Topic: Human Reason, Knowledge
Source: Book: Ibn Taymiyyah Expounds on Islam
Reason is prerequisite to the acquisition of knowledge, as
well as for the performance of a good deed or righteous act. Mystical states like ecstasy or intoxication, which involve the suppression of reason, are imperfect states of mind, and ideas that conflict with reason are false. However, reason is not self-sufficient; it cannot dispense with revelation, which alone gives the knowledge of realities that transcend it.
Many theologians base their ideas simply on reason, and rely exclusively on it. They subject it to the faith and the Qur’an. Knowledge is derived from general principles of reason sufficient in themselves without a recourse to faith on the Qur’an.
Most Sufis, on the other hand, condemn reason and find fault with it. They assert that sublime states and higher spiritual stages are never attained without negating reason. They expound ideas which contradict reason and lead to rapture, ecstasy and intoxication. They believe in truths and experiences which, as they claim, accrue only when reason is completely suppressed; they also believe in things that are clearly denied by reason or are not attested to by it.
Both these sources are wrong. To be sure, reason is prerequisite to all knowledge, as it is the prerequisite of virtue and good life. With it we acquire knowledge and virtue, but it is not sufficient by itself. It is only a faculty of the soul, a power like the power of vision in the eye. It works only when it receives light from faith and the Qur’an, as the eye sees only when it receives light from the sun or a fire.
Left to itself, reason cannot know things which it is not equipped to know by itself. On the other hand, when it is completely suppressed, the ideas that one receives and the acts that one performs may be things such as happen to the animals. One may have love and ecstasy and other experiences, but they will not be different from what the animals get. Hence the states that one attains to by negating reason are defective, and the ideas one receives contrary to reason are false.
Prophets came with knowledge which reason could not attain in and of itself; never did they come with what reason considers to be impossible. People who place unjustified faith in reason readily make statements regarding the necessity, possibility or impossibility of things purely on the basis of reason; they work all the while under the impression that their views are correct, whereas they are false; they are even audacious enough to oppose the views which the prophets taught. On the other hand, those who decry reason and affirm things that are false, revel in satanic states and evil practices, and cross the boundaries which the sense of discrimination (between good and evil) draws, with which God has endowed man and elevated him above other creatures.
Among the people of hadith (ahl al-hadith) there are also some who lean towards one or the other of these two groups. They sometimes bring down reason from its position, and sometimes put it against the prophetic practices (sunan). [Fatawa 3:338-9]