Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Abortion Debate in The West

Category: WEAK

In Islam we have it as a matter of doctrine that the soul does not enter the fetus until 120 days, so abortions before this, though not indulged in for petty reasons, are not considered to be "murder" as they would to a modern day conservative Christian.

There's also the other point, that we don't automatically rule on the value of the fetus' life over the mother's, even if we're talking about a possible late-term abortion. It's justifiable to save the mother's life if it is threatened. A jurist could make such a ruling.

What I wanted to point out was in regards to the first point.


Some scholars have concluded that early Christians took a nuanced stance on what is now called abortion, and that at different and in separate places early Christians have taken different stances.[8][9][10] Other scholars have concluded that early Christians considered abortion a sin at all stages; though there is disagreement over their thoughts on what type of sin it was[11][12][13][14] and how grave a sin it was held to be, it was seen as at least as grave as sexual immorality.[11][13] Some early Christians believed that the embryo did not have a soul from conception,[15][16][8][17] and consequently opinion was divided as to whether early abortion was murder or ethically equivalent to murder.[18][14]

Augustine affirmed Aristotle's concepts of ensoulment occurring some time after conception, after which point abortion was to be considered homicide,[19] while still maintaining the condemnation of abortion at any time from conception onward.[20] Aquinas reiterated Aristotle's views of successive souls: vegetative, animal, and rational. This would be the Catholic Church's position until 1869, when the limitation of automatic excommunication to abortion of a formed fetus was removed, a change that has been interpreted as an implicit declaration that conception was the moment of ensoulment.[15] Consequently, in the Middle Ages, a less severe penance was imposed for the sin of abortion "before [the foetus] has life".[21]
Christianity did not have a doctrinal position on the exact time of "ensoulment", so earlier Christian scholars inherited philosophy on the matter from Aristotle and others. This was a point on which the debate pivoted for quite some time until the 19th century when the Catholic Church decided to default it to conception.

The theological issues aside (What was the justification? Were the earlier Popes wrong?), there is a metaphysical point to be made. The idea that life begins at conception is a very materialistic one (in the sense of metaphysical materialism). As Western culture moved to such materialism (and also away from Judeo-Christian tradition), the Catholic Church seems to have moved right along with everyone else. Christians, who should believe in a soul, now don't even bring it up at all in the debate. All they are concerned with is the physical, the material: the zygote. Their blind adherence to this doctrine (which, from all indications, seems arbitrarily concocted by the Catholic Church in the 19th century) is a manifestation of this extreme materialism. Perhaps we can give the Catholics a pass, because they must follow the Church without question. But the Protestants have no excuse, their reasoning is purely materialistic (unsurprising in the context of their other positions on social issues which represent Ayn Rand more than Jesus Christ).

Just one of the consequences of the old clashing with the modern shift in philosophical outlook. Though metaphysical materialism is certainly an extreme by religious standards, it has had its upside (the increased focus on the worldly life makes people work to make it better... but when done in this way it comes at the expense of concern for the next life).

Regarding the materialistic answer to the question of when exactly can we consider a fetus to be alive

It's also not so simple to call a zygote not "alive", because people will take issue with that definition of "alive". If left alone in a womb, it will continue growing. Cells can be alive, they can die. We certainly know what a dead cell looks and behaves like, so it stands to reason the opposite is life.

I think the materialistic debate really comes down to a question beyond materialism: utilitarian ethics. Yes, an embryo/fetus, when left alone, can grow into a person, can be born, can grow up, can contribute much to society and their own fulfillment. But those are a lot of "cans". The mother is in the here and now, she's already a living, breathing adult with all the attributes of sentience, plus a safe and early abortion (that can be facilitated with the law on her side) allows her to have another child (or more) soon again whereas the risks with the fetus are a lot more. The life of the mother is clearly more valuable to society under the typical circumstances.

In a way, I find the debate kind of ironic because it's kind of a flip of the evolutionary origin of man debate. Darwinian evolution proponents ("scientism", not necessarily atheists, scientists, or anyone who already believes in the evolutionary origin but those who put such an emphasis on it so as to behave downright theologically in their treatment of evolution... cue: evolutionary psychology and other similar pseudoscience) will adhere to a materialism similar to the sort that the Christian conservatives strongly hold to on the issue of life beginning at conception. On the other hand, the arguments expressing skepticism (not necessarily opposition) of the meaningfulness or relevance of evolution to the issue of man's origins tend to take a similar route through ontology as in the objections to the "life begins at conception" position (regarding what it means to be a person and how to distinguish that while limiting arbitrariness).

