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The Philosophy of Science

Written By underwater on Saturday, January 4, 2014 | 2:39 AM

Science deals with descriptions of phenomena; it does not deal with the explanation of matters beyond. Explanation is the realm of metaphysics and is known as the “philosophy of science.”
How we explain things depends on our beliefs and world view.
philosophy of science
Science is the systematic study of the behavior of certain phenomena (that is, regularities, uniformities) in the physical universe. Scientific study is based on observation, experimentation, measurement, and the formulation of universal laws that describe these facts and phenomena in general terms and enable prediction.

The process of describing regularities (i.e. things that happen in a particular way) is incomplete and never exhaustive because regularities are not exact and deterministic. There is actually quite a lot of approximation and simplification involved in this process. If an exact equation is desired, then these scientific laws, which are useful for prediction, must be formulated in mathematical terms; this represents the whole business of science.

The huge popularity of science is due to its practical results, such as the previous technological examples stated previously. Science is about studying regularities in the material world and describing those regularities in order to make predictions and to make possible the technology that we use daily possible.

It is important to stress that describing and making use of science is not about explaining, but rather using it to make sense of something; here, description is not to be confused with explanation. Therefore, science is about describing, not explaining. The moment a scientist talks about the meaning behind a law or regularity in nature and our ability to benefit from it, he is no longer talking science and he is venturing into the realm of metaphysics and the philosophy of science. Just because someone is a great scientist, it does not mean that he has a deeper insight into the meaning of the laws of the physical world and universe.

What science seeks to explain
Science does not answer questions of meaning or questions of agency (like, who is doing what for what reason? What is responsible for a given regularity?) and we cannot criticize science for not dealing with these questions. They may be important questions but it’s not the responsibility of the field of science to answer these questions. For example, consider the Law of Gravity. We drop a pen and it falls. Why did it fall? Because of gravity.

We observe that, without exception, the pen always falls when we lift it and drop it. Then we call the conjunction between performing an action and its regularity the law of gravity. This means that the law of gravity is simply the name we have given to this regularity; however, it does not mean that the pen is falling because of gravity. Gravity is the name given to the process, not an explanation for it, but in our minds both the name and the explanation for the phenomenon have become one and the same.

The question arises: Is it logically justified to explain an experience through a causal law that is derived through the same experience?

In the beginning, when scientists started asking these questions, it was unclear what the difference was between description and explanation. For a long time science was thought to be a venture competing with religion in providing answers for life.

Regarding natural laws, 19th century American philosopher Charles Peirce stresses on the point that natural laws serve as a description of natural events, not as explanations of these very events: “no law of nature makes a stone fall, or a Leyden jar to discharge, or a steam engine to work.” 1

A law of nature left to its self would be quite analogous to a court without a sheriff. A court in that predicament might probably be able to induce some citizen to act as sheriff; but until it had so provided itself with an officer who, unlike itself, could not discourse authoritatively but who could put forth the strong arm, its law might be the perfection of human reason but would remain mere fireworks. Just so, let a law of nature – say the law of gravitation – remain a mere uniformity – a mere formula establishing a relation between terms – and what in the world would induce a stone, which is not a term nor a concept but just a plain thing, to act in conformity to that uniformity? 2

The law of gravity is just a formula, just a name. It cannot make a stone act in accordance to it.

It is important to note that the notion of law is closely related to issues of agency and also to the affinity of the human mind to perceive natural phenomena and the possibility of finding patterns in nature beyond science (i.e. how is it that we are so in tune to what is happening in the world that we can pick up all these regularities?). These issues announce the “greatness” of science. When it comes to the affinity of the human mind to realize recurrent patterns in the universe, Peirce says:

. . . the mind of man is strongly adapted to the comprehension of the world; at least, so far as this goes, that certain conceptions, highly important for such a comprehension, naturally arise in the mind; and, without such a tendency, the mind could never have had any development at all. 3

Therefore, there would be no science if one could not grasp the regularities.

In our scientific inquiry, it is reasonable for us to be searching out these regularities and hoping that they will remain stable, but we cannot assume that we have explained how or why such regularities or laws are in effect. It may also be reasonable to say that there are regularities and we hope that these regularities and so-called universal laws will come into effect in the future so that technology can be made from predictions. There can only be hope, and not certainty, because science is based on observation and there may be some instances where the same observation may not occur.Even though science is based on exactitude, there is still a measure of hope and faith involved.

A scientific law states a repeated observation about nature. How do we come to the conclusion that we have a scientific law? Several events occur, (not just to the researcher) that hold to certain regularities, according to a certain pattern, and a generalized statement is formed. The process of generalization from a limited number of observations to form a universal statement or law is called the process of induction, or looking at a certain number of events and saying that things are going to happen all the time. The assumption under the process of induction is that the more observations made about a particular phenomenon, the more it will reinforce the law.

There is only one way for such an assumption to be true, and it has nothing to do with the number of observations. We assume a relationship or connection between the object and what occurs, the cause and effect. The assumption is that there is a necessary connection between the cause and the effect. One must be able to explain this connection in a logical way, not as something that depends solely on observation but something that necessitates the event. If this is unable to be done, if it is only based on observations, then induction is a problem. In formulating a scientific law, generalizations made through the method of induction are problematic.

Because of induction, the basic application of our inductive reasoning is twofold: firstly we think we can describe what we have seen by the use of universal laws, and secondly, that we can use these established laws in predicting what we will see. There is, however, a problem with the mechanics of the inductive process. Are we justified in formulating these universal laws simply on the basis of a discrete number of past observations that have been made?

For example, based on the scientific observation of planetary motion, we could suggest that “the sun will rise every day.” However, just because the sun has risen in the past, it does not mean that it will continue to do so either tomorrow or the next day. So the induction based on the number of occurrences of a particular phenomenon is illogical. There is no guarantee that we will ever see the sun rise again. The sense of faith we have in the scientific laws of planetary motions is based on the supposition that some kind of necessity has caused the sun to rise in the past and will therefore continue to cause the sun to rise in the future. We assume that the connection between the cause and the effect are necessarily related. To use another common example, everyone in Europe thought the statement “All swans are white” was true because every swan that they had ever seen was white. However, when travelers came back from Australia and New Zealand, they reported having seen black swans, thus providing a real life example of how induction can falter. This observation negated the previous generalizations.This brings us to the issue of causality.

Causality is the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first. In relation to one another, induction only has to work sometimes whereas causality always has to work. It has little to do with the number of occurrences; it has to work for each cause-effect relationship. The consequence of this model of the world is that empirical knowledge is connected to the causal relations between objects and events. According to this view, the logic of scientific discovery is inductive. In other words, it infers universal laws from particular statements.

The logic of induction proceeds as follows: First, it conjectures that induction is valid, and then concludes that causation is true. Whereas, from the point of view of logic, it is just the other way around; induction can be justified only by proving that causation is logically valid i.e., that the relation between cause and effect is necessary. Induction is therefore logically not a justified method to attain universality. As the Australian-British philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper observes, scientific induction is “logically inadmissible,” that scientific “theories are, therefore, never empirically verifiable.”4

Can we count on the laws of nature? It depends. We can have faith in them; we can hope that they will continue to hold in the future but there exists no logical certainty. But we cannot prove that they will remain true because we cannot observe something that will occur in the future (the dogma of the experiment).

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell calls the dogma of induction, the “biggest scandal of philosophy.” He provides the example of a farmer and his chicken. The chicken notices that the farmer comes every day to feed it. It predicts that the farmer would continue to bring food every day. According to the principle of induction, each feeding event added justification to its prediction. Then one day the farmer came and wrung the chicken's neck. Russell's point is that induction cannot justify any conclusions!

