Confidence is not Misplaced
An unusual quality of the Qur’an is that most people who are not classified as Muslims, but have been exposed to it to some degree, hold the feeling that there must be some truth behind it. If they engage with it longer – and seriously – then, the feeling grows. It is accompanied by disenchantment with the beliefs of the inherited religion.
In fact, direct exposure to the Qur’an is not the absolute requirement. It extends to its message. That is, people who have been exposed to the Qur’anic message, or have witnessed living Islam, find themselves convinced that there must be some reality behind it. They begin to suspect that it must be ideas revealed from on High. They learn to respect Islam, the messenger of Islam, and the message of the Qur’an.
Quite unexpectedly, this can be discovered in the pages of the famous Brill Encyclopedia of Islam, produced by Western Jews and Christians. In 12 volumes of about 10,000 pages, in miniature fonts, given shape over a century, this Encyclopedia has several articles where the authors treat the Qur’an as a kind of criterion.
Thereafter, such persons have to choose their course. Whatever the inner conviction of a man, it is not necessary that his outward expressions should also match with it. Quite a few feel convinced of the Qur’an as a revelation, but decide to remain on the religion of their birth. Said the Qur’an (76: 3), “Surely, We guided him to a course: (to be) either grateful, or be an ingrate (who denies his true Lord).”
The above partly explains why people of other, (or no religious) denominations criticize the Qur’an, or he who brought it, i.e. the Prophet. They point an error here, an error there. Why do they do it, seeing that this is not their attitude with other holy Scriptures? For instance, other Scriptures have such funny, incredible, irrational, horrific, and lewd stories that make a man’s hair stand upright. They challenge his mind and morals. Mostly, people decide to lay the Book down after a few pages. They never mention it to others. They do not meet a Christian, Jew, or others and say, “Excuse me, but I find this in your holy literature. How to you explain it? No, no, the allegory theory does not work. It is too explicit, and too often. Why should these not be expunged?”
A question: ‘Why is it that a writing which carries the best parts of Jewish, Christian and many other Scriptures, without the smallest part of their funny, incredible, irrational, horrific, and lewd contents, not be accepted as a Revelation by those who are exposed to it? Are they so stupid that they cannot compare, think, and understand?’ The answer is, ‘No. They are not stupid. They are clever. In fact, they think they are cleverer than God.’
At all events, what we are trying to say is that when such people come across any of what they assume as discrepancy in the Qur’an, or an indigestible information about Prophet Muhammad, they react immediately. They must publish it, and question the Muslims about it. They do not say to themselves, “This is just another of the so-called holy Scriptures, perhaps once pure, but now full of improper stuff, not worthy of a gentleman’s library.”
A recent objection raised against the Qur’an – by a non-Muslim – is as follows: How come the Qur’an disallows consumption of blood, but the Muslims allow transfusion of blood? Isn’t there a double-stand?
In answer we say that we do not presume to know all about Islam. The reason behind this or that Islamic injunction is best known by God alone. He commands as He wills. As His slaves, we are bound to obey Him. Whether we understand the wisdom behind a command or we do not is beside the point. Nor have we been asked to investigate. In fact, such objections are a test of faith. Do we believe in the Qur’an as a revelation, unconditionally, or do we not? If we assert, quite unhesitatingly that, ‘yes we do,’ then, why worry over objections raised by unbelievers? The Qur’an itself touched on this point, and right at the start. It said (2: 26),
Surely, Allah is not ashamed of striking the similitude of a gnat or what is above it. As for the believers, they know that it is the truth from their Lord. But, as for the unbelievers, they object: ‘What did God mean by (striking) such a similitude?’ Allah leads astray many thereby and guides many thereby. And He does not lead astray any thereby but the wrongdoers.
So, God tests. And tests are necessary. No false man should get through into Paradise; or into the company of the pious in this life. Aptly, the Qur’an also said (24: 26),
Evil (women) are for evil (men), and evil men are for evil (women); and pure (women) are for pure (men) and pure (men) are for pure (women).
A gnat (mosquito) is no less a wonder than an elephant is, or a supernova, or a bacterium. So, there should be no wonder if Allah struck its example. But humans have a different perspective. They are a bit huffed up. They think too much of themselves. They tend to look down upon things smaller than them; and, in their hubris, and haste, forget to cast a good look at the Qur’anic words: “Allah is not ashamed of striking the similitude of a gnat or what is above it..” They fail to notice the words, “.. what is above it!” If they did, they would discover what is above it, that is, above the mosquito. It is a biological organism, a parasite which lives above it, on its wings! So, God is not ashamed of striking the similitude of what is above a mosquito in littleness, as well as above it in space: a little insect on its back. This demonstrates how striking an example, although objected by its critics, can actually increase respect for the Qur’an.
The scholars of old have warned: “Every Qur’anic word is there on purpose. No word, no syllable of the Qur’anic texts is redundant.” How true; although not every scholar will agree with the interpretation of the Qur’anic words (famaa fawqahaa) of the text in discussion in the sense of above-ness (i.e. in space). They would rather say that the words mean, “What is above it (in insignificance).” But an outside chance remains for the modern spatial understanding.
