The Relationship of Revelation & Intellect (2)

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:

  • Explanation of the Divine Wisdom provided through the Revelation
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ofEgypt,Greece,India andEurope. 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)

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, theDarwin’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 ofDarwin’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

Think about it!

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

Please send your answers through email to post your comments on this web page.

About Mubashir Nazir

A researcher and writer on religious, ethical and social issues.
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