Smallpox and God(67 Posts)
One of my classes of ESOL students can't understand that I'm an atheist so they brought in a friend with good English to try co convert me or at least educate me.
One question I asked was that, if Allah made everything in the world for a reason, was it a good or a bad thing that smallpox has been eradicated.
From my point of view it is a triumph of science and undoubtedly a good thing.
I wondered what other people think. I don't think I'm going to change my mind, but I think it is an interesting point.
So, is the eradication of smallpox a good or a bad thing?
Surely if Allah made the smallpox he also gave man the ability to get rid of it as some kind of a lesson <? baffled>
I am atheist too and can't understand the logic of god directing everything but not man's evolution and the way of dealing with its environment.
It is a good thing for now. There is probably something we missed and will bite us in the ass later though, as with every progress but we will be able to deal with it when the time arise.
<that is purely a scientific opinion though not what you are after>
tell them to look up the effects and history of smallpox.
Is this thread just targeted at Muslims?
were you the one arguing that treating smallpox is thwarting the will of God or was it the person you were speaking to saying that? it would show a very deep ignorance of the Islamic teachings and history of medical and scientific enquiry if it was the person you were speaking to arguing that.
as muslims we are supposed to have a firm belief that there is a cure for every disease on earth because of the narrations of the prophet muhammad (pbuh) on disease and sickness.
"There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment." (Bukhari)
"Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease... old age." (Abu Dawud)
"Allah has sent down both the disease and the cure, and He has appointed a cure for every disease, so treat yourselves medically." (Dawud)
"The One who sent down the disease sent down the remedy." (Muwatta)
muhammad (pbuh) let it be known amongst people that it was almost an obligation to seek treatments and cures for sickness. i say this because he (pbuh) was asked whether precautionary measures and protective medicines would ward off what God had destined and he replied...
"All of these measures themselves, are part of destiny. So be treated and God will cure whomever He wills to cure" (Al Asqalani, Fath Al Bari, Bukhari)
on one occasion when Umar ibn al Khattab - the 2nd leader of the Muslims - decided not to enter a city that had reports of plague coming from it, Khalid Ibn Al Walid another famous companion challenged his decision saying 'Are you running away from a fate that God has already determined?' thinking it was impious to be seen to be avoiding that city. Al Khattab answered him "Yes I am running away from a fate that God has determined, to a fate that God has also determined"
historically the drive in the Islamic world for medical and scientific knowledge was spurred by the hadiths quoted above and others on seeking knowledge being akin to faith...
i would have written more OP but just saying i agree with you,
"From my point of view it is a triumph of science and undoubtedly a good thing."
but that to me, it is also the fulfillment of the promise that 'for every disease there is a cure so seek the cure'. it is upon humans to use their intellect to find cures and treatments - the only thing in Islam that raises us above animal is our intellect we do not believe man is created in the image of God.
Thank you once again for your clear explanations of Islam. I wasn't arguing it, just asking for the Islamic view.
I'm assuming from your post that vaccination is, in Islam, the same as treating and curing that illness. Is that right?
Not just for Muslims, it just happened to be a Muslim person I was talking to.
crescentmoon i so enjoy reading your informed posts!
Thanks sashh yes vaccinations are about the preservation of health of an individual and the rest of the community. I'm pretty pro modern medicine and according to many scholars rules on 'impurities' such as substances containing animal elements which normally are avoided are relaxed when it comes to medicines.
One example is the meningitis vaccine that must be taken for the annual Hajj - you can't get a hajj visa without proof you've taken the vaccine. It is porcine based but its seen as the 'lesser evil' as there's no alternative and the harm of 'not' taking it far outweighs anything else.
As for the information I posted laptop and sashh its from one of my favourite books 'the fiqh of medicine' which i always recommend to people for its historical as well as information on socio-medical legal positions.
Variolation or the inoculation against Smallpox using live material, was actually introduced to the UK via Turkey and Persia. (So the Islamic world.)
In fact the Islamic world preserved and advanced a lot of Scientific and Medical knowledge through Western Europe's Dark and Middle Ages.
mummytime that's very interesting. I just looked up the history of the smallpox vaccine online on en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox_vaccine#section_1 and here www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/smallpox/sp_variolation.html and both say innoculation was brought to the UK and by that to the rest of europe in the 18th by
"lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the British ambassador, learned about variolation in Constantinople. In 1721, at the urging of Montagu and the Princess of Wales, several prisoners and abandoned children were inoculated by having smallpox inserted under the skin. Several months later, the children and prisoners were deliberately exposed to smallpox. When none contracted the disease, the procedure was deemed safe and members of the royal family were inoculated. The procedure then became fashionable in Europe."
Thanks sashh and mummy I learnt something new through this thread.
"Yes I am running away from a fate that God has determined, to a fate that God has also determined"
This quote epitomises religious texts in general. It effectively says that whatever someone does, they can explain that it's what their god had planned for them. Pretty meaningless really.
In terms of the vaccine, it along with every other vaccine we have developed is a testament to the incredible work which our scientists do every day. To suggest that god expects us to find these cures is an insult to science.
I build a trap-filled maze. There is one safe way out but it's very difficult to fond and every wrong turn will either kill you outright or at least cripple you.
I drop a load of people in the middle of the maze. Eventually someone makes it out alive.
As I have effectively provided them the "cure" (a safe way out) am I morally justified in making the "disease" in the first place?
That should, of course, be "find".
I may have to get that book. Teaching IT at the moment but if/when I get back to health and social care it will be useful for the debate I do.
I think I've said it on here before but basically I tell students they are nurses on a ward with an elderly man. He does not speak English, you do not speak his language.
His son has told you that he is a Muslim and very devout so he does not want to take any opiates
It is the middle of the night, the old man is in pain. You have opiate painkillers. They have been prescribed to him what do you do?