Critical problems with the method of induction have been in discussion long before the more recent debates, and are often connected with the concept of causality. The same issue was also at the center of a heated debate among Muslim philosophers and theologians as early as the 12th century. This critical problem with the method of induction was also pointed out earlier by the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume. Hume stated that when we observe two events to be causally related, say a seed (a) resulting in the growth of a shoot or tree (b), what we in fact observe is only a contingent conjunction of two events. That is, the causation that we think we perceive is not actually “out there in the world” for us to observe. When we see two events and judge them to be causally related, it is merely through a habit of the mind, something we project onto the world. A necessary causal link, as such, is not guaranteed. Hume writes:

Were any object presented to us, and were we required to pronounce concerning the effect, which will result from it, without consulting past observation; after what manner, I beseech you, must the mind proceed in this operation? It must invent or imagine some event, which it ascribes to the object as its effect; and it is plain that this invention must be entirely arbitrary. The mind can never possibly find the effect in the supposed cause, by the most accurate scrutiny and examination. For the effect is totally different from the cause, and consequently can never be discovered in it.5

This means that causal laws of nature are not true logically and there is no concrete evidence that these will continue to hold in the future. We simply cannot postulate universal laws that tell us the way the world irrefutably is and will always be unless we have some good reason to trust such generalizations. And even if we could trust such universal laws as “the sun will always rise,” it is not clear how many times we would need to see the sun rise in order to justify proposing this law. Scientific observation, although detailed and informative, has no claim to being the irrefutable truth of the matter.

The solution

Sir Karl Popper offered a potential solution to this problem by thinking about the way we do science in a new light. Popper turned science on its head by claiming that we are looking at science in the wrong way. Instead of looking to science to provide us with theories that are definitive and true, Popper said that we should be looking to science to provide us with theories that we have failed to prove false for a very long time. This approach to science is referred to as “Falsificationism.” Less of a solution and more of a shortcut, it is a tool which we are allowed to use in the game of science. He describes the Falsification approach by noting that for the scientific method to be rational, it must make claims to knowledge that is logically sound. That is, science is not about making grand universal laws, but about the examination of individual observations. According to the model of falsification, science is concerned with evaluating and refining. What we commonly think of as scientific claims to knowledge, are only hypotheses that we accept till they are proved wrong.

Fundamentally, Popper accepts that science can never provide us with complete 100% certainty, but he claims that this is not really a problem because it is not actually science’s job. The purpose of science is to provide us with a theory that is likely to be true based on the fact that we haven’t yet managed to prove it wrong. One unfortunate consequence of this, however, is that you can only ever be certain of the things that you have proved wrong. We know, for example, that the world definitely is not flat. The problem with this fact is that, although certain, it is not particularly useful to know that something is definitely false. For Popper, the best we can hope for is that a given claim is corroborated at one instance in time and if we presume otherwise, we are begging the question of the uniformity of nature: that what has always been, will (for apparently no good reason) continue to be.

To recapitulate, science does not deal with explanation; this is the realm of metaphysics. How we explain things depends on our beliefs and world view.

Dipnot

1. Online Past Masters text, The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, (University of Virginia E-text Center), 1.323. (The online texts is drawn from The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vols. I-VI ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931-1935), Vols. VII-VIII ed. Arthur W. Burks (same publisher, 1958).

2. Ibid., 5.48.

3. Ibid., 6. 417.

4. Popper, Karl. (1959). The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Hutchinson & Co. (Original work published in 1935).

5. Hume, David. (1772). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Hackett Publishing Co.

Via Fountain Magazine (By Yamina Mermer & Eren Tatari)

Dr. Yamina Mermer is a member of the Scriptural Reasoning Group based at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK.

Dr. Eren Tatari is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Rollins College, Florida.

Religious Inspirations and Scientific Inventions

Written By underwater on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | 3:39 AM

What exactly is it that inspires us, say, to write a beautiful poem or an article, or the next big idea that will change our life? There is no short answer for this question, for inspirations may come from many sources. Sometimes a dream, reading a text, a small organism in nature, or a random thought can be the source of inspiration that we have been seeking for a long time. The inspiration itself does not necessarily have to be a complex form of information. It can be the simplest piece of a large puzzle waiting to be solved.

Religious Inspirations and Scientific InventionsThere are many examples of inspirations in history. Sometimes it comes with a dream, as it happened to famous chemist, Friedrich Kekule (1829-1896), helping him to make one of the most amazing discoveries of his time. He saw atoms in his dream whirling, dancing and reassembling themselves in a snake-like motion, and the snake snapping its own tail. This dream provided him with the inspiration to discover the benzene ring. Benzene, a colorless and highly flammable liquid, is an important industrial solvent in the production of drugs, plastics, and dyes. Kekule is not the only person who found inspiration to an important question in his dream. For example, Otto Loewi, a famous German scientist, was inspired by a dream about an experiment that became the foundation for the theory of chemical transmission of the nervous impulse and led to a Nobel Prize. Once you contemplate on a question long enough, it becomes an important part of your life. You start seeing things in a different way, and everything becomes related to that question.

Ten years ago, a close friend of mine asked me a very interesting question. He said, "Did you ever read or witness any inspiration from Holy Scriptures, like the Qur'an, pointing to the Internet? After this question, I started to think deeply about the texts I had read, or the things I saw in my environment, and selected my readings more carefully. This helped me to capture more inspirations from my life.

It did not take long for me to relate many verses from scriptures to the question posed by my friend. It was an easy process to go backwards from the result to the possible starting ideas (verses). The hard thing about inspiration is that both the starting point and the result are unknown. Once we know the result that we wanted to achieve, it is easy to relate many things and find similarities around us that might get us to the same point. This can be either a scientific fact or a religious belief.

The relationship between science and religion, and inspirations from scriptures are the two most common controversial topics. Science and religion are the two strongest forces influencing humans. Some people use science to justify religious claims, while others start from religious information to reach unknown scientific points. Both approaches have many challenges, and may lead to consequences that conflict with one's belief. Scriptures can help us think outside of the box, and provide many inspirations for science. However, it is important to keep the balance between both worlds, while working hard on understanding science and building our faith on a solid ground.

So, how did I find the verses that pointed to the idea of the Internet in the Scriptures? I started to think of the core properties that make up the Internet. What will be my first words if I wanted to define the Internet? Some of the key definitions or features of the Internet that came to my mind was "a world-wide network of computers," "connecting people to each other," "storing or accessing world of information," "removing physical boundaries," "easy and cheap communication," or "freedom of speech."

Which feature of the Internet would sound too intricate to ever exist a thousand years ago? Probably, the possibility of storing and accessing all the information available throughout the history of mankind would be the most challenging feature. We haven't reached that point with the Internet yet, but so much ground has been covered towards this goal. Let's see how much progress is made on this road of storage and retrieval.

Wikipedia, a free web-based multilingual encyclopedia project, has over 22 million articles (over four million in the English Wikipedia). There are roughly 40 million books in US libraries. Google is building the largest online library in the history of the world, and already scanned over 20 million books. ISI Web of Knowledge, an online scientific database, is a source for thousands of journals with millions of articles published from 1900s to present. Everything published in the last couple of centuries becoming available online from handwritten books to newspaper archives, magazines, and journals.

Chemistry databases list information (e.g. structures, spectra, reactions, syntheses, and thermo-physical data) for tens of millions of organic and inorganic compounds known to man that are used in various industries. Biological databases provide information (e.g. gene sequences, textual descriptions, attributes and ontology classifications, citations, and tabular data) for living and even extinct organisms.

Besides the published information, other types of data from various types of arts, music and picture libraries are becoming an important part of the Internet. More and more museums provide virtual galleries that make all paintings, sculptures and other art pieces accessible to remote users. E-government projects make personal records, health and financial data of all citizens available to related parties. More personal information is available online through personal blogs, image galleries, video sharing, and discussion forums.

Could you make a person, fifty years or even fourteen hundred years ago, believe that one day all the information would be available in a book, a box or a device? This was my starting point to find clues about the Internet in the scriptures. This journey led to many interesting ideas and understanding of my environment. In the middle of the search, the Holy Qur'an provided an important message to summarize this journey:

"With clear arguments and scriptures; and We have revealed to you the Reminder, that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may think and reflect." (Qur'an 16:44)

As an explanation to this verse, Ibn Mas`ud, the sixth person to embrace Islam, said "[Allah] made it clear that in this Qur'an there is complete knowledge of and about everything." The Holy Qur'an contains many verses about events in the past and future, what is lawful and unlawful, and information about the religion, our life in this world, and our destiny in the afterlife. Divinely inspired Scriptures, Prophets, and laws were sent successively, in part as an assurance of the true knowledge.

Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim scholar, lists the types of knowledge and understanding as follows; "... that is based on beholding or actively seeing something, inner (comprehensive knowledge) or outer (description and measurement), implementation of the lesser understanding (technology) or of the spiritual understanding (contemplation and worship, which yield wisdom), learning and teaching, self-based or other-based, the learner's or teacher's belief in independence of action or being, and of the believer's surrender and trust to the Creator ..." [1]. We need to learn how to "read" the universe and scriptures consciously to acquire true understanding and wisdom.

My search for the inspiration for an idea of the Internet led me to find many verses from the Holy Qur'an. Here are some of the verses that I personally think is a starting point to inspire the idea of storing all the information known to mankind.

"... there is not a grain in the darkness (or depths) of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry (green or withered), but is (inscribed) in a clear record (to those who can read)" (Qur'an 6:59)

"... nor is hidden from the Lord (so much as) the weight of an atom on the earth or in heaven. And not the smallest and not the greatest of these things but are recorded in a clear record" (Qur'an 10:61)

"... and there is nothing hidden, in heaven or earth, but is (recorded) in a clear record" (Quran 27:75)

These verses can be interpreted in different ways. Some scholars refer these verses to the knowledge of the All-Knowing God, or a book called Lawh al-Mahfuz that stores the information on the destiny of mankind. Actually relating these verses with the Internet, and the traditional interpretations have a very interesting connection. With ever-growing capacity and capabilities, the Internet is like a small book of destiny that stores our everyday life. However, it is far from storing every single event in the universe. This helps us to realize how mighty and vast the knowledge of the God is, and the capacity of Lawh al-Mahfuz.

When I recited the verses from Qur'an that related to the idea of the Internet, my friend was surprised. As in this example, scientific discoveries and inspirations can be connected with the verses from the Qur'an in many ways. It is important to make this connection for the greater good. Gülen says, "... Recent scientific discoveries have clarified certain Qur'anic verses. Such advances in knowledge occur successively, as the universe proceeds upon its decreed course and in the measure of understanding appointed for us. We must acknowledge and praise the efforts and achievements of researchers and scientists, but they should not lead us to ingratitude and insolence (the roots of unbelief). Rather, we should reaffirm our dependence upon the Creator for guidance both in our quest for and application of knowledge..." [1]. There is no doubt that the Qur'an drives us to deep thoughts, creativity, inspirations and great ideas.

Our further discussion raised another important question, "What is the purpose of reading scriptures?" To know why we read scriptures is as important as reading itself. The Qur'an explains the meaning of reading and draws attention to creation [2] by saying: "Read, in the name of your Lord, Who created" [Qur'an 96:1]. The Qur'an suggests us to observe the universe and learn from its laws and processes so we do not repeat the mistakes of the previous generations, and instead, build a better future.

Acknowledgment: This article was produced at MERGEOUS [3], an online article and project development service for authors and publishers dedicated to the advancement of technologies in the merging realm of science and religion.

References
1. Gülen, Fethullah. Questions and Answers about Islam, NJ: The Light, Inc.
2. Gülen. Fethullah Religious Education of the Child, NJ: The Light, Inc.
3. Mergeous, http://www.mergeous.com
 
By Halil I. Demir (Via Fountain Magazine)

Halil I. Demir is an internet entrepreneur and freelance writer.

What AL-Quran says about Time?

Written By Mozaik Ness on Thursday, December 5, 2013 | 4:20 AM

All things in the universe, with their specific and suitable outfits obtained from the spiritual world, gain an image and flow in the river of time.
The sun and the moon are by an exact calculation (of the All-Merciful) (55:5).

He has made the night for repose, and the sun and the moon a means for reckoning (the divisions of time). (6:96)

He it is Who has made the sun a radiant, illuminating light, and the moon a light reflected, and has determined for it stations, that you might know (how to compute) the number of the years and to measure (time). (10:5)

The number of the months, in God's sight, is twelve, as determined and decreed by God on the day when He created the heavens and the earth (and set them moving in the present conditions). (9:36)

They ask you (O Messenger) about the new moons (because of the month of Ramadan). Say: "They are appointed times (markers) for the people (to determine time periods) and for the Pilgrimage." (2:189)
What AL-Quran says about Time?
The concept of time is not mentioned directly in the Qur’an. But there are numerous verses reporting a time period in which many words are repeatedly used to allude to it. “Age” (karn – plural: kurun), “month” (shahr), and “year” (sana, am, hijaj, and havlayn) are mentioned 20, 21, and 30 times respectively [1]. Regarding the concept of time, al-Taftazani says in his book Aqaidu’n Nasafi, “Time is used to describe things that have a beginning. Things that have a beginning depend on certain conditions. God is beyond all measurements and limitations” [2].

Islamic scholars divide time into two, “earthly-physical” and “spiritual-metaphysical,” and they describe current time as “psychological time,” “expanding time,” or “existential time.” According to Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, time is a mysterious coordinate that is in charge of regulating the material world and events. He describes biologic time as activity, growth, development, and speed: “However unmoving, constant, and static a clock outwardly appears, it is in a state of continuous movement in essence and inwardly. Likewise the world, which is a huge clock of the Divine Power, rolls or revolves unceasingly in continuous change and upheaval. Its two ‘hands’ of night and day show the passage of its seconds, and its ‘hands’ of years and centuries show the passage of its minutes and hours respectively. Time plunges the world into waves of decay and, leaving the past and future to non-existence, allows existence for the present only” (Twenty-Fifth Word, p. 455) [3].

From this conclusion of Bediuzzaman, we understand that different times are generated through perpetual flow of the heavenly bodies in space (moon, sun, planets and stars.) Bediuzzaman, in his evaluation of the metaphysical time, also states that all the existence in the universe, with their specific and suitable outfits obtained from the spiritual world, gains an image and flow in the river of time. He points to the fact that all beings continuously come from the future, arrive at current time for a rest, and join with the past, therefore allowing the formation of the time river: “What we call time, a mighty river flowing in creation, has a reality like everything else. Its reality is like the ink and pages of the writing of Power on the Tablet of Effacement and Reaffirmation. Only God knows the Unseen” (Tenth Letter, p. 59) [4]. Every moment of the reality of time is a stage of creation under the divine command of “Be, and it is” (Qur’an 2:117).

The creation of things and events in the present cosmos is initiated in the quantum world by the union of each particle to the existence in a chain of countless contingencies. The state before a matter enters the visible, sensible form (macroscopic state) is described, by Bediuzzaman, as the “sphere of contingency,” i.e. the realm of creation, while modern science names it as the quantum world and reality which is composed by n number of micro states in which contingent realities overlap.

The tablets (phases) that host the characteristic contingencies of creation via the instant transition of phases and increasing number of microstates are described as “the Tablet of Effacement and Reaffirmation [Lawh Mahw wa Ithbat])” by Bediuzzaman:

[T]hrough the Manifest Record’s dictates (namely, Divine Destiny’s decree and instruction), Divine Power uses particles to create or write the chain of beings, each link of which is a sign in the creation of things, on the metaphorical page of time (the Tablet of Effacement and Reaffirmation). Thus particles move because of that writing’s vibration and motion, which occurs while beings pass from the Unseen world to the manifest (material) world, from Knowledge to Power. The Tablet of Effacement and Reaffirmation is a slate for writing and erasing, an ever-changing notebook of the fixed and constant Supreme Preserved Tablet, and this latter Tablet’s notebook in the sphere of contingencies, where all things are unceasing manifestations of life and death, existence and ephemerality. This is the reality of time. What we call time, a mighty river flowing in creation, has a reality like everything else. Its reality is like the ink and pages of the writing of Power on the Tablet of Effacement and Reaffirmation. (Tenth Letter, Risale-i Nur Collection, pp. 58-59) [4]

In the Islamic philosophy of existence, the universe is represented as a book; the space-time union is as the union of pen and ink. The nature of existence and phenomena are explained with these representations.

