Hajj Mustafa Ali al-Haydari
There has been a great deal in the news lately regarding genetic engineering. This has taken place in the form of a public debate on its moral and environmental implications. The more volatile argument is in regards to human cloning.
On one side you have the scientific community, who for the most part is supporting the genetic engineering of plants and animals, with lesser support for human cloning. Their overall argument is that genetically engineered food and animals can address the disparity between the have and the have not, by providing food products that resist draught, insects and disease, as well as yielding phenomenal production. When it comes to the question of human cloning, suddenly there is a breaking of ranks within the scientific community most of which is a result of adherence to religious based moral beliefs. There are however, many who not only back the development of human cloning but are pressing forward on all fronts, political and socially, setting the stage for their agenda.
The rhetoric has developed to a new level in that they have begun to equate the genetic engineering of the human being as a moral imperative. This is expressed in quasi-logical discussions, inferring that by not genetically engineering children, it is tantamount to child abuse. They pose emotionally charged circumstances as arguments, with questions such as, if you could prevent a fatal or crippling disease from affecting your child wouldnt you do what ever you could? Their argument is augmented with other quasi-logic, sighting that disease is treated after the fact anyway, then why not treat a disease before there is a disease to treat.
The proponents of human cloning go farther, suggesting that the human race could develop with greater speed and predictability by designing children. Not only would they be free from disease, they would have greater potential by increasing their intellect, strength and general disposition. This is all framed in an attitude that nature itself has not formulated mankind in the best way, and that nature requires this intervention. They argue that it has always been a give and take with nature anyway. What has made the biggest difference now, is access to greater insights in the mechanics of nature and applied technologies.
This point of view is intrinsically flawed for the following reasons:
If we were to do what the scientists are suggesting, improve intellect, body and mind, through genetic engineering, where and when will it come to an end? Each time you make these improvements the benchmark and measure for the definition of humanity will be moved farther. How smart is smart enough? How strong is strong enough? If you take their logic to its conclusion, we realize that there is no conclusion. Herein lies the point. Without conclusion there is no point to life. Life itself exists within defined parameters. These parameters are set up as wisdom based patterns observable throughout creation, containing specific meanings that at its core reflect the dual nature of the perceptible universe. Dark contrasts light, Man/Woman, up/down, negative/positive, birth/death sickness and health, and so on and so forth. The laws of opposites permeate all creation. They also drive our actions, thoughts and feelings, and provide the backdrop that makes and defines our lives.
We have all come from one source, and that one essential reality pervades all dual manifestations in existence. The physical world is based on duality, and everything in nature is created in pairs of opposites. All experiences, events, causal relationships and mental and intellectual appreciation are based on experiencing those opposites. We seek to understand, balance and reconcile the experienced opposite forces, driven as we are by the awareness of the essential unity within. This inner drive is unconscious and lies beyond our intellect and reason. As full appreciation of the natural law of opposites and complementarity sets in, we move beyond intellect and reason to our original unitive state, which is innate in all of us. Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
What the scientist are suggesting albeit with the best intentions is a misguided formula whose final equation is disruption in this patterning creating a mutant being resembling mankind but not wholly human. Its development departed from the wisdom pattern of the universe will leave it dangling at the mercy of every passing contemporary scientific theory on the nature of Man.
This will result to further compound cycles of human experience that will not only dilute and confuse the nature of humanity, and the understanding of mans purpose and place in the universe, but will cause untold pain and suffering.
The scientist want of improvement to the human experience is a reflection of the nature of man to abhor stasis.
Throughout the history of the human race there are countless examples of mankind rejecting stasis or static conditions of any form. This condition is an inbred dynamic, designed in the very essence of mankind, to communicate to the soul and the intellect, that perfection cannot be achieved in the outer world. No matter how great a city, civilization, or science, unless the inner project is addressed, the outer project will remain intrinsically empty and meaningless.
The scientific communitys notion that nature and mankind can be improved is a reflection of the true Islamic point of view. The fundamental difference between our view and theirs is that we have a revealed vision of the universe founded on verifiable proofs and experiences. We know that the sole purpose of the universe is to provide mankind with experience, reflecting and communicating back to Him, His divine purpose. The reality, Allah says in the Quran that He did not create man or jinn, but to worship Him.
