Hoodbhoy: The Jinn of Science.
Hoodbhoy: The Jinn of Science…
Professor Hoodbhoy seems to have changed his career form being a physicist to being Jinn of science. Ironically he mocks belief in the unseen but claims to have the knowledge of it, hence the title of this article. He recently published (10 Oct 2015) a sarcastic article in one of the most popular Pakistani English print media news outlets, the Dawn. The article severely criticises a lecture conducted on ‘Jinns and Balck Magic’ in one of the top universities in Islamabad. Firstly, it is surprising to see an article of this nature published by a popular newspaper in an Islamic republic, wherein the author seems to mock a widely held belief by millions of Muslims in the country. It is ironic that one of Hoodbhoy’s Facebook cover photos states “Let religious people believe whatever they want to believe… let me do my science!”. Secondly, his testimony is certainly not based upon personal experience, as he was not present (unless he is a Jinn) nor did he have any access to recordings of the event. The event was not recorded by video or audio, as clarified by the lecturer himself. Even though he was absent, one gets the impression from Hoodbhoy’s article that he was actually sitting in the front row, listening to every single word attentively. So his account appears to be a case of pure blind following of the testimony of his informer, who in this case is thought to be his wife. It is very clear from Hoodbhoy’s ill-informed article that he was informed very selectively. That’s not a very science-like attitude, is it?
What follows is a commentary on what Hoodbhoy stated in his article. Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy is a physicist, who has taught at many prestigious universities in Pakistan. He is well known for his criticism of the religious establishment in the country. He dislikes the notion of an “Islamic Pakistan”, as he seems to be a strong proponent of secularism. In the article, he insinuated that Raja Zia ul Haq, the lecturer in question, used Hollywood as his reference to prove the existence of Jinns. This was a pure example of attacking straw man. One cannot simply pick a random statement from a lengthy speech and make it a point of contention. I am sure, as well as Hoodbhoy is, that Raja Zia did not try to justify the existence of Hollywood horror creatures, rather he deemed most Hollywood horror characters to be based on myths and folklore. This is what Raja Zia has communicated to us about what he actually said:
“All I said was: there are dozens of movies based on the paranormal, which Hollywood calls “the Horror Industry”. Over 90% of these movies are based on myths, folklore and fantasy… but then there are those based on true stories such as “Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Amityville Horror”, “American Haunting” etc. How do we explain that? Is there some truth to this?…The above was said to spark intrigue and create mystery. Not to offer a definitive proof, as some of the rational audience members would conclude.”
Hoodbhoy asked, in his article, whether we should believe in vampires, werewolves and zombies because Hollywood made movies on them? In the light of what Raja Zia actually said, we will let the readers decide whether Hoodbhoy was attacking straw man or not. Raja Zia clearly used the Quran and Hadith to prove the existence of Jinns. Muslims believe in the existence of Jinns because the Quran clearly mentions them as a creation of Allah, just like angels are a creation of Allah. If Muslims were to discuss angels in another university, is Hoodbhoy going to write another article condemning them for believing in such “things”? What about freedom of religion and freedom of thought? What everyone doesn’t know is that to people like professor Hoodbhoy, one has to see everything to believe it. Rationality, to him, is what can be empirically shown, not what is invisible to the eye. Perhaps believing that Hoodbhoy had a great great great great great great grandmother is also irrational, as there is no empirical evidence for her existence.
Having attacked straw man, the author begins to go on a tangent, mocking Islamic belief in Jinns and the unseen. Through a poor use of sarcasm, he attempts to criticise the university for even hosting such an event. What he fails to (or stubbornly refuses to) realise is the fact that CIIT is situated in a city called Islamabad, which is the capital of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a country inhabited by nearly 200 million Muslims. What on earth does he expect from a university attended by thousands of Muslims students to do? Talk about the universe coming from nothing! Or perhaps everything popped into existence by random chance? In case Hoodbhoy is unaware of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, this is what article 31 states:
- Islamic way of life:
(1) Steps shall be taken to enable the Muslims of Pakistan, individually and collectively, to order their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam and to provide facilities whereby they may be enabled to understand the meaning of life according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
(2) The state shall endeavour, as respects the Muslims of Pakistan,-
- to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arabic language and to secure correct and exact printing and publishing of the Holy Quran;
- to promote unity and the observance of the Islamic moral standards; and
- to secure the proper organisation of zakat, ushr, auqaf and mosques.
