The Qur’an Nurtures Intellect and shapes Reason
“We verily, have made it a Quran in Arabic, that you may be able to understand (its meanings and its admonitions).” (43:3) [Hilali & Khan]
The Quran not only appeals to reason, but it nourishes and develops it. Allah says that We have made the Quran unambiguous (2:2; 4:82) and absolutely clear (16:89) showing the truth, so that humans can understand it by using their intellect; so that they can use reason and logic to understand it (47:24).
This will develop and nourish their intellectual abilities. The Quran addresses realities of life; it provides real solutions to real problems of life facing humanity (16:64). Its teaching is a guiding light (5:15) of truth and therefore it illuminates the path of humanity (6:122). This is the essence and reality of the Quran.
The Quran was sent down to the Prophet (PBUH) so that, he may, in accordance with Allah’s directives, bring humankind out of darkness into light (14:1). And history is witness that the Prophet (PBUH) indeed did it.
Allah tells the Prophet (PBUH) to declare:
قُلْ هَـٰذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ عَلَىٰ بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي
(12:108) – Tell them that this is my way which is very clear and straight. My call is based on firm conviction, reason, knowledge, and understanding – mine as well as that of my followers.
Therefore, this is the way of the Prophet (PBUH) that he himself declares that he follows; and the Prophet (PBUH) also declares that those who claim to obey his way (Sunnah) must follow as well. But what is the reality in practice? Listen to any sermon by those who proclaim Prophet’s Sunnah?
The preachers in their sermons recite a verse of the Quran and then what follows after is weaving together of narrations after narrations describing miracles of the Prophet (PBUH) that mesmerizes the audience and turns off their intellect and thought. These kinds of sermons have nothing to do with the Prophet (PBUH).
When people get emotionally and psychologically attached to listening to stories of miracles and supernatural feats attributed to the Prophet (PBUH) then they lose their ability to think. This was a great conspiracy that was hatched against Islam so that religious clergy in collusion with kings could keep the masses ignorant; so that the masses never could question their illegitimate existence in Islam. In this age the light of knowledge is spreading fast and people are awakening from their religiously induced deep slumber.
But the world’s Pharaohs (hegemonic powers) cannot let the Muslim masses become independent thinkers again because they know that if that happens then the world will once again see the shining results of Islam as it once did; because then Islam’s true picture of universal brotherhood of humankind will emerge and engulf the whole world; and their hegemony over the world will disappear.
So, what did they do to avoid this scenario from happening and make sure Muslims as a whole don’t come even close to adopting critical thinking? Iqbal put it succinctly and cogently in few words:
Make Muslims remain engrossed in prayers and rituals
Habituated to monastic way of life and worship ancestors
If they ever happen to wake up from their daydreams
Let the magic of rulers and priests put them to sleep
Hegemonic powers are fully behind promoting and propagating this kind of Islam. Because they know that if this Ummah ever wakes up then the true Islam’s universal sublime sunshine will remove their manufactured mental darkness. The Quran’s verdict is that if Muslims become Momin, then no nation on earth will be able to dominate them (3:139). This message of the Quran may not be in front of us, but it definitely is in front of them.
Stop and Think – Prophet’s (PBUH) Plea
The Prophet (PBUH) constantly appealed to his people to stop and think:
قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَعِظُكُم بِوَاحِدَةٍ ۖ أَن تَقُومُوا لِلَّـهِ مَثْنَىٰ وَفُرَادَىٰ ثُمَّ تَتَفَكَّرُوا
(34:46) – Tell them O Messenger: I neither want to enter into unnecessary lengthy discussions with you, nor do I want to give you a long lecture. All I ask of you is, whether in pairs or alone, that you stop for a while and think! If you use your intellect and reason only then you will realize that the divine message I am presenting to you is for your own true benefit; it is for your own self-development.
The Quran emphasizes this point further. It is surprising to them that a warner has come from among them:
بَلْ عَجِبُوا أَن جَاءَهُم مُّنذِرٌ مِّنْهُمْ
(50:2) – These people are surprised that the person who has been bestowed with the Quran is an ordinary human being like them. We see the same thing today. One changes one’s demeanor and looks when one becomes religiously inclined. He does not want to look like a regular person. Why do they change their outward appearance? It is because the looks and the dress are their special religious identities.
Why would they look like ordinary people; why would they be from among them? Because if they did they will become like them. Then they will have to work hard like common folks; and then they will have to talk about the Quran’s equity. That is why they want to keep their separate special identities and the freeloading that goes with it.
There is another important pointworth noting here about why it sounds strange to them that the Messenger is an ordinary person. And that is being held accountable. The Quran’s entire foundation, the essence of our Deen is based on accountability of one’s action.
In fact, it is based on accountability of even one’s thought. However, we see that there is no accountability for those who are committing transgression and are enjoying all the material benefits of life – and they are not paying the price for their crime.
The Quran says that life is not only the life of this world; that life continues after death. Leave aside the physical form and appearance that death consumes. The internal entity which is the source of human action is the one that moves forward after death. The Quran calls it “nafs” which modern psychology calls it “self” or “personality” and which Allama Iqbal calls it “khudi.”
