Faith and Science

The Light (Pakistan), 16th February 1976 Issue (Vol. 56, Nos. 6–7, pp. 3–4, 10)

One of the main factors for the denial of Faith today is that it is considered to be contradictory to Science. This is far from being true. Both Faith and Science aim at ameliorating human life, and are based on the discovery of the laws governing our life and an implicit obedience to them. Both trace their origin to the one and the same source — Divine Nature. But they have different domains of activity; the one concerns with the improvement of man’s inner and higher life, the other with the betterment of his outer and physical environment. The other difference is that the laws of faith are sent down by Divine revelation, whereas natural laws are discovered through the development of man’s intellect and reasoning. Often the question is asked: Why cannot man discover spiritual and moral laws through his own intellectual endeavour? The answer is obvious. The subject dealt with by Faith is beyond the realm of matter. It belongs to the sphere of man’s soul. Let us consider a few questions such as the following: What is the origin and aim of this Universe in general and of man in particular? How should one develop one’s higher inner qualities? What is the aim of man’s life in this world? How can man curb his baser emotions in order to cultivate his moral attributes and to attain moral perfection thereby? It is evident that to tackle these questions is beyond the power of human intellect and reasoning or for that matter Science. Any attempt made in this regard being the result of subjective reasoning, will not be based on sure knowledge and would also lack unanimity. In the case of physical laws, the findings can easily be verified by the observations and experiments made by others, but in the case of spiritual and moral laws, we lack such a verification. As in this case we are to deal with our own selves, our inner natures, which vary so greatly and thus it is impossible to arrive at a certain and unanimous conclusion. In short, scientific discoveries are objective realities, whereas spiritual findings if based on mere reasoning would be subjective in nature. It is at this point that Faith comes to the rescue of man and guides him in the vital life-problems. We all accept the objective method to be the most correct one in science but when the same is applied to the realm of faith we do not accept it and become sceptic of it. This objective method in the realm of faith is called Divine Revelation or the Word of God. It is vouchsafed to certain persons endowed with higher perceptive spiritual senses. The knowledge and guidance received through the Divine Revelation and demonstrated by the chosen ones of God is the most certain and convincing, and appeals to the inner self of man. It transforms the very lives of its adherents, who in return, give a new turn to the course of history and raise a fallen humanity to the heights of spiritual and moral glory.

We intend to throw light on the various aspects of Divine Revelation in the course of subsequent issues, but for the present we would only deal with another grave misunderstanding about the faith so commonly prevalent.

Faith is at present considered to be merely a matter of fiction and a collection of fairytales. Generally, concepts of faith are presented in a dogmatic and authoritarian manner. The votaries and custodians of religion require their followers to ‘believe’ and be ‘saved’. No attempt is, however, made to prove religious realities in a rational and scientific manner. The present age being one of science and rationalism, therefore, refuses to listen to the truths of religion. Moreover, the evangelists fail to demonstrate any relationship between faith and the real problems of life confronting man. Certain formulae are repeated and some meaningless actions are performed, in order to seek the pleasure of an ‘angry deity’ and to attain ‘salvation’ thereby in the Hereafter. Such a presentation of religion is repugnant to the modern scientific spirit. The main reason why an average person today is indifferent to the faith and everything concerning it, is that faith and science have been made contradictory and conflicting. So, the main defect lies in the manner of presentation of the faith as well as in the outlook and actions of those representing it. But in fact, both true faith and science are complimentary and even confirmatory. The true solution of the questions mentioned earlier, is provided in the guidance given by the perfect Divine Word. Recipients of Divine Knowledge — the prophets — have not only provided guidance in the form of Ideal human code of life but have also demonstrated the highest standard of human conduct and character ever needed for the progress and prosperity of an Ideal society. That is why the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has been mentioned in the Last Divine Code — the Holy Quran — as “An Excellent Exemplar” (The Holy Quran, 33:21).

The Quran is the only Scripture which has adopted a scientific approach to all human problems of spiritual and moral elevation. It has not only given certain answers to the questions mentioned above, but has also given arguments substantiating their truth. For instance, fourteen hundred years ago, it upheld freedom of religion and conscience of man — one of the fundamental human rights. The Quran says:

لَاۤ اِکۡرَاہَ فِی الدِّیۡنِ ۟ۙ قَدۡ تَّبَیَّنَ الرُّشۡدُ مِنَ الۡغَیِّ ۚ

“There is no compulsion in religion, because true guidance has been made manifest from error” (The Holy Quran, 2:256).

While stressing the importance of the freedom of conscience, the Quran also puts forward an argument to substantiate it. As guidance has been made distinct from error, therefore there arises no need of coercion. The reasonable presentation of truth would be acceptable to the man of common understanding. Hence no necessity for compulsion. While on the contrary compulsion nullifies the very principle of granting freedom. Similarly, while stressing the need of adhering to the Divine guidance, the Quran has so beautifully pointed out that as Allah has created man, He alone knows better how best to guide him.

The Quran says:

اَلَا یَعۡلَمُ مَنۡ خَلَقَ ؕ وَ ہُوَ اللَّطِیۡفُ الۡخَبِیۡرُ ﴿٪۱۴﴾

“Does He not know Who created? And He is the Knower of subtilties, the Aware” (The Holy Quran, 67:14).

The present age thus requires that we should adopt a rational and scientific approach in presenting the teachings of Islam. The Quranic method of rational and scientific approach is par excellence. Religious experience is something beyond the reach of human reasoning but it can undoubtedly be explained and understood through reason. So, it only needs a proper approach and understanding on our part and it will certainly appeal to the open and scientific mind of the modern age. The Quran itself points out this subtle fact in these words:

ہُوَ اٰیٰتٌۢ بَیِّنٰتٌ فِیۡ صُدُوۡرِ الَّذِیۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡعِلۡمَ ؕ

“These are the clear messages in the very hearts of those who have been granted knowledge.” (The Holy Quran, 29:49). And it is thus that we can prove the veracity of religious truths as embodied in the Holy Quran and meet the challenge of the present scientific age.

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