The Professor attended a conference run by the a group calling themselves the Association of Islamic Scientists, on Scientific Miracles in the Qur’an. Many of the talks concerned finding links between concepts of modern physics (models of the solar system, the big bang, etc) and biology (DNA, health and fitness, etc) and verses of the Qur’an. The point made again and again was that no ordinary 7th century document could allude so perfectly to these recent discoveries of science, and it must, therefore, be God given.
During a typical session on physics, a Turkish brother said the following:
“Today, the relativity of time is a proven scientific fact. This was revealed by Einstein’s theory of relativity during the early part of the 20th century. Until then, it was not known that time was relative, nor that it could change according to the circumstances. Yet, the renowned scientist Albert Einstein proved this fact by discovering the theory of relativity. He showed that time is dependent on mass and velocity.
“However, the Qur’an had already included information about time’s being relative! Some verses about the subject read:
… A day with your Lord is equivalent to a thousand years in the way you count. (Qur’an, 22:47)
He directs the whole affair from heaven to earth. Then it will again ascend to Him on a Day whose length is a thousand years by the way you measure. (Qur’an, 32:5)
The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is fifty thousand years. (Qur’an, 70:4)
“The fact that the relativity of time is so definitely mentioned in the Qur’an, which began to be revealed in 610, is more evidence that it is a divine book.”
The Professor stood up and gave the following reply:
Speaking as a trained scientist, your naive discussion does not move me. Not so much for its inaccuracies (it certainly has them), but for taking what is, for me, basically a language game, a trinket, an empirical mode of interaction with the cosmos — and elevating that game to the level of the Divine Revelation.
Everyone at this meeting is playing with trinkets and finding them within the Holy Book. But recall you and your actions are mentioned therein:
Is then one brought up among trinkets, and unable to give a clear account in a dispute? (43:18)
My response to this link is almost the same as that of a plumber, who is told that someone has discovered a indisputable instructions within the Qur’an that inform us how to fix our bathroom sink.
I enjoy plumbing, and know that plumbing as a game, consisting of rules and tools and constraints, is very much from Allah, and, as an activity can become illuminated, if, through negotiating my way through unblocking a sink or ensuring water flows through the tap, I become self-aware of my Symbolic position as a subject-plumber, and understand that all signs defer to, and gain their significance and meaning via, the Face of Allah.
Increasingly, the ontology of Islam has found its basis in the belief that there is nothing in reality besides the activity of plumbing. There are Muslims out there, so enamoured with their bathrooms, their toilets and kitchenettes, the fact that plumbing has brought them this much comfort and — yes, does diagnose problems with perfect precision and accuracy — that these Muslims begin to believe that there is nothing to be said about the Cosmos other than — plumbing, its rules, and its tools — and that God himself (astagfirullah) is in fact, a sort of Head Plumber or perhaps a Local Planning Agency, with Jannah as head office.
This is innocuous mainly. But it is also a potentially dangerous view of the world (Hitler enters Poland ostensibly to mend the boiler).
I generally don’t like to get into this topic of Science and Islam, but because of the current position of the ummah, the topic continually rears its ugly head. I observe that many Muslims cling to a “faith” based on scientific proof rather than an actual personal contact with the Divine. I remember one progressive brother telling me that “people don’t convert or revert because of a unique personal experience” — they convert because of being convinced, effectively, of the social perfection of the shariah and the absolute empirical scientific basis of the Qur’an. He then mocked the Christians (and, I guess, the Sufis) for what he perceived was a “superstitious” notion that they could have a personal contact with the Divine.
There was a recent debate held in London between a Christian Anglican and a Richard Dawkins style atheist about science and religion. The atheist had a whole host of the usual solid rationalist arguments against any claims that the holy books in any way preempt the findings of scientific method. But when the atheist confronted the Anglican regarding the existence of God, the Anglican said: “I believe in God because I’ve personally experienced Christ”. To which the atheist could not respond (except perhaps by asserting that the Anglican suffered some personal form of psychological delusion). Many Muslims today would not reply in such a way. They would be embarrassed to stake their faith on a personal experience of the Divine — particularly in public! Progressive Muslims simply don’t talk in that mode: their proofs must be social, scientific, for the group, not individual or personal.
Speak to any apostate about claims of scientific miracles of the Qur’an. Many have spent years convincing themselves of your progressive arguments — maintaining a rationalist vision of the world, with one blind spot left for God — acting as you do today, making da’wa to prove to others than the Qur’an contains all these scientific facts. Eventually, if they are consistent with themselves, only apostasy is left (because in fact they were atheists all along). For such an apostate, after years of restriction to a plumber’s totalization of reality, it is eventually understood that plumbing can be done pretty well without a God at all.
These cases are ones of tragedy in the classical sense, because the essence of tragedy is missed timing, epitomized in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The entire ummah will pass through that Shakespearean trope again and again before it is saved. It is not through rejection of plumbing that the apostate could have found the Face of Allah, but neither is it through seeing the Qur’an as a manual for the trade of plumbing.
The True Muslim finds everything he/she needs through the realisation that jihad links all systems, and all systems are a masjid, and that plumbing, though a trinket, is a language game of sufficient complexity for this jihad to take place, with the result of his bathrooms, kitchens and toilets becoming illuminated. The Muslim will find this, not through rejecting work, nor elevating work to be a miracle of the Qur’an, but, rather, whistling while working:
(May the Seven be unified through activity by the Princess within the house! May Romeo and Juliet be transmogrified into a Disney happy ending.)
Another way of putting things. Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the universe”, because he wasn’t happy with the stochastic nature of Quantum Mechanics. Well, I say that God doesn’t play dice, but scientists do, necessarily: no one will deny the utility of Quantum Mechanics. Turn off your electricity, switch off your computer, stop using your mobile phone if you want to try. Similarly, wealthy tailors occasionally engage in the odd half bottle (or two) of Shiraz (never during Ramadan though). And so it is written:
They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.’ (2:219)
We are audacious in our manifold sins of drunken metamodelling and stochastic speculation, and stand on the brink of ruin: but Allah is Merciful and Compassionate.