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Employing And Applying The Concepts Of 'Parallels And Actuals'
To Logic and Religion

A. H. Somjee, a world renown Political Development scholar, developed the concepts of 'parallels' and 'actuals' to illustrate the biases and baggage that tainted the work of Western development scholars with inaccuracies and irrelevant and or inapplicable prescriptions to developing countries. To seek a 'parallel' is to look for similarities in conditions from one's own starting position, resulting in a postulate, and to apply it to an exogenous case. An 'actual', on the other hand, is precisely defined as such, an 'actual fact' or 'truth'. These concepts will be useful to describe logical inadequacies and their possible roots, with specific references to recent discussions on religion that have taken place on courtesy of libya-watanona.com's forum.

No scholar, no writer, no thinker can escape the inevitable postulate when engaging an issue. The very psychological nature of communication causes us to have predisposed ideas or beliefs about a phenomenon before we even in engage it. All are guilty of this. This does not mean, however, that we are all doomed to bias and inaccuracy, and that we should never engage in intellectual endeavors. All it means is that our attitudes towards acquiring knowledge should be more open to critique and suggestion, and sincere efforts to embody the 'actuals' ought to be undergone. This entails not simply taking something at face value and beginning from there, but questioning and testing the logic by which a phenomenon exists. This attitude is strictly adhered to in the hard sciences, and should be accepted similarly in the arts, otherwise known as the 'soft' sciences.

Scientists who entered, for instance, the study of physics, astronomy, or cellular biology DID begin with hypotheses. Upon repeated tests of the theories they developed (yes, theories, for even the hard sciences are a system of beliefs) they had to make additions, corrections, or even nullifications to their hypotheses. A very relevant example is Aristotle's theory of the orbit of astronomical bodies (which Ptolemy later recollected and adopted). He believed that the sun, the moon, stars, and planets all revolved around the earth in constant concentric circles. His theory was tested and modified over many a century, and for every time a body in the night sky did not follow its assumed path, more circles were drawn by strict adherents to Aristotle, until the star map became so ridden with circles it could not be immediately understood. This all changed when a certain Nicolas Copernicus revolutionized astronomy with the invention of the telescope.

Until then, men of science (the ones who kept men of religion in check) believed that they knew what was going on. Despite the overwhelming evidence towards the new theory of the universe, thanks to the invention of the telescope, many scientists of Copernicus' generation went into a scramble to solidify the work of Ptolemy and Aristotle with even more concentric and ovular circles. What they could not do, precisely because of their theoretical baggage, was to see things the way they were, or in other words, to see the 'actual(s)'.

A full understanding of the actuals is impossible without making serious attempts to understand the actuals for what they are. Fingers should not be pointed at anyone in particular, but in all directions. Hereafter I will apply the jargon I have introduced to the specific issue of discarding Islam on the basis of parallels, and in specific, I will utilize a couple of points courtesy of the letters received here online courtest of Libya-watanona.com. (See Ziyad's latest response to Hakeem, I hope that Mr. Ziyad will be pleased to get some attention from his last letter.)

First, I should admit that in many--perhaps most--cases, it is true that faith does provide overwhelming intellectual baggage. In Islam, however, this should not hinder the process of pondering and challenging the Qu'ran, which is in fact a duty of ever Muslim. I am very greatful that Ziyad and Ghoma are doing this for us, because Islamic philosophy has been on the decline for too long now thanks to the fear amongst Muslims of being proclaimed an apostate for questioning Islam. A culture of ignorance has been carefully cultivated by the forces that be, resulting in a stagnation of intellectual endeavors. To be perfectly clear, this is the fault of Muslims, not Islam. *(just on an aside, Islamic logic holds that men are free to choose and to act, and do so, without interference from God, for an intervention would nullify free choice, a matter relevent to this discussion).

As for the scientific 'proofs' in the Qu'ran, they are NOT intended to be used for scientific endeavors. This may (or may not) come as a surprise to both Muslims and non-Muslims. These scientific proofs are precisely intended to be vague. Why? If they are specific, and illustrate all there is to know about the logic of the universe, then almost all the people on earth would have no choice but to become Muslim. But Islam IS about choice; choice to believe or to disbelieve. To 'eslim', or, to become a Muslim, is to 'peacefully surrender' (to God). For that reason, I think, Allah says that no one with even the smallest dose of arrogance will enter heaven (or simply, arrogance prevents peaceful submission). In sum, the first point here deals with the *purpose* of scientific proofs, and it is as described.