What Raja Zia ul Haq was doing was perfectly in line with the constitution of Pakistan. He was teaching Quran and Sunnah to the students in CIIT. He did not claim to be a scientist, nor was he teaching Islamic theology as science. In fact Hoodbhoy is criticising him for exercising his right as a Muslim citizen of Pakistan. Article 19 further stipulates:
- Freedom of speech, etc:
‘Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offence’.
Therefore, Hoodbhoy must, as a good Pakistani, defend Raja Zia’s freedom to exercise his freedom of speech in the interest of the glory of Islam, as the constitution clearly stipulates. What he is doing instead is the opposite. He is effectively arguing that Muslims must not be allowed to discuss their religion in academic institutions. Perhaps there will come a day when he will begin to argue for a complete boycott of the faculties of Islamic theology. How academic is that? Any attempts to limit the freedom of Muslims in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan must be challenged legally and undercover extremist atheistic movements should be exposed. Any attempts to sabotage, overtly or covertly, the teaching (to Muslims) of Islamic beliefs in Pakistani universities would be against the law and should be dealt with accordingly.
Furthermore, the topic of the discussion was not “how to study Jinns scientifically?” It was evidently a metaphysical topic, discussing the unseen and the supernatural. Professor Hoodbhoy fails to understand that Jinns are not a topic of science because science is limited to what can be observed or tested. It seems the professor needs to be educated on what science can and cannot do. We would like to educate professor Hoodbhoy on the limits of science:
- Science is limited to what is observable:
It is a well known fact that science is concerned with the observable. John F. Hawley and Catherine A. Holcomb write in their introduction to modern cosmology:
“There is little, if anything, that can be said about the metaphysical creation of the universe. Since our observations are of physical attributes, and science deals with physical things…”
Having read this, one can only wonder as to why Hoodbhoy turned the topic of Jinns into a matter of science, as Jinns are considered to be spiritual in nature. Even a Muslim child knows that Jinns are a matter of the unseen. No one has ever claimed that Jinns are a topic of science. So, Hoodbhoy is either ignorant on the philosophy of science or he is deliberately hiding these facts in order to mock Islamic beliefs. A discussion on Jinns is not a discussion on science. Just like a discussion on morals is not a discussion of science.
- Science is not the only way to truth:
Hoodbhoy may be of the opinion that science is the only way to truth. Hence, metaphysical realities do not actually exist or the unseen cannot exist. To refute such claims, one simply has to ask him to prove the statement “science is the only way to truth” scientifically. He would not, in this lifetime (unless he is a Jinn himself), be able to prove scientifically the above statement. Moreover, if science was the only way to know everything, then we would have to let go of moral truths, logical truths, rationality, truth of testimony, mathematical truths, emotions such as love, anger, fear etc. This is because science is unable to observe these realities.
