Yasir Qadhi, Intellectual Stimulation and Salafiyyah: Part 2 - The Meaning of Aql (Reason)
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Wednesday, April, 17 2013 and filed under Clarifications
Key topics: Yasir Qadhi Salafiyyah Salafism

All praise is due to Allāh, the Lord of the Worlds and may the ṣalāt and salām be upon the Messenger, to proceed: In a recent interview (see here) Yāsir Qādhi claimed that Salafi Islam is not "intellectually stimulating" enough for his liking and that the "Salafi movement" (Salafiyyah) is "not capable of addressing modern issues." In this series of short articles observations and comments are made regarding the implications of what Yāsir Qādhi has expressed.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah: Sound intellect never opposes Salafiyyah (indicating that Yasir Qadhi's "intellectual stimulation" is from the shubuhaat (doubts) against the truth that are easily refuted. Read article here).

The Meaning of Aql

It appears that Yasir Qadhi and his followers operate upon an understanding of aql (reason, intellect) other than the one indicated and praised in the Qur'an and understood by the Scholars of Islam and the Sunnah. The aql (reason, intellect) they understand is a Western academic understanding of intelligence and intellect, one that is similar to the understanding of eemaan (faith) with the Murij'ah (ma'rifah without action). It is precisely for this reason that we see Yasir Qadhi clashing (in his positioning and practical da'wah) with Prophetic statements on the basis of his aql (reason) and ra'i (opinion) - a matter to be illustrated lucidly in coming articles in this series inshaa'Allaah. But here we want to establish the correct understanding of aql so we have something to work with in what is to follow of our observations on Yasir Qadhi's comments.

The Word 'Aql'

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah discusses the meaning and application of the word aql (reason) in many of his works, from them "Risalah Fil-Ruh wal-Aql" and also "Bughyat ul-Murtaad" (a refutation of the Philosophers and Sufis). Here we are going to summarize a discussion from page 250 onwards of Bughyat ul-Murtad, since our intent is not to be exhaustive but only to make quick, concise notes which are sufficient for a reasonable person (aaqil) to take on board with acceptance.

So the word is used and applied for the following four matters (all of which collectively indicate what aql is):

  • [1] Reference to an instinctive, inherent quality in a person that allows him, her to understand and grasp matters, a faculty, similar to the ability of hearing through the ears, and seeing through the eyes.

  • [2] Reference to basic, necessary knowledge agreed upon by all people of reason (aql), such as the knowledge that two is greater than one, and the whole is greater than its parts and so on.

  • [3] Reference to investigative knowledge involving a) observation and inference or deduction or b) practical experience

  • [4] Reference to actions that are necessitated by knowledge, as indicated by the saying of Allaah in Surah al-Mulk, "And they will say: "Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not have been among the dwellers of the blazing Fire!" (67:10).

And in the Risalah Fil-Ruh wal-Aql (p. 32), Ibn Taymiyyah says, under the chapter heading (العلم لا يسمى عقلا), "Knowledge is not called 'reason' (aql)":

And when [the affair is] like this [after citing verses from the Qur'an related to reason (aql)], then knowledge (ilm) that is not acted upon by the one possessing it is not the meaning referred to by (the term) 'aql', and nor (does it refer to) action without knowledge, rather it refers to knowledge that is acted upon and acting upon knowledge.

And Ibn Taymiyyah says in al-Majmoo' (16/36):

However, that which is praised is the beneficial knowledge whose possessor acts upon, for if the one possessing it does not act upon it, then he does not have aql (reason, intellect).

And Sufyan bin Uyainah (d. 198H) said (as relayed by Ibn Abi al-Dunya):

The one who knows good from evil is (not the one who is intelligent) but the intelligent is the one who knows good and follows it and knows evil and avoids it.

The Praiseworthy 'Aql' Intended in the Sharee'ah Texts

Putting the above altogether (and there are many other statements we have left for sake of brevity and concisenesse), we understand that aql (reason) is essentially:

Knowledge by which what is beneficial is distinguished from what is harmful and then acting upon the dictates of that knowledge, as in, what this knowledge necessitates of action, hence a person traverses those ways to attain what is beneficial and traverse those ways by which harm is avoided. Such a person is said to have the attribute of 'aql' (reason)

And thus, without the fourth component [4], a person does not really possess aql (intellect). For this reason, in the Qur'an, Allaah rebukes those who have aql (upon the first three elements indicated above) but do not act upon what it requires of them (thereby, lacking the fourth), "They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones." (7:179) and also, "And indeed We had firmly established them with that wherewith We have not established you (O Quraish)! And We had assigned them the (faculties of) hearing (ears), seeing (eyes), and hearts, but their hearing (ears), seeing (eyes), and their hearts availed them nothing..." (46:26).

This indicates that possessing the elements of aql which are [1], [2] and [3] above do not cause one to possess actual aql, the aql which completes its meaning which is [4]. The important thing that we want to take from this is that mere knowledge, investigation, 'understandings' (fuhoom) and possession of investigative sciences and analytical power does not equate with aql (reason). And thus, the intellectual stimulation that Yasir Qadhi is speaking of does not equate to the aql defined and praised in the texts of the Shari'ah, (العلم لا يسمى عقلا), as Ibn Taymiyyah indicated, "Knowledge is not called 'reason' (aql)." This is because when we come to look at his speech on the Egyptian revolution (by way of example) [read all about it here] we will see Yasir Qadhi opposing actual aql (reason) from all angles: From the angle of knowledge and from the angle of action, since making tamyeez (distinction) in knowledge-based matters between right and wrong and beneficial and harmful is the foundation - and Yasir Qadhi does not possess this tamyeez (or pretends not to have it) - and thereafter acting upon such correctly established knowledge to attain what is beneficial and repel what is harmful is what makes the entire thing to be 'aql' (reason) - and Yasir Qadhi either undermines that or calls to the opposite of that. This we shall investigate in the coming few articles inshaa'Allaah, it was necessary to allude to it here because without it, our intent would not be clear.

