The human brain performs a conscious, deductive process to control an individual’s manner of conduct and way of thinking, in order to select the most appropriate course of action away from impulses and emotions. As Amir Bin Qais once said “If your brain uses reason to deduce what you should and should not do, then you are a rationalist.”
Rationalism does not necessarily mean an inclination towards intellectualism, as portrayed or understood by some, nor is the sole correct approach based on Islamic Sharia, as claimed by others. However, from an Islamic prospective, we must understand rationalism as an attempt to enlighten one’s mind by taking into account all traditions, laws, and educational guidance, in accordance with teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of course, and then to benefit from them through a logical, systematic sequence.
A healthy economy cannot achieve success without an advanced infrastructure in place to enhance its role and ensure stability. Likewise, a sound intellect cannot achieve maturity without disciplined rational thinking to pave the way for innovation, academic research, and dialogue.
In the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, rationalism is addressed on many occasions, with the aim of educating, promoting, and culturing the human mind. God Almighty says “And it is He who spread the earth and placed therein firmly set mountains and rivers; and from all of the fruits He made therein two mates; He causes the night to cover the day. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Surat Ar-Ra’ad, Verse 4). In fact, every Muslim should seek to think deeply and profoundly as often as possible, for this in turn leads to the establishment of a firm religious belief. Rational thought is the basis of creativity and enlightenment, and helps to ward off decline in every area of knowledge and production, whether industry, agriculture or technology. Indeed, Hassan Al-Basri (my God rest his soul) once said, “To spend more time in learning is better than spending more time praying.”
In another Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) paid tribute to Ashaj Bin Abdul-Qais by saying, “You have two qualities that Allah loves: forbearance and patience.” Anyone who possesses these qualities will prosper, by the grace of God and the Prophet. However, these two attributes can only be found in an individual with a rational mind.
If we look at our Arab and Islamic world today through the prism of rationalism, we would discover deplorable intellectual backwardness. We would also find wars being waged by Muslims against each other, causing energies to be wasted, thousands to be killed, and survivors to suffer, all on account of extremely trivial issues. The reason for this is that there has been a dramatic decline in the intellectual and logical process of our discussions and decisions. Our relations are feeble, our efforts misplaced, and we are falling behind others. This is having an adverse effect on the Muslim nation as a whole.
Is there a way to correct our path in accordance with a rational way of thinking encased within an Islamic approach? Let us consider the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in terms of its unity and harmony, as well as the striking progress it has achieved on the basis of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah. The Saudi approach has produced a unique balance of civilization and intellect, the foundations of which were laid by the founder King Abdulaziz, may his soul rest in peace. Thanks to its rational, balanced policies (both internally and externally), the Saudi Kingdom has become an exemplary model that deserves to be patterned after.