Asia West East Institute
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Roundtable on the “Role of reason in understanding religion”



Date: 24 March 2016 (Thursday)

Time: 9:00 – 17:00

Venue: Museum of Asian Arts, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



The urge to understand religion as a framework that forms our perception of God through the intuition, through the transcendental experience, took modern minds to the opposite directions. For some, the postmodernist philosophies strengthened accent on mystical practices like Sufism, but for some the avoidance of healthy reason became an incentive to embrace the dubious concepts of the Islamic state. In the age rationality, religion again requires a need for human reason to bring goodness into people’s daily lives.

In 2012 the study by the group of researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver showed that the difference in the type of thinking – analytical or intuitive – defines the extent of person’s religiosity, and the increase in analytical thinking increases religious disbelief. They eventually came to the conclusion that the analytical thinking is one of the factors that contribute to disbelief. It might be the truth if people were not such multi-dimensional entities. Reason and intuition are mutually complementary elements of cognition, but is one empowered at the expense of the other, thus affecting the ability to believe in transcendental? Doesn’t reason push believers towards at least more conscious approach and concentration on inner piety rather than formal pursuit of dogmas?

At the same time, who can provide a reasonable argumentation of where the role of reason in understanding of religion ends and the intuitive experience, reliance onto revelation should take effect. According to Kant, excessive intellectualizing of religion alienates it from laity by this taking away from average believers their comfortable right to apply religion to their daily lives, because it the requires the special class of religious thinkers to explain ‘the real’ meaning of revelation. After all, our knowledge about God, states Kant, is super sensible, so there can be no empirical confirmations to the reasoning about the Absolute, however it does not prevent the possibility of reasoning as such. And yet, the property of human’s mind to seek for an explanatory totality inspired scientists and philosophers to look for the arguments for the existence of God. Were their findings of any effect to attract more believers to the faith’s side or it is always something else that affects human’s religiosity and faith?

The reason and belief, or transcendental knowledge, that comes through sort of revelation merge in a mysterious proportion to form humans’ characters. Ibn Taymiyyah argued that reason is simply a faculty of the soul that needs the light of the revelation, as an eye needs light, to see the truth, thus implying that reason and revelation are two aspects that should be regarded complementary rather than antagonistic.

These and other issues are going to be dissected at the round-table by discussants of various backgrounds.



  • Asia West-East Institute (Asia WE)
  • Ferdowsi Research and Cultural Institute
  • University of Malaya Centre for Civilisational Dialogue (UMCCD)
  • Museum of Asian Arts, UM



  • Dr. Ali-Akbar Ziaee, Ferdowsi Research and Cultural Institute
  • Dr. Dato’ Baharudin Ahmad, ASWARA
  • Pn. Khalina Normaiza Khalili
  • Dr. Kasim b. Ramli
  • Dr. Ahmad Sadeghian
  • Prof. Dr. Salahuddin Mohd Shamsuddin



9.00am – Arrival of guests/Registration
9.15am – Opening Ceremony/Welcoming Remarks

  • Welcoming Speech by Assoc. Professor Dr. Faridah Noor Mohd Noor
    Director, Centre for Civilizational Dialogue, UM
  • Speech by Mr. Abdul Aziz Rashid
    Head, Museum of Asian Art, UM
  • Speech by Dr. Ali Akbar Ziaee
    Cultural Attaché, Embassy of Iran

Iranian Classic Music Performance by “Fakteh” Ensemble

9.30am – Morning Tea
10.00am – Talk by Prof. Dr. Dato’ Baharudin Ahmad (ASWARA)
11.00am – Talk by Dr. Ali Akbar Ziaei on “Reason and Religion: A Quranic Perspective”
12.00pm – Talk by Dr. Ahmad Sadeghian on “Application of Reason and its Role in Understanding Religion”
1.00pm – Lunch
Iranian Movie Screening: “Don’t be Tired”
2.30pm – Talk by Dr. Kasim b. Ramli on “Role of Reasoning in Understanding Religion”
3.30pm – Dialogue Session
1) Dr. Ali Akbar Ziaee
2) Pn. Khalina Normaiza Khalili
3) Prof. Dr. Salahuddin Mohd Shamsuddin
Moderated by:
Professor Emeritus Dr. Shaharir Mohamad Zain
5.00pm – Photo Session/Evening Tea/End of program

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