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March 3rd, 2012

Religion and Rationality – a debate

Submitted by Ikram.

Hamza Tzortzis and Pervez Hoodbhoy on Religion & Rationality- A Discussion @ LUMS.

The above youtube link was earlier posted by Rashid in a different thread.

It was an interesting debate to a certain extent where both participants came from different ends of the spectrum, Tzortiz (T) from the assumption that there is God whereas Hoodbhoy (P) from the given that there is Science. The logic of T encompassed pre-Big Bang but without any proofs. Whereas, P was limited by time and space of the physical world only after the Big Bang and he was not in the room to deny the non-physical i.e. moral/spiritual space that T dwell upon. T tried to move in his argument spectrum towards P but could not encapsulate P for the mere fact that P was there for only cold logic of his science which was a flat rebuttal in itself.

Please note that both T & P are not from different and opposite ends of spectrum, rather from different corners of the room and not necessarily with antagonist points of view. What the debate lacked was a knowledgeable moderator, who should had initially set the tone of what this debate was about and then structured the debate with shorter but multiple opportunities for both to make the point rather than one time long speeches and then one time rebuttals. In between transitions, the moderator then could had shaped the arguments of one participant for the other. Due to lack of this structure, it is not that which of the debaters won, but it is the audience who lost an opportunity to learn rather than just hear. And both participants spoke past each other. T seems to be a skilled orator with common colloquial punch lines, whereas, P was more concrete in his space, but that is who they are. T probably with theological influence & Western literature background and P from Trieste physics. At least to me the arguments of P were clear to be thought about. Whereas, T was more philosophical and vague, though he had clever interjections and quotes which somewhat had a wow factor, but little sustainable substance.

The debate brought out certain points, paraphrased below by each that are briefly touched upon and are identified by their name letters. Comments with indented paragraphs are added by me.

T – Concept of God transcends time and space.


57:3. He is (from) the very First (there was nothing before Him), and (He will exist to) the Last (there will be nothing after Him), and when nothing remains He will remain (He being an eternal Being). He is the Supreme Being (subordinate to no one). And (whereas He comprehends everything) He is Incomprehensible. He has full knowledge of everything.

T – Universe out of nothing.


The natural question arises as to how it all came to be over past, present and future:

2:117. (God is) the Wonderful Originator without depending upon any matter or pattern of the heavens and the earth; and when He issues a decree He does but say to it, `Be’ and it comes to be.

The time frame in the verse above and it comes to be is bound by the nature of that particular creation:

36:82. Verily, His command, when He intends (to evolve) a thing, is (only) that He says to it, `Be’ and it comes into being (at the proper time).

On a celestial scale, the law of conservation of matter has given way to the law of conservation of energy and e=mc^2. Nowadays it is not surprising for matter to emerge from non-matter.

On the spiritual plane:

…to create something out of nothing is also His work. Just as you see it in a scene in a dream He creates a whole world without any matter, and shows nonexistent things to be existent. Thus such are all the wonders of His power… [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad – The Light – U.K. Edition, May 2008 Special Century Edition, page 19]

Whereas, in evolutionary transformation of matter:

6:95. Verily, it is Allâh Who splits the (seed) grains and (fruit) stones. He bring [sic] forth the living out of the lifeless and He brings forth the lifeless out of the living. Such is Allâh, wherefore then are you turned back.

In summary:

“Everything in the world appears to have been enchained by the Law. It follows it implicitly Is it then other than Allah’s religion that they seek (to follow), and to Him submits whoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him shall they be returned? (3:82). Nature discloses regularity, precision, punctuality, knowledge, power, command, intellect, preordination, prearrangement, precaution, and several other features that are the possessions of the mind exclusively. In their presence the universe cannot be taken as the outcome of accident; It needs an intelligent Design to precede the process of its creation. The word design is sometimes used to bore minds with skeptical tendencies, but it now carries wider connotation. It brings within it so many facts and figures recently discovered by Science that disbelief in God would amount to ignorance.” [Introduction to Study of The Holy Quran, by Khwaja Kamaluudin, p. 21. Note: “intelligent Design” referred to here has no relation to contemporary evolution debate]

T- Self Creation of ?God


59:22. He is Allâh, He is the One beside whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He. (He is) the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

59:23. He is Allâh, beside whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He, (He is) the Supreme Sovereign, the Holy One, the Most Perfect, Bestower of peaceful Security, the Guardian, the All-Mighty, the Compensator of losses, the Possessor of all greatness. Holy is Allâh, far beyond and above the things they associate with Him.

59:24. He is Allâh, the Creator of (the matter and the spirit), the Maker, the Bestower of forms (and fashioner of everything suiting to its requirement). All fair attributes belong to Him. All that lies in the heavens and the earth declares His glory; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.

85:13. It is He Who originates and continues reproducing.

85:14. And He is the Protector, the Most Loving;

85:15. Lord of the Throne (of Power), the Lord of all Glory,

85:16. Absolute Performer of what He intends (to carry out). [Here “He intends” can be extrapolated to include according to His Laws]

112:1. Say,`(The fact is) He is Allâh, the One and Alone in His Being’.

112:2. `Allâh is that Supreme Being Who is the Independent and Besought of all and Unique in all His attributes’.

112:3. `He begets none and is begotten by no one’.

112:4. `And there is none His equal’.

114:2. `The Sovereign, the Controller of all affairs of mankind,

114:3. `The God of mankind,

P – Clarifies the topic of the debate – “Religion as a rational enterprise, is it or is it not?”

