Prof. Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zaqzouq
President of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue
1- Islam is the only religion which has elevated the status of the human mind and declared its importance. The human mind is the faculty through which man can be charged with duty and responsibility. It is man's intellect that makes him acknowledge his Creator, the mysteries of creation, and the Supremacy of his Creator. The Qur'an addresses man's intellect and urges him to look at the Universe and meditate upon its existence in addition to studying it for the benefit of mankind and to strive to make the earth prosper and thrive. Moreover, there is nothing to indicate that Islam prohibits Muslims to use their sense of judgment or that it is against scientific or academic thought.
2- It behooves us to state that Islam commands man to use his faculties of thinking and reasoning:
"Say, ‘Travel throughout the earth and see how He brings life into being …’" (Al-`Ankabut: 20). Islam also blames those people who do not employ their intellectual faculties of thinking, reasoning, and meditating, and the Qur'an describes such people thus: “We have created many jinn and people who are destined for Hell, with hearts they do not use for comprehension, eyes they do not use for sight, ears they do not use for hearing. They are like cattle, no, even further astray: these are the ones who are entirely heedless”(Al-A`raf: 179). Furthermore, the Qur'an considers not using one's sense and reason a sin, and describes what will happen on the Day of Judgment to those who refused to believe in God:
“They will say, ‘If only we had listened, or reasoned, we would not be with the inhabitants of the blazing fire” (Al-Mulk: 10).
3- The faith of Islam draws man's attention to the fact that God has made the entire universe subservient to him. It is consequently his duty to use his powers of intellect for the welfare of mankind and the fruitfulness of the earth. The following Qur'anic verses confirm this matter: “It was He who brought you into being from the earth and made you inhabit it” (Hud: 61); “He has subjected all that is in the heavens and the earth for your benefit, as a gift from Him. There truly are signs in this for those who reflect” (Al-Jathiyah: 13).
Therefore, the whole universe is a domain where man can exercise his powers of intellect without any prohibition or opposition to his thought provided that it, for the welfare of mankind. Everything that benefits mankind or entails prosperity and wellbeing is encouraged by Islam.
4- The Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet are the two sources of the Faith of Islam, and to follow the religious rulings and observances stated in them is compulsory upon every Muslim. However, he is perfectly free to think, meditate, ponder, and study everything in the world in which he lives. This is what the Prophet referred to when he said: "You are better acquainted with the affairs of the world in which you live".
Freedom of thought and academic or scientific research is guaranteed by Islam, provided that it does not violate the sanctity of faith, beliefs and divine texts such as the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet. Any attempt to change, distort, add, omit, or ridicule any of these holy texts is not only forbidden but is also an unforgivable sin. For the rest, everything in the world may be researched, studied, or investigated.