Why reason is to be placed before the text.

“Notwithstanding that no human being can ever attain to faith otherwise than by Allah’s leave, and it is He who lays the loathsome evil of disbelief upon those who will not use -their reason?” (Holy Qur’an 10:100)

I intend for this to be a short entry that will hopefully give the reader some things to ponder over. There is an apparent rift between two camps among the Muslims.

  1. The camp that make the claim that they place the text before their intellectual capacity or reasoning.
  2. The camp that claims that reason is the end all be all.

There is ahadith that is attributed to the Blessed Messenger (saw) that says: “The Pen is lifted from three (i.e., their deeds are not recorded):

  1. a child until he reaches puberty;
  2. an insane man until he comes to his senses;
  3. one who is asleep until he wakes up.”

[Sources: Abu Dawud #4403, and Ibn Majah #2041]

This is something that is one of the basic principles for usul ul fiqh (the methodology for understanding). This is particularly fundamental for the Sunni denomination.

So the question is: Why are these three lifted from the pen? Why are these three not culpable or liable for their actions or lack of actions?

The answer to these questions exposes the flaw of the understanding that camp that claims, “that they place the text before their intellectual capacity or reasoning.”. It is simply a false claim. Someone who is mentally insane or small children for example are not the liable for the call to Islam.

In fact any time a person even reads or recites the Qur’an or a prophetic narration what is used to do this? Obviously one uses the eyes to read , the brain to interpret what is being read or recited, the tongue is being used, motor functions. The brain is used in the entire process. There has never been in the entire history of Islam anyone who simply goes up to a person with a text and says, ‘here accept this!’.

Would we as Muslims accept that if a Christian came up to us with a Bible and said, ‘here accept this!’. No! We would not accept this approach.

However, there are some obviously flaws to those who make reason as the end all be all. Insh’Allah for those interested in reading more on this I invite you to read the following entry: https://primaquran.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/the-place-of-reason-in-the-holy-quran-islam/

The Qur’an subjects itself to reason.

The truth is that the Holy Qur’an subjects itself to reason. That is correct. The Holy Qur’an subjects itself to reason. The Holy Qur’an does not just come along and say, ‘here accept this!’. It gives arguments all of which demand the faculty of reason.

“Tell them, “I do not claim to have all the treasures of Allah in my hands, nor to know the unseen, nor do I claim to be an angel. I follow only what is revealed to me.” Say to them, “Are the blind and the seeing equal?” Will you not reflect? (Holy Qur’an 6:50)

THE QUR’AN SUBJECTS ITSELF TO FALSIFICATION TEST.

 
“Will they not reflect upon the Qur’an, or are there locks upon [their] hearts?” (Holy Qur’an 47:24)

“[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammed], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.” (Holy Qur’an 38:29)

“Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? If it had been from [any] other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction.” (Holy Qur’an 4:82)

If the Holy Qur’an was not subjecting itself to reason it would be impossible to have the verse above. The Qur’an is thus subjecting itself to a test of consistency. And consistency can only be verified through an examination of the text. This uses the faculty of reasoning and critical thinking skills.

“So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammed], about that which We have revealed to you, [The Qur’an], then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters.” (Holy Qur’an 10:94)

Again if it was not even a possibility for the Blessed Messenger (saw) to have doubts or in a broader context any believers than this verse would be redundant. For us as Muslims to believe in redundant revelation is problematic.

The point being is that once again the Holy Qur’an is subjecting itself to extra Quranic criteria for the purpose of its verification. That ‘IF’ (if being prepositional) that one could go and approach the ahl dhikr (the Jews and Christians) and talk with them. This process would be a matter of intellectual inquiry that would either lead to reinforced faith or further doubts.

“And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammed], then produce a Surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah , if you should be truthful.” (Holy Qur’an 2:23)

This particular verse again the Holy Qur’an subjects its veracity to an outside challenge. A challenge that would require rigorous intellectual endeavor and a mastery of the Arabic language.

REASON AND TEXT ASHARIS HANBALIS & SALAFIS

In fact in a twist of irony even those Muslims whom we call ‘literalist’ or ‘textualist’ actually put a great emphasis on reason and intellect to arrive to the conclusions that they do. This is obvious when you ask them why do they take that approach they will give you their……… reasons! Because even when they take the attributes of Allah (swt) based upon their apparent meaning they always seem to add “in a way that befits his majesty.” That is certainly not a textual only position. If it was a textual only position there would be no need to add, “in a way that befits his majesty.” That is because people use their cognitive functions of reading and comprehension and the so called ‘texualist’ and ‘literalist’ know this and thus they add their twist, “in a way that befits his majesty.”

Even when you look at the ahadith , they are classified by mass transmitted, sound, good, weak and fabricated. It is a process of subjecting both the sanad-the chain and the matn-the text to intellectual verification.

