Issue 55 / July - September 2006
Near the End of Time
HUMANITY IS FACING A SEVERE CHALLENGE IN THE FACE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES BROUGHT BY TECHNOLOGY. ARE WE READY TO HANDLE MUCH GREATER POWER?
â€śIt is I who created you out of a pool of mud and it is again I who resurrected you after your death. Yet, you object to me and complain about the good things I have done for you?â€ť
â€śFather! God commands me to respect my parents but not to obey them if they should encourage me to associate partners with Him. You are no more than a servant bringing the blessings of God to me; and you are no more than a human, just like me.â€ť
â€śYou have been blinded by the stories of old timesâ€¦â€ť
Science and technology have developed tremendously over the last century and are still developing. Almost everyday we see new and improved instruments entering our daily lives, such as cellular phones, the Internet, faster cars and planes. Each of these instruments changes our life styles and affects our relations with other people. However, there are always two ways to use the technology that produces these instruments. It can be used for the common good of humanity, thereby turning this world into a paradise. Alternatively, technology can be exploited for the benefit of a certain group of people at the expense of human rights and moral values. Particularly in the twentieth century, we have witnessed several examples of genocide, terrorist bombings, and destructive actions that threaten humanity, each carried out with a strong technological infrastructure. Therefore, humanity is facing a severe challenge in the face of the opportunities brought by technology. One has to ask, â€śHow are we doing in terms of evaluating the powers we have been given? Considering the future of science and technology, are we ready to handle much greater power?â€ť In this article, let us travel to the future to see the state of science and technology so that we can have an idea about the increasing importance of moral values in the face of the expanding powers that mankind can exercise.
First, we need a reliable means of transport to take our imagination to the future and to obtain accurate and useful data. According to Said Nursi, the miracles that the messengers of God showed and other miraculous historical events related in the Qurâ€™an are clues about the future limits of science and technology.1 So, we are going to embark on these miracles and survey the future level of science.
Transportation and communication
The miracles that help us on this way come from the prophets Muhammad, Solomon, and the people of the cave (the seven sleepers). It is reported that on the night of the Ascension (Isra 17:1), Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem and from there to the heavens, receiving direct revelation from God, and then returned to Mecca (621 AD). When he returned, his bed was still warm.
The other event, which is from Prophet Solomon, is concerned with the transportation of the throne of the queen of Sheba. It is reported that either Solomon himself or a servant of his brought the throne of the queen of Sheba from a long distance in a time less than a blink of an eye (Naml 27:38-40). It is also said in the Qurâ€™an that Solomon was able to travel one monthâ€™s distance in a night. It is interesting that the distances referred to are given in terms of time and not with an exact distance as â€śso many kilometers.â€ť This shows that the distance traveled within a given time frame is relative. It is a fact that we can observe if we compare the mode of travel today to that of the 1700â€™s. Today, the distances traveled in spaceflight correspond to years of travel in the past. Similarly, one monthâ€™s travel with the available technology today will be traveled over night in the future. Therefore, this verse gives an indication that it will be possible to cover long distances in a short time as technology advances.
The people of the cave are reported as the few Christians of their time who escaped the prosecution of the local Roman government. During their seclusion or refuge in a cave, they felt that they had slept for a night or even less. However, the Qurâ€™an tells us that they slept for 300 years (Kahf 18:9-26).
The first three events explained above, i.e. the Miraj, the transportation of throne of the queen of Sheba, the travels of Solomon, are related to traveling long distances in a very short time, which can be understood as the contraction of space, as well. Traveling one monthâ€™s distance over night and the passage of 300 years over night, on the other hand, are related to the slowing of time for a group of people, which can be interpreted as the contraction of time. If we look at the future with the clues given in these miracles, we see that distance in space and time will lose its meaning. Due to the high speed of transportation, the entire world, perhaps even the solar system, will become a village. This fact is depicted in a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad in which he says that â€śthe approaching or contraction of time and space is a sign of the end of time.â€ť2
Medicine and cybernetics
Medicine has been the common point on which many prophets showed miracles. Therefore, much can be said about this subject, if all of these miracles are examined. For brevity, some key events are going to be discussed here. Both Jesus (Al Imran 3:49) and Muhammad,3 peace be upon them, showed many miracles concerning the healing of the ill or disabled people. Considering that those illnesses were incurable at the time, the mentioned miracles tell that every illness eventually can be treated with a proper cure.4 For instance, it is known that both prophets healed the blind by Godâ€™s leave. It is not surprising today to hear some blind people gaining the ability to see after a successful operation. Another promise in this context is the removal of the effects of old age. This is expressed by â€śthe conception of a baby at old age,â€ť which happened with the wives of the Prophets Abraham (15:53-55) and Zachariah (19:2-11). These prophets had sons as a response to their prayers when both themselves and their wives were at significantly old age.
In terms of human birth, the creation of Adam, and the birth of Jesus are examples of human birth that did not follow the regular ways we are used to. According to Qurâ€™an, Jesus, peace be upon him, was created without a father (Al Imran 3:47); and Adam was created with neither a father nor a mother (Hijr 15:28-29), but rather he was created out of mud. In conjunction with these birth cases, consider the following miracle of Jesus. It is told in the Qurâ€™an that, with an order from God, Jesus made the figure of a bird out of mud, and then blew on to it. With the leave of God, the â€śbird-shaped mudâ€ť became an actual bird and flew off (Al Imran 3:49). These two unusual birth cases and the creation of a living bird out of mud give a clue about the possibility of obtaining human generations, or even other animals, without needing biological parents. The creation of living organisms out of mud can also be interpreted as a sign of the future level of cybernetics, when humans will be able to make androids that can emulate the living creatures in many aspects.
Another branch of the miracles under this subject is about the reviving of the dead. Prophets Moses (Baqara 2:72-73), Jesus (Al Imran 3:49) and Muhammad,5 peace be upon them, all showed miracles about reviving of the dead. Prophet Abraham, also, experienced a parallel event as a response to one of his prayers (Baqara 2:260). He asked for a sign from God about the resurrection. God told him to acquire four birds, and tame them; then to slaughter the birds, mix their flesh, and distribute this mixture to four mountaintops. When Abraham called the birds back, each flew back to him all resurrected to their original bodies. All these mean that near the end of time, with the advancements in medicine, it will be possible to sustain the life of the people who have deadly illnesses or injuries, or in other words, people who might have died according to our understanding today.
Before proceeding further, it is necessary to take a moment here to discuss the meaning of certain terms in conjunction with the abilities given to humankind through science. When we refer to the creation as done by God, we talk about an action that needs nothing as its starting point, i.e. God does not need earth or natural laws to create living beings, or others to help Him acquire the knowledge on that matter. But, when we talk about creation as done by humans, then we have to account for some raw material, and an acquired knowledge, which is the common scientific heritage of humanity. Without proper education and mindset, it is an inherent temptation to engage the meanings associated with Godâ€™s creation to our actions. So, one has to watch out for this kind of corruption that can eventually harm the faith.