Taking Stock of our “Thinking” Abilities

Allah, when explaining the message revealed in Quran, repeatedly challenges mankind to “think” and “think deeply”. One wonders how this is different from the “regular thinking” that we engage in on a day to day basis. Our thinking processes enable us to reach conclusions, make decisions, and solve problems constantly. However, a detailed study of the Quran reveals that these terms allude to a more rigorous form of thinking, which in today’s terms can be equated to “critical thinking”.

The difference between the two forms of thinking – regular thinking and critical thinking – is quite profound. For the purpose of our understanding, let’s consider one of the definitions provided by The Foundation for Critical Thinking: “Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.” It further states that “critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.

Quran advocates this level of “thinking” because, naturally, superficial thinking alone isn’t enough to cut through the beliefs and faiths that people have held onto for centuries. As “thinking deeply” allows people to question their internal biases and notice patterns that otherwise they may not be able to see, such thinking has allowed many over hundreds of years to understand Quran’s divine message and accordingly, to reconstruct their belief patterns and come into the fold of Islam.

Quranic verses expand on this form of “thinking” throughout by asking mankind to observe, seek knowledge, reflect, and ask questions and to ultimately connect the dots by using the faculties of human reason. Other similar terms used in the Quran in various contexts can best be translated as “to reason”, “reflect”, “ponder”, etc. Understandably so, a cursory and superficial study of the Quran (e.g. merely relying on translations) carries the risk of the divine message being misunderstood and misrepresented, something that unfortunately seems to be quite common today.

The following are some of the examples (parts of verses) where Allah has mentioned the use of reason and thinking in various contexts.

It is well known that critical thinking skills have to be learned. There is also abundant research highlighting that learning in today’s world is mostly information-oriented and based on providing ready-made answers rather than challenging people to think creatively and critically to help them understand issues better, decide intelligently, and resolve problems. Even in a technologically advanced country such as the US, a study (documented in a book called Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses) shows that a relatively high percentage of students demonstrated no significant improvement in their critical thinking and reasoning skills as they graduated and entered adult life.

Sadly enough, a considerable percentage of us probably fall in that category as well.

When you are not thinking critically, your understanding of the issues is usually muddled and vague. You are more prone to jump to conclusions based on limited information. Your decisions aren’t expected to be sound because you haven’t taken the time to consider alternatives and compare options. You are driven more by various biases and emotions, rather than being open minded and listen with an attentive ear. Such thinking habits unfortunately can lead you to make the wrong decisions (or no decisions at all) and sap away your problem solving abilities, thus increasing your life’s inventory of problems.

On the contrary, thinking critically can bring order to your thinking processes. When you force yourself to define the issues and problems clearly, you can select better approaches to resolve them. Gaining more knowledge can help you get a better view of the landscape that you are facing. Asking the right questions can help you disentangle from the problems faster. Generating alternatives and comparing options push you forward toward resolution of your problems. Applying sound logic and reason helps in bridging the gaps in your thinking. All in all, taking the needed time to go through the rigors of “thinking” can help you draw warranted conclusions, render accurate judgments and arrive at sound decisions.

Even if you don’t find solutions to your issues, you would have at least maximized your mind power to contribute toward your well being.

(In defense of the Islamic faith)

Finally, let’s not forget that if Allah challenged the non-believers to employ the faculties of human reason and thinking to help them get over their beliefs they have held for centuries – something that is not just sacrosanct but also one of the most difficult things to overcome – we too, then, can use those mental faculties to get over any of the problems that we face in our daily lives.

…End

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108 comments… add one
  • Pakeezah Kewakeb

    Excellent food for thought…

  • Wali Noor

    Sincere thanks for sharing such useful resources.

  • Muhammed Dubow

    A wonderful article. It has really rejuvenated my thinking. It confirms my beliefs that critical and creative thinking is the cornerstone of islamic philosophy. forget about Rene Descartes and J.S.Mill; Islam offers the best foods for the soul.

    God bless Iqrasense!

  • Abubakar

    Assalamu alaikum,may Allah{swt} reward u for these reminders. Insha Allah via this medium u will touch lives just as u have touched mine. massalam.

