The Intellectual Life

             The intellectual nature of man is made up, as already mentioned, of mind or intelligence or reasoning power. To this aspect Islam pays extraordinary attention and builds the intellectual structure of man on most sound foundations which may be classified as follows:

1.         True knowledge based on clear proofs and indisputable evidence acquired by “experience” or experiment or by both. In this connection it is safe to say, beyond doubt, that the Qur’an is the first authority to enjoin zealous quest for knowledge through “experience” as well as experiment, meditation and observation. In fact it is a Divine injunction incumbent upon every Muslim, male and female, to seek knowledge in the broadest sense of the word and search for truth. Nature and the whole universe are open and ever revealing treasures of knowledge and truth, and the Qur’an was the first book to point to these rich sources of knowledge. It does not accept inherited “truths” or claimed facts which have no proof or evidence to substantiate them. As far as we have been able to know, the Qur’an was the first Scripture to say intelligently: “Why” and to demand proof in support of any conviction or contention (Qur’an, 2:111 and 21:24).

             The Qur’an itself is an outstanding intellectual challenge; it challenges the human intellect to dispute any Qur’anic truth or produce anything similar to the Qur’an. Open any chapter of the Qur’an and you will find the warmest appeal to search for knowledge through the infinite sources of nature. Devotion to true knowledge is regarded by Islam a devotion to God in the most compensating sense.

2.         The second part of this point is faith in God, an ever-revealing source of knowledge and a spiritual insight into countless fields of thought. In Islam Faith in God is the cornerstone of the whole religious structure. But in order to make Faith in God valid, Islam requires that it should be founded on unshakable certainty and convictions. These, in turn, cannot be acquired without the proper investment of the intellect. Any stagnant or indifferent mind and any limited vision cannot possibly reach the height of the Most Supreme Truth, God, nor can it attain the real depth of Faith.

            Islam does not recognize faith when it is attained through blind imitation, when it is accepted blindly or unquestioningly. This fact is very important as far as the intellectual life of man is concerned. Islam requires Faith in God; and the Qur’an makes numerous statements calling for Faith in God. But the significance of such statements is not in shelving them in the study room or even in the mind. The significance of such statements is that they constitute a warm invitation and an urgent appeal to the intellect to wake and think, to ponder and meditate. It is true that the Qur’an reveals the essential truth and facts about God, yet it is equally true that it does not want man to behave like a lazy heir who makes no effort of his own. It wants man to enrich his intellectual wealth through serious endeavor and honest earning, so that he may become intellectually secure. “Easy come, easy go,” and Islam disapproves of easy coming faith which is bound to be easy going. Islam wants Faith in God to be effective and permanent, to light every corner in man’s heart and prevail in every aspect of his life. Easy coming faith cannot possibly do that, and Islam would not accept anything less.

             When Islam demands Faith in God on the basis of knowledge and research, it leaves wide open all fields of thought before the intellect to penetrate as far as it can reach. It lays down no restrictions against the free thinker who is seeking knowledge to widen his vision and broaden his mind. It urges him to resort to all methods of knowledge, be they purely rational or experimental. By calling on the intellect in this way, Islam shows its high regard for and confidence in the intellectual abilities of man and wishes to free his mind from the tight shackles and limits of tangibility. It wants to elevate the individual and empower him with self-confidence and Heavenly authority to expand the domain of his mind into all fields of thought: physical and metaphysical, scientific and philosophical, intuitive and experimental, organic and otherwise. That is how Faith in God nourishes the intellect and makes the intellectual life prosperous and productive. When the spiritual and intellectual activities of man are organized according to the teachings of Islam as mentioned above, the internal nature of man becomes sound and healthy. And when man is internally secure and sound, his external life will be of the same nature.


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