And regardless of what you do what impact will that have on you as a person?
hello pedro, i knew we would run into each other sometimes soon.
quickly on your last point,
"In terms of the vaccine, it along with every other vaccine we have developed is a testament to the incredible work which our scientists do every day. To suggest that god expects us to find these cures is an insult to science."
does it detract from the great work on vaccines by scientists that it was Muslims who brought innoculation/variolation/vaccination to the western world? in 1706 in the americas a north african muslim slave Onesimus described the procedure to his master Cotton Mather who after learning that other slaves had also been variolated read about the methods in Turkey and it was used to deal with a smallpox outbreak in Boston in 1721. (got it from here with further references).
as i learnt from mummytimes point, the concept of vaccination/ variolation in Europe came to the UK from the Muslim world where "variolation was also practiced throughout the latter half of the 17th century by physicians in Turkey, Persia, and Africa. In 1714 and 1716, two reports of the Ottoman Empire Turkish method of inoculation were made to the Royal Society in England, by Emmanuel Timoni, a doctor affiliated with the British Embassy in Constantinople, and Giacomo Pylarini. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the British ambassador to Ottoman Constantinople, is widely credited with introducing the process to Great Britain in 1721. Source material tells us on Montagu; "When Lady Mary was in the Ottoman Empire, she discovered the local practice of inoculation against smallpox called variolation." The procedure had been performed on her son and daughter, aged five and four, respectively. They both recovered quickly."
it was also practised by Muslim africans in Sudan and spread more widely through africa thought because of trade and pilgrim routes. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox_variolation).
in the Muslim world, the push for scientific information, on medicine, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, biology etc came directly from the religious teachings of Islam. Jim Al Khalili, the 2013 President of the British Humanist Association did a well researched documentary series on the link between the rapid rise and period of scientific enquiry in the Muslim world which began within 100 years after the rise of Islam and lasted 600 years.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfKOlyE6ld8 (Science and Islam Part 1)
in the western world, the age of scientific enquiry came 1600 years after the rise of Christianity - the 'Age of Reason' of the 17th century. so it is different histories that determine our worldviews on religion and science.
as for 'whatever someone does is already planned by God'
lets take out God and religious texts, forget about them, and talk science...
if you consider the activity of the human brain, there is no scientific proof of a soul or a non physical self capable of making choices.
there are physical laws which the electrical and chemical events in the brain obey. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Crick the molecular biologist and militant atheist Francis Crick said... ''You' your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules". Patrick Haggard the British brain scientist says 'As a neuroscientist you've got to be a determinist. Under identical circumstances you couldn't have done otherwise. There is no 'I' which can say "I want to do otherwise".
neither Crick or Haggard are oddballs,both come firmly within the conservative science camp. the majority of scientists in the field actually would deny free will not because of the religious texts which say that whatever someone does it is already known and 'with' the Creator God, but that everything about the molecular and physical activities of the brain are in principle predictable. you cannot do or choose something outside of the physics and chemistry of your brain.
but then pedro, can a criminal, a rapist or a murderer, stand in a court of law and use this argument of determinism as a defence against their actions? could they argue purely on scientific grounds that there is no free will and that their crimes were predetermined and outside of their control because their actions came only from neurological occurences.
instead of looking for signs of mental impairment as with the case last year with Anders Breivik in Norway, it would be very easy to assume that actually, no human being has any choice in their actions and that everything is already determined by genes and the connections in the brain. why then should we punish wrongdoing?
i can no more use 'it was my brain not me' in the court of law than in the court of God. this is how i understand God's will vs God's will.
dear sashh i would send it for you as a gift, pm me your address. its definitely NOT a book for trying to convert someone, its technical and about historical medical ethics in Islam on abortion, euthanasia, family planning, compensation in the case of a medical malpractise etc. i found it interesting knowing that such issues were discussed with great seriousness hundreds of years ago by scholars of law, not scholars of medicine, and it changed my views and positions on different issues. asfor that dilemma you put to your students
"It is the middle of the night, the old man is in pain. You have opiate painkillers. They have been prescribed to him what do you do?
And regardless of what you do what impact will that have on you as a person? "
i would really find it very hard to know what to do. the only part of the "Fiqh of Medicine" i could find online was chapter 5, "on the liability of medical practioners" found here...
im off now until probably tomorrow so please excuse me if i dont reply until then.
Crescentmoon, I don't really understand your first point. It doesn't matter what religion the scientist were or where they brought the science from. It's still an incredible achievement for mankind which shouldn't be washed down with the suggestion of divine intervention.
And on your second point, science doesn't suggest that individuals' actions are predetermined. There are many ways that particles interact and interfere with each other to change their course (so to speak).
"I build a trap-filled maze. There is one safe way out but it's very difficult to fond and every wrong turn will either kill you outright or at least cripple you."
I think your analogy is flawed. You are suggesting that the only way we can deal with disease is through fatal trial and error (taking a wrong turn and dying or getting seriously injured) and that our only mechanism for dealing with disease is to find a cure.
Yes there are diseases however, God has provided us with different tools to deal with it not just one. Firstly, we are not just sitting ducks unable to help ourselves. We have intellect. We can observe the world around us and learn what is likely to be harmful to us and cause us to be sick and die. Therefore we can avoid those things. It is not inevitable that I will catch potentially fatal diseases. I can take precautions to avoid them. In fact it is very easy to avoid catching many diseases such as STDs, food-borne diseases and sanitation related diseases. We are also able to observe what makes a difference to the illness so are able to learn how to treat the symptoms of disease and how to improve our chances of not dying.
Secondly we have language so we can pass the knowledge that we have gained on to others so that they may benefit and be able to prevent themselves catching diseases, transmitting them or even so that they know how to treat the disease. People have been using herbal/plant remedies to treat diseases for thousands of years. Researchers found that people in different parts of the world tended to use the same or similar plants for the same purposes. Some may be off the mark completely but others do work, which is why alot of scientific research is now going in to investigating herbal medicines and testing medicinal benefits of chemicals found in lots of plants.
