All religions and beliefs, by their nature, are not subject to the rule of reason because they are a matter of faith, and faith is believing in that which lies outside of proof. Man therefore does not need to exercise his intellect in order to believe in something. But the problem is that Muslims have fixed onto two words in the Qur’ān and exaggerated them to prove that Islam is the only religion that recognises reason and urges its use. 


THE TWO WORDS are yatafakkarūn (‘they think’) and ya‘qilūn (‘they reason’). The Qur’ān uses both words to assure the believer that God created the world and everything in it, and then asks him to reflect on those things created. But the Qur’ān does not encourage any true thinking that leads to doubt, or which might lead to true faith or denial. The Qur’ān says: 

Therefor his likeness is as the likeness of a dog: if you attack him he pants with his tongue; and if you leave him alone he pants with his tongue. Such is the likeness of the people who deny Our revelations. Narrate unto them the history (of the men of old), that haply they may take thought. [Qur’ān VII (al-A‘rāf), 176]

The Qur’ān tells the Muslim that those who deny Islam are like dogs, who pant if you attack them or pant if you leave them alone. Did you haply take thought of that? Does the scenario here actually warrant any thinking? The believer believes in the Qur’ān as a result of the threat of the sword or simply because this is what he has inherited from his parents. He asserts that it is the word of God, and God is telling him that those who do not convert to Islam are like a dog, panting all the time. Is there any need for that believer to take thought? And what exactly is he to think about if he wants to reflect on this? About 99 percent of Muslims do not know that a dog does not have any skin glands that can secrete sweat to evaporate and cool the body, and so it therefore has to pant with its tongue until water evaporates from the tongue and cools the body.

The believer believes in the Qur’ān as a result of the threat of the sword or simply because this is what he has inherited from his parents

This only applies to hot countries such as the desert of Mecca. In cold countries the dog does not need to pant unless it has been running for a long time and its body temperature has risen. Could the believer have been able to reflect on the dog’s panting? Or did he have to ponder on the irrelevant parable used by the Lord of the Qur’ān for those who do not believe in Him, even though He elsewhere said to us: 

And surely We have honoured the children of Adam, and We carry them in the land and the sea, and We have given them of the good things, and We have made them to excel by an appropriate excellence over most of those whom We have created. [Qur’ān XVII (al-Isrā’), 70]

Do those who deny His signs not belong then to the family of the sons of Adam whom He honoured over most of those He created, and therefore He has likened them to a dog? The Qur’ān then tells us 

Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of night and day, and the ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to men, and the water which Allah sendeth down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and (in) the ordinance of the winds, and the clouds obedient between heaven and earth: are signs (of Allah’s Sovereignty) for people who have sense. [Qur’ān II (al-Baqara), 164]

Once again, the Muslim reads this verse and has no doubt that it is the word of God, and that God really did create all these things and controls them as He wills. And he hears from the shaykhs that God causes the rain to fall, and that we are to pray to Him the prayer for rain if He does not bring down rain. And those ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to men, these also are made by God. Is there room for reason here for the Qur’ān to tell us of people who have sense? For those who believe the case is settled: the Qur’ān tells them that God makes all these things, and they are to say: God Almighty says the truth. So what are they to ponder about? If they were people who have sense, they would ask: What about the arks that run in the sea to the detriment of people, such as aircraft carriers and Tomahawk missile carriers that strike Baghdad from hundreds of miles away? Are they not also signs of God or are they signs of Satan? But, of course, no one asks such a question.

It seems that the Arab mind is linked to a ban on movement

Let us then read the Islamic jurists’ definition of the intellect, from one who boasts of respecting it: 

The heart may be expressed from the chest. For God Almighty said: thus We may strengthen thy heart therewith [Qur’ān XXV (al-Furqān), 32] and: Have We not caused thy bosom to dilate? Qur’ān XCIV (al-Sharḥ), 1] In both places it means your heart. The mind may express itself through it, as God Almighty said: Most surely there is a reminder in this for him who has a heart [Qur’ān L (Qāf), 37], that is reason, because for most people the heart stands for reason. The mind (fu’ād) stand for the heart, and the breast for the mind. And God knows best.[i]