Teaching Islamic Knowledge

Category: SOUND

Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi 'alaih) narrates from Hadhrat 'ALI (radhiyallahu 'anhu) who said: "Narrate to the people that which they are acquainted with. Would you like that Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala and His Messenger Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam be rejected?" Adam ibn Abi Ilyas adds the words: "and leave out what they do not know" to this Hadith.

The meaning of "that which they are acquainted with" is that which they understand. And the meaning of "what they do not know" is that whose understanding causes them confusion. As for the words: "Would you like that Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala and His Messenger Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam be rejected?" - this means that if a person hears something that he does not understand and which he does not conceive to be possible, he will believe it to be impossible out of ignorance. He will therefore not believe in its existence. Then if something of this nature is reported from Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, he will necessarily reject it. And rejecting the words of Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam entails rejecting Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala.

Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (rahmatullahi 'alaih) says: "In this Hadith there is proof that something is confusing should not be mentioned before the masses. Similar is the opinion of the Hadhrat IBN MAS'UD (radhiyallahu 'anhu) when he says: 'No sooner you relate a Hadith to a people who cannot fathom it, it becomes a source of distress and tribulation for some of them.' (Narrated by Muslim in the introduction to his Sahih, vol. 1 p. 76)

"Among those who disliked narrating certain Traditions to the exclusion of others are: (1) Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahmatullahi 'alaih) with regard to the Traditions which outwardly show going against the leader, (2) Imam Malik (rahmatullahi 'alaih) with regard to the Traditions that mention the attributes [of Allah], i.e. those that outwardly portray similarity [to human attributes], (3) Imam Abu Yusuf (rahmatullahi 'alaih) with regard to Traditions in which particular words are mentioned (Gharibul Hadith), (4) The Sahabah/Companions ABU HURAYRAH, HUDHAYFAH (radhiyallahu 'anhumaa) and others who came before the previous three Imams also hold the same view."

"The general rule is that if a Hadith apparently supports an innovation, when its actual import is something else, then it is desirable to hold back such a Hadith from a person of whom it is feared that he may act on its outward meaning. And Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala Knows best. (Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar (rahmatullahi 'alaih), Fath al-Bari, vol. 1 p. 225)
Bukhari and Muslim narrate on the authority of Anas Bin Malik Radhiyallahu 'anhu who said: Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam was on his camel and Mu'adh Bin Jabal Radhiyallahu 'anhu was sitting directly behind him. [Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam said to him] O Mu'adh! He replied: Here I am, O Rasulullah and I am pleased to be with you. Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam said: O Mu'adh! He replied: Here I am, O Rasulullah and I am pleased to be with you. Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam said: O Mu'adh! He replied: Here I am, O Rasulullah and I am pleased to be with you.

Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam said: "When a person sincerely testifies that there is none worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala makes him forbidden to the fire." [Mu'adh] said: "Should I not inform the people about this so that they may take glad tiding from this?" He replied: "No. Because if you do so, they will become lax." Mu'adh Radhiyallahu 'anhu eventually informed the people about this at the time of death fearing that if he didn't inform them, he would be committing a sin [of concealing knowledge].
Hafith Ibn Rajab says: "The 'ulamaa' say: 'It can be derived from this prohibition to Mu'adh Radhiyallahu 'anhu that he should not convey these glad-tidings lest the people become lax, that Traditions which contain concessions should not be mentioned openly among the masses so that they do not misunderstand the actual import of them. Mu'adh Radhiyallahu 'anhu heard such Traditions but these only served to increase his efforts in doing good deeds and in fearing Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'a'a. As for he who has not reached his rank, it is not far-fetched that he may become lax after relying on the outward meaning of this Hadith." ('Allama Shabbir Ahmad al-'Usmani, Fathul Mulhim, vol. 1, p.588)

Source: Excerpt from the book, Prophet Muhammad (saw) - The Teacher and his teaching methodologies by Shaikh Abdul-Fattah Abu Ghuddah (ra)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Islamic Theology and Philosophy of Science

Category: STRONG

I've been working on this book about Islamic theology (orthodox specifically) during my free time the past two years and how it relates to philosophy of science, especially in recent times. It's a draft and a work in progress but I've run out of free time until probably 2013 or maybe even beyond so I'm putting up what I have so far. That's why it cuts off abruptly, I excised the unfinished parts.

It includes a little commentary on the previously mentioned Theologus Autodidactus and Philosophus Autodidactus.

Click here: http://islamtheologyscience.wordpress.com/

It includes a bit of discourse on theology, history of theology, and finally the more philosophical matters in theology and how it relates to science (including contrasting Islamic theology with Enlightenment era and later European/Western philosophy).

