Submission vs. Sense and Reason

Submission vs. Sense and Reason

Fethullah Gulen

Many people ask how Islam, which requires submission to God, can be in accord with sense and reason. What we must realize here is that these two realities are not mutually exclusive. Islam does mean submission to God, and Islam is indeed in accord with sense and reason.

The principles of Muslim life are set forth in the Qur’an. If they were not, how could we know them? The Qur’an is an uncorrupted revelation of reality. The demonstrations presented therein concerning Divinity require Prophethood, since only Prophets can make the Divine known to humanity. Such demonstrations appeal to reason and sense, as do those concerning death and resurrection. Our intuition of eternity actually arises from eternal life itself. If this were not so, how could we intuit its existence, based upon our limited human knowledge and experience?

I will limit myself to arguing that all matters related to faith in Islam can be demonstrated by reason. Yet such demonstration means little or nothing at the level of truly profound human perception.

By definition, every act of God accords with sense and reason, for He is the All-Wise and the All-Knowing. We are bound to conclude that our best works, when compared to His, are of almost no significance. This world, which He gave us to live in, always will far exceed all that our living can add to it. Moreover, we can add to it only what God allows us to add. Given this, we can deduce that each of God’s actions has a definite purpose. This realization is wholly pleasing to sense and reason.

All that we see around us when contemplating the Divine laws so evident in His creation, as well as our inner personal conviction, makes it impossible for us not to believe in God. That belief in God, that sense of His Being, whether in the outer world or within ourselves, inevitably leads us to submit to Him. In this way, a path moving from sense and reason ends in submission. And submission means a willing, intended obedience to God by obeying all His commands and prohibitions.

God has sure reasons for His commands and prohibitions, some of which we can understand. One such reason is that they are for our own individual or collective benefit. Take the five daily prayers, each of which must be prayed during its allotted time. Some benefits are immediately obvious: self-discipline and order, stability of faith and community. The manner of praying also is prescribed for definite reasons. The value of washing certain bodily parts before worship has obvious health and other benefits. Congregational prayer enables and sustains the community’s existence. Zakat (the alms-tax) contributes significantly to preserving responsibility and balance between rich and poor people. Fasting has undeniable health benefits. As a further example, the Islamic penal code, (when applied by God-conscious rulers and) if studied in the light of sense and reason, leads to submission to the All-Wise and All-Mighty.

Regarding pilgrimage (hajj), the Qur’an says: Pilgrimage to the House is a duty to God for all who are able to make the journey (3:97). Obeying this command is an act of submission that leads to the experience of hajj, which leads us to contemplate its benefits: a worldwide conference for Muslims, an occasion for us to be together for the sake of God and free of all human and therefore artificial discrimination based on race, sex, color, or level of education.

Whether we start from an act of submission and the use of our sense and reason, or use our sense and reason and then are led to submission, Islam is confirmed, for it is grounded in sense, reason, and submission.

Source: Fethullah Gulen, Questions and Answers about Islam, Vol. I (New Jersey: Tughra Books, 2011), 67-68.

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