The Quran calls for critical thinking and reasoning

The Quran calls for critical thinking and reasoning

 
The Quran:

● harshly criticizes the inertia of a vegetative existence that lacks critical thinking and cognition (7:179, 8:22, 10:100-101, 11:24);

● puts responsibility on every individual to personally question, analyse and verify (39:18, 17:36, 5:105);

● calls not to accept or follow anything mindlessly, warning that doing so would lead to eventual interrogation by the course of nature (17:36);

● describes unquestioning minds as polluted (10:100);

● describes unreasoning folks as subhumans (7:179, 8:22, 25:44);

● asks to produce objective evidence besides subjective experience (2:111, 21:24; cf. 3:86, 12:26-27, 21:24, 37:156-157);

● demands substantiating arguments with hard evidence to validate a conventional belief (2:111, 4:174, 5:104-105, 8:42, 10:100, 11:17, 17:36, 37:156-157);

● asks to investigate every single report, rumor and information with direct and/or circumstantial evidence before judging or giving credence to it (49:6, 12:26-27);

● cautions about hasty judgement and jumping into conclusions (17:11, 37:69-71);

● maintains that deduction from unverified, potentially flawed premises generates uncertain inferences (5:104; cf. 2:170, 17:11, 37:70);

● insists that believing in a ready-made proposition or accepting a popular hypothesis, without deep observation and reasoning, is misguiding (2:170, 5:104, 10:100-101, 31:21, 33:67, 37:69-71);

● asks not to debate in matters of which one has no knowledge (3:66, 18:22-26);

● asks not to follow conjecture, as conjecture can in no way substitute the truth (10:36, 2:111, 6:116, 18:22-26, 21:24, 45:24, 49:6, 53:28);

● calls to critically examine all specific information and then to try to impute a general principle through the process of inductive reasoning (39:18; cf. 8:22, 7:179, 10:100-101, 17:36, 46:26);

● advises to doubt and not to blindly follow the stereotypes, traditions and footprints of the ancestors (2:170, 7:28, 5:104-105, 6:112, 7:70, 21:52-54, 26:74, 37:69-71, 43:22-24);

● states that the misguidance due to this blind following (taqlid) of the ancestors, which sprouts up from faulty premises and branches into a ‘tree of poisonous fruit’, leads a society to a living hell (37:62-71; cf. 17:60, 31:21, 44:43, 56:52);

● invites to deeply observe ‘all that is in the Heavens and the Earth’ (10:101);

● calls to uncover the truths about life and the universe through sensory perception, observation and contemplation (7:185, 29:20, 30:50, 50:6-7, 88:17-20);

● highlights the importance of scientific observation (2:259, 3:137, 6:11, 6:75-79, 6:99, 7:185, 10:101, 15:16, 16:36, 27:69, 29:20, 30:9, 30:42, 30:50, 35:44, 37:88, 40:21, 45:13, 47:10, 50:6, 80:24, 86:5, 88:17-20);

● asks to read the divine messages holistically, without being blunted by mechanical shallowness born of haste and impatience (21:37; 75:16-21, 20:114);

● asks to study the Quran through thinking, analysing and reasoning (2:17-18, 3:79, 4:82, 12:2, 23:68, 25:73, 43:3-4, 47:24);

● encourages scientific inquisitiveness and its associates, i.e. experiencing, experimenting and reasoning, as important steps towards attaining conviction (2:260, 6:75-79, 10:100-101, 23:80, 37:88); 

● demands faith not based on wishful thinking or emotion, but based on evidence and reasoning (4:174, 8:42, 10:100, 11:17, 17:36, 74:30-31);

● insists that without deep observation and reasoning, one cannot ‘read’ the divine messages (‘scientific facts’) of the universe (12:105, 25:73, 40:13, 46:26);

● proclaims that those who lack this essential compass of observation and reasoning remain lost in the darknesses of ignorance (6:39, 2:17-18);

● asserts that the above are denied access to the divine treasures of the universe and so remain deprived of material prosperity and spiritual progress (39:62-63);

● asks to be free individuals without the sheeple mentality to be shepherded by someone (2:104);

● asks not to be captivated by the number or the influence of a majority (19:73, 12:106, 54:43-44);

● asks not to be followers of a crowd, since a crowd is too often prone to misdeed and misjudgement (6:116; cf. 10:36, 12:106, 16:83, 19:73, 36:62);

● asks not to be entranced by the charisma of the celebrities, leaders and ‘the great ones’, and not to be cowed by the unquestioning obedience of the authorities and establishments (23:24, 33:67, 5:104-105); and

● constantly appeals to humans to use their intellect and reason, to be free-thinking and sceptical, to be truth-seekers and iconoclasts (2:170-171, 2:242, 2:269, 3:118, 3:190, 6:74-83, 6:110, 7:169, 8:22, 10:42, 10:100-101, 11:51, 12:2, 12:106, 12:111, 13:4, 13:19, 16:67, 16:83, 17:36, 21:10, 21:57-67, 23:68, 23:80, 24:61, 29:63, 30:21, 30:28, 38:29, 39:9, 39:18, 39:21, 40:54, 45:23, 46:26, 47:24, 54:44, 59:14).

