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THE QURAN AND MODERN SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN VIEWING THE UNIVERSE

Philosophy and sciences view existence as permanent and discuss the nature and qualities of creatures in detail. They do not mention their duties towards their Creator; if these are mentioned, it is very brief. It is as if philosophy and science discuss only the designs and letters of the book of the universe but attach no importance to its meaning. As for the Quran, it views existence as transient, moving, illusory, unstable and changing, and therefore mentions the nature and outward, physical qualities of creatures quite briefly. By contrast, it elaborates the duties of worship with which their Creator has charged them, and the ways they manifest His Names and their submission to the Divine laws of the creation and operation of the universe. Thus, in order to distinguish which is pure truth, we should see the differences between human philosophy and Quranic wisdom related to summarizing and elaborating.

However unmoving, constant and static your body outwardly appears, it is in a continuous movement and change in essence and inwardly, and without any pause it comes to a final stop to be revived again at a determined time. Likewise, being a huge body appearing to be constant and static, the world is unceasingly rolling or revolving in continuous changes and upheavals. Time is the dial of the world, with its two ‘hands’ of night and day showing the passage of its seconds, and its ‘hands’ of years and centuries, showing the passage of its minutes and hours. Time plunges the world into the waves of decay and, leaving the past and future to non-existence, allows existence for the present only. As with respect to time, the world is also changing and unstable with respect to space. For the atmosphere changes speedily, filling with and being cleared of the clouds a few times a day and displaying the changes of weather, thus corresponding to the passage of seconds in time. And the earth, which is the floor of the house of the world, undergoes continuous changes through the cycles of life and death and in vegetation and animals, and like the hand showing the passage of minutes, demonstrates the transience of the world. Like its surface, the inside of the earth, where convulsions and upheavals cause great changes like earthquakes, the emergence of mountains in some places and subsidence in others, also shows, like the hour hand of a clock, the mortality of the world. As for the sky, which is the roof the world, through the like movements of heavenly bodies, the appearance of comets and falling stars, and the solar and lunar eclipses, it demonstrates that it is not stable either, going to a final ruin. However slow-like the passage of weeks-are the changes in it, they also show that the world is mortal and moves to its inevitable end.

Thus, all the ‘pillars’ on which the world was built are continually shaking it. That shaking world considered with respect to its Maker, whose movements and changes are like the movements of the Pen of the Divine Power writing the missives of the Eternally Besought-of-All, all the transformations taking place in the world are like ever-renewed or ever-polished mirrors which reflect the manifestations of Divine Names in all different qualities. However, when considered with respect to itself and being a material, created entity, the world continually convulses and moves to decay and death. Although it moves like a flowing water, heedlessness has frozen it and (philosophical) naturalism has solidified it, making it a veil to conceal and forget the afterlife. The defective philosophy, nourished by modern scientific thought and supported by the alluring amusements of corrupt modern civilization and the intoxicating desires it arouses in people, makes the world more turbid and increases its solidity, causing people to completely forget the Creator and the afterlife.

The Quran removes heedlessness which gives rise to naturalism

Whereas, through its verses like,

The Calamity! What is the calamity? (al-Qari‘a,101.1-2)

When the inevitable event befalls (al-Waqi‘a, 56.1), and

By the Mount, and a Scripture inscribed (al-Tur, 56.1-2),

the Quran shatters this world and cards it like cotton or wool.

Through its statements like,

Have they not considered the dominion and inner aspect of the heavens and the earth? (al-A‘raf, 7.185)

Have they not then observed the sky above them, how We have constructed it? (Qaf, 50.6)

Did not those who do not believe know that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them? (al-Anbiya’, 21.30)

it gives that world a transparency and removes its turbidity.

Through its bright, light-diffusing ‘stars’ like,

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth (al-Nur, 24.35) and

The life of this world is but a play and amusement (al-An‘am, 6.32)

it melts that solid world.

Through its threatening verses which recall death, such as,

When the sun is folded up (al-Takwir, 81.1).

When the heaven is cleft asunder (al-Infitar, 82.1).

When the heaven is split asunder (al-Inshiqaq, 84.1).

The Trumpet is blown, and all who are in the heavens and who are on the earth fall down senseless, save those whom God wills (al-Zumar, 39.68).

it utterly destroys the delusion that the world is eternal.

