Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Does analytical thinking reduce religious belief?

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

VANCOUVER — A University of British Columbia study suggests analytical thinking can be harmful to religious faith. The psychology report, published Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, reveals that religious belief drops after subjects perform analytical tasks or are exposed to Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, The Thinker.

However, UBC social psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan insist they are not debunking religion or promoting atheism. Instead, they are trying to figure out the psychological origins of spirituality.

Source: UBC study | Holy Post | National Post.

Interesting study, but notice how it does not name the religions espoused by the participants? It means that they bundled all religions together versus atheism. That is an assumption on their part whose validity they first had to prove. Was a wide spectrum of religions represented in the survey takers? If not, the results would be biased.

Those snags aside, it is particularly profound to observe that the Quran keeps prodding its readers to think, reflect, examine, analyze, reason and adopt sound logic in conjunction with having faith and consulting ones heart, conscience, guts and feelings. That is the consistent message of Islam: Balance. Things in life are not “either or”, but rather “both and.” The challenge before each of us in life is how to correctly balance the seemingly opposite demands of aspects of our lives all of which we need. A Muslim finds enormous help on this tough task through the guidance of the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Sunna. In Islam, there is no conflict between science and faith, between scripture and history, between the individual and society, or between the spiritual and the material. They can all coexist and must. So can and must the heart and the mind just like the left brain and the right brain coexist and cooperate!

Blind faith is as bad as atheism. The former cancels the mind. The latter cancels the heart.

Does the Quran confirm science or vice versa?

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I am opposed to the whole idea of scientific nonimitability of the Quran; proving the truth of the Quran by means of showing its statements of scientific facts that were only established centuries after the Quran was revealed.

My reasons are three-fold:

  • It gives non-Muslims a license to bear witness for the Quran,
  • It exposes the total deficit of Muslims in the scientific fields, and
  • The Quran is not meant to be a book of science, but a book of guidance.

The Quran tells a lot of stories, doesn’t it? Does that make it a story book? Of course not. All the stories God tells us in the Quran are told for their moral lessons. They ferment the faith and teach us how to live a life that pleases God. They also tell details that were previously unknown to the Arabs or to the Prophet (PBUH). Thus, they also serve as confirmation of the truth of his prophethood.

The Quran also makes quite a few prophecies, most of which came true during the life of the early Muslims. Does that make it a book of prophecies? No. All the prophecies that God tells us in the Quran are told to confirm the truth of the Quran and the prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Likewise are the scientific facts stated in the Quran. Most of those statements were not even understood by Muslims. It was only when those facts were discovered by scientists, Muslim and non-Muslim, that the wonder of those verses became appreciated.

Speaking of Muslim scientists, did you forget the it was Muslims who established the scientific method? That is the foundation of all scientific discoveries to date. There were hundreds of Muslim scientists inventing or discovering thousands of scientific facts that enriched the world. The fact that Muslims have not contributed to science for sometime now is a reflection on them not on the Quran. It was the Quran that inspired the early Muslims to seek knowledge and investigate the material world.

As for your objection to non-Muslims bearing witness for the Quran, I don’t understand your objection. God says in the holy Quran, “And a witness from the Children of Israel testified to it” (46:10). If God finds such testimony worthy of including in His Last Testament, why would you find it objectionable?

But even without that, the non-Muslims who made scientific discoveries confirming the Quran did not do them to confirm the Quran, nor were most of them even aware that the Quran had mentioned their discoveries 14 centuries earlier! So, it’s not a testimony.

The scientific statements made in the Quran confirm science and science confirms the Quran. That is only natural, since the author of the physical laws and the author of the Quran are the same: The One true God, Allah, may He be sanctified and exalted.

The need for moon sighting

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

As you know, there used to be quite a debate every year on how to determine the start of a new lunar month, especially Ramadan. Most scholars did not favor astronomical computations and insisted on manual sighting of the new moon. Phone calls were all over the globe to get the word out that the new moon was sighted or could not be sighted.

About a decade ago, the conviction changed. Most scholars are now comfortable with astronomical computations. No more debates!

However, I’d like to know what you think of the hadeeth, where the Prophet (PBUH) says, “Fast when you see it (the new moon of Ramadan) and break the fast when you see it (the new moon of Shawwal (the month after Ramadan). If it is obscured from you, then complete the count of Shaaban (the month before Ramadan) thirty days.”

That hadeeth was narrated by Abu-Hurayra and Ibn Abbaas, and reported by Al-Bukhaari and Al-Albaani and others. It is authentic.

