The Relationship of Revelation & Intellect

Throughout the history, whenever a group wants to penetrate its own views into God’s religion, they propagated the significance of intellect and said that since the traditional creed do not conform to the intellect, we should transform the creed to make it compatible with intellect. By the term ‘intellect’, they meant the theories prevailing in their age.

Mu’tazilah [a group of Muslim scholars that tried to make reconciliation between Greek philosophy and Islam] did the same job after being intellectually defeated by the Greek philosophy. They emphasized that the intellect is more important than the God’s Prophet. As a result of that it became an easy job to amend the religion according to their views. Therefore, based on their special version of ‘justice’ and ‘monotheism’, the Mu’tazilah refuted the concepts of the heaven’s bridge, divine covenant and Mi’raj and rejected all the Prophet’s sayings about these concepts.

Right Position of the ‘Intellect’

Various verses of the Holy Quran appeal the human intellect to ponder into the diverse signs on God available in entire universe. At one place, their attention is drawn towards the movement of winds. On other places they are asked to wonder about the sun, moon, stars, lunar cycles and climatic changes. Some verses describe various steps in growth of plants whereas some other verses focus on creation of and the benefits drawn from animals. The Quran asks us o ponder into the signs of God available in the universe as well as in  human body itself…. The benefits of using human intellect include the following:

The first benefit of pondering into the signs of God is that a person may take the advantage of using these blessings of the Almighty God in his/her favor after knowing the detailed characteristics of these things. Allah, the Almighty says in the Quran:

سَخَّرَ لَكُمْ مَا فِي السَّمَوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ

We have put everything of heavens and the earth under your control. (Luqman 31:20)

It means that everything in this universe can be exploited by human intellect. Now taking advantage of this fact is in human hands. It can be done only by using the intellect.

[Second benefit is] that when a person concentrates in exploring the universe, it confirms the existence and extraordinary planning of its Creator. That person says without any hesitation:

رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذَا بَاطِلاً

O our Lord! You have not created this universe useless. (Aal Imran 3:191)

Hadith Research – Prophet’s Knowledge & Practice – English Lectures

Intellect and the Guidance towards the Right Path

In order to explain the above benefit, we just present an incident happened with Inayat Ullah Khan Mashraqi during his student life in England. He describes:

In 1909, there was a heavy rain on a Sunday. I went out for something. I saw that the famous astronomer Professor James Jeans was going towards the Church having the Holy Bible in his underarm. I saluted him. He said, “What do you want?” I asked, “Two things, first one of them is that you have kept the umbrella in your underarm and there is a heavy rain.” He smiled and opened the umbrella. Then I asked, “A famous scientist like you is going to Church for prayer!” He said, “Come to my home in evening for a tea party.”

I reached at his home at 4:00pm. Exactly at 4:00pm Lady James came out and said, “Sir James is waiting for you.” I went inside. Tea pots were lying on a small table. The professor was thinking deeply. He said, “What was your question?” And then started without waiting for my response. He explained the creation of heavenly bodies, their astonishing system, long distances, complex orbits, gravitational forces and movement of their light.

His explanation was so impressive that my heart started shaking on the greatness of the Almighty Allah. He, himself was so affected by the details that his hair were erected, eyes were full of the feelings of God’s fear and amazement. His hands were trembling and his sound was shivering.

He said, “O Inayatullah Khan! When I look at the creative force of God, my whole body starts shaking with His fear. When I surrender myself to the Lord in the Church and say, ‘You are great, my Lord!’ Each particle of my personality goes along with me. I feel a lot of satisfaction and happiness. I enjoy the worship 1000 times more than other people. Now tell Inayatullah Khan! Whether you understand why I go to the Church?”

Inayatullah Mashriqi says that the speech of Professor James created a storm in his mind. He said, “Sir! I am really impressed with your inspiring explanation. I recall a verse from the Holy Quran. If you allow, I want to present it.” He said, “Why not?” I recited the following verse.

