Sabahat Ali Rajput, Missionary, Mexico
“Faith, unsupported by evidence, is a lethal weapon.” (Richard Dawkins)
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” (Helen Keller)
Sweeping allegations have been levelled against Islam that it commands its followers to adopt such beliefs as have no empirical, rational or otherwise reasonable bases. Prof Dawkins, in his best-selling book, The God Delusion, writes:
“An atheist … is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 15, Bantam Press )
Amazingly, New Atheists have become so engrossed in their opposition to “blind faith” that they fail to see that science is one of the greatest proponents of believing in the unseen, i.e. things beyond the physical and the tangible. In fact, scientific enquiry demands it at nearly every level of investigation. So, what does Islam mean when it invites us to believe in the unseen?
The fact is that Islam categorically rejects blind faith without supporting arguments or empirical proofs.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra explains:
“The word [ghaa‘ib] used in the Quran does not mean, as assumed by some hostile critics, imaginary and unreal things, but real and verified things, though unseen (see Ch.49: V.19; Ch.32: V.7). It is, therefore, wrong to suppose … that Islam forces upon its followers some mysteries of faith and invites them to believe in them blindly.”
He goes on to expound the actual word used in the Holy Quran:
“The word ghaa‘ib, as stated above, means things which, though beyond the comprehension of human senses, can nevertheless be proven by reason or experience. The super-sensible need not necessarily be irrational. Nothing of ‘the unseen’, which a Muslim is called upon to believe, is outside the scope of reason.” (The English 5-Volume Commentary, Vol. 1, pp. 32-33)
Elaborating the nature of the unseen in relation to different points in time, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh explains:
“All hidden knowledge of perceivable things, whether it pertains to the past, the present or the future, lies within the scope of this category. In other words, we are required to believe in the existence of things which are not known at a given point in time but do exist and may become known at another point in time. This belief cannot be dubbed as blind faith. The Quran does not require the believers to have faith in anything which is not supported by irrefutable arguments.
“Hence, the unseen covers only such things as may become accessible through the instruments of reason, rationality and deductive logic. The point to be noted here is that the unseen as defined, though not directly perceivable by the senses, is yet verifiable. The rationale of this Quranic injunction is fully supported by human experience. (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, pp. 272-273)
Science is sightless without blind faith
Brian Greene, a well-known physicist and author of both The Elegant Universe and Fabric of the Cosmos, observes that “exploring the unknown requires tolerating uncertainty.”
Just because a realm of knowledge cannot be directly observed does not nullify grounds for belief in it. The intellect of man is but finite; it was never meant to grasp and comprehend infinities in their entirety. The physical, intellectual and indeed neurological faculties of man are so restricted, that, for instance, even micro-organisms are invisible to him without the aid of technology.
As Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra observes:
“There are many things in the world which, though unseen, are yet proven to exist by invincible arguments and nobody can deny their existence. God cannot be perceived by the physical senses.” (The English 5-Volume Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 33)
The mystery of dark matter lights up the way
Despite the stunning scientific advancements of the 21st century, even the most decorated scientists at NASA know that there is quite possibly – what they refer to – as a “shadow universe”, which they are seeking earnestly. (“The First Glimpse of the Shadow Universe Around Us”, National Geographic, January 2015)
It is established that everything that has been directly observed using the most highly developed space-exploration technology comprises only 5% of the observable universe. Yet, not one scientist in this field can deny the existence of what remains to be directly observed. Otherwise, there would be no motivation to investigate something that one knows is not there. Still, it is central to the scientific method that reasonable evidence by way of deduction also warrants an unbiased investigation.
According to the leading experts at the CERN in Switzerland paired with the University of Stanford:
“The invisible majority [of the universe] consists of 27 percent dark matter and 68 percent dark energy. Both of them are mysteries. Dark matter is thought to be responsible for sculpting the glowing sheets and tendrils of galaxies that make up the large-scale structure of the universe – yet nobody knows what it is. Dark energy is even more mysterious; the term, coined to denote whatever is accelerating the rate at which the cosmos expands, has been called a ‘general label for what we do not know about the large-scale properties of our universe.’
“…Theorists working in what is called super-symmetric quantum physics have conjured up lots of unobserved varieties of matter, one or more of which might turn out to be dark matter.
