Not Just “Faith,” But Also Intelligence

Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal) Let us continue with our story of the most amazing miracles of Islam. Our definition of a “miracle” is an event of such extreme low probability as to be almost impossible of occurrence in real life.

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Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Let us continue with our story of the most amazing miracles of Islam. Our definition of a “miracle” is an event of such extreme low probability as to be almost impossible of occurrence in real life.
Not just faith, but also intelligence, says Islam. That is what human beings need in their life in this world.
And what a beautiful miracle that is in itself.
For, those are the two most important ingredients of a successful human life on earth at all levels – from selling potatoes in a pushcart on a city street to doing exotic science in a highly technologised laboratory.
Islam is saying that that is the combination you would need if you are going to be successful in this world as well as in the next world. That is the formula you would need if you really are going to be able to unravel the mysteries God’s creation – and master and harness the forces of the universe to your own good and to the good of the world.
That is, if you are going to be able to let your knowledge guarantee you and everyone else a proper, decent, successful, happy and prosperous life right here on earth. And if, thereafter, you are going to let your discoveries and knowledge lead you to an acceptance of God Almighty as your maker and master and thereby also guarantee you a life of eternal peace, joy and bliss in heaven after your death.
And a Judicious Dose of Common Sense
And what could be wrong with a judicious dose of common sense?
That means you need to be able to make use of your very special divine gifts of thinking and reasoning, observation and analysis, to ask the right and truly meaningful questions about God and his creation and be able to identify the answers that will take you to him and that will also impact your life on earth.
So, you need a bit of intelligence and common sense to recognize God’s signs in his creation. That means “faith,” as most people understand it, will not do it all by itself. It needs a helping hand from common human intelligence.
That is why according to the Qur’an, intelligence is not an enemy of faith but often an important friend and companion of faith.
So, recognising God’s everyday miracles in life – and in the Qur’an and in Islam and in the life of ordinary Muslims such as they are even today – is not likely to be the lot of those whose intelligence level is not up to par. Or, as some people would say nowadays, who are challenged in the intelligence department.
Even many Muslims may not know this, but the Qur’an is quite clear and emphatic on the subject: “Only those with brains,” says the Qur’an, “should expect to learn and draw meaningful lessons.”
That means Islam – as a guarantor of success in this world and of salvation in the next world – is really for the smart ones. And it is not for the dumb ones – those folks who cannot think straight at the most basic and rudimentary level.
Innamaa yatadhakkaru ulool albaabis how the Qur’an puts it.
Who Are The Smart Ones? Let the Qur’an Tell Us
And guess how the Qur’an defines those people: the smart ones – the ones with brains.
They are the people, says the Qur’an, who know. They are the ones who possess knowledge. That is their first qualification: knowledge.
Hal yastawil-ladheena ya’lamoona wal-ladheena laa ya’lamoon, asks the Qur’an. My paraphrase: “Can those who know and those who don’t know both be equal?”
And this in early 7th century Arabia? What a miracle!
So, the smart ones are the ones who actively seek and acquire knowledge. But the Qur’an does not stop with that broad definition. It gets more specific as it goes along.
They are the ones, says the Qur’an, if I can paraphrase it, who open themselves up and listen carefully to a wide range of evidence and arguments and then choose and follow that which is the best and the most credible and logical.
Here are the words of the Qur’an: Alladheena yastami’oonal qowla wa yattabi’oona ahsanahu.
What an unerring formula for success that God Almighty issued out of the mouth of a desert-dweller in 7th century Arabia. What a miracle!
How will you improve upon it today?
If that is not smart, what is?
And if that is not the best way of doing things in this world, what is your alternative suggestion?
And if this is not the heart and soul of enlightenment and modernity, what is?
Thus, as the Qur’an says: “They are indeed the ones whom God really showed the way, and they are really the smart and brainy ones” – my paraphrase.
As for the most beautiful and blessed words of the Qur’an, here they are: Oolaa-ikalladheena hadaahumullahu wa oolaa-ika hoom oolul-albaab.
And to think 1400 years ago the Qur’an would define smartness in such comprehensive and contemporary knowledge-based and information-related terms. Not just in terms of seeking and acquiring knowledge, but also in terms of its purposeful and responsible utilisation to illumine and solve life’s problems. Allahu Akbar!
If this is not a miracle, what is?
“Religion” vs. Science: Not Islam’s Problem!
That which the world generally refers to as “Religion” is mostly a human concoction consisting of a lot of man-made mumbo-jumbo. Whereas science is the best knowledge about reality that human beings can have at a given time, in a given place, working all by themselves – that is, working without any direct help from God Almighty’s revelation.
That is how Islam sees things.
As for religion pitted against science? Faith positioned as an adversary to reason? Belief in God touted as antithetical to common human intelligence and to the evidence of one’s own senses and to all logic and rational thought and argument? These are not, and never have been, Islam’s problem.
Given what Islam stands for, they simply cannot be.
Except for those who fell under the Christian or Greco-Roman influence, or who, in later years of Muslim history, developed an independent penchant of their own for theological nitpicking and hair-splitting, often under the rubric of what they called ‘Aqeedah, belief in God was never much of a philosophical or theological conundrum for most Muslims.
In other words, there was no scholastically driven core to Islamic doctrine, even though there were always those among Muslims who did not hesitate to stoke the fires of philosophical and theological disputation whenever they could, especially beginning with the second century after the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
The seven divine words of La Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad Rasul Allah – that came directly out of the pages of the Qur’an – pretty much took care of the issue of faith and “religion” for most Muslims for much of Islamic history. For centuries, these seven words remained the alpha and omega of Muslim “faith and religion.”
And of Muslim life at all levels. These are the seven words that shaped Muslim life and culture and also changed the world in general.
And for the most part, the Muslims let the clear and straightforward words of the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, do the talking for them.
But for too long human beings, before and outside Islam, went about thinking that whenever they talked about God, it needed to be a matter of naïve and almost blind “faith,” no matter how much their own reason was strained in the process of getting or holding on to that so called “faith.”
They called it “religion.”
They then they pitted “faith” against reason, and “religion” against science, and argued that people had to choose one over the other, as the two could not coexist, as they could not be reconciled together. It was a state of perfect polarity – a world in which the twain of faith and reason could never meet.
What people should not forget – but they often do – is that this was the state of affairs mostly before and outside Islam. That is how things were mostly in the Christian West but not in the Muslim East or the Muslim West.
In other words, this faith vs. reason and religion vs. science controversy is not really an Islamic problem. It is someone else’s problem.