In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Al-Allaamah Abdur Rahmaan Bin Yahyah al-Mu’allimee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: “It is well known that a person is born knowing nothing, but rather he is accompanied with the physical ability to feel pain and the like. I mean – for example – when pinched, he feels the pain due to that. This (feelings) accompanied him since the time the soul was placed in him (see footnote a); but it is not considered to be knowledge. And (alos) with him is an innate disposition by way of which he latches on the mother’s breast and suckles.
Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] said: [وَٱللَّهُ أَخۡرَجَكُم مِّنۢ بُطُونِ أُمَّهَـٰتِكُمۡ لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا – And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing]. [Surah An-Nahl. Verse 78]
Then, after birth, he begins to perceive tangible things through his senses and this gradually increases through analogy (or comparing one thing or situation to another). It becomes the norm (or customary) that his mother lifts him from his cradle when she wants to breastfeed him, so when this is repeated, he realises – by way of analogy -that she will breastfeed him if she lifts him from his cradle. You see him cry when he is hungry, silent when you take him from his cradle and returns to crying if a moment passes and you do not breastfeed him. This is how his general knowledge is developed through perceiving tangible things and analogy, and the analogy itself is strengthened through repetition, and this – itself – is Istiqraa [examination, scrutiny and extrapolation].
Then through perceiving tangible things and analogy, the underlying causes become registered in mind and heart, such as the fact that existence and non-existence are not combined together, and that a thing is greater than its part, and that an event must have one to bring it into existence. What is meant (or intended in this discussion) is that he perceives either by his senses or by way of analogy based on what he perceives through his senses. The fact of the matter is that the intellect acts on or (reacts to) the tangible things and analogies, and judges as to whether an affair is definitely correct or preponderant, wrong or possible. This stays with a person for the duration of his life, but the more he grows, learns, reasons and reflects, the more his knowledge is enhanced through the many tangible things that can be perceived through the senses, the greater ability to analogize and the strength of the intellect.
If there is a person with you in the house, you know that he is present either by seeing him or hearing his voice, either through perception or by touching him, or smelling his body odour. And through your previous extrapolation, you realize (or understand) that he is a human being – that such and such shape, or that voice, or the tangible object you’ve had contact with or smell is a human being. And through another extrapolation, you realize that he is such and such person- that the shape, voice, the tangible object you’ve had contact with and the smell are that of such and such specific person.
You may exit your room and leave none in there; then you return shortly and find that an incident has taken place in there; so you know from your previous extrapolation and making a judgement by way of your intellect that something did cause it. If you wanted to know the reason, you investigate by utilizing your previous extrapolation. It maybe that a paper shifted from its position and the cause may be the wind. It may be that there was a book on an unstable place and you’ve seen that it fell; therefore you ponder that its instability for a while was due to its heavy weight and inability to remain stable led it to lean gradually in the direction from which it fell until it completely fell at that time. And if something was attached to a weak string (or cord) and then it snapped, you reflect and notice that due to the heavy weight of the thing that was on the string (or cord), its strength weakened and snapped bit by bit until it snapped (completely). And if a vessel containing food was in a stable place, but then you came and it had fallen, you would think (or suspect) that a mouse, a cat or the like jumped forcefully on it and it fell. If a vessel containing light food was taken from above a table and placed on another table far from it, and there was a monkey in the house or its vicinity that might have entered that room, it is possible to say that the monkey was responsible. And if a heavy box was placed on the ground, but moved from its place to another place, you would hold the view that a person entered and did so, and you’ll also know that the person is alive and has the ability to do such an action. If several things that were in the room were diverted from their places and arranged in a better and more perfect arrangement than before, you would know that such a person is wise to the extent of what was required (of ability) to carry out their arrangement. If the room was sealed from the inside, then you came and stood close to the door, and you know that no human could enter after you; but then you returned and found that the luggage had been diverted from their places and arranged in another arrangement that was more creative and perfect than what it was before; then you would establish one of two possibilities: either he is a person with ability that is beyond what is known to be the norm, so he entered the room from where it was not customary for a person to enter; or he is present, alive, knowledgeable, able and wise beyond that of a human being and other species that you’ve seen before. So with this, you realized his existence by analogy with the existence of tangible things that can be perceived by the senses, and also what you realise (or understand) regarding his attributes (or qualities)”. (1)
Intellect and Analogy Cannot Oppose The Divine Revelation
Ahmad Ibn Aasim Al-Antaakiy [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “The most beneficial intellect is the one that makes you acknowledge the blessings Allaah; aids you in being grateful and oppose (evil) desires”. (2)
