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Human Reason

Posted by on May 28th, 2011 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

By Yousef Drummond

 

God, having thus
created man, put into him a light which
is called reason
, which was to unite the flesh, the sense, and the soul in
a single end – to work for the service of God (emphasis mine – for Almighty Allah’s [SWT] Sake Only)[1]”.

 

I will say at the outset that I was misled into believing modern philosophy, a body of
human knowledge relating to the secular world, to be sacrosanct.

I take the opportunity to cite a quote from the English translation of the Gospel of Barnabas to emphasize
my error in judgment.

The quote cited above is so simple but profound for myself and those who yearn for a faith in the Oneness of Almighty Allah
(SWT)
and a sincere belief in His final prophet and Messenger for all mankind until the Day of Judgment – Muhammad
(sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam).
I say all this as a personal reminder for me and, hopefully, for our readers.

The ramifications of this quote has strengthened my conviction that modern philosophy is  subordinate to the True Reality,
that is, the Revelation from Almighty Allah (SWT) that is reflected in the sayings and actions of the last prophet and Messenger of Almighty Allah (SWT) for all mankind – Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam).

I now understand modern philosophy in its proper perspective.  What do I mean by this?  I say here that Revelation- the Noble Qu’ran and the Sunna of Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam), the final prophet and Messenger for all mankind until the Day of Judgment – is heretofore my guide; Revelation is heretofore my purpose for living here in this mortal world and is the bedrock of hope for felicity in the Here-After.  Every other worldly pursuit, whether it is the vocation of philosopher or plumber, is secondary.

I have deliberately singled out “modern” philosophy – typified by the European Enlightenment – whose fundamental core is
the conviction that the individual is “an agent of change” by virtue of his new-found ability to “subordinate” and “control” Nature, chiefly for selfish ends.  Antecedent to this “subordination” and “control” of Nature is the conviction that man’s “mysterious soul[2]” is “intelligible” with the aid of the “mental faculty” of human reason alone, so as to achieve some “mastery” over his fate.

I now understand, with more certainty, that “modern” philosophy is a body of work written by men who sought to “unravel” for themselves the “inner workings” of Nature and his “mysterious soul”, via the scientific method in order to explain, to his satisfaction, his relationship to Nature and society with the aid of the “mental faculty” of human reason alone.  This new understanding of human reason as a “mental faculty” characterized as “’an original spontaneity of thought”, an agency, a force, an “immediate activity’” engaged in “the power and task of shaping life itself’”[3].   And this new understanding of reason as a
“mental faculty” ushered in an historic rise of modern science, commerce and industry the likes of which the world has ever experienced.
The zeitgeist of the European Enlightenment (for it is in Europe that this “intellectual climate” occurred and achieved “perfection” within the late 19th century) revolutionized man’s relationship to Nature.  Man’s relationship to Nature is
reflected in his discovery of “Nature’s Laws” with the aid of human reason.  “Sir” Isaac Newton’s   achievements, as reflected in his “Laws of Motion”, readily come to mind.
But man’s use of his reason as it pertains to “imagined” political and social “realities” – as typified by the systematization of modern political science, along with the social sciences, is troublesome at best, and it is within this quarter of
intellectual activity that we witness the “elasticity” of human reason.
We witness the “elasticity” of human reason when we consider that the philosophical architects of the European Enlightenment assumed the responsibility of understanding human reason as a “tool” or “instrument” to “fashion” for themselves “imagined”
relationships between man and the modern political state and to society.  And it is here, within this intellectual activity, that an earnest effort to “understand” the “mysterious soul” with the aid of human reason gained prominence and legitimacy.   This
attempt to “explain” man’s “mysterious soul” is human reason “run amok”.

It is now safe to say that, because of the “elasticity” of human reason, everyone is a philosopher today.  Ask two people to
explain to you the genesis of some “social phenomena” or other, such as “racism” and you will get two totally different answers.  There is one answer to this genesis of racism:  it is a disease of the heart.

The nature of “evil” is now a question to be answered via human reason.  “Evil”, more than ever during this period of
intellectual history of Europe, must be “intelligible” by human reason.  The answer to a question beginning with the
question “Why” is now answered cavalierly by human reason alone.

I say that the zeitgeist of the European Enlightenment – typified by the “elasticity” of human reason as it pertains to
the political and the social sciences, is subordinate to this “light” of “reason” to which the Gospel of
Barnabas
refers.  Its desired effect – this “elasticity” of human reason, is to “dim” or threaten my “light
of reason” within my heart.  In short, philosophy for me can be a dangerous thing.
I’m in no way asking myself and others to dismiss or disregard “reason” as a “faculty of the mind”, for to do so is to withdraw from the world; Almighty Allah (SWT), in His Infinite Mercy, has “equipped” us, so to speak, with five senses, typified
by organs of sight, hearing, touch, smell and speech.  What I’m saying here is to understand that, at the end of the day, the “light” of “reason” is of more significance than our “mental faculties” called “reason”. Almighty Allah (SWT) has granted us the ability to think so as to navigate the world around us and consequently engage in worldly pursuits.   Human reason, typified by the “faculty of the mind”, can easily question Revelation. This is my personal reminder.