Whatever, it must be admitted that it is impossible not to have doubts. Human mind is, at bottom, skeptic, unbelieving of facts (and, more so of truths). It likes the fabulous, fantastic, and the incredible. It can accept phantasmagoria but not facts as fast. So, an occasional doubt is within the limits. But if they multiply, then the person’s faith is on the border. He could anytime slide into hypocrisy. The scholars have advised therefore, that if someone has many doubts about Islam, its Book, or its Prophet, he better attend to them and get them removed. Otherwise, he could die on disbelief.
On the topic of objections against the Qur’an, we could take another example. A Qur’anic verse says (33:4), “Allah has not placed in the breast of a man two hearts.” A quick doubt is raised by the ever-awake critic: a pregnant woman has two hearts: her own, and that of the fetus!” A quick answer comes from the Qur’anic scholars, “Look at the Arabic text. It says, ‘a man,’ and not ‘a person,’ or, ‘a human.’ So, do the medical annals have the history of a man who had two hearts?
Interestingly, since the mosquito is here, it may be pointed out that it has three hearts. Each of its heart functions separately, and each has its own specific function to perform.
Another interesting aspect concerning the mosquito is that Man the conqueror of stars, (if not factually, then at least poetically) has not been able to defeat his oldest enemy, the little flying machine, the malaria-carrying, blood-sucking, mosquito. Mosquitoes are like money-lenders: whether one-man shows, or corporate engines called banks. They suck the blood and leave the victim to die. A recent work (Broke, USA by Gary Rivlin, pub. Harper Collins, USA) is written to explain how American economy’s blood was sucked by tens of thousands of money lenders, pawn brokers, payday lenders, and banks, leading it to the irrecoverable collapse of the 2007-8. Man has not been able to defeat the human blood-suckers either.
The mosquito carries a laboratory in its proboscis for testing blood before sucking it. Hundreds of thousands of people die after its laboratory tells it that the blood is worthy of stealing. A scientist has used malaria as an example to prove how the Darwinian idea of evolution has as many holes as – so to say – a mosquito has eyes: a hundred (The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe, pub. Free Press, USA). There are plenty of interesting things about mosquitoes, but mosquito is not exactly our topic just now; although we begin to suspect that the Qur’anic mention of the mosquito seems to have more meaning than what is apparent: “These are examples that We cite for the people. But ponder not but the knowledgeable” (The Qur’an, 29: 43). Some thought for the critic.
Back to blood. This is an amazing product of the human body. Known as ‘the river of life,’ it is produced in the bone-marrow. It provides important nourishment to the cells and carries away waste products to the factories in the kidneys and lungs for filter and disposal. Of the various components of blood, the red blood cells play the key role. They are the only cells ‘in the human body’ that do not have a nucleus. So, no nucleus, no DNA, no genes. Some biologists have found a god in the genes. They give the genes qualities that are deserving of God. But, to their discomfort, their god is missing from the red blood cells of most mammalians. But of course, this is little discomfort, for after an involuntary ‘OMG,’ they quickly answer that this is a space-saving strategy. But we may ask, ‘Is the red blood cell the only cell requiring space? Is there any jam-packed cell in the human body that does not cry for a little more space? Quick, name one. And, why are the red blood cells of invertebrates without this space-saving measure? Why do their red cells have the nucleus?’
Back to the objection. The difference between consumption of blood and its infusion into the human body is that the nutrients that go in as food go into the digestive system. They are broken into molecules and then fed to the cells which need them for running their machineries. Thus, what goes of the nutrients into the stomach ends up inside the cells. On the other hand, blood sent into the body in transfusion, remains outside the stomach. It goes into the veins and arteries, is sent to the heart, pumped out from there, and goes into circulation throughout the body. The infused blood, just as the body’s own blood, picks up oxygen, delivers to the cells, and, on the way back, picks up carbon and delivers to the kidneys and lungs – apart from performing a few other functions. The infused blood remains ‘out and out’ of the system as against the consumed blood which becomes ‘part of the system.’
Blood is not a cleaning agent. It is a carrier. Along with oxygen and other useful materials, it carries germs, bacteria, microbes, several kinds of pathogens, and toxin material such as urea and uric acid. These are taken by the blood to the kidney to separate out the harmful elements, and eliminate them from the body. This is the reason why blood is considered unclean in Islam. If blood is consumed, some of the pathogens and toxic waste could escape into the body-system and cause disorders (e.g., hyper-uremia leading to renal failure, or hyper-ammoniaemia leading to hepatic coma). But, if, (what we call as unclean blood), is infused into the body, it will have to pass through the kidney which will remove the harmful elements. The bacteria and germs that come along with the infused blood face extinction at the hands of the white blood cells whose function is to kill pathogens. It is not hundred percent safe, but, removed of pathogens and toxic material, blood transfusion does save some lives.
For students, we suggest an example. Blood which is donated to a person is like a factory bus, and the blood that is consumed by a man is a scrapped bus. The factory bus picks up passengers and delivers them to their places of work and residence. In comparison, the blood which is consumed by a person is like an old bus, placed into recycling. It is disassembled. Its steel, plastic, and other parts are sent into respective furnaces. There, they are crushed, given new forms and shapes, and then, (delivered by the vehicles that run in the streets), supply to a variety of organizations, to be ultimately used as components for other machines.
So, after all, the confidence in the Qur’an is not misplaced: “Will they then believe in falsehood, and deny Allah’s favors?” (The Qur’an, 27: 72).