In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Beneficent “Intend they to put out the light of Allah with their mouths. But Allah will perfect His light, though averse may be the disbelievers.” Qur’an, 61:8.
There has always existed a tough tug of war between the devilish forces of darkness and ignorance on the one hand, tending to disrupt harmony on the earth, and the forces of peace and order flowing from the sources of light and knowledge on the other. We do not have to go very far to seek out the reason. Man, according to his constitution, is very loath to submit to the discipline of controlled behaviour unless rightly guided by enlightened personalities through precepts and personal examples or forced by some external agonies. The libidinal urges within the human psyche, necessary for human survival when allowed to play within the limits, labor mostly towards extreme limits causing friction within the same human breast by the interplay of mutually contradictory emotions on the one hand and disorderly social conduct on the other due to the competitive rivalries of different individuals and groups yearning to secure the same material goods. The Western philosopher Spinoza has very tersely summed up the situation of humans in his memorable words: “Human beings are like hedgehogs gathered together for warmth.” They would shiver to death if they tried the aloofness of Robinson Crusoe, but they would puncture each other's skins if they came too
close together. Each individual's wants of shelter, food, etc., must be satisfied as an essential part of fulfilling his purpose in life, which may be defined for want of a better terminology as “co-partnership in humanity's orderly progress to live blissfully in the world as well as in the Hereafter.” Man alone is the stumbling block in the way of this achievement because of his denial to be guided by the enlightened personages – the prophets and those in their wake – and because of his mad rush towards satisfying his desires, which however, as has been said, cannot be satisfied regardless of the efforts made for satisfaction. If society is to be saved from their barbaric conflicts and consequent degeneration to the beastly life of the jungle, checks and limits have to be devised and imposed on the hellish play of the desires. The question arises as to who shall impose the checks?
Different answers have been given to this question, but the one answer that has repeatedly worked to man's everlasting benefit is the one that has been expounded from all angles by the truly enlightened Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s).
The discreet reader will find in the pages that follow a veritable mine of information covering almost all aspects of human knowledge. He shall find that most of the information for which the West gets credit was transmitted thereto from the fountainhead of our great thinkers, among whom the most eminent is Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) whose teachings are recorded in many collections of apostolic narrations, particularly in Bihar al-Anwar – a vast Encyclopedia of learning in no less than twenty-seven volumes. Imam as-Sadiq (a.s) lectured in Medina to thousands of scholars who flocked to this center of learning from all parts of the known world. They carried away to the far-flung provinces of the
 One hundred and ten volumes in the new editions.
Muslim Empire the light of original thought and research. It was the torch lit ablaze by Imam as-Sadiq (a.s) in Medina that set his devout scholars on the path of inquiry and research. It was by this nucleus that the four corners of the known world received their awakening to the resplendent vistas of the various branches of knowledge. It should be remembered that all this was being achieved not because of any encouragement from the state but rather against the teeth of opposition characteristic of despotic regimes.
A very important aspect of this dissemination of learning, which runs as a soul-stirring strain throughout the system of education that was inaugurated by Imam as-Sadiq (a.s), is the insistence and emphasis on the Ideology of Islam and its fundamental tenet “Tawheed” (oneness of God). Imam as-Sadiq (a.s) himself, infused as he was with the crystalline purity of the Ideology, infused that same galvanizing spirit into his following. They, in turn, became the torchbearers of the light of learning in distant lands, notably the Southern gateway of Europe – Andalusia.
They were the people who “wrote one of the brightest chapters in the intellectual history of Medieval Europe. They were the main bearers of the torch of the culture, science and philosophy which made possible the Renaissance of learning in Western Europe.” Cordova, Seville, Granada, and Toledo, to name only a few of the centers of Muslim Spain, opened their gates to the teeming alumni who were seeking admission to the universities (See Philip K. Hitti’s “History of the Arabs” PP. 557-605 for Muslim contribution in the cause of intellectual upsurge). It is on this account that Stanley Lane Poole in his “History of the Moors in Spain” mourns the fall of the Muslim Empire of Spain in these words: “The fall of Granada happened within forty years of the conquest of Constantinople; but the gain to Islam in the East made no amends for the loss to Europe in the West. The Turks were incapable of founding a
second Cordova.” Dozi, by no means a friend of Islam, is nevertheless compelled to pay a glowing tribute to the administrative, cultural, and, in particular, intellectual caliber of the Muslims.
Such was the influence exerted by these votaries of the Medinite School of learning that despite the secularization of the state by the rulers, their zeal was transmitted to the coming generations through the various centers that sprang up. Even Christian monarchs solicited their cooperation in their day-to-day administration. Thus, the Sicilian King Roger’s administrations, both civil and military, were mainly staffed by Muslim intellectuals, who gave the court an oriental complexion. Philip K. Hitti attributes the prosperity enjoyed by his realm to the intellectual caliber of the Muslim staff. They not only administered his Kingdom efficiently but also manipulated his susceptibilities as to imbue him with a Muslim view of Christianity. The chief gem of his court was Al-Idrisi – geographer and cartographer at Palermo.
