Friday, May 1, 2009

477)What Do You Get If You Divide Science By God? A Cosmopolitan Sampling of Opinion;Quotes of Aga Khans IV+ III,Al Sijistani,Nasir Khusraw,Azim Nanji

"In Shia Islam, intellect is a key component of faith. Intellect allows us to understand the creation of God"(Aga Khan IV, July 23rd 2008, Lisbon, Portugal)

"......The Quran tells us that signs of Allah’s Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation - in the heavens and the earth, the night and the day, the clouds and the seas, the winds and the waters...."(Aga Khan IV, Kampala, Uganda, August 22 2007)

" Islam, but particularly Shia Islam, the role of the intellect is part of faith. That intellect is what seperates man from the rest of the physical world in which he lives.....This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives. Of that I am certain"(Aga Khan IV, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, August 17th 2007)

"Scientific pursuits, philosophic inquiry and artistic endeavour are all seen as the response of the faithful to the recurring call of the Qur'an to ponder the creation as a way to understand Allah's benevolent majesty. As Sura al-Baqara proclaims: 'Wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah'.The famous verse of 'light' in the Qur'an, the Ayat al-Nur, whose first line is rendered here in the mural behind me, inspires among Muslims a reflection on the sacred, the transcendent. It hints at a cosmos full of signs and symbols that evoke the perfection of Allah's creation and mercy"(Aga Khan IV,Speech, Institute of Ismaili Studies, October 2003, London, U.K.)

"In sum the process of creation can be said to take place at several levels. Ibda represents the initial level - one transcends history, the other creates it. The spiritual and material realms are not dichotomous, since in the Ismaili formulation, matter and spirit are united under a higher genus and each realm possesses its own hierarchy. Though they require linguistic and rational categories for definition, they represent elements of a whole, and a true understanding of God must also take account of His creation. Such a synthesis is crucial to how the human intellect eventually relates to creation and how it ultimately becomes the instrument for penetrating through history the mystery of the unknowable God implied in the formulation of tawhid."(Azim Nanji, Director, Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, U.K., 1998)

"An institution dedicated to proceeding beyond known limits must be committed to independent thinking. In a university scholars engage both orthodox and unorthodox ideas, seeking truth and understanding wherever they may be found. That process is often facilitated by an independent governance structure, which serves to ensure that the university adheres to its fundamental mission and is not pressured to compromise its work for short-term advantage. For a Muslim university it is appropriate to see learning and knowledge as a continuing acknowledgement of Allah's magnificence"(Aga Khan IV, Speech, 1993, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan)

"Science is a wonderful, powerful tool and research budgets are essential. But Science is only the beginning in the new age we are entering. Islam does not perceive the world as two seperate domains of mind and spirit, science and belief. Science and the search for knowledge are an expression of man's designated role in the universe, but they do not define that role totally....."(Aga Khan IV, McMaster University Convocation, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, May 15th 1987)

"The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims. Exchanges of knowledge between institutions and nations and the widening of man's intellectual horizons are essentially Islamic concepts. The Faith urges freedom of intellectual enquiry and this freedom does not mean that knowledge will lose its spiritual dimension. That dimension is indeed itself a field for intellectual enquiry. I can not illustrate this interdependence of spiritual inspiration and learning better than by recounting a dialogue between Ibn Sina, the philosopher, and Abu Said Abu -Khyar, the Sufi mystic. Ibn Sina remarked, "Whatever I know, he sees". To which Abu Said replied," Whatever I see, he knows"."(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University Inauguration Speech, Karachi, Pakistan, November 11th 1985)

“Muslims believe in an all-encompassing unit of man and nature. To them there is no fundamental division between the spiritual and the material while the whole world, whether it be the earth, sea or air, or the living creatures that inhabit them, is an expression of God’s creation.”(Aga Khan IV, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, 13 April 1984)

"In Islamic belief, knowledge is two-fold. There is that revealed through the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) and that which man discovers by virtue of his own intellect. Nor do these two involve any contradiction, provided man remembers that his own mind is itself the creation of God. Without this humility, no balance is possible. With it, there are no barriers. Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation"(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

"Our religious leadership must be acutely aware of secular trends, including those generated by this age of science and technology. Equally, our academic or secular elite must be deeply aware of Muslim history, of the scale and depth of leadership exercised by the Islamic empire of the past in all fields"(Aga Khan IV, 6th February 1970, Hyderabad, Pakistan)