Please keep in mind this is a draft. I've said most of what I initially wanted to but it could use a good rewrite for readability in the future, especially some of the more complicated sections on science or philosophy where my strategy was to repeat the same thing in several ways hoping at least one way "clicks" for the reader. The final version, should I ever get time to complete it, could wind up very different but I feel there's some usefulness for Muslims with questions about these very matters. I won't put this in the "SOUND" section until I get a full overview by a scholar. I've had one read through most of the metaphysics bits and approve (I took very few liberties except in explaining the traditional, conservative, orthodox stance). The only issue of question is the stuff at the very end regarding discussion of the attributes of Allah, an extremely controversial subject, so I cut that out entirely until I finish it and a scholar looks at it first. I make a little mention of the subject in what is still left in and it might appear unorthodox because I use some arguments used by other theological sects at one time and now defunct, but they're essentially saying the same thing as the orthodox theologians. The wording might be easier for people to understand now in our times (whereas it was discounted for the opposite reason in its time). This is because the environment or situation that existed at that time doesn't exist today (competing theological sects within Islam... the orthodox Ash'ari/Maturidi have won out overwhelmingly and won't be challenged again). So, the issue isn't of meaning, since I intended to convey the orthodox position on all accounts, just of language.

Feel free to respond here in the comments section with questions or more preferably, e-mail islamtheologyscience@gmail.com and I'll try to answer questions as I get time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What hold do djinnat have over mankind?

This is a follow up post to this one,


The above should be read first. One can also browse some of the quotes on various articles on djinn that come up when using Google, such as Wikipedia's article (though these are subject to change).

I've heard scholars limit what can be physically attributed to them and say they can merely make suggestions, even visual suggestions, in the form of dreamlike thoughts (or hallucinations). That when they physically appear to us, it's due to their inserting of a hallucination in our mind and not their actual physical appearance. Allah knows best. Most Muslims are predisposed to the simple understanding that they can do either or.

I have also heard it likened to the effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation where a machine uses magnetic fields to induce weak electric currents which can alter the function of parts of the brain. The effects of this machine are known and documented.

How do the djinn do it? Pretty much the same way though without the need to use magnetic fields, they're beings of energy who can directly manipulate. The manifestation of this is, again, usually through thermal conduction, especially in the bloodstream. The Ma'ariful Qur'an commentary says,

He said, "Then give me respite until a day when all will be resurrected." He (Allah) said, "Respite is given to you." He said, "Then as You have made me go astray, I swear that I will sit for them (in ambush) on Your straight path. Then I will come upon them from in front of them and from behind them and from their right and from their left. And you will not find most of them grateful."(7:15-17)

What made Iblis speak the way he did before Allah?

The place where Iblis dared to speak was in the Most August conceivable Presence of the Master of all Honour where the awe and majesty of the occasion would not allow even angels and prophets and messengers to breathe. How did he do that? 'Ulama say that this was a sombre and highly cutting manifestation of the Divine wrath that, because of the rejection of Iblis, his view was so obstructed that he became blind to the grandeur and awe of Allah Ta'ala and irreverence came down to settle on him all over. (Abridged from Bayan al-Qur'an)

The Assault of Shaytan is Multi-Dimensional, not simply Four-Sided

In the present verse (17), Iblis is said to have identified four sides from which he planned to mislead the children of 'Adam, that is, the front, the rear and the right and the left. But, the purpose here is not to set up any limits. Instead, the sense is that this will be from all sides and directions. Therefore, the probability of his leading people astray from above and beneath the feet does not contradict it. Similarly, the saying of the Hadith that - Shaytan can enter the human body and move through the arteries and veins of blood and take command of the whole body - is also not contradictory to this.

The hadith in question says that Shaytan circulates in the human mind as blood circulates in it.

Other common manifestations of djinn "interference" (usually not the modus operandi of Shaytan though who is concerned with making people do evil, not disable them) include seizures which are defined as transient symptoms of "abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain" (Wikipedia). In other words, disruption across a large portion of the brain of its neuronal activity.

What defense do humans have from djinn? Allah Himself it seems though we do not know if this is by means of some hidden mechanisms or His direct action. The former is not unreasonable considering the creation of Allah is usually ordered in some logical manner. All we can do is invoke Allah (the best way of which would be reciting the Qur'an and referring to scholars with experience in the matter who can advise on how best to mount this defense).

