Published:  12:25 AM, 12 June 2019

Preaching with the syndrome of blissful ignorance


A renowned astrophysicist in the contemporary world, Stephen Hawking, who holds Newton's Chair as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and is widely considered to be the greatest scientific thinker since Newton and Einstein, in his best selling and scintillating book 'A brief history of time' published in 1987 discussed "was there a beginning of time? Could time run backwards?

Is the Universe infinite or does it have boundaries?" "These are just some of the questions considered in an internationally acclaimed masterpiece which begins by reviewing the great theories of the cosmos from Newton to Einstein, before delving into the secrets which still lie at the heart of space and time.

After publishing 'A brief history of time' Hawking wished to make its contents more accessible to readers and subsequently published 'A briefer history of time' in 2005 with latest scientific observations and findings. With humor he confided, that was his last attempt to make the book easy and accessible to readers. The rest depends upon readers.

Born in Oxford in 1942 exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo, Hawking's friends and admirers attempted to discover a mystic correlation between the episodes of Hawking's birth and Galileo's death, which was dismissed by Hawking, with an argument that the incidents were purely a matter of coincidence.

A purely scientific mind free from taboos and prejudices, Hawking did not find and mystic correlation between his birth and Galileo's death, since, he further argued, that hundreds or maybe thousands other children were born on that particular moment of Galileo's death.

Despite being a great scientist from his head to toes, Hawking began his 'A brief history of time' with an interesting story which reads "a well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of vast collection of stars called our galaxy.

At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said, "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying "what is the tortoise standing on?"..."You are very clever, young man, very clever", said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down."

The story of resting the earth on the back of a giant turtle is age-old. It was told and heard over the centuries round and round with never dying down the giant turtle and throws the earth from its orbit.

The contemporary world being enriched with all the scientific achievements brewed from human ingenuity, it has been thought and perceived that the proverbial tortoise may have died down out of prolonged exhaustion due to continuous bombardments generated from eye-blinding scientific achievements, leaving the earth to oscillate in its own axis and rotate around the sun as per known scientific theories. But, Alas!

The giant tortoise did not die down at all; it only transformed its shape into a giant fish hangs in the space on the back of which the earth still rests as I have recently known from a pre-Jumma prayer sermon delivered by a holy man-look like Imam of the local mosque.

Explaining the cause of recent earthquake across the country, the Imam said that a giant fish hangs in the space on the back of which a giant bull stands with a pair of giant horns holding the earth. At time the fish and bull change their positions, the earth loses its balance and is caught in the grip of seismic jolts which according to Imam is the earthquake that we often encounter with, as warning shot to human being for their sins.

To his blissful ignorance, the Imam further said that believers of this fabulous theory of explaining the cause of earthquake will be entrained with a gastronomical delight of a feast cooked with the liver of the giant fish and other goodies after the end of the world. All the musallis of the mosque listened to the sermon of the Imam with utmost devotion heaving sighs of complacence and without raising any question about the authenticity of this cock and bull story explaining the cause of earthquake.

The above story clearly reveals as to what extent a section of clergymen abuses the true lesson and spirit of Islam and sell their brand product of fables to faithful Muslims who, with their unfettered allegiances and trust to the Imams of the mosque, offer their prayer to seek divine blessing. It equally reflects on how the society consumes and promotes the ideas and perceptions of the middle-age without any basis which has been overtaken long time ago by the civilized Muslim world with the true lesson of Islam compatible to scientific knowledge and wisdom.

It is needless to emphasize that the religion of Islam is not conflicting to the laws of nature and laws of science. Anytime that we find a conflict between religious dictums and scientific norms, is due to our incapacity to interpret properly the lesson of religion in the light of science.

The religion of Islam gives topmost impetus upon education, knowledge and wisdom. The very first revelation of Holy Quran begins in Iqra (read). Verses No 1-4 of SuraAlaq reads, "IqraBeismirabbikal-laazykhalaq. Khalqalinsana min alaq. Iqrawaarabbukalakram. Allahje-Allahmabilkalam" (Read; in the name of thy Lord Who createth man from clot. Read; And thy Lord is the most Bounteous. Who teacheth by the pen.")