Defines Rationality as – Interlinks (of ideas) that link cause to effect based upon set of universal rules e.g. deaths in epidemics results from scientific reasons e.g. germs, hygiene, genetics, malnutrition etc. Religious rationalism emanates from “somebody displeased” i.e. God, for earthquakes, tsunamis etc. to happen. Then why on earth the poor and believing people were hurt first in 2005 Kashmir earthquake?


More often than not our own lack of knowledge forces us to blame preordination or destiny for an affliction or disaster. The black plagues were widely believed to be a curse by God instead of what they were: infections whose cure was then unknown. However, it was probably easier for people to blame the cause on God rather than accept responsibility for human ignorance. In modern times, under-developed societies suffer disproportionately from natural disasters or epidemics. The question then becomes why does God’s wrath descend mostly on the under developed world? Is God disciplining the poor disproportionately or is this disproportionate human destruction a function of human ignorance?

64:11 (Nothing happens haphazardly in the Universe.) No calamity befalls but according to the laws of God. Whoever (understands this and) believes in God guides himself deep down in his heart. God is the Knower of all things (and events). [Nations that understand the laws in nature are better equipped to take preventive measures against natural disasters. Izn = Leave = Permission = Laws] – Shabbir Ahmed.

P – If religion was a rational exercise then there must be universal consensus on its principles similar to consensus in scientific rules, whereas it is not. For example Muslims and Jews believe in one god, Christians in three, Hindus in 5700+.


What P missed was that all of the above i.e. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus etc. have one common thing. They all believe in God for the mere fact:

“The greatest height intellect can elevate us to, is that there ought to be a God. But whether He is actually there, is a question that surpasses the region of our stereotyped intellect. No amount of argumentation can bring home to the blind that light is there. What he can perceive is only this much, that there ought to be something called light, as there are so many reports to show its existence. But the law of nature, where there is a demand there is a supply, compels us to believe that there must be some solution or other of the problem. So far as man’s capacity for the acquisition of knowledge is concerned, he has two instruments, sense organs and intellect. But both of these are ineffective to take us beyond the quagmire of doubt and suspicion so far as the existence of God is concerned. The craving for first-hand sure knowledge is there. Law of nature requires the possibility of means to satisfy the craving. Sense perception and intellect, the two sources of knowledge, are not potent enough to help us out of the difficulty. Therefore, there must be some other channel of ascertaining truth, to accept which we must not be reluctant.” [God Speaks to Man (Revelation) by M. Muhammad Yaqub B.A., Islamic Review and Muslim India, Vol. VIII, No. 6-7, June-July 1920, p. 273]

P – People belong to a religion because they are born into one. Only 0.1% change their birth religion.


Quran agrees to a certain extent of what P says:

5:104. …They say, `Sufficient for us is that (tradition) whereon we have found our forefathers.’ What! (would they follow them blindly) even though their forefathers had no knowledge whatsoever and had no guidance?

But, then there is an example of a non-physics i.e. moral force which made the change in history. The same virtuous force persists with the same principles prevailing for the present and the future:

110:1. The help of Allâh and the victory (over the Makkans) has indeed come (in fulfillment of the prophecies),

110:2. And you see people thronging in to the fold of the Faith of Allâh.

P – Quran is not a book of science. You cannot do any experiment to reject a theological doctrine.


Yes, Quran is not a book of science but in step with science for all its secular arguments. It does not contravene science of whatever we know of it. While discussing the validity of science in Qur’ân, the main purpose of Qur’ân is much more and is summarized as follows:

“The aim of the Qur’ân is to spiritualize our souls. It makes numerous statements based on historical facts, but it is not a book of history. It draws attention to different stages of the creation of the universe (7:54; 14:33; 21:28-33; 71:15-18), the origin of life from water (21:30; 24:45), and concerning humans (71:14; 32:7; 39:7; 40:67), but it is not a treatise on the evolution of life. It makes several references to the laws governing the wonderful system that revives the dry earth through rain (7:57) and maintains the supply of sweet and salt water in rivers and oceans (25:54; 35:12), but it is not a manual of Meteorology, Hydraulics, or Ecology. It says: ‘We create a human being from an extract of clay; then We reduce him to a drop of sperm (and place him) in a safe depository; then We form the sperm into a clot; then We develop the clot into a lump of flesh; then We fashion bones out of this lump of flesh, then We clothe the bones with flesh, and thereafter We evolve him into another being’ (23:12-14); yet it is not a work on Obstetrics. Several of its verses contain references to the achievements in the material sciences and activities in the field of trade, space research, and weaponries. He has let the two bodies of water flow freely; they will (one day) join together. (At present) a barrier stands between them. They cannot encroach one upon the other. Pearls and corals come out of both (these seas). And to Him belong the ships raised aloft in the sea like mountain peaks (55:19-24 – a hint on the construction of the Suez and Panama Canals and the huge ships crossing them). It adds: O body of JINN (- fiery natured) and (ordinary) the people! If you have the power and capacity to go beyond the confines of the heavens and the earth, then do go. But you will not be able to go unless you have the necessary and unusual power. Flames of fire, smoke and molten copper will be let loose upon you and you will not be able to defend yourselves (55:33), and yet the Qur’ân is not a book about material sciences, rockets, missiles, or sputniks. It says that when Pharaoh Meneptah was drowning and as death overtook him, he was told: ‘So, on this day We will preserve you in your body (only) that you may be a sign (to learn a lesson from) for the coming generations’ (10:92). The Bible makes no mention of this, nor does any book of history, but still, the Qur’ân is not concerned with Egyptology or Archaeology. Its purpose is not to teach History, Nature, Philosophy, nor to teach any other Science or Art but, as previously stated, to spiritualize our souls. It states, discusses or cites a thing only to the extent relevant to its aim and object, leaving out details as it returns to its central theme and its invitation. When the Qur’ân is studied in this light, there is no doubt that the whole Scripture is a closely reasoned argument and there is continuity of subject throughout the Book.” [The Holy Quran – Introduction, Nooruddin, pg 48-a – 49-a]

P – Builds his case upon the absurdities of theological constructs e.g. he quotes that some claim that angels travel at speed of light, hence nothing can be faster than the angles and by implication nothing can be faster than light. Then he quotes recent CERN results where neutrinos were found traveling faster than light with a Q.E.D. of neutrinos being outside of God’s control.


