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  • A country obsessed with racial and religious conflicts
    Sri Lanka, as a nation has been wasting time debating sensitive racial and religious issues for the past several years, without gaining anything. Only thing the country has been witnessing as a result is communities distancing themselves from each other, while portraying a false unity among them. 
    The situation seems to have come to a head with people of various communities being emotionally charged over these issues subsequent to the attacks on three Christian churches and three major tourist hotels by the Islamic terrorists on April 21, 2019, which was also the Easter Sunday.
    The terrorist attacks which caught the nation off-guard demanded united action by all communities and political parties to handle the immediate situation and to prevent future recurrence of...
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  • Burqa ban: Security, human rights and male chauvinism
    A few years ago, on a Turkish beach exclusively for women, a bikini-clad woman offered her prayers. The video clip of the woman going through the postures of the Muslim prayer went viral and created a major debate among the Muslims.  Some censured her for not adhering to the dress code for prayers, but others said what mattered was her piety and not the dress.
    Following the release of the Easter Sunday terror attack commission report, Sri Lanka is mulling whether to ban burqa – the Muslim dress that covers a female body from head to toe – and niqab, which only shows the eyes of the wearer, but the issue needs to be looked at from human rights, security and spiritual angles to come to a right decision.
    If at the one end of the spectrum is public nudity, burqa will...
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  • South African Muslim bodies seek intervention over burqa ban in Sri Lanka Foreign Minister of South Africa urged to intervene
    South African Muslim organisations have called on the country’s foreign minister to intervene in the proposed Sri Lankan ban on the burqa and closure of hundreds of Islamic schools. This followed the announcement by Sri Lanka''s minister for public security, Sarath Weerasekera, during the weekend that his country would ban the traditional full-face covering worn by some Muslim women because it posed a threat to national security. This was quickly followed by a statement from the Sri Lankan foreign ministry, which said a decision would only be taken on the proposal after consultations and further discussion. The United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA) has now asked South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor to intervene in the matter. UUCSA had earlier also called for such intervention when...
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  • Banning Burqas and Madrasas illegal: Fmr MP
    Former MP M.M .Zuhair said yesterday it would be unlawful to ban Burqas and Madrasas. Issuing a statement, he said some observations and recommendations of the Commission on Easter Sunday attacks are invasive of the absolute protection given to every person under Article 10 of the Sri Lanka Constitution. He said the Commission’s report though good in parts, can be seen as an attempted assault on Islam for the heinous crimes of a dozen suicide bombers. The right to the freedom stated in Article 10 is ‘assured to all religions’ under Article 9. No one, not even Presidential Commissions can invite or promote the State or any limb of the Executive or Judiciary to violate the freedom guaranteed under Article 10.This protection is guaranteed notwithstanding any national security concerns, as the law stands today. In this constitutionally...
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  • Pakistan says likely ban on Niqab in SL to serve as injury on Muslims
    The Ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Saad Khattak today said the likely ban on Niqab in Sri Lanka will only serve as an injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe. In a tweet, the Ambassador said that at today’s economically difficult time due to COVID-19 pandemic and other image related challenges faced by the country at the international fora, such divisive steps in the name of security, besides accentuating economic difficulties, will only serve as fillip to further strengthen wider apprehensions about fundamental human rights of minorities in the country. Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera said today that in addition to banning the burqa, the cabinet proposal would also include banning the niqab which covers the face of the wearer except the eyes. The...
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  • යුරෝපයේ රටවල් 8 කින් හිස්බුල්ලාට සහාය
    මානව හිමිකම් වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටින ප්‍රමුඛ නීතිඥවරයකු වන හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා වැනි මානව හිමිකම් ආරක්ෂා කරන්නන්ට ගරු කරන ලෙස ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටිමින් යුරෝපීය රටවල් අටක මානව හිමිකම් තානාපතිවරුන් ඒකාබද්ධ නිවේදනයක් නිකුත් කර තිබේ. නෙදර්ලන්තය, ජර්මනිය, එංගලන්තය ස්වීඩනය, එස්ටෝනියාව, ලිතුවේනියාව, ලක්සම්බර්ග් සහ ෆින්ලන්තය...
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  • Eight EU HR Ambassadors raise concern over Hejaaz Hizbullah
    In a statement issued today, Eight Human Rights  Ambassadors of Europe including the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden called on the Sri Lankan government to " respect human rights defenders such as Hizbullah". The statement issued by the Ambassadors of the United Kingsdom, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and the Netherlands said that after ten months of Detention, Hejaaz Hizbullah was being accused of speech related offences. Prominent Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department on the 14th of April 2020. He was thereafter accused in the media of various activities related to terrorism. He was thereafter produced on the 18th of February 2021 where the Attorney General informed court that the entire case against Hizbullah was to be based on purported statements made by children. Hizbullah...
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  • Circular on burial of COVID-19 victims issued
    The circular containing the guidelines with regard to the burial of COVID-19 victims has been issued, the Health Ministry said. Some key guidelines are as follows, The relatives of the deceased should inform the Director/ Head of the health care institution (Where the death has occurred) of their desire to bury the corpse without delay. The Director of the hospital/ Head of the health care institution should obtain a written request from relatives for burial. The relatives need to provide a coffin in advance. It is the duty of the director/ Head of health care institution to transport the corpse in a coffin provided by the relatives to a designated location in Colombo Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology (office of JMO) / BH Welikanda where the corpse will be received by the designated officer. The vehicle transporting the...
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  • Muslims to raise concerns over Iranaithivu burial with global bodies
    A leading Muslim organisation in Sri Lanka will this week send an official letter of concern to the global Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the World Muslim Congress, seeking their intervention to urge the Sri Lankan government to allocate a decent land for the burial of Muslim COVID-19 victims. The Daily Mirror learns that the Sri Lanka Islamic Centre, which is a member of the World Muslim Congress will raise serious concerns with the global bodies and will also send a letter to the World Muslim Congress office in Geneva urging for immediate intervention after the government announced that burials of the COVID-19 dead would take place on the Iranaithivu Island, in the Gulf of Mannar. Senior Muslim officials said they were disappointed at the government’s decision to allocate the Iranaithivu Isle for the burials and instead urged...
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  • Hizbullah and Madrasa School Principal further remanded
    Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah and Principal of Madrasa School Mohammed Shakeel were further remanded till March 18 by the Fort Magistrate’s Court today. They were earlier remanded under section 2 (1) (h) of the PTA and section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act.   http://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking_news/Hizbullah-and-Madrasa-School-Principal-further-remanded/108-206945 Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.
    Read More...
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ISLAM & SCIENCE