Let’s follow the proper deduction method, shall we? God orders us to fast Ramadan (2:185), but He does not specifically tell us how to tell that it started. He tells us that crescents are time keepers for us (2:189). The conclusion is that we learn from the new moon whether a lunar month has started.

Now, how do we know a new moon is born? Astronomical computations are very accurate in this. Thus, following these computations enables us to be certain of when a lunar month has started.

But these advanced computations were not available to folks in the Seventh Century. So, how do they know that a new moon is there? That is where the hadeeth comes in. It’s what the Prophet (PBUH) advised for that situation. It is not the only method for us, but it was for them.

Now, what about the new moon being obscured? That can never happen with astronomic computations, but it can and did with naked-eye sighting. Again, the Prophet’s advise, peace be upon him, was to assume it wasn’t born. Without a stronger evidence that it was born, that was a valid, practical advice.

By the same token is the determination of when to start the fast everyday. God tells us to start the fast “when the white thread is distinguished from the black thread” (2:187) Most exegetes regard that criterion as a metaphor for dawn. A fellow of the Prophet (PBUH), named `Udayy ibn Haatim At-Taa’i, took it literally. He told the Prophet (PBUH) that he kept two headbands under his pillow, one white and one black. Then whenever he woke up during the night, he’d look at the two bands and if he couldn’t tell them apart, he went ahead and ate something! The Prophet (PBUH) jokingly replied, “You have a wide neck! It’s the darkness of the night and the brightness of the day.” Narrated by `Udayy and reported by Al-Bukhaari.

So, what is important is to tell that dawn started. All scholars have no problem following computations to make that determination, so why would sighting the moon, to determine when Ramadhaan starts, be any different?

Does the Quran say that the earth is flat?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

There are a number of verses in the Quran that appear to say that the earth is flat, which of course contradicts science. How do you interpret those verses?

  1. “And the earth- We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)” (50:7)
  2. “And We have spread out the (spacious) earth: How excellently We do spread out! ” (51:48)
  3. “And Allah has made the earth for you as a carpet (spread out), ” (71:19)
  4. “And at the Earth, how it is spread out?” (88:20)
  5. “Who has made the earth your couch, and the heavens your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens; and brought forth therewith Fruits for your sustenance; then set not up rivals unto Allah when ye know (the truth).” (2:22)
  6. “And the earth, after that, He rolled it out.” (79:30)

50:7 – A better translation is “stretched out”. Being stretched out is not the same thing as being flat. The earth is stretched out, isn’t it? Wherever you look, you see it stretched out. That is actually all the hint you need to realize that the earth is round! Because, if the earth is flat, then the only way for it to look stretched out from every spot on it is if it is endless, or that it is round.

If you prefer the translation “spread out”, consider that you can spread whip cream all around an apple, right?

51:48- فرشناها means furnished it, not spread it out. And الماهدون means paving. That’s also the word used in 2:22.

71:19 & 88:20- These two verses emphasize the blessing of stretching out the earth so that we can walk on it, and that’s how it is, isn’t it?

79:30- This is a key verse that most exegetes did not get. Sheikh Ash-Sha`raawi, may God bless his soul, noticed it and explained how it combines the stretching AND the roundness of the earth at the same time! That’s because the word دحاها means the action of rolling and unrolling of dough such as when you make a pie crust. It is a metaphor that indicates that the earth is stretched like the dough when it is unrolled and round like the dough when it is rolled.

The misunderstanding many people fall into is when they do not realize how large the globe of the earth is. If you try to walk on a beach ball, you will make one step before the ball rolls and realize that you’re walking on a sphere. But when you walk on the earth, you can walk for miles and you still have covered only a tiny distance, so you never feel that you are walking on a sphere.

Inaccurate astronomy?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

My friend, who is Muslim, is starting to doubt the Quran. He says that some of the verses of the Quran that deal with astronomy are inaccurate, as proven by modern science. He quotes two instances:

1. Verse 36:40 implies that the sun and the moon orbit the earth.

No. The verse says none of the sort. It says,

“The sun is not allowed to overtake the moon, nor does the night outpace the day. Each in its orbit swims.” (36:40)

Which is true and always has been: the succession of night and day. In addition, the sun and the moon have their own orbits, which has been proven centuries after this verse was revealed.

2. Verses 91:1-2 imply that the moon and the sun are on the same orbit.

They don’t. What they say is,

“By the sun and its bright. And by the moon as it follows it.” (91:1-2)

You can come into the room after taking a ride on Baker Street and I can follow you into the room after taking a ride on Hampton Street. We met in the same room but we were not taking the same ride or the same route to get there.

