RELIGION AND SCIENTIFIC REASONING
Many people are under the impression that religious truths cannot be proved scientifically. But inferring truths from things, as religion does, is the very reasoning which scientists employ in their everyday deductions.
In ancient times water was just water. Then, in the 19th century, the microscope was invented. When water was looked at under a microscope, it was discovered that water was not just water; it also contained countless live bacteria. In the same way man used to think that there were no more stars in the sky than those which can be seen with the naked eye. But in modem times the sky has been examined with telescopes and many more stars than can be seen with the naked eye have been discovered.
These two examples show the difference between ancient and modem times. Modern research has shown with certainty that there are many more realities than man had previously thought when he was limited to the sphere of simple observation. But these new discoveries so excited those who were making them that they made another claim: that reality is that which can be directly observed; that which we can not experience or observe is mere hypothesis, and does not exist.
In the nineteenth century this claim was made with great enthusiasm. It was most damaging to religion. Religious creeds are based on belief in the unseen; they cannot be directly observed or experienced. For this reason many people came to think of religion as hypothetical and unreal.
Twentieth century research has completely changed this state of affairs. Advanced study has shown that there is more to life than meets the eye: all the great realities of life lie beyond our comprehension.
According to Bertrand Russell there are two forms of knowledge: “Knowledge of Things” and “Knowledge of Truths”. Only “Things” can be directly observed: "Truths" can only be understood by indirect observation, or, in other words, inference. The existence of light, gravity, magnetism and nuclear energy in the universe is an undisputed fact, but man cannot directly observe these things. He knows them only by their effects. Man discovers certain "Things" from which he infers the existence of "Truths".
This change in the concept of knowledge which occurred in the twentieth century changed the whole situation radically. Man was forced to accept the existence of things which he could not directly see, but only indirectly experience. With this intellectual revolution the difference between seen and unseen - reality disappeared. Invisible objects became as important as visible objects. Man was compelled to accept that the indirect, or inferential argument, was academically as sound as direct argument.
This change in the concept of knowledge has, in the present age, made divine reasoning truly scientific. For instance, the greatest argument for religion is what philosophers call the argument from design. Nineteenth century scholars, in their zeal, did not accept this reasoning. To them it was an inferential argument which could not be accepted academically. But in the present age this objection has been invalidated. Nowadays man is compelled to infer the existence of a designer of the universe from the existence of a design in the universe, just as he accepts the theory of the flow of electrons from the movement of a wheel.
A statement of Bertrand Russell throws some light on this matter. In the preface to his book; “Why I Am Not a Christian” he writes: “I think all the great religions of the world-Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Communism both untrue and harmful. It is evident as a matter of logic that, since they disagree, not more than one of them can be true. With very few exceptions, the religion which a man accepts is that of the community in which he lives, which makes it obvious that the influence of environment is what has led him to accept the religion in question. It is true that Scholastics [Adhering rigidly to scholarly methods; pedantic, Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules] invented what professed to be logical arguments proving the existence of God, and that these arguments, or others of a similar tenor, have been accepted by many eminent philosophers, but the logic to which these traditional arguments appealed is of an antiquated Aristotelian sort which is now rejected by practically all logicians except such as are Catholics. There is one argument that is purely logical. I mean the argument from ‘Design’. This argument, however, was destroyed by Darwin; and in any case, could only be made logically acceptable at the cost of abandoning God's omnipotence [Having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force; all-powerful.]."
Arguing the existence of a Designer from Design is, as Russell admits, a scientific argument in itself. It is the very argument which science uses to prove anything. Russell then rejects this argument by citing Darwin's theory of evolution. This rejection would only be (considered) acceptable if Darwin's theory was itself scientifically established. But scientific research has proved Darwinism to be mere hypothesis, rather than established scientific fact. [Even if hypothetically Darwin’s theory of evolution is accepted, the argument of Design is not negated, because the Evolution could be part of His Design of Creation]. Thus it is Russell's first statement, therefore, concerning the validity of the argument from Design that must prevail. His rejection of that argument on the basis of Darwinism is groundless.
RELIGION: A DIVINE - NOT A SOCIAL PHENOMENON
If nuclear energy is taken to be an American social phenomenon, it will be taken to mean the manufacture of lethal weapons which destroy life. One is bound, in that case, to be opposed to it. But if nuclear energy is taken to be a natural phenomenon, it will be considered on its own merit. It will not matter how America or any other military power uses it. In spite of being opposed to the atom bomb, one will continue to support atomic energy.
No one makes the mistake of thinking of nuclear energy as a social phenomenon of any nuclear power. But there are many who make this mistake in the study of religion. Religion is essentially divine truth. But anthropology usually treats it as a social phenomenon. For this reason, people have formed a mistaken concept of religion. Worst of all this method of study prevents students being able to distinguish between theory and practice.
Many people think of the practice of most of Muslim nations, for instance, as the true Islam. It is this method of study which has led people to write books like The Dagger of Islam and Militant Islam in recent years. The authors of these books saw that Muslims are habitually "daggers drawn" and militant in their demands. So, according to their concept of religion, they came to the conclusion that these were the features that made up Islam.
But if one thinks of religion as a truth revealed by God and preserved in the text of Qur’an and Hadith, then Islam ceases to be a social phenomenon and becomes an ideology. Now one begins to look at Islam in the light of Qur’an and Hadith instead of in the light of the practice of some Muslims.
If one wishes to understand Islam, one must look at it apart from the some ignorant non practicing Muslims. One must think of it as a divine belief, rather than as a social phenomenon. Only then can an accurate and fair picture of Islam be formed.
