by Muhammad Qasim Shah
Man is born free and has been given a free will but most often gets lost. Circumstances influence his observational skills, environment conditions impact his mental faculties, superstitions challenge his rationality and free enquiry, and thus he breaks down under his own obstacles and gets displaced to the level lowest of the low. He was given an authority next to God on earth and all other creations were made subservient to him, but he reduced to make himself the servant of everything in the universe.
“For ancient man, nature was not just a treasure trowel of natural resources, but a goddess, Mother Earth,” British historian and philosopher Arnold J Toynbee wrote. “And the vegetation that sprang from the earth, the animals that roamed the earth’s surface, and the minerals hiding in the earth’s bowels, all partook of nature’s divinity, so did all natural phenomena——– springs and rivers and the sea; mountains; earthquakes; and lightning and thunder. Such was the original religion of all mankind.”
It is why we see in the circumstances when polytheism had placed an insurmountable barrier in his path of unveiling the truth, the Great Prophets came to rescue him.
“In this way, we showed Ibrahim Our Kingdom of the heavens and the earth so that he might have certainty in faith. When night descended on him, he saw star, he said, ‘This is my Lord!’ Then when it set, he said, ‘I do not love things that set’. When he saw the moon rise and spread its light, he said, this is my Lord. But when it also set, he said, “If my lord does not guide me, I will be one of the misguided people.” Then when he saw the sun shining, he said, ‘This is my Lord! This is the greatest of all!’ Then when it set he said, ‘My people, I disown all that you worship besides God. I have set my face with single-minded devotion, towards Him who has created the heavens and the earth, and I am not of the polytheists.” (Al-Quran 6:75-79)
Mythology was challenged openly. The rational argument startled and dumbfounded the false god and his followers. The Quran extensively dwells upon this debate:
“Have you not considered him (Namrud) who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord, because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Ibrahim said: My Lord is He who gives life and causes to die, he said: I give life and cause death. Ibrahim said: so surely Allah causes the sun to rise from the east, then make it rise from the west; thus he who disbelieved was confounded, and Allah does not guide aright the unjust people.” (2: 258)
Truth has always a pride to spring through the flames and rise from the blades. The Almighty Allah, who has made all this subservient to human and thus recalls us why the last and final message of Allah towards the mankind opens as: “All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the universe.” (1:1)
You ponder, peep through, observe, experiment, question, reason, analyze and then again put it to questioning you will sum up in;
“(And) who created seven heavens in layers. You do not see in the creation of the Most Merciful any inconsistency. So return (your) vision (to the sky); do you see any breaks? Then return (your) vision twice again. (Your) vision will return to you humbled while it is fatigued.” (67: 3-4)
Whatever is held sacred is composed both of trust and of terror. When man holds the unholy as holy, he closes all doors to progress. The material objects which are considered holy, fall, on the other hand, within the sphere of human action. And whenever these things have been surrounded with an aura of holy mystery, they have assumed too exalted a status to be subjected to scientific investigation.
A case study of smallpox explains clearly the impact of the superstitions and the monotheistic revolution.
“The death of Rameses ‘V’ C, 1160 BC was thought to have been due to smallpox….. my own examination of the large photographs of the mummified body and head leads me to support this view,” C W Dixon, professor of preventive and social medicine, WHO consultant on smallpox writes in his book, Smallpox. “And the disease was known in China in the Tocheon dynasty in 1122 BC. (p 188)
In the past, this disease gripped many countries in the form of dangerous epidemics. Thousands of people were devoured by it. Even then, it took thousands of years for this dreaded disease to be investigated scientifically.
The book, The Life and Death of Smallpox by Lan Glynn, Jenifer Glynn offers some detail of its genealogy.
“In 1767 John Zephariah Holwell gave a talk to the college of physicians in London. In an address, mainly concerned with the manner of inoculating for smallpox in the East Indies, he told them that the Atherva Veda- the fourth book of ancient Hindu scriptures, written according to the Brahmins more than 3000 years ago. “Instituted a form of divine worship, with poojahs or offerings, to a female divinity stilled by the common people…… the goddess of spots…..” (see page 7-8)
It further describes: “It is true though, that for a long time, a Hindu goddess of smallpox has been worshipped with much enthusiasm throughout India and Nepal. She is known by a single name, Sitala – literally ‘the cool one’. She is believed to be both to bring smallpox and to help those suffering from it and she is represented in different forms.” (p 9 )
It is worth mentioning here that in our land Kashmir, smallpox is known as shaetal, maybe the name derived from the same Hindu goddess ‘Sitala’.
“Smallpox gods and goddesses have also been found in China, Japan, West Africa and Brazil.” (p 9)
It was not until the end of the ninth century, subsequent to the emergence of Islam, that this medical fact was unearthed for the first time and now we know that smallpox is a contagious disease and its attacks can be warded off. The first name which became prominent in history in this connection was that of the well-known Arab Muslim physician, Al- Razi (854-925 CE), who was born in Ray in Iran. In search of a remedy for the disease, he investigated it from the purely medical standpoint and wrote the first book on the subject, called, Al-Judri was al-Hasba. This was translated into Latin, the academic language of ancient Europe, in 1565 in Venice. It was later translated into Greek and other European Languages; thus, it spread all over the world. Its English translation, published in London in 1848, was entitled, ‘A Treatise on Smallpox and Measles.’
This book distinguished, for the first time, Smallpox from the Measles.
Edward Jenner (1749-1823), after reading Al-Razi’s book was led to making the clinical investigation of the disease and successfully invented the vaccination for it. Now the question arises as to why such a long time elapsed between the initial discovery of the disease and the first attempts to investigate it medically with a view to finding a remedy? The reason is evident, holding that sacred which is not sacred, non-holy as holy, the devotion of creation unto the creation, the prevalence of superstitious beliefs and myths, all the ‘shirk’ leaving no space for free enquiry thus barring the astounding thinking capacity of the humans.
It was only after Islam came to the world that an intellectual revolution took off. It dispelled all types of ‘shirk’, enlightened the human mind and encouraged it to unveil the mysteries of the universe and to put in service all that has been created subservient to him.
There is a need to encourage the space for free enquiry and questioning in our academics so that the budding learners can contribute better.
Author is working in a medical field. Having a passion of reading books and is associated with the school level unique and popular competitive examination ALOHA GAT.