Religion and Science: The Indispensable God-hypothesis

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

This is an article describing the Transcendent, yet Personal God of the Abrahamic Faiths in the present day scientific paradigm, the One God of Islam, Unitarian Christianity and Judaism.

If my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

In the three great monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, God is viewed as a supreme, transcendent being, beyond matter space and time, and yet the foundation of all that meets our senses that is described in terms of matter, space, and time. That is the Al Batin or the Hidden God of monotheism.  Furthermore, this God is not the god of deism, who created the world and then left it alone, or the god of pantheism, who is equated with all of existence. The Islamic and the Judeo-Christian God is a nanosecond-by-nanosecond participant in each event that takes place in every cubic nanometer of the universe.  He has full knowledge of all things.  God listens to every thought and participates in each action of his very special creation, a minute bit of organized matter called humanity that moves around on the surface of a tiny pebble in a vast universe.  The Holy Quran declares:

Allah’s is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah are all affairs returned for final judgment. (Al Quran 57:6)

Whereas the nineteenth century physics was about to frame God out of physical understanding of the universe, the twentieth century physics has turned the tables in favor of Monotheism.

To the atheists design in the universe is apparent but not real. For the theists, enlightened in science, the converse is true, the self sufficiency of the universe based on the laws of nature is apparent and perceived only and is not real. God is the Law Giver and sustainer of the universe. Both positions may be argued to some degree from modern science. However, only theism can offer a holistic approach, not only explaining our universe, but also human morality and ethics, our history and personal experience.

When we approach science from this theistic perspective we find that our religion and science become one and our psyche finds unification.

If there is a ‘Personal God’ that hears human prayers then there has to be a way for the deity to influence the physical world without breaking the laws of nature and making the study of science futile.  Quantum physics may be the magical wand, whereby Personal God can influence our world, without breaking the laws of nature.  In His infinite wisdom, the Omniscient God provided for infinite means to maintain His divinity!

The article, the Indispensible God Hypothesis can be read online in the fall, 2008 volume, on page 22 of the PDF file: Muslim Sunrise Fall 2008.

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Use and Misuse of Surah Nur by the Muslims, Before and After Nida Ul Nasser’s Allegations

Epigraph: Say, ‘Bring forward your proof if you are truthful.’  (Al Quran 27:64)

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

If you have not heard about Nida Ul Nasser’s Allegations then perhaps this article is not for you and my apologies to you.

For those who have heard about this and talked about this you may want to learn some more details about a few verses of the holy Quran, as the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, said, “The best among you is one who learns and teaches the Quran!”

This article is written in that spirit mainly as an academic study to read and understand the Quran better and answer those Islamophobes who find this Scripture to be misogynistic.

Let us travel back to seventh century Arabia. Year is the 8th year after migration to Medina by the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, he is traveling to Mecca to perform his last Hajj.

Muhammad, the Chosen of Allah; rejected by Quraish; persecuted; penned in with his family and a few Companions for thirty months in Shi’b Abi Talib and denied all provisions and contact; hounded out of Taif; forced out of Mecca with a price of one hundred camels proclaimed for his person, dead or alive; pursued by the hatred of Quraish even in Medina; challenged by force, besieged, plotted against; faithful, loyal, steadfast, humble, obedient servant of Allah; His Messenger par excellence; in rejection and in acceptance, in trial and in triumph proclaiming as his stand: ‘Sufficient unto me is Allah, there is no god but He, in Him is my trust, the Lord of the Glorious Throne’ (9:128); Muhammad was now surrounded by an ocean of faithful, devoted hearts, all proclaiming the glory of Allah, celebrating His praise, affirming His Unity, supplicating Him for forgiveness, mercy, compassion, invoking His blessings upon Muhammad. Arrived at the Mount, the Holy Prophet stood on the back of Qaswa and made his address:

I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship save Allah, the One, without associate, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger.

I do not think, O people, that we shall be gathered together here again. Your belongings, your honor, and your lives are sanctified and made inviolate like the sanctity of this day, this month and this city. You will soon appear before your Lord and He will call you to account for all your doings. Take heed that you do not go astray, after I am gone, and start slaying one another. …

[1]

The Muslim jurisprudence developed in the centuries after the prophet came to a clear understanding of the sanctity of human life and property and these values were then inherited by Europe from 12-16th century, as the torch of civilization passed from Arab Spain to the rest of Europe. However, the concept of ‘human honor’ remained vague and nebulous and continues to be so, both in the Islamic societies and the West.

The holy Quran has beautifully laid down the principle of libel, slander and false accusation, in one of the early verses of the Surah Nur: “As for those who accuse chaste women of fornication, and then fail to provide four witnesses, strike them eighty times, and reject their testimony ever afterwards: they are the lawbreakers, except for those who repent later and make amends––God is most forgiving and merciful.” (Al Quran 24:4-5)

The translation I am using is by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem and published by Oxford University. However all translations are similar as regards these verses. You can check for yourself: More than Fifty different simultaneous translations of the Holy Quran in English.

If someone is not able to prove an accusation against a woman he or she will be punished with 80 lashes and his or her future testimony will not be honored. This means people have to be very careful in their gossip or accusations. What a guarantee against trifling with anyone’s honor! Now this is a Divine guideline for a clear cut extreme case, and states can legislate regarding honor of individuals along a spectrum of situations.

Establishing sanctity of human honor, especially of women will be a beneficent use of the above verses. But just to create a hype for Shariah Law and Islamomania will be a misuse. The fact of the matter is that in 60 years of my life, growing up in Pakistan and then living in the West for the last 33 years, in the Muslim societies, I have never heard any good discussion by the Muslim clergy or lay people, trying to understand or precisely define human rights, as best enunciated by Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The focus and intention of any related discussion is invariably something else.

The biggest misuse of the Surah Nur that I have seen over the years and also during the recent events of Nida Ul Nasser’s Allegations is demanding 4 witnesses from rape victims. How is a rape victim supposed to negotiate with any possible witnesses and ensure the steadfast testimony on their part? There are also several other reasons to believe that applying ‘4 witnesses’ that are described to discourage adultery allegations, by the Quran, to rape victims is myopic and short sighted. However, this is meant to be a brief more like a summary article.

In the following interview, one of the most learned scholars and proponent of Sharia says that if a woman is raped and does not have four male witnesses, regardless of other circumstances, she should better be quiet. The learned scholar does not suggest how the victim should negotiate with the potential witnesses before the legal hearing in presence of strict Purdah requirements, to make sure that they are not going to deviate from their testimony. Such lack of insight and empathy should send shivers down the spine of every sensitive human being! All the moderate Muslims may be better off under any Western law rather than such medieval understanding of Sharia Law. My apologies to the English readers, for the video clip is in Urdu. You will need to find an Urdu translator. Munawar Hasan, the scholar in this video, is also completely unable to conceptualize that he may not have the correct interpretation of the Holy Quran.