The Ascendancy of Islamic Thought
Among the prophecies in the New Testament regarding the coming of the Prophet of Islam is this one: “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword that with it he should smite nations”(Revelations;19:15). This means that the religion of the Final Prophet (peace be upon him) will be supported by the sword of words; it will be the ideological ascendancy of Islam which will vanquish nations; the main strength of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) will be words which man utters rather than metals which are extracted from the earth.
This is a great prophecy. It means that the followers of the Final Prophet (peace be upon him) will never be defenseless or empty-handed. They will, potentially, have supreme might at their command, even when they seem powerless. The secret of the strength of Islam is the ascendancy of its thought and that is something which can never be taken away from it.
This prophecy was fulfilled entirely during the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Word of God that was revealed to him had taken most of the known world by storm. Today also the power of the word of God can work wonders, on the condition that the followers of the Prophet (peace be upon him) convey it as he and his companions did.
BELIEF IN GOD
God is the source of all goodness. He can be seen everywhere in the universe. His power is evident in the form of light and heat. He converts matter into greenery and flowing water. His glory is made manifest in colour, taste and fragrance. Motion and magnetism are evidence of His strength.
Belief in a God of such perfection is more than just a dogma. It illuminates man's soul and enraptures his heart. If one relishes a delicious fruit, and goes into ecstasy on hearing a tuneful melody, how then can one fail to be moved by the discovery of God, who is the fountainhead of all goodness.
When one truly discovers God, He becomes like a fragrance which one savors, a delicious taste which one relishes, a spectacle which captivates one's vision, a melody which never ceases to thrill. God has created all these exquisite delights: His being is their treasure house. Drawing close to God is like entering paradise. It is like dwelling in a garden of exquisite beauty and fragrance, or being in the neighborhood of the source of all light.
WORKING ON THE INDIVIDUAL
A man was riding his bicycle one day when all of a sudden his brake jammed. Luckily there was a cycle repair-shop nearby, so he took his bike there to have it fixed. Thinking that the mechanic would fix the brake at the point where it was jammed, the cyclist was surprised to see him tap away with a small hammer at a completely different place. Before he was able to express his surprise, however, the mechanic handed the bike over. "That's fixed it. You can take it away now," he said. And off the cyclist rode, with his bike once again running smoothly.
What was true of this bicycle is true also of human society. When there is something wrong with society, people usually jump to the conclusion that where the malaise lies, there also lies the cure. But this is not case. Usually the root of the malaise lies in a different place, far away from the symptoms. Until the cause is removed, the malaise itself will not go away. For instance, there might be a lack of solidarity in society, or one's people may be the victims of oppression. Maybe society is beset with an atmosphere of intrigue, with the result that its voice carries no weight in the world. Detecting these symptoms, the one who determines to right the ills of society might well think that the cure lies in calling meeting and conventions in order to bring people together, feeding them emotional speeches and passing high-sounding resolutions, and so on.
But this is not the way to cure the actual ills of society. To do so, one has to work on the cause, not the symptoms, for usually one will find that while a problem seems to be afflicting one part of society, the cure lies elsewhere. If there is a lack of solidarity, for instance, the reason for this is the failure of individuals to stand together. It is the individual, then, who has to be worked on. Solidarity has to be achieved at an individual level before it can come about in society. For it is a law of nature which applies to human society as well, that for a tree to bear good furit, it is the seed, not the fruit that has to be improved.
LEST THE SCOURGE OF GOD SHOULD VISIT US
Those who keep milking cattle are faced with a problem: How to preserve the cattle's milk from their calves. In some places this problem is dealt with by tying a thorny piece of wood to the head of the calf. When the calf goes to drink its mother's milk, before it can do so the thorn pricks into the udder, causing the cow to shy away. As a result of this thorn the calf cannot drink its mother's milk.
So it is with the, Muslims today. They have been entrusted with a divine message which they are duty bound to communicate to the other nations of the world (Fatir…); but they have brushed aside this duty and have instead picked up political and economic quarrels (been embroiled in the political and economic conflicts)with those they should be addressing with the word of God.
They have (been forced to) become worldly rivals of other nations. This politics of confrontation has (been thrusted as) become a thorn on the face of the Muslim community, which pricks non-Muslims, scaring them away before they can discover the Muslims' true position. Thus an atmosphere favorable to understanding the message of Islam is not allowed lo develop. This prevents the non Muslims to see Islam in its true perspective.
If we truly believe in the advent of the last day, when people will be taken to account for their actions, then we must shed this thorn. If we do not do this there is a real danger of our being visited by the scourge of God, and having to bear others' sins as well as our own.
Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent, and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his neighbour, and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous lo his guest.
Fear Allah wherever you are, and follow up a bad deed with a good one and it will wipe it out, and behave well towards people.
THE TEACHER TREE
The tree-trunk forms one half of a tree and the roots the other half. Botanists tell us that in most of the cases, there is just as much of a tree spread under the ground as there is standing above the ground. The top half of a tree can only stand erect and verdant above the ground when it is prepared to bury its other half beneath the ground. This is an example which trees show to mankind; a philosopher puts it this way:
"Root downward, fruit upward that is the divine protocol."
The rose comes to a perfect combination of colour, line and aroma atop a tall stem. Its perfection is achieved, however, because first a root went down into the homely matrix of the common earth. Those who till the soil or garden understand the analogy. Our interests have so centered on gathering the fruit that it has been easy to forget the cultivation of the root.
A tree stands above the ground, fixing its roots firmly beneath the ground. It grows from beneath, upwards into the air; it does not start at the top and grow downwards. The tree is our teacher imparting to us the lesson of nature that if we seek to progress outwardly, we must first strengthen ourselves inwardly; we must begin from the base of our own selves before we can, hope to build society anew.
[Extracts of articles by Moulana Waheed-Uddin Khan, courtesy The Monthly ‘TAZKEER’ Lahore January 2009].