Tuesday, July 07, 2009

This was probably always likely...

During one of those 'deep' discussions that can take place every now and then, someone mentioned to me that even if the Prophet Muhammad had been killed, Allah would still have created an Islam, still created a Muhammad somewhere and still revealed a Quran, for it is written. The first thing that I felt when that was said was that this sounded ludicrous. What happened the way it happened could not have happened any other way, is an old Stoic belief about how the world with its events is explained. If it could not have happened in any other way, then there is no free will and we may think we are making decisions but ultimately are only doing what we were destined to do. The issue of free will versus predetermination is an old philosophical one, and I have no intention of fully writing down my views on the topic yet, especially not today, but I was thinking about what this person had told me and realised something.

How many times have you come across an idea that you thought was so brilliant and new, only to discover that somebody has already thought of it and been recognised for it. Children draw diagrams of their inventions only to find out that a scientist somewhere has in fact already been studying it and released it. Today, whilst reading, I remembered a complex idea that I had been trying to explain to a friend about my view of life in the universe and the constancy of life even though the underlying atoms which make us up are being dismantled and reassembled in different forms. The reason I remembered this idea was because Heraclitus, the ancient pre-Socratic philosopher was mentioned. I had been aware of his saying before, that you never step into the same river twice, but never tied it in with his wider view that the only constancy is the pattern of change - exactly what I had been so desparately trying to word like a four year old child trying to explain what it is they want.

If there is an underlying process which is similar within all human beings, then, in similar situations and with similar external stimula, we would always or for the most case (Aristotles definition of necessary) act the same way or think something up in a similar fashion. Even those who go against the tide would act this way only because it has reached a certain level or speed in a certain direction, so if they had not, another would inevitably have done so. It is not predetermined that you would act on the impulse, only that you may experience it. So when the Prophet explained one of the Quranic passages about those who go to Paradise as "inheriting" it from the non-believers, he said that each human being has two places reserved for them, one in Paradise and one in Hell. Those who act on certain impulses may go one way or the other, so if it is not you, another may be strong or weak enough to succumb or succeed.

So if there was no Rome, another Rome would have come about, if there was no Moses or Elvis, another Moses or Elvis would have surfaced eventually. Almost as if whatever is 'possible' will, with enough time, be eventually fulfilled - I wonder if there is some shred of truth in that. When I read the Qur'an, there is never any mention of when something will happen, no mention of when the Qiyama (Day of Judgement) will take place, or of issues to do with Islamic eschatology, but the language remains clear, this will happen and when it does, you will not be able to delay or bring it forward by even a moment. Almost like the inevitability of death and my inability to predict where in the world it will happen, only that it will. These are very humbling thoughts.


KJ said...

The idea of where ideas come from have been baffling scientists for many many years. I have seen some seminars and a proposal is that there is a "space" where "ideas" are present and they just seep through some conscious into us, though of course this can never be verified scientifically or otherwise, though they tend to amuse themselves with how ideas actually come in the brain

Maysaloon said...

I would recommend you read some books from Ibn Sina with his thoughts on psychology. It is fascinating how he ties it all in with his cosmology. And I must say, it is still a very powerful account scientifically for a text that was written a millenia ago.