“Dark matter’s aloofness makes it challenging for experimenters to catch – even if, as some scientists estimate, dark matter particles are so commonplace that billions of them pass through every human being every second.” (Ibid)
Since the 1930s, colossal efforts and resources have been consumed in trying to understand the phenomenon of dark matter, a particularly subtle and elusive energy source, which scientists know is there, but cannot produce tangible or empirical evidence for it. Yet, scientists are ecstatic to discover more about it, always hoping that fine-tuning their machinery, investing more time, capital and greater brainpower in thought and reflection will reap promising results.
Professor Risa Wechsler of Stanford University is an astronomically seasoned scientist and exorbitantly accomplished astrophysicist. She is Director at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and an Elected Fellow to the American Physical Society.
Just two months ago, during her TED Talk, she began her explanation of dark matter in the following words:
“One of the strangest things we have learned is that most of the material in the universe is made of something entirely different than you and me. But without it, the universe as we know it wouldn’t exist. Everything we can see with telescopes makes up just about 15% of the total mass in the universe. Everything else – 85% of it – doesn’t emit or absorb light. We can’t see it with our eyes. We can’t detect it with radio waves or microwaves or any other kind of light. But we know it is there because of its influence on what we can see.” (The search for dark matter and what we’ve found so far, Ted via YouTube, retrieved 21 April 2020)
Dark matter, as defined by NASA, is so shrouded in mystery, that astronomers know little to nothing about it. More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be called “normal” matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the universe. (“Dark Energy, Dark matter.” NASA. Accessed December 2018)
Evidently, dark matter is something that, despite the best efforts of the world’s greatest scientific minds and the most advanced technologies, is far from directly observable, and its investigation requires us to invest multitudes of resources, combined with decades of patience, hope, and hard work. It needs to be observed indirectly, through its interaction with what is known: gravity. And even gravity – the basis from which the existence of dark matter is recognised – is not directly observable but is known by its effect and influence on mass and vice-versa.
This furnishes compelling evidence that the greater and more powerful a force, the more evasive it is. The more profound its effect is on the universe, the more subtle it is – hence, why something as substantial as dark matter and as ambiguous as Dark Energy must be observed by their respective effects on other things. Entire chains of non-physical, intangible forces exist and no one so much as fl inches at the fact that they are not directly observable.
Imagine – gravity is not directly observable but is known by its complex and subtle effect on things, yet dark matter is known by its even more elusive and undetectable interaction with the ghost of gravity – and this is perfectly scientific. One is astonished at the criticisms levelled against Islam’s invitation to believe in all those things which are not directly observable by the naked eye.
Even today, every single fair-minded atheist believes in the unseen with a conviction and certainty that he does not even realise he has. The mystery of dark matter has forced scientists to elasticise the extremities of their belief in the unseen to unprecedented levels. In doing so, they have reached unequalled frontiers of discovery and insight, proving the genius behind the Holy Quran’s invitation to always believe in the unseen.
The unknown always is gleaned by what is known
The University of Harvard’s Chandra Observatory describes dark matter as the following:
“Although it cannot be observed directly, dark matter does interact via gravity … Capitalising on this interaction, astronomers have studied the effects of dark matter using a variety of techniques …”
When something cannot be observed directly by the human faculties, it is observed through its interaction with what is known and perceivable. This is the only logical and practical way to understand the unknown. Even still, the New Atheists are not willing to study God by way of His interaction with what is known. And yet, when gravity, which itself is a scarcely understood concept, is seen reacting to a totally invisible force (dark matter), no one hesitates to acknowledge the existence of this invisible force. In fact, scientists immediately prepare to (quite literally) study it to the ends of the cosmos, calling it “the force behind the expansion of the universe”, and this is considered science at its best.
Yet, according to New Atheists, when a “force” literally articulates countless verities and sublime realities of astrophysics, geology, biology, evolution, psychology, law, totally unforeseeable future events and so much more, to an unlettered man 1400 years ago in a desert, this “interaction” between man and this invisible force does not warrant an investigation. At what point does it remain scientific to have such vacuum blind faith?
The knowledge vouchsafed to Muhammadsa warrants investigation
Scientists know that the universe is expanding and they have named the “energy” that goes on expanding it, “Dark Energy,” despite not being able to see it. All they see is that the universe is progressing outward. The discovery of the expansion of the universe is among the single most significant scientific milestones of our time. According to A History of Science:
“The recognition that the universe is expanding is one of the greatest ever discoveries in Cosmology. It is generally acknowledged that modern Cosmology is crucially founded on this discovery, which … served as cosmologies main observational basis.” (“Who Discovered the Expanding Universe?” History of Science [Journal]. Accessed 22 April 2020)
If a man who lived in 7th century Arabia, a thousand years before the first recorded patent of any telescope, who could not read or write, pronouncedly declared before the world that the universe is expanding and that there is an extremely subtle and physically imperceptible force going on expanding it, it would take entire galaxies of bias to ignore such an earth-shattering revelation.