 

Related article:

The Quran calls for inductive reasoning

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Importance of reasoning in the Quran

The Quran calls to inductive reasoning

The Quranic call to carefully examine all specific information and then to try to impute a general principle, shows a clear preference for inductive reasoning over deductive.

The Quran calls for inductive reasoning

The Quran calls to inductive reasoning

 
In logic there are two ways of reasoning: inductive and deductive.

Inductive reasoning uses a large number of specific observations to reach a general principle.

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, uses a premise (a general principle assumed as true) to decide what must be true in a specific case.

An example of inductive reasoning is Newton’s theory of universal gravitation, which he induced by carefully examining and then generalising a large number of specific information about various natural phenomena such as how apples fall and how planets move.

Then, in the 19th century, scientists applied Newton’s theory (premise) to deduce – from perturbations in the observed orbit of Uranus – the existence, mass and orbit of Neptune (conclusion). This is an example of deductive reasoning.

Below we will observe how the Quran emphasizes inductive reasoning, while it cautions about the possible faulty premises of deductive reasoning.

The Quran gives emphasis to inductive reasoning

Please read this extremely important message of the Quran:

Those who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds. 39:18

Translated here as ‘all statements’, the term ‘al-qawl’, although in singular, is a collective noun denoting plurality and means ‘the word’, ‘all words’, ‘the whole speech’, ‘all statements’ (39:18), ‘the Scripture/s’ (23:68), ‘all thoughts’, ‘all opinions’ (51:8), ‘all what is said or being said’ (21:4), etc.

Here the Quran praises people who reason in an inductive way (‘who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it’).

Importantly, the Quran identifies these inductive reasoners as ‘guided and rational’ (‘the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds’).

So guided and rational are the people who take into account all scientific, philosophical, socio-political and religious concepts and opinions – and all results yielded by observation from various angles and consideration from various viewpoints – without ignoring anything, and, after examining them carefully, try to induce logical conclusions and discard all that fails the test of logic.

For instance, when they research on SCIENCE, they record (96:4) every available report resulted from ‘deep observation’ (2:259, 3:137, 6:11, 6:75-79, 6:99, 7:185, 10:101, 15:16, 16:36, 27:69, 29:20, 30:9, 30:42, 30:50, 35:44, 37:88, 40:21, 45:13, 47:10, 50:6, 80:24, 86:5, 88:17-20) – and thus gather as maximum information as possible – and then critically analyse all the collected data in order to draw, through the process of inductive reasoning, the best possible inference.

Or, e.g., when they discuss PHILOSOPHY, they try to reach their own inferences after listening to ‘all statements’, i.e. all thoughts and ideas of all human minds of all times and places (‘Say: My Sustainer knows all that is said in the Heaven and the Earth. 21:4’). This includes, in particular, all concepts and visions of the ‘messengers’ – i.e. philosophers, sages and visionaries as humanity’s finest representatives – who have been reflecting the light of one universal truth as extremely diverse colours, as indicated in the context of the verse on discussion (39:21-22; cf. 35:19-28, 30:9-24, 16:2-69, 39:18-69, 2:22-87, 2:136-164, 23:17-32).

Or, for example, when dealing with matters of POLITICS, they apply this same general principle of inductive reasoning: they ‘listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it’. Thus, after listening to all citizens they try to reach the best consensus out of all various opinions (‘Surely you are of diverse opinions. 51:8’).

