Using Intellect in understanding the Quran
By Zaid Shah

Imam Ghazali and using Aql

Published in: Self, History
Date: 16 / 02 / 21
"Islam is based on naql (text) and aql (intellect). Some people just have the texts - we call them naql-heads!" - Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “...And whoever says (something) about the Qur'an according to his (own) opinion, then let him take his seat in the Fire."[1] - Commenting on this part of the hadith, Imam Al-Ghazali (Latinized Al Gazel 1058 - 1111 CE), one of the greatest Islamic Scholars, said that this hadith condemns two kinds of people. Firstly those who attempt to use their intellect independently i.e. they ignore the basic knowledge required to understand the Quran to give opinion such as linguistic skills of Arabic, opinions of the Prophet ﷺ & his companions, opinions of the people of knowledge, the various asbab (reasons and circumstances) for a particular revelation or group of verses, then they are definitely misguided. Second are those group who refuse to seek new meanings that may come to the minds and give us broader understanding of the Quran and its knowledge, after acquiring basic requirements.

“The Prophet prohibited individual interpretation and this prohibition has 2 objects. The first object is to limit it in hadith and external tafsir (traditional commentaries), not discover new meanings and to give up independent thinking. The second object is other than that. He who is not expert in external meanings and discovers their meanings only by intellect also commits mistakes. He belongs to that class of men who interpret it according to their own opinions. At first, there is necessity of Hadith and Tafsir for external meaning in order to be free from mistakes and then with the advancement of knowledge and wisdom, meanings come out from the intellect." [2]

It's important to note that the same methodology applies for hadith interpretation. The opinions of the hadith experts and scholars should be considered and see how closer their opinion is to ours and that gives better way of determining how far we are from something that is correct.


[1] Jami At - Tirmidhi Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 2951 - -

[2] Ihya Ulum-id-din (Revival of the Religious Sciences) - Chapter VIII - Excellence of the Quran

Zaid Shah


Zaid Shah

I carry a passion for Researching, Learning & Writing on Various Islamic Topics. To read more of my work You can also visit my personal blog website You can also follow me on Instagram:

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