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Reason and Knowledge

Reason and Knowledge in Islam

1 . Reason

The Prophet said: "Lo! Verily, there is in the body a small piece of flesh; if it is good the whole body is good and if it is corrupted the whole body is corrupted; lo! it is the heart . " 1

Al-Nawawi said: This hadith was used as proof that the seat of the mind is the heart (al-`aql fi al-qalb) and not the head. There is a well-known difference of opinion concerning this . The position of our [Shafi`i] scholars and the overwhelming majority of the scholars of kalam is that it is the heart, while Abu Hanifa said it is the brain, and it might also be said to be the head. The philosophers are said to hold the first position, the physicians the second. Al-Maziri said: "Those who hold that it is in the heart adduced as proof Allah's saying (Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow blind)( 22:46 ) and (Lo! therein verily is a reminder for him who has a heart, or gives ear with full intelligence)(50:37). " 2

The Prophet said, pointing to the heart: "Fear of Allah is right here" (al-taqwahahuna). 3
Another narration states: "Verily, Allah looks not at your bodies nor at your faces but He looks at your hearts."4
Imam al-Nawawi stated that these two narrations were also used as proof that the seat of the mind is the heart and Ibn Hajar similarly adduced all the above texts as evidence of the same. 5

`Ali ibn Abi Talib ( said at the battle of Siffin: "The seat of reason is the heart (al-`aqlu fi al-qalb), that of mercy is the liver, that of sympathy is the spleen, and that of breath is the lung." 6

Imam Ahmad defined reason (al-`aql) thus: "One of different types of necessary types of knowledge that characterize animate beings endowed with speech. Its seat is the heart. "7
Another authoritative definition was given by Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari: "Lexically it means 'prevention' (al-man`), as it prevents its possessor from straying from the correct path. By convention it denotes instinct (ghariza) through which one is prepared to comprehend the theoretical sciences. It is also said to be a light cast into the heart. "8

Shaykh Tajal-Din ibn`Ata' Allah al-Sakandari related in Lata'if al-Minan from Shaykh Abu al-`Abbas al-Mursi that the latter said:
"Once I recited (By the fig and the olive)(95:1) until I arrived at His saying (Surely We created man of the best stature Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low)(95:4-5).
I reflected upon the meaning of these verses, and Allah inspired to me that their meaning is (Surely We created man of the best stature – in soul and mind – (ruhanwa`aqlan), (Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low – in ego and lust – (nafsanwahawa). "9

2 . Knowledge and the Knowledgeable

Among the sayings of `Ali ibn Abi Talib– Allah be well-pleased with him — on this topic, narrated by Abu Nu`aym with his chains:

* From Abu Araka:
"I have seen a remnant of the Companions of Allah's Messenger. I see no-one that resembles them. By Allah! They used to rise in the morning disheveled, dust-covered, pale, with something between their eyes like goat's knees, as they had spent the night chanting Allah's Book, turning from their feet to their foreheads. If Allah was mentioned they swayed the way trees sway on a windy day, then their eyes poured out tears until – by Allah! – they soaked their clothes. By Allah! It is as if folks today sleep in indifference. "

* From al-Hasan ibn`Ali:
"Blessed is the servant that cries constantly to Allah, who has known people while they have not known him, and Allah has marked him with His contentment. These are the true beacons of guidance. Allah repels from them every wrongful dissension and shall enter them into His own mercy. They are not the wasteful tale-bearers (10) nor the ill-mannered self-displayers. " 11

From `Asim ibn Damura:
"The true, the real faqih is he who does not push people to despair from Allah's mercy, nor lulls them into a false sense of safety from His Punishment, nor gives them licenses to disobey Allah, nor leaves the Qur'an for something else.
There is no good in worship devoid of knowledge, nor in knowledge devoid of understanding, nor in inattentive recitation. "

* From `Amr ibn Murra:
"Be wellsprings of the Science and beacons in the night, wearing old clothes but possessing new hearts for which you shall be known in the heaven and remembered on the earth. "

* " Thus does Knowledge die: when those who possess it die. By Allah, I do swear it! The earth will never be empty of one who establishes the proofs of Allah so that His proofs and signs never cease. They are the fewest in number, but the greatest in rank before Allah. Through them Allah preserves His proofs until they bequeath it to those like them (before passing on) and plant it firmly in their hearts.
By them knowledge has taken by assault the reality of things, so that they found easy what those given to comfort found hard, and found intimacy in what the ignorant found desolate. They accompanied the world with bodies whose spirits were attached to the highest regard. Ah, ah! How one yearns to see them!"14