P is right on the money when he ridicules the proponents of psedo-Islamic science, the Mullah mentality (-the blind fellowship) in an otherwise outwardly secular professional.

6: 116. Should you obey the majority of those on earth, they would lead you astray from Allâh’s way. They follow nothing but mere surmise and they do nothing but make conjectures.

P – You do no service either to science or religion when you combine the two.


Here I disagree. One does not exclude the other as long it is not a Mullah’s scientific view. The concept of God does not threaten science. George Johnson summarizes this in his review of Owen Gingerich’s God’s Universe:

“… there are two ways to think about science. You can be a theist, believing that behind that veil of randomness lurks an active, loving, manipulative God, or you can be a materialist, for whom everything is matter and energy interacting within space and time. Whichever metaphysical club you belong to, the science comes out the same.” [Scientists on Religion: Theist and materialists ponder the place of humanity in the universe, by George Johnson, Scientific American, Volume 295 Number 4, October 2006.]

P – Self critique – Muslims have not produced any science worth mentioning in last 1000 years. Not even one example can be quoted from any field.


P is once again right on the money. The reason is simple because the Muslims misread the following verses in theological sense only and forgot that it is all about science. Qur’ân encourages and nurtures science. It asserts the vast extent of scientific knowledge:

18:109. Say, `If every ocean became ink for (recording) the words and creation of my Lord, surely, the oceans would be spent up before the words and creation of my Lord came to an end, even if we brought to add (therewith) as many more (oceans).

31:27. And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea with seven more seas added to it (were ink), the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.

Surely the above verses cannot refer to polemics or theology. They clearly signify that God intends man to discover the Laws of science that are also created by Him.

P – Quran tells you how to behave, what your moral values should be, social and ritual structuring.


P points out the core purpose of Quran in a generic sense, even though he limits it, but that’s okay. P is generally short sighted in that his frame or arguments are confined to physical world only, but “man cannot live by bread alone”. Like any other human P must have his own value system which must be unique but congruent to universal values of love, hate, yearn, seek, accept, reject, wish, rejoice, repent, regret etc, the all natural human emotions and expectations. Either he can live the current life as an experiment to fully learn the trick of the trade of life and society then hope for a re-incarnation to live an optimized life second time around or live like us mortals this life once and try to make most of it in non-physical aspects. Some may call it even “opium of the masses.” But it is opium for the addict and not for the patient who needs it from the trauma suffered, or a vaccine to prevent an illness, or a nutrition to bring to fruition what life has to offer, or a purpose to otherwise purposeless life and death cycle. That we find in Quran because:

2:2. This is the only perfect Book, wanting in naught, containing nothing doubtful, harmful or destructive, there is no false charge in it…

2:185. The (lunar) month of Ramadzân is that in which the Qur’ân (started to be) revealed as a guidance for the whole of mankind with its clear evidences (providing comprehensive) guidance and the Discrimination (between right and wrong)…

3:4. … And He has revealed (the Qur’ân as) the Criterion of judgment (between truth and falsehood)…

10:57. O mankind! there has come to you an exhortation (to do away with your weaknesses) from your Lord and a cure for whatever (disease) is in your hearts, and (a Book full of) excellent guidance and a mercy, (and full of blessings) to the believers (in the ultimate form of the Qur’ân).

14:1. …(This is) a great Book which We have revealed to you that you may bring mankind, by the leave of their Lord, out of different kinds of darkness into light, to the path of the All-Mighty, the Praiseworthy,

14:2. (To the path of) Allâh, to Whom belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth…

17:105. We revealed it (– the Qur’ân) to suit all the requirement of truth and wisdom and it has come down (to you) with truth and wisdom…

43:2. This perfect Book that makes (the truth) perspicuously clear bears witness (to the above truth).

P – Quran is not about science.


Yes, Quran is not a book of science in a classical sense, yet it does not abhor it either. There is a core common premise of a Muslim and a Scientist, that is both:

2:3. Those who believe in the existence of hidden reality, that which is beyond the reach of human perception and ordinary cognizance…

P – There is no point in digging out science from the Quran.


That is too broad a brush stroke by P. Of course, one will never be able to find details of M-Theory in Quran, but Quran encourages the core aspect of mind that makes a “good” scientist:

12:108. Say, `This is my path. I call to Allâh. I am on sure knowledge verifiable by reason and (so are) those who follow me. (I believe that) Holy is Allâh. I am not of the polytheists.’

Qur’ân, thus, sets the standards for knowledge, verifiable by reason, which is commonly referred to as “science.” This verse by itself excludes a Mullah from both the science and the logic of Quran.


Some pertient points in Rebuttal session are as follows:

T – Quran does not go against reality of science. Quran uses science as a supporting argument.

T – People belong to faith and values because of prevailing consensus.

T – How and Why are two different things e.g. How pregnancy happens? Answer: union of sperm and egg. Why my wife became pregnant? Answer: Because I loved her.

T – An atheist can only verify facts but is far removed from the causality of life and universe.

P – With a Sir Syed-ian view, P rejects the relationship of physical world and the prayer e.g. If whole of Saudi Arabia prays for rain, will it become a tropical rain forest? Quran is correct and science is correct. You have to read Quran in a way that the possibility of miracles becomes allegorical.