And through its thunder-like blasts like,

He knows all that enters the earth and all that emerges therefrom and all that comes down from the heaven and all that ascends therein, and He is with you wherever you may be. God sees all that you do (al-Hadid, 57.4).

Say: ‘Praise be to God, Who will show you His signs, so that you shall know them. Your Lord is not unaware of what you do’ (al-Naml, 27.93).

it removes heedlessness which gives rise to naturalism.

Thus, the verses of the Quran which are concerned with the universe follow that principle the aspects of which have been mentioned above. They unveil the reality of the world and display it as it is. By showing the ugly face of the world, it turns man away from it, and by pointing out its beautiful face which is turned toward the Maker, it turns man’s face toward it. It instructs mankind in true wisdom and teaches them the meanings of the book of the universe with little attention to its letters and decorations. Unlike corrupt, senseless philosophy, it does not give itself over to what is ugly and, causing people to forget the meaning, lead them to waste their time on meaningless things, in pre-occupation with the decorations of the letters.

Why does the wise Quran not speak of beings in the same way as science and materialistic or naturalistic philosophy? It mentions some matters very briefly, and some others it seems to speak of in a simple and superficial way that is easy for the common people to understand and does not weary their minds.

Scientism and materialistic philosophy have strayed from the path of truth. As for the Quran, it is not a book of science that it should speak of cosmological matters elaborately. Its purpose in mentioning certain facts of creation is rather to make known the Divine Essence, Attributes and Names, by explaining the meaning of the book of the universe, to make known its Creator. Therefore, it considers the creation not for its own sake, but for the sake of knowledge of its Creator. In addition, science, besides considering the creation only for its own sake, addresses particularly those specialized in it. The Quran, however, addresses the whole of mankind. Since it uses creation as evidence and proof to guide mankind, and the majority of mankind are common people, the evidence should be manifest and obvious in order to be understood by the common people easily. Guidance requires that things of little importance should be touched on only and the subtle points be made understandable by means of parables. In order not to mislead people into errors, it should not change things which in their view are obvious in a way which will be of no use or may even be harmful to them.

For example, the Quran speaks of the sun as a ‘moving lamp’ because it does not mention the sun for its own sake, but because the sun is the ‘mainstay’ of the order and the center of the system in the universe. Order and system are two means of obtaining the knowledge of the Creator. When the Quran says, And the sun runs its course, (36:38) it suggests the well-ordered disposition of Divine Power in the revolutions of winter and summer, and day and night, and therefore implies the majesty of the Maker. Thus, whatever the reality of this ‘running’ is, it does not harm the intended meaning, which is the observed order woven into the structure of the universe.

The Quran also says: And He made the sun as a lamp (78:13) By depicting the sun as a ‘lamp,’ the Quran calls to mind that the world is like a palace, the contents of which are the decorations, provisions and other necessities prepared for man and for other living creatures, with the sun like a lamp to illuminate it. Therefore it implies the mercy and bounty of the Creator.

Now consider how science and materialistic philosophy deal with the sun: The sun is an enormous mass of burning gases. It causes the planets which have been flung off from it to revolve around it. It is of such and such size, and it is of such and such qualities... It gives to the spirit no perfection of knowledge apart from a terrible dread and bewilderment. It does not approach the matter as the Quran does. From this comparison, you can judge the value of the merely scientific and philosophical way of thinking, the former being outwardly splendid but inwardly hollow. So do not be taken in by the outward worth of scientific descriptions and so become disrespectful towards the most miraculous style of the Quran!

O God! Make of the Quran for us and for all who copy it a cure for all our sickness; a companion to us and to them in life and after death; a friend in the world, a confidant in the grave, and an intercessor on the Day of Judgment. Make it a light on the (Bridge of) Sirat, a veil and a screen from Hellfire, a friend in Paradise, and a guide and a leader to all good deeds, by Your grace, munificence, beneficence, and mercy, O Most Munificent of the Munificent and Most Merciful of the Merciful! Amen.

O God! Bestow blessings and peace on him to whom You sent the wise Qur’an, the Criterion of Truth and Falsehood, and on all his family and Companions! Amen!


Recommended Reading:
The Quran's wisdom and human philosophies

Last Updated on September 30, 2000

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