Thirdly and most importantly our bodies have natural defence mechanisms to protect us from disease and are equipped with the means to cure ourselves if we do catch a disease. Im talking about our immune system of course. Think about it. You are exposed to millions possibly billions or even more microorganisms that have the potential to make us sick (pathogens) every single day but how often do you get sick? For most people this is not very often. Of those times that you do get sick how often do you actually need to get treatment? The diseases that the majority of us are afflicted with the most often (influenza, colds etc) we are most of the time able to recover from them without any medical intervention. We are capable of producing something like 10 billion different types of antibodies leading scientists to state that our bodies are naturally equipped to fight virtually any microbe that exists. Also once we get a disease and are able cure us of the disease we become immune to it for life. That is a serious weapon in our arsenal of getting out of the maze. Vaccinations against infectious disease utilise this natural innate defence mechanism possesed by all human beings to protect us from diseases. Even babies who have the most vulnerable immune systems can be protected from within by their mothers breastmilk which we know produces antibodies.
I hope this makes sense (my brain is a bit sleepy so I may be rambling at points).
Take polio (or malaria, or smallpox, or whooping cough). The human race as a whole didn't have the capabilities to develop an effective anti-polio vaccine until the 20th century. Until that point, millions of people throughout the preceding millennia had been disabled or even killed by poliomyelitis and there was little if anything we could do about it.
The people disabled and killed by polio before we had a vaccine are the people who are injured or killed stumbling around the maze in my analogy.
If I follow you correctly, you are stating that a god created both the polio virus, and the intellectual capability in humans to eventually produce defences against that virus. If so, does that absolve that god from any moral responsibility towards the huge numbers of people who were crippled before the vaccine was able to be developed?
That my maze has a safe exit and it's their fault if they can't find it, does that absolve me of any moral responsibility towards those people who were injured or killed because they didn't know the way out?
Snorbs your problem is an interesting one because of the assumptions it builds in about God.
Firstly, it is anthropocentric - it puts humans at the centre of the maze - and conceives of the problem of God's purposes as concerning humans over and above all other life forms.
Secondly, it assumes a strong version of divine determinism, in which the possibilities for human agency are decided in advance by God.
I cannot speak for Islamic conceptions of God, but neither of those assumptions accords with the Christian conception of God.
In the first place, Christians hold that while humans are made in the image of God, his entire creation is equally dear to him, and that his purposes encompass his whole creation, not just the human part it. The Ebola virus is equally a part of creation, equally dear to God, and equally part if his purpose. We cannot wholly know what his purposes are -- we have glimmers of them -- and so we cannot know what role pathogens play. What we can say is that the creation as a whole is an extraordinarily various outpouring of his love.
Secondly, and following on from that, free will is central to Christian ideas about the creation. Each life form has its own free will -- in the most minimal sense, this would be that it is free to be the thing that it is. The Ebola virus and human beings equally have free will. For God to protect humans from the Ebola virus would mean taking away the free will of the virus.
Rather than a one-exit trap, a rather different image (and one that I think would more accurately reflect Christian conceptions of God) would be an entangled bank, clothed with plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling about in the damp earth ... all these forms complexly dependent on one another, including on each others' deaths, and all striving to be what they are to the fullest extent.
I put humans at the centre of the maze because, as far as I am aware, no other species uses intellect to adapt its environment to anywhere near the extent that humans do. Eg humans develop vaccines, rats don't.
Whether an antropocentric view of creation accords with your particular version of Christianity or not is interesting. My Christian schooling told me that humans were the Abrahamic God's special creation and that we had dominion over every other animal. I think there was more than one Bible verse that backed that up. And it wasn't like the Abrahamic God asked a bunch of hamsters to built the Ark, was it?
Of course, you are entirely free to believe what you want and still call yourself a Christian. It's no skin off my nose. But do bear in mind that many other Christians may not agree with you so you may want to be a bit cautious about making sweeping statements concerning what Christians as a whole do and do not believe.
I'm not sure where divine determinism comes in. I was talking ethics. Specifically, I was talking of the morality of the stated Islamic position that the Abrahamic God created both disease and remedy and that it's up to us to find it.
Creating a world and its inhabitants and then torturing them with terrible diseases is, in my opinion, morally reprehensible. I was trying to come up with an analogy to explore if also providing a (potentially) hard-to-find remedy makes that moral position any better. I'm not sure it does.
The Ebola virus and human beings equally have free will. For God to protect humans from the Ebola virus would mean taking away the free will of the virus.
So you are saying that a central tenet of Christian belief leads to the inescapable conclusion that viruses have free will equal to our own. How do they exercise that free will? If viruses are equally as cherished a part of Creation as us, does that mean that there will be Ebola in Heaven?
We cannot wholly know what his purposes are -- we have glimmers of them -- and so we cannot know what role pathogens play. What we can say is that the creation as a whole is an extraordinarily various outpouring of his love.
Sorry, but that's bizarre. "He created us and the many things that kill us in horrible ways. We don't know why but we do know He did it with love!" Huh?
<briefly, because I have to go to work> I know that Christians have different views -- I should probably have said 'one possible Christian position is...'. You are raising what is known in theology as 'the problem of evil', and I was giving one possible answer to that problem.
It is true that there are Bible verses that speak of man as the dearest of God's creations, and having dominion over the animals. Theologians, however, generally don't have a simplistic and literal view of the Bible.
As to whether there will be viruses in heaven, I have no idea. But it's not something that especially troubles me because I'm not very given to thinking about heaven in that way at all.
Is it not possible that he loves viruses? After all, they are extraordinary things.
With respect, your stated answer to this problem of evil seems to essentially boil down to "I have no idea whatsoever why god does what he does. But I'm sure there must be a good reason."
I would find that intellectually unsatisfying. How about you?
I don't find it intellectually unsatisfying. It would be more intellectually unsatisfying to adopt one of the other responses to this problem (it's for our own good, which is bollocks; it's what we deserve, which is even more bollocks; and it's because the world isn't the way God planned it, but is fallen, which is better but still not quite as satisfying, for me, as 'I really don't know').
'I don't know' seems to me intellectually honest -- and not that dissimilar to the position atheists adopt.
"I don't know why disease exists" is indeed intellectually honest.
"I don't know why God created disease but I'm sure it's because He loves us" is verging on the non sequitur.