P – Admonishes the opponent about his superficial understanding of scientific constructs and prevents him from using his understanding in theological arguments.

Q&A session – some of the highlights are below:

T – Allah from nothing?

P – Science will not tell you somethings. It will not tell you why you exist, what is the purpose of your life, what your morals ought to be. Science only deals with the physical universe after the big bang and not with the issue of a “Creator” who was there before it.

Audience: How can an atheist be sincerely an atheist when he does not even entertain that domain of thought of a Creator?

P’s reply – Science is separate from atheism, agnosticism and religion. These domains only deal with what brought all this about? If the Holy Book had science in it then in the last 1000 years we should had gained in knowledge of a testable experiment, some machine that must had been build, in the form of some device.


Since P is a professor of physics in a leading university and was under tutelage of great Abdus Salam in Triest, he must ask his students to re-read the first verses of Muhammad’s revelations in a different light:

96:1. Read in the name of your Lord Who creates

96:2. creates man from a clot (of blood)

96:3. read and your Lord is most Generous,

96:4. Who taught by the pen,

96:5. taught man what he did not know.

96:6. No! Man is surely inordinate,

96:7. because he looks upon himself as self-sufficient.

96:8. Surely to your Lord is the return. [Muhammad Ali]

A keen reader will immediately notice the path to human progress when one is to Read in the name of your Lord Who creates the basis of all material and non-material opportunities in life; and the Divine guarantee of success if one is to read and your Lord is most Generous; and the knowledge that He taught man what he did not know which leads to progress; but the natural impediment to this progress is the human side of man i.e. Man is surely inordinate, he looks upon himself as self-sufficient and thus robs himself of the progress that the Almighty has in store for him. Embedded in these first commandments is the message that lays down the very foundation of what we call individual scholarship and, collectively, as the universities in modern day a.k.a. Harvards, Stanfords, Oxfords, Triestes…


The Bottom Line to this kind of debate was summarized by Khwaja Kamaluddin in earlier part of last century:

“True Science and true Theology are one and the same. One reveals the Laws of God working in the various manifestations of the Universe, on the physical plane; the other discloses the same Laws at work in the Moral and Spiritual sphere. All these laws emanate from the same First Intelligent Cause, and cannot, therefore, admit of any mutual discrepancy.”

“A person with an atheistic turn of mind cannot but admit the essential reasonableness of the Qur-ánic Theology. The ‘God’ of the Qur-án is the ‘God’ of Nature. If the working of Nature disclose a reign of law, which demands implicit obedience to it from all the component parts of the Universe, and if different forms of the law exhibit different characters and features of that Great Mind, Who is admittedly working behind the scene, it is not difficult to arrive at some of the conceivable attributes of the First Intelligent Cause; and a true theology must reveal them.” [Islam and Zoroastrianism by Khwaja Kamal ud din, p. 91, 93, pub: 1925]

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all the above verses from Quran are taken from the Translation of the Holy Quran by Nooruddin.

14 Responses to “Religion and Rationality – a debate”

  1. March 4th, 2012 at 7:48 am
    From Zahid Aziz:

    Let us take a concrete, recent example, relating to the method for determining the appearance of the new moon, which seemingly leads to a clash between the verdict of Islamic shariah and modern science.

    Please see the following two comments by me: first and second.

    I quoted there the comments of the Ulama of South Africa:

    “Even if all the astronomers of the world unite to say that it is a total impossibility to sight the moon, the Shariah’s command to search for the hilaal at the end of the 29th day may not be abandoned. Regardless of astronomical impossibility, if a sighting satisfies the requisites of the Shariah, the new month will be incumbently declared.”

    “When there is a clash between the Shariah and astronomy, the latter will be dumped in the waste, and the Shariah will prevail regardless of how irrational the Shar’i stance may appear.”

    I wonder what is the opinion Mr Hamza Tzortiz about this.

    There is no doubt that Islam, out of all religions, is distinguished by its repeated urging to people to observe nature, reflect upon how it works, and draw conclusions from its operation, and to constantly seek to increase their knowledge. Islam is also distinguished by the fact that, directly as a result of these teachings, its early followers made vast contributions to the development of science and technology.

    However, now we are sitting and claiming that what others have discovered through hard work was, in effect, known to us through the Quran all along! At least that is the clear impression conveyed by the claims being made.

    It was only after scientific research was done that certain facts and theories emerged, about which we say that the Quran verifies them and is consistent with them. No Muslim said, before these discoveries were made, that they would be made because they are mentioned in the Quran! If that had been the case, Muslims today would be able to predict discoveries to be made by science in the future.

    The fact is that the Quran is meant to be pondered upon as to what it is telling us, just like nature is to be pondered upon as to what it is telling us, and conclusions drawn from both which are consistent with each other.

    Unfortunately, as with many other profound and sublime Islamic concepts, this topic too, i.e. the Quran being consistent with modern science, has been reduced to a gimmick by populist writers and speakers to charm the Muslim public with. Many Muslims now appear to think that scientific discoveries were unnecessary because they could have been made just by reading the Holy Quran.

  2. Follow up on Dr. Zahid Aziz post:

    New York Times is famous for telling the truth, but after the fact. When truth loses its value.

    To Muslims, who propagate superiority of Holy Quran based on mere fact that scientific fact was mentioned in it over fourteen hundred years ago loses its value if Holy Quran has not helped in discovery of that scientific knowledge and fact, i say Christians Bible has mentioned ill effect of consumtion of alcohol in pregnant female which science today calls   ‘fetal alcohol syndrome’.

