For far too long, we have segmented the pursuit of worldly and religious knowledge in our minds and conversations. It is time to embrace both, because appreciating the world around us helps us better appreciate its Creator.
By Huda Tabrez
Let me start by sharing with you two things that fascinate me – language and science.
A photograph of the Northern Lights or the Horsehead Nebula fascinates me just as much as perfectly strung words or an aptly used analogy.
The rhythm of a well-written sentence captivates my mind just as much as reading up on the breeding cycle of penguins. (I know it sounds odd, but just watch a documentary on the Emperor Penguins and you’ll know what I mean.)
Now, why am I sharing my intellectual quirks with you, you ask? Simply because, to me, there is very little distinction between the pursuit of ‘religious knowledge’ and ‘worldly knowledge’. Please note: I say pursuit and not the categorisation of knowledge itself. In my journey in life, thus far, gaining worldly knowledge — whether in biology, astronomy, language or psychology — has only helped me strengthen and better understand the endless wisdom and hikmah of our deen. Being a professional writer and a lover of words has only helped me better appreciate the perfection of the word of Allah — the Qur’an.
So, today, let me share with you a story of one of the most iman-boosting emails I ever received.
I was 10, may be 12, and the phenomenon of the inter webs was just hitting us. This was one of the first emails my father shared with me, it was a simple excel sheet which was interestingly programmed to zoom in or out every time you clicked the mouse. While I can’t find the same email for you, I did come across a YouTube video on similar lines.
Take some time to watch this iman-boosting video (and watch out for special appearances by Dubai’s very own Burj Khalifa and Palm Jebel Ali. Also, something called Gomez’s Hamburger! :P)
There are times, when you say Subhanallah. Then there are times when you go SUBHANALLAH! This video was one of those moments for me even back then, when I was a young girl. It just made me realise how insignificant I was. How little … in this mind-bogglingly endless universe.
And you know what’s even more beautiful? Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) says:
وَلَقَدْ زَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِمَصَابِيحَ
And We have certainly beautified the samaa-ad-dunya with stars
Samaa ad-dunya is roughly translated as ‘the sky of the world’ or ‘the lowest sky’. And as our deen teaches us, there are seven skies made by Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) one atop the other.
Now, what does that mean? To me, it meant that even after such amazing discoveries, where we see how overwhelmingly small we are compared to this universe, we are still just on the first sky because all we see are stars! Subhanallah! Just how tiny are we? This is a thought that got into my mind that day as a 10-year-old and still remains, so many years later. To me, this video helped me take one step towards humility, an attribute that is our constant pursuit as believers. Because as the hadith goes: “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.”* No one can claim to be humble because to make the very claim negates humility. What we can do as believers is to make constant efforts. Learning about the universe is one way I am able to make that effort.
It reminds of the historic comment Felix Baumgartner made before jumping from the edge of space:
These are moments when I realise just why Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) asks us, time and time again, to look around. Look at the sky, look at the mountains, look at the birds and soak in all the glory that you can see, and may be, just may be, you’ll be able to appreciate the Glory of The One whom no eye can see.
*Sahih Muslim 91 c In-book reference : Book 1, Hadith 173