Straight and Crooked Thinking: The Malady of Our Time?
The intellectual ability to think is a divine gift which is bestowed to humans by God and therefore we are asked to use it in managing the affairs of our lives. More importantly God tied between abiding by the legal commitments in terms of prohibitions and obligations which are manifested in theology, law and ethics and between the capacity to think which is the base for understanding.
Thinking is a process by which one reaches new results by the virtue of combining and arranging pieces of available information. This available information should represent reality and one has to exert his efforts to confirm its correspondence with reality or else we will easily be dragged to legends and myths which have no place in the intellect of those who think straight. Every piece of information belongs to a certain field of knowledge and has its methodological way of proving its information. Also each field has criteria through which proofs are either deemed accepted or rejected.
Some matters depend on senses and experiments like for example the fact that fire burns, sun shines and the proofs of these matters go back to realization through the senses or trusted news. Other matters are proven by the intellect like mathematical facts. A third type of proving some matters rely on transmission like linguistic and legal rulings. All these different methods of proving different matters need a sound methodology of experiment, observation and conclusions. This process needs to be repeated in the mind till its reality settles and is ready to be used.
Logicians name the complete sentence which results from sound information that is based on sound methodology, “the perfect relation” and its definition is proving either the addition or rejection of one matter to another. If the complete sentence is proved through senses, logicians would add the phrase-based on senses- and if it is proved through transmission, they would add- based on transmission- and if it is proved intellectually, they would add the phrase –not dependent on neither repetition nor transmission.
Deviations from straight thinking can be manifested in a number of ways. For example when someone tries to find a proof for an intellectual issue in transmitted text or determining a sensual issue through the intellect or proving a transmitted matter through senses. So what actually guards this whole matter is knowledge and the word knowledge in Arabic is not equivalent to the word “science” which is confined only to experimental sciences as for the Arabic usage of the word, it encompasses the differentiation between the definitive and the speculative and the boundaries guarding each of them.
Mixing between the speculative and the definitive is one of the main features of corrupted and deviated thinking and same goes for mixing between the fields of senses, intellect and transmission. Walking blindly without the blueprint and the know-how of using all the different fields as valid representatives of our lived reality is one of the features of crooked thinking and same goes for discarding one field for another.
Crooked thinking leads to nothing but a myth- believing mentality and leads to a lie-based methodology which depends on non factual information and acts in opposition to sound belief. For this reason the verb “to lie” was used by the tribe of Quraysh to mean wrong or mistake and therefore the Prophet said on the day of the conquest of Makkah “Sa’d lied” when Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah said “Today is a day of conflict” so the Prophet replied back “Today is a day of mercy”. So linguistically –to lie- here meant to err and in turn the Prophet discharged him from his leading position and appointed his son Qays in his place.
The spread of crooked and deviated thinking makes people live in sheer myths and fallacies which in turn forms the biggest obstacle to developing human beings and blocks human’s creative abilities to blossom in the road of civilizational progress. By drawing a comparative analysis between straight and crooked thinking at the time of our ancestors, we would find that they adopted straight intellectual methodologies and fiercely fought against the spread of crooked thinking.
By the same token we would find that the Western civilization had fought against myths and fallacies in thinking too. One of the ways they had adopted in their struggle against the spread of myths is the principle of specialization and sound authority. They utterly believed in the importance of specialization and rejected wholeheartedly the pantomath figure or the one who knows everything.
When it comes to sound authority and authentic reference points, they differentiated between facts and opinions. Matters that are proven through experiment and senses are not subject to different opinions. Differences in opinions are sound when it comes to managing the affairs and the interests of the community where multiple of opinions are tolerated whether from specialists or public thinkers.
It seems that these simply agreed on facts are hard for a lot of people to follow and the blind insistence on dodging from using a logical straight way of thinking and refraining from turning to specialists in different fields combines between ignorance and conceit and should be fought systematically starting with school curricula and ending with media outlets.
It is also important to mention the fact that the juristic scholars defined the science of Islamic jurisprudence as the science of realizing the legal juristic practical rulings attained from its detailed proofs. This science has its own issues, methodologies, tools and scholarly curricula, schools of thoughts and its ancillary sciences.
In other words it is a definitive well thought out science that is not left open for uneducated thoughts or opinions. It is a science that does not know discrimination and does not approve it. So each male and female, black or white has the right to delve into this science and abide by its methodologies in deducting rulings and same goes for other fields of sciences. Liberalism has nothing to do with infusing one’s uneducated opinions and force it to a defined well established field of knowledge without taking up the legitimate tools which aids one in being a specialist in this science or another.
One of the maladies of our age is the attempt of some people to deal with established sciences as a field play where impressions, personal opinions, whims and desires are trying to have a weight without following the established methodological discourse on which sound opinions are built.