“I have created men, high and low, but to worship Me.” (Al Quran 51:56)
Jonathan Haidt’s Ted Talk: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt asks a simple, but difficult question: why do we search for self-transcendence? Why do we attempt to lose ourselves? In a tour through the science of evolution by group selection, he proposes a provocative answer.
Allah has created the heavens and the earth with a purpose and based on precise truth. In that surely is a sign for the believers. (Al Quran 29:44/45)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
I wrote this article in May of 2020, but now six months later in Nonmember as Pfizer and Moderna have reported that their vaccines have almost 95% effectiveness, I am choosing to republish this article, as it may give readers a new experience with this enhanced perspective.
Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has slammed the World Health Organization (WHO) for not endorsing its COVID-19 herbal cure.
Last month, the Malagasy president officially launched Covid-Organics (CVO), an organic herbal concoction, claiming that it can prevent and cure patients suffering from the novel coronavirus.
“If it were a European country which had discovered this remedy, would there be so many doubts,” he said in an exclusive interview with France 24, Paris-based international television news network and Radio France International.
”The problem is that it comes from Africa. And they cannot accept that a country like Madagascar, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, has discovered this formula to save the world,” he added (1).
But, how does WHO know quackery from real treatments? After all some fundamentalist Hindus in March 2020, were promoting cow urine as prevention against coronavirus infection.
Many news channels covered cow urine drinking party. US News, for example wrote: “A Hindu group hosted a cow urine drinking party on Saturday as they believe it wards off the coronavirus, as many Hindus consider the cow sacred and some drink cow urine believing it has medicinal properties.
Experts have repeatedly asserted that cow urine does not cure illnesses like cancer and there is no evidence that it can prevent coronavirus.
The ‘party,’ hosted by a group called the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (All India Hindu Union) at its headquarters in the country’s capital, was attended by 200 people, and the organizers hoped to host similar events elsewhere in India.
‘We have been drinking cow urine for 21 years, we also take bath in cow dung. We have never felt the need to consume English medicine,’ said Om Prakash, a person who attended the party.
Chakrapani Maharaj, the chief of the All India Hindu Union, posed for photographs as he placed a spoon filled with cow urine near the face of a caricature of the coronavirus.
Leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have advocated the use of cow urine as medicine and a cure for cancer.
A leader from India’s north eastern state of Assam told state lawmakers earlier this month during an assembly session that cow urine and cow dung can be used to treat the coronavirus.” (2)
The fundamentalist Muslims were quick to promote black seed or Kolonji as a prevention and cure for Covid 19 infection.
Bishop Gerald Glenn, the founder and pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church (NDEC) in Chesterfield, Virginia, died on April 11, 2020, church elder Bryan Nevers said in a video post on the church’s Facebook page.
“During this time of intense grief, we ask that you pray continually for the FIRST FAMILY of NDEC,” a Facebook post from the church read. “While they are mourning the heartbreaking earthly absence of their family patriarch & spiritual father, they also have family members who are struggling to survive this dreaded pandemic.”
Glenn and his wife, Marcietia Glenn, tested positive for the virus, their daughter Mar-Gerie Crawley said in a video shared on Facebook. Crawley said in an update Friday that Gerald Glenn was very sick but had improved slightly after being put on a ventilator.
“I just beg people to understand the severity and the seriousness of this because people are saying it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone around us,” Crawley said.
She told Richmond station WTVR that Glenn had diverticulitis and that it was not uncommon for him to get sick or have a fever. Glenn’s health worsened despite trips to urgent care and the emergency room, she added.
Despite authorities urging people to practice social distancing, Glenn held an in-person service on March 22.
“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus,” Glenn told his congregation in a sermon that day, according to video of the service shared by WTVR. He vowed to keep preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital,” the New York Times reported. He died three weeks later of Covid 19 infection (3).