Human “Self” Inside Human Body
Getting into the abstract philosophy of “self” or “personality” is complex and time consuming. But some simple examples will illustrate the point. When I pick up a book I do not say that my hand picked it up. I say that “I” picked it up although my hand picked it. When I walk to the masjid I don’t say that my feet walked. I say that “I” walked although my feet walked. When I say something, I don’t say that my tongue said it. But I say that “I” said this although actually my tongue said it.
So, what is this “I” that is doing all this? In fact, it is this “I” that is accountable. A criminal is told that “you” stole that watch. He is not told that your hand stole the watch. That is, there is something else inside human being that makes him do an act. It is not his hand, it is not his feet, it is not his tongue that decided to act but that it is the inside entity that is invisible which made the decision and these organs acted only as its tool.
If someone wanted to steal something but could not get the chance to do it then in the eyes of the law he didn’t commit any crime. But in the eyes of Allah, he not only committed the crime, but that thought-crime was registered against his internal entity “self” in the divine registry – and it is this entity that moves forward after this life ends. This is the foundation of Islam. This is the essence of Deen – that no thought or action remains unaccountable in divine registry.
Islam is the conviction on this very fact that I will be asked about everything that I did or said or thought and that I will be held accountable after I die. This is called Iman in the Hereafter. But this conviction is missing from the Muslim society today.
We seek every opportunity for short-cuts. In fact, we have invented short-cuts even in the Quran – for earning easy rewards. We think we can get away by flouting the laws of Allah. But we cannot escape accountability for our actions – not even for our thoughts – in the Hereafter. How we can escape accountability if not even our Prophet (PBUH) could!
قُلْ إِنِّي أَخَافُ إِنْ عَصَيْتُ رَبِّي عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ
(6:15) – Say: “Behold, I would dread, were I [thus] to rebel against my Sustainer, the suffering [which would befall me] on that awesome Day [of Judgment].” [Asad]
Fourteen hundred years ago the Quran described this, and modern psychologist are finding its proof today through extensive research in psychoanalysis. They have concluded that there is something in humans that is neither the product of physical body nor is it subject to physical laws nor does it die with the death of the physical body.
This is called human “personality” or “self.” The Quran calls it “nafs.” They have even come to the conclusion – that human “self” is immortal. The Quran said this 1400 years ago:
قَدْ عَلِمْنَا مَا تَنقُصُ الْأَرْضُ مِنْهُمْ ۖ وَعِندَنَا كِتَابٌ حَفِيظٌ
(50:4) – Tell them We know what the earth consumes of them. It is only the physical body that disintegrates. It has neither any effect nor any control over human personality or self. Deeds affect human personality (self) and not the body. Therefore, through the preservation of human personality (self) all deeds of a person are fully preserved with Allah. The continuation of this process is called “the life hereafter.”
And human “self” remains protected and moves on to the hereafter carrying along with it the records of all the deeds done in the world. The Quran says that this record remains fastened in everyone’s neck which is opened up for one to read one’s own life’s record of deeds:
وَكُلَّ إِنسَانٍ أَلْزَمْنَاهُ طَائِرَهُ فِي عُنُقِهِ ۖ وَنُخْرِجُ لَهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كِتَابًا يَلْقَاهُ مَنشُورًا
(17:13) – The struggle between the Truth and Falsehood continues within man himself and the record of this is fastened around his neck. It is not anywhere outside but is within himself. During this life, there are many thoughts, feelings, and desires which remain hidden in the unconscious mind.
On the Day of Judgement all these will be brought out. In other words, the record which had remained folded hitherto will be spread out at that time. Man will be told to read his own record and decide for himself the punishment he deserves for his wrong deeds (17:14):
اقْرَأْ كِتَابَكَ كَفَىٰ بِنَفْسِكَ الْيَوْمَ عَلَيْكَ حَسِيبً
What is the kind of society that results when even some people believe and have deep conviction that they will be held accountable in the Hereafter? Khalifa ‘Umar (R) used to go on night-watch to find out if everything was okay with the people. In one of his excursions he found an interesting episode.
A mother (who used to sell milk) was telling her daughter to pour water in milk in order to make more profit. The daughter refused to do that. When the mother asked what happened to you now? You never objected before.
The girl said that I listened to Khalifa that one should not cheat; that one should do honest business. The mother said that no one is watching us here, so go ahead and pour some water in the milk. The girl refused again and said to her mother that Khalifa also said that Allah is watching even if no one is watching. This is the result of Iman, which is sadly missing from our society.
We may put security guards everywhere, but it will not change our society. Our hearts need to change first like that girl’s heart did. Our mindset needs to change if we say that we have Iman in the Hereafter. This will be the real renaissance of Islam. The Quran says that unless and until people change their internal mindset there will be no change in the society:
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
(13:11) – Allah does not alter the condition of a people until they bring about a change in their inner selves. This is the law of Allah and there is no exception to this law