Determined djinn, according to Islamic tradition, can be very dangerous and hard to stop. They can simply circumvent a person's recitations or depictions of Qur'anic verses because they can approach, as mentioned, in a multidimensional manner. A person might put up a prayer or verses of the Qur'an on a door to "ward off" djinns, and it works most of the time. But if one becomes inordinately determined (not common, not in their nature to care so much) it can simply come straight through the cracks or under the door or over it or around the sides even while physically manifesting itself in some way. This is, however, extremely rare (in regards to numerous paranoid superstitions where people believe the slightest medical problem is being caused by djinn).

More often the djinn, especially the Shayateen, see the world as a one big non-stop party. Whatever activities humans are engaging in for pleasure, a djinn would want to "ride along" to feel the thrill. Sexual intercourse is an important example of such a situation. Allah has guarded the sexual relations of a husband and wife who invoke Him (not during the act obviously when in an impure state but before beginning). As for the rest of the people, djinns can seamlessly jump in and out usually without leaving a trace albeit likely affecting the mind in some subtle manner. In a divinely sanctioned union (marriage) between two people there is a synchronization of spiritual meaning behind the act and the biological mechanism (neurotransmitter and hormone release) which manifests as psychological/emotional connectedness. This process can become upset or skewed in any number of ways.

Adam, Iblis, and Evolution

If one reads all the mention of Adam and Iblis in the Qur'an (and through the extensive commentary of the Ma'ariful Qur'an), one can gain some insight into the nature of the dispute which landed us in this mess (though it's Allah's intention to have us earn our way into Heaven so the story doesn't matter in a practical sense for a Muslim who might not care how we got here because we're here and were meant to be here, it possesses some insight of paramount importance to our stay here).

First let's go into the slightly tumultuous start of the relationship between mankind and angels.

The verses quote Allah as saying He is going to make a man out of, essentially, mud (clay, water, a mess that can make sounds... it's translated as "sound making clay"). Physical form.

Allah says,

"I am going to create a deputy on the earth!" (2:30)

The angels said,

"Will You create there one who will spread disorder on the earth and cause bloodsheds while we, along with your praises, proclaim Your purity and sanctify Your name?"

One thing to note, the angels mention that not just praise was due to God (which many people do acknowledge), but also the fact He has no partners. Allah responded,

"Certainly, I know what you do not know."

Then the Qur'an goes on to say,

And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then presented them before the angels, and said, 'Tell me their names, if you are right." They said, 'To You belongs all purity! We have no knowledge except what You have given us. Surely, You alone are the all-knowing, all-wise!' He said, "0 Adam, tell them the names of all these!' When he told them their names, Allah said, "Did I not tell you' that I know the secrets of the skies and of the earth, and that I know what you disclose and what you have been concealing.

The commentary on this,

In replying to them, Allah first adopted the mode of authority, and told the angels that they knew nothing about the nature and the needs of deputation on the earth, and that Allah alone was the one to know it fully. The second answer was in the mode of wisdom - Adam had been given preference over the angels on account of his superiority in the station of knowledge, because in order to function properly as a deputy on the earth one must know the names, the properties and the characteristics of the things to be found there, and the angels had no aptitude for this kind of knowledge.


Then, Allah demonstrated the truth to them in a vivid form. He gave to Adam a kind of knowledge for which he alone had been endowed with the proper aptitude, and not the angels. That is to say, He taught him the names, the properties and qualities of all the existents, animate or inanimate. Angelic nature is not capable of such awareness - for example, an angel cannot really experience the pain of hunger and thirst, the tumult of passions, the torment from the bite of a scorpion or a snake, or the exhilaration from an intoxicant. Only Adam had the capacity to learn such things, and he was taught to know them. Then, there is no indication in the Holy Qur'an to show that he was taught in privacy, apart from the angels. It may well be that the teaching in itself was open to the angels as well as to him; his nature allowed him to receive it, and he learnt the lesson, while, they were impeded by their own proper nature, and could not. Or, it may be that the teaching did not take an external form at all, but that the Adamic nature was made to carry this particular kind of knowledge within itself without the need of a formal education, just as an infant does not have to be taught how to suck the mother's milk, or a duckling how to swim. As to the question why Allah, being omnipotent, did not change the nature of the angels and make them learn these things, we shall say that the question, in fact, boils down to this: Why did not Allah change the angels into men? For, if their nature had been altered, they would no longer have remained angels, but become men.


Since they failed to name the things which Adam could, they came to see that purity and innocence is not the criterion in choosing a deputy or viceregent but the knowledge of the things which are to be found on the earth, of the ways of using them, and of the consequences which would follow from such a use.