  • kuganda

    a nice article, thank you, Jazzakallah khair

  • Nurudeen Adedimeji

    Truly, mankind has been sent Clear Guidance through the Holy Quran. We need to reflect on these verses, and Insha Allah, get our thinking faculties in good order.
    Jazakallahu khaeran for a worthy and inspirational blog.
    Ma Salaam

  • Yemi Jimoh

    Thought provoking piece, may Allah bless u for the work. Well done

  • Afroz

    Assalamu alaikum,
    Indeed, a wonderful article… which helps us to take a right decision and to resolve the issues which is the part of ones life but depends on how they take it and now after reading the article how to reason and think deeply to resolve it..
    Thankyou for such a good article..
    Jazzakallah

  • kunle kolawole

    It is powerful and inspiring.May Allah reward you abundantly.

  • Ahmad Safi

    Thanks a million for sharing such a wonderful and Quranically-proven article about Critical Thinking and it’s importance in Islam.

  • Ali

    May Allah(SWT) rewards you for sharing such useful resources.

  • Jibrin Abdullahi

    The article has been a beautiful and excellent message for the souls. Jazakallu khair.

  • Usman Hassan

    May Allah reward you for the enlightning article.

  • aamir

    excellent article.

  • Gary

    I learned a long time ago as I was talking to one of my college professors when he said to me:”question everything that does not make absolute sense to you, only then are you able to find the truth” Critical thinking and questioning what does not sit right in my heart has helped me immensely in my life.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Gafaar Alamu

    It is a beautiful article, keep it up

  • maryam

    Alhamdulillah for Islam. I just need to work hard to be at 100%.

  • Sameena

    A wonderful article. Shows the need to open your mind and see everything in the right perspective; clarifies that Islam expects you to use your thinking abilities correctly and not get muddled by your own or others’ prejudiced opinions.
    JazakAllah!

  • Muhammad Jamil Khan

    I strongly believe that such an inspirational material
    not only leads us towards successes in our lives, but it also, Allah willing, promises much more for the here after. I sincerely appreciate your noble endeavours and pray to Almighty Allah for the elevation of the souls that stir many souls by sharing their sweet knowledge.

    Best regards
    Jamil

  • galid

    Allah wants us to challenge ourselves in our intellect because the almighty knows that we are able to do so, with a little encouragement ofcourse!!
    May Allah keep on blessing all the believers and direct us to the righteious path, dispite of our dissappointments and anger in life towards everything that frustrates us in our daily lives!

  • Adeoye Hammed

    May Allah increase us in knowledge and ease our hearts to think in the right path. (Ameen)

  • Zaheed

    Thanks a ton for the article.

  • Shoaib

    Subhannallah (Inshallah) may allah increase the knowledge of all the Muslims (Ameen)

  • Larry Green

    The Muslims in general, we should learn a lesson from this and learn the process of critical thinking and then employ it in our daily lives, in all aspects of our lives…especially with the Qur’an & Sunnah. Aaameeeen!

  • alphazulu77

    Alhamdulillah! its a great piece.
    Allah (SWT) wants us to really consider his words and reflect deeply on them……especially with respect to more serious challenges we have ahead of us as muslims. We are opportune to think and set aright our soul before the angel of death steps in. Equally this deep thinking should also be applied in our mundane lives as all our activities one way or the other should not take us outside of the folds of our din.

    May Allah (SWT) continue to guide us all aright and over look our short commings. may Allah accept this from the writer and forgive the errors therein. Aamin.

  • mutawakil adegbile saliu

    Thank you for the write-up.
    Critical and Positive thinking bring positive results.These manifest in being decisive, proactive,imaginative,deep thinking etc.
    Muslims should always reflect on the purpose of our creations and our responsibilities to our Creator,Allah (SWT),Humanities and other creations of Allah.

  • Jazakallah Kheir,for such a nice article which could help not only Muslims but also others,I highly appreciate that and I apeal to all mankind, to read so that we could both have excellent knowledge which will leads us to the right path! Knowledge is a ruler and it will always guides us! So lets READ.

