Prime Qur’anic Message to Every Human
The Qur’an asks every human being to pass this worldly life with an active sense of returning to God, warning that he or she will have to validate on the Day of Judgment that he or she took the course of life that was upright in light of CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THINGS.
(i) It is only the Qur’an that obligates EVERY human being to take the way of life that is based on his/her PERSONAL critical evaluation of information and insights on life.
(ii) By definition, critical thinking is not meant to reject God but to judge and accept whatever the case is.
(iii) Since the term critical thinking or critical analysis emerged in academic circles, it is generally thought that this pursuit requires a higher level of mind. But in practical life-affairs, critical approach has been a fact of human life. Even unlettered people have been regularly employing critical evaluations in their professional works, choosing spouses, raising kids, getting their children married, buying things, migrating to other lands, and the like. An individual’s critical thinking does depend on his or her circumstances besides individuals’ intellect and knowledge, and thus its range and level may differ substantially from person to person. Nonetheless, every common individual is intellectually competent to pass his/her life, and he or she does not depend on scholars for it. Since religion is also a common affair of life, God has made His principal teachings distinguishable by every person provided he or she employs his/her ability of critical judgment.
The above message, whole or in part, is present in various Qur’anic verses, for instance:
17/36: وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَـٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا
And do not pursue for which there is nothing to you in line with the [critical] knowledge on it. Verily the hearing and the sight and the heart (mind), all of these shall be questioned about that [pursuit].
7/179: وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ … الْإِنسِ ۖ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لَّا يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا
وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ
Verily, We have scattered a great many … humans for Hell. For them are hearts with which they do not [critically] understand. For them are eyes with which they do not [critically] observe. For them are ears with which they do not [critically] listen. They are like cattle; nay, they are more deviated! They are the heedless (of God’s admonitions).
46/26: وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ سَمْعًا وَأَبْصَارًا وَأَفْئِدَةً فَمَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَلَاأَبْصَارُهُمْ وَلَا
أَفْئِدَتُهُم مِّن شَيْءٍ إِذْ كَانُوا يَجْحَدُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ وَحَاقَ بِهِم مَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ
(while mentioning divine punishment to a people):
And We had assigned them hearing and sight and mind (to critically analyze things). But neither their hearing nor their sight nor their mind availed them anything when they [uncritically] kept rejecting God’s exhortations and warnings, and [therefore] what [warnings] they were ridiculing encircled them.
76/2: إِنَّا خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ … نَّبْتَلِيهِ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا
Verily, We created human being … to test him. Thus We have made him hearing, seeing.
90/4,10: لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ … وَهَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ
Surely, We created human being into struggle … and showed him the two high roads (of right and wrong).
The Strength of the Message
The above Qur’anic message has the following three unmatched merits:
(i) By obligating critical evaluation by every individual, it is reminding of a working method that is available to each and every person.
By contrast, the authors of other holy books, religious scholars, secular thinkers, and scientists give the impression that distinguishing the right positions is beyond the reach of common people.
(ii) By asking critical evaluation of all available materials, it is giving a standard that is impartial.
By contrast: the authors of other religious books, religious scholars, secular thinkers, and scientists push people to take their word for accepting their revelations and abandoning that of others.
(iii) By warning that one will have to prove before God on the Day of Judgment that one’s course of life was in light of the objective analyses of things, it provides the best working standard for judging the correctness of a course in life.
An elaborative discourse on this is below.
An Elaboration of the Message as the Best Working Standard
This divine message is stressing in effect that convincing oneself or others of a position as upright is not enough, but one’s evidence and arguments should have the degree of merit that can satisfy God on the Day of Judgment.
To appreciate this rule as the best practical criterion, one should first note the shortcomings in the working standards people usually employ.
When the criterion for judging the uprightness of an idea or pursuit is made to convince our own hearts, satisfy others, or win debates, the following misleading influences get into that standard:
(i) Subjective perceptions do not usually correlate with objective realities.
(ii) Our social system is not adequately merit based: the eminent intellectuals of a very large community (such as Muslims) are not necessarily competent in handling cross-ideological concerns, while some competent persons present in the mass cannot rise to the occasion. As a result, challengers prevail over incompetent defenders, and therefore, their winnings are not true validations.
(iii) The organizers have leeway to choose the speakers, presenters, or debaters so as to stage the desired outcome.
(iv) The organizers or moderators do not set rules of engagement so as to bring forth clear conclusions: A debate or critical presentation is not made to go point by point most of the time, and a participant has the liberty to evade addressing key sticky points. For instance, during a debate on the Big Bang Theory, it is not essential to cite: according to which rule of Physics, an infinitely dense tiny SINGULARITY came into being by NOTHING?
(v) There are techniques of speech to influence, even mesmerize, the audience. Thus a smart person can win a substantial applause and following by his/her charismatic, persuasive oration or presentation.