Obviously, only this full representation of all the members of a society – irrespective of race, religion, age, gender and socio-economic status – can generate a relatively fair political system, which, translated in modern terms, will mean a parliamentary democracy (3:159, 5:12, 27:32, 39:18, 42:38, 58:11; cf. 2:233) with secularism (2:38, 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:114-115, 2:135-136, 2:138-2:141, 2:142-143, 2:148, 2:213, 2:253, 2:256, 2:285, 3:19, 3:64-65, 3:103, 3:113-115, 3:199, 4:36, 4:124-125, 4:162, 5:48, 5:69, 6:52, 6:102-108, 6:149, 7:35, 7:199, 10:11, 10:19, 10:41, 10:99-100, 13:38, 15:85, 16:9, 16:93, 16:125, 17:53, 17:84, 18:29, 21:92-93, 22:40, 22:67, 23:51-54, 24:35-36, 24:41, 29:46, 29:69, 31:15, 31:22, 40:78, 42:5-10, 42:14-15, 45:14, 45:17, 51:7-8, 60:8, 70:3-5, 73:10, 78:3-4, 88:21-22, 92:1-4, 95:6, 98:4-5, 109:6), pluralism (2:38, 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:135-136, 2:256, 3:64, 3:113, 3:199, 4:124-125, 5:48, 5:69, 6:149, 7:35, 10:19, 10:47, 10:74, 10:99-100, 11:118, 13:31, 13:38, 16:9, 16:13, 16:36, 16:63, 16:84, 16:93, 22:40, 22:65-67, 24:35, 24:41, 29:46, 29:69, 30:22, 35:19-28, 42:4-12, 49:13, 92:1-4), equal human rights (4:1, 6:98, 17:70, 26:183, 30:19-22, 35:28, 39:6, 42:23, 49:13) and justice for all (4:36, 4:58, 4:114, 4:135, 5:8, 5:42, 6:152, 7:181, 11:85, 16:90, 17:35, 42:15, 42:39, 57:25).

Or, for instance, when these inductive reasoners come across matters of RELIGION, they study with respect ‘all the sacred books of mankind’ (2:136, 2:285, 3:84, 4:164, 6:91-92, 23:68, 35:24, 40:78, 10:94) – including Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagabadgita, I Ching, Taotejing, Zhuangzi, Analects, Zend-Avesta, Tripitaka, Torah, Gospel, Quran, Granth Sahib, and so forth55 (cf. Do they not study the Word, or has what come to them not come to their forefathers of old? 23:68; cf. 10:94, 41:43) – and listen to all religious views (‘listen to all statements’) including Hindu, Zoroastrian, Confucian, Taoist, Shinto, Pantheist, Jain, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muhammadan, Sufi, Sikh, Bahai, Mormon, Dialectical Materialist, Agnostic, Atheist and so on, and then critically evaluate them to accept the best out of everything (‘follow the best of it’).

It is important to remember that the Quran insistently acknowledges unity of all revelations and calls to respect all inspired texts/ messages/ scriptures of all religions, while considering them as integral constituents of ‘one Book of God’ (‘al-kitab’, e.g. 2:113, 2:136, 3:19, 3:100, 3:119, 6:91-92, 6:154-157, 10:37, 21:7, 23:68, 39:18; cf. 18:27, 10:94).

In this Quranic concept about the multidimensionality of the Truth we hear a resonance of that great revelation from Rig Veda, the oldest known religious scripture in the world – “Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides.”

Rudyard Kipling once asked: “What does he know of England who only England knows?” This applies also to Muslims in relation to Islam. Knowing and understanding others’ religions is important to better know and understand one’s own religion.

Also, this instruction to ‘listen to all statements’ automatically necessitates an ‘all-inclusive’ or HOLISTIC APPROACH, which, as emphasized throughout the Quran, is essential to understand the consistent, divine messages of the Scripture/s as well as of the Book of the Universe (cf. ‘to acknowledge the End, Ultimate or Whole, ‘al-akhirat’; 2:85, 4:82, 6:91-92, 6:112-113, 6:150, 16:20-25, 17:9-11, 17:19, 17:21, 17:45-46, 17:72, 17:106, 20:114, 21:37, 25:32, 30:7, 39:18-23, 39:45, 41:42, 53:25-27, 73:4, 75:16-21, 93:4).

This ‘holistic approach’ is also important to correctly appreciate God’s absolute oneness – as the central message of the Quran in line with all previous revelations – and thereby to protect our prayer from idol/s of distorted shahada: And those who acknowledge the End (‘the whole’), will acknowledge this, and they will guard their prayer (from idols). 6:92.

When applied to EDUCATION, and school education in particular, this call to ‘listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it asks children and youngsters to learn about all sorts of concepts, faiths and ideas and then to compare and choose their own one – indeed if they want one – as they grow older to better argue and analyse.