  3. In late 1980s I was M.Sc. Electronics student in Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.  Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy was professor in Physics department. Both departments are in the same building. ‘Progressive and Leftist’ students use to have great admiration for him and others like Professor Abdul Hameed Nayyar  (seen among audience in debate video). We use to hang around them at lunch time at Nazir’s Khoka (makeshift restaurant). In 1988 there was Ojari Camp disaster, in Rawalpindi. This was explosion in army ammunition depot and many projectiles caught fire and launched. Many people were killed. The very next day of explosion Profs. Hoodbhoy and Nayyar called meeting of student body in University Cafeteria. They started a plan to donate sewing machines to widows and families of disaster victims, and some other measures to help them. I think it was the first NGO in Pakistan. I was present in that meeting. One thing was very clear that no other faculty member was there. No “true and real Muslim” with or without beard faculty attended that meeting.
    I have sent an email to Prof. Hoodbhoy, inviting him to this blog to give his feedback. I hope he receives my email.
    Following is Wikipedia entry on Prof. Hoodbhoy:

  4. The above debate briefly touched upon concept of prayers against the background of expecting miracles just by prayers without action or employing the relevant means. There is no conflict between prayer and adoption of the means. What is after all the object of prayer, but to acquire means? A sick lay person has no understanding of his illness. A doctor taking over the care of that person, is essentially an act of continuation of the thought process of the patient. The difference now is that the doctor’s mind knows and can provide the cure for body that carried a mind that did not know the disease process before. However, the doctor can only provide care within the confines of laws of physics, chemistry and biology, as we know for example certain cancers, infections and injuries have no cure. Such a person will likely die sooner than his expected life expectancy. Man dies nevertheless. But it is the prayers that get the patient to the right doctor, idea and intervention.
    Prayers create means for change and discovery, be it Muhammad (PBUH) changing the destiny of a morally, culturally and academically decrypt nation, which is a bigger accomplishment than any miracle either before or after him. We do not call it a classical miracle for the mere fact that his achievements were recorded to minutest details in history, whereas, miracles were attributed to Jesus doing the same, when he cured the morally dead, leprous and blind.
    Dr. Hoodbhoy might relate to the fruition of the (scientific pondering) prayer of Kekule in his own words when he discovered the Benzene ring structure:

    “I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes…My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke…” [The Ouroboros ~ A Personal Symbology, 2003.]

    As to the professor’s above statement that – If whole of Saudi Arabia prays for rain, will it become a tropical rain forest? The answer is that both him and Sir Syed could not differentiate between wish and prayer. For that, it necessitates a read of “Does God Hears Man’s Prayers?” by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, because it is scientific to read the counter or alternate view.
    For Saudi Arabia to become a rain forest overnight by prayers is an impossibility because it contravenes God’s own created scientific laws. Such a rapid change will tantamount to a miracle. In human terms, God expects Muslims to submit to His laws, and by letting anti-physics miracles happen, He will be the first breaker of His own laws. We as Muslims, the law compliant, do not expect such kind of unpredictable Godly behavior. Miracles are Biblical, not Quranic. The closest Arabs can get with prayers is to have constant supply of drinkable water for their daily use. Who knows what will happen as a consequence of Global Warming.
    Q.E.D. – Prayers are in a domain that is non-physics, and dwell in spiritual and moral plane with its own laws that are brought to light in Quran with examples in life of the Prophet Muhammad. What Quran tells us that ultimately moral laws trump the physical laws, and success of Muhammad is one single example that defies all physical laws. He had a very high probability of failure as physics was against him, a failure which repeatedly offered itself over 21 continuous years. However, this miracle of Muhammad fully utilized laws of physics but under the shadow of the moral laws. A miracle is nothing but against all odds. Is it not odd that most scientific studies have a cut off of p-value or odds in its favor or else lost to chance and being rejected? We accept experimental result in medicine with p < 0.05 which is an acceptable Significance @ 5%. Imagine odds lined against  temporal success of Muhammad, may we say worse than Six Sigma (standard deviations)? Remember, Six Sigma is the highest target set for Boeing, i.e. they are willing to accept 2 failures in a million events, and we all feel safe flying. Can we thus reject Muhammad, Quran, Allah? At least not statistically. The Confounder in his success was none but his life long arsenal of prayers:

    73:1. O you that have wrapped yourself up in robes (of Prophethood)!
    73:2. Stand up (in Prayer) at night except for a small portion of it,
    73:3. Half of it or you may however reduce it a little,
    73:4. Or prolong it (a little more) and keep on reciting the Qur’ân distinctly and thoughtfully well.
    73:5. Verily, We are soon going to charge you with the enormous and important responsibility of (conveying to mankind) the Message (of your Lord).
    73:6. Verily, getting up at night (for Prayer) is the most effective means of subduing (one’s self), and the most upright way to acquire firm control over one’s actions and speech.
    73:7. Indeed, you have a long (chain of) engagements during the day.
    73:8. Therefore extol the name of your Lord and devote (yourself) to Him with exclusive and sincere devotion.
    73:9. He is the Lord of the East and the West. There is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He, therefore take Him as Disposer of (your) affairs (putting your full trust in Him).
    73:10. And patiently persevere in the face of all that these (enemies) say and withdraw from them in a graceful manner.
    73:11. Leave Me to (deal with) those who belie (the truth) and who are possessors of ease and plenty. And give them a little respite. [Nooruddin]

    If Muhammad (PBUH) were a physicist, he still would had kept up his same very modus operandi. He would had quite naturally repeated which worked in the first instance – prayers, as nothing succeeds like successful prayers.

  5. March 5th, 2012 at 10:10 pm
    From Zahid Aziz:

    Almost 30 years ago I made a speech at the annual gathering (Jalsa) of AAIIL in Lahore, in Urdu, on the subject of scientific inventions in the light of Quranic teachings. The English translation was then published in The Light, Lahore. I have managed to dig it out, and for whatever it is worth here is the link to the pdf file.