The Preserved Tablet
Mentioned several times in the Qur’an, the Preserved Tablet (Imamun Mubin) and Manifest Record (Kitabun Mubin) (these are considered by some to refer to the same thing), encompass the present world with all its details and fineness, and each particle with their original and true forms that circulate within the infinite sphere of contingency. The transmission of registered events and particles in this book of knowledge through the sphere of contingency to the world of particles takes place in the Tablet of Effacement and Reaffirmation, or the quantum world that can be likened to a scratch pad. Phase transformations – the intercrossing of possible scenarios and overlapping representative images – here are not the reality itself but a variable, transitional, possible micro state reflection of it. The transition of the originals in the Supreme Preserved Book from a state of possibility to a present form, as from the spiritual to the material world, from unknown to the known, require particles to transform from one state to another (tahawwulat-i zarrat). These transitions of phases (vibrations) on the edges of the visible, determined world (space) generate the phenomenon of time. In fact, time follows creation in space (kawn). All of the images and the formations that are called existence in the cosmos are determiners of space.

In other words, space is a cosmos which transforms continuously from non-existence to existence. This way the universe becomes like a scratch pad and always new manifestations occur in the time river that flows through it. “Now is the time, now is the moment” is a mystical expression of this truth, which, for Ibn Arabi, is composed of a constant moment (an-i daim) and the true reality of time corresponds with the moment of manifestations of Divine Names over existence [5]. According to him, with the extreme power of Divine singular oneness over multiple beings, the earth gets terminated via the hand of non-existence every moment, because the existence of a world means that the non-existence of it has become a “moment.” This way, the Manifest One (al-Zahir) imposes His manifestation first on the hidden, then the Immanent One (al-Batin) imposes His immanence on the manifest; therefore the world continuously get terminated and created. At this stage, the Almighty wraps the current moment of things and events under His names the First (al-Awwal) and the Last (al-Akhir) into the past and the future. Later, the Manifest takes the authority, followed by the Immanent, allowing creation renewed until the doomsday.


Time, within its own relative nature, is thus a complex manifestation of the Divine names the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Immanent through the vibrations and movements of particles. The measurement of time is carried out over the movement and speed of the particles and objects. According to Ibn Arabi again, the continual renewal of similarities determined over time happens in such a way that as one thing gets terminated another similar thing (fractal) begins to get created instantaneously [5]. While, for instance, the color white disappears in the form of continual phase transitions, another white that is similar but not the same gets created. If an opposite black were to be created upon termination of the white color, this would disrupt the nature of the things. Existence and creation get renewed together, within the mysterious flow of time and the formation of space, every instant: “Every (moment of every) day, He is in a new manifestation (with all His Attributes and Names as the Divine Being)” (Qur’an 55:29).

Behind the fact that images are temporary and truth is eternal, stands the question of what the mysterious works of time and the reality of the matter really are. Every particle being created in the smallest frame of time, and therefore generating time and eventually flowing in this river that it has caused bears a wisdom of a divine law intertwined with a fine secret, a purpose that reads a universal meaning, an integrity among the opposites, existence in non-existence, and purpose in what seems to be without a purpose. There is no absurdity or anything that is against wisdom emerging from these states that rise as a result of deceptive conflict and limited willpower that seem as transforming, deforming, and dispersing formations and visual images in the sphere of contingencies. The expression of Imam Ghazali; “Nothing is better than what comes out of the sphere of contingencies,” is a beautiful declaration of the perfect wisdom and integrity of continual creation of all things in the page of the time.

References
1. Canan, Ibrahim. 2009. Islam’da Zaman Tanzimi [Time Management in Islam] Izmir: Akademi Yay. Third edition. p. 38.
2. Goodman, L. A. 1997. “Time in Islam,” Asian Philosophy, 2:1, 17.
3. Nursi, Bediuzzaman Said. 2010. The Words: The Reconstruction of Islamic Belief and Thought. NJ: The Light, Inc.
4. Nursi, Bediuzzaman Said. 2007. The Letters: Epistles on Islamic Thought, Belief, and Life. NJ: The Light, Inc.
5. Ibn-i Arabi. The Universal Tree and the Four Birds – Treatise on Unification (al-Ittihad al-kawni). Translated by Angela Jaffray. Anqa Publishing in association with Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society.

By Firat Celik (Via Fountain Magazine)

Horizons ~ Beyond the Immediate and the Obvious

Written By underwater on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 | 7:39 AM

No matter how fast or how far a person runs, the horizon will always be beyond them. This being the case, the real distance and depth of the horizon is inside a person, it is in their mind and perception…

Horizon

A race I will always remember
Not too long ago, when I was still a little boy, I found myself running from my father’s village to my mother’s, and from my mother’s to another and to another, in the hope of catching up with something that was neither a ball, some other toy, nor a bird, but rather the point, the line where the sky seemed to touch the earth. We call it the “horizon.” That line, that “place,” first presented itself to me hiding right behind the trees to the left of my father’s house. I started out that day walking rather leisurely because the distance between me and the horizon seemed so short. When I observed that the sky had moved, or rather seemed to have moved further away, I hastened my steps. Then I noticed that the sky moved further and further away. Well, being determined to reach the place where the sky certainly touched the ground, I kept walking faster and faster until I found myself running.

I ran for quite a while until I realized that “there”, where the sky and the earth met, was still further away, that it would take me more time and effort than I had thought. I went back—I had to go back—to my father’s village, back to my usual village life because I saw that perhaps much more was involved, that maybe much more effort was called for in order to achieve what I desired, namely, to get to the point where I could touch the sky, where I could climb the sky. I went back to the ordinary, the normal life and experience of the village and of my people. But I did not tell anyone, I did not discuss the experience with anyone, even though I did not stop and could not stop thinking about it. I thought to myself that perhaps a week, a month, maybe a year would suffice for me to reach the place where the sky and the earth embraced. I was absolutely certain that right there in front of me, over there, not too far away, the sky touched the ground. And I thought that perhaps all I needed to do was keep walking, keep running, and keep racing forward, without stopping, without interruptions, without distractions in order to get to where the sky kissed the ground.

Today, thirty-five years later, I have realized that I was not wrong. I was right. The sky did touch the ground. It touches the ground all the time. You may ask “but where and how?” The sky touches the ground in our perception. Look across from your window into the distance. What do you see? Or, go outside and look in the distance. What do you see? The sky is right there, over there, touching the ground, the road, the houses, the trees, the mountains, the sea, and remaining there. But keep in mind that this is all happening in our perception. In perception, things are the way they appear, the way they seem. No rigorous, critical thinking is involved. And this happens so many times, and in fact is happening now; it happens every time that we are not thinking deeply, with attention and effort. It happens every time we fail to allow other perspectives, other possibilities and other possible interpretations to emerge.
The sky touches the earth, embraces and kisses the ground, right there in a fixed position, as long as you do not move. Once you move, it moves. And when you run after it, it too runs, not towards you though, but rather away from you. If you stand still, it stands still. If you stay where you are, it remains where it is. If you move even an inch, it will move. It will never allow you to catch up with it, to touch it; it will never allow you to possess it, to tame it; it will never allow you to take possession of it. And yet, it is always there, “putting everything into perspective.” By that I mean the horizon enables us to see, for without horizon one cannot see much of anything. Think about it! Everything presents itself in horizon. Everything dwells in the horizon, everything is within the confines of the horizon, and depends more or less on this phenomenon. And if I may borrow an expression from Saint Paul’s speech at the Areopagus (Acts 17:28) and be at liberty to use it as I see fit in this context (just as some scholars say he himself was at liberty to do with the same expression from the writing of Epimenides of Knossos (6th Century B.C.)), one can say that “that in which we live and move and have our being” is the horizon.

Standing still, remaining in one fixed position is not in the nature of the horizon. Its every stop (or what appears to be its end, its boundary) is temporary and transitory, like a pilgrim’s stop on a journey whose destination is still far away. It keeps moving, and it invites us to keep moving too, keep working, keep meeting people, keep exploring, keep digging, keep sowing, keep cultivating, keep harvesting, keep looking, keep reading, keep writing, keep thinking, keep talking, keep wondering.

