[Y]ou must have in every walk of your life a logical concept. This does not mean to wipe away faith, but the real principle of Islam is that faith is logical. Islam would not be what it is if it were not logical and this is something you must keep in mind. [B]ecause the very heart of Islam is logical. There is no hocus-pocus. There is no nonsense. It is clear and it is lucid and it is understandable. (Emphasis added.)
Mawlana Hazar Imam
Here, the crucial point the Aga Khan makes is not that Islam is logical, but that it has to be logical. That is, “Islam would not be what it is if it were not logical.” But why must Islam, and therefore religion, have to be logical? Logic implies proof of God’s message for otherwise the alternative is “each to his own god.” In other words, is it possible for religion not to be logical? The answer is No….
In the Qur’an, Allah repeatedly reminds us of His “clear proofs” and those that Prophets (pbut) brought (30:47). Religion necessarily must be logical and not rest on just “beliefs” because “beliefs” are not knowledge, nor are they facts. If religion is not logical, it would not be verifiable. If it is not verifiable we cannot confirm that we are following what Allah revealed and intended. If we cannot confirm Allah’s revelation we cannot be certain of what is the truth or reality. And if we cannot be certain of what is the truth, we are left to follow and worship only what we hoped, thought or “believed” is the truth. In other words, truth and god become whatever we decide to make them and that is what we would be worshipping, faced with the dilemma: “Is it reality or is it superstition?” …
Like the steering wheel of a car, reason and knowledge help point us in the right direction. Love, faith, conviction and passion are like the accelerator; they determine the speed with which we move towards God. Perhaps now we can understand the Prophet when he said, “the superiority of the learned person over the devout is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars,” or that “an hour spent in acquisition of knowledge is better than sixty years of worship,” or that “one learned man is harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant worshippers.” There is simply no point driving with the accelerator pressed flat, that is with conviction, if one is going in the wrong direction, just as it is pointless to look for sunrise in the west, no matter how much conviction you have. As Imam Jafar as-Sadiq says, “intellect is that by which Allah is worshipped and a place in Paradise earned.” Thus, the Prophet explains “Allah has given His creatures nothing to place higher than reason.” …
Reason is the compass for truth….
“People oppose what they are ignorant about.” In the past, despite “proof” the earth was round people still opposed it because truth cannot be shared, only the evidence which signifies it can be. Truth is manifest to us individually when we verify and confirm the “proof” for ourselves — when we think for ourselves — and are enlightened by what the evidence signifies; the “aha moment”. Until then, the “proof” is just an opinion and one we might “oppose” if we do not understand it. This therefore, is a key reason to seek knowledge. Thus, thinking for ourselves is, for me, the heart of the Ismaili intellectual tradition and our notion of individual search because until we think for ourselves we cannot really know the truth about anything — whether related to the faith or not. For me, our intellectual tradition lies not in the intellectual fruits of any one generation or era, but in the application of intellect itself, for the fruits are subject to challenge and revision and if adopted uncritically — that is, without challenge or revision or review if only to reconfirm their validity — faith is reduced to dogmatic mimicry of the past, to literalism and formalism, all of which are the very antithesis of intellectualism and preclude individual search …
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About the author
Mohib Ebrahim is the Editor and Publisher of the NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings. An honours graduate of Simon Fraser University in Computer Science and Mathematics, Mohib has been involved in software development and the IT industry since the ’80s. His religious interests lie in understanding the intersection of faith and reason: validation of faith and the nature of truth.