    I am sorry about the scan quality but it is readable.

  6. I must congratulate Dr. Zahid Aziz for his extraordinary, all encompassing and stimulating, yet humbling thesis: “Science and Technology – Taught to man by God” that he delivered as a speech way back in December 1982. Since his arguments are based upon the fundamental First Cause, they seem current as of today and their principles are as contemporary as ever. I might even say that it may be added as an addendum to “Teachings of Islam” by HMGA, where HMGA expounds the nature and states of self. Dr. Aziz takes the discussion further when he externalizes the self by HMGA into its physical environs and writes to the same audience that read physics.
    As the blog is progressing on “Religion and Rationality” it inevitably is sweeping different arcs. One such aspect is the atheistic tendencies that emerge with man’s mastery over matter. The flavor of this is found in the argument of Dr. Hoodbhoy when he rebuts the dogmatic claim of some ignorant reading speed of light in Quran and who then axiomatically state that matter cannot exceed the speed of light because “angels” travel at that speed. These arm chair warriors try to undermine the hard work of scores of scientists who spent their careers to unmask for the humanity the treasures of nature, that these beard wagging try to take credit for because they somehow found it in Quran, but after the fact. Dr. Hoodbhoy rightfully then states that recent experiments at CERN prove that wrong by finding neutrinos faster than light. Then he draws a scathing conclusion that at least for those Mullahs the` neutrinos are beyond the reach and control of God. Essentially, God having lost its control over its own creation or even worse, concept of God is the invention of human mind. Not that Dr. Hoodbhoy is an atheist, but it does bring to light a general notion that physicists tend to be atheists, if nothing else, for the mere fact that the concept of God does not cross their validation of scientific experimentation and scientific method.
    The said article of Dr. Aziz draws attention of the atheist to go beyond his endeavors of merely verifying what is out there with how, what, when, where and why. For example, a physicist cannot go beyond the physical brain. But Quran talks also of the mind which is an all encompassing concept. Even a physicist sees no problem when an experimental psychologist employs the fuzzy logic and unverifiable theories of psychology to understand mind. Did it ever cross the mind of a physicist that despite his commendable and much needed discoveries and developments which fringe on miracles, why is it so that Psychiatry is becoming one of the most flourishing field in medicine. Next time try making an appointment in the clinic and notice the wait time of weeks if not months. Why? There is something fundamentally missing in the material world, dearth of which is increasing with ever increasing understanding and exploitation of matter. An exploitation which in the name of development is unambiguously rocking the social dynamics by creating a state of panic and hopelessness in masses. That starkly missing fundamental component from the minds with its accompanying sucking sound of a void is the three letter word “God” and what it stands for. A physicist might call this analogy as correlation rather than cause and effect, but for sure he cannot deny their mutual relationship. God in Islam is not a deity but the super set of our existence both material and non-material.
    One of the fundamental principle taught to a medical student is that “it is not the doctor but the time which heals the wound.” Physics can invent all the antiseptics and sutures they want, but they are far from inventing or controlling time. Fact of the matter is that time warping is no more than fiction just like anti-gravity, at least in our physical world governed by the Standard Model.
    I might come across as skeptic of a physicist, but in no way am I writing against physics. Its the mind of a materialist that is the focus which becomes arrogant and denies itself the full fruition of what this field has to offer. The ultimate dream of a physicist is the joy, pride and recognition of winning a Nobel Prize. Last time I checked, joy, pride and recognition are not in domain of physics. If by any act of nature these adjectives and emotions are taken away from the physics, I wonder how many researchers will remain in this coveted field?
    Islam of Quran in its spirit is “Physics plus.” For a Muslim both Physics, Psychiatry and all material and non-material sciences, their laws and principles, regress to yet emerge from the First Intelligent Cause, the ultimate Unifying Theory, rather the Theory of Everything, with the difference that in Quran the unification is inclusive of mind as well. It not only unifies the body but its soul as well, not only the physicality but also its mentality, not only the nature but its nurture as well:

    3:83. Do they then seek other than Allah’s religion? And to Him submits whoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they will be returned. [Muhammad Ali – ed. Zahid Aziz]

    The above discussion is mostly about the spirit and soul of physics as understood by this lay writer and in no way is intended to belittle a field that gives the world to the man to begin with, yet it risks becoming its own casket.
    What Quran tell us of the Master Design in the schema is the elegance, almost like a fractal where it is an ever emerging order rather than a chaos, irrespective of whether one zooms into it or zooms out. There is predictable and repeatable design, at least on a theoretical level, to the extent that it is dazzling and inspiring.

    67:3. It is He Who has created seven heavens [seven = infinite], one upon another in conformity (with each other). You can see no flaw, no incongruity and no imperfection in the creation of the Most Gracious (God). Then look up once more (to heaven). Do you see any flaw?

    67:4. Look again and yet again (to find out any confusion in Divine law). (The result will only be that) your eye will return to you dazzled while it is weary (and you will be unable to find any discordance). [Nooruddin]

    When a physicist makes a discovery only he can understand what reverential awe means:

    35:2…Only those of His servants who are endowed with right knowledge (and who can visualize the unity of the Creator by pondering over the diversity of the Creation) hold Allâh in reverential awe. Mighty is Allâh, Great Protector. [Nooruddin]

    The challenge for Physics is not that how much we know, but of how much we do not. Fact of the matter is that more we know, the less we know proportionately. Think of the first wheel which was nothing but a rolling log. Then came axle which was put under the king’s chariot and it was thought as the end of technology. But the king did not know how far and in what shape this contraption of axle and a wheel will grow and be utilized. Now we are riding on magnetic propulsion. Then there was a quantum leap with Newton – matter from matter, but came Einstein with matter into energy and vice versa. Now we are beyond four dimensions, though are limited by computer processing power:

    31:27. And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea with seven more seas added to it (were ink), the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Surely Allah is Mighty, Wise. [Nooruddin]

    While addressing mankind, Quran does not ignore the endeavors of a physicist, rather provides a moral support. In some ways God walks with a physicist in his lab:

    20:1. Tâ Hâ – O perfect man! be at rest.