"The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine Will"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"Thus Islam's basic principle can only be defined as mono-realism and not as monotheism. Consider, for example, the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer: "Allah-o-Akbar". What does that mean? There can be no doubt that the second word of the declaration likens the character of Allah to a matrix which contains all and gives existence to the infinite, to space, to time, to the Universe, to all active and passive forces imaginable, to life and to the soul. Imam Hassan has explained the Islamic doctrine of God and the Universe by analogy with the sun and its reflection in the pool of a fountain; there is certainly a reflection or image of the sun, but with what poverty and with what little reality; how small and pale is the likeness between this impalpable image and the immense, blazing, white-hot glory of the celestial sphere itself. Allah is the sun; and the Universe, as we know it in all its magnitude, and time, with its power, are nothing more than the reflection of the Absolute in the mirror of the fountain"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God's signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order. Even in the Ayeh of Noor, divine is referred to as the natural phenomenon of light and even references are made to the fruit of the earth(Aga Khan III, April 4th 1952)

"The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being"(Aga Khan III, April 4th 1952)

"In fact this world is a book in which you see inscribed the writings of God the Almighty"(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet)

"O brother! You asked: What is the [meaning of] `alam [world] and what is that entity to which this name applies? How should we describe the world in its entirety? And how many worlds are there? Explain so that we may recognize. Know, O brother, that the name `alam is derived from [the word] `ilm(knowledge), because the traces of knowledge are evident in [all] parts of the physical world. Thus, we say that the very constitution (nihad) of the world is based on a profound wisdom"(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet, from his book "Knowledge and Liberation")

"Tarkib' is composition as in the compounding of elements in the process of making more complex things, that is, of adding together two things to form a synthesis, a compound. Soul composes in the sense of 'tarkib'; it is the animating force that combines the physical elements of the natural universe into beings that move and act. Incorporating is an especially apt word in this instance. It means to turn something into a body, as in 'composing'. But it is actually the conversion of an intellectual object, a thought, into a physical thing. Soul acts by incorporating reason into physical objects, the natural matter of the universe and all the things composed of it"(Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani,10th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist, d971CE, from the book, 'Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary', by Paul Walker)

The above are 19 quotes and excerpts taken from Blogpost Four Hundred, a collection of around 100 quotes on the subjects of Knowledge, Intellect, Creation, Science and Religion:


A prize-winning quantum physicist says a spiritual reality is veiled from us, and science offers a glimpse behind that veil. So how do scientists investigating the fundamental nature of the universe assess any role of God, asks Mark Vernon.

The Templeton Prize, awarded for contributions to "affirming life's spiritual dimension", has been won by French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat, who has worked on quantum physics with some of the most famous names in modern science.

Quantum physics is a hugely successful theory: the predictions it makes about the behaviour of subatomic particles are extraordinarily accurate. And yet, it raises profound puzzles about reality that remain as yet to be understood.


1)Originated in work conducted by Max Planck and Albert Einstein at start of 20th Century

2)They discovered that light comes in discrete packets, or quanta, which we call photons

3)The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle says certain features of subatomic particles like momentum and position cannot be known precisely at the same time

4)Gaps remain, like attempts to find the 'God Particle' that scientists hope to spot in the Large Hadron Collider. It is required to give other particles mass

The bizarre nature of quantum physics has attracted some speculations that are wacky but the theory suggests to some serious scientists that reality, at its most basic, is perfectly compatible with what might be called a spiritual view of things.

Some suggest that observers play a key part in determining the nature of things. Legendary physicist John Wheeler said the cosmos "has not really happened, it is not a phenomenon, until it has been observed to happen."

D'Espagnat worked with Wheeler, though he himself reckons quantum theory suggests something different. For him, quantum physics shows us that reality is ultimately "veiled" from us.

The equations and predictions of the science, super-accurate though they are, offer us only a glimpse behind that veil. Moreover, that hidden reality is, in some sense, divine. Along with some philosophers, he has called it "Being".

In an effort to seek the answers to the "meaning of physics", I spoke to five leading scientists.

Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg is well-known as an atheist. For him, physics reflects the "chilling impersonality" of the universe. He would be thinking here of, say, the vast tracts of empty space, billions of light years across, that mock human meaning. He says: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless." So for Weinberg, the notion that there might be an overlap between science and spirituality is entirely mistaken.

The Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, shows a distinct reserve when speculating about what physics might mean, whether that be pointlessness or meaningfulness. He has "no strong opinions" on the interpretation of quantum theory: only time will tell whether the theory becomes better understood. "The implications of cosmology for these realms of thought may be profound, but diffidence prevents me from venturing into them," he has written. In short, it is good to be humble in the face of the mysteries that physics throws up.

Oxford physicist Roger Penrose differs again. He believes that mathematics suggests there is a world beyond the immediate, material one. Ask yourself this question: would one plus one equal two even if I didn't think it? The answer is yes. Would it equal two even if no-one thought it? Again, presumably, yes. Would it equal two even if the universe didn't exist? That is more tricky to contemplate, but again, there are good grounds for a positive response. Penrose, therefore, argues that there is what can be called a Platonic world beyond the material world that "contains" mathematics and other abstractions.

