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April 17, 2014 | Jumada Al-Thani 16, 1435
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IslamiCity > Articles > Perspectives on Man, Science and Art
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It is not so much the physical attributes that differentiate Man from Ape. It is his inner world of cult, prohibition, taboos, beliefs and superstitions, aesthetic creativity and spiritual anxieties, and his relentless quest for meaning and purpose that make Ape a Man.

Perspectives on Man, Science and Art
5/8/2013 - Religious Social Science - Article Ref: IC1204-5077
Number of comments: 2
By: Dr Jafer Ajanur Palaki
IslamiCity* -

Man, by default and by nature, contemplates life and death and his own relevance and place in this vast and expanding universe. Are we here and now by chance or are we for a purpose? There is considerable overlap between science, religion and philosophy when we address these fundamental questions.

There is complete agreement between science and religion about our biological nature and our interconnectedness with the rest of the animal world. But there is a sharp divide and divergence of opinion between biology and philosophy, religion and materialism when the destiny of Man is the focus. Material philosophers resent and lament the non linear nature of Man or he appears curved to them and it was precisely expressed by Albert Camus when he stated that Man refuses to be what he is. 

Is it ever possible to explain human behavior in accordance with the theory of natural selection or, in other words, is he tailored according to Darwinian logic? There are so many dimensions of Man that simply defy any kind of Darwinian reductionism and the popular attempt of Biological determinism to explain man's nature.

Alija Ali Izet Begovic, the eminent Islamic thinker, has made a detailed analysis of the different perspectives of science and religion viz-a-viz Man. He argues that Darwin and Michel Angelo, when they defined Man, were focusing on two different realities or two different dimensions: the former the physical, the ephemeral and the immediate and the latter the spiritual and the eternal.

It is not so much the physical attributes that differentiate Man from Ape. It is his inner world of cult, prohibition, taboos, beliefs and superstitions, aesthetic creativity and spiritual anxieties, and his relentless quest for meaning and purpose that make Ape a Man.

Francis.S. Collins, the preeminent Geneticist who was the head of Human genome Project also understands the limitation of genetics and biology alone to satisfactorily explain the human behavior and he calls DNA the language of God and the ubiquitous Moral Law or agape, God's sign posts. Mankind has a universal longing for God, purpose and meaning.

The anthropological studies agree that the spiritual quest and longing for God is as old as history of Man itself. There is not even a single community or culture that lived without metaphysical moorings, without taboos, without a concept of the sacred and the divine and the recent studies suggest that a child, irrespective of his upbringing, becomes God-conscious as early as at the age of four.

Man shows an innate sense of right and wrong irrespective of culture, language and faith. Every child is born with equal moral capital, the tribals of far flung forests and highly refined communities of modern cities are gifted with the same sense of right and wrong, Islam doesn't suggest that Man is inherently altruistic, instead it says Man is born naturally innocent and ethically conscious, at the same time, he is morally vulnerable and prone to commit mistakes and at times to go utterly wrong and divine guidance is needed to maximize virtue prevailing. Why is it that a man in his natural state of innocence, innately abhors crimes and feels guilty and troubled by the pangs of conscience when he commits murder, rape or theft? There is no rational explanation for the feeling of guilt of Jean Val Jean and the attempts to explain away the sublime human qualities by the logic of evolutionary psychology give way to more questions than answers. It was not fear of punishment or retribution that consumed, disturbed and burned Jean Val Jean from within, it was his intense feeling of guilt and his quest for repentance and redemption that preoccupied him for the rest of his life. The human soul is the theatre of God and his conscience is His signature.

The longing for God, the quest for meaning, an innate sense of right and wrong, self awareness, death consciousness, freedom of choice and free will, the power of articulation, willingness to self sacrifice and the potentiality to commit suicide, aesthetic, ethical and spiritual concerns are some of qualities of Man that baffle materialists.