Before we go further, let me first share all the relevant verses that some medievalists confuse with the alleged rape situations. Nevertheless, these verses actually become a commentary of the verses discussed above, as far as they prevent slander of innocent women:

If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy towards you, if it were not that God accepts repentance and is wise . . .! It was a group from among you that concocted the lieb –– do not consider it a bad thing for you [people]; it was a good thing––and every one of them will be charged with the sin he has earned. He who took the greatest part in it will have a painful punishment. When you heard the lie, why did believing men and women not think well of their own people and declare, ‘This is obviously a lie’? And why did the accusers not bring four witnesses to it? If they cannot produce such witnesses, they are the liars in God’s eyes. If it were not for God’s bounty and mercy towards you in this world and the next, you would already have been afflicted by terrible suffering for indulging in such talk. When you took it up with your tongues, and spoke with your mouths things you did not know [to be true], you thought it was trivial but to God it was very serious. When you heard the lie, why did you not say, ‘We should not repeat this– God forbid!– It is a monstrous slander’? God warns you never to do anything like this again, if you are true believers. God makes His messages clear to you: God is all knowing, all wise. A painful punishment waits in this world and the next for those who like indecency to spread among the believers: God knows and you do not. (Al Quran 24:11-19)

These verses are pertaining to securing the honor of women, morality of the society and honesty in discussions and to avoid talking about things that we do not know or do not understand, for some political gain or frivolous agenda. These verses were more specifically related to the false accusation of Hazrat Ayesha, a young wife of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him. Any reasonable Quranic commentary will provide you the details if you are not familiar with the story.

There are other verses of the Quran that are applicable to alleged rape including those of Surah Yusuf, when it describes the incident when a lady falsely accused the Prophet Yusuf of attempted rape. But that is for another day.

As soon as OJ Simpson’s murder trial started the Caucasians were convinced of his guilt and the African Americans were convinced of his innocence. They did not need to wait for evidence, their minds were made up, as if evidence did not matter. I saw a similar situation interacting with my Ahmadi and non-Ahmadi friends and family, in person and online. One party was almost convinced of the innocence of the accused and the other of the innocence of the accuser respectively. ‘Innocent until proven guilty,’ is a good principle, but applies to all parties under consideration, if they are being accused of something.

So, my question to all my Muslim brothers and sisters is that what happened to the teaching of absolute justice in Islam?

As authors it was almost expected from us to be silent, if we were a neutral voice or had sympathies with Nida Ul Nasser, not in so many words, but by implication of different memoranda, while authors favoring the majority sentiments of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community were free to write and publish. For example, just day before yesterday an article was published under the title Sacred Justice.

In fact the above verses 24:12-19 were used to silence all discussions on the topic by implication in some emails. What if some were only discussing whether these verses are applicable to rape victims or not? Nobody bothered to clarify that academic discussions are always a good and honorable Islamic traditions.

God did not reveal these verses to stifle free speech and academic discussions. The teaching in these verses is not to gossip and play lose with the honor of others. These also tell to avoid lewd discussions or pornography or the character of the society will be spoiled and indecencies will spread in such societies.

I am guided by the Quranic verse about justice that has been picked up by the Harvard Law School as one of the best examples of justice in the world history: Did you know Harvard recognizes Quran as one of the best expressions for justice?

The verse is:

You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly– if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do. (Al Quran 4:135)

I do not have a party and have no axe to grind. I don’t have enemies or friends. I am with the innocents and not with the guilty. I will honor and respect the due process started by police in UK. It is not a war, these are peaceful times of coexistence in Europe, USA and Canada. We cannot invoke the Bush doctrine, “You are either with us or with the terrorists!”

The chips may fall where they may, in regards to Nida Ul Nasser’s Allegations, I simply want justice to prevail. I want supremacy of the Quran and prevent its misuse for that corrupts the life of all Muslims in so many different ways.

I am also guided by the rich tradition of justice in our own community by none other than the legendary Sir Zafrulla Khan, who was President of United Nations General Assembly in 1962–63 and also President of the International Court of Justice from 1970 to 1973, as he wrote: The Concept of Justice in Islam by Sir Zafrulla Khan and a book about human rights that has been reviewed as: Book Review: Islam and Human Rights by Sir Zafrulla Khan.

Reference
  1. https://www.alislam.org/book/muhammad-seal-prophets/farewell/

Keeping my cool in my WhatsApp groups: What does the Quran say

To Know more how you can benefit from the Muslim Times, go to our Homepage or About Us page
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

As the internet revolution and chat groups came around in the 1990s, I was ecstatic that now we will be living in a brand new world of truth and wisdom. My dreams were soon shattered.

We were advised that every one is living in their political and religious bubble. I still remained cautiously optimistic. Then in 2015 the Presidential candidate Donald Trump came on the scene and swept through the Republican party. I as a Democrat was now thoroughly convinced that 45% of the US population, called the Republicans, are definitely living in their political bubble.

To my dismay I discovered in my WhatsApp groups of my family, friends, classmates and community that bubbles come in several sizes, shapes and themes. Each group depending on their composition has their own bubble and sacred cows. Minority in the group are often not allowed to criticize the sacred cows of the majority.

I discovered that in my group of high school classmates the sacred cow for many was the Pakistan army, even though all of them were living in the West. Our group had to splinter as one person wanted to be critical of the Pakistan army and its role in the Pakistan politics and some will not simply have it.

What can I do, how can I maintain my relations and friendships and yet be not completely silent or diplomatic and ineffective?

Part of me continues to believe in the power of free speech guided by a verse of the holy Quran:

فَذَکِّرۡ اِنۡ نَّفَعَتِ الذِّکۡرٰی

“So keep on reminding: surely, reminding is profitable.” (Al Quran 87:9/10)

Lying and deceiving is not an option, for the Quran says: “O ye who believe! why do you say what you do not? Most hateful is it in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not.” (Al Quran, Surah Saff, chapter 61)

In fact, the Quran says in Surah Ahzab, chapter 33, in a verse often recited at the time of ceremonizing the Muslim marriages that if we speak the perfect truth and solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence we shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, God guarantees that He will put our affairs on the right and peaceful course: “O ye who believe! be God conscious, and say the best straightforward word. He will set right your affairs for you and forgive you your sins. And whoso obeys Allah and His Messenger, shall surely attain a dramatic success.”

What shall I do and say, if I am to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

I need to be guided by a few more verses of the Quran, to find the balance, with which I need to operate in my family and friends groups, with different ideologies, personalities and often different sacred cows.

Actually just yesterday, in one of my favorite groups, a friend subtly advised and possibly he had me in mind, by quoting a verse of Surah Nahl, chapter 16: “Call unto the way of your Lord with wisdom and effective exhortation, and argue with them in a way that is best. Surely, your Lord knows best who has strayed from His way; and He knows those who are rightly guided.”

The catch is that a slight twist can allow this verse to be used to silence the minority view. The argument goes like this, ‘You are not being reasonable and wise and so simply be quiet and do not ruffle our feathers.’ So how do we get out of this catch and let free speech and dialogue flow so the message can be transmitted and not censored, even when not popular in a certain group?

Is there a way out? The wisdom in communication mentioned in this verse is not prescribed only for the minority opinion but also for the majority opinion.

Is there a way to burst the bubble of the Republicans in USA and keep our own cool and sanity?