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “Everyone with a bit of (sound) intellect knows that the corruption of the world and its ruin occurs due to giving precedence to opinion over the divine revelation and (evil) desires over sound intellect. These two corrupt motives are not entrenched in a heart except that its destruction becomes inevitable nor in a nation except that its affairs are completely corrupted”. (3)
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] stated, “It has been stated that the reason behind Iblees being distanced [from the mercy of Allaah] is because of false interpretation, for indeed he made an analogy with the text and gave precedence to the analogy over the text. He made a false interpretation about himself and that [his so called] rational analogy takes precedence over the command to prostrate: “I am better than him (i.e. Aadam)”, and that a virtuous one cannot humble himself to one who has been given virtue over him; therefore he quickly said, ” You created me from fire, and him you created from clay”. So, he thought that this rational analogy that resembles truth- even though it is false – will benefit him in his false interpretation and thus that which happened him happened and he became the leader of everyone- until the day of judgement- who makes a false interpretation of the texts of the revelation. How many a person in this world are followers of this cursed leader! And if you contemplate on the majority of those doubts that are made to resemble the truth by the false interpreters of the texts and seeking to nullify them, you will find that it is similar to the doubts of Iblees which he seeks to portray as truth. So, a person says, “If the intellect and the text oppose each other, then give precedence to the intellect”, this is where this principle is derived from and he [i.e. the proponent of this affair] use it as a fundamental principle through which he rejects those texts of the revelation which he claims are in opposition to the intellect, just as his leader Iblees claimed that a (so called) rational proof opposed the command to make Sujood. This doubt came to him due to pride which prevented him from submitting to the clear texts of the revelation. Likewise, you find every false disputer against the texts of the revelation does so due to pride. Allaah [The Exalted] said:
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يُجَـٰدِلُونَ فِىٓ ءَايَـٰتِ ٱللَّهِ بِغَيۡرِ سُلۡطَـٰنٍ أَتَٮٰهُمۡۙ إِن فِى صُدُورِهِمۡ إِلَّا ڪِبۡرٌ۬ مَّا هُم بِبَـٰلِغِيهِۚ فَٱسۡتَعِذۡ بِٱللَّهِۖ إِنَّهُ ۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلۡبَصِيرُ
Verily, those who dispute about the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah, without any authority having come to them, there is nothing else in their breasts except pride [to accept you (Muhammad ) as a Messenger of Allah and to obey you]. They will never have it (i.e. Prophethood which Allah has bestowed upon you). So seek refuge in Allah (O Muhammad from the arrogants). Verily, it is He Who is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. [Surah Ghaafir. Aayah 56] (4)
Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “And even though there is something in the paths of analogical reasoning and reflection that will lead to knowledge, however sometimes it cannot give detail explanation in a dispute between the people of the earth due to the minute details and ambiguities [in that dispute], and at other times due to the fact the people differ when prioritizing necessities. Therefore, due to this Allaah [The Most High] commanded [us] to return to the revelation in times of dispute. Allaah [The Most High] said:
[كَانَ ٱلنَّاسُ أُمَّةً۬ وَٲحِدَةً۬ فَبَعَثَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ وَأَنزَلَ مَعَهُمُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ بِٱلۡحَقِّ لِيَحۡكُمَ بَيۡنَ ٱلنَّاسِ فِيمَا ٱخۡتَلَفُواْ فِيهِۚ – Mankind were one community (i.e. upon Tawheed and Allaah’s Sharee’ah) and Allah sent Prophets with glad tidings and warnings, and with them He sent the Scripture in truth to judge between people in matters wherein they differed]. [Surah Al-Baqarah’ Aayah 213]
Therefore, Allaah [The Most High] designated the revealed Books [i.e. the Qur’aan being the final of them] as the judge between the people in matters wherein they differ”. (5)
Question to Imaam Abdul Azeez Bin Baaz [may Allaah have mercy upon him] Shaikh, are the ones who depend on their intellects in understanding many of the affairs of the religion considered to be from those who are mistaken?
Answer: Yes; it is obligated on him not to depend on his intellect, rather he studies the texts and relies on the divine texts from the speech of Allaah and that of Allaah’s Messenger [salllal laahu alayhiwa wasallam], because there is guidance in it and direction towards good. As for the intellect, it can be right or wrong. The sects that oppose Ahlus sunnah were destroyed due to their intellects. They thought that they had good intellects and that their intellects arrived at what is correct and thus they opposed the texts by way of their stagnant intellects which they thought were sound. What was that which made the Jahmiyyah negate the Perfect Names and Attributes of Allaah, except due to their corrupt intellects?!
What was it that led the Mutazilah to negate the attributes of Allaah and declared that the sinners [i.e. those who die whilst committing the major sins that are lesser that major kufr and major shirk] will remain in the fire forever, except due to their corrupt intellects?! Likewise, is the case of their followers who utter this same speech.
What led the Khawaarij to excommunicate the people due to committing sins – that the sinner is a disbeliever and that he will remain in the fire forever, except due to their corrupt intellects. Likewise. this is the case regarding other than them amongst the proponents of Bidah. The intellects which they depend upon is that which destroy them, because they think that their intellects are safe, sound, good and infallible, whereas that is not the case; rather it is not infallible – commits mistakes a lot; however they hold a good suspicion regarding their intellects and an evil suspicion regarding the texts and thus they are destroyed.
