وَهُوَ الَّذِي مَدَّ الْأَرْضَ وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنْهَارًا ۖ وَمِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ جَعَلَ فِيهَا زَوْجَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ ۖ يُغْشِي اللَّيْلَ النَّهَارَ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
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 | QS 13:3.
The Almighty, when explaining the message revealed in The Holy Scripture, repeatedly challenges mankind to ‘think’ and ‘think deeply’. One wonders how this is different from the ‘regular thinking’ that we engage in on a day to day basis.
Our thinking processes enable us to reach conclusions, make decisions, and solve problems constantly. However, a detailed study of the Quran reveals that these terms allude to a more rigorous form of thinking, which in today’s terms can be equated to ‘critical thinking’.
The difference between the two forms of thinking – regular thinking and critical thinking – is quite profound. For the purpose of our understanding, let’s consider one of the definitions provided by The Foundation for Critical Thinking:
“Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.”
It further states that ‘critical thinking’ is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.
Quran advocates this level of ‘thinking’ because, naturally, superficial thinking alone isn’t enough to cut through the beliefs and faiths that people have held onto for centuries.
As ‘thinking deeply’, allows people to question their internal biases and notice patterns that otherwise they may not be able to see, such thinking has allowed many over hundreds of years to understand God’s revelation message and accordingly, to reconstruct their belief patterns and come into the fold of submission to Allah.
Quranic verses expand on this form of “thinking” throughout by asking mankind to observe, seek knowledge, reflect, and ask questions and to ultimately connect the dots by using the faculties of human reason. Other similar terms used in the Quran in various contexts can best be translated as “to reason”, “reflect”, “ponder”, etc.
Understandably so, a cursory and superficial study of the Quran (e.g. merely relying on translations) carries the risk of the divine message being misunderstood and misrepresented, something that unfortunately seems to be quite common today.
The following are some of the examples (parts of verses) where Allah has mentioned the use of reason and thinking in various contexts.
Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think. (16:69)
Do they not think deeply (in their own selves) about themselves (how Allah created them from nothing, and similarly He will resurrect them)?…….(30:8)
…. so that their hearts (and minds) may thus use reason… [22:46]
…in all this] there are messages/signs indeed for people who use their reason. [2:164]
Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth…..(3:191)
……….. So relate the stories, perhaps they may reflect. (7:176)
Do they not reflect? There is no madness in their companion (Muhammad). He is but a plain warner. (7:184)
…. Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect. (59:21)
So, will you not than reasoning?