و مِنْ الْجِبَالِ جُدَدٌ بِيضٌ وَحُمْرٌ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهَا وَغَرَابِيبُ سُودٌ۔ وَمِنْ النَّاسِ وَالدَّوَابِّ وَالأَنْعَامِ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ كَذَلِكَ إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ

Similarly, in the mountains there are streaks of various shades including white, red, jet-black rocks. Likewise men, beasts and cattle have their different colors. In fact, only those among His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah. (Fatir 35:27-28)

When Professor James heard this verse, he immediately reacted, “What? Only the knowledgeable people fear God!!! Wonderful!!! Amazing!!! I have concluded it after a continuous study of 50 years. Who has told this to Muhammad? Does the Quran contain this? If it is fact then write my declaration that the Quran is a divine book. Muhammad was not formally educated. It was not possible for him to learn this reality without any education. No doubt, God has told him. Very amazing! Very interesting!!!

(Religion & the Challenge of Modern Knowledge by Waheed ud Din Khan)

We can get these results only after pondering into the universe. The Quran has invited everybody to think about it. Now consider another incident.

My son, those who love to do wrong will try to trick you. Don’t listen to them. They will say, “Come with us. Let’s hide and beat to death anyone who happens to walk by. We will take everything they have and fill our houses with stolen goods. So join us, and you can share everything we get.

Evil people cannot see the trap they set for themselves. This is what happens to those who are greedy. Whatever they get destroys them.

Prophet Solomon علیہ الصلوۃ والسلام (Bible Proverbs)

Intellect and deviation from the Right Path

Sir Charles Darwin (1808-1882) was the first Western scholar who presented the “Evolution Theory” of human creation. He says that about two billion years ago, moss was developed on a water body situated near the beach. In this moss, a movement was developed which was the first life on the planet. From this tiny cell, various forms of plants formed. Then animals formed from these plants and at the last stage, human being created from the progeny of a monkey.

We do not comment on the truth of Darwin Theory at this point. The point we want to emphasize is that due to this theory, Darwin who was a theist, became an atheist…. We conclude the following from the two events mentioned above:

a. If the intellect follows the God’s revelation, it results in an extraordinarily strong faith in the Creator of this universe.

b. If the intellect ignores the God’s revelation, it diverts a person from the right path.

From here, the relationship between the revelation and the intellect becomes clear. It is a ground reality that human intellect is limited whereas this universe is unlimited. It is not possible for the intellect to know the absolute realities of this universe. The intellect is like an eye whereas the revelation is the outer light in presence of which the intellect can finds its path.

The revelation is another name of Divine Knowledge and Wisdom. Who knows the universe better than its Creator? Therefore, the intellect, which will try to find its way without the light provided by the Creator, will always be diverted. The history of our so-called intellectuals proves this fact.

The Role of Intellect

Human intellect is provided with the right to select the religion. There is no other way to find the true religion except the intellect. But after accepting the true religion, human intellect is not allowed to delete or alter the contents of religion. The intellect should follow the revelation and this following must not be a ‘blind following’. It should be based on a clear understanding of the revelation and wisdom behind it. In our opinion, the intellect should play the following role:

a. Explanation of the Divine Wisdom provided through the Revelation

b. Methodology to implement the commandments of the Divine Wisdom: For example the revelation has forbidden usury. Now it is the job of human intellect to identify the solutions to get rid of usury. If the intellect starts inventing the ways to make usury lawful, it will not be a right service. It is determined that in presence of clear verdicts of the Quran and the Sunnah, use of human intellect [in order to avoid the revelation] is not allowed in any circumstances.

c. Human intellect can prove that the creed revealed by the Almighty is preferable as compared to the theories of present time. Human intellect should present the Divine Wisdom in a rational format. If the intellect starts altering the Divine Wisdom, it will be considered as a deviation.

d. The intellect can be used to defend the faith and to prove that Islam is the only faith which [in its original sources] is protected historically from any human intervention.

e. The intellect should ponder into the God’s signs available in entire universe as well as in the human personality.

The intellect can be used in other similar ways. Allah, the Almighty asked His Prophet to announce that:

قُلْ هَذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللَّهِ عَلَى بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا وَمَنْ اتَّبَعَنِي وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَمَا أَنَا مِنْ الْمُشْرِكِينَ.