Even, from a human perspective since the angels didn't seem to get it, it's kind of obvious that a creature made in the way Adam was, from the earth itself, was going to be suited for that environment.

Before I continue, let me paste the footnote (added by Mufti Taqi to the commentary written by Mufti Shafi),

Some Modernists have zealously taken to the habit of interpreting these verses as implying that man as a viceregent of Allah is required to make a 'progress' in 'Science' - that is, in the empirical study of physical phenomena; a so-called 'Muslim' translator of the Holy Qur'an has even had the temerity to translate the name 'Adam' by the English word 'Man', thus denying the existence and prophethood of Adam. In order to dispel such grave errors and distortions of word and meaning, let us point out that the 'names' which Allah taught to Adam do not refer merely to the chemical or biological or psychological properties of things and men, but to their essential qualities and aptitudes - we are using the word 'essential' in the technical and metaphysical sense of the word in which it was originally used in the West too.
In other words, yes, empirical (physical) knowledge is important but not more important than metaphysical (religion). The former is, in fact, a branch of the latter. That's the way science arose in the Muslim world.

We've established that angels, beings of divine or heavenly light who are "slave-willed" to Allah (and thus quite possibly the most "powerful" things Allah has created, even one could probably destroy the Earth if they were ordered) are distinct from the nature of man who's a bag of flesh and blood, an outgrowth of mud (this process is described in detail in the hadith).

Next we come to Iblis, who he was, what his nature was, what he did, and why he did what he did.

Iblis was a djinn. What is a djinn?

And We created man from a sound-giving clay made of decayed mud. And "the Ja(a)nn" (the first Jinn) We had created earlier from the fire of the hot wind. (15:27)

Djinn are created, it's related, from the smokeless and invisible tip of fire. This very obviously is referring to the convection currents you see when during a hot summer day there is shimmering above the pavement. The shimmering is from the light refracting as it passes through an altered medium, a mass of air which is not uniform in heat, and the shimmering takes the appearance of the patterns of heat dispersed in the air.

Just as our consciousness subsists in the firing of electrons, a mixture of chemical and electrical energy, within the closed system or mass of our brain, the djinn subsist on what we believe to be heat energy of an open system (not within a closed physical system). Thus their consciousness is disembodied and "floats" around, traveling on turbulent patterns of convection currents.

We don't know what their tolerance is to what temperatures but it's assumed that any amount of energy at all would do as a medium since it's assumed they (or at least some) can travel through the cold reaches of space. So it's not actually heat per say that distinguishes them from us, since energy can be converted from mechanical to chemical to heat, but the fact that "heat energy" is a more pure form of "unrestrained" energy. It's the simple movement of energy from "one body, region, set of components, or thermodynamic system to another in any way other than as work." (Wikipedia)

Whereas we must perform work (and toil, exerting great effort) to engage in manipulation of energy (i.e, transfer), the djinn's will is more directly connected to its mode of self expression which becomes comparatively effortless.

We do not know how limited the djinn is because in theory if a consciousness can subsist in that fashion it could also theoretically subsist in all manner of energy transfer, including electromagnetic or even gravitational energy. It's likely the djinn are limited to overt thermodynamic forms, however.

This is a concept that has been explored in science fiction. One hard science-fiction author, Stephen Baxter, wrote of such creatures in his works.

If you want to gain some idea of what it could possibly be like to be such a thing, here is the story of one of Baxter's characters:


In the above story, the character is a human whose consciousness has been converted into this other form. He retains the "personality" and outlook of a human, no matter how much the author tries to deduce what the motivations of such a lifeform would be. The character reflects the obsession with naturalism and materialism of the modern scientific age (being a sci-fi work after all). His humanity in this new form is what makes it an interesting story.

Now imagine something which was never human to begin with. The djinn do not care about the physical world to the same degree, they do not care about the science behind ideas of work, power, energy. They are too busy engaged in experiencing the world to study it. What we spend so much time studying through hints and shadows they directly experience and aren't impressed by. In fact, they rather find us fascinating. They cluster around the presumably fascinating patterns of energy embodied in living physical creatures, longing for vicarious experience of our simpler physical senses. The perception of a djinn, though vaster in scope, cannot be as acute as our nervous system where everything is the nervous system (and not anything else) and entire sections of this closed network are activated in a synchronous symphony of sensation.

