [Asad] (25:44)
أَمْ تَحْسَبُ أَنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ أَوْ يَعْقِلُونَ ۚ إِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا كَالْأَنْعَامِ ۖ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ سَبِيلًا
and who, whenever they are reminded of their Sustainer’s messages, do not throw themselves upon them [as if] deaf and blind. [Asad] (25:73)
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا
The above Qur’anic verses (and many others too numerous to quote here) leave no doubt that human reason and revelation go hand in hand. What could be worse for human beings than to be called “vilest of all creatures” or to be referred to as “cattle”? Would anyone like to be associated with these labels even for a moment? But that is what we turn into, in the eyes of Allah if we do not use reason in understanding His revelation. Would our prayers and fasts be able to save us from the hellfire in that case?
It is one thing to be limited by human reason in understanding the revelation. But discarding reason altogether because of this limitation is entirely a different matter. Human reason is constantly evolving. It is certainly far more advanced now than it was even a few hundred years ago. Human beings now may have the same physical body as the cavemen but they certainly do not have the same mind.
The verses dealing with the planets and stars, plants and animals, oceans and mountains, clouds, rain, thunder, and lightning, etc. on the one hand, and those dealing with conception and evolution of a baby inside mother’s womb on the other (23:13-14), could not be understood only a few decades ago – and even now many challenges remain (and will continue to remain) for human reason. But that is the way Allah intended for human reason to advance. It needs a challenge. Without challenge it dies. The Quran recognizes this evolving nature of human reason when it says:
سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
(41:53) – In time We shall make them fully understand Our messages [through what they perceive] in the utmost horizons [of the universe] and within themselves, so that it will become clear unto them that this [revelation] is indeed the truth. [Still,] is it not enough [for them to know] that thy Sustainer is witness unto everything? [Asad]
And further: وَلَوْ أَنَّمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن شَجَرَةٍ أَقْلَامٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَّا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
(31:27) – And if all the trees on earth were pens, and the sea [were] ink, with seven [morel seas yet added to it, the words of God would not be exhausted: for, verily, God is almighty, wise. [Asad]
Therefore, human reason has to keep evolving in order to fully understand the revelation. And this evolution, as mentioned above, is a challenging process. Those who shy away from this challenge and take refuge in superstition and imitation slowly lose their mental ability to reason and to think, and according to the Qur’an, will become “like cattle” or, worse yet, turn into “vilest of all creatures” as we Muslims seem to have become. There is only one way to reverse this situation: Give reason its due place in revelation.
Reason is a great power
اِنَّ الَّذِيْنَ يُجَادِلُوْنَ فِيْٓ اٰيٰتِ اللّٰهِ بِغَيْرِ سُلْطٰنٍ اَتٰىهُمْ ۙ اِنْ فِيْ صُدُوْرِهِمْ اِلَّا كِبْرٌ مَّا هُمْ بِبَالِغِيْهِ ۚ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللّٰهِ ۭ اِنَّهٗ هُوَ السَّمِيْعُ الْبَصِيْرُ
(40:56) – Behold, as for those who call God’s messages in question without having any evidence therefore in their hearts is nothing but overweening self-conceit, which they will never be able to satisfy: seek thou, then, refuge with God - for, verily, He alone is all-hearing, all-seeing! [Asad]
Although human beings are not capable of succeeding in this fight against the Divine Laws (40:35); but all the Prophet’s (PBUH) opponents disputed the Divine Laws without reason. They were doing this in order to maintain their authority and elite status by sucking the blood, sweat, and tears of the masses. This is not the way to become superior (7:146). Allah says to our Prophet (PBUH): O Messenger! Do not give any importance to what they say. In order to remain safe from the ill effects of their designs, remain focused on the divine laws which will protect you (40:56).
