A thought on intelligence and the faithful

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It’s hard to keep track of time these days but we know we’re getting older. So are the kids. Despite being young our generation will soon be gone and the future will be theirs. But what future are we passing on? What kind of existence are believers living today? What have we fallen into? It’s not a matter of ‘catching up’ but being ahead, exuding confidence in what is actually superior (rather than misplaced confidence in the absurd), and with agility staying ahead of the curb. The Quranic sabiqun (see 56:10) engender this: those at the forefront driven by their imaan (affirmation and sense of trust in God) and high achievers in whatever they do, as God wills. “They are the closest (to God.)” (56:11)

But this is not what people are commonly taught is from God.

We’re frequently told that God put us on earth, only for the akhirah (afterlife). This idea is then commonly presented in a way that suggests people need not concern themselves about life on earth. Or their happiness. Or their worldly productivity. Material acquisition is pointless because life is just momentary, wealth is distracting, “You’ll be rich in Jannah”. Every lawful aspect of life, especially by those who cannot perceive of achieving them, is deferred to “Jannah” as an excuse to mitigate the duty to excel in the now. Believers need not put in effort and excel, plus resources count for nothing. (Even in the realm of shar’i learning some YouTube videos suffice.) The power and influence required to safeguard a shar’i environment will simply descend from the heavens – or by protesting with placards. Apparently there are no social and physical causal processes, it is not actions that fundamentally breed results. Everything will simply be the result of ‘blessings’ that come about from the ‘correct’ creed, observing restrictions, and ritual worship. 

The creed? Well it’s all based on resistance. We must resist ideas, resist politics, resist everything. Often we don’t even know why we’re being resistant! We know what we don’t stand for, but we’re not quite sure what we do stand for. Besides the fact this is unproductive, it’s all unnecessarily tiring. With all the focus on the negative, the positive hasn’t offered much meaningful direction. Adam popped into existence spontaneously but was also gradually fashioned from earth and kicked out of heaven (not sure how he got to Earth). God is neither here nor there, nor nowhere nor everywhere. God has eyes, two eyes, no eyes – everything or nothing “in a way that befits His majesty.” Say your “Quls” or the spirits will snatch your body. Or a witch/wizard will control you. Or someone’s eyes will get you. Science is evil. Vaccines don’t work.

The restrictions? Don’t show this nor cut your hair like that. Don’t wear perfume, shape your eyebrows or beards. Don’t enjoy yourself except with food, but most things you can’t eat (so overeat what you can!). Go to the mosque but don’t let the women in or you’ll be tempted to fornicate, maybe even in the mosque! Don’t take out that loan even if you need the capital, it’s like having sex with your mother. Don’t mingle with the disbelievers, but live in “their” country, obey “their” laws and pay taxes. Be frightened of God. Don’t say God, say Allah. Don’t be western. Don’t be happy, death is nigh. But smile, it’s sunnah…and “Islam is easy.”

And what is ritual worship? Holding prayer beads. Lots of units (rak’at) of prayer (salah). Reciting Arabic phonemes from a holy book. Hunger for a month. A two-week walking holiday in Saudi Arabia. Wearing ‘Islamic’ eastern clothing with western trainers, jeans and jackets. It’s all for God so don’t be critical.

“You know what your problem is? You’re just logical.” Is this somehow meant to be a negative?! How has the level of conversation amongst those who have the Quran and ways of the final Prophet plummeted to this? 

The reason I’m writing this (as when I write most things) is because a good and intelligent sister with righteous intentions put it, “This appeals to my intellect and sits with revelation, but how do I know I’m just following what I want to hear?” Subservience to God is not suffering and silliness. And the same can be argued by an unbeliever – is it not the intellect that they ought to rely on to see the truth of Abrahamic monotheism? And a disfigured patchwork presented as deen that sounds absolutely nonsensical is just that. The intuitions of many sincere believers will tell them that this is so, “but then again, if everyone is saying it who am I to argue?” But everyone isn’t advocating such absurdity and most of us know living like the above is no way to achieve anything. Such ‘religious’ takes will never produce anything of value, neither in this life or with God in the hereafter – and it’s certainly not good practice to (mis)represent God’s will with such ugliness and expect favourable outcomes. Personally I’ve never come across anything so dissonance-inducing. 

But what about the textual ‘evidence’ for all of this? Well anyone can offer evidence for the greatest absurdity. The Christians for Trinitarianism. The Hindus for paganism. The religious extremists for murder and mayhem. The way of godliness and the intellect is the way of Abraham and his progeny: Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, David and Solomon, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Our rational and godly philosophy remains, as expressed by the shar’i philosopher Ibn al-Qayyim, that “the foundations and edifice of the shari’ah are built on wisdoms and benefits to a person, in their living and (life) journey. All of the shari’ah is justice, mercy, benefit and wisdom. Every issue that goes from justice to oppression, from mercy to its opposite, from benefits to loss, from wisdom to imprudence, then it is not the shari’ah even if it is made to appear so through interpretation (of revelation).” (I’laam al-Muwaqiin) These judgements we make, as Ibn al-Qayyim infers, through the intellect. It doesn’t matter if it’s an eastern or western/northern or southern intellect – human intellect is human intellect with the universal capacity to reason. The believers in God and His messengers are meant to be people of intellect and reason. They are meant to be the civilised and elite. They have been gifted with guidance and wisdom (hidaya and hikmah). 

Ibn al-Qayyim likewise wrote, “…the principles of the followers of prophetic guidance (Ahl’sunnah) in which is manifested the evidences of the Qur’an, sunnah, narrations, critical deliberation and intellect.” (Kitab al-Ruh)

How have we come to a time in which we actually have to advocate the use of reason in order to determine what’s intelligent and what’s inane?

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