God may applaud the Pastor’s religious zeal in the Hereafter, but, He certainly did not appreciate the Pastor’s flaunting of the laws of nature.
In the meanwhile, there has been growing disquiet in Israel about the slowness of some ultra-Orthodox communities to adopt official measures to reduce the spread of the virus.
Many ultra-Orthodox live within large families in crowded neighborhoods. Their access to the internet and social media is also limited for religious reasons, meaning news and information from the outside world is comparatively poor.
In some strictly religious communities, gatherings for prayer and celebrations including weddings have continued to take place, despite the nationwide ban.
BBC reported, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town with one of the highest rates of coronavirus cases in Israel has been placed under effective lockdown.
Residents of Bnei Brak, just outside Tel Aviv, will only be allowed out in exceptional circumstances. Only some key workers will be allowed in.
A senior health official said almost 40% of the town’s 200,000 inhabitants probably had the virus (4).
Happy Science is a Japanese doomsday cult. It claims 11 million members worldwide in more than 50 countries, operates a publishing company and several film/animation studios, funds a political wing that fields candidates in Japan, runs a system of unaccredited “universities” and holds events and enlightening seminars.
Formerly known as The Institute for Research in Human Happiness, Happy Science is one of a large number of new religions which have sprouted up in post-war Japan, generally regarded derisively and suspiciously by most Japanese, particularly after a 1995 terrorist attack perpetrated by a different cult in Tokyo’s subway. The group’s English-language reading materials seem benign enough, but the group’s far-right political agenda is expressed much more openly and unambiguously in their Japanese-language media, which espouses extreme Japanese nationalism, social conservatism and xenophobia (5).
According to Happy Science, the virus was created as a bioweapon by the Chinese government in Wuhan, and then, in a twist, it was unleashed by a U.F.O. to punish the communists for their godless ways. It has spread to other lands that lack true faith.
This material was quickly published as three booklets in Japanese and has now been translated in English this month as “Spiritual Reading of Novel Coronavirus Infection Originated in China.”
But there is hope for the faithful, the Happies say. Along with the book series, they now sell coronavirus-themed DVDs and CDs of Mr. Okawa, the supreme head of Happy Science lecturing; the sound alone of his voice is meant to hold immune-boosting power.
In one video clip, Mr. Okawa advised, “You must knock out the coronavirus with your El Cantare belief.”
He also introduced the sacred text of a new ritual purported to miraculously cure the disease. It is conducted in private at temples, in exchange for donations. Japanese ads list several prices for virus-related blessings, going from $100 to more than $400.
Numerous members of the congregation have requested the coronavirus prayer.
“It’s amazing,” Mr. Hagimoto said. “We’re seeing people being cured.”
Before his extravagant reinvention, Mr. Okawa was born Takashi Nakagawa in 1956, on the southern island of Shikoku in Japan. The postwar decades in Japan had seen a surge in new and novel forms of religion that blended imported New Age texts with longstanding Japanese traditions. It was in this soul-searching mélange that Mr. Okawa came of age.
In the early days of the virus, Happy Science had proudly kept its Manhattan doors open for business even as some churches closed. But as infections in the city soared, the temple announced that it would lock up.
Beginning in April, Happy Science will administer spiritual vaccines remotely (6).
There is a legendary experiment that young Galileo Galilei did in the sixteenth century, perched atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa, he dropped cannonballs of different weights to see if all objects fall at the same rate due to gravity. They did. It’s a story that’s easy to remember, but whether it actually took place is debatable. If a Muslim saint, a Christian Pastor, a Jewish Rabbi, a Hindu Pundit or a Buddhist incarnation of Buddha were to jump off from Leaning Tower of Pisa to fly after their prayers, they will crash to the ground at the same speed. Gravity rules no matter what!
Likewise these religious experts despite their set of beliefs, dogma and rituals cannot fight or deny the biology of Covid 19.
