Articles

The Intellectual Education according to Theologians (Scholars of Kalam)
Author : Dr. Jadallah Bassam
Date Added : 04-01-2024

The Intellectual Education according to Theologians (Scholars of Kalam)

 

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

 

Indeed, Allah, the Almighty, has bestowed upon humanity the gift of existence, completing this favor by making humans beings with the potential for preparation, development, and change from one state to another. The generosity of Allah is not limited to the gift of existence and the bestowal of potential but extends further by providing guidance and educators in the form of prophets and messengers. He supported them in this endeavor with compelling miracles and profound wisdom. Following their guidance does not bring harm to humanity but rather leads to continuous goodness. Thus, humans, by adhering to their guidance, attain intellectual, spiritual, and practical perfection, guiding them through the challenges of the world and ensuring their security from fears on the Day of Judgment.

The concept of "Tarbiyah" (education/nurturing) and "Tarbiyah Al-'Aqliyah" (intellectual education):

 

The term "Tarbiyah" is linguistically derived from the root "rabba," meaning to take care of something and to rectify its condition. It involves managing something, behaving well towards it, and considering its circumstances to ensure that its outcome is better than its initial state. Given the significance of education and the urgent need for it, Allah, in His greatness, describes Himself as the "Rabb al-'Alameen," the Sustainer and Cherisher of all the worlds, implying that He manages all their affairs. Education is an action undertaken by the educator towards the one being educated. Its purpose is to achieve gradual perfection suitable for the learner, step by step, allowing for the manifestation of the effects and desired outcomes of education. As Sheikh al-Islam, the commentator, Abu al-Su'ud, mentioned, "The term 'Rabb' fundamentally means the one who nurtures and educates, bringing something to its complete perfection, step by step."

 

Undoubtedly, education has various aspects that are too numerous to enumerate comprehensively. These include physical, ethical, scientific, intellectual, and spiritual education. In this article, I will focus on a specific aspect of education—intellectual education—as emphasized by a particular group of Muslim scholars known as theologians or scholars of "Kalam." These scholars are dedicated to elucidating the correct Islamic creed derived from the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammad. They establish this creed through certain and conclusive evidence, refuting misconceptions and doubts. Their efforts involve careful consideration of the intellectual tools required for thought and collaboration in upholding the truth. Therefore, they are the custodians of Islamic beliefs and possess deep knowledge of them.

 

Intellectual education involves specific procedures aimed at developing gradual intellectual virtues in individuals. At the outset of intellectual development, a person is capable of discerning simple distinctions between right and wrong. Subsequently, one needs to differentiate between them in less straightforward situations. This process continues, becoming increasingly complex. Scholars and educators in their scientific and educational approaches strive for individuals to acquire strong reasoning abilities, enabling them to comprehend the minutiae of matters that may sometimes overlap in agreement or conflict. They seek to empower individuals with a solid scientific understanding, allowing them to perceive issues in complete conformity with the truth. This ensures that individuals do not need to blindly follow others, achieving a level of intellectual perfection. As a result, true intellectual freedom is realized, avoiding deviation from the truth while preserving the ability to comprehend it fully.

Aspects of Intellectual Education among Theologians

Among the aspects of intellectual education among theologians is their commitment to determining matters of discourse in accordance with the texts of Islamic Sharia. Some of these aspects include:

 

The guidance emphasizes the necessity of reflection, thinking, and the use of intellect. There is no room for blind imitation and unquestioning adherence to the opinions of individuals, whether they are knowledgeable or hold authority, without scrutinizing their views and distinguishing between what is true and what is false. The scholars and jurists unanimously agree on the error of adopting a belief based solely on imitation, and they consider it perilous, prone to doubt and uncertainty. Those who build their beliefs on mere imitation are often criticized and cautioned by scholars, as their foundation is shaky and susceptible to collapse in the valleys of misguidance.

This approach is in line with the hundreds of Quranic verses that command reflection, contemplation, and observation. For instance, Allah says: " Do they not reflect in their own minds? Not but for just ends and for a term appointed, did God create the heavens and the earth, and all between them: yet are there truly many among men who deny the meeting with their Lord (at the Resurrection)!." (Ar-Rum, 8). Additionally, the Quran praises those who possess sound reasoning and strong arguments, such as the example of Prophet Ibrahim's arguments against his people. Allah says: " That was the reasoning about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge." (al-`An`am, 83). Conversely, the Quran criticizes the path of blind imitation, which was a cause for the disbelief of the disbelievers. Allah says: " Just in the same way, whenever We sent a Warner before thee to any people, the wealthy ones among them said: "We found our fathers following a certain religion, and we will certainly follow in their footsteps." (Az-Zukrof, 23).

 

One aspect of intellectual education among the adherents of Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama`ah is the construction of Islamic beliefs based on definitive evidence. When it comes to creed, there is no room for myths, falsehoods, baseless customs, traditions, or blind adherence to the practices of ancestors. Moreover, personal interests or societal pressures do not influence the construction of beliefs. Everything is built upon truths and evidentiary proof. This is affirmed in the definition of the science of beliefs, which is described as the "establishment of religious beliefs through unequivocal evidence."