However, such elusive misleads cannot impact anyone if every individual checks whether the presented evidence and arguments are good enough to satisfy God on the Day of Judgment (believing or supposing that there is DOJ). For example:
(A) On the Origin of Universe, atheist Physicists claim that a point-size infinitely dense singularity came into being by itself out of “nothing”. Here if we apply the above Qur’anic standard, the question is: Can any of these physicists or their followers tell God on the Day of Judgment that they had scientific (natural) evidence that “nothing” could create a singularity that could in turn produce an extremely large amount of matter and energy with deterministic properties? If they cannot, it is clear that their assertion is not based on real scientific (natural) evidence but pseudo-science.
(B) Similarly, scientists claim the Origin of Life by spontaneous generation. Can, on the Day of Judgment, any of these scientists or their followers cite any evidence in nature that nonliving materials could arrange so as to produce life forms?
(C) Most Western people believe that the Qur’an was not revealed by God; rather it is a book that Muhammad wrote by stealing materials from the Biblical literatures. Applying the above Qur’anic standard: Can they, on the Day of Judgment, prove this charge on Muhammad, plus show God that the Qur’an had the signs of human authorship and not divine authorship?
(D) Christians believe that the Bible is preserved book of God. If the above Qur’anic standard is applied: How can a Christian tell God on the Day of Judgment that the fact-free pronouncements on the very first page of the Bible (Genesis), for instance, indicated that the available book was genuinely from Him?
Many Christians defend such erroneous revelations, for instance in the Torah, by saying that finite human mind is not capable of grasping the words of infinite God. So God put thoughts into Moses’s mind, and it was Moses who made mistakes while translating these thoughts into his words. If we apply the above Qur’anic warning: Can such a Christian show God on the Day of Judgment that He, the ALMIGHTY, was really incapable of putting His messages into Moses’s mind in His words?
(E) Muslims are divided into various sects because of the invention of many obligatory beliefs (عقائد) besides the articles of faith (ايمان) prescribed in the Qur’an. The prime split came up as Shiite and Sunni sects because the former claimed very unusual, inherent attributes and leadership entitlements to Ali and his descendants, making Islam a hereditary monarchy both in state and religious affairs. If the above Qur’anic warning is put in perspective, the question is: Can a Shiite prove before God on the Day of Judgment that his or her highly revered Hadith calling for taking Ali and his descendants as “the believers’ only leaders and infallible leaders as well” were genuine?
Can a Shiite Muslim even justify before God the presence of such Hadith? Why did God not make this crucial pronouncement in the Qur’an? Don’t these so-called Hadith obligate Muslims to take faith in these Imams (non-prophet humans)? If they do, is this stipulation not an addition to the articles of faith prescribed in the Qur’an — which has the FINAL divine decrees, and nowhere asks to put faith in any non-prophet human?
(F) Other than sectarian invention of obligatory beliefs (عقائد), Muslims are altering Islamic SOCIAL NORMS today. Lately, a great many Sunnis have adopted global moon-sighting for determining the date-specific religious observances. If such a Muslim pays heed to the above Qur’anic warning: Will he or she be able to prove before God on the Day of Judgment that He asked for local moon-sighting until the 20th Century and global moon-sighting afterward?
If the criterion — of satisfying God on the Day of Judgment that one’s life pursuits were in light of the critical evaluation of the relevant information and insights — is practiced, every human being (Muslim or non-Muslim) can easily avoid radical deviations from the upright path of critical thinking.
One may question here: how can those who do not believe in the Qur’an employ this Qur’anic yardstick? The answer is that they can do so either as a cautionary measure to avoid a probable risk or as a way to assert their intellectual soundness: In case there is such divine accountability, they will prove there that they followed the path fully consistent with the rules of knowledge. In taking this line no non-Muslim would loose or compromise anything, rather he or she would gain in terms of walking strictly on the path of critical thinking.
Finally, some critics of Islam may wonder: in the face of the above Quranic stipulation for critical evaluation of things, why does God ask to obey His rules in the Quran without giving the option of first critically evaluating them? The answer is as follows:
When the Qur’an frequently obligates to use critical thinking, it is understood that it is leaving its own treatments open to critical evaluation by humanity in order to judge whether these are from God or someone else, and mentioning the analysis-provision with every pronouncement of His is not necessary. Especially it is utterly unfitting where He gives commandments. As God is infallible and the supreme authority, it is illogical to expect humbleness from Him asking humans to check whether His prescribed rules are correct. Rather, in presence of the Quranic stipulation for critical evaluation of things, it is implied that the all-knowing God has already made 100% correct critical evaluation of His prescribed rules and regulations; and if you doubt this, go try finding evidence and arguments that can establish (specially on the Day of Judgment) that you are right and the Qur’an is wrong. This way, His asking to follow critical thinking and His asking to follow Qur’anic commandments are not contradictory!
Consider it another way. Earlier quoted verse 7/179 or 17/36 or 46/26 is clearly saying that Hell is for those who do not live up to critical evaluations of things, whereas other verses make out that Hell is for those who do not follow the Quranic path. Thus, according to the Quran, Quranic path is the path of critical evaluations.