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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

0011-ORDER, CHANGE AND PERMANENCE

Lecture for 2nd year students on 11th November 2000 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.

A. PHYSICAL LAWS

LAWS AS SIMPLIFYING DESCRIPTION OF REALITY

One of the wonders of modern scientific discoveries is that complex phenomena in the universe can be explained by a few simple mathematical equations. These equations are the laws for example laws of relativity, laws of gravity, laws of motion, laws of thermo-dynamics, and laws of hemodynamics. As an example of a physical law we may cite the law of parity, zawjiyyat, that is a constant phenomenon in the universe. It is found in humans (p. 548 3:36, 3:195, 4:1, 4:11, 4:124, 4:186, 7:189, 12:84, 15:88, 16:72, 16:97, 18:28, 18:57, 20:131, 22:10, 30:21, 31:7, 35:11, 39:6, 40:40, 42:11, 42:50, 49:13, 53:21, 53:45, 75:39, 78:8, 78:40, 90:8-10, 111:1), in animals (p 549 6:143-144, 39:6, 42:11), plants (p. 549 13:3, 20:53, 22:5, 26:7, 31:10, 50:7, 55:52), and the parity of day and night (p. 549-550 2:164…..3:27….99:1-2). These laws are simple but they accurately describe phenomena that appear to the un-initiated to be very complicated and very detailed. The laws also serve as a reminder that the empirical world is in essence simple and straightforward running on a few basic principles and paradigms. Failure to understand this is the cause of seeing the trees and not the forest when we get lost in the details and secondary issues, furu'u

 

LAWS AS SUNAN

The physical laws according to which the universe is ordered are what the Qur’an calls sunan Allah. The sunan  are among the signs of Allah, ayat al allaah . They are found in humans, sunan al llaah fi al insan, in the universe, sunan al llaah fi al kaun, and even beyond, sunan al laah fi al afaaq. They are fixed and are characterized by stability, thabat (p 599-600 17:77, 33:62, 35:43, 48:23). They therefore serve as a basis for predictability of empirical phenomena. They explain the consistency, repetition, parity, symmetry, harmony, co-ordination, and purposive ness of physical phenomena in the universe. Even apparent differences and exceptions follow some fixed laws (p 600 6:165, 17:21, 42:8, 43:32-33). There are situations in which the laws may not seem to work or even contradict one another. This arises in only two situations: (a) when they is a higher law unknown to the scientist that explains all events (b) a miraculous intervention by the creator that temporarily suspends the normal laws such as when fire that normally burns was cold to Ibrahim on Allah’s order (21:68-70). However for practical purposes such miraculous intervention is for prophets and special circumstances that the Qur'an and sunnah told us about.

 

PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL LAWS

There is no distinction between social and physical laws. They all relate to the same reality of the universe and its contents. The Qur'an gives more space to social laws because humans transgress them more often than physical laws. Many people will easily tell a lie and violate a social law ordering human social intercourse but few would dare violate the law of gravity by jumping off a high cliff. One of the tragedies of modern civilization is the dichotomy between social and physical laws. A top cardiac surgeon whose professional work is highly ordered and organized may not appreciate the need for order in his family life or personal life. He may violate marital laws or may be addicted to alcohol and drugs. It becomes difficult to accept that the well-organized surgeon in the operation theater on Friday is the same person during the weekend.

 