It's not a non-sequitur, although it would be a facile thing to say. But I didn't say it.
im just at work now so just posting a link about the neuroscientist's position on determinism pedro, i quoted yday and gave links to who they were but heres an article where you can read about it yourself...
and this is an interesting forum - the Skeptics Guide to the Universe - debating if determinism is the only logical course for atheists....
i used to be able to spend all day on these threads, interesting posts as always niminy, as for disease and sickness...
if i give my child medicine am i trying to undermine the will of God? or sticking two fingers up at God? no because it is God's will to 'take the medicine'.
are scientists who research diseases and try ot find strategies to cure/stop the spread are they working against the will of God? no because it is considered amongst the highest work and with the blessing of God.
if i try to feed a poor person is it trying to thwart the will of God? subversive? no because God wants that human beings take care of each other and feed the poor.
if i try and help an oppressed person? a refugee? am i thwarting God's will? no because the Quran says God loves those who stand firm for justice of the oppressed, and those who help those who leave their homes because of oppression.
we are at a time and place in human history where we can actually eradicate world hunger, and have the capacity to eradicate disease but its humanity that hasnt the will for it.
"Some may be off the mark completely but others do work, which is why alot of scientific research is now going in to investigating herbal medicines and testing medicinal benefits of chemicals found in lots of plants."
Science has ALWAYS tested the benefits of chemicals in plants, the stuff that works becomes "medicine". All medicines come from nature originally, they have to, that's all we have. Some are now manufactured artificially, but it's not like there's some kind of recent drive to try out herbal remedies.
"we are at a time and place in human history where we can actually eradicate world hunger, and have the capacity to eradicate disease but its humanity that hasnt the will for it."
I disagree. Perhaps you can explain how this would be achieved?
And in fact, many of the issues we have with eradicating disease, especially in third world countries is religion. Case in point, anti retro viral drugs for AIDS in Africa were touted by Catholics in power as a method for western medicine to sterilise Africans and were convinced to reject them. It's not humanity that doesn't have the will, it's organised religions.
Crescentmoon determinism is currently fashionable in some scientific circles, and I find it an interesting coincidence that we are currently seeing a combination of materialist determinism (everything I do is determined by a combination of genes/chemical reactions in my brain) and solipsism (there is no authority outside the self) as fashionable ideas. Very interesting!
It's interesting, Pedro that you picked up on disease (and then concentrated on HIV) rather than hunger. Perhaps this might be because so many of the organisations campaigning on food equality have religious affiliations. Your account of the Catholic position on ant-retrovirals sounds like a parody to me. But in any case, I would have thought the major factor in the spread of HIV is people (principally men) refusing to practicse safe sex. But, there, we are back to (human) free will again!
Niminy, I picked disease over hunger purely because I think it's grossly arrogant to suggest that there's a method by which we could cure world hunger and was asking the question of how.
But in the meantime here's a quote:
"Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Mozambique, on Wednesday said that two European countries are manufacturing condoms that deliberately have been tainted with HIV as part of a plan to 'colonize the continent'"
"because I think it's grossly arrogant to suggest that there's a method by which we could cure world hunger and was asking the question of how."
grossly arrogant? to say we could do it but we dont want to do it?
lets talk stats. out of a global population of 7billion people 20% of the worlds population is overweight - 1.4billion here
whilst 925 million people were undernourished around the world, thats roughly 13%.
so it is not that the earth cannot give abundantly, or that there isnt enough food to go around. theres enough food on this planet that 500 million can even gorge themselves to obesity. its just not a priority - the resources are there, the ingenuity, just not the will.
forget talking about africa how many food banks have opened up across the UK alone in the last 12 months? serving upto 200 thousand people? in britain, here, your eye doesnt need to look far to find hunger and malnourishment.
and yet, every year the fishing industry throws out 1 million tonnes of good quality fish back into the sea because they cant sell it due to quotas. so theres people in the UK eating bad quality food and high quality fish is taken out of the sea but because its not the right kind gets thrown back in, dead, not eaten, not alive to swim away, willfully. wastefully. thats human priorities - its just not scandalous or shocking enough.
(a video by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on trawler discards)
as for disease, if all the money spent on weapons research, space technology, football clubs, zany architectural projects was concentrated on finding the cure to cancer, AIDS, TB, how quickly would we find it? we have the human capital, the resources, but from free will humanity doesnt pursue the eradication of disease.
"of the 1,556 new drugs approved between 1975 and 2004, only 21 (1.3%) were specifically developed for tropical diseases and tuberculosis, even though these diseases account for 11.4% of the global disease burden. " here
even people with diseases have different outcomes depending on what access to medicine they get? how torturous is that? the treatment is there and known, the cure is there. poor people with HIV/ AIDS die within months or a few years, people with HIV in the West can live 20/30 years. so preserving patents and profits more important than preserving life. thats human will and free choice there. it hurts, but thats it.
again dont look far. think of the difference in outcome for a poor sick person in America who needs healthcare and a poor sick person in the UK? is that God's will or is that a difference in priorities amongst the people, the exercising of free will, whether it damns you or kills you or improves you.
"nd in fact, many of the issues we have with eradicating disease, especially in third world countries is religion. Case in point, anti retro viral drugs for AIDS in Africa were touted by Catholics in power as a method for western medicine to sterilise Africans and were convinced to reject them. It's not humanity that doesn't have the will, it's organised religions."
even after the MMR lancet paper was retracted and the author was shown to have falsified his evidence there are still people in 2013 in the UK who fear their children being given the triple jab in case it causes their children to have autism. and now theres a rise in measles cases in the uk.
i dont know about catholics. but i know, myself, i wouldnt trust vaccines that white anglo saxon men havent tried on themselves, those are the gold standard ones.
Glaxosmithkline fined over vaccine trials; 14 babies reported dead Argentina
then authorities wondered why those same people didnt trust the polio vaccine programmes in 2003, saying it was superstition when many children had died or were left disabled 7 years beforehand because of experimental vaccines. Pfizer only admitted guilt and paid compensation in 2011. how does the MMR controversy compare to that?