The article was a failed attempt on Hoodbhoy’s part to insinuate that Islamic belief in the unseen is irrational and, thus, should not be discussed in universities. If he cared to study Islamic philosophy, even up to an elementary level, he would have realised that belief in the unseen is completely consistent with the Muslim belief in God. As Hoodbhoy is aware, Muslims believe in God, who has created the universe and has power over all things. He is the one who tells us that he created beings like angels and Jinns. And if he is able to do all possibilities then he is perfectly able to produce things unseen. Hoodbhoy appears to be committing the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam. Just because he cannot see Jinns, he mocks those who believe in them. It appears that Hoodbhoy does not believe in God nor does he profess belief in Islam. That much is understood and that is his choice. But why does he want every Muslim teacher as well as student in CIIT (or other elite leading universities) to follow his evident disbelief in God. He condemns the constitutional “Islamisation” of Pakistani institutions and would like to impose unconstitutional “secularisation” instead. What is the difference between him and inquisitors of medieval Spain? Imagine a secular inquisition. Perhaps he is also inspired by “novus ordo seclorum”…
Further in the article, Hoodbhoy goes on to take a dig at other professors, who don’t agree with him, for lecturing on topics of science and philosophy. While criticising one of these lecturers, for expressing his opinions on scientific method, he continues to mock Islamic belief in Jinns. In his article, Hoodbhoy grumbles about as to how academics in Pakistan are striving to move away from “western science”. Did you notice he uses the term “western science” to take a dig at Pakistani institutes. It seems Hoodbhoy changes his religion once every decade. In his book (Islam and Science, 1991.) he attacks those who espouse the view that science can be “western”. Here is what he actually says: “that there is only one science, we can safely conclude” (p. 18) and “it is therefore false to think that science and technology are essentially and originally western” (p. 19). We leave the reader to speculate the limits of Hoodbhoy’s inconsistencies (to use a polite word).
The undertone to his words seems to be that he believes science to be an answer to everything. Such a notion would be grossly misinformed and miscalculated. Science certainly has its use and has been one of the best achievements of humanity. Without science and its results our lives would be very different today. There is no doubt that science has been abused by great powers of the world to assert their values and dominance. But there is also no doubt that science has been a major source of human progress for centuries. Having said that, Hoodbhoy seems to have a problem with anyone who puts a spotlight on the limitations of scientific method. He treats such people like heretics, as if they wish to destroy science once and for all. Given the chance, Hoodbhoy may even set fire to all books on philosophy of science or even ban all faculties that teach philosophy of science. The reason would be obvious: such books contain blasphemous material i.e. limitations of science and scientific method. For instance, Elliott sober states that ‘science is forced to restrict its attention to problems that observations can solve’ (Empiricism). George Ellis, a well-known cosmologist and a colleague of Stephen Hawking, asserts ‘physics or cosmology cannot be done without an assumed philosophical basis, which serve as an ‘unexamined’ foundations’. Dr Rupert Sheldrake, who worked as a biochemist and cell biologist at Cambridge University writes: “Anyone who has carried out scientific research knows that data are uncertain, that much depends on the way they are interpreted, and that all methods have their limitations.” Such “absurdities” hurt Hoodbhoy’s sentiments and he despises anyone who points out epistemological constraints of scientific method. To him people like Dr Rupert Sheldrake, Elliott Sober, George Ellis, Karl Popper (who espouses fallibilism) and other intelligent philosophers of science or philosopher-tuned-scientists are simply intellectually redundant. Such attitude is not very scientific, is it?
Hoodbhoy is clearly abusing his credentials in science to build a false narrative. Amazingly, he turns into a historian when he wishes, even though history is not his academic field, and condemns others for having views on physics or scientific method. He mocks people for having views on Einstein’s theories but himself becomes a theologian, defence analyst, philosopher, as well as a historian when it suits him. Hoodbhoy should either stop pretending to be a jack-of-all-trades or stop condemning others for having differing opinions. He also has a problem with studying the Quran scientifically, as he states that such a venture would be tantamount to moving away from “western science”. This is absolute nonsense. Any reading and its effects on human biology can be studied scientifically. One may not reach hypothesised results but such ventures cannot be deemed unscientific. Hoodbhoy shows visible signs of prejudice in his view on science and its limits. Richard Dawkins is another example of such non-philosophical “scientism”. Perhaps Hoodbhoy is trying to imitate Dawkins in Pakistan. We consider both to be extremely prejudiced and philosophically redundant.
He even picks on Saudi Arabia for some strange reason. Then he mentions conspiracies about Jewish bankers (completely forgetting his own conspiracies about Dr Mujahid Karman, see Dawn 14 Oct 2015) and then expresses concerns about Zaid Hamid resuming with his career. It is not clear what his problem is with Islam and things Islamic. This man writes about science and does not write about science.
