HUMANITY IS FACING A SEVERE CHALLENGE IN THE FACE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES BROUGHT BY TECHNOLOGY. ARE WE READY TO HANDLE MUCH GREATER POWER?
“It 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?”
“Father! 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.”
“You have been blinded by the stories of old times…”
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, “How 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?” 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 Qur’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 Qur’an that Solomon was able to travel one month’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 “so many kilometers.” 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 1700’s. Today, the distances traveled in spaceflight correspond to years of travel in the past. Similarly, one month’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 Qur’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 month’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 “the approaching or contraction of time and space is a sign of the end of time.”2
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 God’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 “the conception of a baby at old age,” 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 Qur’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 Qur’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 “bird-shaped mud” 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 God’s creation to our actions. So, one has to watch out for this kind of corruption that can eventually harm the faith.
Death and resurrection are two other terms to be clarified in this context. Consider a patient with a chronic heart disease whose heart has been replaced by an artificial one with a surgery; or, think about a patient who entered a shock due to a deadly accident, and recovered upon undergoing several operations and receiving intensive care. If we were to have someone from, say, 10th century witness these examples, it would look like the doctors are resurrecting the dead, or extending the life of an almost dead. Similarly, with the further advancements in medicine, we may reach a point where all illnesses are cured and average life expectancy grows to three-digit years of age. For example, a person whose body is severely crushed in an accident or was severely burned in a fire may be brought back to life with complete health. With the eyes of today, this would look like resurrecting the dead. Nevertheless, it will be the recovery of someone who has not died, yet, according to the understanding of that time. So, the above examples point to the fact that there is a difference between death and severe disruptions in the functioning of the body due to different reasons. These disruptions force the soul and the spirit of the individual change the form of life they are experiencing, and death is an irreversible change of form of life. However, there are other intermediary forms of life between the form that is attained after death and the form we are experiencing now.6 A person who may look like dead can actually be alive but experiencing the conditions of a different form until actual death comes when one"s soul leaves the body or a medical recovery occurs. Within this context, the medical technology we practice is a permission of interference with the execution of the life among these different forms. As humanity grows older, we learn the extents of the permission we are given, and use it for the betterment of life. A natural question at this point is that if we will ever be able to achieve eternal life using technology. We do know that no matter what we do in this world, there will be an ultimate end to the life of the universe and everything in it. So, we can strive for the betterment and extension of life in this world, but there is an appointed time of death for everyone and everything, which cannot be brought nearer or farther with human interference. For this reason, it is possible that people who do not have strong faith are going to be inclined towards the assumption that they are achieving immortality with medical achievements. Nevertheless, it is God who enables us to exercise control and power in this universe, and it is Him who is going to bring the ultimate death to everybody and everything as He promised. Space science Two miracles from the Qur'an related to this subject are the splitting of the moon by the Prophet Muhammad, and the travels of Dhu al-Qarnayn. The first sign, which was the parting of the moon (Qamar 54:1-2), is further discussed and explained in the Risale-i Nur7 and in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.8 According to these resources, one night, as a miracle shown primarily to the Meccan people, the moon split into two with a gesture of the Prophet"s finger, and then reunited. This event might be an indication of the force that powers future explorations into space; a force that can part the heavenly bodies into pieces. As far as the second miracle, it is told in the Qur'an that in one of his journeys, Dhu al-Qarnayn met some people who lived on a place that did not have a veil to protect them from their sun (Kahf 18:90). In another verse (Anbiya 21:32), the Qur'an describes the atmosphere as a protecting-cover around the earth. Based on these two verses, it is reasonable to imagine that the people mentioned are living on a planet that does not have an atmosphere. The only way to achieve sustained human existence on a planet without an atmosphere is to have advanced technology that will enable the traveling of long distances in space within reasonable time and that will help establish a human-friendly environment with all the vital supplies. The end of time Now, imagine the world with the aspects discussed until here: We, humans, can travel worldwide instantly, go to different places in the universe within reasonable time, and establish settlements on the planets that do not have an atmosphere. Besides, due to advances in medicine, all medical problems are cured, and as a result, our average life increases to limits that are beyond imagination. In terms of engineering and cybernetics, we can make machines that serve us like human servants… If all these come true, then people will be tempted to forget that they are just mortal creatures. Likewise, too proud of the scientific achievements they made, some people might doubt of God"s existence, imagining their human selves as the maker of everything. They might start asking if “the stories of the ancient people about the existence of a God and a judgment day” were real. Some people might literally start considering themselves as gods. Very few people will persist to believe in God, and say, “all this is given to us out of God"s grace; our capabilities are His signs for us and He is certainly able to bring the end of time; and He will do so as He promised in His holy books.” This will be the time when humanity will have concluded its developmental journey in terms of science, exercising full power as the representatives of divinity in the universe. These trends are explained in similar ways in some of the hadiths9 of the Prophet Muhammad. Along with these hadiths, it is a thought-provoking fact that the example of the Pharaoh, who rebelled against God by claiming divinity, is mentioned in different chapters of the Qur'an: The Pharaoh said: “O Haman! Build me a lofty tower so that I may attain the ways; the ways of (peering into) the skies, and that I may have a look at the God of Moses, even though I am sure that he is a liar.” Thus were his evil deeds decked out to be appealing to the Pharaoh, and he was debarred from the (right) way. And the scheme of the Pharaoh ended in nothing but destruction. (Mu"min 40:36-37) In analogy to the example of Pharaoh, with the ability to control everything, people might start defying God in their thoughts, feelings and actions. Due to their corrupt situation, this state is going to look appealing to them, as in the case of Pharaoh. The end of such a period will be “the end of time,” and God will end everything with the catastrophic events that are explained in detail in the Qur'an. Whether all these events come just like explained here or not, this is an imaginative journey to the future based on the interpretation of some of the clues given in religious sources. As you take your breaths at this very moment, realize that we are not there, yet. Although it is in our hands to yield to bad moral values, thereby bringing our own end in this universe, it is also in our hands to achieve the high moral and religious values, which are heavenly technologies, to extend our existence in this world and receive the eternal prosperity. Notes 1 Nursi, S., The Words, 20th Word, p. 266, The Light, Inc., Istanbul: 2005. 2 Gulen, M.F., The Messenger of God: Muhammad, The Light, Inc., New Jersey: 2005, p. 60. 3 Nursi, S., The Letters 1, 19th Letter, Truestar, Izmir: 1995, pp. 165-172. 4 Bukhari, Kitab al-Tibb, 1. 5 Nursi, 1995, p. 188. 6 Nursi, 1995, p. 1-3. 7 Nursi, 1995, pp. 254-259. 8 Bukhari, Manaqib, 27. 9 Gulen, 2005, p. 49.