If you are a Democrat thinking that the Republicans are stupid and many may be racist or Islamophobes, is not going to make you very effective with them. For this we need to fully understand their psyche and their piety. With that in mind, let me introduce you to Jonathan Haidt, a popular American social psychologist:

So once one understands this polarization fully one can figure out tools to overcome this polarization and dogmatization.

When any debate gets heated in WhatsApp group the opponents choose to vilify each other and otherize the opposite group. Sometimes the greatest zeal is shown by the religious people and they reserve the worst sentiments for those who may to the external eye be closest to their identity.

The Quran has demystified this vilification psychology for all times by suggesting in Surah Mumtahinah that only those are undeserving of our kindness that are trying to kill us or make us homeless, “Allah does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just. But God forbids you to take as allies those who have fought against you for your faith, driven you out of your homes, and helped others to drive you out: any of you who take them as allies will truly be wrongdoers.” (Al Quran, Surah Mumtihanah)

So, if I can avoid vilification and otherization then as indicated by the very first verse that I quoted, I can keep on reaping the benefit of free speech and be effective in my WhatsApp groups.

But, the reader may ask, I was being guided by the reading of the Quran, how did I suddenly jump to political psychology?

To me the sacred and the secular are not completely separate. My understanding of the scripture is not only guided by itself and the tradition but also the secular knowledge. They are commentary for each other and feed on and develop each other.

Muhammad Asad, born Leopold Weiss; 12 July 1900 – 20 February 1992, was a Jewish-born Austro-Hungarian journalist, traveler, writer, linguist, thinker, political theorist, diplomat and Islamic scholar. After traveling across the Arab World as a journalist, he converted to Islam in 1926 and chose for himself the Muslim name ‘Muhammad Asad’—Asad being the Arabic rendition of his root name Leo (Lion).

Asad was one of the most influential European Muslims of the 20th century.

Muhammad Asad writes in his introduction to the translation of the holy Quran, regarding commentary from one’s opinion:

If, on occasion, I have found myself constrained to differ from the interpretations offered by the latter (early commentators), let the reader remember that the very uniqueness of the Qur’an consists in the fact that the more our worldly knowledge and historical experience increase, the more meanings, hitherto unsuspected, reveal themselves in its pages.

We believe that this is an information age and human learning is increasing at a dramatic pace. We hope that our commentary serves some of the needs of our contemporary times, with that inspiration we have tried to put forth our additional contributions, while we also try to preserve what we feel has been the best in the most popular commentaries of the last century.

Asad continues:

The great thinkers of our past understood this problem fully well. In their commentaries, they approached the Qur’an with their reason: that is to say, they tried to explain the purport of each Qur’anic statement in the light of their superb knowledge of the Arabic language and of the Prophet’s teachings — forthcoming from his sunnah — as well as by the store of general knowledge available to them and by the historical and cultural experiences which had shaped human society until their time. Hence, it was only natural that the way in which one commentator understood a particular Qur’anic statement or expression differed occasionally — and sometimes very incisively — from the meaning attributed to it by this or that of his predecessors. In other words, they often contradicted one another in their interpretations: but they did this without any animosity, being fully aware of the element of relativity inherent in all human reasoning, and of each other’s integrity. And they were fully aware, too, of the Prophet’s profound saying, ‘The differences of opinion (ikhtilaf) among the learned men of my community are [an outcome of] divine grace (rahmah)’ — which clearly implies that such differences of opinion are the basis of all progress in human thinking and, therefore, a most potent factor in man’s acquisition of knowledge.  But although none of the truly original, classical Qur’an-commentators ever made any claim to ‘finality’ concerning his own interpretations, it cannot be often enough stressed that without the work of those incomparably great scholars of past centuries, no modern translation of the Qur’an — my own included — could ever be undertaken with any hope of success; and so, even where I differ from their interpretations, I am immeasurably indebted to their learning for the impetus it has given to my own search after truth.

These psychological principles described by Jonathan Haidt in the above video, remind me of a Quranic verse of Surah Anaam, chapter 6, “And revile not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus unto every people have We caused their doing to seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return; and He will inform them of what they used to do.”

Each WhatsApp group has some sacred ideas if not some personalities that are the sacred cows. These are like ‘idols,’ if you will, for the particular group and cannot be reviled.

So extra caution and consideration is required when touching these taboo subjects, if these really need to be addressed.

Sometimes, an insightful moderator who is aware of these sensitivities and also of the minority opinions can help the group navigate difficult waters.

We Will be Judged by Our Compassion and Deeds and Not Our Dogma

Every human life is sacred and we cry for each loss and suffering of every one.

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Epigraph:

So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)

As millions suffer in war torn Asia and Africa, humanity is craving for mutual love and compassion. What do we owe to our fellow humans? Is the suffering of a white man any more special or sacred than that of a black man? Should the suffering be judged by the religion of the one who is suffering or struggling to save his or her family?

Let me cut through the chase and go straight to the parable from the Gospel of Matthew that I have in mind:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-45)

There are numerous verses in the Holy Quran emphasizing kindness and the teaching of being service minded and the teachings are illustrated with different metaphors. Here I would like to reproduce a Hadith which is very similar to the presentation of the Gospel of Matthew:

Indeed, Allah will say to his servant when He will be taking account of him on the Day of Judgment, ‘O’ son of Adam, I was hungry and you did not feed me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I feed you? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so who is the son of so and so felt hunger, and you did not feed him. Alas, had you fed him you would have found that (i.e. reward) with Me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink.’ He will reply: ‘How could I give You drink? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so, the son of so and so was thirsty and you did not give him drink. Alas, if you had given him, you would have found that (i.e. reward) with me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I became sick and you did not visit Me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I visit You? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so, the son of so and so became sick and you did not visit him. Alas, had you visited him, you would have found Me with him.’

Deeds have consequences as we noted in the quotes above and as we experience on a hourly basis in our daily life. But let us examine the converse, the relevance of faith:

If I believe that there was a James White in Egypt in 2222 BC, who was 10 feet tall and weighed 1499 pounds. He had repeated dreams to jump off a cliff for the salvation of humanity and one day he did so and was found dead at the bottom of the valley with a written note in his hand that if you believe that I am 10 feet tall and weigh 1499 pounds and just died for your sins then your sins will be forgiven in the Afterlife.

The absurdity of such a claim and such a faith is obvious. The proposition that a faith alone can be most consequential in the big scheme of things is hard to take seriously in the aftermath of James White narrative above. Nevertheless, the Protestant Christians have had a similar official position, which they have called Sola fide over the centuries, since the reformation in the 16th century. Before we talk further about Sola fide, my apology to the Protestants and I do yield that here I have taken the liberty to caricature their position and pushed it to an extreme.

Sola fide (Latin: by faith alone), also known as justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine that distinguishes the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestant Christianity, as well as some other denominations, from the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some parts of the Restoration Movement, as well as the Methodist Churches.

The doctrine of sola fide asserts God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith alone, excluding all “works“. All mankind, it is asserted, is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God’s wrath and curse. But God, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ alone (solus Christus), grants sinners judicial pardon, or justification, which is received solely through faith. Faith is seen as passive, merely receiving Christ and all his benefits, among which benefits are the active and passive righteousness of Jesus Christ. Christ’s righteousness, according to the followers of “sola fide,” is imputed (or attributed) by God to the believing sinner (as opposed to infused or imparted), so that the divine verdict and pardon of the believing sinner is based not upon anything in the sinner, but upon Jesus Christ and his righteousness alone, which are received through faith alone.

