Man as a Measure of All Things: The Evolution vs. Creation Debate

The following is an enlightening article by Harvard student Br. Daniel Haqiqatjou which debunks the highly prevalent notion in our society that “science = truth” which he dubs the Science Success Question (or SSQ). An extremely well-articulated response to those who reject Allah’s description of the creation of Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). The article, which has been published in Ascent Magazine, an Islamic magazine published by students from Harvard and MIT, reappears here with permission from the author. Enjoy- Ahmad Al Farsi

 

Imagine throwing a die. Regardless of your belief in God or the lack thereof, you will agree that if a die is thrown, there is a one in six chance the number three will face up. The belief in God or the lack thereof does not add or subtract anything from the description of this phenomenon. Sure, the atheist will attribute the three to something like “randomness” and the theist will attribute it to the will of God. But in the end, both the theist and atheist have the same physical description of a throw of the die.

The situation is much the same for the scientific description of other physical phenomena, including the theory of evolution. There is nothing inherent to the Darwinian theory of evolution or its derivatives that precludes the existence of a creator, nor is there anything that demands one. Any “randomness” or “chance circumstance” involved at any point of the evolutionary process is no more or less a proof against the existence of God than the randomness involved in any physical process, like the throwing of dice. The eminent evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, coined the expression non-overlapping magisteria to denote the inability of the scientific process to confirm or refute anything of the metaphysics of religion as well as the impotence of religion to interfere with the realm of science. This is as much a descriptive notion as it is a prescriptive one: religion and science should remain constrained to their respective domains.

This conceptualization is undoubtedly comforting to those scientists who consider themselves religious as well as to believers who consider themselves scientifically inclined. But is the situation as neat and clean as it seems? One indication that it is not is the fact that often both religionists and scientists claim their respective Weltanschauungs to be the sole foundation upon which Truth is built, a foundation undivided by ad hoc magisteria.

And indeed, the division between scientific knowledge and other types of knowledge is not as clear-cut as our materialist cultural ethos might have us convinced. In the philosophy of science, this is called the Demarcation Problem. What is it that distinguishes a scientific theory from religion, metaphysics, or sheer myth? Is science free from cultural bias, ideology, and provinciality? Is science truly objective and universal?

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It is that materialist within all of us in the modern world that reacts to these questions with, “Of course science is objective and beyond cultural biases, unlike something as subjective as religion! How else can you explain the widespread success of science and technology?”

This question, which I will refer to as the Success of Science Question (SSQ), is more of an indication of our deeply ingrained pre-commitments than a rational defense of the objectivity of scientific thought. It should be apparent that the question itself is subjective: who or what determines “success”? If we, as a civilization, place material and material pursuits in a position of primacy by which all else is appraised, then naturally a system of thought and methodology that serves those values will be seen as the vanguard, whereas other systems of thought that serve those distinctly immaterial domains of human life, like religion, are given less weight.

But the SSQ is meant to be more philosophically penetrating than that. Stated more potently, the question asks: “How can science not be tied to an objective, physical reality when its methodologies allow us to manipulate and predict the world around us so decidedly?” In other words, there is a presumed correlation between those scientific hypotheses and what physically happens in the world, which implies that science has some basis in an objective, non-provincial reality.

It is easy to respond to this claim by appeal to the history of science. In virtually every period of human civilization, models of the universe have been proposed, developed, dogmatically adhered to, and eventually displaced. Ptolemy, for example, proposed his geocentric cosmology to account for the volumes of empirical data on the night sky. The model provided an empirically accurate description of the motions of celestial bodies, which then advanced the navigational methods of seafarers as well as the “predictive
powers” of astrologers. In these material terms, his model was very successful, though we know today that his model had little to do with reality. What makes us think that our current theories are any closer to reality than Ptolemy’s? What makes us think that we are
not the Ptolemys of tomorrow?

