FAITH-IN-REASON In contrast, classical Islamic notions of ‘intelligence’ or ‘reason’ embraced the faith-induced dimension of knowledge yielding conviction and moral-volition in the operation of human intelligence, being intimately joined with itscognitive or perceiving-knowing dimension. This ‘practical ’ ethico-religious dimension of reason has a close connection with ethical endeavor and moral-volition, namely the faculty ofconation . Ethics is the domain of Practical Reason or ‘prudential-mind’ (‘aql amali> ), involving the faculty or power ofconation (volition, will-power): the impulse or striving to change one’s behavior and act in accordance with the directives of both inner conscience and outer guidance or divinely revealed imperatives. The centrality of ‘intelligence-reason’ (al-‘aql ) for Islamic Ethics (akhla>q ) unfolds out of the fundamental insight that the human volitional impulse arises within us prompted by our own understanding, and directed by the reception of divine guidance from without. As one of its most basic functions, ‘intelligence-reason’ energizes the efficacy of ‘conscience ’, thereby possessing aconative or exertive force since without the native intelligence created in us by God no ethical response is possible. This crucial insight is ultimately responsible for the great emphasis placed onreason as the condition for ‘moral obligation’ (takli>f ) among the Mu‘tazili> and Ash‘ari> theologians.
Even more significantly, the human reception of divine guidance mediated by revelation depends ultimately upon the efficacy and integrity of our reasoning-principle or intelligence. Without theirdivine provision of reason , humans would be incapable of comprehending and properly responding to God’s guidance. And themore abundant is an individual’s native endowment of reason , then the greater is the possibility for the individual to attain a larger magnitude of understanding and thereby realize ahigher level of response . The unfolding of the manifold dimensions of Islamic meditations on the role of reason in religious and spiritual thought and experience flow in one way or another from this master idea.
This practical ethico-religious dimension was harmoniously integrated in the Muslim mind with the ‘theoretical ’ domain of reason, where the employment of a variety of cogitative processes of mentation and both informal and formal reasoning techniques were normatively accepted as valid and necessary methods of attaining true knowledge (whether certain or probable) as well as for ascertaining proper doctrinal conviction, upright conduct and authoritative binding practice. The prevailing normative view in Islamic civilization was always that offaith-in-reason , while also simultaneously recognizing thelimits-of-reason . Significantly, the very term for ‘reason-intelligence’ in Arabic,al-‘aql , has at the core of its basic meaning the practical idea of ‘restraining’ and ‘binding’—of holding one’s self back from blameworthy conduct—being an interior self-imposed limit.
The widespread misconception that the conflict between ‘Reason and Revelation’ or between Science and Faith-based traditional authority experienced by Western-European and the subsequent contemporary Western civilization, must also have been experienced within the preceding Islamic civilization, should be laid to rest.[^15] (We may add that the very same
misconception is behind Western puzzlement over why Muslims have not become more secularized.) This unwarranted assumption has in the past led to patently wrong assessments of Muslim thought and experience, and continues to foster genuine misunderstanding concerning the real nature of Islamic religious and intellectual traditions. This miscomprehension arose partly from the Euro-centric worldview of Western imperialism inherited by post-colonial globalizing culture, and partly out of entrenched ignorance and explicit hostility.
It is no exaggeration to assert that the most significant force today consciously opposing the all-pervading flow of secular values diffused by materialist global culture, now mediated in particular by the crescendo of United States’ military and mercantile hegemony, is that of Islam. Three recent United States-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ongoing ‘Global War on Terrorism’ amply testify to this. However, this ignorance is not unique to Westerners, for the majority of Muslims today are woefully heedless of the depth and scope of authentic Islamic teachings on the hierarchical scale and authoritative validity of reason. It is imperative that thinking Muslims work to reclaim their precious legacy of rational and spiritual experience and teachings, and express it in conceptually adequate language capable of meeting the demands of their contemporary social realities.