We hear, not infrequently, the expression, “on the horizon/in the horizon.” What does it mean? It means in view, in the possible future, in sight. That which is in or on the horizon appears close, and seems to be approaching; it is as if it’s right there among the things that one hopes to do soon, as something squarely within one’s reach, among the things that one’s abilities can handle. What is in the horizon, then, is something that appears “present” and seems quite achievable.

What is a horizon? And what does it do?
A horizon is inseparable from a living, perceiving human being who is in the open or in the frontier of the open. There are no horizons in closed spaces, closed places. The distance between a living human being and the line where the sky and the earth meet is very wide. It is infinite. It is far, far away. You can only measure it with your eyes, your mind and your soul. You can figure out how long it is only to the extent that your eyes, your mind and your soul can go. An application of any other measuring device will only frustrate you because the moment you start going after it to measure it, it will recede. But the truth is that what you are actually seeing of the horizon is only a small part of it. The bigger part is on the other side of the horizon. Every horizon has at least two parts: a front and a back. The front of the horizon consists of the part you are seeing, and its back consists of the part hidden from you because of the hills and mountains, the earth, the road, the trees, the sea. In fact, the line where the sky seems to touch the earth is really only a perceived curve or a perceived point of contact, but the horizon really goes far and farther away, without end: it stretches into infinity.

All the things we are seeing are in fact standing in the way of the horizon. Similarly, all the things we are thinking right now, all our thoughts and ideas, everything that is presently on our minds can be an obstacle to a deeper and fuller understanding and appreciation of the horizon. We have to let go of all of these things in order to begin to have an idea of the depth and richness of the horizon.

For now, let us focus on the part of the horizon that is visible to us. It is a world, the world that we live in or would like to live in. Normally, it consists of people, people of different religions and/or of no religion at all, people of different languages and cultures, different experiences, different states and walks of life, different situations and aspirations, people driven by different desires, values and visions, people of very deep opinions, inspirations, beliefs and deep convictions other than our own, people heading in a thousand and one directions. This world, this visible side of the horizon also includes animals of many different types and habitats, which eat different kinds of food and have different spans of life. It also includes many different trees, bushes and flowers, and different types of grasses, etc. Mountains and hills and valleys too, rivers and big oceans, streams and creeks, are all part of this side of the horizon. Small and big houses, low and high buildings, shelters and palaces, mud houses and ghettoes are all part of this side of the horizon that we are seeing. But we do not actually see everything that we know is out there, that is all around us, that is over there in front of us…

How do we even know that there is anything out there, that other people are out there? A long walk, travels, meeting people, doing business with people, education, etc. confirm that there are other people out there, other lifestyles, other ways of thinking, other ways of doing things, other attractions, other things that people consider as very precious and worth dying for. We read about these things, have actually met and seen them with our own eyes, have lived with people of different orientations and values, have had some great opportunities to exchange ideas with them. But neither our reading and studying nor our investigative and explorative eyes can exhaust the visible side of the horizon because even the visible side has its own invisible aspects and invisible faces. Let us take for example persons, situations and objects.

From time to time, a person whom I have known for many years, not only surprises me, but also seems to be a surprise to herself/himself whenever s/he says something or does something I could never have thought or imagined her or him doing. And people of this nature are not uncommon.

How about situations? They are similar. Even the most familiar situations often have aspects that are new and different, which we can see if and when we look with more attention and care. And the moment we become used to these, even newer different aspects of the same situation emerge. The same goes for things such as books, clocks, chairs, doors, and so on. A book often presents us with information that we did not see the first time we read it. And if you read it again, you will again see something you missed the second time you read it. If you wish, you can read it again and again, and you will see something new every time. The book will never fail to make you see something new and/or think something new.

Can a chair or a door do something similar? That is, can a chair or a door make you see something new or think something new every time you encounter them? Let us see. A chair, unlike a book, seems to have no generative power. It seems mute and sterile. But can a chair speak and make us think? The answer is yes, it can speak and make us think. No one would disagree that the chair of Pontius Pilate, the chair of a Court Judge, the chair of Saint Peter, and so forth do have a powerful message. Although these chairs I have cited are special, every chair can say something to us and really make us think. For example, chairs for children and for adults make us think different thoughts, which by the way, make us give children appropriate chairs and to adults what is suitable for them. If we did not think differently of these chairs, chances are we would give adults the chairs meant for children and vice-versa, or give the same kind of chairs to everybody, children and adults alike, seriously compromising comfort. And some chairs would even fall apart (that is, if children’s chairs are given to heavy people like me to sit on).

Doors too make us think. For example, the Door of No Return in Goree Island in Dakar, Senegal, and the Door of Hope in Johannesburg, South Africa, makes every visitor think. But again, although these specific references are special, every door, including those that may seem unimposing and insignificant, can really make us think. Every door has a message.
The bottom line is that even the most visible side of the horizon can have aspects that may not be totally obvious and immediately accessible. Therefore, the visible, that which seems completely clear can still make us think because it often has layers, folds, dimensions, messages that lie beneath its surface. There are always other meanings, other messages behind the obvious. And the moment we finish harvesting one message, the moment we finish reading one meaning, the horizon presents us another one, and yet another, and so on and so forth. Inexhaustible indeed, this horizon can constantly give new meaning, hope, color, shape, style, texture, depth, taste and strength to our lives for endless joy and delight, even under very difficult circumstances. Why? Because the horizon has power to liberate us from the present, the immediate, the obvious. As it draws back, so to speak, that is, when we attempt to respond to its invitation into the open, when we dare to go after it, go with it into the deep, when we allow ourselves to move with it and flow with it, then it can open new doors, generate new ideas, launch new beginnings, reveal inroads, illuminate new bridges, disclose exits, uncover new faces, make terrains of other possibilities visible, make cooperation and collaboration possible, make teamwork possible, bring along other solutions, other fertile soils. With the horizon, there are no closed doors, no human being is a finished project, no done deal, no finished once-and-for-all discussions, no insurmountable barriers. The horizon’s open field stretches into infinity.

All of this is but an invitation to read between the lines, i.e., “to resist simplistic interpretations that dogmatically ascribe fixed significations to [things]” (G. Weiss, Refiguring the Ordinary, Indiana University, Bloomington, 2008, p.58).

It is about the need to go on researching other possible meanings and interpretations of a text, to go on searching for other possible answers to certain problems, to appreciate the expanding limits, and to devote more time and energy to the lifelong project of exploration of self and of the world (and of God) (see P. Okogie’s “Horizon: the birthing world” in the Journal of Horizons of Horizons, Vol. 1, no. 1, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, 2012, p.10).

Via Fountain Magazine (By :Rev. Dr. Pachomius Okogie )

Rev. Dr. Okogie is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics, University of Saint Anselm, Rome, Italy.

Potential Danger in Water?

Written By underwater on Monday, October 14, 2013 | 11:51 AM

Everything-from the size of raindrops to the height of trees, the speed of wind and the food chain produced in the ocean-is controlled within a magnificent balance. However, due to the unlimited demands of humans, the earth's ecosystem is subjected to immense changes and is gradually being destroyed. Some of the main reasons for this destruction are the fertilizers used in agriculture which contain excessive chemicals, insecticides, and detergents used in the home. These substances are carried into streams, lakes, and the oceans by rainfall, wastewater, and through irrigation, causing pollution. The deterioration in the ecological chain caused by this pollution affects the ecosystem, and thus the human health. Phytoplankton, the productive organisms which are at the base of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems, are microscopic organisms that produce organic nutrients (sugar, protein etc.) through the process of photosynthesis. During the production stage of these nutrients, phytoplankton absorbs the contaminative and toxic elements. As the larger creatures (invertebrates and vertebrates such as fish) feed on phytoplankton, they, in turn, absorb the toxins accumulated in the phytoplankton.
water

The phosphate and nitrogen compounds found in the waste material that are released into the environment go through some biological processes and are transformed into nourishing salts for the phytoplankton. When there is an increase in temperature, these salts may cause some of the phytoplankton to grow and reproduce excessively. The toxic materials released by some, and the use of excessive oxygen, are harmful to other organisms.

