From Review of Religions
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, an image of a small region of space in the constellation ‘Fornax’, composited from Hubble Space Telescope data accumulated from September 3, 2003 through January 16, 2004. It is the deepest image of the universe, or cosmos, ever taken. This high-resolution image of the HUDF includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colours. The smallest, reddest galaxies are some of the most distant galaxies to have been imaged by an optical telescope, existing at the time shortly after the Big Bang. The Big Bang theory, only recently discovered by science, is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an over 1400 years ago as a miracle of God and the birth of the universe. (Photo: NASA/European Space Agency)
The whole concept of religion is based on the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, worthy of being worshipped – the Being known as God. If there is no God, we would have to admit that religion is little more than a philosophy. In fact, we would have to admit, albeit unwillingly, that religion is no more than a philosophy based on forgery. The status of Revealed Scriptures would be reduced to man-made chronicles, and the value of prophets would be diminished to ambitious philosophers seeking dominance over people. On the other hand, if there is a God, a Supreme Being Who created us, cares for us and controls our destiny, we would have to recognise His existence, strive to know His attributes, submit willfully to His Presence and seek to establish a relationship with Him, according to His Will.
The fact that the human soul or call it the human psyche if you like, has a craving for the Unseen Ultimate Being and is fascinated and intrigued by the slightest hint that leads it in the direction of the Ultimate Being, is indicative of a vacuum in the human soul, a vacuum that can be filled only by attaining knowledge about that Being. The search for the Ultimate Truth or the Absolute Truth has intrigued man since time immemorial, a question that the most able of human minds have, throughout the ages, attempted to resolve. What is the Absolute Truth in relation to which all other truths are relative? What is the Absolute Constant, in relation to which all other truths are mere variables? Who preceded all Existence and who will continue to remain after the End of Time? One wonders whether this curiosity and persistent quest of the human mind is coincidental, or could it possibly have been deliberately ingrained in the human soul? Could it be that the human soul did have a Creator, Who chose to programme His creation, the human soul, to seek out its Creator? If the human soul has been programmed to search God, it follows logically that it will not find peace until it finds God.
We read in the Qur’an an interesting dialogue between God and the Human Soul. According to this dialogue God asked all human souls, “Am I not yourLord?” (Ch.7:173). The human souls replied “indeed”(Ch.7:V.173). This does not mean to suggest that there was ever an occasion when all human souls were gathered in a congregation, where they were collectively addressed by God. It simply means that all human souls have individually testified that God is their Lord and that this testimony is intrinsic to the human soul.
It is equally interesting to reflect that there is an innate sense of morality in the human soul. Among the many levels of morality, the most elementary level of morality manifests itself through the expression of what is commonly known as the conscience. This is an innate human faculty with which all humans, irrespective of their religious inclination, have been blessed. Even the child of atheist parents, born and brought up in a Godless environment, has this innate sense of right and wrong. Even a child, yet unaware of religion, feels content doing what is morally right, and experiences guilt when doing what is morally wrong. This is a morality independent of any conscious appreciation of religious values. These could be termed as moral standards independent of a conscious belief in God. Where did this moral sense come from? Certainly not by Natural Selection.
We are rationally led to infer that it is God who has willed that humans be blessed with a conscience, a conscience that operates even without consciously believing in God. It is by God’s Will that this conscience serves as a hidden guide sitting inside man’s heart, who commends him on his morally right actions and reprimands him on his morally wrong actions. The Qur’anic term for the human conscience is the “reproving spirit” (Ch.75:V.3). Hence, while there may indeed be moral standards independent of a conscious appreciation of God’s Will, the innate moral sense in man suggests its existence being there on account of a preceding Will – the Will of God.
Religion serves man at all stages of moral refinement. Religion imparts to man a sense of God-consciousness. It is this God-consciousness that raises man’s morality to higher levels. Religion, thus serves the purpose of refining man’s innate moral sense. It lends acuity to the human conscience. Thus God-consciousness gradually evolves into a real and viable relationship between man and God.
The percentage of the population in European countries who said they “believe there is a God.” (2005 Census)
With respect to the human soul’s quest for peace, we read in the Qur’an, “Beware – the peace of hearts is in the remembrance of Allah only” (Ch.13:V.29). These words intimate the fact that the human soul will find peace only in the remembrance of God. The word “alaa” used in this verse [Ch.13:V.29], which means “beware”, suggests that while man may indeed seek peace of mind through other means, all these quests are destined to culminate in frustration, and that the human soul is programmed to find peace in the remembrance of God only.