    20:2. We have not revealed this Qur’ân to you that you should fail in your mission.

    20:3. But it is a reminder (of things inherent in human nature) to him who stands in awe (to God),

    20:4. (And) a revelation from Him Who created the earth and the high heavens.

    20:5. (He is) the Most Gracious (God, Who) is firmly and flawlessly established on (His) Throne (of Power).

    There are interesting parallels in realm of classical religion and physics. Quran does not claim itself as a novel message, rather it frequently draws the reader’s attention to the fact that it is the same message that was given before to other prophets. In that sense, it is continuation of the message since the evolving of the modern man. At the same time Quran keeps admonishing against the natural decay that inevitably similar to old religions will set into its interpretation and practice. To preserve the hygiene of its message, in Islamic tradition every Hijra century has its divinely ordained revivalist, the Mujaddid. One of the first people that go against the revivalist are the Mullahs of the time. Besides many factors, what differentiates the most a Mujaddid from a Mullah is the elegance of interpretation of Quran by the former, whereas the latter’s explanations are patch works of imaginations, myths and miracles to prop up the accumulated fudge, which is essentially inelegant. Keeping this in mind, now read Stephen Hawking:

    Elegance refers to the form of a theory, but it is closely related to a lack of adjustable elements, since a theory jammed with fudge factors is not very elegant.…when a model is found lacking, people still often don’t abandon the model but instead attempt to save it through modifications. Although physicists are indeed tenacious in their attempts to rescue theories they admire, the tendency to modify a theory fades to the degree that the alterations become artificial or cumbersome, and therefore “inelegant.” [ Excerpted from the book The Grand Design, Copyright 2010 by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, Posted by arrangement with Bantam Books, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc.]

    Can we thus say Mullah = Physicist. Absolutely not. The above extrapolation was an intentional pun to the extent that Mullah miserably tries to preserve the soul at the cost of the body (a.k.a. Physics) and at same time some physicists preserve the body but kill the soul. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle:

    Science without religion is lame, Religion without science is blind – Einstein.

    “The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” – Albert Einstein “The Merging of Spirit and Science”

    In summary:

    If we admit the existence of the Creator of All Things we are bound to admit that our thoughts and ideas were created by Him and that the brain was created for receptivity and assimilation. It has been proved that all material things endure, taking on new form but retaining their essentials. As this applies to the material world it must apply with greater force to the spiritual world; and thought, in its essence being of the spirit, is no more perishable than matter. Hence, our scientific “discoveries” have never been discovered by us. We are but the transmitting instruments of God. “There is nothing new under the sun” – Prophet Solomon. [God and Science, by Duse Mohamed, Islamic Review and Muslim India, Vol. IV, No. 2, February 1916, p. 95; The Mosque, Woking, Surrey, England.]


  7. On Neutrinos and Angels
    Using a holy text as a physic­s book makes little sense. But, sadly, it is all too common.

    By Pervez Hoodbhoy
    Published: January 8, 2012

    I came across Dr. Hoodbhoy’s above article. I hope he gets my email and cares to join us on this blog.

  8. March 6th, 2012 at 7:47 pm
    From Zahid Aziz:

    Here is a well-known quote from Sir Isaac Newton:

    “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

    This is how a true scientist is humbled, by evaluating his discoveries in comparison with the magnitude of all the truth that exists.

    The Holy Quran says:

    “Say: If the sea were ink for the words of my Lord, the sea would surely be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, though We brought the like of it to add (thereto).” (18:109)

    “And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea with seven more seas added to it (were ink), the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (31:27)

    Even the great ocean of undiscovered truth would be exhausted, by being discovered, and the words of Allah would be still more!

  9. On March 4, 2012, The Express Tribune published Prof. Hoodbhoy article ‘Run for your life’.
    In it he talked about role of Shia and Ahmadis in creation of Pakistan, and now they are paying the price for it.
    Members of Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (Lahori-Ahmadis), role our elders played in creation of Pakistan:

    1-Idea of Pakistan was conceived by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali in the drawing room of Woking Muslim Mission, England run by LAM elders.

    2-Articles published in LAM English organ ‘The Light’ made suggestion for creation of Muslim Homeland that were liked by Quaid-i-Azam. And he suggested ‘Dawn’ editors to take ‘The Light’ approach. I will appreciate if anyone could dig out reference. QA perhaps wrote letter to editor.

    3-Quaid-i-Azam visit to LAM headquarters and meeting with Maulana Muahmmad Ali in Lahore. His appreciation for ‘The Light’ and acknowledgement of forwarding ‘questions regarding Islam received from around the world’ to LAM for answering them.  I read it in our jamaat literature. But don’t recall reference. Help will be appreciated in this regard.
    My father, a Muslim League member, spent some time in jail as political prisoner during movement for creation of Pakistan.

    In last few years I have started wondering, whether it was right thing for LAM elders to do. What others think?
    Dr. Hoodbhoy article:

  10. March 8th, 2012 at 11:16 pm
    From Zahid Aziz:

    Please see also the material at this link.