By reflecting on and studying other prominent examples in the history of science, we see that scientific thought has by no means developed through some consistent, methodological process over the centuries as the SSQ seems to imply. If anything, the development of scientific thought has been a long, bumpy, twisted road where no one anywhere on it has been able to predict what lies beyond the next bend. Who could have imagined the development and success of ideas like heliocentricity, laws of motion, Maxwell’s equations, relativity, the quantum, or superstrings? If science is tied to what we intuit is a regular, patterned objective reality, how can scientific development be so utterly non-linear?

Beyond history, the SSQ suffers from a more serious problem. It should be noted that scientific practice itself is a process of the constant reformulation of failed hypotheses. This is a significant aspect of science we cannot ignore, as it has vast implications for the SSQ. Let us take a closer look at the SSQ. Again, it asks us to explain how science can not be tied to an objective reality when its methodologies allow us to predict and manipulate the world around us. Now, when we take into account the fact that in actual scientific practice, theories and methodologies are constantly being tweaked and reformulated in order to account for and be congruent with what we observe around us, we realize that something has gone conceptually awry.

To make matters clear, let me ask the following question: What is good science? Undoubtedly, a good scientific theory is one that accounts for all known and relevant empirical data. If a theory does not account for known data, it is effectively discounted as a possible description of reality (and is at most considered a useful approximation). For most of scientific practice, however, this is not exactly what happens. In practice, most theories are not completely discarded when contrary empirical evidence is discovered. Much more often, they are modified and tweaked in such a way as to remain congruent with the data. This process of reformulation and tweaking is the principal modus operandi between the hypothesizing scientist and the world around him.

How is this problematic for the SSQ? Well, the SSQ implies that science is successful because it facilitates the accurate prediction and manipulation of the physical world. But, from the above discussion of scientific practice we see that science is defined as that which corresponds to what we consider the accurate prediction and manipulation of the physical world. So the SSQ is posed in terms that are viciously circular. If we define good scientific theory and methodology as that which corresponds to what we consider accurate prediction, then science is successful (i.e., congruent with prediction) by definition.

And as if this were not enough to make us seriously doubt the logical grounding of the SSQ and its implications, we realize that science is not the only system of thought whose development is moderated by the check of empirical adequacy. Many world religions of the past and present are moderated by what people observe. In fact, that is exactly the argument used to discredit certain religions and mythologies (ironically, by those who seem not to realize that science itself falls prey to the same objections). It seems obvious to many that religion and mythology are simply the attempts of un-scientific, irrational people to explain physical phenomena such as the rising of the sun, or pregnancy, or the seasons.

For example, let us say there is a “primitive” society somewhere in the “uncivilized” world whose people have developed a complex mythology to describe the motions of the stars, sun, and moon. The mythologies themselves consist of stories about gods and goddesses who interact with each other in specific and idiosyncratic ways, and these relationships result in the observed motions of the celestial bodies. One day, the people of this society witness for the first time a solar eclipse. This is a shocking observation (or finding). The priestly class scrambles for some way to account for this bizarre and unsettling event (i.e., discovery). Their project is to create (i.e., formulate) a mythological account (i.e., theory) of the solar eclipse that accounts for the eclipse (i.e., is empirically adequate) and is, for the most part, harmonious with the established mythological accounts of the past and present (i.e., is a reformulated and tweaked version of past accounts). How is this project qualitatively different from any scientific project of the past or present? Now the following may sound shocking, even brazen, and perhaps the reader might think I am being overly dramatic. But I simply ask the reader to consider the following question in light of my description of said primitive society: How exactly is, say, the strange and top quark different from Zeus and Artemis?

All this begins to indicate that science is not a uniform body of objective thought and practice mechanically marching forward through time, though again, our materialist commitments scream to us to believe otherwise. In actuality, scientific thought, like any other system of thought including religion, metaphysics, and myth, has developed sporadically and regionally, with scientists continuously influenced by environmental, ideological, and societal factors, guided by supra-rational intuition and reliance on obsolete yet lingering theories of yesteryear as much as anything else. Removing the veil, we find the parable of science the parable of a blindfolded man stumbling through the darkness, his understanding of and interaction with the vast universe based merely on the last block upon which he happened to stumble.