More recently the Protestants have moved away from this extreme stress on faith and moved closer to the Catholic position. A recent Pew Research Center revealed:

Sola fide and recent polls

In other words, 500 years after the Reformation, 52% of the Protestants realize the futility of the claim that deeds don’t matter.

We saw one polar extreme of emphasis on faith and how it has eroded over the last 500 years among the Protestants and the other polar extreme is offered by the atheists, who deny the existence of God of the Abrahamic faiths. They unequivocally declare that faith is irrelevant and only deeds should matter.

Judaism and Islam lay emphasis on both faith and deeds. But faith in what? Different sects of Islam and Judaism will differ on the details? But, they will all agree that feeding a hungry or offering drink to a thirsty or saving the life of a sick are all meritorious acts.

There is something more that we can easily agree on, whether theist or atheist and that is motives or intentions do matter. We have all grown accustomed to and fully understand the valid difference between murder and man slaughter and other examples can be picked up from our social interactions and administration of law in different societies.

So faith does matter in some sense, at least in as far as it influences our attitudes, our inspirations and our intentions.

Islam has traditionally stressed faith in the Gracious and the Merciful God and His Providence and Afterlife and belief in His Prophets, Scriptures and angels. Different sects will have varying emphasis on these six articles of faith and if we pin down individuals and they profess with complete transparency and honesty, the details of faith of each individual will differ. In the poll of the Protestants and the Catholics we have had a taste of the variation.

Here, let me leave the reader alone on his or her personal journey of finding out in what ways the faith should be important and what details of the Christian or the Muslim faith are significant for our salvation! Buckle up and start your journey in the suggested reading and the comments below:

Suggested Reading

Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

A Message of Compassion and Love from the Holy Bible

True Fasting: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Old Testament

A New Commentary of the Holy Quran Emphasizing Compassion, Justice and Human Rights Launched

The Intellectual Chaos in the Muslim Societies: Are They Still Awaiting Their Rene Descartes?

By Zia H Shah MD and his twentieth entry friends from the Cadet College Hasanabdal alumni

The scientific advance led by the Islamic Empire during the 8th to 12th centuries came to a screeching halt as the baton was passed to the Christian Europe.

Was it due to the fact that the Muslims did not have their Rene Descartes?

Uğur Şahin is an oncologist and entrepreneur and founder of BioNTech, born in Turkey, but had to do his ground breaking research in Germany that led to the first Covid 19 vaccine to be approved in the Western world. He could not have done it in Turkey or for that matter in any other Muslim country.

Is it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

Dr. Abdus Salam, the only Muslim physicist to receive a Nobel prize had to work in UK and Italy and not in any Muslim country. He has in fact mostly been condemned by his native country of Pakistan.

Is it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

The victims of rape in Pakistan cannot have DNA evidence come to their rescue. Here is an Urdu video to document that phenomenon:

Is it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

The prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, was once walking with his companions and saw some farmers pollinating the date palm trees. He made a cursory remark why to go through all this fuss. The companions took it as a religious edict and stopped the pollination process that they had been doing for generations, such was their commitment to the prophet and his mission. The crop naturally failed as the male and female parts needed to come together, as we know well today thanks to the advances in the field of botany.

When the companions complained to the prophet, he said that he was only a religious teacher and when it came to matters of the world and of nature they were their own masters. The humility of the prophet did not keep him from giving up his authority, where he did not have a jurisdiction.

If the prophet himself is not an expert on matters of science then no Muslim scholar or theologian is an expert without establishing his or her credentials in scientific pursuits.

But over the centuries the advice fell on deaf ears. The later Muslims including Imam Bukhari created a whole chapter of medical remedies attributed to the prophet on assumed divine authority, whose vulnerability was only well exposed after the dawn of allopathy in recent centuries.

Was it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

Before we go to Rene Descartes, let us talk about Al-Ghazali.

Al-Ghazali (UK/ælˈɡɑːzɑːli/,[19] US/ˌælɡəˈzɑːli, -zæl-/;[20][21] full name أَبُو حَامِدٍ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ ٱلطُّوسِيُّ ٱلْغَزَالِيُّ or ٱلْغَزَّالِيُّ, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad aṭ-Ṭūsiyy al-Ġaz(z)ālīy; Latinized Algazelus or Algazel; c. 1058 – 19 December 1111) was a Persian[22][23][24] philosopher who was one of the most prominent and influential philosopherstheologiansjuristslogicians and mystics,[25][26] of Sunni Islam.[27]

Most Muslims consider[28] him to be a Mujaddid, a renewer of the faith who, according to the prophetic hadith, appears once every century to restore the faith of the ummah (“the Islamic Community”).[29][30][31] His works were so highly acclaimed by his contemporaries that al-Ghazali was awarded the honorific title “Proof of Islam” (Hujjat al-Islām).[1]

Al-Ghazali believed that the Islamic spiritual tradition had become moribund and that the spiritual sciences taught by the first generation of Muslims had been forgotten.[32] This belief lead him to write his magnum opus entitled Iḥyā’ ‘ulūm ad-dīn (“The Revival of the Religious Sciences“).[33] Among his other works, the Tahāfut al-Falāsifa (“Incoherence of the Philosophers”) is a significant landmark in the history of philosophy, as it advances the critique of Aristotelian science.

Al-Ghazali was a great theologian, may be even a philosopher, but he was no Rene Descartes. So who was Rene Descartes?

René Descartes (/deɪˈkɑːrt/ or UK/ˈdeɪkɑːrt/French: [ʁəne dekaʁt] (listen); Latinized: Renatus Cartesius;[b][15] 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650[16][17][18]:58) was a French-born philosophermathematician, and scientist who spent a large portion of his working life in the Dutch Republic, initially serving the Dutch States Army of Maurice of NassauPrince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. One of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age,[19] Descartes is also widely regarded as one of the founders of modern philosophy.

Descartes was led to his dualistic theories in part from his most famous philosophical endeavor — to place into doubt all that could be doubted in the hope of arriving at a basic, undeniable truth. That resulted in his famous Cogito ergo sum — I think, therefore I am. Descartes could doubt the existence of the physical world and that even his own body actually existed, but he could not doubt the idea that his mind existed because doubting is a thought process. The very act of doubting one’s existence proves that one actually exists; otherwise, who is doing the doubting?

Through his process of doubting, he recognized that, regardless of what the changeable physical world was really like, his mind was still whole and unchanged, and therefore somehow separate from that physical world.

It’s important to remember that, for Descartes, the brain and the mind are not the same thing. The brain serves, in part, as a connection between the mind and the body, but because it is a physical, changeable thing, it is not the actual mind. Man’s mind is whole and indivisible, whereas his body can be changed. You can cut your hair, remove your appendix, or even lose a limb, but that loss in no way reduces your mind. In laying out the mind body dualism Descartes opened up the physical to independent and systematic study without being constantly bogged down by the non-material things like mind, thought and consciousness that did not lend themselves to an easy scientific study.