  • Khadija Sheikhsuja

    thank you for your sharing (thinking abilities)and i ask Allah subhana watta allah to guide us the right path all the Muslimeem,and to make us easy daily life here, and easy to go the heaven in the hereafter. ameen yaa Rabbil alameen.

  • Pritam

    Thank you for the beautiful article, may Allah ( SWT ) Bless you All. Ameen.

  • Redrose

    I could have used a balanced friend like you in my life because I’ve been to made many hasty decisions due to an unbalanced marital life. If husbands think they have to control their families through firmness-some members of the family will become lost-as they were never allowed to find out who they were using the family as the grounding point. The family (wife, kids) are great at obedience but bad at self worth and critical decision making.
    Do you get my drift from this short post?

  • Jazza Kallah Khair. Truly thought provoking.

  • Rabbani

    JazakumAllah Khairan,

    a very thought provoking article.

  • I have posted part of your lecture on my facebook page. I hope you do not mind my doing so. Please let me know. Thanks.

    For ref. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Quran-and-Hadith/344106618475?ref=ts

  • A Shah

    Nice piece of work, much needed in our times. May Allah help you spread it.

  • Ramadhan

    Mashallah, may Allah reward all of us abundantly, ameen

  • Saba Parveen

    very gud piece of thought to share with evrybody ….. Alhumdulillah

  • hamdh

    SubhaanAllah! Amazing piece of info as always, may Allah bless iqrasense and the entire ummah,aameen. The various comments have said it all !

  • DJalo91

    MASH’ALLAH!!!
    A great article indeed, keep it up!

  • Aminu Jibril

    If only individuals hold back a moment to think before taking any decision, we would have eliminated so many frictions. This is hoping that those who are opportune to read this piece will apply it and forward same to those who have not seen it.
    Alhamdu lillahi.
    Jazakumullah.

  • Habiba Asman

    Mashallah, Jazakumul Khair, good article.

  • Mouna

    Great mind-food at the right time for me. Chokran.

  • Thanks for the wonderful Quranic Article – May Allah gives more
    bountiful blessings for sharing the knowlege and may guide to
    all Muslims in a right path.

  • May Allah reward the author for this. It is indeed necessary for all of us to develop individual opinions on subjects that are relevant in today’s world and not just consume other people’s perceptions.

  • Musleemah Abdulrahman

    Alhamdulillah! This is really helpful and timely. It is thought provoking and show how rich islam is, a complete wonderful way of life! Jazakallah kayran! May Allah reward Abu Mubaraq for the previlege of this blog.

  • Abdul Vahid

    Maasha Allah., Really nice article.,

  • MFS

    Nice Article. JazakALLAH

  • dinah

    assalamoualaikoum … thanks for the expalnation of the way of thinking … hopefully n surely thinking in this way will definitely push each n everybody ahead ..

  • Excellent article,
    Islam is a complete way of life.
    We just need to think, think deeply and act/reflect.
    Jazakallah

  • shabana

    nice article.
    Thanks for guiding umma towards new islamic thoughts

  • Aliyu Badeggi

    Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah. Praise be to God, the Cherisher of the worlds. Thanks for this beautiful and overwhelming writeup, keep it up! May God bless you.

  • Ahmad

    informative and refelective of Quran’s teachings. JazakAllah

  • Abubakar Suleiman

    This is inspiring, may Allah reward you with the best of reward.

  • THIS IS GLORIOUS . MAY ALLAH BLESSE YOU ALL REST OF YOUR LIFE WITH HAPPINESS ALONG WITH ALL IMAN WALAAS.

  • Anonymous

    may allah reward u for this reminding article. may he increase u in knowlegde

  • Ado Muhammad Dakata

    This message is truly inspiring educative and above all makes someone to discover his self esteem and potential which will never be possible without critical thinking. May Allah in his infinite mercy reward the writer of such an all important article.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing and may you be abundantly rewarded by Allah.
    Abdulfatai

  • seemab qadeer

    Walakum salam n greetings 2 u n ur team. Many thanks 4 sending such a wonderful article n u r right that i m that individual who never does critical thinking or even simple thinking. But with the help of reading ur article i will surely make dua 2 Allah Almighty that He accepts my prayer as 2 develop my critical thinking. I have been reading the Quran 4 the past several years with meaning n have deep faith that this is the only Book of Guidance 4 mankind besides i have been spreading the message 2 many that they should kindly read Quran with meaning only then they can learn n practice What Allah is trying to tell mankind as 2 what this world reality is n the ever lasting life here after.

