Saturday, June 24

Islamic Philosophy

Finding myself with a couple of minutes while waiting for my uncle to finish his Zhur at the mosque today, I started reading the June edition of their monthly newsletter. Along with the usual Hadith about how we should respect our parents more (there's an inappropriate joke in there somewhere about Baghban being more effective), there was an interesting piece entitled "Signs of Allah in Solar System". Since this was a mosque newsletter[1] it wasn't original and so I've managed to track down a copy of the text, here.

The problem I have with this stuff is how little it actually says. None of its evidence is particularly conclusive, and all can also be explained by more secular reasonings (I won't use "scientific" since I don't think science and religion are mutually exclusive fields). Furthermore, the same is also evidence for evolution, polytheism and even atheism.

Ultimately it's equivalent to saying that the blue sky being blue is also valid Proof of God (something that I don't think exists). The fact that this statement is both arbitrary and a truism makes it proof for anything else too. For example, if we were breathing nitrogen we'd be calling that miraculous instead. If we couldn't breath anything we wouldn't be having this discussion in the first place. See Anthropic Principle for more about this idea.

Perhaps it's due to my upbringing and both the religious and academic sides of my tuition, but I've never considered Islam to be particularly dogmatic. I mean sure, the eyebrow raising stories are there (the fact that it's an Abrahamitic faith kinda ensures that), but most of the alluring stories of the Prophet (for example) are with regards to his character rather than his miracles. You shouldn't need promises of virgins or even heaven to convince you to do what's (Islamically) right.

However, if one believes 'cos they've been told that the-Sun-hasn't-yet-killed-us-even-though-it-could (and I'm wondering how long that argument will last what with the Earth's temperature issues), then, frankly, I consider that to be an unsafe belief. It's like how some I know believe that the number nine holds some kind of Islamic importance - one of their reasons being that if you add the digits of any number in the nine times table they'll eventually bring you back to nine. Uh, right. What they don't realise is that we'd have another magic number if we had been created with twelve fingers instead of ten.

Dressing up an argument in science or philosophy doesn't automatically make it a good argument. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that anyone who does this (in the particular context above) is insecure about what Islam and its more "traditional" sources and methods already have to offer. Islam has a heritage full of philosophy and argument, both simple and advanced, all of which is more convincing than mere gimmicks will ever be. Why not tap into that instead?


[1] I'm being a bit flippant here. To be fair QMT is actually doing quite a good job. They offer various activities (including matrimonials), have few cultural hang ups and seem to be a pretty good model for a modern European community centre - which is all a mosque should be, really.

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