We have an intended purpose. The realization of that purpose is clearly indicated in the observable pattern contained within the universe. It is through reflection of the outer world that we arrive at the realization of our true reality. As our reflections become deeper and subtler we come to know that we have come from a unified reality, and that we live by the power and design of that reality. We come to know and understand this reality by our ability to observe and reflect ourselves in the creation around us.
Reflect upon the wondrous skill with which both land and sea are made
and contemplate the Attributes of Allah outwardly and inwardly.
The greatest testimony to the limitless perfections of Allah
can be found deep within the self and on the distant horizon as well.
If you were to reflect on physical bodies and their marvelous forms
and how they are arranged with great precision, like a string of pearls;
And if you were to think about the mysteries of the tongue and speech with it,
and how it articulates and conveys what you conceal in your breast;
And if you were to think about the secrets of all the limbs
and how easily they are subject and in thrall to the heart's command;
And if you were to reflect on how the hearts are moved to obey Allah
and how at other times they creep in darkness towards disobedience;
From the Diwan of the Great Arif and Master of the way
.. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib
By this process of reflection we come to know and understand the laws and patterns of the universe. These patterns repeat themselves, layer upon layer, containing more and more subtle meaning. We are guided by witnessing the universe as a book, our book, to be read and by knowing the story we come to know who and what we are, where we are, and why we are what we are. Interfere or disrupt this pattern, then access to the whole story becomes impaired and possibly inaccessible.
The Muslim scientist cannot separate himself from what he observes.
The universe is designed to be perceived and read by the human being. Through the process of reading the Universe we arrive at the door to the author, and Master of the universe.
Its purpose is to reveal not only the nature and purpose of the human being, but of the universe itself. Any distortion or change to the patterning of the way the universe unfolds will only lead to the distortion of its purpose and potential of the human experience.
What the scientist fails to see is that the secret of the world and all its perceived faults and shortcomings provide the essential contrast in order to inspire or trigger the soul in seeking of true perfection.
As Muslims we must answer this perverse movement with a statement of our unique point of view. Ours is not born out of trail and error or quasi-scientific and partial observations of the universe. Ours is guided and inspired by the revelations of the reality that came through to the greatest scientist of all time the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his family.
Understand, for you are a copy of existence for Allah,
so that nothing of existence is lacking in you.
The Throne and the Footstool, are they not in you?
The higher world and also the lower world?
The Cosmos is but the man on a big scale.
And you you are the Cosmos in miniature.
And the Venerable Master, the Wali al-Mursi, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
'Oh you who go astray in the understanding
of your own secret,
Look you will find in yourself the whole of existence.
You are the infinite, seen as the Way
and seen as the Truth,
Oh synthesis of the Divine Secret in its Totality.'
Sayyid Ibn al-Banna, may Allah be pleased with him
The universe is designed in a dual nature. One side urges the other, and works in harmony with the other. Without day there would be no night. Without darkness, there is no light. Without ignorance there would be no appreciation for enlightenment. The world presents these dichotomies in order to mature the human being and send him seeking true perfection. That perfection can only be found in the transcending of duality. Duality is the path to oneness. The scientists of today are expressing a true and inner echo of this reality. Their want of improvement of the human situation is a proof of the design we are talking about. But because they are not guided, with a holistic view of the universe this expression becomes perverted. They will never be satisfied in answering their quest for perfection, by seeking it in the manipulation of existing laws in creation. They will only find it by observing and reflecting on the laws and patterns of creation and applying the meaning of what they witness to themselves.
May the-Peace and the blessings of Allah be upon the prophet Muhammad and his family, the best examples of humankind, the ease of access to the-Light, the doors to every-Goodness, the present Ark of salvation, the mirrors of meanings and the meeting place of the two seas. May we be welcomed at their table and feast in the best foods in this life and in the next.
Hajj Mustafa Ali al-Haydari
Houston, Texas 2001