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Islam and Dialectical Reasoning

By Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.  Louisville, KY

When I read the  story of Ibrahim (AS) in the Qur'an and his arguments with his people, his father and the King Nimrod, it gave me the impression that his mind is like the mind of a Noble Prize winner in the Sciences.

Out of more than 720 prizes awarded since 1901, more than 130, or about 18 percent, have gone to Jewish laureates. Jews comprise only 0.3 to 0.5 percent of the world's population. Muslims are one-Fifth or 20 % of the world's population, should have won 144 Nobel Prizes, but have  won only NINE. Ibrahim (AS) was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He was a Hanif or upright man.

Most of the Nobel Prizes  are won by Americans every year, particularly in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and  Economics. What is the Reason?

The reason is America has the best Institutions: Educational, Research, Think-Tanks, Industrial, Government, Military complex  and the vast resources to back these Institutions.

We are blessed that we live in this country with access to these finest Institutions.

Students come from all over the world to get American Degrees. Students from India are the largest in number about 100,000 of them.  Majority of the Ph.D. students in America  are all foreigners.

What makes American Educational system  so Unique?                                                                   

American Education system  imparts  CRITICAL and creative  THINKING; Metacognition (Metacognition refers to knowledge of one's own thinking processes and products or anything related to them),   Scientific Inquiry,  Dialectical Reasoning (The art or practice of arriving at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments),  problem solving, Logical Analysis, Designing and composing,  OPPOSING POINTS OF VIEW; SCHOLARLY DEBATES; EVIDENCE BASED KNOWLEDGE.

IN MANY COUNTRIES THEY EMPHASIZE ROTE   LEARNING – mechanical repetition of something so that it is remembered, often without real understanding of its meaning or significance. Another word for Rote is By heart.

In  the Qur’an  in The Story of  Ibrahim (AS)  we find AMERICAN  educational values: Prophet Ibrahim (AS)  reminded his people that there was only one God, the Lord of all creation, who controlled Life, death and resurrection. He told his own father, Azar, to desist from worshipping idols. He said he had learned from his own experience (that is using Dialectical Reasoning) that God alone was worthy of worship.  He was shown by God  'the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth so that he might be convinced of the faith  in his Creator.

An Example of Metacognition and Dialectical Reasoning is as follows.

When the night was dark, Ibrahim (AS) saw a star; he said to himself, “This must be the Lord.” But soon the star set and his faith was shaken. Then he saw the moon rising in the sky, “This is the Lord” he said.  However, when it waned, he lost faith in it. Likewise, when the sun rose, brighter than everything, he was convinced that it was the Lord. But the sun also set, and Ibrahim (AS) cried: “I set my face against all these.  I repudiate every other kind of worship except the worship of God, Creator of all that is in the heavens and the earth, i.e., The Creator of the Universe ( Surah 6: 76-79)

An Example of Logical Analysis:

Turning to his father, Ibrahim(AS) asked what the images were to which he and his people were devoted. Azar his replied that they worshipped what their fathers had worshipped. Ibrahim (AS) said:  'Then assuredly, you and your fathers are clearly in error.' Here, Ibrahim (AS) is opposing his own father. The Qur’an clearly states not to obey your parents if your parents deviate from the Qur’anic Guidance.

The following illustrates an example of  SCHOLARLY DEBATE ,  Opposing POINTS OF VIEW and Logical Reasoning with KING NIMROD.

Ibrahim (AS) debates with  Nimrod, the King of Iraq, not to forget that it was God who gave him the Kingdom and power and glory; but the King, in his arrogance, had denied it and had declared that he determined the life and death of his subjects.  Ibrahim (AS) had then asked him:  'Allah makes the sun rise from the east; can you make it rise from the west?' The King had no answer. He sentenced Abraham(AS)  to be burnt alive.

An Example of EVIDENCE BASED KNOWLEDGE and Scientific Inquiry is  the following Ayah from the Qur'an, Surah Baqarah,  2: 260:

Call to mind the other event also, when Ibrahim (AS)  said, "My Lord, show me how Thou bringeth the dead back to life?" He (Allah SWT) said "Have you no faith in this?"  Ibrahim (AS)  humbly replied, "I do believe but I ask this to reassure my heart."(That is, "I want that peace of mind which is gained by actual experience." ) Allah said, "Well, take four birds and tame them with yourself and then (cut them into pieces) and place a piece of each of them on each hill. Then call them and they will come running to you; know this for certain that Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise."


Furthermore in  we read in Surah, Ar-Raad, 13: 3:


"And it is He Who has spread out the earth, and fixed the immovable mountains in it, and made the rivers flow on it. He has created in pairs every kind of fruit, and He covers the day with the veil of night. Surely there are great Signs (Verses of the Qur'an and Natural Phenomena) in these for those who reflect (Think, Ponder) upon them. The Qur'an repeatedly provokes and challenges the reader to think and contemplate the signs of Allah so that she/he can understand."


I am not aware any  Religion that asks its followers to Think, Reflect and Ponder.  Allah (SWT)  is challenging the Believers to use their greatest Gift, that is AQL  or the MIND.

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