Nov 19, 2009, 3:58 PM
The aim pursued by the Quran is the training of the human being as a being conscious of his duties; it reinforces and accelerates his spiritual ascension, together with all of his qualities, toward a state of true loftiness and the dignity of which the human being is worthy. The emergence of such a being requires a comprehensive reform of the human being, involving various changes such as the negation of false values and meaningless criteria deriving from the Age of Ignorance and the creation and fostering of a creative energetic spirit within him. The Quran can thus be said to melt the spirits of human beings and pour them into a new mould, where they acquire a different, richer and more valuable form. Although this may be said to be the principal aim of the Quran, it summons the human being insistently, at the very same time to reflect and to ponder and to acquire a realistic view of the world; it guides him on to the path of thought, of teaching and learning. In the very first verses of the Quran to be revealed, we encounter praise and ennobling of the pen, of the acquisition of knowledge and of the study of nature as one of the principal sources of cognition; a profound awareness of nature may lead to the boundaries of the supernatural realm. Through the inspiration given by the Quran and as a result of the scientific movement launched by Islam, a vital and active people blossomed into maturity, uniquely gifted with knowledge and virtue. The viewpoint of Islam on science represented a major development that prepared the way for subsequent developments.
Iqbal, the well-known Indo-Muslim thinker says: “The birth of Islam as I hope to be able presently to prove to your satisfaction, is the birth of inductive intellect. The constant appeal to reason and experience in the Quran, and the emphasis that it lays on Nature and History as sources of human knowledge, are all different aspects of the same idea of finality. “Inner experience is only one source of human knowledge. According to the Quran, there are two other sources of knowledge Nature and History; and it is in tapping these sources of knowledge that the spirit of Islam is seen at its best.” All forms of scientific endeavor are necessarily based on respect for the intellect and for the development of the human being and on freedom of thought from all kinds of fetters. The principal advances and developments in the natural sciences are all due to these premises.
The contemporary human being is heir to the knowledge and the researches of millions of thinkers and scholars who in their investigations discovered the foundations of the various sciences, and who gained access to some of the mysteries of being by means of their intellectual originality and creativity and their untiring efforts. In the age when the Quran was revealed, an age known as the Age of Ignorance creative and innovative thought, marked by the comprehensive spirit of science, was non-existent, and no one was able to discern the mysteries of the vast, unknown universe. When expounding the mysteries of creation, the Quran is clear and explicit whenever clarity and explicitness are desirable. In cases where the perception of complex truths was difficult for the people of that age, the Quran contents itself with making allusions, so that in the course of time as the intellects and knowledge of human beings developed and the mysteries of nature came more clearly to the fore, these matters would become more easily comprehensible. In expounding the contents of the Quran, Muslim scholars have continually put forward different views, as a result both of their own researches, investigations and reflections and of the vast spiritual richness of the Quran. Given this spiritual richness, it is inconceivable that such a great and infinite source of truth could have been produced by the talent and intellectual genius of the human being. If something takes place by way of natural causation, it should be possible for people living either at the time of its first occurrence or in the later age to produce something similar. But if a phenomenon takes place outside the natural course of things, so that natural laws and criteria are suspended, people will be unable at all times to attempt its replication. In the case of the Quran, we see that all conventional criteria and principles were violated; the entirety of the book represents a transcendence of all norms.
We have said that the Quran refers allusively to scientific truths, almost as secondary matters serving as a preliminary to the attainment of a greater and more glorious goal. We cannot therefore, regard it as a technical work of specialization that discusses matters only from the viewpoint of science. The Quran refers to certain aspects of the life of the human being, the earth, the heavens and the plants, but it would be entirely wrong to imagine that it does so with the intention of elucidating the natural sciences or resolving dubious points connected with them. The purpose of the Quran is rather to expound truths that are relevant to the spiritual life of the human being and the exaltation of his being and conductive to his attaining a life of true happiness. Furthermore, when expounding scientific truths which might be couched in a different terminology in every age, the Quran does not make use of technical terms. For although scientific truths and the laws governing all phenomena enjoy stability and immutability, and although they have always existed and always will exist, it is possible that scientific terminology might change from one age to the next and appear in a totally different from before.
Discussions in the Quran concerning the world of creation relate to a series of truths and principles that are not situated in the sensory realm. The human being can grasp these matters only by recourse to particular scientific instruments. Dr. Bucaille, the French scientist, writes as follows: “A crucial fact is that the Quran, while inviting us to cultivate science, itself contains many observations on natural phenomena and includes explanatory details which are seen to be in total agreement with modern scientific data. There is no equal to this in the Judeo-Christian Revelation. “These scientific considerations, which are very specific to the Quran, greatly surprised me at first. Up until then, I had not thought it possible for one to find so many statements in a text compiled more than thirteen centuries ago referring to extremely diverse subjects and all of them totally in keeping with modern scientific knowledge. A thorough linguistic knowledge is not in itself sufficient to understand these verses from the Quran. What is needed along with this is a highly diversified knowledge of science. A study such as the present one embraces many disciplines and is in that sense encyclopedic. As the questions raised are discussed, the variety of scientific knowledge essential to the understanding of certain verses of the Quran will become clear. “The Quran does not aim at explaining certain laws governing the Universe; however, it has an absolutely basic religious objective. The descriptions of Divine Omnipotence are what principally incite the human being to reflect on the works of Creation. They are accompanied by references to facts accessible to human observation or to laws defined by God who presides over the organization of the universe both in the sciences of nature.
“One part of these assertions is easily understood, but the meaning of the other can only be grasped if one has the essential scientific knowledge it requires. “The hypothesis advanced by those who see Muhammad as the author of the Quran is quite untenable. How could a man, from being illiterate become the most important author, in terms of literary merit in the whole of Arabic literature? How could he then pronounce truths of a scientific nature that no other human being could possibly have developed at the time, and all this without once making the slightest error in his pronouncements on the subject?
To be continued