Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Charles Darwin did not make my list of heroes until after I was forty years old. Part of the reason was that I grew up in Pakistan and we had been a colony of the Great Britain for more than 150 years and no British was hero of any Pakistani when I was growing up.
Everyone has their set of heroes. For mostly religious people, the more zealot they are, more likely their heroes come from their own religious traditions to the exclusion of others. Worship of emperors is not in vogue any more, but, in religious circles, sometimes hero worship and especially the deference to their top leader, can push the human heroes to a divine or almost divine status, in one guise or the other.
Depending on our religion of inheritance or choosing, we may have our blind spots and may not be able to see if we have overdone our hero worship. But, none of us will ever allow divine status to a hero of other traditions. For example, non-Christians never see Jesus as divine or non-Hindus never see Krishna or Ram as divine.
You get the point.
Before Charles Darwin the believers had a vague sense of God being the Creator of the universe or of all the life forms on our planet. But, his elaboration of the details give many a believer a much better idea as to how God brought all the life forms around through natural means. So, the believers cannot say they haven’t learnt from Darwin, can they?
Sir David Attenborough has scores of beautiful documentaries, bringing the awe inspiring beauty of all forms of lives, on our planet earth to our television screens. He does not talk about God or the Creator, in his documentaries, but the viewers are of course, free to add that as an after thought on their own. With that paradigm, I believe, one can learn more from him about God being the Creator, the Maker and the Fashioner of our nine million life forms, than months or years of sermons by any of the Muslim clerics or priests of other faiths. Here are two wonderful examples from David Attenborough:
I have learnt about the last verse of Sura Hashr, “He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise” (Al Quran 59:24/25), more from the non-Muslim scientists than the prophet Muhammad himself, may peace be on him, or any other Muslim scholar. We as Muslims need to start giving the credit where it is due.
Similarly, as regards Allah’s attribute of being the First, the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden, I owe more to those who are teaching laws of nature than those basking in theology and religion.
As an example among thousands of good books, videos and documentaries out there, here I link audio description of a recent book in the voice of the author: Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe:
There is no doubt that when it comes to my belief in God, who listens to our prayers and reveals Himself through dreams and revelations, I have only learnt from the holy Prophet Muhammad and saintly people in the Muslim history.
But, to pretend that I owe all my understanding of the Quran and attributes of God to them, would be sheer dishonesty and hypocrisy on my part and I want to set the record straight here and I believe by so doing I bring the Muslims and people of other faiths and of no faith at all, closer to each other in mutual acceptance and admiration. It seems that they have been light years apart, basking in their own islands, in their self indulgent thoughts, about their knowledge of the reality and the truth.
As the Muslim readers broaden their horizons, there is so much of science, religion and metaphysics they can learn from the non-Muslims scholars in their respective fields and in the Muslim Times, here, we try to cover many of these materials.
See our collection on Religion & Science.