The Qur’ān exercises through ‘the heart’ that function that is associated with the brain in the head, which alone is concerned with thinking and reflection. The Qur’ān uses that expression because the heart is the place of reason in the speech of most people. It is not enough for the Lord of the Qur’ān to make the heart a place of reflection; He adds another function to it when He says: 

Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow blind. [Qur’ān XXII (al-Ḥajj), 46]

So the heart is also the origin of sight. The believer who walks the earth and sees mountains and trees and says, ‘Glory be to God who created this’ has apparently thought this by means of his heart which has seen the trees and the mountains. This is the level of reflection that the Qur’ān calls for, an assertion that God created everything, an assertion that fails even to reach the stage of thinking that a dog pants whether or not you attack it. 

The word ‘reason’ (‘aql) in Arabic is derived from the verb ‘to bind together’ (‘aqala). So we say to ‘bind the camel’ or ‘bind up the belly’ that is, to stop the intestines from excreting waste, so the person thus becomes constipated. Or we say ‘bind the slain’ meaning pay the blood money. It seems that the Arab mind is linked to a ban on movement.

Al-Qanūjī says in his book Abjad

The sciences of the mind have nothing to do with the Sharī‘a, for the scholar in these sciences of the mind does not comply with the concept of ‘the scholars are heirs to the prophets’. God Almighty has dispensed with these earlier books revealed to the prophets, peace be upon them, by what was revealed to the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace. He collected within it all that is best, and made it to contain every virtue, be it in expression or content, in knowledge or wisdom and the like. So why are we to go back to the books of those intellectuals, not knowing if their knowledge is from themselves or revealed to one of their messengers? The first thing that emerged in the ‘Abbāsid state, and the most that al-Ma’mūn produced and occupied himself with, were tribulations and seditions where groups were destroyed by being  seduced into blasphemy and heresy.[ii]  

The Islamic jurists’ conception of reason at that time was somewhat fragile and shaken by translations from Greek books

It seems that the Islamic jurists’ conception of reason at that time was somewhat fragile and shaken by translations from Greek books during the time of al-Ma’mun which led them into heresy and disbelief. There is therefore no need for a Muslim to read the books of the scholars since he cannot know whether their books are inspired by God or produced by their own minds – that are in their hearts. Perhaps they may cause him to fall into heresy.

The same source says this about the mind: 

If reason were necessary for knowledge none of the Companions would have been considered scholars, because they did not know the rational sciences. Neither were those that came after them held to be scholars. For the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said: ‘We are an unlettered nation that does not write and does not calculate’. [iii]

So, if science is related to reason and not to the Sharī‘a, then Muḥammad’s companions would all be non-scholars, yet since Muḥammad said ‘The best among you are the people who belong to my age. Then those immediately after them’[iv], Muḥammad’s companions necessarily have to have been scholars even if they did not read the books of the wise men produced by their own reason.

In point of fact, the mind is nothing if not the accumulation of experiences that a person goes through from birth to death, in addition to what he learns from books or teachers. But for Islamic jurists the mind, be it ever so developed, has no need of reading anything other than the Sharī‘a. And just to confirm that the Islamic sciences stand superior to reason, the above source says the following:

I say after this: that no scholar should presume to refute other than what the righteous predecessors refuted, since these based themselves on the evidence of the Qur’ān and the Sunna, and passed on the divine attributes just as they were stated therein, rejecting any analogy on the nature of God Almighty. They did not take into consideration of any of those ‘rules’ of science which are based merely on the edge of a crumbling cliff of rational evidences, something which is neither reasonable nor capable of establishing proof other than by mere suppositions and falsely-claimed rationality that has been conducted according to whim. This is particularly the case when these run contrary to the established evidences for the Sharī‘a in the Qur’ān and Sunna, when it thus constitutes superstition, and a mere sporting with things.

For a Muslim, everything that is not proven in the Qur’ān and Sunna thus becomes supposition and a slander against reason, which remains innocent of the charge.


[i] الجامع لأحكام القرآن Sūrat al-Baqara, 7.

[ii] Al-Qanūjī, Abjad, Vol. I, p.135.

[iii] Al-Qanūjī, Abjad, Vol. I, Chapter 1, on the definition of science.

[iv] See, for example, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2535a. (Ed.)