our Religious Facts on theories — ‘belief’ vs ‘believe’

Q: Salaam walikum,

Does believing in natural or universal forces harm (or not allowed)? For example, like we are surrounded by physical forces (i.e. gravity, etc) we are also surrounded by similar forces except universally (i.e. Universal Law of Change). And these forces are not believed in the spiritual sense. Is it still acceptable in Islam to believe in this sense?
Time: Monday February 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

A: وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته
I truly appreciate this question.

Often students are faced with the dilemma: to what extent must theories be accepted or rejected. Thus, your appreciated question would be answered from a slightly broader point of view.
Part of this answer surrounds what is called belief vs. that which a person believes in. To have ‘belief’’ and to ‘believe’ are not the same thing. Yes, they can be linked but this normally is the exception, not the rule. In general terms, one deals with faith and core values, and when these are disregarded faith is lost. The latter deals with knowledge one has attained and notes that this knowledge can change due to circumstances, events, research, etc. One is infallible, the other is fallible.

  • To work with theories that do not conflict with our core religious values is rewarding. The sin to study such theories comes when a person accepts such theories as absolutes over sacred principles and aspects of religion. An even greater sin would be to promote such claims to others as absolutes.
  • To delve in theories that conflict with an individual’s core values with the intent to expand human thinking and couple this new thinking with the intent to disprove falsities with full knowledge of what Islam has said through the Qur’an and Sunnah would not be wrong.
  • To work with these theories as part of one’s subject matter or work with them so as to better understand the Creator without viewing such theories as infallible would be religiously tolerated.
  • To assert that no other viewpoint/theory exists could lead to disbelief.
  • To give preference to any Universal Law perspective within any category over one’s authentic religious views is incorrect. Most of these theories are merely theories awaiting their disapproval. This is the essence of secular science.
  • In a situation wherein religion has authenticated a matter, religion would be given preference over a theory.
  • Many times such ‘laws’ are theories or mere philosophies that exist due to the ‘scientific’ community not knowing the greater depth as it relates to a given field. Thus, until the theory or philosophy has not been disproven, the scientific community uses it. (Thus, as said above Muslims too can use them so long as it does not conflict with religious ideals.)
  • If science is smart enough to call many of these ‘laws’ mere theories and philosophies, it would remain foolish for a Muslim to subjugate his/her thinking to them as absolute truths.

Allah Certainly Knows Best.

The following two paragraphs are quotations from a student paper as it relates to universal applications and theories: A general heuristic or rule of thumb that can be applied is the following: theories are just that: theories! They can be changed, altered, disproven at any point in time. This is actually the heart of science, to keep on proving and disproving in a series of thesis and anti-thesis to reach a conclusion that has no end, because it is short-lived only to have another theory be more prevalent. To accept a theory as a belief is not only incorrect religiously but also scientifically, as it is the scientific community that continues to disprove their own theories in search of something even better: the Absolute Truth.

Only Allah knows the Truth and only He knows the wisdom behind the various mechanisms that power our universe (‘our’ meaning in terms of limited human scope and reach). Where religion and theories conflict, having a scientific background will make one appreciate and understand their Creator even more and how little we understand our surroundings and have firm belief in what Islam teaches. Where religion and theories agree, do not be surprised and give credit to creation for that which the Creator created. Gravity has existed since time immeasurable and it is only recently (in human years) that we have discovered and accepted it. These and countless other examples should serve as reminders of the Greatness of Allah for His signs are everywhere, not only where humankind’s limited vision can see. To believe in gravity in and of itself is not a sin but Allah is not limited to the theories, rules, and laws that humans have been able to decipher with Allah’s full knowledge, awareness, and permission. To try to even quantify Allah’s greatness whether scientifically or religiously is doing a great injustice to the Almighty Creator. Believe but do not lose your belief!

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