In the words of Charles Darwin, as he quoted Francis Bacon from his book Advancement of learning, in the later editions of On the Origin of Species, to establish the proper relationship between religion and natural science: “To conclude, therefore, let no man out of weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well-studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficiency in both.”
WHO has not directly responded to the President of Madagascar, but they have posted on their website, under the heading of, WHO supports scientifically-proven traditional medicine:
“The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes innovations around the world including repurposing drugs, traditional medicines and developing new therapies in the search for potential treatments for COVID-19.
WHO recognizes that traditional, complementary and alternative medicine has many benefits and Africa has a long history of traditional medicine and practitioners that play an important role in providing care to populations. Medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua are being considered as possible treatments for COVID-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects. Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world. Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical.” (7)
As noted in the epigraph of this article, Allah has created our universe based on precise truth, which here will imply scientific truth and laws of nature, any attempts to succeed in such a universe that are not based in reality and instead bank on emotional or ill placed religious zeal are destined to fail. Indeed, only honest scientific method and not religious dogma or ritual will offer us prevention and cure of the novel Covid 19.
Vaccine has 94.5% efficacy in an analysis of late-stage trial
Interim results suggest vaccine may also block severe cases
Moderna Inc. said its Covid-19 vaccine was 94.5% effective in a preliminary analysis of a large late-stage clinical trial, another sign that a fast-paced hunt by scientists and pharmaceutical companies is paying off with potent new tools that could help control a worsening pandemic.
The highly positive readout comes just a week after a similar shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE was found to be more than 90% effective in an interim analysis. Both shots rely on a technology called messenger RNA that has never been used to build an approved vaccine. Soon, millions of people around the world could be spared from illness by the breakthroughs.
A preliminary analysis of data from more than 30,000 volunteers showed Moderna’s vaccine prevented virtually all symptomatic cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the company said in a statement on Monday.
Moderna shares rose more than 9% in pre-market U.S. trading, while in Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was up 1.5%.
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
The above one minute video clip is by Jaggi Vasudev also known as Sadhguru.
His criticism certainly needs to be tackled by the three Abrahamic faiths, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as they all believe in Afterlife.
Many a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim believe that their belief in Afterlife gives them hope, inspiration and sense of purpose.
To state the obvious, Afterlife and heaven and hell are described both in the Bible and the Quran.
The believers base their belief in the Afterlife on their faith in the respective scriptures, which is all well and good. But, this does not open up an avenue of discussion for them against the views of the agnostics, the atheists or those who do not believe in their respective scriptures.
The holy Quran does not only claim Afterlife but also suggests a poignant philosophical argument for it that is based in science.
The simple yet very profound argument has two parts:
A. This universe is not an accident. Its beauty, complexity and wonderful organization suggests an Insightful, All Knowing Creator.
B. The Creator of the first creation, in His creation, has certainly demonstrated His ability to recreate it.
Now, I propose to elaborate these two claims.
According to a Gallup poll in 2019, a large majority of the US population, 78% to be exact, believes in God the Creator, this includes both the camps of those who believe in guided evolution or creationism.
Despite the fact that significant population now identifies itself as unaffiliated to any religion, only 22% of Americans do not believe God had any role in human evolution.
I believe in guided evolution, as I believe both in a Creator God and in the facts of biological evolution.
Scientists and philosophers from all Abrahamic faiths, including myself, have laid out forceful arguments for our Creator God and I have been collecting these over the years and I propose to put them at your finger tips here:
The above should suffice for the first part of my thesis: This universe is not an accident. Its beauty, complexity and wonderful organization suggests an Insightful, All Knowing Creator.
Once the reader is comfortable with the first part, the next part, the Creator of the first creation, in His creation, has certainly demonstrated His ability to recreate it, naturally flows from it.