This discussion is not meant to say that science is not useful, even immensely so. And it is assuredly not to say that religion, myth, and science are all epistemically by default on the same level of truth or untruth; I am a committed Muslim, after all. It is only meant to challenge the authoritarian grip science maintains over our notions of objectivity, rationality, and ultimate Truth. In the debate on evolution versus creation, the playing field will be fundamentally uneven and unfair unless this authority is intellectually critiqued. Assumptions which merely beg the question in favor of scientific materialism prevent the discussion from even getting off to a profitable start.

And so where does that leave us in the debate on religious creationism and evolution? Well, it depends on your religion. For the Muslim, the Qur’an is the transcendental Word of God. And Adam (peace upon him)—a speaking, thinking human being—is documented therein as the first of humankind. Similar to the situation in Christianity and Judaism, only a non-literal interpretation of this Adam mentioned by God can be reconciled with Darwinian macroevolution, and for most Muslims true to this aspect of their tradition, such allegorization is not an intellectually or spiritually robust option. Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria has no potency against such readings. And so, what’s left for the scientifically inclined modern Muslim, or theist in general?

Well for starters, he or she can feel confident in mentally nudging science off its high horse with its claims to epistemic superior it over all other systems of thought, as I have begun to do in this short essay. Intellectually, that should be enough to dissolve the conflict between traditional religious interpretation and science. For those theists or atheists who, for whatever reason, are not convinced by what I have described of science and prefer to maintain their faith in materialism, I propose the following weaker, yet sufficient, argument in support of traditional religious interpretations.

Imagine a day when there comes along a brilliant scientist who hypothesizes a remarkable theory on the origin of species that puts Darwin on his head: a theory that says that certain chemical and physical processes, under the right conditions, can spontaneously lead to the formation of highly complex organisms. The conditions are impossible to recreate in the lab, but nevertheless, through this theory, it is possible that organisms as complex as humans came about literally out of thin air. Of course, such a theory if verified would not be a “proof of God,” but it would be a strong indication that God’s description of things may not be as outlandish and in need of figurative interpretation as some of us may think.

Does this daydream sound far-fetched? Well, this is exactly the conceptual situation with the theory of the Big Bang. Modern cosmology asks us to believe that the entire universe, with all its complexities and all its many physical laws and constants in outrageously perfect harmony, literally came out of nothing. Bang! and it was all set. Whether theist or atheist, how can one be so confident in this account of the formation of the entire universe but have utmost skepticism for a considerably less fantastic account of the formation of Homo sapiens or any other species? Is man more complex than the entire universe? Ironically, only someone with an egocentricity characteristic of the belief that man is the center of the universe and that all revolves around him would be inclined to answer this question in the affirmative.

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21 responses to “Man as a Measure of All Things: The Evolution vs. Creation Debate”

  1. Hamdi says:

    Wonderful article masha’Allah.

  2. abu ameerah says:

    Nice article, mashallah.

    However, the fact of the matter is that Creationists have never really given the Evolutionist camp a run for their money, so to speak.

    The debate on Evolution — from a purely scientific (or pseudo scientific depending upon how you look at it) standpoint — is almost always won by the Evolutionist camp. Or at least they have the loudest voice.

    Creationists (Harun Yahya included) really haven’t provided the west with a cogent argument against the theory of evolution. It ends up being more philosophy and abstract thought — rather than pure scientific data.

    As a result, I think it may be better for Muslims to sort of “chill” on this one and hold off on any debates. Instead, we can GIVE IT — FULL FORCE — Qur’an & Sunnah style when making dawah w/ regard to this issue.

  3. Assalaamu alaykum,

    Well… that’s the point akhee. We can GIVE IT- FULL FORCE – by “knocking science off of its intellectual high horse” to quote the article.

