Shaykh al Islam Ibn Hajar Haytami stated:
“There is difference [of opinion] among the scholars regarding this. The preferred opinion according to many of them is the superiority of knowledge (`ilm) because Allah Most High is categorized [fundamentally] by pre-eternal knowledge and not by reason (`aql). The actual attribute and qualifier is superior to what is from the genus [of that attribute].
Further, another proof for the superiority of knowledge is that it is connected to that which is more virtuous, and its merits have come in the narrations. No narrations have come on the superior merit of reason and verily all of them that have been narrated are fabricated and lies.
Some of the verifying scholars said: Knowledge is superior in relation to it being closer to the vastness of the knowledge (ma`arifa) of Allah and His attributes. Reason is superior in relation to it being the building block of knowledge and its basis.
The conclusion is that knowledge is superior in its essence while the superiority of reason is in its being a means to [attaining] knowledge.
(Fatawa Hadithiyya, Pg: 240 Dar Ihya al Turath Ed.)
[s: `Aql is a prerequisite to attaining `ilm. This is why the `ulum `aqliyya are so important in the shari`ah, as our master Ashraf `Ali Thanawi (May Allah be well-pleased with him) stresses often in his works. Further, one of the conditions for being morally responsible is being `aqil, which can be translated in this context as “sane”.
It is interesting to note here, in light of Ibn Hajar’s words (who was an Ash`ari), the Maturidi position on reason and intellect being sufficient in establishing and “knowing” the existence and oneness of God based on the various Qur’anic verses that command us to “reflect” on the creation in order to see the “purposeful design” behind it. Thus, one wonders, if reason is sufficient to establish this fundamental aspect of tawhid – the fountainhead of all knowledge – then how does this play into its superiority in contrast to `ilm?
Of course, there are alot of nuances involved in this discussion and details that need to be spelled out even before addressing such a question.]