What the verses simply say is that the moon comes into view consistently after the sun sets. It’s a notice from God to us to reflect on that particular blessing: that nighttime in which we can rest comes consistently and never fails. Imagine if you lived where daylight was permanent! You’ll soon be a nervous wreck. That meaning is further explained in the very next two verses: “And the day as it makes it clear and the night as it covers it” (91:3-4).

Are these scientific inaccuracies in the Quran?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I’ve been debating an atheist on a discussion forum and been telling him about the many scientific miracles of the Quran. So, he came back with what he claimed were scientific inaccuracies in the Quran. Can you help me refute them?

  • By the sun and its brightness (1) And [by] the moon when it follows it (2) And [by] the day when it displays it (3) And [by] the night when it covers it (4) And [by] the sky and He who constructed it (91:1-5).

    The Quran says sunlight is invisible until it hits the atmosphere.

  • Where did he get that? The verses he quotes say that the day makes the sun prominent. Is there any doubt about that? It’s a reminder of His grace that the day makes all the benefits of the sun available, such as light, warmth, sustenance for plants, etc.

  • “Are you the harder to create or the heaven? He built it. (27) He raised( increased) its thickness, then put it into a right good state. (28) And He made dark its night and brought out its light. (27:29).

    This says that the universe is dark.

  • No, it doesn’t. It says He made the night dark and the day bright. A reminder of His grace that makes it possible for us to sleep and rest at night and rise up and be alert so we can work in the day.

  • “Even if We opened out to them a gate from heaven, and they were to continue (all day) ascending therein, (14) They would only say: “Our eyes have been covered: Nay, we have been bewitched by sorcery.” (15:14-15).

    The Quran says the universe is engulfed in darkness.

  • Where did he get that? The verses he quotes continue the theme started four verses earlier (15:10-13) about the disbelievers ridiculing all messengers sent to them. The verses quoted say that such disbelievers would still reject God even if He lets them ascend to heaven to see its wonders. Pretty much what your atheist friend is doing now! God says that they would come up with other explanations for those wonders, such as “Our eyesights have been dimmed, or maybe we’ve been bewitched.” Anything but admit that those signs are God’s wonderful creation.

    What are the seven heavens?

    Monday, August 30th, 2010

    I have a question,  if you don’t mind that is. It’s about the 7 heavens. I’m trying to understand what exactly they are. In Surah Al-Naba (Chapter 78) Allah says “wa banayna fawkakum seba3an shidada” (And We constructed above you seven tough ones). Because of the context, I assume this refers to the seven layers of the atmosphere we know about in science.

    But, in another spot in the Quran God says that He built seven heavens over each other, and that He decorated the lowest heaven with stars. Could this mean there are seven Universes? I say this because there has to be a specific physical constant in a Universe for stars to form, and that if stars can form in one place in a Universe they must be able to form in others. In this regard, the seven layers cannot be in the same Universe. God also says the Seven Heavens are layered over eachother; this is consisent with the Bubbles model of the Universe.

    I was wondering what you thought about this little theory and what is the seven heavens in the view of consensus scholars? Thank you.

    The seven layers are not necessarily the seven heavens. And the seven heavens are Ghayb (matter of the Beyond). We only know from the hadeeths about the Al-Mi`raaj (the Ascension journey) that the Prophet (PBUH) saw different sites in each heaven. We don’t know if they are different universes or layers. It’s all possible. And they could be something else completely. Being Ghayb means we do not and cannot know. Consensus scholars were also human and therefore any view they may have had on this matter was entirely a guess.

    As for the stars defining a universe, this only applies to our universe. If there are other universes, they do not necessarily have to be like the one we know. God’s creative powers can make anything anywhere. Fish breathe under water and die in the air, while we breathe in the air and die under water.

    Muslims lead the scientific revolution

    Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

    I didn’t know that Muslims have invented all those things. I read a news article on the  web about a new science museum. It says,

    “From coffee to cheques and the three-course meal, the Muslim world has given us many innovations that we take for granted in daily life. As a new exhibition opens, Paul Vallely nominates 20 of the most influential – and identifies the men of genius behind them”…ld-469452.html

    Thanks for sharing.

    Muslim contributions to civilization go beyond inventions. Muslims established the scientific method, without which no other science could have developed. Muslims translated the writings of the ancient Greeks. If they hadn’t, scientists and philosophers would have had to start from scratch. And by going into Europe, Muslims transmitted this knowledge to the Europeans, without which they would have remained in the dark ages a lot longer.