It will thus be obvious to even a superficial observer that the torch lit ablaze by Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s) at Medina was the powerful lighthouse that illuminated the intellectual firmament of not only his own age but also the ages that followed. His own powers of observation are marvelous to the extreme as will be seen from a perusal of his works on the varied branches of learning, which, of course, always converge to the central theme of “Tawheed.”
To cite only a few instances of his intuitive grasp of the nature of things, we may observe his ultra-modern, scientific description of the development of the human embryo through its various stages till its flowering into maturity, with special emphasis at each descriptive pause to focus the mind on the specific merit of ingenuity evinced therein. “The embryo in the world is adjusted, though it is confined within three distinct
kinds of coverings — the outer wall, the womb and the placenta. This is the time when the embryo can neither manage his nutrition nor ward off any harm from itself. The menstrual flow is diverted to serve him nutrients, just as water carries nutrients to the plants, so this process goes on till such time as his constitution is perfected, his skin over his body becomes tough enough to withstand the atmosphere, and his eyes gain the capacity to withstand light. When all this is accomplished, its mother feels labor pangs, which shake her severely, culminating in the birth of the infant. With the birth of the infant, the menstrual flow ... is diverted to its mother's breasts. Its taste is altered, so is its color ... it becomes a nutriment of the first order ... till such time as his body remains delicate, his organs and bowels soft and weak. As he begins to move about and requires tougher nutriment to build up a stronger constitution, his molars appear to masticate food to facilitate digestion. He carries on with such nutriment till puberty ... Who then created man from nothingness and Who becomes the architect of his worth? Who is ever-vigilant to supply his needs from time to time? ... If abiogenesis (spontaneous creation without specific design) can be admitted under such conditions of regularity, then purposeful generation and definitely-balanced order in creation will have to be admitted to proceed from error and disorder.”
These remarks of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s) are repeated by modern scientists in almost the same tenor. Let us quote the tenor of argument of some eminent present-day scientists who find their scientific theories inadequate explanations of natural phenomena without postulating the existence of the Supreme Designer. The discreet reader will bear in mind that the Imam (a.s) was born in the first century of hijrah, and as such it will be seen that he has anticipated these scientists by more than thirteen hundred years. The editor of Pears Cyclopedia has the pregnant remarks, “This hypothesis (biogenesis) was upset by
the philosopher Spallanzani (1729-99, who follows Imam as-Sadiq (a.s) by some eleven centuries). Pasteur, the great French Chemist (1822-95, yet another century later), founder of the Sciences of Bacteriology and immunology, gave a final death blow to this hypothesis of spontaneous generation.”
J. C. Monsma in his remarkable anthology entitled “The Evidence of God in An Expanding Universe” has collected some forty essays from the pens of the most eminent scientists of the day in this regard, all of whom echo the tenor of arguments marshaled by Imam as-Sadiq (a.s). It is not possible to quote all relevant passages from this magnificent array, which will recompense the study of it munificently. (The book has been rendered into Urdu as an authorized translation, by Prof. Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, M.A. and published by the Shish Mahal Kitab Ghar, 42 The Mall, Lahore). A few quotations from the book, however, are quite in order.
Dr. Irving William Knobloch says, “As knowledge advances, science ceases to frown on religion ... The theory which states dogmatically that all higher forms of life have evolved to their present state by chance mutations, recombination, polyploidy or hybridization, requires an act of faith for adherence to it, an act of unreasoned acceptance ... The wonders of the universe have converted many neutral scientists to the belief that some One unknown and perhaps unknowable has been responsible for the vastness and order, knowledge whereof is distilled in every statement that has escaped the lips of the Imam (a.s) while explaining the mysteries of this grand panorama of life on the earth. This strain runs as an unbroken galvanic current throughout the entire work and it is the one purpose of the descriptive observations to instill the spirit of inquiry and knowledge from this particular angle, to wit, the belief in the transcendent origin of the mysterious universe — as the handiwork of the Supreme Sovereign Designer. Unless mankind is weaned from its puerile suicidal disbelief to the
maturity of a full realization of reality as propounded by the inspired geniuses of all ages, life on the earth will continue to be hellishly torturous.” This theme was nicely re-echoed by the dean of the University of Hiedelberg in Germany at the reopening of the university after the war in 1945, when he stated, “We have seen in a shocking way what science is without a religious man in command. Medicine without God can destroy life and find cruel practice for concentration camps. Law without God teaches that right is what is of use and pronounces fearful judgments. Philosophy without God teaches erroneous ideas of man and invents most brutal weapons to destroy life instead of saving it.”