Al-Hasan al-Basri:

"Have you ever seen a faqih? The faqih is he who has renounced the world, longs for the hereafter, possesses insight in his Religion, and worships his Lord without cease. "12

Sahl ibn`Abd Allah al-Tustari:

Al- Barbahari said: I heard Sahl say:
"Allah created the world and placed in it those who are ignorant and those who have knowledge. The best knowledge is that which one acts upon. For knowledge is all a proof [against oneself] except what is put into practice. But what is put into practice is all wind except what is sound and correct. As for what is sound and correct: I do not declare with certainty any act to be so, except what Allah wills."15

Imam al-Awza`i:

Baqiyya ibn al-Walid said that al-Awza`i said:
"O Baqiyya! Do not mention any of your Prophet's Companions except kindly.
O Baqiyya! Knowledge (al-`ilm) is whatever came to us from the Companions of Muhammad. Whatever did not come to us from them, is not knowledge. "16

Imam Malik:

* From Ibn al-Qasim: "I heard Zayd ibn Aslam say: (And unto each of them We gave judgment (hukm) and knowledge)(21:79) that wisdom (al-hikma) is reason (al-`aql).
What comes to my heart is that wisdom is superlative understanding (al-fiqh) in Allah's Religion. What clearly shows this is that you may see someone quite reasonable and clear-sighted in worldly matters, and someone else weak in worldly matters but knowledgeable and judicious in the matter of his Religion. Allah gave him this but deprived the former of it. This wisdom, therefore, is superlative understanding in Allah's Religion. "17

From Ibn Wahb: "In the verse (and he shall instruct them in the Book and in wisdom)(2:129, 62:2), 'wisdom' is the Sunna. In the verses (And We gave him wisdom when a child)(19:12), (He said: I have come unto you with wisdom)(43:63), (And He will teach him the Scripture and wisdom)(3:48), (And bear in mind that which is recited in your houses of the revelations of Allah and wisdom)(33:34), 'wisdom' is obedience of Allah, observance of Him, superlative understanding in the Religion, and deeds in conformity with it. " I also heard Malik say: "Wisdom and knowledge are a light by which Allah guides whomever He pleases; it does not consist in knowing many things. "18

Imam al-Shafi`i:

"Knowledge is what contains the words: 'Narrated to us.' All else is satanic whisperings. 19

"Knowledge is what benefits. Knowledge is not what one has memorized. "

This is a corrective for those content to define knowledge as "the knowledge of the proof" (ma`rifa al-dalil). (He gives wisdom to whomever He will, and whoever receives wisdom receives immense good) (2:269). 20

"You [the scholars of hadith] are the pharmacists but we [the jurists] are the physicians. " This was explained by `Ali al-Qariin his book Mu`taqad Abi Hanifa al-Imam (p. 42):
"The early scholars said: The hadith scholar without knowledge of fiqh is like a seller of drugs who is no physician: he has them but he does not know what to do with them; and the fiqh scholar without knowledge of hadith is like a physician without drugs: he knows what constitutes a remedy, but does not dispose of it."

Imam Ibn Hibban al-Busti:

Among Ibn Hibban's notable remarks in his Sahih:

His definition of "knowledge" to mean
"knowledge of the Sunna" in the Prophet's hadith
"Time shall grow short and knowledge decrease,"20 in view of the increase of every other type of knowledge in modern times.

Imam Ibn `Ata' Allah al-Sakandari:

"The Knowledge That Benefits is That Whose Rays Expand in the Breast and Whose Veil is Lifted in the Heart. "
Ibn `Ata' Allah, Hikam(#213).