 

 

Another aspect of intellectual education is that they begin by establishing major principles in beliefs and then progressively prove what is built upon them and depends on them. They start with divine knowledge, proving the existence of Allah, His attributes, and matters related to His actions. Then, they emphasize the proof of prophethood of the prophets who are messengers of Allah to His creation, explaining their appropriate qualities, conditions, and ranks in relation to the believers. Subsequently, they elucidate what needs to be known about the matters of the Hereafter, emphasizing what is essential for individuals not to overlook. Each of these topics is presented in specific sections, organized in a structured manner. They provide evidence for each issue as appropriate and utilize a systematic approach. It is evident that these arrangements and organizations contribute to the development of mental capabilities and empowerment of intellectual strength in individuals, granting them the initiative to scrutinize opinions and distinguish between correctness and error.

 

Another aspect of intellectual education among the proponents of Islamic theology is the accurate narration of the doctrines of dissenting groups without bias or defamation. They provide an in-depth examination, citing the evidence they rely on and engaging in discussions. There is no inclination for them to silence or suppress anyone among the dissenting groups, and they do not neglect any idea that deserves attention, especially if it is based on reasonable evidence open to scrutiny, thought, and dialogue.

 

As part of this intellectual education, they have compiled introductory books designed for children and beginners in the field of knowledge. These books cover appropriate topics for their level, aiming to safeguard their minds from falling into blind imitation or doctrinal errors. They gradually progress from concise summaries to intermediate-level texts and then to more extensive research-oriented books. There is no monopoly on knowledge; rather, it is disseminated to its rightful recipients according to their capacity and at their respective levels.

Additionally, part of their intellectual education is the presentation and discussion of misconceptions or doubts that contradict true doctrine. They do not hide from these challenges; rather, they engage in discussions within their expertise, approaching the issues with fairness. They do not dismiss the statements of opponents wholesale; instead, they meticulously analyze each piece of information, providing sources and evidence. This approach allows observers to clearly discern the correctness of their arguments and removes any hesitation in the face of truth.

 

One of the amusing methods of intellectual education among the theologians is their guidance to disregard certain opinions that contradict common sense or defy sensory perceptions. They do not engage deeply with the views of sophists and obstinate individuals. Additionally, they may present some broad claims made by their proponents and then guide others to the fact that these claims are not worthy of attention because they lack supporting evidence and solid proof. This approach demonstrates a literary and scholarly courage in dealing with opinions and ideas, while maintaining appropriate firmness in major issues. This is in line with what Al-Saad Al-Tafasani mentioned in some matters related to philosophers: "The claim is lofty, and the doubt is baseless," implying that the arguments they present are so weak that they do not deserve serious consideration.

 

One of the most important methods of the theologians is their meticulous effort in detailing issues to an extent that may seem excessive to those who do not need it or fail to comprehend it fully. However, this detailed approach is crucial for a precise understanding of the intricate aspects of the matter in reality. This reflects their diligent commitment to giving knowledge its due and presenting it in a clear, comprehensive manner. They articulate their objectives, positions, and goals, leaving no room for ambiguity in the minds of thinkers and researchers. In doing so, they aim to eliminate misunderstandings or expression errors, and they do not settle for conveying information unless it is presented with utmost clarity and completeness. Some of the titles of their most famous books reflect this content, such as "Al-Maqasid," "Al-Mawakif," "Al-Qawaid," "Abkar Al-Afkar," "Al-Mahsul," "Al-Matalib," "Al-Ma'alim," and "Al-Tabsira," among others, which indicate the depth and clarity of their content.

In all of this, the right to articulate, a responsibility bestowed upon the prophets and messengers by Allah, guides them. As Allah says: "O Messenger. proclaim the (message) which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission. And Allah will defend thee from men (who mean mischief). For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith." (Al-Ma`idah, 67).

The Fruits of Intellectual Education among the Theologians

 

The intellectual education among the theologians has yielded numerous fruits and results in the minds of those who follow the theological approach. These include the ability to clarify scientific issues, establish and elaborate on them, rebuild and analyze them, and broaden one's perspective when discussing various opinions. It also involves the ability to engage in fair and moderate debates to discern the truth, avoiding bias, chauvinism, and any claims of monopolizing knowledge. It discourages belittling opponents without just cause, imposing ideological views on them, and fosters an individual with a soul that refuses to follow anything but the truth. This intellectual education nurtures individuals who refuse to follow anything other than the truth, and it equips them to distinguish between right and wrong. It paves the way for individuals to perform righteous actions, keep their hands clean, and maintain a conscience free from the contamination of falsehood in beliefs, speech, or actions. All of this is conditioned upon the individual adhering to the firm principles of guidance and avoiding paths of error and stubbornness. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to describe this intellectual education as a combination of the virtues of practical, ethical, and spiritual education, if not its foundation, all while emphasizing the commitment to knowledge.

 

After all, discussing the subject at hand in a short article doesn't do justice to its depth. However, what has been mentioned provides some insight into the secret of the reliance of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah (the Sunni Muslims) on their foundational sciences, such as theology (ilm al-kalam) and the principles of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh), along with the related rational sciences. This reveals a clear and successful approach, to the extent that the methods of the theologians overshadowed the classifications of grammarians, morphologists, and rhetoricians for the precision they achieved. This influence even extended to the fields of exegesis, hadith, and terminology, not to mention many books on jurisprudence. This, indeed, reflects the imprint of their approach on various branches of knowledge.

 

In conclusion, we ask Allah, the Almighty, to strengthen us in following the path of insight that our honorable scholars have excelled in, which is a result of following the example of our Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, who was taught and nurtured by Allah. As Allah guided him to say: " Say thou: "This is my way: I do invite unto God,- on evidence clear as the seeing with one’s eyes,- I and whoever follows me. Glory to God! and never will I join gods with God!"'" [Yusuf: 108]. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all worlds.

 

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