It is obligatory to harbour a good suspicion regarding the texts and an evil suspicion regarding the intellect, and to submit the intellects to the texts. The texts are infallible if their chain of transmission are established to be authentic. As for the intellects, they are fallible. A person susceptible to mistakes, shortcoming and desires. As for the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him], what he conveyed from Allaah is infallible. And likewise the Qur’aan is infallible- the speech of Allaah. Therefore, it is obligatory that the Qur’aan and Sunnah passes a judgement on your intellect and that you give precedence to the Qur’aan and Sunnah over your intellect- over the intellect of the Shaikh, the Mashaayikh, your forefathers, ancestors and all the people. The texts are given precedence over all the intellects. (6)
The Perils of Conjecture
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَـٰثَةٌ۬ رَّابِعُهُمۡ كَلۡبُهُمۡ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمۡسَةٌ۬ سَادِسُہُمۡ كَلۡبُہُمۡ رَجۡمَۢا بِٱلۡغَيۡبِۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبۡعَةٌ۬ وَثَامِنُہُمۡ ڪَلۡبُہُمۡۚ قُل رَّبِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ بِعِدَّتِہِم مَّا يَعۡلَمُهُمۡ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ۬ۗ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيہِمۡ إِلَّا مِرَآءً۬ ظَـٰهِرً۬ا وَلَا تَسۡتَفۡتِ فِيهِم مِّنۡهُمۡ أَحَدً۬ا
[Some] say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth, guessing at the unseen; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say (O Muhammad): “My Lord knows best their number; none knows them but a few.” So debate not (about their number, etc.) except with the clear proof (which We have revealed to you). And consult not any of them (people of the Scripture) about (the affair of) the people of the Cave. [Surah Al-Kahf. Verse 22]
Allaah informed (us) of the differing between the people of the scripture regarding the number of the people of the cave- a differing that [occurred] out of guessing at the unseen, forging statements and speaking about that which they have no knowledge. Some of them said that the people of the cave were three in number and their dog was the fourth, and others said that the people of the cave were five in number and their dog was the sixth. Allaah said that these two statements are tantamount to guessing at the unseen, so this indicates that they are false. And amongst them were those who said that the people of the cave were seven in number and their dog was the eighth. This statement-and Allaah knows best- is what is correct because Allaah declared the first two statements false but did not declare this third one to be false, so this indicates that it is correct. This differing is one that neither carries any benefit nor are the people benefited by knowing the number of the people of the cave.
It contains neither a benefit related to religion nor the worldly affairs and that is why Allaah stated: [Say (O Muhammad): My Lord knows best their number; none knows them but a few]; and they are those who know what is correct and known for being upon what is correct. [So debate not (about their number, etc.) except with the clear proof (which We have revealed to you)] based upon knowledge, certainty and about that which contains benefit. As for debating based on ignorance and guessing at the unseen or about that which has no benefit- either the debater being obstinate or the affair being debated having no benefit- neither any religious nor [praiseworthy] worldly benefit, such as the number of the people of the cave and what is similar to it- then too much debate about it and continuous research regarding it is a waste of time, and it makes the hearts have a strong love for that which has no benefit. [And consult not any of them (people of the Scripture, Jews and Christians) about (the affair of) the people of the Cave] because their speech regarding it is based on guessing at the unseen and conjecture can be of no avail against the truth.
This [i.e. verse 22 Surah Kahf] proves that it is not permissible for a person to issue a verdict when he is not worthy of it- either due to his inability to issue a verdict in that affair or due to fact that he does not care what he says about the affair because he does not possess that fear of Allaah that will stop him from speaking about affairs that are unclear to him, which may harm him in the afterlife. So when it is the case that he has been forbidden from giving verdicts in the likes of this affair, then prohibiting him from giving verdicts [in general] is of a greater prohibition. Also this ayah proves that a person maybe prohibited from giving a verdict in some affair but not in other affairs, so he gives a verdict in that which he is worthy of giving a verdict and not in other affairs because Allaah has not prohibited him from giving a verdict completely; rather they were prohibited from giving a verdict regarding the affair of the people of the cave and what is similar to it. (7)
Footnote: a: Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood [may Allaah be pleased with him] reported that Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings be upon him] said, “Verily, the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s womb for forty days as a drop, then he is a clot for a similar period, then a morsel for a similar period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows the soul into him (i.e. after 120 days)…”. [Saheeh AlBukhaari. Number 7454]
[Ref 1: Aathaar Ash-Shaikh Al-Allaamah Abdur Rahmaan Bin Yahyah Al-Mu’allimee. Vol 5 pages 7-11]
[Ref 2: Seerah As-Salaf As-Saaliheen. 1/1073. Chapter: A mention of the At’baa At-Taabi’een]
[Ref 3: A’laam Al-Muwaqqi’een 1/67-69]
[Ref 4: An Excerpt from ‘As-Sawaa’iq Al-Mursalah 1/371-372]
[Ref 5. Dar Ta’aarud Al-Aql Wan-Naql: 9/17-18]
[Ref 7: An Excerpt from Tayseer Al-Kareem Ar-Rahmaan Fee Tafseer Kalaam al-Mannaan’. slightly paraphrased]