We're trapped in our subjective worlds, cut off from the objective reality (the Unseen and to an extent, the physical world too). We can retreat into our powerful imaginations where in each person's head is an assembled simulation of a world corresponding to their experiences filtered through their physical senses. This is sometimes likened to the experience of being a "god" (lowercase g) in that all we experience is the sheer seeming power of our will to create and destroy a world of thoughts. The activity in our brain is so frenetic we often cannot even control it. A djinn would be absolutely fascinated by this, our brain, one of the most complex organizations of energy contained in physical matter in which resides a consciousness. On the other hand, our experiences are deadened in our imaginations. A djinn's experience in the real world must be something like this thus they are lusting for richer experiences. A djinn in the real world is like an adult human in his imagination while awake (it's not that great). It certainly doesn't compare to real physical experience from our nervous systems. Would you rather eat an imaginary apple or a real one? So we are quite tailored to the nature of this universe and this world in particular.

And this is not unique to Islamic culture. This is the general story of how "ghosts" or "spirits" or "demons" behave, it's almost universal in human culture. Everyone describes these creatures doing the same thing, "possessing" people to experience what they experience or even attempt to exert some form of control. The human body can become like a vessel for them, they merely need to move their disembodied consciousness into an embodied form (our minds). It's a druglike euphoric experience for them according to popular belief (not just Islamic).

Iblis, however, is not so easily impressed. Iblis was, ironically, a magnificent personality among the djinn. He was, as the Ma'riful Qur'an describes to 2:34,

Iblis had attained such a high degree in science and knowledge that he was called Ta'us al-Mala'ikah: "The Peacock Among the Angels."

Iblis behaved a little more like we did, appreciative of the physical world, but he also was among the ranks of the angels. Whereas a typical "petty" djinn would be concerned with random plants and animals on a life harboring world, Iblis probably took great enjoyment in appreciating his nature. If a human were in that form, as the above story showed, they would forget the acute physical experiences (which are old hat for us) and just enjoy the sheer freedom and seeming power of being able to go anywhere and do anything.

To quote a character from the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica, a robot (a product of human science and thus obsessed with our idea of science, being even more intricately connected to the physical world) trapped in a human body who wanted something more (and hated humans),

I don't want to be human. I want to see gamma rays, I want to hear x-rays and I want to- I want to smell dark matter. I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws... and feel the solar wind of a supernova flowing over me. ... I'm a machine... and I can know much more.

In other words, make up for the lack of acuteness of physical perception with sheer grandeur of experience which can only be appreciated by having considerable knowledge. As the Ma'ariful Qur'an said, Iblis was an expert of knowledge, of 'ilm, what can be translated as both knowledge or science.

So that was Iblis. Who thought he was Allah's seeming "favorite", who was asked to bow before an infant consciousness encased in a bag of flesh and bones and given knowledge by Allah which he had not been privy to. He had just been upstaged by man (specifically Adam (as), more specifically Muhammad (saw) who is the most beloved of mankind to Allah and mankind is more beloved to Allah than the other creation).

It was jealousy and also pride. The jealousy is obvious, we'll focus on the pride. Iblis was able to appreciate the nature of his creation as a djinn so much so that he felt it was the best form. In so doing he lost sight of what was important to Allah, which is reflected in the Divine Names or Attributes, which could be properly reflected in any mode of being if the free willed entity so chose. And mankind chose it. The djinn, unlike man, were of a mischievous disposition, prone to chaos and evil. There are good believers among them but the majority are of this former fitra (disposition). This was also tied in to the nature of their being. It's easy to become drunk on power and forget that God alone is the true agency of power when your will is so directly connected to your means of self expression. Humans, walled off from the outside world by our subjective interpretation of limited physical experience, are more predisposed to appreciating their own utter lack of agency (and indeed the skepticism of causal agency is rife in all cultures now, both Islamic and Western).

Who would be more likely to say "wa la hawla wa la quwwata illah billah" (there is no power/change/initiative/capability except through Allah)... djinnat or insaan (man)? Man (the believers) is constantly uttering this.

Iblis, through his considerable knowledge, rose above all this and took his place in Heaven among the angels.

The faith of Iblis compared to the faith of a common man is like the example of a rationalist philosopher who believes in God because of the rational need for a necessarily existent self sustaining "cause" or more aptly put, "Creator". The faith of such a man is based in his firm and unshakeable conviction in this logical piece of knowledge (he knows it as surely as he knows 1 plus 1 equals 2). The common man, however, is the one who doesn't understand much of the world but utters "wa la hawla wa la quwwata illah billah" anyway because of his own personal experiences in his immediate environment during the course of his life (one might say due to this natural inclination to accept his own inadequate capability and powerless will).