Amazingly, this concept of the expansion of the universe has already been laid out in the Holy Quran 1400 years ago and God Himself states that He is the force behind both the creation of the universe and its expansion. Thus, the Holy Quran declares,
وَ السَّمَآءَ بَنَیۡنٰہَا بِاَیۡٮدٍ وَّ اِنَّا لَمُوۡسِعُوۡنَ
“And We have built the heaven with Our own hands, and verily We go on expanding them.” (Surah al-Dhariyat, Ch.51: V.48)
For any fair-minded person, the mere fact that an “unknown” force, whatever it is, informed a desert-Arab of the seventh century that the universe is expanding at all, at a time when no living person possessed the faintest notion of it (not to mention the fact that no one had any concept of this for over 1200 years that followed as well), is sufficient evidence to warrant a very serious investigation into Who exactly gave the Prophet Muhammadsa this information.
Another point that must be acknowledged is that when it comes to the actual beginning of the universe, i.e., what preceded the Big Bang; what force caused the Big Bang to happen at all; what preceded the known Universe; scientists are at a complete loss, as has been established in part one of this series entitled “An introduction to New Atheism.”
The Promised Messiahas writes:
“Consider, for instance, the case of a person who has never seen a magnet and is unaware of a magnet’s power of attraction. If he were to claim that a magnet is only a piece of stone; that he has never witnessed any such power of attraction in any stone and therefore, in his opinion, it is wrong to assert that a magnet has such a power – for it is contrary to the law of nature – then would his vain assertions cast any doubt on the well-established quality of a magnet?
“Certainly not. All that his assertion would prove is that he is absolutely stupid and ignorant and considers his own lack of knowledge to be a proof of the nonexistence of a reality and does not accept the testimony of thousands of people who have experienced it. How can we possibly lay down as a general condition for the laws of nature that they must be personally tested by every individual?
“God has created the human species with great diversity in their external and internal faculties. For instance, some people possess very good eyesight, while others have weak eyesight, and some are altogether blind. When those who are weak-sighted find that those with good sight have perceived a thing from afar – for instance, they have sighted the crescent – they do not deny it; rather, they think that their denial would only humiliate them and expose their weakness. (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Part III, (English) pp. 141-43)
Similarly, today, if the experts at CERN and NASA convey findings about the inner-most workings of the universe, the rest of mankind will trust them because they are the professionals who have delved far into the subtle-most matters of everything from super-symmetry to quantum mechanics. We will believe them – truthfully speaking – blindly. What a deplorable state of affairs, then, that despite their loud claims to curiosity and fair investigation, New Atheists are blinded by bias and prejudice.
Here is a force practically banging at the door of mankind, itself elucidating 1400 years ago the most significant scientific realities known to man. Surely, if this force is literally expressing such complex secrets as the expanding universe, then the other claims which it makes, if not immediately taken at face value, at the very least warrant a very serious investigation – but our Atheist friends will not even do that much. What’s more is that this “force” unravels such secrets of the universe in numerous fields of study, for which even now, despite the best efforts of science, man has no answer.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh writes:
“It should be remembered that the concept of the continuous expansion of the universe is exclusive to the Quran. No other Divine scriptures even remotely hint at it. The discovery that the universe is constantly expanding is of prime significance to scientists, because it helps create a better understanding of how the universe was initially created. It clearly explains the stage by stage process of creation, in a manner which perfectly falls into step with the theory of the Big Bang.” (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, p. 303)
A final dilemma – the telescopes within us
How unfortunate that our New Atheist friends totally fail to factor in the final dilemma. If discovering God Almighty were confined to the electron microscopes of today and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, or if mankind needed to wait for the completion of the much-anticipated James Webb telescope to find God, then what of the rest of mankind for thousands of years before us?
Logic demands that if God Almighty exists, then He should have planted the instruments for investigating, discovering and experiencing Him within the biology of man thousands of years ago. Therefore, the telescope of prayer, which was sown into the nature of man millennia ago, has always been an incontrovertible sign against those who seek to deny and oppose the faithful.
Hence, it is a point to ponder – what if looking inside is even more important than looking outside? Surely, the invisible force which has always backed the true prophets of God warrants an investigation? After all, what is this undeniable force which has always granted unthinkable victories to seemingly helpless Prophets throughout mankind’s history?
(To be continued…)