“I believe in God because to me His Divine existence is the only logical explanation for things as they are.” Thus does Dr. Knobloch conclude his essay.
Dr. Walter Lundverg, Ph.D., who also has contributed an essay to the said collection compiled by J. C. Monsma, gives expression to his views thus: “A denial of the existence of God is sometimes an arbitrarily established policy of influential social groups or organizations, or of the state. Fear of social consequences or even physical consequences, where despotism is the state creed, discourages any active espousal by the individual of the revelation of God found in nature ... the scientific method is founded on orderliness and predictability in natural phenomena. It is precisely the orderliness and predictability that constitute revelation of God in nature. Order and predictability in the framework of non-existence of God, that is, absence of rationality, is a meaningless contradiction ... Man is but at the beginning of knowledge ... the basic units of matter and energy are incomprehensibly minute. His own life span is but an infinitesimal fraction of a second in the timelessness of the on-going universe. He conceives dimly of the possibility of new forms and dimensions of energy, space and time and of other such concepts as yet
wholly unknown ... Because man's understanding of God as revealed in natural phenomena is as yet very limited, it is in the nature of man that his belief in God should also have a spiritual basis, a basis in faith. Belief in God on the basis of faith is important to personal happiness in the lives of many men. But for the scientist who believes in God, there is an added satisfaction that comes with each new scientific discovery, for each discovery gives added meaning and significance to his concept of God.”
Yet another eminent scientist Donald Henry Porter in his essay, “The Answers to the Unanswered Questions,” states his proposition in the following words: “Science is composed in the main of unproved laws or principles. This lack of proof does not prohibit one from using these laws as they might apply to various situations. It is not reasonable to expect proofs in the realms of the supernatural when proofs in the natural are lacking ... Whatever process of nature is considered or whatever question of origins is studied, as a scientist I derive satisfaction only by placing God in the leading role. God is the central figure in every picture. He alone is the answer to the unanswered questions.” The whole tenor of Imam as-Sadiq's instructive exposition of nature is expressed in the words, “the universe stands before us with the leaves of its compendious volumes open for any man with a discerning mind to study and glorify the Supreme Architect.” He identifies organ after organ of the human body, points out its physiological build and functions, and logically leads his listeners to the stupendous ingenuity that has gone into its constitution. “O Mufadhdhal! Do you not see that everything big or small is patterned on a flawless plan? ... Both hands are meant for handling business, feet are designed for locomotion, both eyes are for seeing, the mouth is for taking in food, the stomach is for digesting it, the liver is for extracting its nutrition for distribution to the various parts of the body in the
form of blood, bile, lymph, etc. ... On arrival in the stomach, the food is processed into chyme. A fine network of capillaries forms the liver, which is fed by the nutriment processed by the stomach. ... The liver then takes up the extracts of the nutriment and by an incomprehensible ingenuity changes it into blood, which is supplied to the body by way of the heart and pumped through blood vessels in the manner of irrigation channels. ... All waste products and toxic matters are then carried off to the organs designed to eliminate them, for example, the bladder, the intestines and the sweat glands. ... Glory then to Him who has organized all organs into coordinating units.” The descriptions of the constitution and functions of the human body precede space, but always at a difference with the way of the secular physiologist.
Imam as-Sadiq’s observations comprehend the whole of creation as witnesses to the Majesty of the Almighty Allah. The animal kingdom comprising of various species of carnivorous and herbivorous animals, the bird-life, beasts of the jungle and the domestic pets and draught cattle, water life, and the insignificant insects all receive due attention, but only as specimens of consulate ingenuity and design, witnesses to the workmanship of the Almighty Designer.
The natural phenomena of the change of seasons, the alternation of day and night, the winds and rains, the waxing and waning of the moon, the movements of the stars, and so on, are all dealt with but with emphasis on the same proposition, as expressed in the following statement:
“If for a whole or a part of a year the situation changes to the contrary, you can well imagine the plight of the human race. In fact what chance would they have to survive at all? Does man not observe such magnificent planning, wherein his own schemes would go away? They function automatically without interruption, nor do they even lag behind the time regulated
for the management of the world's organization and maintenance.”
The vegetable kingdom has its due share of notice. The grain, the fruit, the leaves, etc., are all marshaled as glorious witnesses to the eternal skill of the Almighty Allah. A few sentences expressive of the general tenor of Imam as-Sadiq's way of elucidating natural facts will not be out of place. Imam (a.s) says:
“You will see intertwined in the texture of the leaf something comparable to the root system extending all along its length and breadth. Some of them are fine capillaries joined with thicker ones, all very stout and fine. If they were to be prepared by hand, man would not have been able to do the job of a single plant in a year's time. ... In a few days of the spring season, such abundance of foliage comes into being that the mountains and lowland regions of the earth become filled with it, without a word being spoken or a movement being made, just as the result of a fiat permeating all things — a single inviolable dispensation. ... The spring season clothes the trees with leaves and you get all kinds of fruit, just as you arrange different kinds of delicacies before you which are cooked in turn. ... Who has planned all this? Surely He Who is the Omniscient Ordainer. And what purpose is served thereby? Surely that man may enjoy the fruits and flowers. How strange it is that instead of gratitude for such precious boons, man is inclined to deny the Donor altogether!”