The historical period of intellectual activity termed “The Enlightenment”, I believe, distracted me from the True Reality:  that Almighty Allah (SWT) “equipped” me, by reason of His Infinite Mercy, this precious “light” of “reason” that can only be strengthened through His Laws or Commandments – one of which is prayer, or salaat.   This “reason” or “faculty of the mind” as the modern philosophers allude to, deluded me into thinking that it is “unreasonable” to devote myself entirely to Almighty Allah (SWT) through the five daily salaat.

Many of us now find it “unreasonable” to struggle to read the Holy Qur’an with sincerity of heart, for the Pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT). Many of us now find it “unreasonable” to hate the things that are offensive to Almighty Allah (SWT) for His Sake Only.  Many of us find it “unreasonable” to be dutiful to our parents for sole purpose of gaining Almighty Allah’s (SWT) Pleasure.  I now hurry for the morning prayers, or fajr, at the masjid with other brothers, whenever Almighty Allah
(SWT)
Allows it.
I can no longer apply questions of “Why is so-and-so” to the Revealed Truth as enshrined in the Noble Qu’ran and the Sunna
of the final prophet and Messenger for all mankind until the Day of Judgment – Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam). This is my personal struggle I must uphold with all my strength.

I now understand clearly that generations of impious persons defaced or distorted the Shari’ah that Almighty Allah (SWT), in His Infinite Mercy, revealed to prophet Musa (alaihis-salam) for Bani Israel.    Almighty Allah (SWT), in His Infinite
Mercy for all of mankind, entrusted His final prophet and Messenger Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam), with His Laws and Commandments that will remain accessible to all who believe in Almighty Allah (SWT) and the final prophet and Messenger of Almighty Allah (SWT) – Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi- wa-salam), until the Day of Judgment.
The “reason” or “rationality” to which I adhere is the “light” that Almighty Allah (SWT) created for each human being to know who their Lord, or Rabb is.

I have now come to understand that modern philosophers refer to “reason”, or “rationality”, as a “faculty of the mind”.
The truth is that the “light” of “reason” that Almighty Allah (SWT) “implanted”, by His Infinite Mercy, within my heart is meant to inform my moral conduct in this mortal world.  Actions are based on intentions.

I now know that “reason” or “rationality”, in Truth, is not primarily a “faculty of the mind”, for this classification inevitably leads to a brain-body duality.

That “rationality”, characterized in modern philosophical circles as a “faculty of the mind” is a modern description and is associated with the French philosopher Rene Decartes, who arrived at his conclusion by doubting his Lord, Almighty Allah (SWT).   Decartes’ “description” of “rationality”, I now understand, is a distraction from the Truth, for the Truth is that, in Reality, “reason” defies description; that, in Truth, “reason” is not a mental concept.  In Truth, the most significant “reason”, or
“rationality” is that “light” implanted by Almighty Allah (SWT) through His Infinite Knowledge and situated in the heart of
every human being.  And I’m not referring to the “heart” as the physical heat beating in our chests.

Whenever I decide, as a matter of faith, that I value
this “reason” as a “faculty” above the “light” of “reason” that  lead to a faith in Almighty Allah’s (SWT) Oneness, along with His Commandments, I join others who believe that success in this world, whatever the endeavor, lies in felicity in the Hereafter. I am ever more careful not to “tilt” or “exercise” my “mental faculty” of “reason” over and above this “light” of “reason”  I now
guard myself against pride, for fear of disregarding the Oneness of Almighty Allah (SWT), as enshrined in the Sunna of the last prophet and Messenger for all mankind to the Day of Judgment – Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam). It is
pride that aims to disrupt my “light” of “reason”.
Some days ago I watched an interesting discussion on MSNBC, with Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, concerning the dearth of disparity between men and women, both financially and socially.  Among them in attendance were other commentators who chimed in on the possible “reasons” why such a disparity exists.  The foundation for this discussion is a book – part memoir and part manifesto for women – written by Ms. Brzezinski:  Knowing your value:  Women, Money and Getting What You Want.

I learned so much at a recent Jumu’ah that I wish to share it with my readers.  The Imam began his sermon by referring to the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson.  The Imam focused on the phrase “…the pursuit of happiness”.
He refers to this “pursuit of happiness” as a red herring, a myth, something not to be believed.   There is no need, the Imam said, to “pursue” happiness.  The Imam wished to tell us that “happiness” is not an “endless pursuit”.