1 Narrated from al-Nu`man ibn Bashir in the Six Books . The complete hadith states:

"Verily, the lawful is manifest and the forbidden is manifest, but between them there are dubious matters which many people do not know . Therefore, whoever bewares of dubious matters has made himself exempt [of guilt] for the sake of his religion and his honor, and whoever falls into dubious matters, falls into the forbidden.
It is as with the shepherd that grazes his herd around guarded grounds: he greatly risks grazing it inside it . Lo! Every king possesses guarded grounds. Lo! Verily, Allah's guarded grounds are His prohibitions .
Lo! Verily, there is in the body a small piece of flesh; if it is good the whole body is good and if it is corrupted the whole body is corrupted; lo! It is the heart . "

2 Al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim (1972 ed. 11:29).

3 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Muslim, and in various wordings from Abu Hurayra, Anas, and others by al-Tirmidhi (hasan gharîb), Ahmad , al-Tabarani, Abu Ya`la, and Abu Nu`aym. Also narrated from Wabisa ibn Ma`bad al-Asadi by Ahmad with the wording:

"Righteousness (al-birr) is whatever your chest becomes dilated in doing, while iniquity (al-ithm) is whatever your chest becomes constricted in doing, regardless of what people recommend . "

4 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Muslim and Ibn Majah.

5 Respectively in Sharh Sahih Muslim (16:122) and Fathal-Bari(1959 ed. 1:129).
6 Narrated from `Iyad ibn Khalifa by al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (p. 192) with a fair (hasan) chain because of Muhammad ibn Muslim al-Ta'ifi, and al-Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-Iman (3-4:161).

7 Ahmad ibn Hanbal in Tabaqatal-Habanila(2:281).

8 Zakariyya al-Ansari, al-Hudud al-Aniqa(p. 67).

9 In al-Suyuti, Asrar Tartib al-Qur'an (p. 153).

10 Those who fanned dissension between `Ali and the other Companions.

11 The Khawârij.

12 As cited by al-`Ayniin `Umda al-Qari, Book of `Ilm, in his commentary on the hadith:

"He for whom Allah desires great good, He grants him understanding in the Religion" .

Cf. Ibn al-Jawzi, Manaqib al-Hasan al-Basri (p. 16).

13 Cited by Ibn al-Jawzi in his chapter on `Ali in Sifat al-Safwa.

14 Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifaal-Safwa2(4):10 (#570) and 1(2):203 (#254); Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya' (6:155) and s.v. "Abu Hashim"; Ibn Taymiyya, al-Sufiyyawa al-Fuqara', beginning of volume 11 of his Majmu`a al-Fatawa entitled al-Tasawwuf; al-Harawi al-Ansari, Tabaqat al-Sufiyya, 1983 Mawlayied. (p. 1, 159);
Shaykh `Abdal-Qadir al-Gilani, al-Ghunya (p. 840); `Abdal-Rahman Jami, Nafahat al-Uns, ed. M. Tauhidipur, 1336/1957 (p. 441).

15 In Ibn Abi Ya`la, Tabaqatal-Hanabila( 2:18 ). Sahl also said:
"No-one is given a better knowledge than that by which he increases his utter dependence on Allah."

Abu Nu`aym, Hilya al-Awliya' (10:204 #14934).

16 Cited by al-Dhahabi in Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' (1997 ed. 7:95) and Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari(1959 ed. 13:291).

17 As cited by al-Tabari in his Tafsir (verse 21:79) and al-Mahdawi in al-Tahsil as quoted by Hamid Lahmar in al-Imam Malik Mufassiran (p. 279). Related to Malik's words, note the Prophet's hadith:

"Most of the people of Paradise are the naive (al-bulh). "

Narrated from Anas by al-Bazzar in his Musnad (#1983) who graded it weak, while al-Qurtubi declared it sahîh in his Tafsir (verses 26:83-89), but this was questioned by al-`Iraqi in al-Mughni`an Haml al-Asfar, who quoted Ibn `Adi's rejection of the hadith in al-Kamilfi al-Du`afa' (3:313 #773).Ibn `Adi said "condemned as narrated through this chain" (hâdha al-hadîth bi hâdha al-isnâd munkarun), and did not mean the content of the hadith, as its veracity is confirmed by the Prophet's hadith narrated from Abu Hurayra by Muslim:

" Paradise says: None enters me except the weak and wretched among the people and their simple-minded (ghirratuhum) . "