    Let’s put things in perspective inshaAllah:

    At the end of the day, the question we must ask ourselves is: What do we take as the ULTIMATE TRUTH. For a Muslim following the way of Ahl usSunnah, the answer is clear: the Qur’an and Sunnah.

    The issue with the Ahl ul Kalaam is that they were so convinced with Aristotle’s “Proof of Existence by Accidents Theory” (and it’s logical implications) as being TRUTH, that they reinterpreted the Qur’an and Sunnah to fit with this theory… to quote Sh. Yasir, they put on their “special glasses” when they read the Qur’an and Sunnah.

    I strongly feel that this is the same problem with those who absolutely cannot accept the creation of Adam as explained in the Qur’an, and that is that they fail to differentiate between science and TRUTH. As Br. Daniel explained in his article, SCIENCE formulates theories that can account for empirical data. That is fine that science does that… actually that is great if you ask me… but it is NOT TRUTH :) . See where I am going? While science is necessary and wonderful, it is completely wrong to take a scientific claim as one’s source of guidance. If the contemporary scientific community is convinced of evolution… well, I will say with a huge grin on my face that the current scientific community is WRONG :) (at least regarding humans). Perhaps they came up with a theory that fits the data, but that does not give them any right to the truth!

    Modernist/progressive Muslims have a similar issue… They assume a priori that their theories on freedom, women’s rights, etc. are TRUTH… then they interpret the Qur’an and Sunnah with their ‘special glasses.’ (I am not implying that the Qur’an and Sunnah do not provide freedom nor women’s rights, but the scope of understanding of these terms is certainly drastically different from that of Western soceity’s).

    So I feel that the vein Br. Daniel’s article has taken is EXACTLY the vein Muslims should follow when they GIVE IT – FULL FORCE – to the evolutionists. :)

    Wassalaam
    Akhook al-Farsi

  4. Jon Strong says:

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    One thing science cannot do, any more than religion can, is justify itself. It is a moral choice on which approach to truth we choose to take. For me, the moral choice is clear.

    The example of the primitive society does not fall under the category of science because it does not adhere to Occam’s razor. Scientists observe a preference for the least complex explanation for an observation. Science surprises us with it’s complexity and strangeness in many cases, but this complexity and strangeness is born out of necessity to explain the phenomena in parsimonious terms. This is in contrast to religion, which adorns and decorates dogmatic beliefs to bring new observations into line with beliefs assumed to be true by fiat.

    The author addresses the problem of creation/evolution and gets it profoundly wrong. Stripping away the verbiage, his argument is an appeal to strict adherence and fundamentalism. The problem is obvious: the author applies a great skepticism towards science and all other religions except his own.

    It should be noted I am not an expert on Islam nor the philosophy of science, but I think my points are valid. I am open to ongoing discussion and enlightenment if others are willing to defend their points of view.

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  6. Dear Jon,

    Wa alaykum ussalaam,

    I do not see your point. Yes, generally, but not always, science takes a minimalistic approach to set forth a theory to explain empirical data/observations (i.e. it follows Occam’s Razor).

    This methodology, while an important principle in modeling a physical phenomenon, does not inherently lend itself to “truth.” What it does lend itself to is simplicity.

    You wrote:

    This is in contrast to religion, which adorns and decorates dogmatic beliefs to bring new observations into line with beliefs assumed to be true by fiat.

    I must say that this is entirely incorrect… especially from an Islamic perspective. For Muslims, our religion is revelation… what has been revealed by Allah from above the heavens to His Prophet (peace be upon him)… there is no element of human observation whatsoever involved in what constitutes the Islamic faith; a Muslim’s faith is based solely on revelation (at least this is the belief of Ahl usSunnah).

    You also wrote:

    The author addresses the problem of creation/evolution and gets it profoundly wrong. Stripping away the verbiage, his argument is an appeal to strict adherence and fundamentalism. The problem is obvious: the author applies a great skepticism towards science and all other religions except his own.