Mika Brzezinski wants to remind women that they must find their worth, their value.  Women, she argues, must find
their worth in order to find “happiness”.  What Mika is saying here is that women are “worthless” within American
society.  They don’t say what they want.  They don’t tell their bosses (we are speaking here of men) they are worth more than they are paid for their jobs.  They don’t understand they are not worthy of demanding for better pay.  Men outpace women in this category.

Women are thus engaged in “endless pursuits” for “happiness” within a society wherein they gain their “worth” from the opinion of others, chiefly men.

One commentator, a man, remarked that a woman must demand her worth to her boss, even if she comes off as “too jerky”.

A woman need not “misbehave” or “act inappropriately” when demanding better pay.

A woman’s happiness, her moral conduct, is not an “endless pursuit”.  The source of a woman’s happiness is the Noble Qu’ran and the Sunna of Muhammad (sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam).  Almighty Allah (SWT), in His Infinite Mercy, grants a woman her worth.  It is true that a woman must interact with her co-workers, etc., but the source of her worth is ultimately not to be found
in human relationships.
I am grateful to Almighty Allah (SWT) for all the scholars of the Muslim tradition, among them the Imams at the local masjids.

I implore any Muslim who yearn for religious knowledge to read with zeal at least one Tasfir, or commentary of the Holy Qu’ran. I refer here to Maa’iful Qu’ran, written by Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi and translated for English readers by
Profs. Muhammad Hasan Askari and Muhammad Shamin.

May Almighty Allah (SWT) Bless the author of the Ma’ariful Qu’ran, for it is only within the opening pages of this Tafsir where I finally understood there is human knowledge through reason, that is, the “orderly” interpretation of a collection
of sensory information we gather from our sense of touch, smell, taste, hearing and speech.   Then there is a dimension of knowledge, or Wahy, that is limitless, unlike that of human reason.

Maulana Shafi’s explanation of the two “chambers” of “reason” or “rationality” at the opening pages is  revealing.  I use the word “chambers” here for ease of understanding, and must be understood at face value only.

I use this classification here to illustrate that human “rationality”, that is, the “faculty of mind” that is human reason and nourished daily by the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and speech, undoubtedly has its limits, for
there is knowledge that our five senses cannot grasp[4].  In other words, Revelation, or Wahy, begins where human “rationality” or human “reason” ends.  Human reason must not ask “Why” questions as it pertain to Revelation.  This is the limit.
For whatever reasons, modern philosophers “sidestepped” or dispensed with the “light of human reason as identified with this “light” within the human heart, this “light” that will only grow brighter through a person’s communication with Almighty Allah’s (SWT) Revelations, in favor of human reason alone.  And this precisely should not be so.
A failing to understand Revelation with human reason alone chiefly because it is devoid of logic provides no justification for dispensing with Revelation altogether.

Isn’t it the case that Almighty Allah (SWT), in His Infinite Mercy, equipped every human being with human reason and
logic?  Surely this is the case.  Yet natural philosophers, for whatever reason (and Almighty Allah [SWT] is the Judge in this regard), contended that “Nature” itself designed them.  Consequently, natural philosophers harked to “Nature” to somehow reveal its contents and to explain our “mysterious souls”.  They have declared that “Nature” has somehow “equipped” human beings with human reason and logic, echoing an evolutionary design.  In other words, their ideas once convinced me
that my existence on this Earth is simply an accident.
For, like human reason, whereby we gather information about the world around us through the five senses and of which we are “certain”, Revelation, or Wahy, gives way to a “certainty” or “rationality” for the human being, provided that she or he believes in, among the key articles of the Muslim faith, Life after Death:

“To begin with, it is totally senseless to discuss the issue of Wahy with a person who, God forbid, does not acknowledge the very existence of God.  But, for a person who believes in the existence of Allah Almighty and has faith in His perfect power, it is
not at all difficult to understand that Wahy is a rational need, that it is possible and that it is there for real”(italics mine) [5]

The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at:  hd72201@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1]
This quote, attributed to Jesus (upon whom be peace!), is taken from The Gospel of Barnabas.  Lansdale and Laura Ragg. (Reprint Edition
2007). With a Facsimile Notes and Commentary by M.A. Yusseff.  Islamic Book Service  New Delhi., pg. 132.

[2]
Niemeyer, Gerhart.  Enlightenment to Ideology:  The
Apotheosis of the Human Mind (Part One).

http://www.mmisi.org/ma/35_01/neimer.pdf

[3]
ibid.

[4]
Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi  Ma’ariful Qu’ran (1996).  A Comprehensive Commentary on the Holy
Qu’ran, vol. 1 (surah Al-Fatihah, Al-Baqarah).
Translated by Profs. Muhammad Hasan Askari,
Muhammad Shamin.  Revised by Justice
Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani.
Maktaba-e-Darul-Uloom, Karachi, Pakistan., pg. 2.

[5]
Ibid. pg. 3

 

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