Q: What is your reply to philosophers who give reason preference over religious texts?
The function of reason with regard to the Noble Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah is to understand and accept them. Reason has no role in religion except for this.
There are a lot of religious texts that make it obligatory for Muslims to follow the Noble Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah. Also, such texts warn Muslims against offering any opinions or suggestions that may oppose what is mentioned in the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah.
Allah (may He be Exalted) says,(Surah Al-Hujurat, 49: 1) O you who believe! Make not (a decision) in advance before Allýh and His Messenger (peace be upon him), and fear Allýh. Verily, Allýh is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
He (may He be Praised) says,(Surah Al-A`raf, 7: 3) Follow what has been sent down to you from your Lord (the Qur’aan and Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah), and follow not any Auliyý (protectors and helpers who order you to associate partners in worship with Allaah), besides Him (Allaah). Little do you remember!
Also, Allah (may He be Glorified and Exalted) says,(Surah Al-`Imran, 3: 31) Say (O Muhammad peace be upon him to mankind): “If you (really) love Allaah then follow me (i.e. accept Islaamic Monotheism, follow the Qur’aan and the Sunnah), Allaah will love you and forgive you your sins.”
He (may He be Glorified and Exalted) says,(Surah Al-An`am, 6: 153) And verily, this (i.e. Allaah’s Commandments) is My Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become Al-Muttaqýn (the pious).
Allah (may He be Glorified and Exalted) also says,(Surah Al-Nisa’, 4: 59) And if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allaah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) if you believe in Allýh and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.
He (may He be Exalted) says,(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 170) When it is said to them: “Follow what Allaah has sent down.” They say: “Nay! We shall follow what we found our fathers following.” (Would they do that!) even though their fathers did not understand anything nor were they guided?
There are other Qur’anic Ayahs that order Muslims to follow the revelation sent down from Allah (may He be Exalted) and warn against following one’s personal desires and all that is dictated by reason deviating from the right path.
Thus, it is not permissible for a person to be fooled by his reason whatever comprehensive understanding and thought he might have; that he takes his reason as a fundamental and the transmitted texts of the Qur’an and the Sunnah as a branch, accepting what is in agreement with reason and rejecting or distorting all that is in disagreement with it. This implies an accusation of the Divine Shari`ah (Law). Also, it undermines the fundamentals and pillars of the Shari`ah, as there are different reasons, natures, and thoughts, and people hardly agree on anything with the exception of necessities and the things that are perceptible through the senses. If the reality is as mentioned, which of all these reasons can be adopted as a fundamental to which people refer when differing on a case and to understand the transmitted texts of the Shari`ah?
What a wise opinion was said by Shaykh-ul-Islam, Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be Merciful with him),
“People should know that nothing related to direct reason or the authentic transmitted texts makes it obligatory to oppose the method of the Salaf (righteous predecessors). Those who oppose the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah and the Salaf of this Ummah (nation based on one creed) are in a confused state in which they can not differentiate between right and wrong. Anyone who denies Ru’yah (seeing Allah), claims that reason regards such an act as impossible. Thus, he needs to have another Ta’wil (allegorical interpretation) for the word “Ru’yah”. Also, those who regard it as impossible for Allah (may He be Exalted) to have Knowledge and Might and to have uncreated speech, say that reason regards such matters as impossible, so they resort to Ta’wil. Moreover, those who deny the resurrection of bodies and real eating and drinking in Paradise claim that reason regards such matters as impossible, so they resort to Ta’wil. Also, those who claim that Allah (may He be Exalted) is not seated on the Throne, claim that reason regards it as impossible, thus, they resort to Ta’wil.
The evidence on the corruption of opinions offered by those people is that none of them has a fixed rule regarding what is considered impossible by reason. Some of them claim that reason regards as permissible or obligatory what is regarded as impossible by others. So, which of these can be adopted in terms of considering the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah? As said by Imam Malik Ibn Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), “How foolish we are to abandon what is revealed to Muhammad (may peace be upon him) through Jibril (Gabriel) (peace be upon him) when a person excels others in argument comes to us!”
May Allah grant us success! May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and Companions!