    The fundamental question you (and all mankind) should be asking is not whether or not to ‘strictly adhere’ to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Rather the fundamental question you should be asking is whether or not the Qur’an is the Speech of Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet.

    If your answer is yes, then it is clear that everything revealed in the Qur’an or conveyed by the Prophet Muhammad is the truth. There is no need to modify (read: corrupt) this truth with any external sources.

    For the Muslim, the answer is obvously yes. If a person does not believe (or even seriously doubts that) the Qur’an is revealed by Allah, nor believes that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah, then, by definitoin, he is not a Muslim. Thus, although you dub such a reading of the Qur’an as “fundamentalist,” this is the only logical conclusion at which a Muslim can arrive.

    As for casting doubts on other religions in exclusion to our own… if a Muslim believes Islam is true, he cannot believe that any other religion is the truth (as they contain mutually exclusive beliefs). Likewise, if the contemporary scientific community sets forth any theory that contradicts Islamic beliefs, then that theory must be rejected.

    The real question to ask then is: “Is the Qur’an the word of Allah?” The only way to find out is to read it.

  7. Jon Strong says:

    I did not claim simplicity inherently lends itself to truth; I merely invoked Occam’s razor to distinguish what makes good science and what does not. The author asks how supernatural explanations are qualitatively different from any scientific project of the past or present, and I believe I answered his question.

    I fail to see how Islamic ‘revelation’ differs from other religions with holy texts. Christianity considers itself the revelation of the Abrahamic monotheisms as well.

    I stand by my statement that this way of thinking about the Qur’an is a fundamentalist interpretation. People may believe the Qur’an is revealed by Allah and that Muhammad is the Prophet yet hold a variety of views on women’s rights, homosexuality, and secularism based upon re-interpretations of the Qur’an. Likewise Muslims have found ways to reconcile evolution by re-interpretation.

    • Rashid says:

      I am inclined to concur with Jon Strong. A literal creationist viewpoint is untenable on multiple levels — even from a religious one as it detracts from the nature of a universally supreme God.

      At any rate, the occurrence of evolution is not a theory. It is an observable fact. The theory of evolution is on the mechanism of HOW species evolved. A rookie mistake that creationists seem fated to continue. Another rookie mistake: Despite the naming of Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species”, the theory of evolution has nothing to do with the formation of life. That is abiogenesis.

      Let us also not confuse the deductive method with the inductive method. There is nothing viciously circular about the Scientific Method. It should certainly be pointed out that a scientific theory is a very different thing from a mathematical theorem. It is only in mathematics that we prove things. In science we can simply be convinced of a matter on the basis of observable evidence. Mathematics considers the inductive method to be non-rigorous. (Method of proof by Mathematical Induction, however, is actually a deductive process and is therefore very rigorous.)

      I agree that some biologists are very presumptuous in their stance (I abhor Dawkins and his approach, while I applaud Gould), in spite of the fact that their field essentially lacks rigour. However, evolution stands out from the rest of biology because the interest in the process from the formal sciences (i,.e. mathematics and theoretical computer science) has resulted in much of the field having become formalised. There is a great degree of mathematical rigour in the evolutionary theory… And nobody can argue against a mathematical theorem.

      Early Muslim scholars had no problem propounding the first scientific theories on evolution, nearly a millennium before Darwin.
      ‘Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring.’
      — BOOK OF ANIMALS, AL-JAHIZ (776-869 A.D.)

      See also: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/encounter/stories/2006/1656361.htm
      Margaret Coffey: Gary Dargan’s approach in his lecture is to explain how the Qur’an, even in the language it uses about Allah, and then Muslim scholars of the early period of Islam, support the theory of evolution.
      Gary Dargan: The Qur’an does have design arguments and that is one of them -“Travel through the earth and see how Allah originated creation”. (Q29:30) In other words, God did it. However the sting in the tail is the word ‘how’. He gives us the command to actually look at how it was done, and that is important because Charles Darwin did just that on the voyage of the Beagle.

