The Qur'an and the Nature of Life
From the body of verses cited above it can be inferred that creation is not an instantaneous process from the viewpoint of the Noble Qur’an.
An animal or human being passes through various evolutionary stages and is always in the process of creation. Rather, basically, the world is always in the process of creation and in the state of perpetual coming into being.
There is an opposite viewpoint which considers creation to be something instantaneous. Whenever its proponents want to discuss the world’s creation, they go after `the first moment’ when the world was created and brought out from the cover of nothingness. They imagine that if they were not to make such an assumption, the world could no longer be regarded as a creation and as something that came into being. Similarly, whenever they want to discuss life as a Divine creation, they go after `the first moment’ when life began.
This kind of thinking is peculiarly a Jewish one:
“The Jews have said: ‘God’s hand is fettered’. Fettered are their hands, and they are cursed for what they have said.” (5:64)
That mode of thinking about the relation of life to the Divine wills that always goes back to the beginning of life in order to relate it to God’s will is the offspring of this Jewish outlook. This Jewish outlook gradually became prevalent and has spread everywhere. Regrettably, Islamic theologians too come under its influence. However, as pointed out, the idea of a ‘first moment’ is foreign to the teachings of the Noble Qur’an.
As indicated earlier, a problem that is discussed in our times is whether man would ever be capable of making a living organism. Would he, for instance, be able to make an artificial human spermatozoon which when deposited in the womb or some other suitable environment be able to develop into a complete human being? We said that a group of theists, whose mode of thinking concerning the relation of life to the Divine will always turns to cases of exception and the first beginnings of life, emphatically negates such a possibility. But on the basis of the teachings that we have received from the Qur’an, we may say, there is nothing that stands in the way of such a possibility. This matter needs elaboration and must be examined from two aspects.
Firstly, we must examine the amount of structural complexity of a living organism to see whether or not someday man would be able to discover all the secrets that go into the material composition of the parts of a cell and the natural law responsible for the emergence of a living cell. We cannot say anything from this aspect, for the issue lies outside the scope of our competence. This is what the experts in the field have said:
“That which is more significant and higher than the creation of the earth, the planets of the solar system and the whole universe is the substance of the protoplasm.”
Secondly, if man one day succeeds in discovering the law of creation of living organisms, in the same way as he has discovered the laws relating to other creatures, and discovers all the conditions and material constituents of living organisms, and succeeds in preparing substances exactly like those of living organisms, will that artificial being possess life? The answer is that it will definitely possess life, for it is impossible that the conditions for the existence of an emanation should exist completely without the realization of that emanation. Isn’t it the case that the One, Self-sufficient and absolutely perfect Divine Essence is the absolute source of all emanations? Isn’t the Necessary Being by-Essence, necessary in all aspects and ways?
Here the doubt may possibly arise in some minds that if such be the case, what will become of the principle that life is exclusively in the hands of God and that others have no role in the giving and taking away of life? We said earlier that this is something acknowledged by the Noble Qur’an, and the answer to this question becomes clear after a review of what has been said. Should man attain such a capacity one day, all that he would have done is to be able to prepare the conditions of life, not the ability to create life. Man cannot give life, but he can complete the capacity of matter for receiving life. In other words, man is the agent of motion (fa`il e harakat) not the source of being.
Should man succeed in doing such a thing, surely he would have made an important achievement from the viewpoint of scientific discovery. But from the viewpoint of a role in creation of life his role would be the same as that of the parents in reproduction and procreation of offspring or of the peasant in creating life in wheat grains. In none of these cases is man the creator of life. All that he accomplishes is to prepare the conditions of a substance for receiving life. The Noble Qur’an has described this matter in the best possible manner in the blessed Surat al Waqi`ah:
“Have you considered the’ soil that you till? Do you yourselves make the plants grow or are We the one who makes them grow?” (56:63 64)
“Have you considered the seed that you spill? Do you yourselves create it, or are We the creators?” (56:58 59)
As to the miracles performed by the prophets, their miraculous character lies in that man is incapable of performing such acts with his ordinary knowledge and power. The prophets too had not attained that knowledge and capacity through the ordinary means. An extraordinary power and knowledge that accompanied them had raised them over the plane of physical nature, which made it possible for them to become a source of such a prodigious performance. Should man one day succeed in this achievement (i.e. `artificial’ creation of life), it would not mean that he has succeeded in doing something which the prophets did with the leave of God. The prophets used to give life and take it away with the leave of God. But if ordinary human beings someday attain such a capacity, that would be the capacity to prepare the conditions for life, in the same way as today they are capable of causing death by destroying the conditions of life, without possessing the capacity to take away life. The giving and taking of life will remain in God’s hands even if man, through the discovery of the laws of emanation and withdrawal of life, prepares or destroys the capacities of a substance for possessing life.
We said that man cannot create life and that creation of life lies outside the scope of his capacities. The giving and withdrawal of life is in God’s hands, although man can prepare the conditions necessary for life to exist.
This must not lead us to conclude that there is some kind of division of work: that there are some activities that pertain to man without pertaining to God and that there are other activities that pertain to God without pertaining to man. Our sole objective is delimitation of the scope of man’s activity, not delimitation of God’s acts. That which characterizes the Divine aspect is absolute freedom (itlaq) and absence of limits; the limits and bounds are from the side of the creature. This matter needs an elaborate treatment and I request the reader to refer to the fifth volume of Usul e falsafeh wa rawish e riyalism.