Apologies for taking ages to come back to the thread. I was held up from responding by real life.
Creating a world and its inhabitants and then torturing them with terrible diseases is, in my opinion, morally reprehensible.
Your assertions remind me of a particular passage in the Quran regarding the conversation between God and the angels before the creation of human beings. I hope you dont mind if I go in to a bit of Islamic theology with you.
And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed, I will make upon the earth a vicegerent." They said, "Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You? Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." Holy Quran: Chapter 2; verse 30
The same questions you are asking about polio the angels asked God that about us according to the Quran. Isnt it morally reprehensible to create a being that is capable of tremendous cruelty, malice and evil? From their perspective that is all that we were; corrupt, violent and disobedient creatures as opposed to themselves who were good, perfect and obedient to God. It reminds me of William Blakes poem The Tiger where the tiger is portrayed as evil and dreadful in comparison to the lamb. But is the Tiger inherently evil? Are we human beings inherently evil? Well God at least doesnt think so as you see when the verses continue.
And He taught Adam the names - all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, "Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful." They said, "Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise." He said, "O Adam, inform them of their names." And when he had informed them of their names, He said, "Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed." Holy Quran: Chapter 2; verse 31-33
God demonstrates to the angels that this being is an intellectual being that is capable of thinking and acquiring knowledge. In this way he is superior to the angels who are programmed to have a limited amount of knowledge which is necessary for them and are unable to think for themselves. Why did human beings need intellect and the ability to acquire knowledge? Because in the earlier passage God makes it clear that ultimately this being was designed to live on earth and to be Gods vicergent on Earth. For those who are unfamiliar with what vicergent means (Im not being patronising I was unfamiliar with the exact meaning of the word) it is A person exercising delegated power on behalf of a sovereign or ruler. So God, according to the Quran, created mankind with the intention of them being a representative of His on Earth to exercise His will (in the same way that a deputy would exercise the will of the ruler) and in order for them to fulfil that role they had to have the ability to reason and think.
This is where the Quran differs from the Bible. Islam rejects the Christian concept of original sin and the notion that all humans are born sinners due to the actions of Adam. God says in the Quran:
And no bearer of burdens shall bear anothers burden. (Quran 35:18)
Human beings were not sent to earth as a punishment for Adams actions and were not made to carry the burden of his sin. It was the intent of God in the first place that Adam and his descendants would live on Earth for a period of time. God tested Adam so that he could learn and gain experience. By eating from the tree and disobeying the orders of God he showed that he was capable of making a decision on his own even if it was the wrong one. He then learnt that whenever he commits a mistake (which he and his descendants were bound to do because they have free will) the approptiate response is to seek the forgiveness of God. In this way God prepared Adam for his role on earth as a caretaker and a moral being.
This is all theological background to the Islamic response to the problem of suffering but the part that is applicable to your statement and made me think of you is where it says know what you reveal and what you concealed. What is revealed in the earlier passages (in the question of the angels) is the human beings capability to do harm but what is concealed is their ability to do good. Human beings are also capable of using their intellect and free will to do a tremendous amount of good: i.e. to be kind, generous, loving, selfless and thoughtful. There were two sides of humanity and you just focus on one you are doing an injustice to the greater proportion of humanity who are good.
Your question focuses on one negative aspect of life which is that we can catch diseases which cause us pain or can kill us and you blame that on God. However that is not the whole story. We also experience and see beauty, health, prosperity, life, birth, wisdom, intelligence, growth and progress. Dont you also attribute these blessings to God? You want to attribute only the negative aspects of life to God and ignore all the positive aspects and that is unjust. Yes we experience suffering in the world but is that the norm or is it the exception. I would say it is the exception. We get sick sometimes but most of the time we are healthy. There are famines but most of the time people have enough to eat. There are natural disasters occassionally but most of the time there are no earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes etc. Those times where things do not go right God is not doing nothing about it. He has created human beings to act as Gods representatives and it is at these times where we intervene to end suffering that we are acting out His Will.
Allah will say on the Day of Judgment, O son of Adam, I was sick and you did not visit Me. He will say, O my Lord, how could I visit You, when you are the Lord of the Worlds. Allah will say, Did you not know that My servant so-and-so was sick and you did not visit him? Did you not know that if you had visited him, you would have found Me there? Allah will say, O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not. He shall say, O my Lord, how could I feed you and you are the Lord of the Worlds? And Allah will say, Did you not know that My servant so-and-so was in need of food and you did not feed him? Did you not know that if you had fed him, you would have found that to have been for Me? O son of Adam, I asked you for water and you did not give Me to drink. The man shall say, O my Lord, how could I give You water, when You are the Lord of the Worlds? Allah will say, My servant so-and-so asked you for water and you did not give him to drink water. Did you not know that if you had given him to drink, you would have found that to have been for Me. (Hadith Qudsi. Muslim, Hadith no. 4661)
The above hadith reinforces that it is not Gods intent for us to accept suffering or to allow it to continue but that we are expected to do something about it. I hope that makes sense. We are the divine intervention because we have been given the capability through our reason to solve many of the problems we face on Earth.
Your question focuses on one negative aspect of life which is that we can catch diseases which cause us pain or can kill us and you blame that on God.
Not quite. Crescentmoon posted a number of quotes from the Qur'an that claimed that the Islamic Allah created diseases and their cures. Niminypiminy claimed that the Christian God created diseases. I am taking those claims and exploring the morality and character of a god who would do such things.
Personally I believe that infectious agents such as smallpox and polio are an inevitable consequence of how life started and evolved on Earth. No divine guidance or intervention required, no ethical conundrums resulting.
You seem to be repeating Crescentmoon's position that, as Allah created both the disease and either the cure and/or our intellect to allow us to find the cure, the responsibility for discovering and utilising that cure is ours. Allah is absolved from condemnation for actually creating the disease in the first place. That millions have died between us being created and us having the science to cure the disease seems to be our fault.
To go back to my analogy, I create the deathmaze and dump people in it, but because I made sure there is a safe way out I am absolved from condemnation for putting in the rotating knives. That lots of people get killed between the time I first put them in the maze and the time the safe way out is found and communicated back is their fault.