He claims that academia in Pakistan is producing blind followers. If anything, Hoodbhoy himself is guilty of endorsing blind following. He calls it scientism and equates it to modernity. One may blind follow scientists without questioning the limits of science. Perhaps he should come out openly in public and tell the masses of the Islamic republic of Pakistan as to his true motives in mocking Islamic beliefs. Who is he actually working for? What agenda is he serving? Is he part of a Free Mason plot to belittle science (sarcasm)? Or is he an undercover accomplice henchman of Richard Dawkins (conspiracy)? After all we have plenty of colonial apologists (i.e. chamchey) in Pakistan. Hoodbhoy thinks everyone who believes in the tenets of Islam is some how intellectually demented or lazy. The history of the Islamic Civilisation, from Cordova to Kashgar, stands as a vivid reminder of what Islam has done for humanity, scientifically and otherwise. We hope that this piece has the potential to enlighten the professor on topics such as tolerance, philosophy of science and Islam in general. It would be great if Hoodbhoy were to stick to his field, using his expertise in physics and serve humanity that way. We request that he should follow his own advice (see cover photos on Hoodbhoy’s Facebook account):
This article is written in a spirit of love and compassion for the seekers of truth. We invite professor Hoodbhoy to continue the dialogue in a more objectively informed way. He should clarify his position on Islam and Muslims and say openly whether he is an atheist, agnostic, deist or a theist. Who is he? What is his agenda and what is he trying to achieve through his activism in Pakistan? We invite him to conduct a public discussion with us in Pakistan, where we can further share thoughts in an academic setting. I hope Hoodbhoy will accept our humble and friendly invitation.
Finally, in Iqbal’s words:
Your being whole from head to foot reflects the West,
Her masons in you have shown their art at best.
Devoid of Self, your frame from clay and water made,
Is like a spangled sheath that has no steel or blade.
In God’s existence you don’t believe,
You have no existence, I conceive.
Life mean to bring Self’s merits hid to show,
Take heed, your Self is quite devoid of glow.
Hoodbhoy and Islam…
Islam and Muslims have been at the heart of scientific advancement and there are major authorities on the history of science who argue that Islam played an instrumental rule in promoting the study of natural sciences. Even scientific method, as it is understood today, was contributed to by Ibn al-Haytham, who was a Muslim. Having said that, it must be clarified that Muslim scientists appreciated the limitations of science. They were aware that science couldn’t possibly answer all questions, let alone metaphysical ones. It can however provide parameters to certain realities, which are beyond the physical, but not fully explain them. The Quran points to the natural phenomena so that we can appreciate, through the lens of science, the creative power of the transcendent God.
Hoodbhoy, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to (or fails to) appreciate this view. Firstly, he promotes the view that Islam caused the demise of science, not its rise. In his book, “Islam and Science” (1991), on page 77 he argues that science cannot be Islamic, nor can it be religious. We ask him whether science can be atheistic or agnostic? It is evident that Hoodbhoy has been unsuccessfully attempting to use science to promote secularism in Pakistan. He rejects the notion of “Islamic science” but quite hypocritically appears be promoting secularism by using terms like “western science”. The correct view is that science is a tool, which is beneficial for humanity if used correctly. Tools do not have religions or ideologies.
