Muhammad Asad about what part does reason play in our lives:
“Reason plays an enormous role. I could tell you a small anecdote. During the last war, The Second World War, I was interned in India as an enemy alien because in that time I still had my Austrian passport. There happened to be in the camp a group of German Jesuits. And as you know, Jesuits are the most highly educated among all Catholic priests. So, as I was the only Muslim there, and there were people that were religiously inclined, and thousands of people around us who didn’t care either way, but anything of these things, so we were in permanent contact with each other. And they were intellectuals also, one could talk about things with them. And their leader was one Bavarian prince that time, very aristocratic old family, very educated.
“And one day he told me, you see Asad, it is a very strange thing, you were a Jew, for you the logical thing would have been to become a Christian. Why did you jump to Islam. So I say, I will tell you this. And before I tell you, I promise you one thing, not everything is lost from your point of view. I am prepared to become a Christian today, provided you answer me one question satisfactorily. And if you do, you can take me next Sunday to the chapel tent and baptize me publicly and I will accept it. He said, strange, what is the question. So, I asked him, could you explain to me the Trinity. He said you see, Asad, this is a mystery, and we spoke German, mysterium, which has a slightly different meaning in English. This is a mysterium. When you achieve faith, your heart will make you understand that. That was the reason why I become a Muslim. You tell me, gain faith and then you will understand. My religion tells me, use your reason and you will gain faith. And so he gave it up. And I didn’t become a Christian.
“This is, you asked me what role the reason play. The reason play an enormous role. Of course, the reason doesn’t answer everything. I mean size has a tremendous role in Islam, as you know, knowledge in general is striving after knowledge is a duty of every Muslim: man, woman. But science as such does not solve every problem. Science can only judge, calculate, connect fragments which are visible and measurable, and cannot give you the inside into the deepest reality. That can only come through faith.”
Muhammad Asad on scientific reasoning:
“True science helps, but its not the only way. There is in the Quran, a lot that confirms science. I wouldn’t say the science confirms the Quran, but then the other hand there is a lot in the Quran that relates to science, for example, the statement, We have created every living being out of water, and the science of biology tells you that water is the source of every living being and every living cell. So this is also one of such evidences that the Quran is an inspired book, it shows realities which neither of the sahabas could not understand. Umar ibn Al-khattab could not understand what it means. We have created every living thing out of water. We can understand it out of our own merit but simply because many generations of people have worked on this problem. (Are these the kinds of things that separate the Quran from other scriptures?) You see, the other scriptures are of several kinds. For example, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is not so much a religious teaching as the history of the Jewish people, written by themselves or corrected by themselves. It is very difficult to say what it is. The same thing also about the Gospels. The Gospels are descriptions, real or post factotum, of the life of Jesus. And his teachings. Reproduced his teachings. But none of them has the authenticity of the Quran. The Quran is the only one with is not neither history, nor a book of science, nor a book of history. But a teaching of how to achieve the good life in the spiritual sense, and material sense, social sense. (The good life sounds very Jewish.) Yes, good life in the real sense. And the Quran is the only book, only book which has existed unchanged for fourteen centuries without any letter to be changed in it. It is exactly that Quran which has been revealed to the prophet.”
Muhammad Asad on the concept of the God in Christianity and the concept of God in Judaism, and his experience of the omnipotence of God:
“Well, I described it also in this book The Road to Mecca. In the first chapter, when I speak of having lost my way in the desert in northern desert in Saudi Arabia and almost died of thirst, and then I was found by people who rescued and I had suddenly the feeling that nothing can really happen to me. That whatever happens to me is part of an entity decreed by God. I am a part, an insignificant part. But because I am a part of this entity, I am a necessary part. And that gives me a feeling of pride of being a necessary element in Gods creation. And I think that the essence of every religion, true religious feeling is that. That one feels one self as necessary from, I wouldn’t say from Gods point of view, but necessary within the concept of creation as such. Otherwise, I would not have been created, if I had not been necessary. That gave me a very deep feeling of security. That nothing can happen to me. Whatever happens is part of my life and my existence. (Death can be so eminent in the desert. What about mans unity with God.) No, I didn’t mean unity with God. Unity with Gods, within Gods creation. The unity with God is a very abstract concept which I cannot grasp at all. God cannot be grasped. How can I speak of being unity, of having unity with God. It is of course a mystic concept, a Sufi concept unity of God. But I cannot grasp it. I can say only unity within Gods creation, With Gods creation.”
Muhammad Asads view on mans responsibility:
“Yes, very much so, freedom of will, I believe, there is of course a very difficult almost unanswerable problem. The problem of free will which is stressed in the Quran many times because without free will there is no doing good and doing evil. On the other hand, God is omniscient. God knows what will happen. Therefore, it has to happen as God knows it. How does that agree with the concept of free will. And this is precisely a problem which human beings cannot answer. The best we can do is try to live up to the idea that we have free will and whatever happens is known to God. More than that, our brain cannot concieve. There are many things by the way which we accept as exhumes without understanding them intellectually. Take for example, a small mathematical exhume. two parallel lines meet in infinity. Now, what infinity is, how infinity is, no human brain can visualize. Nevertheless, every human brain, every mature human brain, accepts this as an absolute mathematical truth and therefore truth in itself. We must accept it that there are truths which are construction, the construction of our brain does not answer.”