I'm not sure your analogy works. A trap is not the same as an ecosystem.
The number of posts in this thread picking holes in what is a simple analogy because the analogy is not an exact representation of the entirety of creation,
The number of posts that are responding to the central point of the analogy, ie to explore the morality of a creator-deity who creates disease.
So you think any creator deity should only create a system in which people live forever?
Dione you took the words right out of my mouth.
So you think it's ethical for a creator-deity to cripple people with polio or kill them off with necrotizing fasciitis?
I have no idea Snorbs. My understanding of Ethics for Creator Gods is non-existent. But maybe it's totally ethical. Maybe to mess with the virus or bacteria will land a creator deity in hot water with the Divine Ethics Commitee.
Why would god create diseases and immune systems to fight them off? The posters who defend the idea of god creating diseases to kill us off out of kindness, do you ever take antibiotics or have vaccinations? Why?
Il be on in abit to answer you snorbs but just to say i quoted the narrations of Muhammad (pbuh) on seeking cures and treatments for disease, i didnt quote the quran. (I gave the references so other people could look them up.)
I would say it was a good thing it was eradicated.
As a Christian I would say that when God made the world it was good, all good, so if there were viruses they would be good too! But that the world is a fallen place, no longer perfect. So when someone dies of a virus, it is not that God wills them to die, and it is not good, it is just because the world is no longer perfect. God has chosen to allow these things in the world. I think heaven is perfect so if there were to be viruses in heaven they would be kindly ones! But I don't think they will be there! I know it is not a satisfying answer for many, possibly not even for other Christians! I guess the premise of the question at the start sashh is that if God created small pox was it good that it was eradicated? So I would say it was a good thing it was eradicated.
You ask about the morality of God snorbs because you assume the intentions to be similar to humans.
as humans we tend to wish ill upon those who hurt us and for them to struggle and we wish ease for our loved ones.
When we want to reward others we give gifts and money and when we want to punish/ abase we take away. This association of being 'honoured' or 'loved' by having something - health/wealth - or being 'dishonoured/abased' by NOT having something - health/wealth - is a human assumption.
And so we ascribe these intentions to God. How can it be anything but an an abasement to be poor? how can it be anything but an abasement to be sick? Because we associate the state with status. Humans either want to think it is a punishment and was earned- through some bad action that individual had done - or that it is an injustice committed against oneself...
'why would God punish me' in hardship and
in ease we assume 'ahh God has exalted me'.
this is because as humans we look to the outward, the physical, the material, and we use that to denote status. and we anthropomorphise God and thinking 'this is why humans do that so this must be why God is doing that'. Either God is being just or God is being cruel because the assumption is disease is being disfavoured and health is being favoured. its a strong human association.
Muhammad (pbuh) tried to break that among his own followers by connecting hardship with trial not evil. In Islam it always comes back to what the purpose of life is - which is to be tested as to our resolve and commitment to do good in any diverse situation.
what would i say to a muslim crippled by disease? id first ask them to pray for me, because Muhammad (pbuh) said ""When you visit an invalid tell him to make supplication for you, for his supplication is like that of the angels."
id narrate the words of the prophet (pbuh)... "Whenever God wants good for someone, He tries him with some hardship".
It sounds opposite but in Islam the more faith someone has, the more they are tested..."The most in their suffering among the people are the prophets, then the best, then the (next) best. One is afflicted in accordance with his faith. If his faith is firm his affliction is hard, and if his faith is weak, his affliction is light." [Ahmad, Tirmithee]
another hadith...."For every misfortune, illness, anxiety, grief, or hurt that afflicts a Muslim -even the hurt caused by the pricking of a thorn - God removes some of his sins." Anything - no matter how little - that is a discomfort or a trial I am being raised in rank with God, not lowered.
as muslims we take alot of lessons that Muhammad (pbuh) himself suffered many hardships and trials in his life. he was an orphan at a young age, his father died before he was born, mother died with he was 4, grandfather died when he was 9 before he was raised with his uncle. he suffered alot of loss as a child - so that we would reflect and realise that the outward state is not indicative of the inward.
of Muhammad's (pbuh) 7 children, 3 boys died in infancy, 2 daughters died as adults before him (pbuh). so we take from that he suffered pain also, and that we would not think if those things happened to us it was because we have something to be punished for. he was of humble means, had to work for a living, endured the same daily problems as everyone else.
and he used to get sick with fever or illness the same as any other people. in between being a leader and guide for his people he used to have to see medicine men same as others for different ailments. Lady Aisha was renowned for her expertise in medicine and when she was asked how she came to learn she said it was because Muhammad (pbuh) was often unwell and had healers visit him so she asked them to teach her their work. we took from that high status or low status with God is not by how we would judge a person with their beloved. we remind ourselves with this so that we remember hardship is not with the intention of ill will by God.
Aisha (RA) narrated that once some pain afflicted Muhammad (pbuh) causing him to suffer and turn about in his bed. she said: "^Had one of us done this, you would have blamed him.^" He (pbuh) replied: " An ailment is intensified for the righteous. whenever a believer is afflicted by a hardship, whether it is a thorn or more, a sin is taken off from him because of it, and he is elevated by one rank (in Jannah)." Muhammad (pbuh) told his followers it was a purification and a chance for being raised in, not this life, but the next life.
Jabir ibn Abdullah narrated that Muhammad (pbuh) said On the Day of Resurrection, when people who have suffered affliction are given their reward, those who are healthy will wish their skins had been cut to pieces with scissors when they were in the world. (Al-Tirmidhi, 1570).
so why bother trying to preserve health or get well if there is something spiritually meaningful and good in hardship? because the teachings are about being resilient and maintaining hope and tranquility in all situations. that to be a Muslim Muhammad (pbuh) said, How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this is only so for the believer. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across adversity, he is patient, and that is good for him. [Muslim].
most people of faith believe some variation of this.
of course it wouldnt be much comfort to a person with no faith at all though.
crescent that's very generous of you. Thank you.
Yes the debate doesn't have an answer, it doesn't have several answers.
The HSC students mainly go into nursing, some to other health related professions so I try to get them to think about things like that before they get there.
It gets more interesting if I have students from a wide variety of backgrounds/cultures/faiths.
Crescent, you've missed the point entirely. Clearly it is obvious that there's enough food in the world to feed everyone, but it's not in the places it's needed. Why do you think a large proportion of the USA is overweight? Because they have a ton of useful, natural resources. Why are so many Africans malnourished? Because they don't have the resources.
But aside from that, there's so much more that has to go on to sustain the world as it is. Picking on a single problem and saying we easily have the resource in the world to fix it is all well and good, but sadly it's not that simple. Even the basic example of getting food from an abundant area to a sparse one, you need to transport the food, so you need someone to build a vehicle, let's say a plane, you need a lot of people to build a plane, designers, engineers, etc. You have to pay them, so you need an economy which sustains large scale engineering projects either government funded or private venture.
You need to fuel your plane, so you need people to extract oil, you need a lot of people to extract oil, build oil rigs, transport that oil to somewhere useful (you need a lot of people to build a boat.... And fuel it..... You see where this is going...)
So you have your plane and you have your fuel and for argument's sake let's say the plane happens to be exactly where the food is. You need people to load the plane, you need people to fly the plane. And this is all the very, very basics.
We could dig in to issues of education, you need educated people to understand how to build a plane, how to fly one, how to extract oil. So you need an economy which supports a strong education. This economy must get money from somewhere to fund a strong education system. Money comes from taxation, but you have to balance the taxation against income to ensure that the people can still support themselves and spend money which generates the tax.
In California, they have a 'fat tax' on unhealthy food. This raises government funds to support education, manufacturing, alternative fuel research, etc, etc. And thus is an almost direct source of funding for people to fly food in planes to poor people in Africa. So yes, to suggest that there's no will in the world is naive and arrogant. There's simply so much more to consider than simply "there's enough food so we should be ok"
Crescentmoon, you're right in that I am taking an anthropomorphic view of morality and seeing how the various descriptions of the Abrahamic god match up. But you're wrong in suggesting that this is because I view disease as an affront to ones honour. I don't have that kind of "eye for an eye" view of the world.
Disease happens. Sometimes it's preventable, sometimes it isn't. If it is preventable then we (as a society) should seek to prevent it and if it isn't then we should do what we can to ease the suffering. It's not about status.
Back to the morality thing. Yes, I am taking an anthropomorphic view of it. I have repeatedly tried, and abjectly failed, to assemble a coherent view of the Abrahamic God's morality based on how He is described and the things He is supposed to do. I have yet to come up with something that is internally consistent and holds together.
The whole "suffering is a trial to prove your worth" thing smacks too much to me of "I'm hitting you for your own good". I do not consider it in any way moral to either deliberately cripple people directly or to create diseases that I know will cripple people. That is regardless of whether I'm doing as a test of their character or not. You seem to be suggesting that it's ok provided it's Allah/God doing it.
If a deity's morality is so far removed from our own that He can ethically do things that would be immoral for us to do, is that a deity that either deserves worship or is even safe to worship? It could all be some vast, incomprehensible cosmic joke. How can we take moral guidance from this creature? How can we trust that something so alien to us has our best interests at heart?
On the Day of Resurrection, when people who have suffered affliction are given their reward, those who are healthy will wish their skins had been cut to pieces with scissors when they were in the world.
That is grotesque.
Africa has loads of resources. War, corruption and exploitation are responsible for starvation in Africa, not lack of resources.
Certainly it has resources, but when you have to travel 60 miles to your nearest clean water, that's a problem. I'm not suggesting there are no natural resources in Africa, that would be ridiculous, but the poorest, most hard up communities are the ones who don't have local access to clean water, trees, arable land. They live in areas of the world where, in all honesty, they shouldn't really be able to survive.
No peoples settle 60miles away from clean drinking water, it's kinda the first thing our species look for when camping for the night, never mind building a community. People are driven off their land by war and corruption. Rivers are dammed and waterways re-routed for gain. Pollution of drinking water by business is accepted by governments and shareholders alike without a thought for those who depend on it. Land is seized, forests are felled, deserts are created. Where real drought occurs it should be a case of keeping people fed until it passes or they settle somewhere else.
As I said, starvation in Africa and elsewhere is caused by the greedy and the powerful, not lack of resources.
"Back to the morality thing. Yes, I am taking an anthropomorphic view of it. "
and when i reflect on God, i reflect on the abstract. i consider the words of God, the infinity of God, the unity of God. God the Creator of the universe and the Creator of man. that wherever i turn, there is God. my relationship is not one as with a child and parent, and so i do not have expectations in that way. God is not my Father. our relationship is more as King and
disobedient subject. this is a criticism levelled at the Quranic view of God that it is more impersonal and distant than the way God is portrayed in the Torah and the Bible. we are not the children of God, we were not created in God's image. we are not God's racial chosen people but are followers of the patriarch Abraham.
"I have repeatedly tried, and abjectly failed, to assemble a coherent view of the Abrahamic God's morality based on how He is described and the things He is supposed to do. I have yet to come up with something that is internally consistent and holds together. "
if you are trying to reconcile all three different Abrahamic religion's opinions of God it will be hard, we all recognise many parts of each other's beliefs but as niminy said, there are beliefs we hold about God in Islam which are not in Christianity. and in Judaism that are not in Islam, and in Christianity that are not in Judaism.
what did the effect of both sets of narrations i mentioned have on the Muslims, the followers of Muhammad (pbuh). i would argue, firstly, that it released them from the association that sickness = punishment and health = reward. this dominated the european thinking on sickness and disease for many centuries EVEN THOUGH this was not from the teachings of Jesus.
secondly, the narrations on disease and cure meant practises like variolation/ preventative public health measures were not seen as spitting in the eye of God's right to determine who was to die and how and when death would occur. nor did it mean showing distrust in depending on God. Muhammad (pbuh) instead raised it to a noble pursuit by itself.