B. ORDER

ORDER IN THE QUR'AN

The Qur’an describes order in Allah's creation on earth and beyond by pointing out relations among various physical phenomena all this being manifestations of Allah's signs ( p 697-8 2:22, 2:164, 3:27, 3:190-191, 6:96-99, 7:54, 10:5-6, 13:2-4, 14:32-33, 15:16-22, 16:10-11, 21:22, 22:65, 24:43-44, 28:71-73, 30:48, 67:3-5). The universe is orderly, systematic, harmonious, and predictable ( p 96 2:251, 22:65, 23:71, 35:41). The order seen in the universe could not be a product of human whims and fancies (22:65). The order reflects Allah's will; the earth and heavens are held together and in their positions by His will (35:41). This is expected because the creator of the universe and all what is on it is one. The orderly universe is the best logical manifestation for one sole creator (2:22, 2:164, 3:27, 3:190-191, 6:96-99, 7:54, 10:5-6, 13:2-4, 14:32-33, 15:16-22, 16:10-11, 21:22, 22:65, 24:43-44, 28:71-73, 30:48, 67:3-5 vol 1 pp 697-698), and is an open book and proof of tauhid al rububbiyyat (2:21, 3:83, 6:1, 6:13-14, 6;73, 6:75-79, 67:185, 10:3, 10:55, 10:101, 13:12-13, 16:2-3, 16:48-49, 16:66-72, 21:31-32, 22:18, 22:61, 23:80, 24:41-42, 25:61-62, 26:7, 27:60-64, 27:86, 27:88, 30:18-19, 30:22-24, 30:46, 30:10-11, 30:29-31, 32:4-5, 35:12, 35:27-28, 40:64, 41:9-12, 41:37, 41:53, 42:28-29, 42:32-33, 43:10, 45:3-6, 51:47-48, 55:5-7, 55:19-22, 57:4-6, 67:15-17, 67:20-21, 71:15-20 vol 1 pp 692-695).

 

ORDER IN STRUCTURE

The human body in its gross and microscopic anatomy is a reflection of a high level of order. Every structure is adapted to its function and is functionally related to all other structures so that everything works in an orderly manner. There is parsimony of structure such that there is no useless tissue in the body. Each tissue has just the size needed to discharge its function. The parsimony is seen even at different periods of the life cycle. Some tissues are relatively small in children, grow larger by middle age and during old age actually reduce in size because of reduced functional demand.

 

ORDER IN FUNCTION

There is organizational order in all-physiological functions. This order is seen in each function as well as the perfect inter-relations among various functions. Study of the human neuro-endocrine system provides a very good insight into this. We will deal with this later in the course. Existence of orderly relationships is the basis of medical treatment. If the chemical reactions were not predictable and orderly, each instance of disease would require new research to discover the right medicine for it.

 

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

Scientific research would not be possible if there was no order in the universe. There are physical laws that describe and summarize this order. The purpose of all scientific investigation is to find these laws, understand them, and use them for the benefit of humans. The periodic table of elements is a very good example of predictability of physical phenomena. The relationships among elements are so predictable that the properties of elements not yet discovered can be described accurately.

 

ORDER IN SYSTEMS

Stability: The universe has a stable state to which it returns after temporary disturbances. This state is referred to as homeostasis in physiology. It is the steady-state situation in biological systems that must be maintained for proper function.

 

Negative feedback: Negative feedback is the process that underlies the maintenance of the steady-state homeostatic situation. It is essentially a self-correcting system that ensures that a product of a certain process stops or regulates that process if it reaches a certain threshold. Negative feedback is normal in biological systems.

 

Positive feedback: Positive feedback is not normal in most biological systems because it will destroy the balance and homeostasis. In positive feedback the product of a process enhances that process thus creating a never-ending loop that will result in permanent impairment of the homeostatic steady state.

 

Compensation in physiology: There is constant change and flux in the body. Compensatory mechanisms in normal physiology assure return to the normal resting state. The purpose of these mechanisms is to maintain order.

 

Decompensation in patho-physiology: In patho-physiological situations, corrective mechanisms fail to restore order after disturbances and this results eventually into definitive pathological changes and disease.

 

C. CHANGE:

THE CONCEPT OF CHANGE

Only Allah is permanent: Only Allah is permanent. Everything else changes continuously. The physical laws are also permanent but their application in different circumstances produces different results. Some events like the change of day and night (diurnal rhythm) and the change of seasons are also fairly permanent and predictable but some unexpected events could occur either explained by physical laws known to humans or due to divine intervention.

 

Change of day and night: The Qur’an has in many verses described the changing of day and night (p 541-543 2:164, 2:184-185, 2:196, 2:259, 2:274, 3:27, 3:72, 3:190, 5:89, 6:13, 6:60, 7:54, 10:6, 10:24, 10:45. 10:50, 10:67, 11:114, 13:3, 13:10, 14:33, 16:12, 17:12, 18:19, 20:104, 20:130, 21:20. 21:33, 21:42, 22:61, 23:80, 23:113, 24:44, 25:47, 25:62, 27:86, 28:72-73, 30:23, 31:29, 34:18, 34:33, 35:13, 36:37, 36:40, 39:5, 40:61, 41:37-38, 45:5, 46:35, 57:6, 62:9, 69:7, 71:5, 73:3, 73:20, 78:11, 91:3, 92:2). Physicians and other students of biology have paid a lot of attention to this because biology is intimately related to the biological clock. This biological clock operates on a daily basis i.e. hours of sleep and wakefulness. It also operates on a monthly basis for female menstruation.