The limitation in the study of consciousness was not due to limitation of the tools, but perhaps inherently so.

The fact of the matter is that the study of consciousness has not significantly changed in the last four centuries since Rene Descartes’ time.

Not only the Muslims are awaiting their Rene Descartes but the field of the study of human consciousness is also still awaiting its Rene Descartes.

Descartes also believed that man was the only dualistic creature. He placed animals in the realm of the purely physical, mechanistic world, acting purely on instinct and on the laws of nature. That has been clearly challenged by the Darwinian theory of evolution that clearly connects the humans to other primates and mammals.

Even though Descartes was proven wrong, but the truth is that his dualism had made Charles Darwin possible and be accepted in the Western civilization, without a beheading or burning on the stake for blasphemy or heresy, until he came to be celebrated as one of the greatest of the civilization, a century and a half after his death.

Descartes believed that the pineal gland in the brain was the locus of interaction between the mind and body because he believed that this gland was the only part of the brain that wasn’t a duplicate. This was not substantiated but his dualism was nevertheless a magical wand that triggered the last four centuries of astronomical progress in all the physical sciences in the West.

The Incoherence of the Philosophers (تهافت الفلاسفة Tahāfut al-Falāsifaʰ in Arabic) is the title of a landmark 11th-century work by Al-Ghazali. a student of the Asharite school of Islamic theology. He criticized the Avicennian school of early Islamic philosophy.[1] Muslim philosophers such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Al-Farabi (Alpharabius) are denounced in this book, as they follow Greek philosophy even when it contradicts Islam. The text was dramatically successful, and marked a milestone in the ascendance of the Asharite school within Islamic philosophy and theological discourse.

It was a scathing and influential critique of the budding Neoplatonic philosophical tradition in the Islamic world and against the works of Avicenna in particular.[44] Among others, Al-Ghazali charged philosophers with non-belief in Islam and sought to disprove the teaching of the philosophers using logical arguments.[43][45]

The book favored faith over philosophy in matters specifically concerning metaphysics or knowledge of the divine.

Please note that in retrospect, some thousand years later, it is easier to appreciate that he was not focused on science or study of nature, rather on metaphysics and knowledge of the divine.

The holy Quran states:

“The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a son when He has no consort, and when He has created everything and has knowledge of all things?

Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God but He, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He is Guardian over everything.

Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware.” (Al Quran 6:101-103)

Study of nature is based on human observation, as our eyes perceive this universe. However, if a Transcendent God of Abrahamic faiths exists, Who is beyond time and space, then the human eyes cannot reach Him. But, He reaches the eyes of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and saintly people or whoever he chooses to reveal Himself to.

Nevertheless, the Muslims of Ghazali’s time used his book to misunderstand the role of science or human observation and human effort to advance our understanding of the universe.

Was it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

Fifteen years after Al Ghazali’s death Ibn Rushd was born.

Ibn Rushd (Arabic: ابن رشد‎; full name in Arabic: أبو الوليد محمد ابن احمد ابن رشد‎, romanizedAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd; 14 April 1126 – 11 December 1198), often Latinized as  Averroës (English: /əˈvɛroʊiːz/), was a MuslimAndalusian[1]polymath and jurist who wrote about many subjects, including philosophytheologymedicineastronomyphysicspsychologymathematicsIslamic jurisprudence and law, and linguistics. The author of more than 100 books and treatises,[2][3] Being described as “founding father of secular thought in Western Europe”,[4][5] his philosophical works include numerous commentaries on Aristotle, for which he was known in the western world as The Commentator and Father of rationalism.[6] Ibn Rushd also served as a chief judge and a court physician for the Almohad Caliphate.

Averroës was a strong proponent of Aristotelianism; he attempted to restore what he considered the original teachings of Aristotle and opposed the Neoplatonist tendencies of earlier Muslim thinkers, such as Al-Farabi and Avicenna. He also defended the pursuit of philosophy against criticism by Ashari theologians such as Al-Ghazali. Averroes argued that philosophy was permissible in Islam and even compulsory among certain elites. He also argued scriptural text should be interpreted allegorically if it appeared to contradict conclusions reached by reason and philosophy.

He wrote the Critique of Al Ghazali’s Incoherence named Incoherence of the Incoherence.

Averroës argued that philosophy—which for him represented conclusions reached using reason and careful method—cannot contradict revelations in Islam because they are just two different methods of reaching the truth, and “truth cannot contradict truth”.[46][47] When conclusions reached by philosophy appear to contradict the text of the revelation, then according to Averroes, revelation must be subjected to interpretation or allegorical understanding to remove the contradiction.[46][43] This interpretation must be done by those “rooted in knowledge”—a phrase taken from the Quran, 3:7, which for Averroes refers to philosophers who during his lifetime had access to the “highest methods of knowledge”.[46][47] He also argues that the Quran calls for Muslims to study philosophy because the study and reflection of nature would increase a person’s knowledge of “the Artisan” (God).[48] He quotes Quranic passages calling on Muslims to reflect on nature and uses them to render a fatwa (legal opinion) that philosophy is allowed for Muslims and is probably an obligation, at least among those who have the talent for it.[49]

His book did not have the desired effect among the Muslims and the baton of the scientific progress was passed gradually from the Muslims to the Christian Europe for the coming centuries.

Averroes and the study of his literature made Rene Descartes possible in the Western world. Unfortunately no Descartes was born in the Muslim world.

Therefore the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

The tide of scientific research is still not turning in favor of the Muslims. Can we continue to blame Al Ghazali for our continued downfall? Perhaps we could come up with better narratives to keep our theology and faith as well as our study of nature and science.

Simon Van Den Bergh writes in the last paragraph of his Introduction to the translation of the Incoherence of the Incoherence by Averroës:

Emotionally the difference goes deep. Averroës is a philosopher and a proud believer in the possibility of reason to achieve a knowledge of ‘was das Innere der Welt zusammenhält’. He was not always too sure, he knew too much, and there is much wavering and hesitation in his ideas. Still, his faith in reason remains unshaken. Although he does not subscribe to the lofty words of his master that man because of the power of his intellect is a mortal God, he reproaches the theologians for having made God an immortal man. God, for him, is a dehumanized principle. But if God has to respond to the needs of man’s heart, can He be exempt from humanity? Ghazali is a mu’min, that is a believer, he is a Muslim, that is he accepts his heart submits to a truth his reason cannot establish, for his heart has reasons his reason does not know. His theology is the philosophy of the heart in which there is expressed man’s fear and loneliness and his feeling of dependence on an understanding and loving Being to whom he can cry out from the depths of his despair, and whose mercy is infinite. It is not so much after abstract truth that Ghazali strives; his search is for God, for the Pity behind the clouds.

The human concerns can be conveniently divided into two dimensions the physical and non-physical. The scientific method works very well in the physical domain and should not be allowed to be hijacked by the theologians of one religion or sect or others.

The belief in God, His Providence, revelation from this All-Knowing source, our true dreams, our best intuitions, our consciousness and our soul do not easily lend themselves to methods used to study the physical world.

Let there be a Descartes and there will be light.