So the truth of the matter is that reason is placed before the text. The text is subject to falsification test. So when our brothers from the Ashari say they don’t put reason above the text or before the text you have to look at them….

Also when our brothers from the Hanbali or the Salafis say they don’t put reason above the text or before the text and yet when you look into the controversy surrounding tafweed you have to wonder if that is the case.

Or their difficulty in being consistent with such passages like

“It is He who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne. He knows what penetrates into the earth and what emerges from it and what descends from the heaven and what ascends therein; and He is with you wherever you are. And Allah, of what you do, is Seeing. His is the sovereignty of the heavens and earth. And to Allah are returned [all] matters. ” (Holy Qur’an 57:4-5)

The consistent approach from a ‘literalist’ or ‘textualist’ would be to affirm that Allah is established over the throne and that he is with us wherever we are; however the how of either is not known.

However, the Salafis , the Athari, the Hanbali were not about to let that happen. They demanded that the text submit to their intellect and their reasoning concerning what they think they know about the text.

The inconsistency can be seen where as they will take ‘establishment over the throne’ as something to be taken as a meaning but not understanding the how. Yet when it comes to the part ‘He is with you wherever you are‘ they know the how as they will proclaim, ‘With his knowledge‘. Thus departing from the text and applying the intellect.

Their reasoning is that even though they proclaim they are not mujassimah or literalist the pivot to apply  ta’weel to the part, ‘He is with you wherever you are’ shows that their is perceived contradiction in the text. One could argue due to the disease in their hearts they could not accept the outward of the text; accepting the meaning without delving into the how.

In fact it is interesting that the Salafis, Athari, the Hanbalis do not focus or reflect upon two parts of Holy Qur’an 57:4-5, the part that says, “created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne.” & where it says, “His is the sovereignty of the heavens and earth.”

The very verses in question begin and end with the absolute sovereignty of Allah (swt). That Allah (swt) is created of the heavens and earth and is established above the throne. It ends with Allah (swt) being sovereign of the heavens and the earth. You have to ask why is that they attach so much importance to this arsh? What is that they feel the arsh gives Allah (swt)?

I mean for that matter what does a throne give any king or queen? Is it not symbolic even among us as human beings? If a king or queen is not on their arsh (throne) do they stop being absolute sovereign over their subjects?

He said, “Disguise for her her throne(‘arshaha) ; we will see whether she will be guided [to truth] or will be of those who is not guided.” (Holy Qur’an 27:41)

He is Allah , other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign (l-maliku), the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior. Exalted is Allah above whatever they associate with Him. (Holy Qur’an 59:23)

Certainly there are people among the Muslims who associate a throne with Allah (swt) as if without this association Allah (swt) would not be Sovereign. Authubillah min dhalik.

He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He has knowledge of everything. (Holy Qur’an 57:3)

Allah (swt) is the first. If there is an arsh with Allah (swt) throughout eternity it would imply that no one created this arsh and that Allah (swt) is not first. Authbuillah min dhalik.

So it can be seen that the ‘Ashari, the Athari, the Salafi, the Hanbali or whomever claims that they place the text before reason are not speaking the truth.

  1. In order to even read/recite along with comprehension itself requires use of intellectual faculties. Language itself is based upon rules of grammar, syntax and logic.
  2. Muslims are in unanimous agreement that the mentally insane, small children until a certain age (discriminating capacity) and those asleep are not responsible for their actions or in actions.
  3. The Qur’an itself subjects itself to falsification test, all of which involve inquiry, reflection, the use of logic and reason.
  4. The Ashari and the Salafi both have used reason and intellect in carving out their theological positions. With phrases like “in away that befits his majesty” etc.
  5. Muslims do not take that approach (revelation above reason) to any other religious tradition outside of Islam.

Now again this does not mean that reason is the end all be all. It is important for us to recognize our own bias, cultural upbringings and intellectual acumen when we approach the sacred text. Certainly our presuppositions colour the way we interpret certain text.

I remember a teacher once saying, that light is one and the truth is one but when the Qur’an is refracted through the prism of the human mind you being to see the spectrum (interpretations).

This is why to the best of our abilities we as Muslims try and see how the Blessed Messenger (saw) understood the revelation as well as the first few generations of Muslims. When we look into this we should keep in mind that just as are coloured by our own bias, cultural upbringings and limitations in knowledge so to were those first few generations of Muslims. Even more so after the falling out they had with each other.

May Allah (swt) guide us to that which is beloved to Allah (swt).

“Notwithstanding that no human being can ever attain to faith otherwise than by Allah’s leave, and it is He who lays the loathsome evil of disbelief upon those who will not use -their reason?” (Holy Qur’an 10:100)

1 Comment

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One response to “Why reason is to be placed before the text.

  1. Omer

    Great article bro. I just scanned it but look forward to reading this in detail.

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