Heavenly Hues – ‘Aql and Rationale

This is another Heavenly Hues paper from Qabeelah Haadi (San Fransisco Bay Area).

Check out the previous papers,

On the topic of ‘aql and rationale

By: Abd-Allah Muhammad bin Abdul Karim and Hazreen Haizi binti Harith

Verses that contain the word ‘aql (‘ain-qaf-lam) or its derivatives are 50 in the Quran. Verses that contain any word that have similar meaning, like fikr (fa-kaf-ra), faqaha (fa-qaf-ha), dhikr (dha-kaf-ra), lubb (lam-ba-ba) or it’s plural, albab are numerous, which shows that the concept of thinking is indeed highly promoted in the Quran. However, for the purpose of simplicity, only verses containing the word ‘aql or its derivatives were analyzed for this paper, which is a total of 50 verses.

The word ‘aql means intellect or reason, or to restrain. The use of ‘aql is encouraged in the Quran, as mentioned when Allah says: ‘And We have certainly left of it a sign as clear evidence for a people who use reason.’ (29:35). In all 50 verses, it was concluded that they could be divided into 2 main categories, which are 1) verses inviting mankind in general to use their ‘aql and reflect upon the creations and signs of Allah, and 2) verses addressing specific groups of people with regards to the use of their ‘aql.

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In those verses that invite all kinds of people to use their ‘aql, there were few recurring themes or signs that were mentioned. Among them were, i) the development and life of human, ii) the life, through water, and death of the earth and its produces, and iii) the alteration of night and day. For example, the Quran states, ‘And it is He who gives life and causes death, and His is the alternation of the night and the day. Then will you not reason?’ (23:80), and ‘Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We have made clear to you the signs; perhaps you will understand.’ (57:17), as well as, ‘And he to whom We grant long life We reverse in creation; so will they not understand?’ (36:68)

Upon further reflection on these verses, some of the lessons that could be extracted is that Allah is in control of each of His creation, He gives life to any, and as such, He gives death to any, and most importantly, none of His creation is exempted from death.

In the second category, the verses were addressed to specific groups of people. These verses can be further divided into 4 categories, which are, verses addressed to i) the non-believers who needs further guidance, ii) the non-believers who rejects the belief in Allah, iii) the people of the book and iv) the believers.

For the first group of people, they are those who still need guidance in putting their ‘aql to appropriate usage. After being invited to reflect on the signs and creations of Allah, and to believe that Allah is in control of everything, human could still be directed into different directions depending on the use of the ‘aql. However, Allah guides human further by rejecting the concept of worshipping multiple gods, idol-worshipping or blind faith. For example, the Quran states, ‘He presents to you an example from yourselves. Do you have among those whom your right hands possess any partners in what We have provided for you so that you are equal therein [and] would fear them as your fear of one another [within a partnership]? Thus do We detail the verses for a people who use reason.’ (30:28), also, ‘And when it is said to them, “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.” Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided?’ (2:170)

As mentioned in the Quran, the non-believers from different generations rejected their prophet(s) with various accusations, and Allah tells them to use their ‘aql and ponder about this matter, when He says, ‘Say, “If Allah had willed, I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have made it known to you, for I had remained among you a lifetime before it. Then will you not reason?”‘ (10:16)

Furthermore, they were also reminded to reflect upon and learn about the fate of previous generations who rejected their prophet and the message of Islam, in at least 3 different places. An example is, ‘So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.’ (22:46)

The second group of people addressed are the non-believers who refused to believe and submit to the Oneness of Allah even after being invited to ponder upon the creations and signs of Allah, to reflect on His Oneness, His messengers and their roles, and the fate of the previous generations who refused to believe. For this group, the Quran simply state that they are those whom do not use their ‘aql, or do not think at all. Among others, they are addressed as, 1) the deaf, dumb and blind, as in this verse, ‘The example of those who disbelieve is like that of one who shouts at what hears nothing but calls and cries cattle or sheep – deaf, dumb and blind, so they do not understand.’ (2:171), and 2) the worst of creatures in this verse, ‘Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.’ (8:22)

It is also mentioned that, they have hearts that are divided as shown in this verse, ‘They will not fight you all except within fortified cities or from behind walls. Their violence among themselves is severe. You think they are together, but their hearts are diverse. That is because they are a people who do not reason.’ (59:14)