  • Abubakar M. Yakasai

    This article is very educative and interesting may Allah reward you with Jannatul Firdaus and may He guide us to think critically and rationally ameen

  • Humera

    Jazak Allahu Khair, May Allah (SWT) helps all of us to ponder deeply and reflect on what Allah(SWT) has conveyed to us in the Holy Quran, Allahumma Ameen Thumma Ameen.

  • Sooriyah

    Jazak Allah Khair =]

  • An infidel trying to understand

    I was struck by the fact that no comments provided a critical appraisal of the article.

    • Mir Ali

      …great observation. How about you make an attempt on your own suggestion. Thanks – Mir

      • An infidel trying to understand

        You invited me to provide a critical appraisal of this paper. Here is one thought.
        Conceptually, I fully agree with the article. As a scientist, critical thinking is the sine qua non basis for knowledge and decision making; so should it be for everyone, I believe. “Never stop questioning”, said Einstein. So true!
        But the reality is different, unfortunately. For me this article appears to state that “critical thinking” is always good (and I would fully agree), but I believe that, practically, critical thinking about some belief systems, dogmas, traditions could be quite unwelcome. I believe this part is missing here.

        • Larry Green

          Critical thinking even of false dogmas is good because it will allow for the opportunity to come to a distinctive realization between truth and falsehood.!

  • Mir Ali

    Sadly critical thinking has been usurped by the elite Muslims such as jurists and rulers many centuries ago consequently, we see the ills of the same in our Muslim thought processing today. Our children today are encouraged in their academic set-up, especially in the west to think critical in terms of attending their biases, cultural-diversity, problem solving, decision making etc. However, the same children in the family of origin are yet forced to put all these skills aside and follow the traditions valid or invalid without questioning. It is amazing the same West that we blame for everything has been instrumental in reviving the “critical thinking” that Allah has beautifully invited Muslims or otherwise. Isn’t it about time that we evaluate our defenses not to reason when following the traditional translations of Quran and Hadiths that is thrown at us without its historical context and proper validity? Understanding the speech of God is pertinent to our faith that understanding someone else’s translation of it. Right?

    Nice Blog..keep up the good work!

  • ASMA

    A wonderful blog.Humans must realize that Allah has made them superior to all his creation and the only reason for this privilege is their capacity to think.Critical thinking makes a person more aware of Allah’s bounties and mercy.It can also become a useful tool for people who are in problems or crisis .They can be grateful by seeing people who are in worser conditions and also ponder why they are in such state.Any weakness by them in behaviour and nature can be rectified by deeper analysis.
    Lastly,the ultimate intelligence is Allah alone.

  • Thinking critically over a subject means meditation. And all the prophets did so. It is a great part of all religion. May Allah forgive and mercy you for such an article.

  • Shawn Taylor

    Al-hamdu-lillah, great article may Allah reward you and continue to bestow great blessings on iqrasense. This article brings to mind how the educational system especially here in the West has failed in aiding in the intellectual growth of students. After 12 years of school, students’ intellect and spirituality should be highly developed thus giving them the ability to ponder and reflect deeply(critical thinking). May Allah, help us in our intellectual and spiritual growth, and using our development to bring justice, harmony, and peace in the world.

    • Mir Ali

      Dear Mr. Taylor,

      It was nice reading your comments. However, I respectfully disagree with you in generalizing that schooling in West has failded in intellectual growth of students, although, the school system here has its own challenges and opportunities to improve. Blogs like this have only surfaced in West where the students or their immigrant parents have taken the opportunity to dwell in intellectual discussions which are far from being possible in the so-called muslim countries. I have more experiences here where students can debate, discuss, agree or disagree without being fearful of rulers or Imams labeling them as infidel. I have met, if not more, equally spiritual students and people in general here who are striving and are open to better themselves. Further, the west has also offered a platform for people like us in facilitating the distinction between true spirit of Islam and the cultural parctices that are mostly confused for religion. Do you think so too?

