Science deals with the structure, the make-up and operation of the Creator’s perceivable handiwork; Science does not —and cannot— deal with Him who is the Creator in His very Self. Although the textual records of revelation are open to examination and verification, the metaphysical divine origin of those historical texts is not verifiable exclusively through the tools of Science.
The human heart is a different matter: it can register and respond intuitively to texts of divine origin. Spiritual truth strikes a chord in human hearts. The heart of any individual person, living his/her personal life, can also be responsive to its Creator. The more certain the heart is about his Lord, the more grounded will the individual Muslim be in carrying out the five “Pillars of Islam” in a meaningful, heart-felt spiritually-satisfying manner.
HOW DOES SCIENCE RELATE TO THE TRUTH?
Science deals with categories of things which replicate or re-occur. Science is not in a position to deal with one-of-a-kind things, whether events or beings. Allah is the one-and-only Deity! He is one-of-a-kind. There is none like Him! His category has no semblance to anything that Science investigates. However, Allah’s acts are repeated throughout the history of mankind: He send prophets to guide and ‘books’ to be left with tribes and peoples.
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Science does not pretend to address any level of exploration into the ‘mind’ or essence of Deity. It does not pretend to deal with the question of whether or not any sort of Deity exists. We live in a time when everything is open to doubt; in fact, it is good to demand evidence for the claims of religion. Even the Quran asks one to look deeply and analytically into the ‘signs’ all round him in the physical world.
Many individual scientists have been interested in questions of whether God exists or what a human being can know about Him, but Science itself has no tools established for verifying or falsifying such matters. I would like to emphasize that those who argue that God does not exist —or cannot possibly exist— are likely to have in mind a concept of God which differs from the ‘Allah’ who speaks in the Quran.
Science is a human endeavor: It serves to bring order and hierarchy to the vast multitude of things and events which can be observed by multiple humans, across time and space. Science attempts to explain, categorize, and quantify the interrelationships among all observables. By contrast, revelation is a one-way communications transaction; human beings are asked to consider the signs and tokens of God’s disclosure, woven into the created universe surrounding us, a universe to which we belong and in which we play a decisive role.
The Quran refers to its verses as ‘Signs’; it uses the same term, ayah, for the phenomena of nature, including the make-up of our own bodies, minds and hearts/souls. When we humans ponder the numerous Signs, the purposes of Deity are to be made known to us through spiritually given means —means residing in the very fiber of our being.
Now, they [who disbelieve] ask you, [O Prophet,] about [the nature of] the spirit. Say [to them]: The spirit [of life] is of the affair of my Lord [alone]. Nor have you [human beings] been given of knowledge more than very little. [Sûrah Al-Isrâ’, 17:85]
In spite of what is revealed for us humans to comprehend, some deny the validity of those observations, or ‘signs’ of Deity, which they categorize as not scientifically relevant, and thereby they restrict the extent to which they are willing to avail themselves of a more complete and comprehensive human knowledge and enlightenment. The Quran is adamant in condemning those who hear and see but refuse in their hearts to understand.
And thus clearly do We spell out these messages; and [We do it] so that they [who have invented falsehood] might return [unto Us]. And tell them what happens to him to whom We vouchsafe Our messages and who then discards them: Satan catches up with him, and he strays, like so many others, into grievous error. Now had We so willed, We could indeed have exalted him by means of those [messages]: but he always clung to the earth and followed but his own desires. Thus, his parable is that of an [excited] dog: if you approach him threateningly, he will pant with his tongue lolling; and if you leave him alone, he will pant with his tongue lolling. Such is the parable of those who are bent on giving the lie to Our messages. Tell [them], then, this story, so that they might take thought. Evil is the example of people who are bent on giving the lie to Our messages: for it is against their own selves that they are sinning! He whom God guides, he alone is truly guided; whereas those whom He lets go astray – it is they, they who are the losers [of an everlasting Paradise]! And most certainly have We destined for hell many of the invisible beings and men who have hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear. They are like cattle – nay, they are even less conscious of the right way: it is they, they who are the [truly] heedless! [Sûrah Al-A’râf, 7:174-179]
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with us humans wanting to understand our world and ourselves in a way that gives us insight into how our material world works, and thus to feel a firm purpose in life. In fact, it is commendable to pursue studies in scientific knowledge and especially to consider a career in a scientific field. Let us Muslims be in the forefront of scientific investigation — as we once were!
Science —when properly understood and used— is stimulating intellectually, and highly beneficial in both theoretical knowledge and practical applications. But the very characteristic that is the strength of scientific method is at the same time its weakness: It is a closed system, limited to human perceptual faculties and human logical thought processes —yes, consistent within itself, but shut off from what is outside or beyond its sphere.