Now, this Quranic teaching of inductive reasoning must be in serious disagreement with the current madrasa education system which segregates and indoctrinates children with a stereotyped and eventually fossilized version of Islam and doesn’t sufficiently comprise in its curriculum secular education (2:269, 12:22, 20:114, 21:74, 21:79, 28:14, 29:44, 30:25, 34:9, 35:28, 45:3, 67:3-4, 96:1-5) and modern philosophy and science (2:31, 6:39, 6:97, 6:122, 10:101, 12:105, 13:16, 27:25, 35:19-20, 39:62-63, 40:13, 45:13, 46:26) – e.g. evolutionary biology, which is emphasized in the Quran (2:164, 6:98, 29:19-20, 45:4, 71:14-17) – as well as knowledge about other faiths including agnosticism and atheism.

What a narrow-minded, despotic god – what a graven image of a petty, myopic, irrational deity – have we been worshipping if we believe he demands children to be ‘born’ into a faith which not only needs to be imposed on them, but which they have to blindly follow without questioning and reasoning!

And what a serious violation of the rational spirit of the Scripture by its so-called followers! A Book that describes unquestioning minds as polluted (He casts uncleanness on those who do not reason. 10:100)! A Book that identifies unreasoning people as subhumans, comparing them with lower animals!:

They have minds wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are as the cattle, nay, even worse. 7:179; Surely the worst of animals in God’s sight are the deaf, the dumb, who do not reason. 8:22; cf. Or do you think that most of them hear and use their intellect (aql)? Nay, they are but like cattle – nay, they are farther astray. 25:44

And what a grave desecration of all those crucial instructions of a divine Book that desperately calls to reason and constantly attacks unreason (2:170, 171, 242, 269; 3:118, 190; 4:174; 6:74-83; 6:110; 7:169; 7:179, 8:22; 8:42; 10:42; 10:100; 11:17; 11:51; 12:2, 111; 13:4, 19; 16:67; 17:36; 21:10, 67; 23:80; 24:61; 29:63; 30:28; 36:62, 38:29; 39:9, 18, 21; 40:54; 45:23; 46:26; 59:14; 74:30-31)!

Then, when the verse refers to the QURAN ITSELF, it contains a further instruction: one needs to listen to the whole integrated message of the Quran and then apply to a given situation ‘the best meaning’32, i.e. the most appropriate meaning of those specific messages that are relevant to the concrete situation (‘Follow the best of what is sent down to you from your Sustainer. 39:55’).

An interesting observation

While asking to listen to all words and all views and then to evaluate them with reason, the verse on discussion (39:18) uses the word ‘qawl’ (word, statement, opinion, speech) but doesn’t use the word ‘hadith’, which essentially has a similar meaning.

Remarkably however, the word ‘qawl’ is then almost immediately followed by the word ‘hadith’, though referring here to the Quran (‘God has been sending down the best HADITH, a Book fully consistent in its oft-repeating … 39:23’), which, according to its succeeding context, is a detailed guide (39:27) and hence doesn’t require various contradictory hadiths attributed to the prophet who is wrongly revered by his worshippers as a divine associate (39:28-33).

Thus this appears to be a curious fact that the Quran contains not even a single positive usage of the word ‘hadith’ when it is used to denote human words. In fact, wherever the word ‘hadith’ appears in the Quran to denote anything besides the Quran – in all the 20 instances – it is always used in a negative sense and in a tone of strong disapproval (4:42, 4:78, 4:87, 4:140, 6:68, 7:185, 12:111, 18:6, 23:44, 31:6, 33:53, 34:19, 39:23, 45:6, 52:34, 53:59, 56:81, 66:3, 68:44, 77:50).

Further thoughts

While emphasizing inductive reasoning, the Quran also cautions about the possible faulty premises of deductive reasoning.

Time and again, we are asked not to jump into hasty or uncertain conclusions derived from unverified propositions (2:170, 5:104, 17:11, 37:70, 75:16-21). We are told not to follow anything without sufficient knowledge, and not to believe anything blindly, even if it was belief in God:

And follow not anything of which you have no knowledge; surely the hearing and the sight and the sense, all those will be questioned about it. 17:36

Thus the Quran puts responsibility on every individual (4:32, 5:104-105, 6:94, 6:164, 19:95, 53:38-39) to personally question, analyse and verify everything – to apply reasoning, based on on sensory data and factual information.

Conclusion

The Quran asks us to use both our senses and reasoning to critically examine the maximum data we can gather in order to reach a wiser inference (39:18; cf. 8:22, 7:179, 10:100-101, 17:36, 25:44). It also insistently warns against the danger of easy deduction from ready-made ‘premises’ (2:170, 5:104, 17:11, 37:70, 75:16-21).

This Quranic call to carefully examine all specific information – perhaps as many pieces of information as possible – and then to try to impute a general principle, shows an overall emphasis on inductive reasoning.