And because they are people whom do not utilize their ‘aql, and consequently do not believe, their fate in this world is that they are defiled, while in the hereafter, their destination is the hellfire while regretting not using there ‘aql properly, as mentioned in these two verses, ‘and He will place defilement upon those who will not use reason.’ (10:100), and ‘And they will say, “If only we had been listening or reasoning, we would not be among the companions of the Blaze.”‘ (67:10)

The third group of people addressed is the people of the book. In the time of Rasulullah (salAllahu ‘alaihi wasallam, SAW), some of them claimed that they believed, but refused to accept the message of Rasulullah SAW. For these people, the Quran addressed them by posing rhetorical questions, which portrayed the acts that they were questioned with looked even worse. From the analyzed verses, none of the verses mentioned them as people who do not think directly. Some of the acts that were questioned were, first, them not practicing what they preach in this verse, ‘Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason?’ (2:44), second, their argument about Ibrahim (‘alaihissalam) in this verse, ‘O People of the Scripture, why do you argue about Abraham while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason?’ (3:65), and, third, them preferring the lowly life as mentioned in this verse, ‘And there followed them successors who inherited the Scripture [while] taking the commodities of this lower life and saying, “It will be forgiven for us.” And if an offer like it comes to them, they will [again] take it. Was not the covenant of the Scripture taken from them that they would not say about Allah except the truth, and they studied what was in it? And the home of the Hereafter is better for those who fear Allah, so will you not use reason?’ (7:169)

One important lesson that could be extracted from these verses is that, they used their ‘aql based on their whims and desire, and their refusal to believe was due to sheer arrogance.

The final group of people addressed is the believers, who submit to the Oneness of Allah, who worship Allah alone, and obey the teachings of His messenger, Muhammad SAW. Upon reflecting on the signs and creations of Allah, the eeman or faith of the believers should be reaffirmed and solidified, resulting in increased `ubudiyyah (worship acts) to Allah. However, the use of ‘aql for a believer has to be accompanied with knowledge i.e. in the light of the Quran and the Sunnah. As mentioned in the Quran, none would properly understand, except people with knowledge, ‘And these examples We present to the people, but none will understand them except those of knowledge.’ (29:43) In addition, in few occasions, the Quran tells the believers, to ponder and learn from the Quran itself, ‘Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.’ (12:2)

In the remaining of the verses addressed to the believers, most begins by Allah mentioning His commands, and ends with ‘so that you may understand’, implying that, it is not for the believer to question the details of these commands, rather, obey it and be assured that there are lessons to be learned from these commands. For example, ‘Say, “Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him, and to parents, good treatment, and do not kill your children out of poverty; We will provide for you and them. And do not approach immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed. And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason.”‘ (6:151), and ‘O you who have believed, do not take as intimates those other than yourselves, for they will not spare you [any] ruin. They wish you would have hardship. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater. We have certainly made clear to you the signs, if you will use reason.’ (3:118)

The believers are also reminded to reflect upon the deceptions of shaytaan that has led many astray, ‘And he had already led astray from among you much of creation, so did you not use reason?’ (36:62).

Also, in lieu of the lesson of life and death and that no creation of Allah could escape from death (from the first main category), which invites people to ponder upon the signs of Allah, the believers were asked to think beyond this life through rhetorical questions. For example, ‘And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah, so will you not reason?’ (6:32). As well as, ‘And whatever thing you [people] have been given – it is [only for] the enjoyment of worldly life and its adornment. And what is with Allah is better and more lasting; so will you not use reason?’ (28:60)

In conclusion, even though these verses are directed towards different groups, each of it serves as a reminder for the believers. As for the verses directed towards those who do not submit to the Oneness of Allah and the people of the book, a believer should continue reexamining him/herself so that he/she is free from the characteristics associated with these groups. As for the verses directed to the believers, one should always pause and reflect upon them. Indeed there are great lessons to be learned. Allahu ta`ala a`lam.

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One response to “Heavenly Hues – ‘Aql and Rationale”

  1. Avatar Gohar says:

    This is a topic that many modernists use to further their cause. How would we answer those who feel they are encouraged to use their reason by muslims when they are being invited to Islam, but are then told that they must stop using their reason once they have accepted the deen? I think Charles has asked such a question on another thread.

    Can reason be used when it comes to the unseen? I ask as reasoned arguments are given by Allah to argue against the concept of the trinity. Can a modernist therefore use reasoned arguments to argue against islamic doctrines too?


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