 

Changes in matter: Changes in the properties and states of matter are described by the Qur’an for example the interchange between hot and cold (p 189 21:69, 24:43, 38:42, 56:44, 67:13, 78:24). Physical features of the earth have changed. Today’s deserts were more hospitable in the past. Antarctica was inhabited. During the ice age, a lot of water was held up in the mass of ice. When the climate became warmer, the ice melted and the water cover over the earth increased in area. What is today ocean floor was at one time dry land. The phenomenon of global warming being witnessed today may herald major climatic changes. The heat could lead to the melting of the polar ice cap releasing a lot of water into the oceans and raising their level. Many countries will be flooded, islands will be submerged, and habitats will be changed. The prophet foretold that the arid and hot Arabian Peninsula will become wet and fertile before the last day.

 

Changes of energy: One of the major discoveries in science is that matter and energy are inter-changeable. Energy can change from form to another. Matter can also change from one form to another.

 

Regulation and coordination of change: The miracle of Allah’s creation is that changes are regulated and are co-ordinated. They follow a system. Such phenomena can occur only occur in a situation in which there is one powerful creator for the universe.

 

PHENOMENA OF CHANGE

Constancy of change: Change is a constant phenomenon in the in nature. It has been said that the only constant in physical phenomena is change. The Qur'an tells us that social changes are ordered and are regulated by the laws of Allah, sunan  al llaah fi al taghyiir. (p 600 6:89, 8:53, 13:11, 47:38). The same applies, by analogy, to physical changes.

 

Change in astronomy: Astronomical phenomena were the first observed constant and predictable changes in human history. Day and night follow each other in a predictable way, wuluuj al layl wa al nahar. The sun and the moon move in is fixed orbit and move according to accurate and predictable reckoning, hisaab.

 

Change in the weather: Climate or weather is one of the manifestations of constant change. It consists of winds, temperature, rainfall, sunshine, and humidity. It depends on altitude, latitude, terrain, nearness to the sea, and ocean currents. The major climatic zones on earth are: polar, temperate, cold desert, hot desert, and tropical. There are seasonal and secular variations in climatic conditions. The type of climate affects social and cultural norms of a people. The Qur’an has in many verses discussed the changes in weather and climate. It mentioned clouds, rain, and winds. Further details about rain such as windstorms, tempests, thunder, and lighting have been described.

 

Change in growth and development: Periods of rapid growth in infancy and adolescence are periods of major and rapid biological change. This change is not chaotic. It follows a fixed predictable order.

 

Change in physiological functions: Physiological reactions and processes are in a state of constant change. The change is according to a definite order and is not chaotic.

 

D. THE SEEN, shahadat & THE UNSEEN, al ghaib

COMPLEMENTARY RELATIONS

There is no strict dichotomy between the world of the seen, ‘alam al shahadat, and the world of the unseen, aalam al ghaib. The two are just two extremes of one spectrum. The two complement one another. A human needs to know how to interact with both worlds giving each its due.  Accurate and reliable knowledge of how to interact with the two systems is from the Qur'an. Use of human ingenuity in this delicate interface could cause a lot of mistakes. Superstitious beliefs and behavior are an example of attempting to navigate the seen/unseen interface without proper guidance.

 

THE SEEN

The human using limited sensory apparatus can perceive the world of the seen. This perception is not always certain or reliable knowledge because human senses can be deceived. Even in cases in which they are not deceived, human intellect may not interpret the sensory stimuli correctly of fully. In the end perfect knowledge is from Allah only.