Another example of pollution is related with algae. When the number of microbial plants called algae reaches one million per cubic decimeter (1 million/dm3) of water, the consumption of oxygen required in order to mineralize, and break-down the organic materials found in the water increases, and therefore a compound of toxins which pollute the water, such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S), are released. This pollution can cause the death of fish and other organisms which live in the water. As a result of the reduction in water quality, an increase in the type of algae called cyanobacteria occurs and the biotoxins that they produce threatens human health.

More than forty types of algae produce various toxins. Some of these toxins damage the human liver, some attack the nervous system (particularly the brain), some can cause allergic skin reactions, and some can even induce cancer. The release of domestic, industrial, and agricultural waste and the high percentage of nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphor compounds) into the aquatic ecosystem can cause an excessive increase of algae in the waters. This algal bloom in fresh water is referred to as eutrophication. In oceans, it is referred to as red tide because the water appears to be a reddish color. Both present a significant environmental problem.

In low doses humans are exposed to these toxins by the consumption of drinking water. In Brazil in 1988, almost 2000 people developed gastroenteritis over a forty day period due to the consumption of drinking water contaminated by these toxins, and eighty-eight of them died. In South Australia, as early as 1878, many sheep, horses, dogs and other animals died as a result of drinking water from Lake Alexandrina, which was covered by scum caused by an aglal bloom called Nodularia spumigena.

Mussels, a delicacy eaten and enjoyed by many, accumulate large amounts of toxins because they feed on phytoplankton. One study found that in fresh water mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) that fed on cyanobacteria, almost 10.7 g toxins per gram of bodyweight was accumulated. This is also the case in marine mussels. It has been determined that these toxins in gradually increased concentrations are passed onto organisms higher on the food chain by consumption. Accordingly, we should always consider the potential risk factors before consuming shellfish.

Biotoxins are released into the water after being broken down by algae. Thus, when an algal bloom reaches high levels, there is an increase in the density of toxins in the water. As these toxins dissolve in the water, purifying the contaminated water requires not only expensive, but also advanced technology methods. Unfortunately, it is impossible to remove this waste in many of the existing refining plants. The toxin concentration in drinking and utility water should be reduced in regions where drinking water is obtained from lakes by mixing it with uncontaminated water, particularly during the spring when the algal bloom occurs. Thus, reducing the amount of biotoxins in the water to a level that will cause minimal harm to aquatic organisms should help to reduce the risks to humans.

Many types of waste released into the environment cause damage, which adversely affect humans. Polluting the environment may be easy, but purifying the environment of this pollution is a very difficult task. Indeed, humans were not created to act irresponsibly and destroy the universe in which they are mere guests. On the contrary, the human is a delicate guest with sublime duties. Protecting the natural resources provided for our needs and utilizing these resources in the most productive manner, without disturbing the balance of nature, is a duty of every human on earth.


References
Pouria S. de Andrade A. 1988. "Fatal microcystin intoxication in haemodialysis unit in Caruaru, Brazil." Lancet 352:21-26.

Carmichael W.W., Azevedo S.M.F.O. 2001. "Human fatalities from cyanobacteria: Chemical and biological evidence for cyanotoxins." Environ. Health Perspect 109: 663-668.

Codd G.A., Bell S.G., Kaya K., Ward C.J., Beattie K.A., Metcalf J.S. 1999. "Cyanobacterial toxins, exposure routes and human health." Eur. J. Phycol. 34:405-415.

Via Fountain Magazine ( By : Bahadir Can Gumussulu )

Faith, Worship, and Social Responsibility: The Ideal Person in the Qur'an

As with other sacred texts, one of the most important subjects regarding the Qur'an concerns its interpretation or tafsir. As a matter of fact, its language and communicative style require interpretation even for legalistic verses. The fact that the Qur'an is the absolute authority for the Islamic faith increases the importance of its interpretation. Beginning from the early centuries, Muslims developed interpretation methods such as recording the circumstances or historical context of the revelation-known as asbab al-nuzul. Whereas for early scholars, the asbab al-nuzul comprised the most important exegesis of the text-critical explanation or interpretation, later scholars attempted to interpret each verse of the Qur'an by collecting what the Prophet, his companions, and the former scholars had said about each verse. This technique is known as tafsir bi al-riwaya. And finally, Qur'anic scholars began to use their own opinions and the philosophical ideas of their times in interpretation (tafsir bi al-diraya).
Taqwa 
These three methods of classical exegesis have been very helpful in understanding Qur'anic text. However, because they typically explain the Qur'an verse-by-verse, it can be difficult to use them as a means to understand the overall or core teachings of the Qur'an especially for today's readers. In today's world, people who begin to study the Qur'an can easily become confused when they see the same verse interpreted in completely opposing ways, say by radicals on one side and peace activists on the other side. To alleviate this confusion, we need to understand the major themes and overall purposes of the Qur'an.

To grasp one of the major Qur'anic themes, I will attempt to analyze the beginning of the chapter, Al-Baqara (The Cow). I propose that the major purpose of the Qur'an is to draw the picture of the ideal person by proclaiming (a) what he/she needs to believe (b) how he/she should perform worship and (c) how he/she needs to act within a society. This ideal person is a "muttaqi"-a true believer (muttaqin is the plural form). By describing the ideal person, the first five verses of the Al-Baqara chapter best summarize the whole content of the Qur'an. This passage tells us what kind of society the Qur'an intends to establish by listing the important characteristics of individuals within an ideal society. These are the first five verses:

"Alif, lam, mim. This is the Book. There is no doubt in it. It is a guide to the muttaqin. Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them. And who believe in that which has been revealed to you and that which was revealed before you and are certain of the hereafter. These are on guidance from their Lord and these are the successful."
The chapter begins with the mysterious Arabic letters called al-huruf al-muqatta'a (isolated letters). Scholars have suggested many theories to explain such isolated letters which occur 29 times in the Qur'an. For our purposes here, it is sufficient to mention that chapters that being with al-huruf al-muqatta'a usually are followed by the verses about the Qur'an itself.

The specific Arabic words used in the second verse are a categorical negation of any doubt-their usage signifies that the Qur'an contains no doubt at all, not even the slightest one. This doubtless book, as the same verse states, is guidance (huda) for the muttaqin or servants of God. To anticipate the discussion on the next verses, we need to understand more about the word muttaqin as it is used in the Qur'an.

Muttaqi comes from the same Arabic root as the word taqwa. Thus, the meaning of taqwa is implied here. We need to consider this very important concept to fully understand these opening verses of Al-Baqara. When we consider all the Qur'anic verses together in which the muttaqin are mentioned, the evidence points to the idea that taqwa means an ideal piety according to the Qur'an and refers, as an umbrella term, to zeniths humans can excel in both religious and human terms. More specifically, the following aspects of taqwa can be deduced from the Qur'anic accounts: faith, piety, obedience, abstaining from bad deeds, and sincerity. These can be considered the interdependent sides of taqwa. Namely, when a person has the sense of taqwa associated with faith and piety in his heart, this leads him/her to perform good deeds and prevents him/her from carrying out bad deeds.

The fourth verse of Al-Baqara poses the relationship between yaqin (certain belief) and taqwa. This relationship evokes many similar Qur'anic verses that end with a special emphasis on God's certain attributes such as All-Hearing (al-'Alim), All-Knowing (al-Khabir), and All-Seeing (al-Basir). These attributes remind us that everything is under God's control. Thus, the Qur'an attaches obedience of servants to the strong belief of an "Omniscient God." Concerning this subject, we should mention another term, which took on a specific importance in the Sufi tradition: al-ihsan. Although ihsan literally means to be kind and to do good, a very famous tradition gives it a specific meaning. According to the tradition known as the hadith Jibril, the angel Gabriel (in the form of a human) asked the Prophet when he was with his companions, to explain the meaning of ihsan. The Prophet answered the question by saying, "It is to worship God as if you see Him; and although you do not see Him, He sees you." So, ihsan refers to God-consciousness to the extent as if the person is seeing God. In brief, the Qur'an as a whole wants its followers to have such a high level of consciousness of God. Strong faith is indispensable for achieving this quality.

