Celebrate Reason within the Boundaries of Revelation

Abdullah Al-saber

How much do you know about the mechanics involved in our acquisition of thoughts and ideas? An insignificant question some may say, nevertheless, you the readers, are intensely engaged in this very process right now. This does not mean that most of us are cognizant of these processes and are able to define the rules within them, but what it does mean for certain, is that what you are reading makes sense to you because of them. Without these rules existing as constants in the cosmos, none of us could ever obtain knowledge of anything.

The Qur’an informs us: I have only created Jinns and men, that they may worship Me. (Dhariyat: 51:56) In this context, the word worship infers the process of reason, since through reasoning we can attain a conscious awareness of God; is it possible to worship that which you have no knowledge of?

There are some Muslims, however, that are convinced that reason has no place in their worldview. My reply is this, how then can you explain the following statement, there’s no god except God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God, especially to non-Muslims without using reason? It is as a consequence of the ability to reason that Mankind has been able to discover some of these invariables and because of them, they have been able to achieve things previously deemed impossible; such as the ability to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and enter into the mysterious realm of space.

Today, there are those who are deeply engrossed in subjective experience rather than objective truth. This has resulted in experiential feelings and notions of the individual. The existentialists believe that the ‘ego’ alone should define what reality is, in a relative way no doubt, ignoring the very laws that they have used to defend their own subjectivity.

Unfortunately, the Muslim world does not produce Muslim philosophers anymore as philosophy as opposed to theology, has been reduced to mimicry, by certain religious groups. Philosophy, derived from the old French word filosofie, the Latin philosophia, the Greek philosophia “love of knowledge, wisdom,” from philo “loving” philo+sophia “knowledge, wisdom,” from sophis “wise, learned,” has been ridiculed by some Muslims as a subject that should not be meddled with, if one is faithful to pure Islamic beliefs or Aqaa’id. To the contrary there is nothing to be apprehensive about the subject once one understands that Philosophy did provide many great Muslims thinkers of the past, such as Ibn Miskawayh, Ibn al-Haytham, Ibn Sina, the famous Imam al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd with a set of analytical tools by which questions about the nature of God and the meaning of life could be asked and explored. Of course, history informs us of the pantheistic nature of ‘Greek Philosophy’, however, this does not mean that one should condemn the subject of  ‘Philosophy,’ because of its origin or its ability to shed light on the nature of a monotheistic deity. Knowledge is the possession of no one but Allah. Its application therefore, depends on the context and the questions asked, hence these issues are arguably reducible to question of semantics.

When people think of philosophers they usually think of Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato engrossed in speculative thinking, however, mere speculation is not what is meant here when God says in the Qur’an: “This is a communication to be transmitted to mankind so that they can be warned by it and so that they will know that He is One God and so that people of intelligence will pay heed”. (Ibrahim:14:52) Isn’t it true to say that every Muslim, for example, who preaches Islam is a kind of theologian/philosopher, or least should be? Albeit, many may be substandard practitioners and afraid to think outside ‘the box’, they are nevertheless, minor philosophers in their own right.

Any Muslim who engages in philosophy (love of wisdom/thinking) should be one who rejects any attempt to create a model of the universe from subjective experience, which is the path that leads to polytheism and instead, his or her aspiration should be to discover the realities already set in motion in the universe by the Creator. That is why aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, logic, political and social philosophy, metaphysics and scientific thinking go hand in hand, even if literalists or secularists do not like it, for as thinking goes they cannot be separated from each other, but by the measure of evidence particular to the terms of reference and method of each paradigm. Even if one is to reject or disapprove in studying any of the aforementioned, because he or she disagrees with it, one still needs to be able to argue against perceived assumptions made by its advocates. This means one has to have knowledge of the suppositions made in-order to refute them; otherwise claims to the contrary are justly entitled to be branded, ignorance. The basic laws that govern intellectual thought are set in motion as objective realities are followed and discovered. Even though they have been defined or discovered at one point in time everything that exists, is governed by them.