The fact that there is an innate quest for the Ultimate Being and the Absolute Truth in the human soul, the fact that there is a loose end of the Human Soul that connects only to that One Deity, the fact that there is an innate sense of morality in the human soul and the fact that the human soul finds ultimate peace only in the remembrance of God, all suggest that there indeed is such a Being – a Being called God. We read in the Qur’an: “And (there are signs) in your own selves. Will you not then see?” (Ch.51:V.22).
A major source of knowledge for man has always been “the dependable testimony.” Not everything we believe in has been seen or ever physically perceived by us. Antarctica, very much a reality, in fact an entire continent in itself, has never been seen or directly perceived by the overwhelming majority of humans the world over. Yet, its existence is not queried nor should it rationally be. We have absolutely no inhibition in accepting the existence of Antarctica for the simple reason that there is an abundance of testimony suggesting its existence. We turn on a news channel to learn that there has been a plane crash in Guatemala. Having neither seen the plane crash nor Guatemala, we spontaneously accept the news and feel sorry for the crash victims. The reason is that we consider the source of information dependable. Travellers have always turned to the map to seek direction. Some have even met with disaster as a consequence of being misled by the map. Yet, people will continue to accept the veracity of maps and chronicles. We humans as a race, have till now been visited by more than a hundred thousand prophets, all of whom were known for both their sound judgement as well as their truthfulness. Prior to his proclamation, each prophet was accepted as the most truthful, as well as the most prudent individual among his people. It is only after his claim to prophethood’ that he is labelled a liar, never before. A remarkable aspect of the character of all prophets of God, is the fact that they foresee no worldly gain in their call, and yet they show amazing perseverance in pursuing their respective missions. The call of the prophets is invariably in a direction opposite to the prevalent trends of their respective societies. Their call always makes them unpopular and they are persecuted. Yet their conviction is not only ever-increasing, but also inspiring and motivating. The testimony given by the prophets and other truthful people is therefore something that cannot be overlooked.
Strong gravitational lensing as observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in Abell 1689 – one of the most massive galaxy clusters – indicates the presence of dark matter. The gravity of the cluster’s trillion stars, and dark matter, acts as a 2-million-light-year-wide lens in space. Some of the faintest objects are possibly 13 billion light-years away. (Photo: NASA/European Space Agency)
The phenomenon of “Cause and Effect” is familiar to everybody. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and nobody is perplexed by this notion, even if the fire itself is not visible. We experience the force of gravity every moment of our lives, while we have never perceived the actual Gravitational Force itself. What we perceive is only the effect. Similarly, the effect of the magnet on metallic objects is nothing unusual. What we witness or feel is the effect of the magnetic force, the actual force itself being obviously unperceivable. Yet we show no scepticism towards either the force of Gravity or Magnetism. There are many entities that are acknowledged by sheer deduction, with absolutely no direct evidence. In fact, it is this ability to recognise the possibility of directly unperceivable entities, on merely the basis of postulations that enables man to make progress in scientific discoveries. More recently, scientists have, through logical deduction, arrived at the conclusion that an entity they call the “Dark Matter” exists, and somewhat fills the universe. This Dark Matter, as it is called, cannot be perceived through man’s five physical senses, yet its existence makes a lot of sense. Moreover, denying or even ignoring its existence leaves many gaps and lacunae in the comprehensibility of the Universe as we know it. Essentially, man tends to pick up clues and with the help of these clues he moves to the next step of deduction, until he arrives at a higher level of understanding and insight. It is precisely this mode of quest and discovery that enables man to progress from postulation to hypothesis, from hypothesis to theory and from theory to verifiable personal experience, whether in relation to Science or with respect to belief in the existence of God.
The state of existence of the Universe or Cosmos, its coming into existence, its sustained and orderly organisation and its enchantingly amazing architecture, do indeed suggest to the rational mind that there ought to be a Creator and Sustainer of this ultimate marvel of Science and work of Art. The exceedingly intelligent layout of the Universe, logically suggests an Intelligent Creator preceding the Universe. Similarly, the orderly management of the Universe governed by unchanging laws, suggests an Intelligent Sustainer running the affairs of the Cosmos. The Cosmos is the effect – and a beautiful one, and the effect suggests a Cause, – the Ultimate Source of this beauty – God.
