Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Message for Friday - Islam is the religion of intellect

لا فقر أشد من الجهل و لا مال أنفع من العقل

It is narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) said, "There is no poverty worse than ignorance, and there is no wealth more beneficial than intellect."

Last year, there was serious tension between the Muslim world and the Vatican over a speech given by the Pope, which inferred that Islam is a religion of slavish submission, not of rationale. From this speech and the reactions that it invoked, some of them being irrational ironically, Muslims were summoned to rehash history of how Islamic scholars assisted Jewish and Christian scholars with their reconciliation of faith with reason.

In the 8th century CE, Muslim scholars were conducting vigorous research and engaging in robust debates about the nature of creation and its relationship to all sciences. From this period which extended for centuries into Muslim Spain, Muslims revived the classical works of pagan Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and advanced the world's understanding of not only mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, and medicine, but also on the relationship of these scientific endeavors within the master plan of the Divine. In other words, scientific inquiry and critical thinking were viewed as acts of worship by Muslims in respecting and utilizing the blessing of intellect. In this context, it can be easily understood why early Islamic philosophers said that "Al-Islam is the religion of intellect."

G'd in His ultimate mercy blessed the prolific Jewish theologian Maimonides and the Catholic theolgian Thomas Aquinas to reconcile faith with reason. Prior to Muslims coming to Europe and Christians being exposed to the likes of the great Muslim theologian Ibn Rushd aka Averroes, formal studying of medicine was void, bathing was considered sinful and physics was an unknown science.

Taliban style Muslims, who reject the use of critical thinking and do not encourage the advancement of the sciences for men and women have forgotten their own Muslim heritage. So the advancements of Western civilization should not be seen by Muslims as antithetical to Islamic tradition; those advancements should be seen as an extension of Islamic civilization and sanctioned within the decree of the Divine.

And surely G'd knows best.

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