Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Logic in Islam: A letter to my Muslim friend - Pt 1.

I have been in correspondence with a Muslim friend for six months now. He converted some time ago - ever since he was convinced that the Qur'an contains scientific and historic knowledge that it was impossible for Mohammad to have known 14 centuries ago. In particular, he believes that Maurice Bucaille's book, "The Bible, The Qur'an and Science" is an accurate examination of those "miracles". Here is the first part of the first letter I sent him after a get-together at an old school friend's at which we discussed the possibility of an email exchange. I have not asked his permission to use his letters so as yet you'll just get my side of the argument. I hope in the future to convince him to allow me to publish his erudite responses...
Part 1
I enjoyed our discussion on the merits of Islam over the holiday. It was a true delight to feel that I could question and debate with you over something so dear to your heart. I’m very grateful and hope that I didn’t cause any offence. You may wonder why, if I have no faith, I am so interested in these matters. Perhaps the question should be put the other way: why are not more people fascinated by the idea that a huge proportion of the world’s population live their lives so strictly according to a set of rules established 1,400 years ago?Of course, I cannot deny that, for me, your conversion helped to focus my interest. That someone so evidently intelligent and reasonable should suddenly (or so it seemed to me) adopt a way of life so alien to my own seemed shocking but also hugely intriguing.
That you should also defend your decision by explaining that the Qur’an is the “literal word of God” and that there are scientific notions contained in the scripture which prove that the Qur’an was divinely inspired seemed a fascinating and, if true, life-changing claim. Not surprisingly, I therefore set out to research your beliefs.I hope I did so with an open mind. I read the Qur’an at least twice. I have read some (not all!) of the hadith. I have read a biography of Mohammad by Karen Armstrong (widely welcomed by the Muslim community as an intelligent and fair examination of the Prophet’s life) and I of course read Maurice Bucaille’s book that you kindly lent to me shortly after your conversion. You have no doubt wondered (at least, I would have done in your position) why, having read the Qur’an, I have not been convinced of its divine origin. The reason is simple - to quote Isaac Newton, "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” To put it more simply, I have weighed up the balance of probabilities. You said that in reading the Qur’an you found “all the arrows pointed to it being divinely inspired”. I said I found almost everything in the Qur’an suggestive of it having been written by a man. I shall try to explain why. But first I must answer your letter which I enjoyed immensely. I hope you will now allow me to take issue with some of the points you have raised.
To me, your arguments contain an inherent and insurmountable contradiction: I believe that God is infallible; I believe He wrote the Qur’an; ergo, I believe the Qur’an is infallible and hence nothing that science says can change that...but IF the Qur’an is “demonstrably wrong” then my religion falls. I don’t know what “wicket you’re batting on”, but it doesn’t seem to leave me much chance of bowling you out, does it? Here, then, is the nub of the problem: the reductive character of your circular argument. My God is omniscient, therefore He is right. He is right therefore my God is omniscient. You have to admit that, were one to establish a religion, this is one hell of a starting point for quashing doubters. ..”Er, excuse me, but doesn’t empirical scientific evidence suggest that that line in the Qur’an might be wrong? Could we perhaps do some research in that field?” “Sorry mate, impossible. God’s infallible so the science is wrong. End of.” And yet you maintain that Islam encourages intellectual curiosity. What sort of intellectual freedom is it that if, when it seems it might produce evidence that the Qur’an was not divinely inspired, is denied?

No comments:

Post a Comment