      Thanks,
      Mir

  • yasmin

    Jazak Allah Khair for Extremely Beautiful Articles.

    May we get more knowledge from this and spread as well.

    May Allah SWT reward you for this effort and May Allah SWT guide

    us to follow the Quran and Sunnah Ameen.

  • syed muhammad

    I truly enjoy the articles sent to me. Its invigorating and helps me reflect on my daily existence. Appreciate it n hope that Iqra sense will keep on sending me good reading articles that will increase my Faith in Allah even more.

  • Muhammad Asim

    Jzak Allah, Perfect Article about critical thinking to improve intelectual power and faith as well

  • saida

    salaam.. Alhamdulillah.. there’s still alot of people who are so wise in using there knowledge.. thank you for the article u’ve feeded because it contribute alot for the believers to be more God Fearing… Thank you again… 200% winner..!!!!

  • abdurrawoof

    Assalamualaikum, good and informative
    thanks for this type of good work

  • Umar Faruk Bello

    Very clear and appealing to the intellect! May Almighty Allah Reward the author(s) of the article abundantly.

  • Misbahu Nasiru

    I live in an environment where odd doctrines are constantly being directed at us n our children. i forward this post to my children in the higher institutions as a lighthouse in their quest for advnacement in life and hereafter. Please pass this message to all humankind for reflection. The Quran is always right.

  • Tasnim

    An excellent article, you inspired me to solve problems with a best method by thinking deeply, and also not to admit any idea without deeply thonking about it.
    Jazak Allah khayran

  • MUHAMMAD ABAJI

    This is quite inspiring because I am enriched on how better to conduct thinking out on issues and insha Allah get to the solutions.

  • Is'haq Ibrahim Abba

    Alhamdulillahil lazy bi ni’imatihi tatimmus salihaat. This is indeed a very intelligent and inspiring article. Infact, it is thought provoking. May Allah continue to bless, protect and guide iqrasense in their continues effort towards spreading the message of Islam. Once again I am very gratful to Allah for giving me the opportunity to be a beneficiary of this great, inspiring and thought provoking message. I will insha Allah share it with my friends. Thanks alot.

  • Zaituni Ahmed

    Jazakallah Kheir this is great

  • Justice (R) Dr. Munir Ahmad Mughal

    “Taking stock of our thinking abilities ” is a thought provoking article which is informative and also instructive. All faculties in human beings are gifts and favours of Allah almighty to make him play his role on this earth as a true servant of Allah according to the guidance given by Allah and demonstrated by the Messenger of Allah (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
    The article is a piece of literature in the discipline of religious affairs and also in Philosophy, psychology and even all sciences. True science can never be against religion as religion is all truth and science is in search of truth. It is our opwn narrow interpretations that cause misunderstanding. Allah himself is the Creator of the Scientists and the faculties they are using in exploring His favours.

    May God bless the writer and the readers. The comments are also excellent.

  • Dr.tahira

    Assalamu Alikkum….

    It is amzing to understand that there is mention of critical thinking in the holy Quran… Subahanallah….yes we all learn thro out life ; but FORGET to THINk….. That may the reason Quran always asks Why rareyou not thinking…….?
    Thinking is a purposeful, organized cognitive process that we use to make sense of our world.

  • Asslamu Alikum brother, Jazaka Allah khier for sending and sharing your artikuls with us ,may Allah reward you the alferdawis in the akherah.

  • Jawan Tajik

    The meaning of ‘La Ilaha Il Allah’ can only really be understood by critically thinking. The only real way in avoiding ‘Shirk’, i.e. avoiding the worshiping idols, is through critical thinking.

    Islam emphasises the idea of worshiping Allah and Allah alone because that is the only way to avoid worshiping concepts and ideas which would lead to one’s exploitation at the hands of other human beings.

    To be a Muslim is to have Islam, it is to have peace, and that comes from being free. To be free you need to have knowledge, and to gain knowledge you need to be able to think properly…and to think properly you need to be learn to be critical. To be a real Muslim, you cannot but be a critical thinker.

