Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reading Scientific and Mathematical proofs into Holy Books?

Question: I have a deep concern with the practice of reading scientific and mathematical proofs into holy books that were written by persons living in a pre scientific age. Recently in my country it became popular for some biblical scholars to claim that the Old Testament contained secret number codes, and that these number codes could be used to predict future events. Some argued that only God could have inserted these number codes into the old testament, and that this was clearly proof that the old testament had God as its source. Computer modelling has since shown that the appearance of certain numbers within the old testament is purely random, and that it is wrong to read things into the ancient texts that were never intended by the original writers.
I also have major fears of persons insisting that all of THEIR holy texts should be taken literally. I know of some Orthodox Jews who believe that they have the correct understanding of their holy books, and that only they are being faithful to the teachings and commands of God. My Roman Catholic friends believe that Jesus was the son of God, and that only they have a full and accurate understanding of the teachings and commands of God. My Muslim friends believe that only they have the true teachings and commands from God. Now to my mind, something is clearly not right here, which is why I asked my original question about trusting any of the holy scriptures. I have no doubt about the existence of God, anyone who studies the wonders of science would be hard pressed to say otherwise. But I do still see the big religions as being man made and largely male dominated, yet I do not see or sense that God is male. Clearly I have much more to explore and learn !!!!

Answer: We are told by Allah in the Quran that he has sent numerous prophets and revealed various books to mankind, and that as Muslims, we have to believe in them, and respect them.
Having said that, we are also informed that people have over the ages changed the message to suit their interests, so that now they are no longer in their pure form.
We are also told that Allah Himself takes the responsibility of protecting the Quran from changes as it is the final revelation till the end of time, and no other prophet will hence be sent for the guidance of humanity. The Quran is a guidance for all humanity, not just Muslims.
Furthermore, the reader of the Quran is constantly challenged to ponder and reflect upon the message and the signs all around. We are urged to study and evaluate critically, and then believe.
The belief that comes from such understanding and evaluation is naturally one of complete faith and submission…….. it just cannot be otherwise.
I understand your concern, but that is the litmus test……… if it was written by ‘persons living in a pre scientific age’ it is bound to have errors intermixed with some truths that their Prophet informed them of and they were able to record.
Whereas if it is a book from God, protected by God, unadulterated by humans, it should definitely contain no errors as the Creator knows exactly what He created and is not limited in knowledge, nor has any need to lie.
We can theorize all we want based on our knowledge, understanding, intellect and heart ( and we should, as it is an important part of trying to understand), but there has to be some way of testing these theories………. one is to put it to the test of science!
I hope you understand what I’m trying to explain……….. the Holy Quran is a book of Guidance and not a text book of science………… yet since it is from God, whatever scientific phenomenon it refers to should be verifiable……… if not, then we would face the same dilemma other ‘people of the book’ face…. that some of it is from God, some portions written by humans, and it would be a constant challenge sifting out the primary from the secondary.
Were you able to go through the links I sent you earlier…tell me what you think of them?

As far as God being a he or she is concerned, God is above and beyond that. God has created in pairs, males and females for reproductive purposes of moral beings, while God is immortal, has always been and will always be, and thus has no need to be either male or female. Referring to God as He/Him is just a traditional/cultural/linguistical/anthropological way of addressing or referring to God.

I was born in a traditional muslim family which practiced Islam as it is practiced in the sub-continent. Obviously a lot of culture, and influence of Hinduism, Sikhism, etc was also there. Luckily, my dad always believed in critical evaluation while being religious at the same time, thus from a very early age, I was encouraged to understand and separate religious ‘do’ from all other doooos, thus helping me understand how simple and true the original message of Islam was as compared to the complicated practices of ‘evolved’ societies. I was also able to draw upon the works of a lot of scholars who have studied the Quran from different angles and helped establish that it is indeed the true unadulterated word of God. Also, studying other religions and faith systems, I have come to understand that all contain some element of truth, but the message has somehow been distorted over time, something that Allah Himself has already informed us about, as mentioned above. Joining this group was part of the same journey….. I needed to interact with actual people of other beliefs and understand how come they also so strongly believe in whatever they believe in. Its been a wonderful journey, enriching me with new ideas, thoughts and ways of looking at things. This is a great group indeed. Hope your journey here is just as rewarding as mine has been.

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