Throughout history, across cultures and continents, innumerable men and women have made supreme sacrifices and have deliberately embraced death and martyrdom to defend a cause that they held sacred. Mother Teresa's selfless service, Schindler's dedication and his subsequent death poor and penniless Omar Mukhtar's martyrdom and Che Guevara's revolutionary zeal are all absurd acts of stupidity if Man is a mere material being. We come across tales of numerous people who risk their own lives in their attempts to save fellow human beings from being swept away by waves or being caught by fire, and no one calls them insane or stupid, rather we stand before them in awe and reverence. We equally admire tragic heroes both in fiction and real life who stand up and sacrifice themselves to promote justice and other human values. Is chivalry and sacrifice a mundane quality or a virtue of another world, a reminder of our prologue in Heaven?


Europe is supposedly the most secular civilization in history, but its underpinnings are deeply religious. Human dignity, the most cherished ideal of western civilization sounds hollow and meaningless and the concept of equality of man becomes ontologically indefensible if we assume that we are here purely by chance and without any purpose. What does the dignity of Man mean? It means that Man is different and human life is sublime and sacred and hypothetically it is entirely justifiable and even advisable to risk the lives of an endangered species if it guarantees the safety and survival of a single human life. Is it an act of self congratulation or an implicit admission of our loftiness, otherness and difference from the rest of the animal world and a subconscious refutation of materialistic reductionism? Is it ever possible to bring Man and Animal to a common denominator?

The equality of Man is also a metaphysical concept and appears to be mere wishful thinking if we can't accept the fact that we are created quintessentially equal by one God. If people are judged by their talents, physical attributes, charm, grace and level of accomplishments, certainly they are unequal; a desiccated and wrinkled tribal woman is equal to a glamorous blonde and a well accomplished scientist is on a par with an illiterate herdsman only if we accept the presence of a divine spirit that radiates equally in all of them.
The human being is now endowed with the potentiality to erase the entire race, if not the entire life, from the face of the earth and here is the paradox- that the most evolved and adapted being, the final product of natural selection, the crown of evolution, is potentially capable of wiping out the entire species- Man writing the obituary of himself and the rest.. 
Longing for the Absolute and the innate sense of right and wrong are the striking features of Man. Who was the first Man? It was not when the Ape shed its tail and hairs, improved its facial features and started walking upright that the first Man was born; it was when he directed his gaze onto the firmament, started wondering about himself and his surroundings, learned his prayer and began his relentless search for God that Man was born. The cave Man was no less spiritual than post Modern Man and cave paintings and murals, music and dance were no less sublime than post modern Art. Hayy bn Eqzan as portrayed by Ibn Tufyl grows up on a solitary island, totally cut off from the society, but fully aware of his Maker without being indoctrinated by anybody, because Man is naturally inclined to be a believer.

God-consciousness is deeply imprinted and soft wired into the inner self of Man and he composes the best music in His praise, paints the best murals and frescoes in his desperate attempt to catch a glimpse of the Divine, makes performance Arts and writes millions of poems and hymns to express his devotion, but God continues to be imperceptible and incomprehensible no matter how much we strain and strive.

Art is the daughter of spirituality; Gothic arches of the cathedral, towering minarets of Masjids and awe inspiring sculptures of temples bear testimony to the inner connection between Art and Religion. The Bible is the single most influential Book that shaped Western literature and Art just like the Indian Epics are the corner stones of Indian Arts. There was not even a single Book in the Arabic language until the Qur'an was revealed and it produced numerous poets and philosophers in its wake. Einstein, one of the greatest minds in human history openly expressed his wonder and excitement on reading Dostoevsky and he stated that Dostoevsky gave him more than any scientist, more than Gauss .What is left in his novels if we remove all references to God, Religion, Morality, Ethics and the human predicament ?The origin of Man was a sharp, abrupt ,painful and radical break from animal existence and it is longing for God, prayer, taboos, moral and ethical concerns, art and spirituality that make Man what he is.

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