      In conclusion, I defer to Gould.
      ‘Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome. And human beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered… Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favour). In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms’
      — STEPHEN JAY GOULD, 1981

      [ignore typos. I can’t be bothered proof-reading.]

      • Sayf says:

        From what I’ve learned, this debate is defined by massive, massive straw-man arguments on both sides.

        A literal scriptural interpretation would actually lead a person to believe in micro evolution/ macro evolution, as the text tells us human beings have changed over time. That would pretty much put scripture and evolution in agreement for the most part and the strongest parts of the theory. The only direct disagreement I can think of is the mechanism proposed for human descent, which is not nearly at the same level as the rest of evolution.

        My advice for my fellow Muslims is to properly understand the science before trying to refute things in a fatalistic approach, and understand what scripture is actually telling us.

        My advice for my colleagues in science is to differentiate between the different sub-sects of evolution, and make known to others the term is being used in such a broad scope to refer to different scientific theories/hypotheses which are not equal in proof. Abiogenesis and common descent are nowhere near the level of strength as microevolution / macroevolution, yet they are being included when people speak of the scientific strength of evolution.

        Correct me if I’m mistaken.

  8. Dear Jon,

    I do not think it is correct to say that all science follows Occam’s Razor, but perhaps some science does.

    What would be quite interesting would be to apply Occam’s Razor to the theory of evolution. It certainly does not seem to be the simplest theory that explains the data. Again, either way, it is irrelevant, since simplicity does not imply truth.

    As to understanding divine revelation, as I mentioned in my previous post, given that the Qur’an and Sunnah are TRUTH, then there is no need to modify (read: corrupt) this truth with any external sources (including Western philosophy, science, etc.). If that yields a ‘fundamentalist’ (your word) reading of the Qur’an and Sunnah, then perhaps a ‘fundamentalist’ reading is the only logical reading.

    You said:

    People may believe the Qur’an is revealed by Allah and that Muhammad is the Prophet yet hold a variety of views on women’s rights, homosexuality, and secularism based upon re-interpretations of the Qur’an. Likewise Muslims have found ways to reconcile evolution by re-interpretation.

    People can do whatever they like, but that does not mean they are being logical. Certain issues, such as the creation of Adam (peace be upon him) and the prohibition of homosexuality, are so clear-cut that anyone who has a differing view on these issues knows that he is preferring an external source over the Qur’an. He can still claim that he believes the Qur’an is the Speech of Allah and the absolute truth, but in that case, he would not be true to his claim. Certain ‘re-interpretations’ (as you said) just don’t make sense.

    Again, the fundamental question should be, “is the Qur’an revealed by Allah?” If your answer is yes, then a ‘fundamentalist’ reading (according to your definition of the word) is the only logical choice. Only if one answers this question with a “no,” will it make logical sense for him to feel a need to re-interpret the Qur’an according to non-truths (such as Western philosophy, Aristotilean logic, or, in the case of evolutionists, contemporary scientific theory). Why corrupt TRUTH with non-truth?

    As to your comment:

    I fail to see how Islamic ‘revelation’ differs from other religions with holy texts. Christianity considers itself the revelation of the Abrahamic monotheisms as well.

    To begin, although it claims to be, Christianity is not monotheistic according to the Islamic definition of monotheism. In fact, according to the Islamic concept of monotheism, mainstream Christian beliefs are considered to be outright polytheism. Likewise, according to the Islamic concept of monotheism, even Judaism is considered to be sprinkled with less obvious forms of polytheism.

    As to their respective texts:

    The difference between the Qur’an and the books of other religions is indeed vast. The Qur’an has been preserved in its original form, without the change of a single letter, from the time it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) until this day. Indeed the Prophet’s companions memorized it (in the thousands) and wrote it down during his lifetime, generations of people have memorized it since that time, in fact there has never been a point in time since the life of the Prophet until today when the Qur’an has not been memorized by thousands. Nor is there any empirical evidence whatsoever to suggest that there have been any lapses in its preservation.

