Concept of thought in Islam and Science

During a discussion with Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, former federal minister for science and technology and former founding chairman of the HEC, I came to know that thoughts are molecular and not abstract as they were considered to be in the past. Apparently it looks simple development of science but deeply it can manifest new thoughts with the confirmation of some Islamic ideas and miracles. If thoughts are molecular then, I think, wisdom, intellect and knowledge also would not be abstract as some philosophers including Aristotle believe in. According to Dr Atta, who is an iconic figure in the field of chemistry, thoughts are made up of atoms and molecules. They are formed instantaneously and also dissipate (when we forget).The information stored in the neurons in the form of molecular patterns determines a person’s personality, character and beliefs. Thoughts are made up of atoms and molecules but hardly anything is known as to what underlying chemical processes occur when we think.

This scientific development verifies the miracle when Allah opened the chest of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) in order to fill his heart with wisdom, knowledge and faith. For some scholars, opening his breast is a metaphor for the blessings that were bestowed upon him and enabling him to attain all levels of perfection, but Hadith represent this incident as a physical one. Anas bin Malik narrated that Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) while he was playing with his playmates. He took hold of him and laid him prostrate on the ground and tore open his chest and took out the heart and extracted blood-clot out of it and said: That was the part of Satan in thee. And then he washed it with the water of Zamzam in a golden basin and then it was joined together and restored to its place. The boys came running to his mother (his nurse), and said: Verily Muhammad has been murdered. They all rushed towards him (and found him all right). His colour was changed, Anas said,” I myself saw the marks of needle on his chest”. (Muslim, 311)

Second time opening of Mohammad’s chest on the night of the Isra’ also can’t be denied as the narrators are trustworthy and well known. (Bukhari, 349 and Muslim, 163) Had wisdom and knowledge been in an abstract state, Allah might not have opened Mohammad’s heart to pour wisdom and faith in it. It could have been poured spiritually but, on the contrary, all this process was physical. Indeed, Allah knows best. Abstract state of wisdom and intellect is just the illusion of philosophers due to lack of guidance. Quran and Hadith clarify and remove ambiguities about the truth and now science is verifying reality after centuries. Reason alone without revelation from Allah cannot discover truth.

In the response of my query, Dr Atta said that the heart and brain both are intimately connected and if the heart pumping changes it affects brain function due to changes in oxygen supply. According to research by Ibn Taymiyyah , the cognition is related to both heart and brain. Intellection comprises knowledge and being consistent with the knowledge, which are centrally controlled by the heart being the seat of will and desire. In Quran, Surah Najm makes reference to the revelation and the manner of its revelation to the Prophet Mohammad’s heart. “The heart lied not what it saw.”  (53-11) In Quran and Hadith at several places intellect and wisdom are directed to heart. Imam Ali said: “The outer eyes have never seen Him but hearts through the truth of faith have perceived Him.” Studies show that a personality is the product of the things that happen in life, which change the way of genes to operate. Genes and many other factors are beyond control but some are within control as diet and exercise. Emotions are directly dependent on our thoughts. Thoughts being not abstract are usually programmed in the more powerful subconscious mind. Subconscious, being the most mysterious, supersedes all conscious control. If meditation works for well being, giving thoughts direct access to beneficial activity affecting cell functions, then thoughts full of positivity, programming cells, can truly bring ultimate changes in life. Here reminding Iqbal’s thought,

“ishq ki ek jast ne tay kar diya qissa tamam , is zameen-o-asman ko be-karan samjha tha main”

One leap by Love ended all the pother, I fondly imagined, the earth and sky were boundless.

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  1. Dr. Jamil Shaheen says

    Nature & mechanism of origin of thoughts was/is a ever demanding concept & discussion topic among philosophers, psychologists, physiologists, neurologists, scientists etc. Aisha Noor in collaboration with Prof. Atta ur Rehman trying to resolve it in a different perspective.

    Prof. Shafiq Ahmad Bhait, a cardiologist wirking at Quaid e Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur is working on the concept of origin/relation of thought in heart. He is trying to correlate the religious point of view with scientific evidences. His work will be published in a related book soon.

    Dr. Jamil Shaheen,

  2. Sayed Taj Ahmad says

    A very interesting and worth exploring subject.

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