    Yet today we have a situation where some of the most ignorant and dogmatic people are presented to us as the real Muslims…

    Critical thinking must be employed to resolve the situation of the Muslims – whom are so entangled and unable to think that today they are used to kill other Muslims.

    Muslims all over the world are deceived and exploited for political purposes – they have lost the ability to think – and some of the Mullahs who are illiterate are ruining them and their religion.

  • Abdul k

    May Allah reward you greatly for this your mind awakening dawwa. InshaaLah I ‘ll use this to better understand my Lord and also make sound decisions in my dealing with others. Thanks.

  • photo raima

    jazakalahu ameen! may Allah reward you for the colourful articles you sent all the time to me. am very happy to thank Allah to creat me in our religion Islam. thanks

  • Nabila Ahmednuur

    Love this article, just what i needed when i needed it sA.! Thankyou so much to Iqrasense and please keep these amazing thought provoking articles coming.

  • Zainab Abubakar Na Abubakar

    What a beauty to be hold. May Allah guide all.

  • ana

    Critical judgement is really important in our life. this literature is good. i would appreciate it more if it contained examples regarding how u use n improve our critical thinking
    thankyou n jazakallah for the making us learn islamic ways of life

  • Foqia

    Thankyou for providing a peep into the very cause of so many problems, we face every day and try to get over them without taking the pains of “thinking critically”.

  • Amina

    Alhamdulillah may Allah expand our memory capabilities.Jazakumullah khairan

  • Alhamdulillah and shukran for this very wonderful article. may the Muslim ummah benefit from this as this will help them solve such critical problems inshaAllah.

  • Sadiq Mojanaga

    Indeed the stories in the quran have a serious connection and can impact our lives if put deep thought about them. Think deeply about Yusuf, why did he tell only his father about the dream? Because of wise and honest interpretation he would get from a prophet.

  • sanni Abdul~Azeez

    Jazakhallahu khairan for this article, this is the type of knowledge that we muslims need to make us see and put into use the goodness of Islam doctrines as regards practical aspects of our daily livelihood. Honestly , nothing like Islam so its an added advantage to do Islam with the correct knowledge of some natural principles of life such as the one jist discussed. May Allah in his infinite mercy make us better persons, so we ll always be proud of Islam. Amen.

  • nazima

    Thanks for the useful article.May ALLAH bless all of us give us the ability to do the right deeds wth the help of right knowledge.

  • Abdul Kareem

    May Allah (s w t) bless the writer for bringing out this article for the benefit of one and all. An important message has been conveyed, that is, the need to think critically. Allah (s w t) requires us to think critically, as cited by the writer from the various Quranic verses. Insha’Allah let’s all start to work towards this end.

  • zaarah

    It is a very good article which will encourage us to think more when we are overcome by problems. Thks n may allah rewards you for publishing such a nice thing.

  • This is such perfect timing … MashaAllah … i’ve been unable to be on the net for the past few days … so during this time … i have been reflecting and contemplating over the past year … it’s been a wonderful time of peace for me … Al Ham d-o-Allah … Ameen … InshaAllah we will all endeavor to think more clearly and continue to grow and learn … SubhanAllah … Ameen

  • mehnaz

    Jazaka Allah… The right way of thinking through right guidance… its the way of life, we often fail to understand.. May Almighty guide us all.. Ameen.

  • Salleh A

    Appreciate the write up on thinking especially on thinking as a faculty of human (Allah challenged the non-believers to employ the faculties of human reason and thinking…). However a contradictory statement appears earlier as if thinking is a skill set (a relatively high percentage of students demonstrated no significant improvement in their critical thinking and reasoning skills as they graduated and entered adult life.) My point is that, thinking, similar to hearing and seeing is not a skill set. Humans are endowed with a faculty of thinking and reasoning even in our sipirit form as demonstrated in our ability to respond to Allah’s question that He is our Lord (Quran 7:172).

  • unknown

    An extermley well articulated piece of writing-Amazing!

  • Shamsuddin Molla

    Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth…..(3:191)

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