While reading Reason as Balance: The Evolution of ‘Aql I came across something I had often wondered about. One of the things Abdal Hakim Murad was getting at was the connection between intelligence and piety.
It makes sense doesn’t it? Intellect plays a role in maintaining our piety and were we to have no intellect in our deen, then we would be lost and in a state of sin. But its not just what we think about, in this case, niyyah, self-control, being self-critical – but it is also ‘how’ we think about those things. A seriousness and a sincerity is necessary for the intellect to succeed. There must be a conviction, an ilm al-yaqin. The Qur’an repeatedly appeals to thought and intellect, and in doing so, confers a special respect upon humans as capable of deciding their own futures. I feel this discussion on the role and place of intellect in Islam is pertinent and important because of the connotations today that religion is irrationale.
Yet here in Islam there is a connection between God and intellect and I am not saying this just to show off. The intellect is a trustworthy way to arrive at God, and I realized the proof of this could be derived in the period of Fatra, the 600 years in between Eesa alayhi salam and Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam, a time when no Prophets were sent and the only way people could arrive to belief in God (outside of the previous revelations) is through their ‘aql and reason. The hadith mention that these people have a valid excuse before Allah (similar to the excuse the mentally challenged have) for not being Muslims, but they will be tried to see if they have belief or not.
Now lets pause and think for a moment. For those 600 years, men and women were left alone to figure things out without any Divine intervention, and in a sense this is the only period when atheism, deism, polytheism, and humanism are, in a sense, acceptable. Whether one is an atheist or a brilliant philosopher who believes in God through his own ‘aql, everybody has a ‘get out of jail free card’ which means, they are all equal before God insofar as the excuse they have before God applies equally to all of them. This stresses then the uniqueness and honour that is conferred upon humanity by Revelation when it comes down and how humanity is pitiful without that revelation. One can see that what comes from God to us is greater than what goes from us to God. My second point is that in a way, Ahlul Fatra are a proof from Allah that relying solely on ‘aql could lead to Allah and on Yawmul Qiyama they are a sort of ‘control group’ to compare against communities to whom revelation and Prophets were sent. And that is interesting because on Yawmul Qiyama we can see them, what belief is or isn’t, outside of revelation and Divine command, and based purely on fitra (primordial disposition).
On reading this quote, my initial thought was that perhaps a sort of ‘mental purity’ or a ‘tahara of the mind’ was needed for one to arrive at true understanding. One of the effects of dhikr is that it empties the mind of clutter, and often people who have started making dhikr will recall a song they used to listen to, which is a sign of the mind (or the soul?) being purified and cleansed. And through that cleansing I imagine that the clarity of wisdom is found. That may be connected to the ‘innate knowledge’ that Abdal Hakim Murad is hinting to. Is he speaking about the fitra? Or is he speaking about the potential for ma’rifa, which is as intuitive as recognition of mathematical knowledge? Or perhaps the two are, in fact, connected and one and the same? Whatever the case, there is indeed something miraculous about aql and the miracle of consciousness, which philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists and physicists struggle to understand. In a very real way, discussing the existence of consciousness (or intellect) in the scheme of science is like discussing the existence of an angel. It is inexplicable. One of the realizations of our times is that consciousness can be altered through psychoactive chemicals, yet the problem society faces is the sheer confusion and meaninglessness of those experiences. Few realize that ibadat can alter consciousness, (i.e. spiritual openings) in a way that is meaningful, leads to ethical transformation and experiencing of truth. But not all truth is equal. Knowing the truth about a lie can be meaningful but it isn’t easy to accept that truth for everyone, some are stubborn, hurt and refuse to believe it out of an attachment to a lie and that can important in understanding why some people choose baatil over haqq.
Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.