Intellectual Standards

The intellectual standards to improve the quality of reasoning and remaining cool

Sometimes we become so proud and arrogant that our blinkers do not allow us to see the full picture. With the narrow viewing angle we lose sight of the bigger picture and the panorama is missed. At other times we are wearing tinted sunglasses that do not let in the colours of the rainbow, so we see everything in black and white. Or as Jesus (peace be upon him) said “How can you say to your brother, let me remove the speck in your eye; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite!” After seeing President Trump on our TV screens for nearly a year now and seeing some of his belligerent and dangerous executive orders in less than two weeks into his presidency, it appears that he sees the world:

  1. As black and white
  2. Likes the idea of building walls
  3. Puts the phone down when challenged

Why is he behaving like this? Psychologists could do a far better diagnosis than me, but I want to look at this from a moral and spiritual perspective.
One important contribution of Islam to the development of Human civilisation was its insistence on the use of reason rather than superstitions or mere assumptions. The Quran repeatedly urged its readers to look closely at nature, examine and study it carefully. Read this: “Have they not looked at the camel, how it was created? And the sky, how it was raised? And the mountains, how they were fixed? And the earth, how it was flattened and levelled? So, remind! Indeed you are a reminder. You are not there to compel them” (Sura Al Ghashiya: 17-22).

Hence, laying the foundations of empirical research, observations, measurements and solid tangible proof. This was revolutionary, since the Greeks were great at philosophy but not practical and experimental. In obeying these Quranic teachings, the Muslims laid the foundations of modern science in the 7th and 8th centuries. They made remarkable discoveries in Botany to Optics and Medicine to Horticulture.

So, what are the lessons for us in all this?

  1. Don’t look at the world as black and white, its far more colourful than you imagine
  2. Build bridges between people and not walls, unite don’t divide
  3. Don’t put down the phone when you are challenged, listen to your critics and benefit from others

I suggest that we all develop kindness towards others. Yes, times are hard, the economy is slowing, people haven’t seen salary rise for a few years. To improve our thinking, the use of the following questions will help you to think clearly, accurately, relevantly, with depth and breadth in a more logical manner:

  • Could you elaborate that further? Give me an example? Could you explain what you mean?
  • How could you check on that? How can we find out if that is true? How can we verify or test that?
  • Can you be more specific? Can you give more details?
  • How does that relate to the problem? How does it help us to understand the issue?
  • What factors make this difficult problem? What are some of the complexities of this question?

With this array of questions, we will be more thoughtful and reserve our judgement until we have the full picture and have unearthed all the details. However, this requires a lot of patience and digging around. The blessed Messenger (peace be upon him) said “How strange is the state of a believer! There is good for him in everything, in good times, he thanks Allah and at times of difficulty he is patient” (Muslim). Allah instructs us: O believers! Seek strength from patience and regular prayer, Allah is with those who are patient” (Sura Al Baqqara: 151).
Let us earnestly pray that Allah helps us to grow in patience, we will all need plenty of it.