Humans, unlike our Creator, live in a world in which we depend upon our five senses —so then, Science of course ‘makes sense’ to us. But it also makes sense to thinking men and women that there is something beyond the Seen which we cannot reliably access unaided. Those who insist that we cannot reliably know anything beyond the Seen, even they cannot deny that the Unseen exists. They limit themselves by insisting on using inappropriate tools to explore the Unseen. The heart must be trained —or simply allowed— to work in synchrony with the mind, in order to gain certinty of spiritual truth.
Even the multitude of mankind’s inventions from ancient times, like the ships referred to in the Quran, or like man’s know-how in the manufacture and use of iron, or like developments in our 21st century technology—all these are based on, and work with, the natural law and order which the Creator has designed into His creation. What European scientists called the Laws of Nature are stable and can be addressed by Science—though all ‘natural’ materials and forces remain at the behest of their Creator and Maintainer.
Do you not see that [it is] God [who] has subjugated for you all that is in the earth and the ships that run through the sea, by His command?… [Sûrah Al-Hajj, 22:65]
Moreover, of His [wondrous] signs are the ships [running with hoisted sail] in the sea like mountains. If He so wills, He stills the wind, and they remain motionless on its surface. Indeed, in [all of] this there are [sure] signs of God’s power for every patient, ever-thankful [soul]. Or He wrecks them for what they have [duly] earned—though He pardons much— so those who argue against Our [natural and revealed] signs may know that they do not have any asylum [from God’s judgment]. [Sûrah Al-Shûrâ, 42:32-35]
Indeed, [even aforetime] did We send forth Our apostles with all evidence of [this] truth … and We bestowed [upon you] from on high [the ability to make use of] iron, in which there is awesome power as well as [a source of] benefits for man and [all this was given to you] so that God might mark out those who would stand up for him and His Apostle, even though He [Himself] is beyond the reach of human perception. Verily, God is powerful, almighty. [Sûrah Al-Hadîd, 57:25]
Those who ponder the signs of their Creator reach out to connect with a spiritual or metaphysical reality, out of reach of Science but within the reach of those who are willing to submit themselves to its Truth. In fact, one of the Names of Allah is Al-Haqq (the Truth). The Truth of our seen world —including our own existence, our own nature, our own purpose and destiny— all of it, is inseparably linked to the Sole Creator and Maintainer of all.
Say [to those who associate others with God]: Who provides for you from heaven and earth? Or who holds [power] over hearing and sight? And who brings forth the living from the dead, and brings forth the dead from the living? And who conducts every affair [of existence with perfection and wisdom]? Then shall they reply: God! Then say [to them]: Will you not, then be God-fearing? This, then, is God your Lord, the [Eternal] Truth. So after the truth, what is there but error? How, then, are you turned away [from God]? [Surah Yûsuf, 10:31-32]
…Then and there, [it became clear that] all authority is for God [alone], the [Sole] Truth. It is He who is best in [bestowing] reward and best in [ensuring a blissful] outcome. [Sûrah Al-Kahf, 18:44]
Did you think, then, that We had created you in vain, and that you would not be returned to Us [for Judgment]? Rather, most high [far above all] is God: The King! The [Eternal] Truth! There is no God but Him, the Lord of the Gracious Throne. [Sûrah Al-Mu’minûn, 23:115-116]
Truly, We have brought you [human beings] the truth [in this Quran]. Yet most of you are [utterly] abhorrent of the truth. [Sûrah Al-Zukhruf, 43:78]
Allah is identified with Truth; all truth derives from Him. Truth is in accord with who He is within Himself, and truth is defined by what He wills into existence, and by how He wills things to be. Science works to discover the truths of our world. It is not correct to say that our Creator is equivalent to the sum total of all that exists. No. Rather, He exists independently of His creation. The creation —meaning all that He has created and continues to create— is not to be equated with a physical materialization of the Creator Himself. Deity does not reside within our material world —within this closed system— and God in Himself is not accessible to our physical human perceptions, even though it is He who animates all that is within our material world. Allah “sees,” “hears,” and “knows” in ways beyond our capacity to hear, see or know.
The revelation of this Book is from God [on high], the Overpowering [One], the All-Knowing; the Forgiver of Sin and the Acceptor of Repentance; the Severe in Punishment—[and ever in all of these,] the Limitless in Bounty! There is no God but Him. To Him [alone] is the ultimate destiny [of Judgment and justice]. None argues against the signs of God [that He has revealed in this Quran] except for those who disbelieve. … He knows every treacherous look of the eyes and all that the [human] breast conceals. Thus God judges by [nothing but] the truth. But all that they call upon apart from Him cannot judge by anything at all. Indeed, it is [only] God who is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. [Surah Ghâfir, 40:2-4, 19-20]
…To be continued in Part 5