    Furthermore, there is not one contradiction within the Qur’an itself. It is both internally and externally consistent. Allah says in the Qur’an “Do they not consider the Qur’an (with care)? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.” [4:82]

    Indeed, it is such a perfect book, that in it, Allah challenges those in doubt about its perfection to even try to bring ONE CHAPTER that is like it. The non-Muslim Arabs at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, who were among the most eloquent in the Arabic language, openly admitted that they could not even begin to produce a work that is similar to it. Even non-Muslim professors of Arabic language today openly admit that the Qur’an is the peak of eloquence of Arabic languge. Such a perfect work was revealed to a man (peace be upon him) who was illiterate and never known for producing works of prose or poetry. How can an illiterate man produce the “peak of Arabic eloquence”? Such a question is indeed worth pondering.

    Can something even close be said about the Bible or the Old Testament alone? So numerous are the Christian scholars who point out not only how the Bible has changed from its original form (the easiest way to see this is to compare the language of Jesus, Aramaic, to the oldest language in which the New Testament is written, Greek), but also how the current Bible contains contradiction upon contradiction. Of course, Muslims do believe in the Gospel and Tawrah, in their original forms, but we acknowledge that these texts in their current forms have been corrupted by man over the centruries.

    I think a little research on the perfection of the Qur’an would go a long way for you, if Allah wills. You would be well-advised to make your starting point for such research Muslim sources, as they are the most well-acquainted with the Qur’an.

    Take care,
    Ahmad AlFarsi

  9. Asalaamu alaikum, Br. Ahmad. Out of curiosity, what about Judaism is considered not monotheistic?

    I’m especially curious because when I was in high school I considered converting to Judaism – I think I was attracted to the monotheism – but decided against it because I found it to be very self-referential, and I’m wondering if the relative exclusivity of traditional Judaism can ultimately lead to shirk.

  10. abu ameerah says:

    “Out of curiosity, what about Judaism is considered not monotheistic?”

    –HUH? If Jews were truly a people of Tawheed … what would be the need for Islam?

  11. As Salaamu alaikum

    Sister Ruth, I hope you don’t mind me entering into the conversation, inshaAllah. ;)

    I used to wonder that a lot too: what is the main difference between Judaism and Islam’s monotheistic beliefs. And this helped me understand a bit more (and I’m sure this is just one of the ‘tip of the iceberg’ reasons, and Allah knows best).

    One of the reasons is that the Jewish leaders along with Christian leaders historically changed Allah’s laws, making what was Halal into Haram and what was Haram into Halal.

    Here is an ayah from the Qur’an:

    They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allâh (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allâh), and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded [in the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)) to worship none but One Ilâh (God – Allâh) Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)[]. Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).” (At-Tawbah 9:31)

    The explanation of this can be seen with the hadith of ‘Adee ibn Haatim, a Sahabah who used to be Christian:

    It should be noted that worship in Islaam includes more than just our prayers. If we follow someone who makes Halaal (permissible) what Allaah has made Haraam or vice versa, we are also worshipping them. The proof of that is in a Hadeeth reported by ‘Adee ibn Haatim that he heard the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam recite the verse:

    Attakhadhoo a7rahum wa ruhbaanahum arbaaban min dunillaah
    (Transliteration: ‘7’ here means the lightly pronounced ‘h’ in arabic)

    “They have taken their Rabbis and Monks as lords along with Allaah.” [Soorah at-Tawbah(9):31]

    ‘Adee ibn Haatim said, “We didn’t use to worship them.” The Prophet salallahu 3alaihi wasalam said: “Did they not make Haraam what Allaah had made Halaal(*1) and you made it Haraam, and they made Halaal what Allaah had made Haraam(*2) and you made it Halaal?” He replied, “Certainly.” The Prophet salallahu 3alayhi wasalam then said “That was your worship of them.”(*3)

    ——————————————————————————–

    *1 Some Christian religious leaders forbade the marrying of more than one wife, marrying first cousins, priests marrying and divorce.

