Humans have been granted intelligence, which is the ability to learn, analyse, communicate and progress. While animals are only equipped with survival instincts such as eating and reproduction, they lack the power of reasoning and comprehension which human beings possess. We communication on a different level, and our intelligence gives the ability to build civilizations, continuously improve ourselves and educate those around us, this generation and the next.
Possessing human intelligence does not automatically mean that we also possess intellect in the context of Islam.
“Aql” in Arabic is the ability to use the brain with the correct knowledge and behaviour to benefit oneself and others. This distinguishes the “aqeel” (thinker) from others. In Islam, whether it is a matter of marriage or being an eyewitness, the person involved must be sane and of sound intellect. In the context of acting as an eyewitness, the other elements of maturity/adulthood and rasheed (high moral quality with sound judgment) are also essential.
Zikrullah therefore, can only be of value if we apply our Islamic aql to it.
The one with aql is always questioning in order to obtain more knowledge. A person may be highly educated, but foolish because of his arrogance. The supreme illustration of foolishness despite intelligence is Shaitan. He acquired vast amounts of knowledge even before the creation of mankind, and sat in the company of angels in Allah’s kingdom for millennia, but his arrogance and disobedience made him fail to act on that knowledge. This caused his downfall.
If one learns something in an Islamic context, then he should act according to that knowledge. If any knowledge is lacking, he should actively seek it to fill that gap.
Scholars are of the view that the word “think” means to pursue knowledge and make this knowledge affect the heart. If the heart is convinced, then it will work according to that knowledge.
One is either listening to conversations relating to dunia or akhirah. If the former, the heart will absorb the secular world and desire dunia. If the thinking is inclined towards akhirah, the heart will gravitate towards it, and the conviction of the thinking will inspire the body to pursue the goals of akhirah.
Beyond merely seeking knowledge, another two elements are required for that knowledge to yield comprehension: the will and strength to follow that knowledge.
Our trial is whether to obey the real knowledge of Allah, or follow the deception of Shaitan. Most of us will apply the fake knowledge taught by Shaitan, because our desires prefer instant gratification. Thus, even if in possession of knowledge, many of us will fail the trial because we desire the gains of the material world over that of the hereafter.
The knowledge of Allah, if properly implemented, will always rein our nafs. However, to be entitled to this knowledge, one must behave with humility and manner to Allah. Many of us are too arrogant to subordinate our desires to what Allah has ordained, because we think we know better.
Knowledge can change the heart. It generates strength and ability. If we are convinced by something, we will pursue the object of our desire wholeheartedly: investing all our time, effort and money to obtain what we desire, and sacrificing what is necessary.