Basma Qazi Chaudhry, Kent
It is Ramadan, a holy month which takes us on a journey of spiritual enhancement and is filled with the remembrance of Allah. It is time to speak little, to eat little and to sleep little, as per a famous Persian proverb. It is also time to reflect on the many Attributes of our Creator.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) writes in his book, Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, “Man is supposed to have full awareness of his Creator and to understand His attributes to a level that his cognisance reaches a degree of certainty.” The key to this cognisance lies in God-consciousness and the desire to emulate His attributes, within the realm of the possible; in other words, belief and action. One such attribute is Al-Aleem, the All-Knowing, possessor of knowledge absolute, past, present and future. Allah Almighty has given us His written Word as a master key; the Holy Quran, revealed in the holy month of Ramadan, is knowledge incarnate such that “…if the oceans became ink for the words of my Lord, surely the ocean will be exhausted before the words of my Lord came to an end [18:110].”
As a scientist, the Quran spoke to Nobel laureate Professor Abdul Salam. He once wrote, “The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.”
To help us mere humans along the way to attaining true knowledge, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) tells us that “Allah has designed the human mind with two different talents. On the one hand, he has been given intellectual abilities…[and] on the other hand Allah has gifted man with spiritual powers and perceptions as well.” [i]
We are told that these talents are a dual gift; the intellectual abilities allow us to observe and analyse the elaborate infrastructure of our physical nature and declare that this profoundly organised universe should have a creator. It is, however, beyond the capacity of the intellectual abilities to go further and declare the existence of said creator. It is not within their scope. However, the spiritual faculty advances comprehension to the point where one knows that there is indeed a creator. The mere inference that there ought to be a higher force at work cannot be complete understanding. Both forces complement each other.
Nowhere is this pairing more fruitful than when we ponder upon the created universe and try to understand God through nature. The noble laureate Professor Abdus Salam once said, “We are trying to discover what the Lord thought; of course, we miserably fail most of the time, but sometimes there is great satisfaction in seeing a little bit of the truth.”
Before the advent of the Promised Messiah (as), Muslims generally believed that the truths of the Holy Quran had been exhaustively laid bare, by the early scholars. That there was nothing more to be said. Astonishing is it not for this is Allah’s very own speech. Its knowledge could never be confined by anything less than infinity. Science has demonstrated time and again that knowledge of our physical nature is boundless. The humble honey bee continues to fascinate, and the human genome is only just mapped. Even the tiniest blade of grass seems to hide within it an infinity of structure and functions. The words of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood, the Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community sum it best:
How could they have ever conceived that the Word of God would or even could be limited in meaning? Was it to yield all its meaning in one or two generations and nothing in the succeeding generations? If external nature can yield new knowledge from day to day, if philosophy and science can continue to advance, if geology, archaeology, physiology, botany, zoology, astronomy, political science, political economy, sociology, psychology, ethics, and other natural studies can be added to daily, should not the Word of God yield more and more knowledge as we advance from one period of history to another?
Knowledge is par force, a time-dependant continuum, with history and changes over time. It matters where we were a 100 years ago, 500 years ago or where we will be 500 years from now. We crow about our supposedly superior human significance. Let’s gain a little perspective. Cosmologists estimate that the universe has been in existence for about 15 billion years. If we were to imagine all that time compressed in to one calendar year, then human beings only appeared at 10.30pm on the 31st of December, become fire domesticated at 11.46 p.m. and the whole of recorded history occupies only the last ten seconds of the said cosmic year. Not only that, but in cosmic terms, we are infinitesimal. According to astronomers, there are ten times more stars in the universe than grains of sands in all the world’s deserts and beaches. Yet currently, we flatter ourselves that we have discovered the laws that apply to all times and all places. Since we are only familiar with a tiny fraction of the universe, this seems like a huge leap of faith. Hence, there is no guarantee that our current knowledge is the correct one. Future generations may look upon our achievements and dismiss our science as crude just as we did the Ptolemaic theory in favour of Galileo’s.
The Holy Quran is the Word of God, His very speech; it is but fitting that we should and will derive newer and newer knowledge from it. If modern science seems contrary to the teaching of the Qur’an, the errors, whenever and wherever necessary, will be corrected, by new knowledge drawn from the Qur’an.
“Science [is] concerned with nature, the handiwork of God. The Quran [is] the Word of God…There can be no contradiction between the two.”
Any doubts raised by natural knowledge are due only to lack of reflection. In other words, we haven’t gotten there yet. But in order to advance in our knowledge and appreciation of the universe, we should be looking towards the Book of Al Aleem.
[i] The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), Haqiqatul Wahi, as cited in URL: https://www.alislam.org/allah/Al-Aleem-Bestower-of-True-Dreams.pdf