The best grading for the chain of Anas's narration is that of "soft" (layyin) in al-Fattani's Tadhkiraal-Mawdu`at (p . 29) and al-`Ajluni's Kashf al-Khafa' (1:164, 1:286) because of Salama ibn Rawh. See also al-Mizzi's Tahdhib al-Kamal (26:113 #5465), al-Quda`i'sMusnadal-Shihab(2:110 #989-990), al-Suyuti's al-Durar al-Muntathira(p. 93 #68), al-Sakhawi's al-Maqasid al-Hasana(p. 74), and al-Zarkashi's al-Tadhkira (p. 170).
The hadith is also narrated with a weak chain from Jabir as stated by Ibn `Adi(1:191 #31), Ibn al-Jawzi in al-`Ilalal-Mutanahiya(2:934-935 #1558-1559), and Ibn Hajar in Lisanal-Mizan(1:240 #755).
The ghirr and bulh are those who were ignorant of evil ways in the world but knowledgeable in their Religion, as explained by Abu `Uthman and al-Awza`i in Kashf al-Khafa' and Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' (1997 ed . 7:92), also al-Munawi in Fayd al-Qadir (2:79); or those whose hearts were guileless towards people as stated by Ibn Qutayba in Ta'wil Mukhtalif al-Hadith (1995 ed . p . 270 =3D 1972 ed . p . 297); or those who lacked skill in worldly ways as explained by al-Nawawi in Sharh Sahih Muslim and al-Suyuti in al-Dibaj(6:191 #2847); or those like old women, beduins, and their like, who remained staunch in their Religion as stated by al-Qari in Al-Asrar al-Marfu`a (p . 125-127 #53) . The "Salafi" editor of the latter, M. L. al-Sabbagh, rejected the hadith as munkar and exclaimed: "Islam was never for one day a Religion that supports naiveness or the simple-minded!" This is refuted by Muslim's narration from Abu Hurayra quoted above, as well as al-Tirmidhi (gharîb), Abu Dawud, Ahmad , al-Hakim (1:43), and `Abdal-Razzaq's narration from him that the Prophet said:

"The believer is guileless and noble (al-mu'minughirrunkarîm) while the wicked man is perfidious and miserly (wa al-fâjirukhibbunla'îm)":

a fair narration as indicated by al-Dhahabi in his Talkhis and stated by Ibn Hajar in al-Ajwiba`ala al-Qazwini[al-Qari'sMirqat1994 ed.1:546-549] and al-Suyuti as quoted in `Awn al-Ma`bud.
Al-Bayhaqi also narrated from Abu Hurayra, as stated in al-Qari'sal-Mirqat(1994 ed.8:813):

"The believer is easy and lenient (hayyinunlayyinun) to the point that you will think him a fool (ahmaq) in his leniency . "

Ibn al-Athir cites some of these narrations under the entries b-l-h and gh-r-r in al-Nihaya(1:154, 3:353), as well as Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al-Razi in Mukhtar al-Sihah (p.26).

18 In Ibn `Abdal-Barr, Jami` Bayanal-`Ilm(1:83-84), al-Qadi `Iyad, Tartibal-Madarik(2:62), al-Shatibi, al-Muwafaqat(4:97-98).

19 Al-Shafi`i, Diwan as cited by al-Qari in his introduction to Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar.

20 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah:

"Time shall grow short, knowledge decrease, dissensions appear, avarice confront the people, and massacres abound . "

He was asked: "O Messenger of Allah, what is the latter?" He replied: "Killing, killing!" See the discussion of this hadith in al-`Iraqi's Tarhal-Tathrib (4:26 -29).

Allah's blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions .

GF Haddad ©

And The Following Question:

Recently you quoted a hadith in one of your posts saying that the Prophet told us to follow the "fatwa of our hearts" even if it's contrary to the fatwa of others. I would like for you to elaborate more on this narration. The little knowledge that I do possess, makes it hard for me to believe that because it opposes the ayats in the Qur'an telling us not to follow our vain desires, which stem from the heart.

Make no mistake: The hadith in no way contradicts the aya cited but rather confirms it, in the sense of following your heart in issues that raise an ethical scruple in you even if people give you fatwa to go ahead. Meaning, if your heart tells you there is something wrong with it, then leave it. This explanation is confirmed by another hadith that states: "Sin (al-ithm) is whatever pricks the conscience. " And Allah knows best.

Hajj Gibril
GF Haddad ©


About seekerofsacredilm

The people of knowledge are the heirs of the Prophets and and they inherit knowledge. The one who takes knowledge is taking an ample share. And if someone travels a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make his path to the Garden

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