By: Nazeer A. Khan (faculty of Civil Engineering Technology).
The Limitation of Human Knowledge
Whenever theological discussion happens, we inevitably fall into two camps: the evolutionists and the creationists. Evolutionists naturally make reference to science to support their point of view. This is natural since today’s sciences are the limits of man’s current knowledge and understanding. The issue that is troubling with this methodology is that Islamic regulations are handed down from Allah (God) and the rationale for these regulations may be beyond our present knowledge and our present science. It is mentioned in the Qur’an (the final revelation of God) that Allah is All Knowing which means that He has knowledge of which man is unaware. Let’s discuss one avenue of human limitation. Consider the solar system; it has a center (the sun) which is the largest mass in the system and around the sun, there were nine orbital planets, one of which was Pluto. However, Pluto was then demoted to the status of a comet on August 24, 2006. As is evident, our knowledge changed and what was previously known to be a fact is now no longer so. Let’s now compare the universe to an oxygen atom. Both systems have a large dense center and eight orbiting objects (planets and electrons).
What is the matter with you, that you are not conscious of God’s Majesty? (71:13)
We also know that molecules are a combination of atoms that form a larger body or a different material. For example, two hydrogen atoms (gas) form a bond with an oxygen atom (gas) to create a liquid (water or H2O). This comparison of the universe and the oxygen atom raises questions; is our solar system a minor part of a much larger body? Is it possible that our knowledge is limited and we cannot comprehend that bigger picture? Based on such limitations, would it not be irrational to even question the existence of Allah? Nevertheless, it happens.
Using Theories to Disprove Allah’s Existence
The Big Bang Theory and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution are the main arguments used against creationism or Allah’s existence. To use theories in this way, an explanation of the difference between theory and fact is needed. There are several definitions of theory; however, the simplest explanation is that, theories are not facts. Now, it is necessary to define what a fact is. For something to be considered as fact, it has to be subjected to the scientific method. The scientific method consists of three main steps; observation, theory and prediction (testing). As is evident by the scientific method steps, theory is one step in that process. Based on today’s scientific principles, the debate for disproving Allah’s existence falls apart if it is based on the Big Bang Theory. Firstly, the use of theories to disprove the existence of Allah will only satisfy the weak of faith (iman). The Big Bang Theory is based on the premise that, at some point in the history of the universe; time, space (time-space fabric) and matter were created from nothingness. Beyond that instant in time, there are no theories or explanations for the creation of the universe. Even with the support of today’s science, it is easy to conclude that, this is a weak argument. To imply that the universe was created from nothing and to use this to deny Allah’s existence is a state of denial. Without a plausible explanation for the creation of the universe, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution loses its importance simply because; before life could be created, the universe had to have existed.
The Evolution of Science
It has to be realized that science is an evolving discipline/process and will change with time. Some examples of bad or evolving science are: during the dark ages, one method of curing the sick was to slit their wrists and allow the bad blood to bleed out. Another example of bad science is that, the earth is the center of the universe, and another is that smoking minimizes the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (the victim dies by smoking related disease before they get the Alzheimer) and let’s not forget, Pluto is no longer a planet. With this type of scientific mishaps, it is entirely possible that some modern theories will be subject to the same fate.
Islam and Knowledge
The Qur’an and Hadiths have provided truth, meaning and knowledge throughout the ages and will continue to do so until the end of time. As man’s knowledge grows (through Allah’s guidance and science) the meaning of the Qur’an becomes vivid. What was not known yesterday is now known. This is partly because of the progression of science but mostly because of a person’s degree of faith (iman). Islam encourages the seeking of knowledge as demonstrated by verses in the Qur’an such as; “[58:11] …Allah will raise up to (suitable) ranks (and degrees) those of you who believe and who have been granted knowledge, [20:114] High above all is Allah, the King, the Truth. Do not be in haste with the Qur’an before its revelation to you is completed, but say, “O my Sustainer! Increase my knowledge, [16:8] …and He creates other things beyond your knowledge…”.
Caution is required when comparing Islam with science, simply because of man’s limited knowledge and the fact that science itself is an evolving process/discipline. Presently, there are convincing comparison of verses of the Qur’an with science in regards to; the origin of the universe, origin of life, expansion of the universe and the embryo. While Islam encourages the seeking of knowledge, it would be prudent to use the verses of the Qur’an to verify that science is on the right track and not vice versa. Let’s consider, if science were to be used to justify the verses of the Qur’an today; would the Qur’an be incorrect when the science changes tomorrow?