(O Prophet!) Tell them plainly: “This is my way. I invite you to Allah with sure knowledge which I and my followers possess. Glory is to Allah, and I am not one of the pagans.” (Yousuf 12:108)

Limitations of the Intellect

People, who are impressed by the prevailing theories of science or philosophy, refuse the true revelation of God because they do not see it compatible with the prevailing philosophies. About them, the Quran says:

بَلْ كَذَّبُوا بِمَا لَمْ يُحِيطُوا بِعِلْمِهِ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِهِمْ تَأْوِيلُهُ كَذَلِكَ كَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ.

Nay! They do not believe that which they cannot grasp, for they have not yet seen its prophecy fulfilled. The same way those who passed before them disbelieved. (Younus 10:39)

It is a fact that scientific theories change with further investigations. A theory becomes popular in one age but it is rejected in another age. After one theory, another theory is presented. How it is possible for the revelation to be compatible with each of these contradicting theories? If the revelation is forced to be compatible with one theory, it should be rejected in other ages . We explain this concept with an example:

In fourth century BC, a Greek philosopher Ptolemaeus presented the theory [that our earth is the center of entire universe and the sun is revolving around our earth. Ancient Christian theologists incorporated this theory into their creed.]  Till 15th century, this theory was taught in the universities of Egypt, Greece, India and Europe. It had been a popular theory for a period over 1800 years. An Italian scientist Galileo (1564-1642) rejected this theory…. The religious scholars considered it as a crime against the faith and persecuted him. Later on, Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) proved the Copernican theory.

We conclude that the modern theories will be acceptable only if they are compatible with the revelation…. Some people, after being impressed by these theories, start modifying the meanings of Quran. They think that they are bringing the Quran at the intellectual level of modern world. In our opinion, it is not a religious service. It results only in atheism and intellectual disorder.

(Excertps from the “Aaina-e-Perveziat” of Abdul Rahman Kilani, Translation: Mubashir Nazir, Review: Mohammed Umar Khan)

You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.

Prophet Muhammad صلی اللہ علیہ واٰلہ وسلم (Bukhari)

Another point should be noted about the relationship to the revelation and the intellect. It is a problem of human intellect that it is adversely affected by the emotions. For example, if a person has a strong desire for sex, his intellect will teach him different ways to enjoy the sex without referring to morality. Similarly, a person is strongly influenced by anger and a strong desire to take revenge, his intellect will teach him the ways to take revenge without telling him to be just during that process.

Due to this reason, the Darwin’s Theory, which proved wrong after further investigations, got popular in the Western World because a strong anti-church movement was prevailing and people wanted to take revenge from their religious leaders. The favor of Darwin’s theory was not based on intellectual research but it was a reactionary wave created by the anti-church rage. When this theory was proved wrong, we did not find any collective refutation of this theory from the Western World.

If the Western people were so committed to knowledge, wisdom and intellect, they should have confessed openly that we have committed a blunder to deny God as a result of Darwin’s theory. Now we repent from this theory and declare that the universe is created by a single entity, the Almighty God. Some of their scientists and philosophers e.g. Anthony Flew, H.P. Lipson and John W. Maddox having a realistic attitude have confessed it. You can see the further details of this confession in my article Impact of Atheism on Western and Muslim Societies”.

When the intellect becomes an enlightened follower of revelation, this problem is resolved because the intellect becomes ‘pure intellect’, not a slave of emotions. The ‘pure intellect’ is always compatible to the ‘pure revelation’. There is not a single concept in the ‘pure revelation’ which can be refuted by the intellect. Similarly, there is no proved law discovered by intellect which is contradictory with the revelation.

Seemingly, if we find any contradiction between a piece of revelation and intellect, there are only two possibilities:

  • Either the “theory” presented by the intellect is not a “law”, but it is only a theory which can be proved wrong;
  • Or the concept being presented as the revelation is not revelation. It is some human concept presented as ‘the revelation’.

In the example quoted by the Author, the theory of Ptolemaeus was a human thinking which was presented by the Church as ‘the revelation’ by including this theory in the Holy Bible. Mubashir Nazir

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Think about it!

a. What is the lesson of the stories of Sir James Jeans and Charles Darwin?

b. What role the intellect plays in becoming God-oriented?

c. Identify the reason of Atheist attitude? Do they have solid evidence that God does not exist? If no, why they deny God?

d. The author has mentioned the possible roles of human intellect in relation to the revelation. Select the role(s) for yourself. Think about yourself that you want to play which role.

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