As mentioned frequently on this website, “thinking” is mentioned in the Quran itself so often that its significance as an imperative is indisputable. Thinking, in Arabic the verb form of ‘aql which in modern Arabic means “mind” or intellect, is used in parallel with “faith” or “to have faith in/ believe”, implying that without thinking there can be no faith. This stands in direct opposition to the Christian concept of a “leap of faith” in which the believer accepts “absurdity” — precepts that contradict one’s own logic — and therefore “leaps” over or sidesteps the intellect in favor of a particular belief, such as the confounding of human with divine in the deification of Jesus. Some Islamic movements such as the salafi, reject the use of the mind in favor of unquestioning adherence to a dogma based on certain hadeeths or sayings of Prophet Mohammad, and narrow interpretations of Quranic text, in effect creating an Islam much like “evangelical” Christianity: dogmatic, rigid, and hostile to logic or scientific or abstract thought, which are viewed as dangerous.
The Quran clearly admonishes the exact opposite: freedom of thought and faith arrived at by one’s own inquiry and inherent logic, based on a clearly elucidated tenet that faith in Allah is the logical conclusion of deep and unadulterated (by compulsion) meditation and intellect-based thinking which at its core is reverence for Allah. Thinking, in the Quran, takes place in the heart, where it sorts out intuition, experience, emotions, ideas, and uses logic.
وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنسِ ۖ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لَّا يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ
And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not think, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.
Here we see the reference for qalb, a word only used for “heart”, as being something with which one “thinks.” Often translated “understand,” one can also say that understanding is a form of thinking . But I used “think” to show the same exact word is used, which is important to convey the various ways and contexts in which the word is used, helping us learn about not only its meaning, but the relative significance of that meaning. In this case, thinking is so significant that it’s linked with faith.
إِنَّ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
Indeed, within the heavens and earth are signs for the believers.
Note the use of the word “believers” or al-mu’mineen. Without faith, even the intellect may not recognize those signs.
وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مِن رِّزْقٍ فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا وَتَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَاحِ آيَاتٌ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ
And [in] the alternation of night and day and [in] what Allah sends down from the sky of provision and gives life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and [in His] directing of the winds are signs for a people who reason.
Note the word translated “reason” here is the same word y’aqiloon, or “think.” Each aya shows various aspects of earthly life and the creation as signs for believers, then (not quoted here but in the same vein Quran 44:4) “people who are certain.” That is to say, fully convinced of and sure in their faith. The aya quoted above shows thinking people to be on the side of faithful and believing people. In fact, they are in a higher plane in the progression; first belief, then certainty, and finally understanding or the union of faith and thought.
We take this then a step further to discover that thought ultimately means, for human beings, abstract thought, concepts. Language is in a real sense derived from abstract thought, replacing pointing to objects with using a name for them, a word existing foremost in the mind, its physical manifestation, the written word, being interpreted by the mind, which is its actual domain.
Allah is not reducible to a mere idea, but rather is the ultimate power and living presence and source of all life whom we can never fully comprehend in the sense of “define” which would limit Him. In the Quran, Allah is unlike anything else. So we have no way to know or grasp who Allah Himself (to Him be all glory), except as He shows us in words in the Quran, using both logic and imagination to reach one’s intuition, the faculty of bringing to mind that for which one has no actual physical referent. We are told that Allah is One——a number, and unlike anything else by definition. Faith in Allah requires abstract thought founded on reverence and a recognition of Allah’s presence, and the ability to be guided by rules set forth as ideas expressed in words. Allah’s revelations are books. The first word sent from the Quran was “Read!” What set Adam apart from even the Angels, to where Allah commanded the angels to prostrate to Adam (showing deference/ willingness to serve) was that Allah taught him “the names”: language.
For logic and language to function, honesty is a prerequisite. Technically speaking, this means words and their meanings should be universally clear, not muddied waters. There should be no divergence between words and their meanings, as a shared language. Multiplicity of meaning in individual words is not only possible but importantly used in the Quran, when it can be clarified by grammar and usage, for example context. But to say, for example, evil is good or charity is wrong would be muddying the waters by lies and deceit.
This is becoming more common in modern life with the advent of “fake news” where facts are portrayed as lies and lies promoted as truth, or the “prosperity gospel” where narcissism and greed are promoted as superior to compassion and charity. In the Quran, disbelievers are liars and vice versa; the word disbeliever or kafir means literally “one who covers up” or “denier” of the truth. The word “kafir” even sounds similar to “cover.” Lies are indeed a “covering up” of the truth. And if one covers up or hides the truth long enough, one will likely start believing those lies to some extent, often convincing others of them in order to create a social comfort zone for the lies. And what is the antidote to such lies and such kufr? Truth. And reverence, a deep respect for what is sacred. Since the Quran is a divine text sent to humankind as a sourcebook for truth, the Quran then would be the perfect antidote to “cure” those willing to be cured of falsehood and lies.
This also presupposes that the existence of Allah is supported by logic. Logic supported by intuition and a clear intellect, not by solely empirical evidence whose scope is limited. Once one considers the truth of Allah, one realizes that Allah is to us ineffable, having “nothing whatsoever similar” and therefore beyond our experience —- of the empirical world. But even scientists, examining the universe without prejudice, discovered a cosmic constant that is fine-tuned for life, so fine-tuned it had to have been created by an intelligent, all-powerful Creator; one who is also all-merciful, having made he universe life-friendly. And for those who think with the light and guidance of intuition, this makes sense. And making sense is itself transformative. Even thinking itself is an act of worship in this sense, when used not for short term gains but for learning the truth and with reverence that we and the universe around us are not created for no reason or randomly. Allah who created us to think and taught Adam abstract thinking would surely not send a religion where people are forced to accept faith by “the sword”: violence and war. Rather The Way is Allah is itself mercy, a way of living without oppressing others or oneself. To be free, having free will, but not be lost and without guidance or direction. If one wishes to find the truth, or for example to verify a particular hadeeth, the only logical choice is to compare it to the Quran; does it contradict the Quran or create potential conflicts within Islam? We have in the Quran truth itself; time spent reading and studying it, rather than outside texts, calls us to awaken our own intuition and think for ourselves with our own God-given intellects. Will you not then understand??