By Ilham Idrissi and Matthew Lakenbach, UConn Abrahamic Initiative
While the UConn Abrahamic Initiative does not focus on religion or religious similarities and differences, it is important to emphasize that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all call on human beings to use knowledge and reason. Thus, critical thinking is central to all of the Abrahamic traditions, as articulated in numerous verses within the Torah, New Testament, and the Quran.
The Torah expresses the value of reason and learning in multiple verses: “Come, now, and let us reason together.”(Isaiah 1:18). Torah also states: “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” (Proverbs 1:5-6).
Likewise, the New Testament addresses critical thinking and the reliance on reason to understand the essence of creation: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans, 12:2). Also in the New Testament: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17).
The Quran also instructs the faithful to seek knowledge and use reason: “and say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (Surat Taha 20:114). Also in the Quran: ‘’Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.” (Surat Al Bakara 2:164).
These verses link the use of reason and intellect and the pursuit of knowledge with the religious imperative to understand and live according to the ways and designs of a higher power. These are but a few of the numerous passages from within each religion that emphasize the value of acquiring knowledge, using reason, and acting with wisdom. The UConn Abrahamic Initiative is grounded in this spirit.