In terms of simple and down-to-earth commonsense, a proposition to the effect that a miniature wood carving came into being by itself, would be taken as a delusion of the highest order. To imagine that a Universe whose expanse is so vast that it would take you approximately twenty billion years to travel across it, if you were to travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), came into being by itself, would most certainly be irrational. To imagine that Life with all its complexities, came into being by accident, amounts to suggesting a probability of one over ten raised to the power of two hundred. The probability of accidents and chances leading ultimately to intelligent life is infinitely lower.
We all appreciate the fact that an intelligent response cannot be generated out of an absolute void. We also realise that if we knock at a door and receive no response, we cannot logically infer from this absence of response that there is nobody on the other side of the door. It is possible that there may be someone inside who does not wish to respond. However, if someone does respond, we cannot then rationally deny the presence of someone inside. It is by following this logic, that we come to know that while the non-acceptance of prayer does not conclusively disprove God, an acceptance unquestionably establishes the existence of God. In the lives of prophets and other men of God, we notice an astounding abundance of acceptance of prayer.
Every Prophet of God has two essential aspects of his appointment; – the aspect of being a Messenger of God and the aspect of being a Prophet of God. As Messenger of God, for which the Qur’an uses the term “Rasool”, he is appointed to convey God’s message to humans. The message assigned to him could either be a new message revealed to him or could also be a message revealed earlier to another or an earlier prophet. As Prophet of God, for which the Qur’an uses the term “Nabi”, he is blessed with an abundance of Divine Discourse, God speaking to him and revealing to him matters of the unseen. Based upon this revealed knowledge of the unseen, the prophet makes prophecies and it is on account of this that he is called a Nabi, or Prophet. It is this Prophet aspect that serves as the proof of his being a Messenger of God, because it is through his prophecies based on Divine Revelation that he is able to establish his being God-sent.
Knowledge of the unseen is received by man through the agency of revelation and if proven true subsequently, logically suggests that not only is there a source from where this knowledge flows, but also that the source of this knowledge is indeed the Knower of the Unseen, introduced to humans by the prophets as “God”. All prophets issued prophecies based upon revealed knowledge, but as with all other aspects of Prophethood and Messengership, in this sphere too, we find that Muhammad(saw)excels all others. On examining the revelation received by Muhammad(saw) – the Qur’an, we cannot help noticing that there are verses that deal with the subject of the creation of the Universe as well as the evolution of life. They reveal facts that were unquestionably unknowable 1400 years ago, facts that only recently have been verified as scientific fact. It was obviously impossible for an unlettered man of the 7th century AD, a man who could not even spell his own name, living in the sands of Arabia, to gain access to scientific secrets that were destined to remain undiscovered by mankind till fourteen centuries later.
The Big Bang theory, a recent discovery of Science, is something that could not possibly have been conceived or even vaguely imagined 1400 years ago. The crux of the Big Bang theory is that at the moment of the birth of the Universe, the total mass of the entire Universe was confined within the smallest possible volume, because all inter-atomic and intra-atomic spaces were non-existent and close to zero. Then by a colossal boom, this infinitely condensed mass exploded and the Universe we have today came into being. We read in the Qur’an: “Do not the unbelievers appreciate that the Heavens and the Earth were all an ultimately condensed mass. We then clove them asunder” (Ch.21:V.31). Similarly, it is also an accepted scientific fact that the Universe is continuously expanding. This scientific fact too, was established in very recent times. It was utterly incomprehensible to the man of the 7th century AD. We read in the Qur’an: “We have built the heaven with Our own hands…and it is We who expand it” (Ch.51:V.49). These instances of “knowledge of the unseen” being transferred from its source to its recipient is only a tiny fraction of revealed prophecies in the Qur’an. The very presence of such prophecies based upon “knowledge of the unseen” in the Qur’an, suggests the existence of a “Knower of the Unseen” – an All-Knowing God.
God is unperceivable to the physical senses of man and inaccessible to sheer logic. He is too sublime and subtle to be perceived by the human physical senses. On the other hand, His Being and Attributes both measure in Infinity, and are hence beyond sheer reason and logic. The human brain has its own limitations, one being the inability to comprehend Infinity. Nevertheless, it would also be equally irrational and impractical to deny the existence of an entity merely for the reason that it happens to be beyond the scope of the human physical sensory system, and beyond comprehensible mathematical computation. The above reasons do indeed suggest that there should be a God.