    I have also been looking through The Light of 15th August 1947, which obviously contained several articles on the background to the creation of Pakistan, what its ideology should be, and hopes for the future. I have extracted one such article, which is specifically about the philosophical and practical role of the Ahmadiyya Movement in the creation of Pakistan. Here is the pdf file.

  11. and Wall Street Journal published a column on Fri, Mar 9, 2012. ‘The apostates of Pakistan’ by Aakar Patel. I sent following email to author:

    Dear Mr. Aakar Patel,

    I read your column ‘The apostates of Pakistan’. Published in on Fri, Mar 9, 2012.

    I am member of Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (aka Lahori-Ahmadis). I would say in your column, there are few inaccuracies regarding beliefs and claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (regarded as ‘Mujaddid’ meaning a reformer of 14th Islamic Century by LAM). As a result it creates WRONG understanding in mind of reader regarding Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Here I want to highlight another error in your understanding of Ahmadis, so that you could be more careful in future.

    Both Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (LAM) members and Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (AMI) call themselves Ahmadis. This creates at times misunderstanding regarding beliefs of both. So, to be more clear LAM members are called ‘Lahori-Ahmadis’ and AMI people are called ‘Qadiani-Ahmadis’. In your column you wrote:

    “I would say some of the responsibility for their persecution lies with Pakistan’s Ahmadi community. They will reject this, and it is a callous thing to say given their state, but it is true. They were enthusiastic supporters of the two-nation theory, and of Pakistan. Sir Zafarullah Khan championed the Islamizing of Pakistan through its infamous Objectives Resolution of 1949. Ahmadis crossed over to do jihad in Kashmir, ignoring Mirza Ahmad’s wisdom. They raised a group of mujahideen there called Furqan Force to cleanse it of Hindu rule.”

    It would been better if you had clarified your opinion by writing: ‘Qadiani-Ahmadis crossed over to do jihad in Kashmir, ignoring Mirza Ahmad’s wisdom. They raised a group of mujahideen there called Furqan Force to cleanse it of Hindu rule’.
    I hope you will make a note of it. Please acknowledge my email. Thanks.

    I will be post this email on LAM blog:

    Take care,
    Rashid Jahangiri, M.D.
    Manhattan, NY.

    Link to column:

  12. March 10th, 2012 at 5:08 pm
    From Zahid Aziz:

    In the article mentioned above, Aaker Patel writes:

    Pakistan’s passport application forms have this declaration that all Muslims must sign: “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Quadiani to be an imposter nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Quadiani group, to be non-Muslims.”

    Why force Muslims to sign this? Actually, the reason for this cruel wording is to ensure that Ahmadis do not sign it.

    That is not the only reason. It is also so that no person who is Muslim under the Pakistan Constitution can regard Ahmadis as Muslims. At the time this wording was drawn up, there were a large number of other Muslims who regarded Ahmadis as Muslims, and there are still many such in Pakistan who do so in their hearts. This wording was the way to force each and every Muslim to accept the constitutional amendment.

    Also, the anti-Ahmadiyya cannot allow any Muslim (as defined by them) to regard Ahmadis as Muslims because that Muslim would then, according to Islam, have to regard the anti-Ahmadiyya as kafir because they declared Muslims as kafir!

    In the second South Africa case, the main issue was the position of what our opponents called “Ahmadi sympathisers”. Our opponents argued that they were kafir just like Ahmadis.

    The moment any other Muslim regards Ahmadis as Muslim, the whole edifice erected by the anti-Ahmadiyya starts collapsing because that Muslim is allowing Ahmadis to penetrate into the fraternity of the Muslim community!

    Sometimes we come across “declared” Muslims in Pakistan (who themselves may be non-Ahmadis or those who left the movement under pressure in 1974) who, having known Ahmadis, tell us that they consider Ahmadi elders to have been undoubtedly righteous and full-fledged Muslims. But while they may say this to us in words privately, they have in practice signed the above declaration!

  13. March 11th, 2012 at 6:05 pm
    From Zahid Aziz:

    Looking at the link I gave earlier to the section of about the Ahmadiyya Movement and Pakistan, there is a sworn statement by Mr Abdul Aziz, editor of Roshni, Srinagar, published there relating that Mr M.A. Jinnah at a press conference in Srinagar in 1944 rejected demands to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

    I noticed that I had not provided the image of the original Urdu affidavit (which I possess) and had given only the English translation. So today I have added a scanned image of the affidavit, which was legally sworn by Mr Abdul Aziz before a Notary. Please see this page.

  14. Rashid: Here are some of the references about role of AAIIL in creation of Pakistan in Sept issue of The Light, 2007, p. 5.
    Letter to the Editor

    In response to our August issue, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the founding of Pakistan, we have received the following letter from Capt. Abdus Salam Khan from California. He is son of the late Maulana Yaqub Khan, who was Editor of The Light (Lahore) for many years and a campaigner for the Pakistan Movement since long before partition. He
    writes as follows:

    “ One of the feathers in The Light’s cap, as far as the idea of Pakistan goes, is the fact that The Light suggested the partition of the country even
    before Allama Iqbal, in an editorial in 1928 or 1929. I do hope that you would reproduce this editorial on this historic occasion.

    K.K. Aziz, the famous historian, has mentioned in his book The History of the Idea of Pakistan, and also confirmed to me personally, that Khan Bahadur Ghulam Rabbani Khan, one of the Imams of the Woking Mosque, who was a member of the NWFP legislature, had moved a resolution in that assembly for creation of Pakistan in the 1930s.

    Another very interesting bit that you should include in your commemoration is the one that Mr. M.A. Jinnah recounted in his speech at Maulana Muhammad Ali’s residence in the 1940s — the one about his convincing the Viceroy of India of the Two-Nation Theory through sending him an editorial on this subject in The Light. ”

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