I think one of the biggest mistakes Muslims have absorbed since the invasion and occupation (read: colonization) of our lands has been absorbing the belief that reason is the ultimate tool for every facet of our lives.
Certainly, reason is awesome. By using reason, humans have created massive amounts of progress in science and material culture.
Reason, however, is not suitable for navigating and implementing/phasing out moral values. That is because reason itself has proven to be a failure in this arena. Or in other words, if you only have a hammer (reason), everything looks like a nail (an issue that can be resolved via reason).
A prime example of the failure of reason in the moral sphere are reason-based arguments like consensual incest should be made legal. The reason people have assigned to incest being morally wrong is usually reduced to deformities and congenital diseases, so why not? If that isn’t enough to convince you that incest is perfectly fine when consensual, look at all the examples of animals engaging in incest, which proves that it is natural and in line with evolution. (Please note: I am against consensual incest.)
Evolutionary biologist Nathaniel Wheelwright explains:
Asexual reproduction is the ultimate in incest because you’re breeding with yourself…. You can still see species asexually reproducing, or cloning themselves, in situations where there is no advantage to [sex]… and you can see species that commit incest where there is no penalty to inbreeding.”
Islam does not see reason as the guiding force for what is morally correct. Khalid Baig states succinctly:
Pure reason, uninformed by Divine guidance, is a defective tool for deciding the purpose of life or suggesting its values. What is Right and what is Wrong? These questions require knowledge beyond what we can acquire by using our senses and reasoned analysis. As a direct result, everyone’s reasoning is different. That is why philosophers have never been able to agree upon what should be the goal of life. Happiness? Survival? Pleasure? Love? Self-fulfillment? You name it. In addition, it is impossible for us to separate our reasoning in these matters from our feelings. Pure or uninformed reason becomes just a tool to justify what we desire.
Reason, therefore, is fine in the right arenas but it is not something we should use to change Divine Law. Halaal and haraam have been made clear and it shouldn’t matter what argument people come up with to overturn these laws, as Muslims should inherently trust that our Guidance is free from error. That is not to say we cannot rationalize why these laws benefit us (and that is a topic for a separate article), but rationalization and reasoning should not be the sole reason why we follow them, and they definitely should never be used to make Islam “progressive”.