Featured Islamic Articles

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The power of science is so amazing that it pushes religious people to take one of two paths when it comes to their beliefs about the world and what their sacred texts have to say about it. Either one has to both reject what we learned through the scientific method and have faith that what they believe to be Revelation is the Truth and everything else is the devil’s deception, or they relegate what they see in their sacred texts to be allegories to teach us life’s lessons. Many followers of the Jewish and Christian traditions seem to have fallen entrapped into one of these two paths. We now have two main encampments: young earth creationists, or sacred scripture allegorists. There are even an increasing number of believers who have been taken by powerful scientific theories, such as that of evolution, and have now begun to reject the literality of the story of Adam and Eve as a real event. Unfortunately, Muslims are increasingly joining their Abrahamic brothers and sisters as they try to cope with how to deal with the seemingly outward contradiction between religion and science.

In the case of science deniers, one has to examine the reasons behind their seemingly irrational rejection. If one believes in the literal truth of their sacred text, and that it all came from God either through literal revelation or inspiration, then it follows that nothing in it will be false. Even if something may not seem to make much sense, it must be the Truth, because it came from God and therefore cannot have its validity questioned. Furthermore, belief that the entire text came from God means one cannot pick and choose what they believe and what they can deny. For when it comes to religious scripture, denial of the part is equivalent to denial of the whole. Hence, if what one believes to be God’s word tells them something about the world, that makes anything contrary to it a falsehood no matter how convincing it might be. In a sense, it becomes as what many believe it to be a matter of shutting off the intellect. Thus is the consequence of being exclusively exoteric in approaching Revelation.

For those believers who could not reject science, while still having faith in God’s word, reconciliation between the two was in order. But due to the limited understanding of both the scientific process and sacred scripture, the reconciliation came in the form of accepting what we learn through science to be the Truth in its literal sense, and scripture became a collection of allegories and various exaggerated stories that are meant to provide lessons and wisdoms to live by. Revelation for those believers having taken this form can no longer be a collection of injunctions and literal commandments. Rather, it is more like a novel one reads and discusses in their English class as they negate the external meanings and try to decipher the indications for what is said. In this way it is all relative, and to negate the external in search for alternative possibilities being indicated means having a sound intellect. Thus is the consequence of being exclusively esoteric in approaching Revelation.

Seeing that both approaches are extreme in their nature, we end up with absurd consequences. Strict exotericism results in denial of experience and human intellect, while strict esotericism makes Revelation merely a collection of allegories and wise tales that are not rooted in reality per se. Either way cannot be true since the former denies us the quality that makes us human, while the latter denies one of the central functions of Revelation.

When it comes to how Revelation is viewed in Islam, i.e. the Quran, it is upheld as the literal and unaltered word revealed from God to his Prophet and Messenger Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him. Even when you examine the Hadith literature where the sayings of the Prophet peace be upon him are recorded, one can easily notice the difference in patterns of speech and choice of words when they are compared with the Quran. The question of how to approach the Quran can be answered by saying that along with a deep understanding of the Arabic language and its various ancillary sciences, as well as the different contexts of revelation, it is a sophisticated combination of exotericism and esotericism.