And truth be told there has been no lack of knowledgeable philosophers who believed in God in the above manner but then were led astray by their intoxication with their own brilliance. They believed their iman is superior to the common man in the second example because he lacks understanding. And while this may actually be the case, it is not necessarily so, as God is the judge.

God doesn't want you to explain to Him how His own creation works. He knows. He created it. He wants your voluntary worship. He wants you to reflect the Divine Names/Attributes. He wants you to love Him and fear Him (worship), not try to lecture the already omniscient deity. Knowledge and understanding are then great in this context only, as amplifiers allowing us to reflect His glory to a larger degree.

So, Iblis refused to prostrate to Adam. He became arrogant in his high rank and station. He succumbed to his kind's nature. This is not to mean that no djinn can overcome their nature, plenty do and will be rewarded for it, just as the case is with man (and even most of humanity will choose evil over good).
All the angels obeyed but Satan refused. In his haughtiness he claimed that he was made of fire while Adam was made of clay, and fire being superior to clay, he could not be expected to prostrate to the latter.

And thus Iblis became Shaytan. It should be noted that according to the commentaries, "Shaytan", is not his actual name. It's a title of sorts or more like the genus or species (the philosophical terms, not biological). And Iblis is of those (the highest one). They're distinct from mankind and djinnat though their ranks are filled from djinns (predominantly) and men. It is a genus one joins or becomes.

The rest of the story is well known. Let's focus on the mode of Shaytan's deception of Adam and Eve.

It's general belief from the orthodox tradition that Adam was created in Heaven via a process akin to abiogenesis. He was created destined to be Allah's vice-regent on this earth, therefore he was created from the actual material of this earth (elements gathered from around the planet). Adam is not believed to have been born to anyone by the overwhelming majority of Muslim interpretation (i.e, the story is not a metaphor). It's believed Adam and Eve likely knew they were in Paradise temporarily (their purpose was the earth) or were warned of possible banishment by Allah (as stated in the Qur'an). So they had some trepidation of having to leave Paradise.

Then the Satan instigated him. He said, "0 'Adam, shall I guide you to the tree of eternity and to an empire that does not decay?" (20:120)

Then Satan whispered to them, so that he may uncover to them what was covered of their shame; and said, 'Your Lord has not prohibited this tree for you, but to avoid your becoming angels or your becoming eternal." And he swore on oaths, "I am one of your wellwishers." So he cast them down by deception. So, when they tasted (the fruit of) the tree, their shame became apparent to them, and they began to patch together upon themselves some leaves of Paradise, and their Lord called them, "Did I not forbid you from that tree, and did I not tell you that the Satan is an open enemy for you?" (7:20-22)

According to general Abrahamic tradition the tree is sometimes identified as the Tree of Knowledge or sometimes two trees are postulated, the one of knowledge and one of life (that Shaytan refers to). More probably Shaytan referred to the Tree of Knowledge as one which would grant eternal life in Paradise instead to trick Adam.

Adam and Eve, in their preoccupation with the possibilities, ate from that tree.

And since all this has been about knowledge, what knowledge was intentionally imparted to them by Shaytan via the mechanism of this forbidden fruit? "What was covered of their shame". In other words, they were snapped out of their "newborn" innocence (their "Paradise mode") and prematurely reverted to their "Earth mode" whereby they became cognizant of their animal nature (as mammals). It would be like suddenly going through puberty in a moment while being naked next to a member of the opposite sex who was also naked. Their instincts automatically kicked in and they scrambled to cover themselves.

Shaytan wanted to shame them, to humiliate them, to make them taste the (according to him) inferiority of their pathetic physical animal (mammalian) existence. To put them in their place and remind them of what they are, no more than what he would consider lowly animals. Now Shaytan knows the true nature and potential of humanity but he is jealous that it was given to a flesh and blood vessel and not to himself, so he knew they were superior to himself but wanted to bring them down out of spite and malevolence.

We don't know the exact mode of communication between Shaytan and the two humans. It could have been speech outright if he took the form of something (popularly depicted in Western tradition as a snake). Or he can whisper to them in a manner not unlike that depicted in the aforementioned science fiction novel and the character Paul.

This raises the issue of what power djinnat hold over us. I'll cover this in a different post.

The point thus far is to elaborate a bit upon Shaytan's motivations and view of humans. This leads to the controversial views of evolution among theists.

Where did evolution come in you ask? First, let's be clear about the view of evolution among Muslims.

  • The overwhelming majority of Muslims have firm conviction in the theory of evolution as expounded upon by Darwin and his successors albeit with some philosophical differences (regarding our occasionalist theology versus the idea of naturalism).