 

THE UNSEEN

The world of the unseen has two components: the absolute, ghaib mutlaq, and the relative, ghaib nisbi. The Qur’an told us that the following are ghaib mutlaq: the nature of the ruh (p. 878 17:85), the time of the last day, 'ilm al saa'at (p 878 6:31, 7:187-188, 12:107, 16:77, 20:15, 21:109, 22:55, 27:65-66, 31:34, 33:63, 34:3, 41:47, 42:17, 43:66, 43:85, 47:18, 72:25-26, 79:42-22),  the time of human death, ajal (p. 879 31:34). Examples of ghaib nisbi are: knowledge of the past, al madhi (p 879 3:44, 11:49, 12:102, 18:26, 30:2), knowledge of contemporary events, al hadhir p 879 4:34, 8:30, 12:25), and knowledge of the future, al mustaqbal (p 879 10:20, 30:2-4, 72:26-27). Most phenomena in the physical universe are ghaib nisbi. Humans through research or just waiting for long enough can get to know things that were unknown before. Humans can roll back the frontiers of ghaib nisbi by intellectual processing. For example the development of artificial intelligence can enable humans discover relations hitherto unknown when the unaided human senses and intellect are used. Knowledge of ghaib is with Allah (p 877 2:33, 5:109, 5:116, 6:59, 6:73, 7:7, 9:78, 9:94, 9:105, 10:20, 11:123, 13:9, 16:77, 18:26, 23:92, 27:65, 27:75, 32:6, 34:48, 35:38, 39:46, 49:18, 57:25, 59:22, 62:8, 74:18, 72:26). Only He knows ghaib mutlaq (p 877-8 6:50, 6:59, 7:187-188, 31:34, 33:63, 34:3, 41:47, 43:85, 79:42-44). He has the keys to the unseen, mafatih al ghaib ‘inda al llaah (KS97 Bukhari K65 S6 B1; Bukhari K65 S13; Bukhari K97 B4; Ahmad 1:386, 438; Ahmad 2:24, 25, 58, 75, 122; Ahmad 4:13, 129, 164, 353, 368). Humans, even prophets, do not know ghaib (p 879 5:109, 5:116, 6:50, 7:188, 11:31, 12:81, 19:78, 27:65, 52:41, 53:35, 68:47) unless so permitted by Allah. Neither do the  jinn d know ghaib (34:14) without Allah's permission. The Qur'an and sunnah provide humans with sufficient knowledge of the ghaib mutlaq for them to conduct their affairs. They can not seek to know more by any other means. Allah has given humans the potential to research and know some aspects of ghaib nisbi.

 

BELIEF IN THE UNSEEN

It is one of the distinguishing characteristics of  believers that they believe in ghaib (p. 877 2:3). This is not blind faith. It is based on the knowledge that revelation is a source of knowledge about the unseen and that the human can accept it without the need to try to empirically prove the facts for himself. This should not be difficult for the scientist to understand. We know that atoms and sub-atomical particles exist and we can describe their properties as well as manipulate them but we need not have seen them with our own eyes.

 

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

Humans through scientific research or use of instruments that extend the reach of human senses can see elements of ghaib nisbi that would otherwise be unreachable. A normal human can for example not be able to see another human 10 kilometers away using naked eyes and as far as he is concerned this is ghaib known only by Allah. However using a powerful telescope he can see 10 kilometers away and the issue is taken out of the realm of ghaib.

 

E. BALANCE and EQUILIBRIUM

EQUILIBRIUM, i'itidaal

Equilibrium is a delicate balance between potentially opposing or contradictory tendencies. It need not be the halfway mark between two extremes. The ideal equilibrium is what assures the optimum in function and benefit while minimizing harm and damage.

 

CENTRAL TENDENCY, wasatiyyah

The concept of wasatiyyat is very important in all phenomena in the universe. Extremes of anything are usually destructive and are not desired; the best is the equilibrium of the middle path. The Qur’anic concept of wasatiyyat, mafhuum al wasayiyyat  (p 1306 2:143, 5:89, 68:28) is used to refer to the average, the middle ranks, or the normal expectation.

 

ACTION/REACTION, tadafu'u

One of the constant laws of the universe is that for every action there is a reaction. This is necessary to restore and maintain order. For example rise of body temperature leads to peripheral vaso-dilation and loss of heat to the outside environment. The Qur'an described tadafu'u as a tool of maintaining order (p 429 2:251…22:40…23:90…70:2)

 

OBJECTIVITY, istiqamat

Being objective allows humans to maintain order. If personal whims and fancies were followed there would be a lot of anarchy and chaos.

 

CONSTANCY, thabaat

Minimizing changes and maintaining constancy is desirable in some physical phenomena in order to maintain order. Allah in His mercy also allows changes because rigid constancy would not allow response and adjustment to changing circumstances.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. November 2000