Islam Makes Reason the Final Judge
Islam made reason the judge in everything, whether in religion or in conviction and faith itself. God said: "And the case of those who disbelieve is like that of a person who hears the sound of a call but who does not distinguish any word or idea. To talk to them is like talking to the deaf, dumb, and blind. Those who disbelieve simply do not use their reason and neither do they understand." [Qur'an, 2:171] Commenting on this verse, Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh wrote: "This verse clearly asserts that taqlid? [Imitation of the ancestors, conservatism. -Tr.] without reason or guidance is the prerogative of the disbelievers, that man is not a convinced Muslim unless he has reasoned out his religion, known it in person, and become personally convinced of its truth and validity. Whoever, therefore, has been brought up so as to acquiesce without reason and to act without knowledge and wisdom-even though he may be virtuous-is not a convinced Muslim. Religious conviction does not have for its purpose the subjugation of man to the good as if he were an animal. Rather, its purpose is that man may, by the use of reason and the pursuit of knowledge, rise to the level where he will do the good because he fully knows that it is in itself good and acceptable to God, and avoid the evil because he fully knows its undesirable consequence and harm."
The foregoing claims of Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh given in exegesis of this verse are all to be found in the Qur'an itself in a number of other verses. The Qur'an has called upon men to look into the universe and to discover its construction and structure. It commanded men to do so in the conviction that their investigation of the structure of the universe would lead them to the discovery of God as well as of His unicity-may He be adored! God-to Whom is the praise-says: "In the creation of heaven and earth, in the succession of day and night, in the phenomena of the ships sailing across the seas with goods-for the welfare of men, in the fall of rain water from heaven to quicken a dead earth, in populating the earth with all species of animals, in the ordering of winds and clouds between sky and earth in all these there are signs and pieces of evidence for men who reason." [Qur'an, 2:164] Further, God says
Our signs and pieces of evidence which We have presented to man are the phenomena of a dead earth quickened and caused to give forth grain, gardens of date trees and vines, and fountains of fresh water with which We have covered the earth that man may eat and drink his fill. All these are not merely the work of man's hands; but will men not feel grateful? Will they not give thanks to God, saying, `Praise be to God Who created from earth and from that which grows and remains hidden in the earth all the creatures that live in pairs, and all that they procreate of themselves.' Of our signs and evidence are the phenomena of night from which We cut off all light, causing man to stand in darkness; of the sun which runs in its orbit, an orbit well defined by the All-Knowing and Almighty; of the moon for which We have appointed various stages of growth and decline until it appears as an old shriveled tree branch. It is of Our signs and evidence that neither sun overtakes the moon nor night overtakes the day but that each runs in a well-defined and ordered course. As further signs and clearer evidence, We have made it possible for laden ships to sail across the seas carrying men and. their offspring. Were it not for divine providence, men would fall into the sea, no one would hear their cries, and they would perish. They are saved only by Our mercy. We wish them to enjoy their pleasures for a prescribed time." [Qur'an, 36:33-44]
Indeed, the call to look into the universe to discover its laws and to arrive at the conviction that God is its creator is repeated a hundred times in the various Surahs of the Qur'an. All these Qur'anic invitations are directed to man's rational faculties in the expectation that he will consider, search for and discover the truth, so that his religious conviction might be rational and truly supported by the facts. The Qur'an constantly warns its readers not to adopt uncritically and blindly the ideas and principles of the forefathers, but to have faith in man's personal capacity to reach the truth.