Conclusion

Who do I prefer, Al Ghazali or Averroës?

Simon Van Den Bergh writes in the second and the third last paragraphs of his Introduction to the translation of the Incoherence of the Incoherence by Averroës:

When we have read the long discussions between the philosophers and theologians we may come to the conclusion that it is sometimes more the formula than the essence of things which divides them. Both philosophers and theologians Arm that God creates or has created the world. For the philosophers, since the world is eternal, this creation is eternal. Is there, however, any sense in calling created what has been eternally? For the theologians God is the creator of everything including time, but does not the term ‘creation’ assume already the concept of time? Both the philosophers and theologians apply to God the theory that His will and knowledge differ from human will and knowledge in that they are creative principles and essentially beyond understanding; both admit that the Divine cannot be measured by the standards of man. But this, in fact, implies an avowal of our complete ignorance in face of the Mystery of God. Still, for both parties God is the supreme Artifex who in His wisdom has chosen the best of all possible worlds; for although the philosophers affirm also that God acts only by natural necessity, their system, like that of their predecessors, the Platonists, Peripatetics, and Stoics, is essentially teleological. As to the problem of possibility, both parties commit the same inconsistencies and hold sometimes that the world could, sometimes that it could not, have been different from what it is. Finally, both parties believe in God’s ultimate Unity. And if one studies the other works of Ghazali the resemblance between him and the philosophers becomes still greater.

For instance, he too believes in the spirituality of the soul, notwithstanding the arguments he gives against it in this book; he too sometimes regards religious concepts as the symbols of a higher philosophical or mystical truth, although he admits here only a literal interpretation. He too sometimes teaches the fundamental theory of the philosophers which he tries to refute so insistently in our book, the theory that from the one supreme Agent as the ultimate source through intermediaries all things derive; and he himself expresses this idea (in his Alchemy of Happiness and slightly differently in his Vivification of Theology) by the charming simile of an ant which seeing black tracings on a sheet of paper thinks that their cause is the pen, while it is the hand that moves the pen by the power of the will which derives from the heart, itself inspired by the spiritual agent, the cause of causes. The resemblances between Ghazali and Averroës, men belonging to the same culture, indeed, the greatest men in this culture, seem sometimes greater than their differences.

As a devout Muslim believer and practitioner, I defer to Al Ghazali when I am thinking about my religion and Providence of God and to Averroës when I am thinking about sciences and my profession of a healer, a physician, a Sleep Disorders specialist. In addition to being ‘a believing people’ the Muslims are also ‘a thinking nation or Ummah,’ as the holy Quran calls them time and again to ponder over nature and bring forth their arguments.

Unfortunately, the Muslim theologian of all sects, without any considerable exception, still side with Al Ghazali, even in scientific matters and study of nature, to the implied ignoring or even condemnation of present day Averroës, who push his arguments. Why do the religious scholars do that? It soothes their egos and keeps them relevant in the present day and age and wins them blind obedience of their followers.

Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times and author of this article

Averroës of today are still condemned invariably, in the twentieth first century, by the so called Muslim scholars, theologians and their mobs. Who are the Averroës of our time? These are people like Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Pervez Hoodboy in Pakistan, Mustafa Akyol from Turkey and not so humble author of this article.

We are often condemned or at least not endorsed or promoted, because the Muslims have not had their Rene Descartes yet! The Muslim masses are unable to see the two clear compartments or shall we say the distinction is too often blurred by their religious and political leaders.

Is it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

Rene Descartes was a thinking man and a source of great light to the Western civilization and to the whole of humanity in turn.

We have pooled hundreds if not thousands of articles on the theme of religion and science, to draw the Muslim masses out of hero worship to a new era, where they can grow their learning not only from their scholars of choice, but Avicenna, Al Ghazali, Averroës and Descartes of all faiths and lack thereof.

I conclude by a quote from Nelson Mandella, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Bibliography

Video: Hamza Yusuf About Al Ghazali

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126—1198)

From the Muslim Sunrise: Truth and Science

Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science On the lost Golden Age and the rejection of reason

Book Review: Islam Without Extremes by Mustafa Akyol

The great Greek trio and a case for religion

Human Soul: The Final Frontier?

Video: Laughter is the best cure for psychics

Neurobiology of Dreams and Revelation

Al Aleem: The Bestower of true dreams

The Nature of Revelation

True Nature of Divine Revelations

We Dream, Therefore God Is!

Literal Reading of the Quran and Hadith Makes Most Muslim Leaders Very Stupid

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Please carefully listen to this 21 minute video of one of the popular Sunni Muslim leaders in USA and his defense of the blasphemy laws.

I love him but do not endorse his idea that Blasphemy Laws exist in Islam. What exists in Islam is freedom of religion and speech. The mistake that he is making is not his alone, I have rather seen most of the scholars of Islam from the Pakistan background have been vulnerable in this regards.

While I agree with Qadhi’s overall tolerant approach, his defense of blasphemy laws simply violates the principles of freedom of religion for many, which is a very fundamental and signatory principle of the holy Quran and modern human civilization. It seems to me that he is unable to make a succinct case of what he wants to say. He makes claims that there is no ambiguity in the understanding of blasphemy in jurisprudence, but does not site any evidence for it.

I believe that short comings of Yasir Qadhi and other present or previous scholars arises from the fact that they do not realize that the separation of church and state or mosque and state was not so precisely defined in the seventh century Arabia and Hadith were quoted and written without that clear understanding.

Today, when we understand these domains better we have to state our case in contemporary terminology. In present times we talk about hate speech or defamation laws in the Western world rather than blasphemy laws. Even the European Convention on Human Rights, makes clear exceptions to free speech. Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society.” This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas, but allows restrictions for:

  • interests of national security
  • territorial integrity or public safety
  • prevention of disorder or crime
  • protection of health or morals
  • protection of the reputation or the rights of others
  • preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence
  • maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary

If the Muslim countries have to make laws those need to be with these modern understanding of statehood so that there is greater consensus among the Muslims and these concepts can be better communicated with the rest of the world, with whom we share our planet earth.

The scholars continue to read the Quran and the Hadith in literal terms without translating those for our times and culture more than 1400 years removed from the 7th century Arabia.

I have addressed the issue of literal reading of the Quran in several of my prior articles: The Taliban Rule: Do Muslims Prefer Camels Over Modern Cars? The Holy Quran and the Seventh Century Arabian Metaphors and Reason or Orthodoxy: Which One Should Rule?

Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

All of David Attenborough’s Work as a Proof for the Hereafter according to the Holy Quran

Epigraph

Do they not see that God brings life into being and reproduces it? Truly this is easy for God. Say, ‘Travel throughout the earth and see how He brings life into being: and He will bring the next life into being. God has power over all things. (Al Quran 29:19-20/20-21)

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

As I was reading the translation of Surah Ankabut, meaning The Spider this morning, I had an epiphany when I read the verses quoted in the Epigraph above. I knew that the Quran has on several occasions used the blossoming of plant life in the spring as evidence for the Second Life or Hereafter, but here was the most stunning expression of this phenomenon. Allah states that as the recreation of plant life and animal reproduction is easy for him so will be second creation in Afterlife.

