Al-Aql (intellect) is not acquired, rather it is a fadl (favour) bestowed by Allaah – Sharh as-Sunnah | Dawud Burbank [Audio|En]


Sharh as-Sunnah : Lesson 46: Point 74
Shaykh Fawzan | Dawud Burbank [Audio|English]

Imaam Barbahaaree rahimahullaah said:

And intellect (al-`aql) is inborn. Each person is given the intellect that Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, wills. They vary in degree of intellect just like a speck at different heights in the heavens. And action is required from each person in accordance with the intellect he has been given. Intellect is not earned, rather, it is a favour bestowed by Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.

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Transcribed Audio:

Al-`Aql عقل  (the intellect), it is a faculty, which Allaah places in the person by means of which he can comprehend things. By means of it, he can distinguish what is harmful from what is beneficial and what is good from what is evil. No-one knows the nature (kayfiyyah) of the intellect (`aql). People have groped about in confusion concerning it but they have not reached a conclusion because it is one of the secrets of Allaah, which no-one knows except Him, He, the Perfect and Most High.

And the `aql  عقل (intellect), it is called `aql (intellect) with an `ain and a qaaf and a laam because it withholds a person from that which will harm him[1] just as a tethering rope holds an animal back from escaping.

The intellect is also called Hijr (prevention).

هَلْ فِي ذَٰلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِي حِجْرٍ

Is there not in these oaths sufficient proof for a person possessing Hijr (intellect)? (Sooratul-Fajr (89), aayah 5)

Al-Hijr here is Al-`Aql (the intellect). It is called that because it blocks and prevents a person from that, which will harm him.

And it is called An-Nuhaa.النُّهَى

كُلُوا وَارْعَوْا أَنْعَامَكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّأُولِي النُّهَىٰ

In that there are clear signs for those who possess Nuhaa (intellect).(Soorah Taa-Haa (20), aayah 54)

Meaning the people of al-`Uqool (intellects).

And it is called al-Lubb. لُبّ

 لِّأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ 

For the possessors of al-Baab. (Soorah Aali `Imraan (3), aayah 190)

Meaning, the people with intellects.

So, this `aql (intellect) is from the signs of Allaah, the Perfect and Most High.

And the saying of the author, Huwa mawlood (it is inborn).” What is apparent is that he intended that it is makhlooq (something created) and that it is not something that is ancient or pre-existing or that it is born along with the person.

And this intellect (al-`aql), as we have mentioned, no-one knows its true reality except Allaah.And therefore, the people of `ilm-ul-kalaam (theological rhetoric) and the philosophers, they have confused ideas about it and they did not reach a conclusion with regard to the `aql (intellect) because this is not within the scope of their knowledge.

And the intellect varies:

From the people there are those whose intellect is complete such as the prophets; Anbiyaa· `alayhimussalaatu wassalaam.

From the people, there are those who have no intellect at all such as the insane person and the mentally retarded and the baby.

From the people are those who are in between; between having complete intellect and between not having intellect. Meaning he has intellect but it is not complete.

And they vary with regard to its deficiency, some of them have serious deficiency in intellect and some of them have slight deficiency and so on and so forth and this is in accordance with whatever Allaah, the Perfect and Most High, has put into him.

And the word al-`aql is used to refer to al-fahm (understanding) also. So it is said “aqalal aayaatil qur’aaniyyah,” it can be said about a person that he is aqala; meaning he has understood the aayahs of the Qur’aan because part of the aayah as evidence:

 ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ ..

… there are certainly signs for a people who understand.
(Sooratun-Nahl (16), aayah 12)

Meaning: they understand the signs in creation and the aayahs of the Qur’aan.

وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِبُهَا لِلنَّاسِ ۖ وَمَا يَعْقِلُهَا إِلَّا الْعَالِمُونَ 

And those are examples, which We strike for mankind and no-one understands them except for the people endowed with knowledge.  (Sooratul-Ankaboot (29), aayah 43)

So, al-`aql; this word, which is for intellect, it can also be applied to al-fahm (understanding) and alidraak (comprehension) and al-fiqhu fid-deen (understanding of the religion) of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.

أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ ..

… will you not then have understanding?
(Sooratul-Qasas (28), aayah 60)

And from the people, there are those whose intellect is blotted out on account of his disbelief and on account of his heedlessness. So, therefore, he cannot distinguish between what is harmful and what is beneficial. So, he possesses intellect; the faculty, however, he does not derive benefit from his intellect. He is deprived of benefitting from his intellect and Allaah’s refuge is sought, aameen, on account of his disbelief (kufr). So, he becomes a person who cannot utilise his intellect.

أَمْ تَحْسَبُ أَنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ أَوْ يَعْقِلُونَ ۚ إِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا كَالْأَنْعَامِ

Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? Rather, they are just like cattle. (Sooratul-Furqaan (25), aayah 44)

So, Allaah deprives him of his intellect as a punishment for him since he did not use it with regard to that which benefits him. Rather, he only used it in that which contains no benefit or in that which brings harm. So, al-`aql (the intellect) is from the signs of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.

