A letter to the editor of 'The Independent' :
by Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri
'Creationism' in Schools.
My thanks to Mr Steel for his humorously provocative article on 'creationism' (21st March
Currently in the newspapers in the UK there is much discussion about the teaching of
'creationism' in state schools. The underlying belief system of the modern westernised
world is that scientific research, coupled with technological developments, have
effectively disproved that God created the universe. This belief is so widely taken to be
true that in the media it is taken for granted - indeed belief in 'the big bang' et. al. could be
said to be as prevalent today as the belief in a flat earth once was - only the lunatic fringe
can question it.
It is not surprising that youngsters from whatever religious background find a contradiction
between this and the religious beliefs that have been taught by their elders. It seems to
them to undermine their belief in God, and along with that it undermines the concept of the
necessity of moral development -allowing it to be perceived as optional extra.
In fact of course the various views about ways in which the development of life on this
planet and in the wider universe occurred are unproved theories - whether or not the facts
are correct - and they are speculative theories based on limited evidence. They are also
subject to change and revision. They are perhaps worthy attempts to make sense of new
evidence made available by new techniques, but the same evidence is open to
alternative interpretations - if the scientific method that gives them credibility is to be
At the moment time itself - so relevant to this subject - is not 'scientifically' understood.
Which makes the mockery of the term 'Day' in relation to creation accounts ring a little
An open minded religious approach should acknowledge that a scientifically precise and
detailed description or proof of the exact process of creation is not given - any more than
scientific proof of the existence of God, or indeed the unseen, or the angels etc. is
available. Indeed it may not be possible to represent the process of the creation of the
universe within the human mind other than by symbolic reference. If detailed proof were
available then there would be no requirement of faith and belief. However it is entirely
rational that when some individuals who are highly gifted, sane, sober, and of a known
trustworthy nature such as the holy Prophet Muhammed, tell us that they have been made
aware of the unseen, and are given knowledge by God of His having created the
universe, then the Muslim, in this instance, may consider that to be evidence enough of
the general principle - even if we must keep an open mind as to exactly how we
understand that process to have happened. I have not been to Timbuktu personally, but if
a friend I trust has, and he comes and tells me it is there, it makes sense to take him at
his word. In fact most scientific evidence that comes into the popular domain is essentially
taken on trust by most people.
What is required from the western education system and the media, and so on, is a much
more genuinely scientific approach. An acknowledgment that physical sciences, seeking
the truth about the physical universe, cease to be good science once their speculations
are accepted 'as gospel' and their theories taught and propagated as absolute (and state
supported) truth. The lessons from those religious distortions or pseudoscientific theories
which have been disproved - such as flat-earth etc. should not be lost on us. To replace
those distortions with new unproved theoretical speculation would be to make the same
mistake. It is possible to hypothesize an alternative theory in which new scientific
information is interpreted so as to support a specific creation account - but it would be no
more than just that - another unproved hypothesis.
What is required from those developing religious belief in the young, is to accept that
there is also much theorising within religion, on the basis of texts which appear to have
intentional ambiguities and paradoxes. Expressions of the truth, as found in such texts as
the Holy Qur'an, are subject to interpretation and to the limits of the receiving minds. To
encourage narrow-mindedness in the young, as a reaction to anti-religious scientific
theorising, is not an effective antidote. We should have confidence that what is true will
ultimately stand out from what is false.
The mystics of Islam, the sufis, tend to think we should not worship the false idol of our our
limited conceptualising of God, any more than we should the false idol of physical
scientific theorising. I believe they have a point. What is needed here is 'wonder' and
encouraging the development of young minds set on knowing not merely the facts, or the
theory, but the truth. They should be prepared to go to the ends of the earth and beyond to
find it. They should be encouraged to keep an open mind both to the valuable additions to
knowledge of the physical universe that scientific exploration can provide and to other
dimensions of knowledge indicated by sacred texts.
J.M.Z. Southampton (21.03.02)
Published by The Zahuri Sufi Web Site March 2002