In the above verses of Holy Quran, topmost emphasize has been given on reading and writing by the use of pen. The verse further reveals the secret of formation of human embryo with a clot fully conforming to scientific findings. In many verses of the Holy Quran, it has been revealed how moon, earth and sun rotate in their respective orbits without any clash with each other. Days come after nights and nights fall after days, reveals in the Holy Quran the truth how the earth oscillates in its own axis.

Holy Quran further reveals about the change of seasons on earth because of earth's rotating around the sun in elliptical order. There are hundreds of examples which clearly testify that the verses of the Holy Quran are not conflicting to the findings of science. A French physician and writer Maurice Buccaile in his widely read book 'The Bible, The Quran and The Science' cited innumerable examples that the verses of the Holy Quran are most scientific and do not conflict with science.

Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh) gave maximum importance on acquiring knowledge and wisdom. Prophet (Pbuh) preached, "Seek knowledge from cradle to grave," "Go to China, if need be, to seek knowledge," "Ink of a wise man is costlier than the blood of the martyrs."

All these revelations of the Holy Quran and the great sayings of Prophet (Pbuh) give highest priorities of seeking knowledge. Ignorance has no place in the teachings of Islam and blissful ignorance again plummets mankind down to the abyss of unfathomed and multiplied ignorance. Fables of giant tortoise and giant fish holding the earth on their backs have no place in the Holy text.

I wonder where did this section of Imam manufacture these fabulous stories from, which tends to distort the true spirit of Islam as stupid laughing stock? The deliberate preaching based on unsubstantiated materials by way of misleading the devotees to their blissful ignorance causes great harm to the spirit of Islam indeed. Religion of Islam enlightened the world immersed in darkness.

Many Islamic thinkers, philosophers, scientists, literary geniuses emerged over the ages during the glorious days of Islam. Names of Imam Ghazzali, Al-Kindi, Al- Farabi, Ibn-e-Sina, Ibn-e- Rushd, Al- Jabar in whose name Algebra is associated with, and lot more other Islamic scholars and poets like MoulanaJalaluddin Rumi, MoulanaAbdur Rahman Jami, Omar Khaiyam, Sheikh Saadi, AamirKhosra, whose names are framed in the golden words in the book of history.

Taking a cue from their scholarly and scientific charm in the field of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Mathematics, Geometry, Trigonometry and other basic scientific works, the western world thrived and widened their repertory of knowledge in multifarious fields and dimensions.

The civilization perched on the threshold of getting into the immensity of the universe through vehicles of scientific knowledge cannot afford to walk in the backward track of dark age infested with tortoise-fish equation in determining the cause of earthquake or any other natural phenomena in blissful ignorance of a section of clergymen engaged in preaching of religious teachings with deceptive phenomena of knowledge to the common man of strong Islamic faith who take everything for granted in good faith when issue of religion appears before them.

The spirit of religion of Islam stands on strong foundation of faith with unbound tolerance. A society or state with overwhelming majority of population belonging to Islamic faith guarantees equal rights to followers of other religions for peaceful coexistence and upkeep of social harmony.

After conquering Mecca, Prophet (Pbuh) of Islam, by showing highest level of restraints and tolerance, guaranteed the safety and security of non-Muslims' lives and their properties. After all, a society consists of people coming from the waves of different faiths and beliefs make Mankind with a common altar for prayer, no matter how different they apparently look like from each other. Great Persian mystic poet Moulana Jalal Uddin Rumi (1207-73) wrote, "I go into the Muslim Mosque and the Jews Synagogue and the Christian Church and I see one altar."

Before concluding this piece, I make a humble submission to the government and urge upon the Islamic scholars to take adequate and workable measures to educate and train the Imams of the mosques with true Islamic teachings blended with scientific knowledge free from taboos and prejudices of ignorance. On ignorance, British economist William Henry Beveridge (1897-1963) said "Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictator may cultivate among the dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens.


The writer is a former
civil servant

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