Then Allah invites us to travel in the earth and see all the plant life and animal life with that perspective and the wise will become convinced of the Afterlife. No one has travelled more and with greater insight in the study of life than David Attenborough and with this new window I begin to see his work in new light.

He has dozen of documentaries on all forms of life on planet earth. You can begin to see them in YouTube and Netflix as we speak.

This was my epiphany this morning and I am grateful to Allah for this and I pray that He will keep me always pregnant with new insights.

David Attenborough showing his typical fascination with animals and plants. The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about the Quran, Afterlife and Religion & Science

Additional reading

A Slight Twist Makes David Attenborough a Great Teacher for God of the Abrahamic Faiths

Commentary of Surah Fatihah for the 21st Century

National Geographic Video: All Knowing, All Seeing God Keeps Us Away from Crime and Sin, See the Evidence

Stephen Hawking Passes Away – May God Bless His Soul, But He Didn’t Believe in One

A Cordial invitation to Sir David Attenborough to be a Theist

If there is freewill, so is Providence: Refuting the best of atheism through the latest science

Epigraph:

And He (Allah) gave you all that you wanted of Him; and if you try to count the favors of Allah, you will not be able to number them. Indeed, man is very unjust, very ungrateful.  (Al Quran 14:34/35)

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Let me start off by saying, if my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, who was a famous American composer of the twentieth century, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

The title of Stephen Hawking’s 2010 book that he co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow is The Grand Design.  In this book the authors have described their agnostic or atheistic world view, through the glasses of contemporary physics. However, the title itself is a Freudian slip revealing the underlying conflict of Hawking’s premise. He cannot express his proposition, even briefly so, without borrowing a phrase that argues the exact opposite and suggests a Designer, a Creator, a First cause, Alpha and Omega! The authors do not offer us any new evidence to prove their premise. The book repackages commonly known scientific information.

The main thesis of the book seems to rely on the multiverse theory and M Theory, which is used to rescue the sinking ship of atheism. These are invoked in one form or the other in concluding paragraphs of almost every chapter, of this book, after the fifth one. The multiverse theory, however, may belong to science fiction rather than science as we do not have access to multiverse to examine it through scientific methods.  Hawking teaches us in the final paragraphs of the fifth chapter that the M theory allows for ten raised to the power 500 different universes, together represented with the term multiverse, each universe with its own laws.

Nowhere in the book have the authors told us what could science have discovered that would have proved a Transcendent God, in other words their conclusion is in fact, only their starting premise.

In this article, I will show that science could have discovered something that would have ruled out the possibility of a Creator or a God that can influence this universe and grant prayers of the believers or give them true dreams and reveal scriptures to His prophets.

In this well written book, Stephen Hawking wants to take the miracle of our habitable earth away by suggesting that there are billions of planets and stars in our expanding universe so there had to be habitable zones in our universe and we naturally find ourselves in one of those.

Nevertheless, in chapter seven of the book he confesses that it takes 10 billion years to cook carbon from lighter elements at millions of degrees centigrade.  And then we needed supernova explosions to spread this carbon to habitable parts of the universe.  Carbon is absolutely essential for all life forms on our planet earth. To use the terminology of the atheists, the mother nature knew that we are coming more than 10 billion years ago.

Hawking does not stand in awe of this miracle of creation, which is more than 10 billion years in making and involves coincidence on top of coincidence on top of unending coincidences.  Perhaps he takes the 13.7 billion year miracle to be an accident or serendipity.  Or may be he attributes the whole phenomenon to the magical mathematical laws underpinning our universe.

But, mathematical laws have no creative power. A book describing all the laws beautifully can keep sitting in a book shelf for trillions of years and will not create a single planet or a solar system, not to speak of a universe with a dimension of 13.7 billion light years.

Napoleon, in one of the most notable conversations in the history of science, asked the French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace about the role of God in his scientific world view. It is said that Laplace had presented Napoleon with a copy of his work, who had heard that the book contained no mention of God. Napoleon, who was fond of imposing embarrassment, received it with the remark, “Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.” Laplace is said to have replied, “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.” And so it goes. The apparent so called self-sufficiency of our physical universe has caused many a scientist to move away from the idea of a Creator of the universe or the God Hypothesis. But is it really so?

While nineteenth century physics was framing God out of the picture, the twentieth century physics and more specifically the Quantum physics has catapulted God back into mainstream scientific discussions to the amazement of scientists with an atheistic bend.

Baron John Rees, President of the Royal Society of UK writes in his book, Just Six Numbers: the Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, describes our biophylic universe in the following words:

I have highlighted these six because each plays a crucial and distinctive role in our universe, and together they determine how the universe evolves and what its internal potentialities are; moreover, three of them (those that pertain to the large-scale universe) are only now being measured with any precision.
These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if anyone of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?[1]
Firing squad
To drive home the full force of the fine tuning of these six numbers from physics, Martin Rees further quotes a very useful metaphor:
There are various ways of reacting to the apparent fine tuning of our six numbers. One hard-headed response is that we couldn’t exist if these numbers weren’t adjusted in the appropriate ‘special’ way: we manifestly are here, so there’s nothing to be surprise about. Many scientists take this line, but it certainly leaves me unsatisfied. I‘m impressed by a metaphor given by the Canadian philosopher John Leslie. Suppose you are facing a firing squad. Fifty marksmen take aim, but they all miss. If they hadn’t all missed, you wouldn’t have survived to ponder the matter. But you wouldn’t just leave it at that – you’d still be baffled, and would seek some further reason for your good fortune.[2][3]

So, the validity and eloquence of the argument of fine tuning of our universe is self evident. It is not merely a matter of six numbers, the fact of the matter is that according to the M theory as explained by Stephen Hawking in his above mentioned book, we need ten raised to the power of five hundred, independent universes to explain the biophylic nature of our known universe.

Free will

If the scientists had discovered that universe is completely deterministic as Laplace was proposing and a completely closed system then it would have obviously ruled out the Provident God of the Abrahamic faiths, if we could not find Him within the natural world. Such a closed system would have ruled out our freewill also. But it was not to be. I would suggest for additional details: Demystifying Quantum Physics: You Need it for Your Faith and a short video to understand our free will:

To drive home the enormity of the number ten raised to the power five hundred universes, proposed to explain away the biophylic miracle of our known universe, let me share that If some being could discover a universe every millisecond, it would have discovered only 10 raised to 20 universes, since the Big Bang. Still lot more to go.

So, as long as the notion of freewill survives, there is plenty of evidence for Providence and it will flourish.  If billions of humans’ freewill can affect the reality at the quantum level, so can a Divine being at the same quantum level without violating any known laws of nature or be discernable in any way other than what the quantum physics provides.

Unless the scientists ever demonstrate a self contained, closed deterministic world, Monotheism of the Abrahamic faiths is the best metaphysics and not the purposeless day dreaming or confabulations of the atheists.

References:

1. John Rees. Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. Basic Books, 2000. Page 4.
2. John Rees. Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. Basic Books, 2000. Page 4.
3. John Rees. Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. Basic Books, 2000. Page 165-166.