John Polkinghorne worked on quantum physics in the first part of his career, but then took up a different line of work: he was ordained an Anglican priest. For him, science and religion are entirely compatible. The ordered universe science reveals is only what you'd expect if it was made by an orderly God. However, the two disciplines are different. He calls them "intellectual cousins". "Physics is showing the world to be both more supple and subtle, but you need to be careful," he says. If you want to understand the meaning of things you have to go beyond science, and the religious direction is, he argues, the best.

Brian Swimme is a cosmologist, and with the theologian Thomas Berry, wrote a book called The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era. It is avidly read by individuals in New Age and ecological circles, and tells the scientific story of the universe, from the Big Bang to the emergence of human consciousness, but does so as a new sacred myth. Swimme believes that "the universe is attempting to be felt", which makes him a pantheist, someone who believes the cosmos in its entirety can be called God.

Mark Vernon is author of After Atheism: Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life

A selection of comments appears below.

A)As a Hindu I can agree with them all. There is a (centuries old) western short-sightedness approach to science that is generally backed up Abrahamic beliefs. Science is being polarised or is seen in that manner ie if A is right B must be wrong, rather like the concept of heaven and hell. In Hinduism and other 'Dharmic' beliefs it has always been said that we live in the age of "maya" or illusion or even 'veil' and that what we see is made from 'cosmic vibrations'. Nothing that we see is how it is, it is our eyes that can only take in limited information which our brain processes to fill in the gaps. Is a rock just a rock or is it billions of particles resonating at a certain frequency to make the 'image' of the rock 'seen' by our eyes. The answer is both! Seeing may be believing, but it depends on whether you see with your eyes or an electron microscope.
Dipen, Stanmore

B)I am a physicist and evangelical Christian, so I think Penrose and Polkinghorne are closest to the truth. I'm pleased to hear that people are beginning to look again at the foundations of quantum theory. In recent decades physics has been dominated by what I call 'quantum mechanics' (like 'garage mechanics') - people who can do the sums but don't think about what they mean. The deeper questions in physics are bound to interact with the religious/philosophical assumptions of the physicist.
Dave, St Neots

C)I agree with Weinberg. The maths might show up the complexities in nature and point to some profound conclusions, but the whole idea of something supernatural pulling the levers of the universe just escapes me.
Dan Wildsmith, Barnsley

D)When my ego is flaring I'm with the atheist simply because all thoughts, perceptions and concepts come from that wonderful delusional and often ignorant creature we call the mind. When the self is in check I'm with the sceptic...for the same reason! Only mankind's arrogance, brought about by that delusional self, has to believe they exist for some "special" purpose.
Billy, Garnerville, New York

E)Obviously the great Martin Rees, but for more detail and a lot of work on the scientific view [eg, ch.6 in "Exploring Reality"], I go with Polkinghorne. My own view is '99% Dawkins' - but what a difference 1% Christ makes. Your equation should be something about exobiology, or evolution of altruism: the Price equation, or just rB > C. Biology describes the world; physics is a special case.
Valerie Jeffries, Faversham, England

F)As a Christian I would agree with John Polkinghorne. Science just reveals how awesome the world is, a world which God created and designed. It is ironic that many scientists try and disprove God but in many instances only demonstrate just how complex and wonderful the world is. There had to be an author of creation. We are not here by chance.
Nathan Goodearl, Guildford

G)I most agree with Martin Rees. He seems to accept that we are not currently in a position to understand the universe in it's entirety. I would be interested to hear his views on the so-called 'God Particle' (Higgs Boson). I fundamentally disagree with the view that science and religion are compatible and fail to see why some people who choose to exercise faith in a religious belief choose to do so via science. Religion can exist without science, and science without religion. Rachael Amato, Bristol

H)I agree with the Atheist. For as long as anyone can remember the things we don't understand have been given the explanation 'God', or 'Gods' and throughout history science, little by little, provides non-God explanations for things (suns, stars, comets, animals, plants etc.). This pattern looks set to repeat itself ad infinitum. In time we will be looking at our current religious theories and thinking how primitive and quite frankly wrong they look in the context of modern knowledge. But belief seems to be a need for many humans and I have no doubt their beliefs and Gods will move on in to the future gaps in our understanding.
Julian Harrison, Shrewsbury

I)THE BELIEVER is correct InshAllah. Many scientific facts have been found to be consistent with The Quran. Science is the rational study of creation, and its facts are consistent with revelation.
Saqib Pervaiz, Wolverhampton

J)The Atheist makes the most sense. The Universe is full of mystery that Mathematics and Physics will, in time, unravel. However, I don't understand why Steven Weinberg needs to believe that the Universe should have a personality and why he deems it as pointless. Everything in life is pointless from that point of view, experiences - my enjoyment of living is my spirituality, for me there is no God and why does that matter?
David Hunt, Cambridge

Story from BBC NEWS:


Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)