What is really interesting about the Quranic approach regarding the specifics of the universe with respect to how it came about and what mechanisms are at play that make it function the way it does, we find the Quran leaving the matter for us to look into. In fact, the Quran constantly goes back to nature and tells man to go and reflect upon it through observation, which is the first step in the scientific method. But when asked about the specifics of natural phenomena, the Quran simply redirects the questioners’ attention to the religious concern behind the phenomena and implicitly leaves the specifics for man to discover. For example, in Surah Al Baqara we find the answer to the companions of the Prophet peace be upon him when they asked him about how the moon phases change by telling them that they are there to keep track of their months and when they begin and end:

They ask you concerning the new moon. Say: They are times appointed for (the benefit of) men, and (for) the pilgrimage

Al Baqara, Chapter 2, Verse 189

In fact, this matter in Islam does not just stop with the Quran, because it even extends to the Hadith literature. A narration that is related in Sahih Muslim has the Prophet peace be upon him when he first arrived in Medina wondering about the counter-intuitive action of the farmers when they were cross-pollinating their palm trees. The companions at the time decided not to cross-pollinate as they usually do, which resulted in a bad yield and quality of crop that year. The Prophet peace be upon him passed by and wondered what went wrong, and they told him that it was his wondering that led them to think they will get a better yield if they stopped the manual cross-pollination. He replied with the famous statement: “you know best about the matters of your world!

But let us come back to the Quran again. Despite having remained silent to a large degree on the matters dealing with the technical details of the physical world, there are a few very interesting verses and even full passages that outline physical phenomena. These verses typically give the non-Muslim a few reasons to scratch their head thinking about how an illiterate man that came over 1420 years ago could have known such details that only became known as a result of our modern technological advancements. The verses dealing with human embryology come to mind as an example.

Despite the wondrous nature of a few passages found in the Quran from a phenomenological perspective, this does not mean one can go to it and start looking for scientific explanations of the world. The Quran is NOT a book of science. The purpose of the Quran is to be a form of direct communication between God and man, and the presence of the verses that drive the movement of the “Scientific Miracles of the Quran” are to simply identify who the Quran came from. Moreover, although some passages are classified as scientifically miraculous, others pose a serious problem from a scientific perspective.

According to the Quran, Adam peace be upon him was created by God as a unique creation, from whom all humanity came from. But according to the current scientific understanding, there was no Adam and Eve. Rather, there was a gradual process of evolution that took millions of years to finally give rise to homo sapiens, which are descendants from a common ancestor shared by all life on this planet. The two narratives are incompatible, which means as a Muslim, one has to reject the scientific one in favour of the Quranic account. This presents an apparent problem: how can a Muslim be selective in their use of science to “prove” that the Quran is the true word of God, when science can be used by a non-Muslim to do just the opposite?

Before delving into this matter, we must first distinguish between readily observable phenomenons, and theories explaining those phenomenons. Furthermore, we must also distinguish between the essence of phenomenon and its manifestation. For example, the manifestation of the moon is that it is a round body in the sky visible on a clear evening and changes phases throughout a 28-day cycle. It is a beautiful object that is constantly used in romantic novels and poetry and has influenced human culture and expression quite significantly. However, the essence of the moon is a cold, lifeless, dark and round large rock that is full of holes possibly resulting from the bombardment of multiple comets. Moreover, the light we see coming from it is not in fact coming from it, but is just a reflection of the light originating from the sun and hitting it. In other words, as opposed to its manifestation, there is really nothing beautiful or romantic to be said about theessence of the moon.

Where does this come in with the Quran and science? Science is the process of discovering the essence of phenomena and devising theories behind how they work, which can lead to manipulating the direction these phenomena take. The Quran on the other hand, as well as the Hadith literature, deals more with the manifestation of the phenomena since that is the reality of our human experience. The discovery of the essence of nature and its underlying workings are left for us to work on and understand through science. When it comes to scientific theories that seek to explain the origin of the universe and life on this planet, and how it all progressed over the past 13.8 billion years, it must be kept in mind that this is not the same as explaining the mechanisms of a disease or how we can come up with more advanced technology. Moreover, we must distinguish between forward-inducing and reverse-inducing theories, because it seems that the only theories that blatantly contradict the Quran and Islamic teachings about the world are the logically fallacious reverse-induced ones, i.e. when one says that humans are a higher evolved species that happened to be lucky in the intellect department.

The relationship between Islam and science is quite complicated and therefore cannot be directly described simply as a contradiction or a non-contradiction. While Islam encompasses multiple levels of reality and confirms human experience, science is more limited in its pursuits than many would like to believe it to be. Unfortunately, the success of the scientific method combined with conflation of concepts and inability to discern where science ends and philosophy begins, as well as the delusion of rationality that in reality is nothing more than a clever use of sophistry, have all resulted in a state of confusion for many believers, and hubris for others who worship science.

Mohamed Ghilan, PhD Candidate

UVic Neuroscience

This article is republished here with kind permission from Mohamed Ghilan

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