Here, the word سُلْطٰنٍ has come. It says that the opponents of the Prophet (PBUH) who were disputing the Divine Laws were fighting without سُلْطٰنٍ; that is, without reason which is a great power. In philosophy literature it is mentioned that reason is a great power. Imagine that the Quran is saying reason is a great power 1,400 years ago! And it is the miracle of the Arabic language that it had a word for it at that time when Arabs were drowned in ignorance which is famously referred to as the “period of Jaahiliyah.” The Quran has used just one word سُلْطٰنٍ which covers both aspects: reason as well as power.
The Quran has called reason as the greatest power for providing evidence. And it asks its opponents to provide proof for their claim:
هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
(2:111) – Produce an evidence for what you are claiming, if what you say is true! [Asad]
Therefore, سُلْطٰنٍ means evidence based on reason and logic. They do not have any evidence for their opposition, so they use threat and intimidation (40:56): بِغَيْرِ سُلْطٰنٍ . That is why the Quran says (23:117): لَا بُرْهَانَ لَهُ – for their position they have no evidence and logic. So, they engage in fighting against the Divine Laws (40:35). All the opponents who dispute the Divine Laws without reason, do this in order to maintain their authority. To confront them (40:56): فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللّٰهِ – O Messenger! Do not give any importance to what they say. In order to remain safe from the ill effects of their designs, you should take protection behind the shield of Allah's Laws.
Just as our religious priesthood has created shortcuts for everything, it says that recite أعوذُ بِٱللَّهِ مِنَ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنِ ٱلرَّجِيمِ and you will achieve greatness. Whereas, as it is mentioned above, Prophet (PBUH) faced constant opposition from his enemies so much so that they waged many wars against him. All the wars that the Prophet faced were defensive wars. So, Allah says that if you remain steadfast and firm on the divine mission by following Allah’s laws, then Allah will be with you and you will have Allah’s protection as a shield of defense.
Divine laws and acquiring power
The Quran says:
سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ
(7:146) – From My messages shall I cause to turn away all those who, without any right, behave haughtily on earth. [Asad]
According to Allah’s law of Requital, Allah will put away those who turn away from His message and exercise power unjustly (without Haq).
Power by itself is neither good nor evil. Its use makes it good if it is used for Haq; or makes it evil if it is used for Baatil. The Quran brought Deen which is a system of life and requires power to be implemented. So, this power is good because it is used to establish Haq in the world.
Allah didn’t send Deen-e Islam for delivering only sermons and giving advice. Deen is a system and Allah sent it to be practically established as a system of life. This can only be done through exercising power. This is why the Quran says (3:139): أَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ – You will have the highest position in the world. This is a superlative degree of greatness that comes from the use of power to establish Al-Haq in the world. This will be your position if you are Momineen:
وَأَنتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
(3:139) – You will have the highest position in the world if you are true Momineen.
In religion it becomes just a mental thing. It has nothing to do with practical implementation of Deen and establishment of Al-Haq in the world based on reason, logic, and wisdom:
أَدْعُو إِلَى اللَّهِ ۚ عَلَىٰ بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي
(12:108) – Say [O Prophet]: "This is my way: Resting upon conscious insight accessible to reason, I am calling [you all] unto God - I and they who follow me." [Asad]
This is the Prophet’s (PBUH) way which is very clear and straightforward. His call is based on firm conviction and reason. So, the Prophet (PBUH) followed it and he urged that his Ummah should follow it as well. Reason under the guidance of revelation is the ultimate power.
Allama Iqbal says that it is only possible to achieve it through the Qur’an (Allah’s final Revelation):
“Gar tu mi khahi Musalman zeestan;
neest mumkin juz ba Quran zeestan.”
If you wish to live the life a Muslim;
It is impossible but to live by the Quran.
‘Aisha (R) said: “The Prophet (PBUH) was a walking Quran.” Thus the real Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) is to live by the Quran by practically establishing it as the constitution of life as he (PBUH) did, and not just reciting it for earning reward in the hereafter.
Let us pledge today to do that. Let the Revelation of Allah – now contained only in the Quran and protected by Allah until eternity – change our individual and collective lives in this world as well as in the Hereafter.