For example, there are those who have tried to refute the laws of logic, by putting forward theoretical claims, in their most speculative sense, that nothing is knowable or that contradictions are conjoin. Moreover, these very antagonists are the authors of what is not knowable. It was Immanuel Kant who said that the ‘other world’ is not knowable, but then goes on to elucidate on what we cannot know. If such a world did exist, and is not knowable, how was Kant able to understand the non-understandable? His theory is nothing more than a contradiction, for if it were not knowable, how could anyone explain it? Take Hegel’s dialectic too: Thesis, with Antithesis, becomes Synthesis is another theory that puts forward the claim that contradictions are able to co-join, yet thesis and antithesis are opposites of one another, not complimentary to each other.

According to the law of non-contradiction, opposites cannot come together. So a dead man cannot be alive and dead at the same time since we describe a dead man as someone who no longer breaths, because to be alive one has to breath. This knowledge can be realised through empirical evidence, we can see the man does not move, a pulse does not exists, then he has ceased breathing. If all these examinations tell us that he can no longer move, his heart no more beats, and that he no longer breaths, one can rest assured that he is dead. But if he begins to move, and his pulse returns and he too begins to breathe again, we can be certain he now lives. This knowledge has been acquired via ‘sensory thinking’, very simple. Now let us think within the framework of ‘non-sensory thinking’ or as some prefer to say, ‘abstract thinking’. Now things become difficult, and those who are unschooled for this method of thinking will begin to have difficulty in how to distinguish between reality and falsehood.

A good example of an abstract concept that was formulated to put people into a state of irrational limbo is the Christian theory of Hypostasis. This thought concept has tricked many people in the past and continues to do so today into the belief of a pantheon of deities. So what is it? It is the theory that Jesus is one of the three personalities of the god-head. Basically, it is the concept that the All-Mighty has three separate and distinguishable personalities to His essence, the personality of Father, the personality of Son, and the personality of the Holy Spirit.

The person whom most people claim to have composed the Hypostasis theory is Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, more commonly known as Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD). It was a theoretical attempt to transform Jesus, the Man, into Jesus the Divine. Hypostasis is the abstract theory which asks people to accept, as truth, that All-Mighty God is an aggregate of three different personalities which co-exist, are co-equal, co-eternal and co-substantial, yet, of one single essence; three Hypostasis in one Ousia (essence).

Let us now examine the sentence, beginning with the meaning of the word ‘three’. According to the Oxford dictionary: ‘Three’ is a cardinal number equivalent to the sum of one and two; one more than two. The concept, Hypostasis, is a noun which can mean in medicine, the accumulation of fluid or blood in the lower parts of the body or organs under the influence of gravity, as occurs in cases of poor circulation or after death. In Philosophy, it is an underlying reality or substance, as opposed to attributes or to that which lacks substance. However, in Theology, it refers to the three persons of the Trinity, as contrasted with the unity of the Godhead. It originated from the Greek word hupostasis meaning ‘sediment’, later ‘essence, substance’, from hupo ‘under’ + stasis ‘standing.’ Next we have the word ‘in’. The word ‘in’ is a preposition expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else. The concept ‘one’, means a single unit, and finally, there is the word OusiaOusia means “basic element of anything”, first recorded in English 1650s to mean ‘essential’.

The claim here is that God is a combination of three separate and distinguishable entities, with three separate and distinguishable personalities. One is called Father, the other Son, and the last is Holy Spirit, yet all three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are in essence the same. Now does that make any sense? Of course it does, but to an irrational mind. In any language, three means three and one, means one. Singular means singular and plural means more than one. Furthermore, the notion that Christians are monotheist is incorrect. The notion of a‘Trinitarian Monotheism’ is a contradiction in terms. The origins of Christianity traces back to the prophets of Israel, so who is best to teach them about the God of Israel, as of what He is and what He is not? Here are the first two articles of faith from the theologian Rabi Maimonides’s tract, the 13 principles of faith:

1. Blessed be His Name is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created; He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.

2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.

The law of non-contradiction teaches us the following: B cannot be both B and non-B at the same time and in the same relationship. For instance, Jesus; a man brought into the world via the womb of his mother, cannot be both Man and God; the created and Creator at the same time. It must be one or the other at any given time. It would be a contradiction to be otherwise.