Another meaning of taqwa is protection-taqwa protects God's servants from falling into sin. How can a human being sin if he or she remains constantly mindful that God is ever present? What is more, the muttaqi is the person, according to the hadith, who abstains not only from sins but also from dubious actions: "A servant cannot be among the muttaqin unless he refrains from certain permissible things for fear of falling into impermissible things." There is another tradition that reinforces the meaning of abstinence for taqwa. According to the story narrated by Uqba b. Amir, the Prophet was given a silken garment as a present. He wore it and started to pray. When he finished his prayer, he took it off immediately as if with a strong aversion to it and said, "This does not suit muttaqin."

Another meaning of taqwa given by the Qur'an is "good intention." This meaning is clear in the following verse that was revealed about the sacrificial animals: "It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is taqwa from you that reaches Him." Here, taqwa is understood and interpreted as sincerity and good intention. Another verse in the same chapter underlines the relation between the taqwa and the heart, saying "And whoever respects the symbols of Allah, such (respect) should come truly from the taqwa of the heart." The hadith collections also contain many traditions supporting the same sense. For instance, after giving some advice to his companions, the Prophet says three times, "The taqwa is just here," pointing to his chest.

As for the importance of taqwa in Islam, we can state that individual salvation in the hereafter and social order in this world are possible only by the presence of taqwa in individuals who together constitute the society. The Qur'an often connects salvation in the hereafter (as exemplified by gaining the eternal reward or escaping from eternal punishment) to taqwa. Among many of the verses involved, the following ones are enough to show its significance with reference to the eternal happiness: "And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord; and for a paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, it is prepared for the muttaqin" (3:133). "...And the hereafter is with your Lord only for the muttaqin" (43:35). Not only the Qur'an, but also hadith collections contain traditions giving good tidings to the muttaqin about the next life. For instance, according to the tradition, the Prophet declared that taqwa and good character (husn al-khuluq) are the most frequent reasons for eligibility to enter Paradise.

Taqwa, according to the Qur'an and the related traditions, includes all good religious and moral qualities. If one asks "Who is the muttaqi according to the Qur'an?" the correct answer, regarding its overall exposition, would be the following: "The muttaqi is the ideal believer who has all inward and outward qualities celebrated by religion and lives a perfect godly life." Moreover, the first verses of Al-Baqara summarize all the characteristics of the muttaqin under the three titles: unshakable faith, fulfillment of personal responsibility before God, and accomplishment of social responsibility for the sake of the community.

The third verse discusses the attributes of the muttaqin. Three different attributes can be easily noticed in the verse: they believe in the unseen (ghayb), they establish the prayer, and they spend out of what they have been provided. In brief, the verse denotes the most perfect forms of the three categories-belief, worship, and social responsibilities. For example, belief in ghayb includes all the Islamic faith principles including the belief in God, his messengers, angels, revelations, the hereafter, and the divine decree. Meaning "certain faith," the notion "iqan" employed in the following verse, on the other hand, marks the highest level of belief. The preference of the word iqama of the prayer which means establishing the prayer "in conformity with its conditions" instead of the verb "salla" that has a simpler sense, points out the most perfect way in praying. In addition, the prayer, the most important and the most frequent form of worship in Islam, can be considered here as the representative of all the Islamic worships because those who are steadfast (iqama) in the daily prayers would be the ones who perfectly perform the other Islamic duties. The last part of the verse is even more interesting (They spend out of what We have given them as rizq). Many other Qur'anic verses use the expression "alms giving"-zakat. Instead, the word used here is more comprehensive- rizq or blessings from God. Rizq is not limited to zakat or sadaqa (obligatory and voluntary charity), but includes everything given to humans in this world such as wealth, knowledge, time, and power. Thus, the verse seems to call God's servants to share everything they possess with other people in the society in order to be counted among the muttaqin. The verse reminds Muslims of their social responsibilities which extends beyond their personal relationship with God. In summary, verse three provide us the picture of an ideal member of the Muslim society: he/she holds the highest rank in God's sight by having the strongest faith, perfectly performing worship, and carrying out social responsibilities.

This verse is so comprehensive that much of Islamic scholarship revolves around these three subjects-faith, worship, and social responsibilities. These subjects constitute the major Islamic disciplines: Kalam (Muslim theology) that is interested in faith principles (i'tiqadat), Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) dealing with the subjects concerning worship ('ibadat), and Islamic Ethics (Akhlaqiyyat). In addition, these three are the main sections in the introductory course books ('ilm al-hal) that were produced in the later periods.

The wisdom of dealing with the three subjects under discussion separately seems crucial because to confuse them with each other has caused serious problems in the history of Islam. First of all, since one's faith cannot be known with certainty other than by God, no one has the right to denounce the faithfulness of a people or any individual unless they, themselves declare their disbelief. Not distinguishing faith from actions, some marginal groups, unlike the majority, tend to charge people with infidelity examining their actions. Secondly, it is important to distinguish between personal responsibilities in front of God (worship) and social responsibilities within a society. The former is between God and a person and affects each individual's afterlife, whereas the latter makes a person responsible before the society. In this sense, only the state has the rightful authority to punish violators of the rules related to social duties. Likewise, declaration of war for a purpose, as Muslim scholars have emphasized, is the exclusive authority of the state. Therefore, individuals or groups cannot start war nor kill people based on their own decisions or their own understandings.

The fourth verse adds extra details to the faith principles touched on in the previous verse. "(a) To believe in what is sent down to Muhammad, peace be upon him, and to the previous prophets" and (b) "to believe in the hereafter" are included in the principle "iman bi al-ghayb." In the fifth verse, "guidance" (huda) is reemphasized and the muttaqin are called as "muflihun" (successful). This success has been understood as both in this world and the afterlife.

When we consider this exposition of the first five verses of Al-Baqara, we can conclude that all the subjects of the Qur'an can be construed in the following three: faith, worship and social responsibility. Therefore, the main purpose of the Qur'an is to inform Muslims about these subjects. It is imperative not to confuse these three with each other. It is also important to remember that the muttaqi is the person who has all of them at the highest level.

References
'Abd al-Baqi, Muhammad Fuad, al-Mu'jam al-mufahras li alfaz al-Qur'an al-Karim, Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1996.
Bukhari, Muhammad b. 'Isma'il, Sahih al-Bukhari, Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1987.
Ibn Majah, Muhammad b. Yazid, Sunan Ibn Majah, Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, nd.
Muslim b. al-Hajjaj, Sahih Muslim, Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-'Arabi, nd.
Nawawi, Abu Zakariyya Yahya b. Sharaf, Riyad? al-salih?in min kalam sayyid al-mursalin, Dimashq: 2003.
Tirmidhi, Muhammad b. 'Isa, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath, nd. 

Via Fountain Magazine ( By : Halim Calis)

Perfection in the Physique of Birds

Written By underwater on Saturday, October 12, 2013 | 11:38 AM

With bodies heavy for flying and light for diving into the water, birds push the limits of their physique. Let's take a close look at the artistry displayed in birds, which amaze thinking people with their wonderful flying techniques.

Able to dive into the water at a speed approaching 90 km, the kingfisher can grab its prey at this speed in a depth of 60 cm, instantly pivot back and then, using its wings as oars, surface above the water. In order not to lose its prey, the bird's precisely timed diving and surfacing takes place in three seconds.
Bird

A torpedo as light as a fly

The most basic factor that enables an animate creature to dive into the water is its body being heavier than the water. With a weight of 40 g and a length of 18 cm, the kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) should remain on top of the water and not be able to catch fish because it cannot dive. However, because God put the sustenance of this bird in the depths of the sea, He gave it the special diving ability. Able to dive into the water at a speed approaching 90 km, the kingfisher can grab its prey at this speed in a depth of 60 cm, instantly pivot back and then, using its wings as oars, surface above the water. In order not to lose its prey, the bird's precisely timed diving and surfacing takes place in three seconds. In a short period of time the kingfisher has traveled a distance 414 times its height. This shows that it can move as fast as a fighter aircraft. If we consider what the kingfisher does on a human scale, a person would be able to dive 26 meters in three seconds and then resurface with a prey the size of a sheepdog. Here another interesting point should be made. The fish the kingfisher wants to catch is actually in a different position than it would visually appear from the sky due to the difference of the degrees of deflection of light in water and air. Bereft of any knowledge of optics, how does this bird solve this problem of physics?