The second question to address is not a question of how much is described scientifically by Islam, but rather, whether it explicitly contradicts proven science. As an ex-student of astronomy, I have come across some interesting tidbits which people may or may not be aware of. In the Surah/Chapter 'Yaseen', there is a short spurt of verses describing movements of the sun, the moon, and orbits (verses 38-40). In 38, Allah says, according to my own translation, 'The sun runs on a determined course, as governed by Al Aziz Al Aleem'*(pick it up and verify if you are not satisfied with what I have written). I hope that nobody thinks it does not. Modern physics and astronomy experts claim that our sun, dragging along its own solar system, is gravitationally pulled by other astronomical bodies, and is likely revolving around a galactic centre of gravity, which theorists jumping on the bandwagon are readily claiming that these in turn are encircling an extra-galactic centre (apologies here for not referencing, but for those who do not take anything at face value I recommend googling astronomical movements). In 39, Allah describes the movement of the moon, which, as Ziyad pointed out, is quite obvious. But, in verse 40, an interesting revelation is made. Allah says in it, again in my own words, that 'The sun does not catch up with the moon, nor does the night succeed the day, but all are swimming in constant flux'.

The sun not catching up to the moon obviously means they are not on the same plane. The night not succeeding the day tells you, actually, that the world is round. Think about it for a second (something encouraged by Islam, but often frowned upon by certain groups of Muslims, unfortunately). Assuming the world is on a flat plane in the centre of the universe, a rising sun would almost immediately light up the entire earth, and its fall would immediately darken it. Therefore, Allah saying that neither succeeds the next means that they coexist, something which can only happen on a round earth; night and day at the same time on different sides of the earth. Common knowledge to us today, but perhaps not back then. It is at this point very easy to bring up the issue of parallels and actuals. Seeking relevance to common sense when analyzing facts such as these leads inevitably to different conclusions. Claiming 'how can Muhammed have known this; the observation was not that complex' is a result of a postulate. My own postulate is innocent until proven guilty. Since Islam is the position I defend, I am in a better position to seek the 'actuals' of these verses. I am not beginning with the assumption that Islam is false, but I am taking into account the falsifying arguments, something which I have seldom seen done by my opposite numbers in philosophical discussions.

Carrying on to the last part of verse 40, 'wa kulun fi falakin yasbahoon'. All of the above are swimming in flux. As far as astronomy is concerned, this is absolutely true. It does not contradict that the sun runs at a determined path either. Mainstream modern astronomy, found and grounded in any new introduction-to-astronomy textbook, will tell you that while all spatial bodies are rotating along gravitational orbits amongst each other, they are in constant flux. Recent discoveries (along the several thousand year timeline of astronomy) have shown that the universe has not slowed down its expansion since the Big Bang (another Islamically agreeable theory), but shockingly it continues to expand at an increasing rate! All these eons, and the massive bang that started out our universe has not stopped accelerating! Verse 40 of the Chapter Yaseen is very agreeable to this.

One last thing I would like to recall is الإسراء والمعراج which was brought up in Ziyad's latest letter, March 4, 2006. It is a pity that this was not explored in more detail, but rather, was skipped ahead to ask why the Americas weren't revealed to Muhammed SAW. Aside from the fact that Islam's message is not 'the Americas exist', the fact that such a fantastic event took place and did not destroy Islam and Muslims in Mecca at that point in time is a miracle in itself. Contrary to popular belief, humans back then were at least as logical as humans now (in fact, the likes of Socrates and Aristotle are multitudes more logical then the majority of minds I have encountered today). But if you remember the story, the Meccans told Muhammed (SAW) that he is surely a lunatic. He responded by describing, with stunning accuracy, the area surrounding Jerusalem. They all knew that he had not been there previously. One response to this is that many traders went to and from Jerusalem, so it must be possible that he asked about it before. The remarkable thing is, however, that Muhammed SAW voluntarily began to pick out specific points, in addition to answering any questions that travelled merchants posed to him. If someone asked me to describe Midan Il Qadisiya in Tripoli, I would not be able to hit every point on the head. But going back to the prior point, the Qu'ran is not intended to provide almanac of the universe. Choice is an important tenet of Islam. People disbelieved in the Prophet Muhammed after that encounter precisely for the possibility that he had acquired knowledge of Jerusalem via other means. But the fact remains; no contradictory or false information was supplied.

Using the concepts of parallels and actuals, it is easy to see where postulates can direct analyses away from making certain conclusions. The postulate attitude that 'Islam is false' gets in the way of making certain conclusions in the same way that the opposite postulate does. However, they can be complementary. As for the issue of Islam being false, there is no clear, demonstrable evidence of this, and as I have argued, this is very much an intended result, implicit in the very definition of the word Islam, and explicit throughout the Qu'ran. The crucial points in Islam are not the scientific supplements, but rather the philosophical and moral soul-food. Not surprisingly, very few people seem to disagree in principle with giving alms to the poor, caring for the orphans, and respect for others' beliefs.

A. A. Omar


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