The law of identity teaches the following: When someone says this is my father, they mean this man is their father. They do not mean anything else other than this man is their father, not mother, uncle or grandfather, just father. What we say we mean, if it was not so, then it would immediately lead us into the irrational. That is why defining our terms of reference on any given debate is vitally important. We want to identify exactly what we mean and how we mean it, in order to state whatever it is we are stating in a rational manner. Without this, for example, someone could say: “I believe Father, Son and Holy Spirit are actually one”, and someone could understand it to mean three different brands of Irish whiskeys from the same company. The law of identity will not allow us to enter into the irrational, especially upon the foundation of defining our terms adequately.

What does the law of the excluded middle teach? The law of excluded middle teaches the following: Something is either B or non-B. This means that something has to be one thing or another. It cannot be both. It cannot be in the middle: co-joined, or it would be something else other than what it is; this was Tertullion’s dilemma. As a scholar, Tertullion was well aware that the argument he put forward was controversial, because it was a contradiction of the Israelite concept of God, which Moses gave them in the Ten Commandments.

The Roman Emperor Constantine I, approximately 100 years after Tertullion, would now decree the concept of the Trinity, to be established Christian Orthodoxy, whether other Christian theologians disagreed or not. That is why today, if you were to ask a priest how can God be both three (plural)  and One (singular) at the same time. The most likely of response, would be to extract their ‘Get out of Quagmire free card’ and tell you that you need the Spirit to understand this ‘Miracle’ thereby diverting you into the never ending ‘circular argument’.

'The shield of the Trinity 'Scutum fidei diadram'

If it was not for the fact that the worst of religious crimes is Blasphemy, we could admire their ingenuity, but these men formulated a most evil concept. They had to formulate a syllogism that concluded Jesus is God the Father and the Holy Spirit at the same time. Moreover, the Father is God Jesus and God the Holy Spirit at the same, and the Holy Spirit is God Jesus God the Father at the same time. And in-order to cement their ideas, they also claimed Prophet Jesus to be the only Begotten Son of the All-Mighty God, and then defined these illogical ideas which people find difficult to conceptualise as ‘miracles’, yet these so called beyond rational sense miraculous concepts, were formed by the minds of men. It was Christian theologians who designed and refined these abstract concepts. Not surprisingly, the Prophet Muhammad warned Muslims, that eloquent speech is a form of deception.

The law of rational inference may be easily understood in this syllogism:

Major premise: all men are mortal.

Minor premise: Socrates is a man.

Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.

The law of rational inference teaches that if premise A and B are valid, then the conclusion C follows. It monitors inferences between premises and conclusions, like a pop-up on your computer, which alerts you when your computer is under attack. When the syllogisms do not compute we must necessarily call them fallacies. Without these concepts, speech and communication would be unattainable. Only All-Mighty God is not bound to these laws as we are, since they originated from Him. All we can do is to discover these axioms of truth as we attempt to communicate.

An axiom (first principle of truth) is a basic foundational proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption. They do not originate from us as we are endowed with ‘a priori’ ideas, innate concepts, rather than actual knowledge. Even though we take these axioms for granted, we still have to discover and learn them through a systemic method. Even though we can discover or learn them, we still have to be taught the correct rules that allow us to function in thought in regards to them. Take for example the idea of “sameness.” The empiricist will take two identical objects and place them side-by-side on a table. He will study them, measure them, and empirically observe all that is observable about them. However, if he did not have the innate form of sameness as ‘a priori’, he would never come to the conclusion of the sameness of the object, nor could he ever be able to create, or reproduce something defined as being ‘the same’.

Logic does not describe what people think or how they usually reach conclusions, what it does though, is to describe how we should think if we desire to think precisely. Logic covers all thought because it is fundamental to all disciplines, from nuclear physics and oceanography to medicine and the Arts. One should not think of logic as having various branches or types, like one logic for grammar and another for mathematics, rather, logic deals with every branch of knowledge, be it politics or religion it is still the same.

