What is the Core Method of Islam?
(Published as The Core Method of Islam in the journal, The Ambition [Vol. 19 No. 7])
By Zeshan Shahbaz
Every Muslim would agree that the primary basis of Islam is the Qur’an. However, there is one question that garners a wide variety of answers – that is the question of method. What is the method of Islam? What I mean is, when we say that Islam is based on the Qur’an -- what is the basis of belief in the Qur’an?
Let Reason Be Your Guide and You’ll Be Fine!
To make it plain, Islam’s core methodology of belief is Reason1 as the Qur’an, many times, emphasizes: “We explain our signs clearly for those who use reason.” [Qur’an 30:28], and, Reason is nothing but an interconnected thought process of logically2 making sense of action, things and/or ideas. It’s like fitting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. The process of reason or reasoning is based on the natural law, or in other words, God’s law, of cause and effect as this universe is based on cause and effect. For example, if an able bodied man (assuming he’s apt at using his reason) is standing in the middle of a road and he observes a car fast approaching him, this man would quickly move away from the vicinity of this car. In this case, the man reasons that if he does not move away, the car will strike him which is the cause and he will be injured, or killed, which is the effect. By observing the bigger picture of existence, a rational person will come to the realization of The Cause or Prime Mover3 of the moving universe (which is based on the ordered motion of cause and effect). Interestingly enough, the word for ‘belief’ that is used in the Qur’an, is ‘imaan’, which its root word is ‘amana’. Amana means ‘to confirm’ or ‘to verify’. Hence, a ‘Muslim’ is one who confirms the truth by using Reason4 as opposed to by blind faith.
Reason as Prerequisite
Not only does the Qur’an stress the application of Reason but makes it a requirement to accept the Qur’an as guidance as implied by the Qur’an when it says: "This is the Book – let there be no doubt about it – is a guidance for all the God-Conscious (mutaqeen).” [Qur’an 2:2]. This clearly demonstrates that the Qur’an is guidance for the God conscious – thus one would have to have rationally acknowledged the existence of God and be conscious of Him before he or she could even accept the Qur’an as guidance. As well, the Qur’an boldly states that if there are contradictions in the Qur’an (i.e. contradictions between the Qur'anic descriptions of the universe with the known facts of the universe) then it is not a revelation from The Creator (see verse 4:82). So even IF the Qur'an fails the test of its claimed proof-value, the rational belief in The Creator would still remain for the ‘Muslim’ (i.e. God-Conscious).
Reason Well, Therefore, O People – Prophet Muhammad
When there is any attempt to read and understand the Qur’an the usage of Reason must be employed completely. This way will help enable a clearer understanding and uncovering of verses of the Qur’an that outline the universal moral principles, the verses that are literal in what they mean, the verses that are circumstantially contextual and a minority of verses that refer to things either in this life or the next, being also subjected to cause and effect analysis (i.e. reason), but are stated metaphorically, or in parables, so that we can relate to them by analogy. This straightforward method of rational understanding is the Qur’an’s primary directive: "We have made the revelations (al-ayati) clear (bayyanna) to you, if you will use your reason (taAAqiloona)." [Quran 3:118]
The Means to Salvation
A lot of Muslims still over-look the importance of Reason – actually, they over-look the very key to their salvation. The following verse clearly certifies that if one neglects to use Reason he or she would fail being saved in the afterlife: "They will say: If only we had listened or used reason, we would not have ended up as inmates in the burning fire." [Qur’an 67:10]
1. In the Qur’an, Aql is the word for Reason of which its root means ‘to tie’, ‘to bind’ – signifying binding or interconnecting things/ideas.
2. Logic is simply the formal way of reasoning. An argument, in which all its premises, from which its conclusion follow, are in fact true is a logically sound argument and, therefore, its conclusion holds True. The following is an example of a sound logical argument:
All men are mortal. --> 1st Premise
Zeshan Shahbaz is a man. --> 2nd Premise
Therefore, Zeshan Shahbaz is mortal. --> Conclusion
3. A Sound Argument for the existence of something that caused this universe in a nutshell:
Something moves the moving thing.
The universe is moving.
Therefore, something is moving the universe.
It is also deduced through further similar steps that the mover is an intelligent, creative and conscious causal agent as it has moved/caused intelligible, creative and conscious things/beings to ‘be’.
4. The great 12th century Islamic scholar and philosopher, Ibn Rushd, on the definition of Reason: “Now Reason is nothing but the perception of things with their causes, and in this it distinguishes itself from all the other faculties of apprehension, and he who denies causes must deny Reason. Logic implies the existence of causes and effects, and knowledge of these effects can only be rendered perfect through knowledge of their causes.” (Ibn Rushd’s Tahafut al-Tahafut)
Zeshan Shahbaz is the founding member of The Institute of Higher Reasoning (http://instituteofhigherreasoning.page.tl/) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org