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Rational Thinking by Nayzak Rational Thinking by Nayzak
Assalaamu alaikum [peace be to you],

Many believe that Islam has banned critical thinking and introduced a kind of stagnation in the field. So, I want to answer the common question "Does Islam permit critical thinking?"

:bulletred: Critical thinking and Rational thinking

Some people state, "Most Muslim schools focus on rote memorization of religious texts and discourage independent thinking".
There are two different things that should be understood:
a- critical thinking
b- and rational or independent thinking.
We have to also understand that there are cases where the human mind should play its role and where it should not poke its nose.
For instance, what the hearing faculty can do the smelling faculty cannot, and what the eyes can see the others cannot. As we see a plane flying in the sky, looks very little, if we use only our eyes and not mind, it will be that the plane is small like a fly or a bird. But here, we use our mind and say "no, since the plane is at a certain height that is why we see it small otherwise it is huge". As in this example, there comes one point where the boundary of eye's action ends and the boundary of mind's action begins. Likewise, there is one point where certainly the human mind fails. This is a common idea every sane believes in.

:bulletred: Here comes the 'Wahy'

Muslims believe in what is called وحي 'Wahy' in Arabic. which can be translated as 'revelation'. A revelation is knowledge from the God almighty to his messengers and prophets. The action of 'Wahy' begins from where the action of human mind comes to an end. The revelation tells us specially about the things which generally a mere human mind cannot find out. The attributes of the God for example, the purpose of life, the hereafter, the day of judgment, paradise, hell... etc. These things are known only by 'Wahy'. Since, they are out of the reach of human mind so the human beings are asked just to believe in.

Someone may object and ask "isn't believing in these things not blind-faith?"
Well, not exactly. the Almighty God -Glory be to him- offers us in the Qur'an proofs of its credibility and evidence of its truth. this evidence is in our mental abilities, so we can check it and test it. Once we are convinced of its truth and we believe it is from the God -Glory be to him-, we have to accept that the other things in the Qur'an which are beyond our rational abilities are also to be accepted as they are and they have no place for criticism. Here, rational thinking to find out the depth and wisdom behind them is not only permissible but also encouraged in Islam. The principle beliefs, obligatory practices are from this category where the human mind is allowed to explore the reasons and the facts of the matters, but it is not allowed to criticize since the mind has its own limitation as other human faculties have.

The issue of 'wahy' is based on a principle that every action of human being is poised with error, it is only the almighty God -Glory be to him- and His Messengers -peace be upon them- (through divine inspiration) who are free from human mistakes. That is why there is no possibility of error and criticism in their matters. The human body is temporal and mundane so the parts of the body are also mortal. They cannot have the feeling of things which belong to another permanent and eternal world (the hereafter).

:bulletred: Evidence of Critical thinking

Besides, Islam allows critical thinking in other matters. The four major schools of thought in Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) for example (Hanafi, Shaf'ee, Maliki, Hanbli) are a clear proof of the claim. The scholars, having deep knowledge of the Qur'an, Hadith and Islamic sciences, discussed the matters, which were not explicitly mentioned in the Qur'an and Hadith, and they perform Ijtihad (personal effort) and used rational thinking to explain things differently. In this course, they many times contradicted each other and had different opinions about same issue. But, after all, their opposition was not an opposition to play down the other but sincere and concrete opposition based on proofs and evidences. That is why today nearly all of the Muslims follow different schools and none of them deny the other, each of them believes that all are on right path.

Islam has never discouraged independent thinking and criticizing. it has allowed human mind to function in areas where it can work. In Islam, criticism should not be for the sake of criticism, and on personal basis but it should be with a good intention for the goodness of all.

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I hope this was beneficial

For More about Islam:

If I am right, it is from the God. If I am wrong, it is from myself.
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Submitted on
December 25, 2012
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