The holy Quran presents this reasoning, with different aspects of God’s creation several times. For starters: “Do they not see that Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, has the power to create the like of them?” (Al Quran 17:100)
Next I present, a verse of the Holy Quran, where Allah cites gravity and planetary motion as a pointer, towards His creativity and eventual hereafter:
Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne. And He pressed the sun and the moon into service: each pursues its course until an appointed term. He regulates it all. He clearly explains the Signs, that you may have a firm belief in the meeting with your Lord. (Al Quran 13:3)
The Quran offers only one line of reasoning for the second creation, namely the first creation. Allah argues that one who has created this complex and awe inspiring universe and all the life forms on our planet earth, should be able to recreate human life and of course the individual humans.
The Holy Quran discusses reincarnation in greater detail in the following verses in the chapter Yasin, adding the domain of biology to that of astronomy as the argument is built further, from the first creation:
Does not man see that We have created him from a mere sperm-drop? Yet lo! he is an open quarreler! And he coins similitudes for Us and forgets his own creation. He says, ‘Who can quicken the bones when they are decayed?’ Say, ‘He, Who created them the first time, will quicken them; and He knows every kind of creation full well. He Who produces for you fire out of the green tree, and behold, you kindle from it. Has not He Who created the heavens and the earth the power to create the like of them?’ Yea, and He is indeed the Supreme Creator, the All-Knowing. Indeed, His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, ‘Be!,’ and it is. So Holy is He, in Whose hand is the kingdom of all things. And to Him will you all be brought back. (Al Quran 36:78-84)
In several places the Quran uses biology and regeneration of earth in spring as a metaphor for Afterlife:
Among His Signs is this that you see the earth lying withered, but when We send down water on it, it stirs and swells with verdure. Surely He Who quickens the earth can quicken the dead also. Indeed, He has power over all things. (Al Quran 41:40)
He brings forth the living from the dead, and He brings forth the dead from the living; and He gives life to the earth after its death. And in like manner shall you be brought forth. (Al Quran 30:20)
The debate we are having here is not a new one but is an age old conflict between the believers and non-believers, as the holy Quran describes:
They say, ‘What! when we are dead and have become mere dust and bones, shall we indeed be raised up again? This is what we have been promised before, we and our fathers. This is nothing but fables of the ancients.’ Say, ‘To whom belongs the earth and whosoever is therein, if you know?’‘To Allah’, they will say. Say, ‘Will you not then be admonished?’ Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and the Lord of the Great Throne?’ They will say, ‘They are Allah’s.’ Say, ‘Will you not then take Him as your Protector?’(Al Quran 23:83-88)
The Quran is well aware of comments of critics like Jaggi Vasudev:
And they say, ‘There is nothing but this our present life; we die and we live here; and nothing but Time destroys us.’ But they have no knowledge of that; they do but conjecture. And when Our clear Signs are recited unto them, their only contention is that they say, ‘Bring back our fathers, if you are truthful.’ (Al Quran 45:25-26)
The Quran has a clear answer for its critics. As long as the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other scientist are able to demonstrate there is a Creator of our universe, we are on very firm grounds to believe in the Afterlife. The first creation is proof enough for the future second creation.
By Myriam Francois-Cerrah, who became popular when she was a child for acting in the 90s hit film ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ Now she is gaining more popularity for being one of a growing number of educated middle class female converts to Islam in Britain. She has recently contributed to a series of videos on Islam produced in the UK titled, “Inspired by Muhammad.”
I embraced Islam after graduating from Cambridge. Prior to that I was a skeptical Catholic — a believer in God but with a mistrust of organized religion.
The Qur’an was pivotal for me. I first tried to approach it in anger, as part of an attempt to prove my Muslim friend wrong. Later I began reading it with a more open mind.
The opening of Al-Fatiha, with its address to the whole of mankind, psychologically stopped me in my tracks. It spoke of previous scriptures in a way, which I both recognized, but also differed. It clarified many of the doubts I had about Christianity. It made me an adult as I suddenly realized that my destiny and my actions had consequences for which I alone would now be held responsible.
