Humanity – Science and Religion
Peace be with you,
There have been many great and wise human beings that have come and gone, over the hills of history, who set out to change the world. Many of them must have at some point begun by trying to understand the meaning of life, and why they were born. For the majority of time in terms of humanity, there has always been grappling with this question but until recently their exploration has always included a substantial amount of spiritual awareness. This has changed.
It has been said that there are two things especially which excite our reverence: the starry heaven above us, and the conscience within us. These conform to the two major sources from which we arrive at belief in God. The external world reveals a rational order. When men began to reflect upon the regularity in succession of days, seasons and years, and their connection with the motion of heavenly bodies, it became obvious to them that the powers which rule in nature do not act according to chance or whim, but that they stand as subjects under a constant, firm and stable universal law.
Scientists and spiritual seekers would both agree that there must exist an all-embracing truth. For the believer this truth leads to the unseen supreme Lord and Master of the universe. For the scientist who wants to understand everything in terms of physical proof, there remains a problem. Yet, as we look inside ourselves, we note that humanity thrives best in a state of orderliness and moral laws. Something, we seem to be missing in today’s world, as we look at the imbalance of wealth and prosperity; the political and ideological battles which have led to endless wars and millions of deaths, and we see the ecological chaos which has been caused by man in his manic goldrush for economic superiority and excessive luxury.
Retracing the lost path to balanced life and human prosperity, it’s interesting to see that after Prophet Noah, the first civilizations arose in Lower Mesopotamia about 3000 BCE, that was where Prophet Abraham was born. Not long after that we see Egypt arising as the next major civilisation, to which Joseph and Moses were sent. Egyptian culture influenced Greece, Greeks influenced Rome and so on and so on. The people belonging to those civilisations usually developed an explanation of the hidden powers within the heavens and the earth. Oftentimes, that would lead to deifying objects, a belief in idols or demigods and intercessors, which would necessitate the offering of some sacrifice or other. Through this process of reaching out for supernatural assistance, some people including kings and pharaohs – even phenomenal bodies of nature such as the sun, the seas and thunder, as well as certain animals – were deified and worshipped.
For those gifted with faith and spiritual insight, fortunately, they avoided those superstitious ways, and understood the great riddle of existence and the Power behind the law and the order of this universe, because they were believers and followers of the teachings and writings of the noble prophets and messengers, chosen by the True King and Master of the Universe to instruct mankind about the mysteries of life.
Let’s read about the approach of one particular prophet, Abraham, when confronted with the majesty of well-known forces of heavenly nature.
We were showing Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and earth, that he might be of those having sure faith. When night outspread over him he saw a star and said, ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set he said, ‘I love not those that disappear.’ When he saw the moon rising, he said, ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set he said, ‘If my Lord does not guide me I shall surely be of the people gone astray.’ Then he saw the sun rising, and he said, ‘This is my Lord; this is greatest!’ But when it set he said, ‘O my people, surely I am free of all those things you associate. I have turned my face to Him who originated the heavens and the earth, by nature upright; and I am not of the idolaters.’ (The Qur’an, 6:74-79)
The unfortunate split of the spiritual perspective from modern-day scientific attitudes, has resulted in cracks and fractures of dangerously broken human beings, with little understanding of the great scheme within existence, and the beautiful just order it brings to our lives. Too often we see how some races and nations are considered more worthy than others; when some people – because of the colour of their skin – are considered lower in value than those who perceive themselves ‘advanced’ in terms of intelligence and wealth. Whereas the word intelligence comes from the latin ‘to Understand’. Yet there is no room for understanding or sympathy when one person insists on looking down at others.
One of the most important objectives of all religions is to teach people how to live together. The lessons I learnt as a school child, the Ten Commandments, are not even referred to or looked at anymore. These were the rules laid down by our Creator, for the benefit and rights of all mankind. Why are they so easily overlooked?
Much of what we learn from those rules are connected to our treatment of our fellow man: our parents, our family and neighbours. Global poverty is one of the worst problems that the world faces today. The poorest in the world are often hungry, and have much less access to education, often we see they have no light at night, and suffer from poorer health. To help eradicate poverty is therefore one of the most blessed of human actions.
Even the Universal declaration of Human Rights says: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. That’s what makes us human.
When the Last Prophet (peace be upon him) and his fellow believers came to Madinah, as migrants escaping from the persecution and oppression of the rich and powerful rulers of Makkah, the people gathered around him and some of the first words he said were: ‘O people, spread peaceful greetings, feed the people, keep ties of kinship and family, and pray during the night while the others sleep and you will enter Paradise in peace.’
I suppose there will always be two types of people, the travellers towards peace and goodness, and those who want to head in another direction. Still, there’s a train waiting with enough room for everybody, all you need as a ticket is to bring your humanity with you.
As part of a 4 Part exclusive BBC Radio series Yusuf shares his reflections during Ramadan 2020.
Part Four – Broadcasted on BBC Radio 22 / 05 / 20