How heavy is a bird feather?

There are physical limits to bird's flying capabilities. In order for a bird to be able to fly, its weight should not be more than 15 kg. In order for birds heavier than this to fly, their wings have to be proportionately larger so it is difficult for this big a bird with heavy wings to fly. Male silent swans (Cygnus olor) weigh more than 14 kg; in fact, there are even some that weigh 20 kg. However, God compensated for this situation with a special structure. Like other birds, the silent swans have some bones filled with air and the inner part of these bones has been made stronger with small props. For this reason, the feathers and bones of these birds are one-tenth as heavy as their bodies. There are more than 12,000 muscle ligaments in the wings of swans to activate the feathers used in flying. Long (50 cm) wing feathers greatly increase the carriage surface of the wings. Each feather can carry 200 grams of weight during flight. For this reason, a swan that loses just one wing feather can no longer take flight. It takes 60 days for the feathers to be completely renewed.

Because the owl's ears were created asymmetrically (the right ear is higher), sounds reach the close ear 1/300,000 of a second earlier. This small amount of time difference is enough for the owl to determine the exact place of the source of the sound.

Are owls flying radar stations?

Under normal conditions it is not possible to hear the sound waves of a mouse eating a hazelnut in a hayloft. Possessing a sensitive receiver, owls are an exception. The facial structure of owls resembles the high tech early warning equipment on AWACS planes. Focusing on even the smallest sound wave just like a satellite antenna, this structure cannot be explained by the intelligence of an owl.

Because the owl's ears were created asymmetrically (the right ear is higher), sounds reach the close ear 1/300,000 of a second earlier. This small time difference is enough for the owl to determine the exact location of the source of the sound. Through the 95,000 nerve cells in the simultaneous hearing center, the brain imagines a 3-D image of the prey. Due to the anatomy of it 14 neck vertebrae (humans and other mammals have seven vertebrae), the owl was given the capability of turning its head 270 degrees and determining the exact position of its prey. While flying towards the place where the sound came from, the owl can constantly recalculate the position of the prey relative to its own position, even if the prey changes its place. As a result of this precise calculation, only three seconds passes between the moment the owl first heard the sound of the prey and the moment it makes its deadly attack.

Is there a mathematical formula for remaining alive?

The formula is this: 7-15-70. It is difficult to immediately understand what these three numbers mean. However, these numbers make it almost impossible for a starling to be caught by its enemies.

We can explain the meaning of these numbers as follows: Whatever 7 close neighbors do, imitate them; constantly fly at least 15 cm from them; do not ever fly more than 70 km per hour. There is one more rule: Keep your distance from all enemies. When these principles are followed, enormous protection follows.

Flocks of starlings are comprised of several thousands of birds that move like one organism. In less than a second, the flock's direction, size and breadth can change. In this situation their enemies do not have much of a chance against such a tight mass. For predatory birds need to determine their targets in order to catch their prey. The fast and sudden movements of the flock prevent attack from predatory birds. In spite of this, predators who attempt attack go back empty-handed. For acting like one body, this enormous flock encompasses the enemy in a counter current with the waves they create and narrow it down until the bird can no longer fly. Becoming dazed, the predatory bird has no choice but to fly away from the flock. This instructive action of the starlings brings to mind the Qur'anic verse: "There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, not a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you" (6:38).

The world's best camera can see objects as big as a mouse from a height of 300 meters. This is an amazing thing, but even so, no camera can compare in any respect to an eagle's eyes.

Can eagles see from the side?

The world's best camera can see objects as big as a mouse from a height of 300 meters. This is an amazing thing, but even so, no camera can compare in any respect to an eagle's eyes. Eagles can clearly see their targets from a distance of more than 1,000 meters. Eagles can even see a fish in fine detail from this distance. This special quality bestowed upon eagles is something technology would have difficulty imitating. For the lens of the eagle's eye is soft contrary to human eyes' and it sees clearly more quickly and it more greatly magnifies its object. In addition, each of the eyes of the eagle has two separate vision centers. This allows the birds to see clearly both in front of them and at their sides. To attain this perfect vision, more than a million light receiving cells are on duty in each square millimeter of the retina. Comparing this to a human eye, a person has 200,000 cells in the same unit of space in the retina. Due to this structure of the retina and lens, an eagle's eyes are as large as a human being's eyes. If a human eye were to have the same capability, it would have to be as large as an apple. Because a human does not need to hunt like an eagle, he was not burdened with such big eyes.

How much can a brain be shaken?

G-force expresses changes in a body's weight caused by acceleration. For example, when a jet is climbing towards the sky, the gravity a pilot is subject to increases immensely and his blood puts a lot of pressure on the veins in his legs. A space vehicle has 3 G when it takes off; a war plane has an average of 10 G; and a car's peak force is 120 G when it crashes head on at full speed. With every peck, a woodpecker's beak reaches 1,200 G in a way that is hard to believe. In other words, it is like the bird's head hits a cement wall at a speed of 25 km per hour, and the woodpecker does this 20 times a second.

Experiencing pressures greater than 14 G is deadly for a human being. In comparison, woodpeckers have been given the ability to endure several hundred times what astronauts experience in their landings. This is only possible with a very special histological/anatomic structure and a skull created with perfect proportions. With the beak hitting a tree in a hard manner, a woodpecker's brain almost completely fills its skull in order to prevent a trauma from developing. Created with a spongy structure, its bone structure acts as a shock absorber. The head and nape of the neck muscles contract towards the place it has hit and the waves from the blow become harmless. Even the lower part of the tongue is wound around the skull once in order to secure the brain and protect it from shaking. This situation does not create a problem or difficulty for woodpeckers which hit their heads against trees for a handful of larva, for they have been prepared for these conditions in their creation.

Small birds creating the power of a hurricane

Having a spread of 35 cm between two wings when they are opened, swallows weigh less than a normal size lighter. At first glance the apparent body structure of swallows suggests that they should only display an average flight capability with their deficient ability to maneuver. However, when we go out into nature and see swallows soaring in the countryside, we see that the situation is not like that at all. With the amazing way in which they were created, swallows succeed in doing a job that appears to be almost impossible physically. These birds can pass with jet speed through a space only 2 cm wider than their bodies. They succeed in this by flapping their wings rhythmically without stopping. Researchers have determined that they do this by means of a wing structure that moves with a special mechanism. The upper part of the wings of swallows can turn the air into an eddy. With the pressure created by this eddy, a great power of lifting and balancing occurs. The birds virtually fly with the power of hurricanes. Until now, this style of flying was only known to exist with insects. By seemingly gluing their wings to their bodies with this wonderful mechanism bestowed by the Creator, swallows easily pass through difficult places. Consequently, swallows can make 90-degree turns at astonishing speeds. Supersonic planes also benefit by generating these same kind of mini-hurricanes.

Can there be flying submarines?

Every year in May, tens of thousands of sharks, whales and dolphins come to the South African coastlines because of the schools of sardines (Sardinella). However, the strongest sardine hunter is not under water; it is a bird eyeing its prey from 30 meters high. The northern gannet (Morus capensis) a much better hunter than other sea birds, has a perfect body structure. While even sharks can only catch one out of two prey, the northern gannet's perfect hunting techniques enable it to make a record success. The first reason for this is its reaching its target quickly and directly; the second reason is its being able to move about comfortably under water. These sea birds can go down 10 meters at first and then 20 meters by flapping their wings. They can dive at a speed of 120 km per hour. Their capability of holding oxygen-rich air in their air bags allows them to hunt up to one minute under water. Because they usually finish their prey under water, it is not common for them to bring it to the surface.

As research supported by technological possibilities increases, many more amazing biological mechanisms will be discovered. Doesn't it strain reason to explain the existence of animate creatures that continue life with such fine calculations by means of chance? 

Via Fountain Magazine (By : Mehmet Mertek)

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