And what will the students of Botany think of the observations made by Imam as-Sadiq (a.s) in regard to the female and male organs of reproduction among plants?
“There are female trees among them for whose fertilization male plants are generated, which fertilize without planned horticulture. The males, like those in animals, fertilize the females, but are themselves sterile.”
We have not made a mention here of the beauty of the original which borders on poetry, though in translation and retranslation much of its beauty of style gets spoiled. Just consider passages such as the following:
“The joy that is afforded by the scenic beauty and freshness of vegetation is incomparably superior to the pleasures and merriment of the whole world. (The green verdure of plants fascinates the eyes, delights the heart, and refreshes the mind). A hundred or so grains spring from a single seed. A single grain from a single seed would have been a (logical) plan. Why then such multiplication? Surely to amplify the production, so that the same may serve as food to last till the following crop besides making provision as seed for the farmers.”
This brief review of the subjects dealt with in the pages that follow, will convince the discerning reader of the incomparable worth of the matter, particularly the angle of vision pervading the whole text. The educationists of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan would do well to imbibe this spirit that should permeate all learning at all stages of instruction. Here is a work that deals with almost all sciences in a most rational way. The information imparted, then, will have an Islamic bias and redound to the production of scholarship of the true Muslim caliber. The ever-increasing wave of criminality and indiscipline in the land can be solved only if the specific outlook aimed at by Imam as-Sadiq (a.s) in his discourses is nurtured sedulously. Our socioeconomic problems cry out loudly for a profound chance in our outlook. Not only we in Pakistan, but the far-sighted among other nations are also troubled with similar misgivings. They too are ardently advocating fundamental changes in individual and national outlooks, from the narrow parochial views to the broad basis of human and universal principles.
Let us, in passing, notice the trends in Western patterns of
thought in this regard. Dr. Pitram A. Sorokim, chairman of the department of sociology at Harvard University, in his very commendable book “The Crisis of Our Age – the Social and Cultural Outlook” quite profoundly analyzes man's chief problems in life. He states the crisis thus tersely:
“Ever expanding misery spreads its gloomy shadow over larger and larger areas. The fortune, happiness and comfort of untold millions have disappeared. Peace, security and safety have vanished. Prosperity and well-being have become in many countries a memory; freedom a mere myth. Western culture is covered by a blackout. A great tornado sweeps over the whole of mankind. ... It is a crisis involving almost the whole way of life, thought and conduct of Western society. More precisely, it consists in the disintegration of a fundamental form of Western culture and society dominant for the last four centuries.”
He goes on to dilate upon the vile offshoots of the Western outlook as follows:
“Scientific theories based upon the truth of senses tend to become progressively materialistic, mechanistic and quantitative even in their interpretation of man, culture and mental phenomena. The social and psychological sciences begin to imitate the natural sciences attempting to treat man in the same way as physics and chemistry treat inorganic phenomena. In the field of social sciences all mental and cultural phenomena come to be treated behavioristically, physiologically, reflexologically, endocrinologically and psychoanalytically.”
It was this materialistic banefulness that was trying to force its way into the Muslim society, which the great Imam (a.s) fought to discountenance. It was due to these efforts that a great deal of the Islamic principles was salvaged from the political turmoils that agitated the body-politic. The weapons they
used, to wit, propagations of the eternal values of the Qur’an by their discourses and practical conduct, served to maintain the picture of the fundamental tenets of truth and justice. Dr. Sorokim is stressing a similar need for a reorientation of outlook when he says:
“There must be a change of the whole mentality and attitudes in the direction of the norms prescribed in the sermon on the Mount – fundamental transformation of our system of values and the profoundest modification of our conduct towards other men, cultural values and the world at large.... If neither religion nor ethical nor juridical values control our conduct, what then remains but moral chaos and anarchy? (“The Crisis of Our Age,” 1951 Ed. Pp. 319, 158, 112).”
This English translation of the book is presented to the discerning public to serve as a beacon of light with the hope “that the grace of understanding may be vouchsafed to us and that we may choose, before it is too late, the right road, the road that leads not to death but to the further realization of man's unique creative mission on this planet,” to quote the parting words of the book mentioned above.
The translator feels himself highly honored for the opportunity afforded to him to be associated with this truly great work following from the truly great encyclopedic personality – Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s).