To reason is a law of being rather than a law of thought, because its ontological form is basic to the foundational truth. All the logic that comes from this basic form is just that, a derivative of it, but not ‘it’ itself. Thinking is one thing, using laws to think is also one thing, but the foundation of the law, or its ontological status is something quite different. Someone may rightly say, ‘I am, and so I think’, yet just because one thinks of something does not mean that it is real. One can think whatever one wants to, like believing that you recently arrived to Earth from planet Zong, via the spaceship Universal, but the reality of the thought and the reality of its reality is quite distinct, and if you do not think so, seek psychiatric medical advice; straight away.

Someone once asked an atheist; do you believe in Absolute Truth? They replied, “Yes.” as the conversation went further they also said, “… my opinion is what counts, that is what is true for me”. They agreed that absolute truth must exists, but only when it suited them. This is usually the reason why the basic laws of first principles are rejected; they just don’t fit into a person’s scheme of what they believe reality to be. This manner of thinking or to be precise, non-thinking is what demonstrates the ineptness of many who refuse to think rationally. This is why today, equality and justice cannot be found for everyone in every land. Take those governments, which claim to have been disgusted at the violence carried out by governments in Syria, Egypt, Sudan, and Libya for example, yet refuses to recognise the cries of the Palestinians. Is not any form of an in-justice un-just?

To achieve our purpose of being; the recognition that The Creator is a Unique Being, we must adhere to the Divine axioms (measures), that exist in our reality as first principles of truth. Subjective thinking, without guidance from the constant laws that exist in the Cosmos, will always eventually lead into theoretical unions of contradictions which conclude into absurdities, such as Darwin’s theory of Evolution.

(This is a) Book (the Qur’an) which We have sent down to you (O Muhammad), full of blessings that they may ponder on its verses, and that men of understanding may receive admonition.” (Sad: 38:29)

Sample syllogism

Being Is (B is) = The Principle of Existence

Being Is Being (B is B) = The Principle of Identity

Being is Not Non-being (B is Not Non-B) = The Principle of Non-contradiction

Either Being or Non-being (Either B or Non-B) = The Principle of Excluded Middle

Non-being Cannot Cause Being (Non-B>B) = The Principle of Causality

Contingent Being Cannot Cause Contingent Being (Bc>Bc) = The Principle of Contingency (or Dependency)

Only Necessary Being Can Cause a Contingent Being (Bn->Bc) = The Positive Principle of Modality

Necessary Being Cannot Cause a Necessary Being (Bn>Bn) = The Negative Principle of Modality

Every Contingent Being is Caused by a Necessary being (Bn->Bc) = The Principle of Existential Causality

Necessary Being Exists (Bn exists) = Principle of Existential Necessity

Contingent Being Exists (Bc exists) = Principle of Existential Contingency

In setting forth the basic laws above, included in them are the first principles we have been discussing from which we have formulated this syllogism:

1. Something exists (e.g. we do)

2. I am a contingent being (exist, but didn’t have to)

3. A nothing cannot cause a something

4. Only a necessary being can cause a contingent being

5. Therefore, we are caused to exist by a necessary being

7. This Necessary Being is also eternal, uncaused, unchanging, unlimited, and one, since a Necessary being cannot come to be, be caused by another, undergo change, be limited by any possibility of what it could be. This Necessary Being has no other possibility to be other than it is; The Perfect Oneness, or to be more than one Being since there cannot be two infinite being, which to infers neither

8. Therefore, the necessary Being is One, Eternal, Uncaused, and Unlimited

9. Such a being is appropriately called God because he possesses all the essential characteristics of a theistic God.

10. Therefore, the theistic God exists.

Published by

Malick Elias

The vision of 'Vivaislam' is to provide a space for Muslim and non-Muslim activists to air their voices on how best to organise and manage their world. The aim is to focus upon recommending solutions to issues of social injustices, freedoms and citizenship facing predominantly Muslim and non-Muslim societies, rather than offering descriptions of problems. It is our hope that these voices will reach the echelons of power and influence.