  • The overwhelming majority of Muslims do NOT accept the theory of the evolutionary origin of man because they accept the account of Adam and Eve in the Qur'an. Sure, when Adam/Eve were set down on Earth in their proper niche (time and place), they were subject to the laws of nature like everything else, such as evolution.

  • Now, it's been put forth by some (mostly Christians) that Darwin's theory of evolution (or rather, the theory of the evolutionary origin of man from predecessor species) is inspired by Satan himself. Sounds a little extreme, doesn't it? Easy to dismiss and I don't fault anyone for doing so.

    However, one needs to simply think about it. What would make Shaytan the happiest? Tarnishing mankind and lowering their ranks. When mankind starts attributing themselves to mere animal descendants of previous generations of animals, everything Shaytan "believes in" (out of hate and spite) is vindicated. This is what he has been saying all along (not literally, as he witnessed their creation in Heaven, but in the manner that mankind is no better than inferior animals compared to himself) and now the humans are saying it themselves. He takes enjoyment in the idea that he rose to the highest ranks of creation (at the time) with his free will, knowledge and initially his love for God... while his "usurper", man, is rolling around in the mud with animals even denying his own status as vice-regent of the Creator in this world.

    This current level, where a significant portion of mankind has shed any metaphysical aspirations and classifies themselves as animals, is the most Shaytan has ever had to be happy about thus far since the incident in Paradise with Adam.

    Do I believe Satan somehow inspired Darwin or other evolutionary biologists? I don't. But I think this view of humanity's origins is one which makes him (in fact all of the Shayateen, whether from djinnat or man) very happy because we are inadvertently shaming ourselves worse than ever before.

    "You have been created for a great purpose"
    (Said by Azazil (Iblis) to Adam while the latter was being created)

    Iblis' name before he disbelieved was Azazil. Let me conclude with this to shed some light on what Iblis thought of Adam before he was ordered to prostrate to him,

    Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "Allah created Adam from dust after He mixed the clay and left him for some time until it became sticky mud, after which Allah shaped him. After that Allah left him till it became like potter's clay. Iblis used to go past him saying 'You have been created for a great purpose.' After that Allah breathed His spirit into him. The first thing into which the spirit passed was his eye and then his nose. He sneezed. Allah said: "May your Lord have mercy upon you, O Adam! Go to those angels and see what they would say.' So Adam went and greeted them. they replied saying: "Peace be upon you and the mercy and blessings of Allah." Allah said: "O Adam! This is your greeting and that of your offspring." (Sahih al Bukhari).
    Iblis would pass by (and through) the figure of Adam so closely as to buffet it and the clay would make a sound like potter's clay. It's reported by Ahmad in his Musnad that while doing this he noticed the body had cavities in it and deduced the nature of this being (that it would survive on physical sustenance, food and water) and figured out it must be important. Still, the presence of Adam's form left he and the angels who passed by in trepidation.

    Adam was created from the soil of the earth (gathered from all over the planet) and the water of Paradise and it is related that he had a swarthy complexion. Biologists of our day have postulated that clay was important as a substrate for the primordial soup (or methane/sulpher bubbles, or whichever theory you prefer) from which life first began on earth.

    A number of hypotheses of modes of formation have been put forward. Early cell membranes could have formed spontaneously from proteinoids, protein-like molecules that are produced when amino acid solutions are heated–when present at the correct concentration in aqueous solution, these form microspheres which are observed to behave similarly to membrane-enclosed compartments. Other possibilities include systems of chemical reactions taking place within clay substrates or on the surface of pyrite rocks. (Wikipedia)

    James Ferris's studies have shown that clay minerals of montmorillonite will catalyze the formation of RNA in aqueous solution, by joining activated mono RNA nucleotides to join together to form longer chains.[91] Although these chains have random sequences, the possibility that one sequence began to non-randomly increase its frequency by increasing the speed of its catalysis is possible to "kick start" biochemical evolution. (Wikipedia)

    Clay hypothesis

    A model for the origin of life based on clay was forwarded by A. Graham Cairns-Smith of the University of Glasgow in 1985 and explored as a plausible illustration by several scientists. Clay hypothesis postulates that complex organic molecules arose gradually on a pre-existing, non-organic replication platform—silicate crystals in solution. Complexity in companion molecules developed as a function of selection pressures on types of clay crystal is then exapted to serve the replication of organic molecules independently of their silicate "launch stage".
    Their current problem with this hypothesis is figuring out how information stayed coherent because in experiments "mutations" in information overcome the amount of information preserved from generation to generation.