His saying, “And action is required from each person in accordance with the level of intellect that he has been given.” At-takleef (being bound by religious responsibility and duty) and commands and prohibitions and reward and punishment, all of them are made dependent upon al-`aql (having intellect).

His saying, “And the intellect is not acquired, rather it is just a fadl (favour) bestowed by Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.” The intellect is from Allaah, the Majestic and Most High. He is the One Who plants it in the person and it is from the secrets of Allaah, the Majestic and Most High, in His creation. A person does not earn and acquire intellect himself. Yes, a person can strengthen his intellect by reflecting upon the aayaat (signs) of Allaah by carefully pondering upon the Qur’aan but as for his earning intellect which is not present, then no, that cannot happen. Allaah is the One Who produces intellect in him. He cannot produce intellect himself and earn it himself. However, he can strengthen it.

أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَتَكُونَ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ يَعْقِلُونَ بِهَا أَوْ آذَانٌ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۖ فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَعْمَى الْأَبْصَارُ وَلَٰكِن تَعْمَى الْقُلُوبُ الَّتِي فِي الصُّدُورِ 

Will they not travel upon the earth so that they can have hearts with which they can reason or ears which they can hear with? For indeed it is not the sight of the people that becomes truly blind, rather, it is the hearts which are in the chests which become blind. (Sooratul-Hajj (22), aayah 46)

So this indicates that reflecting upon the creation and reflecting upon the destruction that occurred to the previous nations on account of their disbelief and their sins, this benefits a person and strengthens his intellect, not that it brings about intellect which was not present in the first place.[2]


[1] Translator’s side point:  In the Arabic language in its origin, the word `aql, it means الحرس al-hurs (withholding something).

[2] Translator’s side point:  Briefly with the explanation of Shaykh Ahmad an-Najmee rahimahullaah then he said on this point, “his saying, Intellect is inborn,” meaning that it is born along with the person himself and it grows and increases as he grows. So, the intellect begins as something small and then it grows larger along with its person and there is no doubt that the intellects vary in accordance with that which Allaah has given to each person. And Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, has praised in the Qur’aan, the people of intellect.

And the people of Usool ul-Fiqh (Fundamentals of Fiqh), which Fiqh is based upon, are in agreement that the intellect (`aql) is what being bound by duties depends upon. And then they disagree about whether the intellect (`aql) whether it is in the brain (dimaagh) or whether it is in the heart. And what is apparent is that there is a close connection between the two of them and the action of one will not be completed except with the other one. So, thinking which occurs in the brain will not be completed except by means of the heart ,in what is apparent. However, the brain is the station of thinking and the place of awareness and what duties are dependent upon. And every person, Allaah has prepared him with that which He prepared him with from faculties and thinking and intellect vary very greatly. We ask Allaah to guide us aright, aameen and to save us from the evils of ourselves, aameen.

And the great liars have invented ahaadeeth with regard to the intellect and it is a hadeeth which is mawdoo` (fabricated), it is a lie made up in which there occurs:

“The first thing that Allaah created was the intellect so He said to it, “come forward” so it came forward then He said to it, “go back” so it went back.”” 

This is a hadeeth, which is mawdoo` (fabricated) by consensus of the scholars and there is no doubt that the intellect (al-`aql) is a gift from Allaah for the servant, which distinguishes him from the rest of the creation and on account of it he comes to deserve reward or punishment and Allaah is the One Who grants success.

Then finally on this point, Shaykh Saalih as-Suhaymee hafizahullaah, he said after mentioning some speech,

“So the `aql (intellect) by which a person understands things is a ni`mah (favour) from Allaah, which Allaah has bestowed upon mankind. So with it he can distinguish between the truth and falsehood and between that which is foul and that which is good and between that which is worthless and that which is of value and between innovation and Sunnah and between Tawheed and Shirk and between the way of the Salaf and the way of the Khalaf (the later comers who are not upon their way) and he can distinguish between the path leading to Paradise and the path leading to the Fire. So this is a tremendous favour, which Allaah has bestowed upon mankind to the exclusion of the rest of the created beings upon the earth. So, it is obligatory that we are thankful to Him for it and that we utilise it in that which will draw us closer to Allaah. And the correct and sound intellect conforms to the authentic text and it does not contradict the legislation.

Ithaaful-Qaaree bit-Ta`leeqaat `alaa Sharhis-Sunnah
(A Gift To The Reader In Annotation Of Sharh As-Sunnah)
by Shaykh Saalih ibn Fowzaan al-Fowzaan
Translated by Aboo Talhah Daawood Burbank, rahimahullaah

Transcribed by Saima Zaher.

Posted with kind permission from Dawud Burbank rahimahullaah

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