The Most Intelligent of All Mankind Are the Prophets (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and Their Followers and In This Ummah it is the Companions and those Upon the Way of the Salaf

Once, we understand the true meaning of aql (reason), we make sense of the saying of Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said in al-Sawaa'iq al-Mursalah (Dar al-Aasimah, Riyadh, 4/1514-1515):

إن أعقل الخلق على الإطلاق الرسل وأتباعهم بعدهم أعقل الأمم وأهل الكتاب والشرائع الكبار أعقلهم وأعقل هؤلاء المسلمون وأعقل المسلمين أصحاب رسول الله والتابعون لهم بإحسان وأهل السنة والحديث أعقل الأمة بعدهم على الإطلاق والبرهان القاطع على هذا أنه قد ظهر على أيدي الرسل من العلم النافع والعمل الصالح ومصالح الدنيا والآخرة ما لم يظهر مثله ولا قريب منه ولا ماله البتة نسبة بوجه من الوجوه على أيدي غيرهم من العقلاء ومن تدبر سيرتهم في أنفسهم وفي خاصتهم وفي العامة وصبرهم وزهدهم في الدنيا ورغبتهم في الله وما عنده واشتمالهم من الأخلاق على أزكاها ومن الشيم على أرضاها وأنهم أصدق الخلق وأبرهم قلوبا وأزكاهم نفوسا وأعظمهم أمانة وأكرمهم عشرة وأعفهم ضمائر وأطهرهم سريرة لم يشك أنهم أعقل خلق الله على الإطلاق ولا ريب أن كل من كان إليهم أقرب كان حظه من العقل أوفر والعلوم والأعمال والسيرة والدلائل على ذلك وأما أعدائهم وخصومهم فقد ظهر من نقصان عقولهم ما كان الحيوان البهيم أحسن به حالا منهم

Indeed, the most intelligent of creation absolutely, are the Messengers and their followers after them are the most intelligent of nations, and the people [given] the book and major legislations are the most intelligent of them, and the most intellgent out of all of them are the Muslims. And the most intelligent of the Muslims are the Companions of Allaah's Messenger and those who follow them in goodness. And Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Hadeeth are the most intelligent of the Ummah after them, absolutely. The definitive evidence for this is that there has appeared through the hands of the Messengers such beneficial knowledge and righteous action and benefits for the world and the hereafter whose likes, or close to it, has not appeared, and nor anything which has any close relation (to it) ever, through the hands of those besides them of intelligent people. And whoever reflects upon their biographies, upon their persons, the special ones amongst them and the general ones amongst them, their patience, their abstinence from the world, their aspiration for Allaah and what is with Him, and their comprising the purest of manners of the most-pleasing of character, and that they are the most truthful of creation, the most righteous of heart amongst them, the purest of soul amongst them, the greatest of them in trustworthiness, the noblest of them in companionship, the most chaste of them of inner feelings, and the most pure of them in private thought - such a person (making this reflection) will not doubt that they are the most intelligent of the creation of Allaah absolutely. And there is no doubt that everyone who is closer to them will have a greater share of aql (reason), and (likewise) of knowledge, action, and (good) demeanour. As for their enemies and disputants, then deficiency in their intellect has manifested such that [even] the brutish animals are in a better state than them...

The intent behind this quote will become clear in the next article in this series (inshaa'Allaah), when we demonstrate that aql (reason) is with the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), and with the Companions (radiallaahu anhum) and that their speech regarding the rulers and tyranny is guidance, truth and light and that the ramblings of feeble-minded pseudo-intellectuals like Yasir Qadhi are darkness, misguidance and falsehood and that Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah spoke the truth when he said that sound reason and authentic text never oppose the way of Salafiyyaah.

One should not be deluded by the fact that a person has attained degrees and doctorates and walks in prestigious university corridors and hallways and has a level of intellectual stimulation that he arrogantly considers to be above and beyond the rest of the people, and thus he is not stimulated by what stimulates them - even if it is the speech of Allaah and His Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). The matter is as Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said about the Philosophers who excelled in worldly sciences and showed great intelligence and perspicacity, "They were given intelligence but were not granted purity (of heart) [in following, acting]" and Yasir Qadhi is a man who has something of this, and the evidences for this are manifest, plain and clear to the one who guides himself by the light of revelation and has been saved from the darkness of kalaam, fikr and ra'i - the world Yasir Qadhi entered into many years ago.

The intellectual stimulation Yasir Qadhi is speaking of then is mere kalam (blameworthy speculative speech), fikr (thought, ideology) and ra'i (opinion) in matters in which the legislation (sharee'ah) has already clarified in terms of knowledge (ilm), action (amal), foundations (usool) and methodologies (manaahij). He does not see that the resolution to the world's problems, or to the problems faced by specific nations or communities can be addressed by "Salafiyyah" which he knows full well, by definition, is the pure Islam that the Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) preached and called to and which lays the foundations for true rectification of the servant and the land. The reality of his position then is contradicting wahy (revelation) with independent reason (aql), fikr (thought) and ra'i (opinion). This we will highlight and illustrate, with examples, one by one inshaa'Allaah.

By keeping the definition of aql (reason) in mind, you will see how far Yasir Qadhi is from actual aql (reason) as correctly defined. So now lets draw upon our first example where Yasir Qadhi sees more stimulation in kalam, fikr and ra'i than he does in the revealed texts, let us analyze one of his written pieces regarding the Egyptian revolution.