    *2 Some Christian leaders allowed the eating of pork, the drinking of alcohol, men marrying men, and making images of God and the Prophets.

    *3 Collected by at-Tirmidhee and rated authentic (Hasan) by al-Albaanee in Saheeh Sunan at-Tirmidhee, vol.3, p. 56, no. 2471).

    (taken from: http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:AODtg0gX7tUJ:waryjourneyoflife.blogdrive.com/+%27Adee+ibn+Haatim&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us)

    In Islam, we consider Allah to be the SOLE Lawmaker; in our Usool alFiqh class from AlMaghrib Institute, we even learned the Prophet (peace be upon him) was not a lawmaker in his own right either. SubhanAllah. So how much worse is it to CHANGE Allah’s laws to meet your own desires.

    May Allah guide us all, ameen. and Allah knows best.

  12. p.s. Here is a relevant article by Muhammad Alshareef on the topic: http://www.sunnahonline.com/ilm/jihaad/0006.htm

  13. Jon Strong says:

    Dear Ahmad,

    I apologize for the delay in posting my response. The semester is ending here and I am devoting a lot of time to study for my final exams.

    I am curious to what you know about the theory of evolution. In comparison to other great scientific theories such as quantum mechanics or relativity, the basic tenets of evolution are quite easy to understand. If you allow me the opportunity, I would be happy to explain the theory much like you have explained several important aspects of Islam. Perhaps we could educate each other.

    We can argue the validity of interpretations and reinterpretations, but ultimately is it not for Allah alone to judge who is a true Muslim?

    Even if we are to accept the perfection of the Qur’an (which many scholars dispute), it does not follow that the text is divinely inspired. To make such an extraordinary claim one must be presented with extraordinary evidence. I will remain skeptical the Qur’an contains such absolute proof until I am presented with it. That said, it is worth investigating.

    “Nor is there any empirical evidence whatsoever to suggest that there have been any lapses in its preservation.”

    I thought you agreed empirical evidence has no truth value! I don’t mean to be insulting; I merely wanted to inject some humor into the conversation.

    Jon

  14. abu ameerah says:

    “Even if we are to accept the perfection of the Qur’an (which many scholars dispute), it does not follow that the text is divinely inspired. To make such an extraordinary claim one must be presented with extraordinary evidence.”

    –When did we get from Evolution to debate on theology?

    “Even if we are to accept the perfection of the Qur’an (which many scholars dispute)…”

    http://answeringmissionaries.wordpress.com/

  15. abu ameerah says:

    “…to debate…” — to A debate

  16. […] The best reconciliation between Evolution and Islam that I know of is the narrative that Adam is the first human being begotten from non-human ancestors and that the spectrum of non-human organism from higher apes down to the first cell are all bi-products of God’s creation of Adam from inorganic dust (i.e. Evolution is the mechanism through which God created man). The best critique of this narrative that I know of is that this narrative is a modern revisionist product to accommodate the theory of Evolution in our religious framework. Given that this narrative was never produced or endorsed by the first generations of Muslims, it is therefore inauthentic (this critique was brought to my attention by Daniel Jou in a lecture tonight – see here too). […]

  17. […] brilliant post on this same topic at MuslimMatters […]

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  19. iftekhar says:

    Assalam Alaykum
    islam resists you from going into unnecesary details because the tendency of man is to ingnore the core message and indulge in futile discussion and debates that leads to extrimism. when you discuss the bands of science it becomes more of Philosophy than science and the ulmate result is CONFUSION. The limitation of Science is it answers to HOW? not WHY? and WHO? The answers for WHY? and HOW? can not be found with present scientific methodologies to which some dogmatic atheiest adheres very relegiously. it can be answered only through your common sense or concsciounsess. Quran encourages you to look in to the universe HOW it is and and recognise WHO? and WHY?.

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