Additional suggested reading and viewing for the Creator God of the Abrahamic Faiths

Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God

The Muslim Times, Perhaps the Only Medium Presenting the Creator God of the Holy Quran

A Cordial invitation to Sir David Attenborough to be a Theist

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians

Allah the Creator, the Maker and the Fashioner: The Best Documentary on Birds

The anesthesia of familiarity: There should be a Creator of Our Universe

The Beauty and the GPS of the Birds and the Quran

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Plain Water will Tell you the Story

Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe by Martin Rees

The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies

Moon: Does it have a purpose?

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

After Monotheism, the Two Most Seminal Verses of the Quran

Allah it is Who has sent down to you (Muhammad) the Book; in it there are verses that are fundamental or decisive in meaning — these are the corner stone of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue those that are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and wrong interpretation of such ambiguous verses. And none knows their right interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding. (3:7/8) هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ ۗ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
Why don’t they ponder over the Quran, had it been from anyone other than All Knowing God, they would have found ample contradiction in it. (4:82/83)أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ ۚ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا

By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

I believe that the most important verse of surah Qamar is: “Indeed We have made the Qur’an easy to understand and to remember. But is there anyone who would receive admonition?” (54:17/18)

It is repeated a total of four times in this surah. But, many of us  don’t find it easy and struggle with the understanding of the holy Quran. So what is the catch?

Most of us continue to struggle with the understanding of the holy Quran as we have not clearly thought through how to understand or read the Divine Scripture.

Different commentators highlight different criteria for commentary of the Quran. But, ultimately as the particular scholar or commentator is the judge of how to apply those criteria for his or her commentary, it is reasonable to say that all commentaries ultimately are based on the judgment or opinion of the commentator.

It is self evident that all commentators or commentaries are not created equal. Ultimately it boils down to the vision or judgment of the person commenting on the holy scripture.

It has been said that the most important teaching of the holy Quran is Monotheism and it is also claimed that a third of the Quran is about the One God of the Abrahamic faiths. These claims are self evident to most of the Muslims and will not be discussed any further here.

The Quranic verse 3:7/8 is seminal and fundamental in my opinion as it lays out a very important principle that any writing should be examined and understood in light of its fundamental claims and subjects and not peripheral ones. The verse claims that those who have an axe to grind stress verses that allow them to put forward their agenda even though in so doing they distort the Quranic message.

The corollary that follows is that which ever verses or message we choose as pivotal or central, begin to define the whole of our understanding of the Quran. So, the quality of any commentary of the Quran can be judged from what verses of the Quran he or she picks as the core or the most fundamental crux and then explains rest of the text in the light of the core.

For me, I have taken Monotheism, human accountability and the message of compassion and justice as the core of the Quran and tried to see every thing else through that prism.

Before the next seminal verse, let me suggest to the open minded readers, to read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”

The reason I have found the verse 4:82/83 as core and fundamental is because it invites us to resolve all possible contradictions in our understanding of the Quran. It has freed me from the bondage of the previous commentators, regardless of their repute or imagined station in the Muslim history, as human presentations do present periodic contradictions.

If the Quran is to be understood by every student and we are accountable to All Knowing God, in the Hereafter, how we understood His message and implemented in our lives, then each one of us also has the freedom to freely understand the Divine message. Based on the message of this verse, we can infer that every prior commentary or commentator would have human limitations and his message in some respects may be contradictory, while the Quran is not so, as it is from an All Knowing source. So, whenever we find the past commentaries to be lacking or contradictory, within themselves or when compared to others, I find those as fertile opportunities to come with better and more satisfying and internally consistent understanding of the Divine message.

So, in that sense this verse has become a litmus test for my understanding of the different verses and their commentaries. In other words as students it is our job to understand the Quran in holistic terms that are free of contradictions. As we pursue that goal to resolve contradictions, our understanding will embellish and continue to become more comprehensive and consistent.

As the human societies continue to evolve and human information and knowledge keeps growing at an unprecedented pace, the Quranic understanding should also continue to evolve and it certainly has in the past fourteen centuries.

I believe that if we keep these two verses in the forefront of our mind then the claim in Surah Qamar, “Indeed We have made the Qur’an easy to understand and to remember. But is there anyone who would receive admonition,” will become true. Inshallah!

Additional reading: Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

My understanding of the Quran is not borrowed from one teacher or commentator, no matter how much popularity he may have enjoyed in his time in any group. The Quran is a book of All Knowing God and of infinite wisdom and to be fair and just with the book, I learn from teachers of all walks of life and all different sects of Islam and even non-Muslim scholars.

Having said that the first question in the following video that is in Urdu talks about commentary of a verse of the holy Quran that talks about the age of the prophet Noah and then goes into discussion of the verse 3:7 talked above. This adds useful metaphors to discussion at hand how to read and understand the Quran:

Now learn parts of the Quran from an award winning Catholic teacher:

How science polishes our understanding of the Quran

By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The second last verse of Surah Ha Mim Sajdah reads, “We will show them Our Signs in the universe and also in their own psyche and consciousness until it becomes manifest to them that the Quran is the Truth.” (Al Quran 41:53)

It goes without saying that our knowledge of our solar system, our universe, cosmology, physics and mathematics that supports it, has multiplied a billion fold from the seventh century Arabia to the 21st century global village.

For the understanding of our universe you could be watching any number of good documentaries produced by the reputable Western companies. I will share only one here:

Likewise our understanding of the human psychology has increased in so many different ways.

So there is no denying that almost a thousand Quranic verses talking about nature or the study of nature do not mean the same thing today as they did in the seventh century Arabia. I have written specifically about this topic before also: Science in the Service of the Scriptures and how Darwinian evolution has changed our Quranic story of Adam: Surah Al Baqara (The Cow): Section 4: Adam and Eve.

I believe that any good commentary of the Quran can never be written in stone. Please see our collection below about scope and style of the Quran.

Therefore, verses about sociology, legislation and host of other subjects that change with the changing societies have to be understood and read in contemporary terms.

The fundamentalist then ask is there any thing fixed in the Quran? Yes, the main themes of theology. Monotheism and our accountability, in the hereafter, are written in stone.

I believe that the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah. This is why each and every prophet of God was sent and this indeed is the very purpose of the holy Quran, as it often uses the first creation as a proof for the second creation, namely our accountability in the hereafter.

Suggested reading for knowing the Creator of our universe

Deism: Common between Islam, Christianity and Judaism

Patriarch Abraham’s Deism and Monotheism: The Best Paradigm For Interfaith Tolerance

Everything is a Miracle According to the Holy Quran and Albert Einstein

The Muslim Times, Perhaps the Only Medium Presenting the Creator God of the Holy Quran

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians

Photosynthesis: deserving of our awe or ridicule?

Allah the Creator, the Maker and the Fashioner: The Best Documentary on Birds

The anesthesia of familiarity: There should be a Creator of Our Universe

The Beauty and the GPS of the Birds and the Quran

Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Plain Water will Tell you the Story

Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe by Martin Rees

The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies

Moon: Does it have a purpose?

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

12 Famous Scientists On The Possibility Of God

Every Ray of Light Gives Us Eternal Hope in God’s Providence

Religion and Science: The Indispensable God-hypothesis

Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran