I have been studying Islam recently and because I am of a scientific mind, I have become intrigued as to the physical nature of the communication between Mohammad and Allah (through Gabriel). We know that Allah is separate from His creation and yet is at the same time closer to us than our jugular veins; we also know Allah is not made of matter like we are and that Mohammad is not Allah. Since Mohammad is made of matter like us and so is everything in him (his heart, lungs, brain etc.) then how did this communication between Allah and Muhammad take place? The fact that Muhammad spoke the words and said they were from Allah means that some form of physical interaction MUST have taken place… for where in this Universe do things happen for no reason? (according to Qur’an they do not). If we assume that the angel Gabriel is made of matter then this begs the question how did Allah communicate with the angel Gabriel? Somewhere along this line of cause and effect the material world had to interact with the immaterial. If we believe that the Qur’an is the word of Allah then this communication MUST have taken place and that it is in no way dependent on the content of the Qur’an but just as the fact that it [the Qur’an] is here!
The dilemma, I think, is that the human mind has ‘language centres’ in which it recognizes words and their meanings. The words of the Qur’an MUST have been received in a part of Muhammad’s mind which allowed him to recognize them and thus recite them in his speech. In order for this to happen the material of Muhammad’s mind must have been acted upon by a force (the angel Gabriel?) of some description which DOES NOT contravene the Laws of Physics (at least to the extent that things do not happen/move around without reason).
I would be very grateful for any assistance you could give in this matter thus allowing my onward journey to Islam!
I have never been a student of science, due to which, I am not certain whether I have understood your question correctly or not. I, therefore, would feel more comfortable to repeat your basic question in my own words so that if there be a mistake in my comprehension, you would be able to correct me.
As I understand it, you want to know how can communication between a physical (i.e. man) and a non-physical entity (i.e. God) take place. Such a communication necessitates some form of physical interaction between the two entities.
As I comprehend your observations, they actually imply that, according to the law of physics, communication between two entities cannot take place without some form of physical interaction between the two entities and, therefore, communication between a purely non-physical entity and a purely physical entity is not possible. (Please read on, only if this comprehension is accurate. If it is not, then rather than wasting your time on this response, you may first try to correct my understanding of the issue under consideration).
To begin with, the field of ‘Science’, as I understand from the Encyclopedia Britannica, is limited to the study of the physical world only1.
If this is correct, then obviously God, and all else that is not a part of the physical world, is beyond the scope of the study and the generalizations of ‘science’. Thus, in other words, we may, on the basis of our ‘scientific’ knowledge, draw conclusions about any limitations on the working of a human being, but we cannot, through our ‘scientific’ knowledge set any limits on the working of non-physical beings, as the latter lie beyond the scope of ‘science’. In my opinion, therefore, scientific laws can neither hinder nor limit the scope of working of the non-physical entities.
Moreover, according to religious belief, God is the originator and the creator of not only the material world, but also that of the scientific and natural laws that govern this material world. God, Himself, is not subject to and limited by these scientific and natural laws. In fact, what God is capable of doing is not only beyond the scope of science but may also be beyond the scope of the present level of human comprehension.
The Qur’an does tell us that God communicates with humans through inspiration or from behind a veil or through a messenger that delivers God’s message to man (Al-Shooraa 51: 42), but it does not tell us the exact nature of how such communication takes place. In fact, the Qur’an also tells us that because the communication between God and man is an act of God – the nature and method of whose actions can be beyond the scope of human understanding and comprehension – therefore, man, in his present frame of reference, cannot understand how this communication takes place (Al-Israa 17: 85).
The Muslims do not believe the Qur’an to be God’s word because they have discovered the details regarding how God communicates with man. On the contrary, they believe the Qur’an to be God’s word because they believe Muhammad (pbuh) to be a true prophet of God2, who, in turn, informed them that the Qur’an comprises the exact words that God revealed upon him.
For a Muslim mind, the question: “How does God communicate with man?” is as unanswerable, under our present frame of references and exposure, as how God created a physical universe.
October 4, 2000