In a world governed by relativism, it outlined objective moral truths and the foundation of morality.
As someone who’d always had a keen interest in philosophy, the Qur’an felt like the culmination of all of this philosophical cogitation.
It combined Kant, Hume, Sartre and Aristotle. It somehow managed to address and answer the deep philosophical questions posed over centuries of human existence and answer its most fundamental one, ‘why are we here?’
In the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), I recognized a man who was tasked with a momentous mission, like his predecessors, Moses, Jesus and Abraham (peace be upon them all).
I had to pick apart much of the Orientalist libel surrounding him in order to obtain accurate information, since the historical relativism which people apply to some degree when studying other historical figures, is often completely absent, in what is a clear attempt to disparage his person.
I think many of my close friends thought I was going through another phase and would emerge from the other side unscathed, not realizing that the change was much more profound.
Some of my closest friends did their best to support me and understand my decisions. I have remained very close to some of my childhood friends and through them I recognize the universality of the divine message, as God’s values shine through in the good deeds any human does.
I have never seen my conversion as a ‘reaction’ against, or an opposition to my culture. In contrast, it was a validation of what I’ve always thought was praiseworthy, while being a guidance for areas in need of improvement. I also found many mosques not particularly welcoming and found the rules and protocol confusing and stressful.
I did not immediately identify with the Muslim community. I found many things odd and many attitudes perplexing. The attention given to the outward over the inward continues to trouble me deeply.
There is a need for a confident, articulate British Muslim identity which can contribute to the discussions of our time. Islam is not meant to be an alien religion, we shouldn’t feel like we’ve lost all trace of ourselves. Islam is a validation of the good in us and a means to rectify the bad.
Islam is about always having balance and I think the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) message was fundamental about having balance and equilibrium in all that we do.
The Prophet’s message was always that you repel bad with good that you always respond to evil with good and always remember that God loves justice so even when people are committing serious injustices against you, you have a moral responsibility and a moral obligation in front of God to always uphold justice and never yourself transgress those limits.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: ‘Forgive him who wrongs you. Join him who cuts you off. Do good to him who does evil to you and speak the truth even if it be against yourself.’
Islam’s beauty really becomes to its own when it becomes manifest; and it becomes manifest when you make it into a tool for the betterment of society, human kind and the world.
The ideal from an Islamic perspective is for ethics to become living ethics, to become an applied body of values and not remain unfortunately as it often is cloistered somewhere which is some more divorced from reality.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,a]”>[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Suggested reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
A Muslim could read this Psalm as a commentary on the Quranic verses 65:2-3.
Around the world, there are differing attitudes to female voices reciting the Koran. For some, it’s thought they should be restricted to female-only spaces, reciting verses in women prayer circles or Islamic lectures, for fear that the voice in public is “sinful”.
But in many cultures it is encouraged and there is growing appetite to bring more women into the field.
Producer: Sophia Smith-Galer
You can find out more by listening to the World Service’s Heart and Soul programme here.
The university references a verse from the Quran, regarding it as one of the greatest expressions of justice in history.
Source: Step Feed
When it comes to the law, both legislation and implementation are deemed relative. But the same can’t be said for justice as by definition it is the offering of what is morally fair and right. As we know, the law should seek justice and Harvard knows exactly how Islam is doing so.
Harvard Law School, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions (No. 7 in the world, to be exact), actually speaks of justice at the entrance of its faculty library. In doing so, it references a verse from the Quran, regarding it as one of the greatest expressions of justice in history.
The phrase at hand is Verse 135 of Surat Al-Nisaa (The Women), which is posted on a wall facing the faculty’s main entrance, a wall that portrays some of the best phrases with regards to justice. The first media reports of the news date back to February 2014, but the news resurfaced on our newsfeed this week. We thought it’s worth a reminder especially in the age of rising Islamophobia in the U.S., particularly.