during his lifetime in the early 7th century he himself initiated alot of measures among the muslims for cleanliness and personal hygeine as part of the Sunnah. things we recognise today as early public health measures: washing hands/mouth/face etc 5 times a day before prayers was to get ordinary simple people to relate cleanliness to holiness. his recommendations that muslims bathe every Friday - since the 7th century when people in Europe were still bathing once a year up until the 18th/19th century - was dressed up in religious language but it also had a public health benefit. wearing clean non soiled clothes. the obligation of washing after you go to the toilet for cleanliness, and the obligation of having a full ritual bath each time after sex, all were early measures to prevent disease or the spread of disease. the right hand strictly for eating, the left hand for unclean and toilet purposes to prevent possible cross contamination. he even strongly recommended cleaning the teeth once every day and stressed he would have made it obligatory for each of the daily prayers except he thought it would be too hard on people.
then he also encouraged later muslims to study the body and disease in order to fight it, and assured them this was 'the will of God' also. i think, it covered most bases and permutations of human thought. but you dont think so and thats your own thinking.
"Say, O you who disbelieve,
I do not worship what you worship,
and you do not worship what i worship,
and i will not worship what you worship,
nor will you worship what i worship,
To you be your way, and to me be mine"
the Quran Chapter 109, Surah Al Kafiroon
"there are beliefs we hold about God in Islam which are not in Christianity. and in Judaism that are not in Islam, and in Christianity that are not in Judaism."
You can't all be right, how do you reconcile that?
well, they reconcile far better than the materialism that dominates molecular biology and the field of quantum mechanics.
Snorbs, Pedro and HeadinHands, do you regard the scientists who contribute to the research and design of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons which kill, torture and maim human beings to be responsible for the death of those human beings? Do you regard them as morally reprehensible?
"Yes the debate doesn't have an answer, it doesn't have several answers."
did you mean it has several answers? out of curiosity what kind of answers do you get? what would you yourself advise?
For example a scientist like Fritz Haber, who developed the Haber process which is important in the production of fertilizers (leading to increase in food production) but also developed chemical weapons for the German government in World war 1 which was used to kill millions of soldiers in trench warfare. Do you agree with his statement that death is death, by whatever means it is inflicted? Is he morally reprehensible? He recieved a Nobel Prize.
Wa alaykum wa salam Crescent
'This association of being 'honoured' or 'loved' by having something - health/wealth - or being 'dishonoured/abased' by NOT having something - health/wealth - is a human assumption.'
'Muhammad (pbuh) tried to break that among his own followers by connecting hardship with trial not evil. In Islam it always comes back to what the purpose of life is - which is to be tested as to our resolve and commitment to do good in any diverse situation.'
Happy to see we are singing from the same hymn sheet . Really agreed with the points you made about material status in this life and spiritual standing with God not being connected. There are two chapters in the Quran which I love to recite in my prayers when I am facing difficulties (though I dont recite them as beautifully as these two:
The verse that I particularly love in the first chapter is the one where God says to the Prophet Muhammed PBUH that He has not forsaken him nor does He hate him. This was to comfort the Prophet Muhammed PBUH who was suffering hardships. The chapter goes on to highlight that trials and difficulties are temporary afflictions. The Prophet was an orphan without parents and God gave him refuge. He was poor and God enriched him. He was lost and God guided him. Its message is comforting to me too.
The second chapter again reiterates the message that spiritual standing with God is seperate from worldly status. Both states (having material wealth or being impoverished) are a test that should cause us to increase in our empathy, compassion and kindness towards those who are suffering rather then to arrogantly gloat over them that we are somehow better or more deserving.
* And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me." But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me." No! But you treat not the orphans with kindness and generosity. And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor...And you love wealth with immense love* Holy Quran, Chapter 89, verse 15-19
^"there are beliefs we hold about God in Islam which are not in Christianity. and in Judaism that are not in Islam, and in Christianity that are not in Judaism."
You can't all be right, how do you reconcile that?^
God is beyond our human efforts to fully comprehend him, but all faiths have glimpses of him. For me, Christianity has more glimpses, and for Crescent and Peaceful Islam offers more glimpses. One image for it would be that God is like a courtyard garden surrounded on all sides by a portico, through the pillars of which we can see into parts of the garden. We can never be on all sides of the portico, and we can never see the whole garden. But we have glimpses into it, and we can hear about, and imagine, other people's glimpses, and learn to see the garden from their point of view.
No I meant what I wrote.
Some debated have a clear single answer. Some have several outcomes that are appropriate and positive.
This one doesn't.
What do I advise? It depends on the answers. Ideally no one should be put in that position. An interpreter should have been used earlier to assertion the patient's own wishes.
Other options include asking the chaplain for advice, many hospitals now have 'chaplains' of various faiths.
The answers I get have included:
Giving him a bible to learn 'the truth'
Phoning the son for more information.
Giving the drug and not telling anyone.
Page the Dr and ask for something else to be prescribed.
Finding an interpreter / medical professional who can speak the same language and asking the person himself.
Obviously the first answer is totally inappropriate, but the student found it difficult to accept it.
Giving the drug and saying nothing is also a definite 'no'.
The others depend on the response you get from phoning/paging etc.
"well, they reconcile far better than the materialism that dominates molecular biology and the field of quantum mechanics."
Not really, quantum physics is by far the most tested, most consistent and most accurately predictable branch of science we've ever had. By a huge margin.
"Snorbs, Pedro and HeadinHands, do you regard the scientists who contribute to the research and design of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons which kill, torture and maim human beings to be responsible for the death of those human beings? Do you regard them as morally reprehensible?"
I regard people who deliberately manufacture weapons with the intent to kill or sell to some who does to be responsible for any deaths that weapon causes.
Scientists who contribute to research which subsequently gets used for weapons, I don't consider to be responsible. Otherwise you'd have to jail the inventor of the candlestick for all those Cluedo moments.....
Snorbs, regarding the ethics surrounding a creator deity in allowing such viruses to exist: viruses and bacterium massively predate human evolution. Do you think it would be ethical of a creator deity to wipe out old organisms because newer organisms don't like them?
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