Hoodbhoy has previously (in his book “Islam and Science”) claimed that Islamic orthodoxy has consistently opposed scientific advancement. Nothing could be further from truth than this. We don’t yet fully understand Hoodbhoy’s conception of Islamic orthodoxy. Is he claiming that the entire civilisation of Islam is based upon “Islamic heresy”? Were all Muslim scientists heretics? What heresio-meter or ortho-guage did he use to measure the exact amount of their heretical or orthodox tendencies? I thought Hoodbhoy was a scientist, not an inquisitorial heresy tester. Were people like Abul Qasim az-Zahrawi, Ibn al-Haytham, Ibn Khuldun, Jabir bin Hayyan, Sinan etc all heretics? These are but few names and for an exhaustive list please refer to George Sarton’s “Introduction to the History of Science”. There is no doubt that certain philosophers and scientists were deemed heretical but “few” does not mean “all”. Most Muslim scientists were theologians as well as scientists but Hoodbhoy only chose few exceptions and ignored the overwhelming norm. Specialists in the history of science believe in a nuanced relationship between Islamic orthodoxy and science. There are plenty of scholars around the world who believe that Islam served as a catalyst for much scientific research. What Hoodbhoy wants his followers to believe is that Islamic orthodoxy (in other words Islam itself) is inherently anti-science. This is absolutely absurd. All Hoodbhoy had to do was to open the Quran and read verses encouraging the study of the natural phenomena. Here are some examples for his convenience:
“We shall show them our signs in the horizons and in themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the truth…” (41:53)
“There truly are signs in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, for those with understanding.” (3:190)
“Do the disbelievers not see how the camels are formed, how the heavens are lifted, how the mountains are erected, how the earth is spread out… (88:17-20)
These verses amply demonstrate that the Quran encourages the study of natural phenomena, which consequently amounts to the study of science. I wonder what orthodoxy Hoodbhoy is referring to in his occasional outbursts on Islam. If he means Ghazali by “Islamic orthodoxy” then he must understand that Islamic thought is not homogenous, just like the world of science is not. People differ with each other, in different times, due to different circumstances. Ghazali specifically criticised Aristotelian logic, not science in general. We can give names of great Islamic scholars who specifically studied sciences and philosophies in order to encourage others to do the same. Ibn Taymiyyah studied (and criticised) Greek logicians and mastered mathematics; Shah Waliullah had studied philosophy in depth; Shah Abdul Aziz was a physician par excellence and encouraged the study of English language in order to gain knowledge of modern sciences. It is clear that Islam (or the “orthodoxy”, whatever that means) is not, in any way, shape or form, against the study of any knowledge that benefits humanity. So, professor Hoodbhoy must stop demonising Islam by consistently trying to separate Islam form the study of science.
We would also like to highlight some of professor Hoodbhoy’s international alliances in order to shed light on as to why he may foster anti-Islam tendencies. Why does professor Hoodbhoy give strong impressions of being against Islamic orthodoxy (or true Islam for that matter)? Is he part of a global Islamophobia movement? These are some very pressing questions, especially when one looks at the professor’s recent international activities. To give one example, Hoodbhoy attended a “secular conference” (11-12 October 2014) in London, which was organised by an internationally renowned Islamophobe Maryam Namazie, who is an extremist feminist as well as a nudist activist. This unfortunate Islamophobe is part of anti-Islam groups such as “Council of Ex-Muslims” and “Femen”. She has increasingly spoken against Islam and Muslims on international media outlets. Some of Femen activists recently invaded a Muslim event in France while they were topless. This they did to highlight the alleged “misogyny” within Islam. More important than all of this is the shocking anti-Pakistan/anti-Islam statements made by Hoodbhoy in this conference. The conference (www.secularconference.com) raises a few important questions about Hoodbhoy and his activism in Pakistan. Firstly, why would Hoodbhoy be invited, from Pakistan, to a conference organised by well-established international haters of Islam? Secondly, why would he even attend a conference like that if he does not share their ideas? Thirdly, why would he discuss Islam and Pakistan negatively in an event organised by Islamophobes? This is like discussing Jewish history in a Nazi domain. Fourthly, why would he lecture on Islamic law and history if he is evidently not versed in these fields?
One can watch his video that can be found on Youtube titled: “Nuclear Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy: “Has the Islamic State ever been a Historical Reality” and see the contradiction in the title manifested in the content of the video. While he is condemning extremism, he begins to condemn the law of Islam with it. He raises many fair points but the crux of his poorly researched lecture is that Islamic law is oppressive and unjust, even when it is applied properly. This is clear from his comments on the rights of minorities in Islam. He jumps from dhimmi contracts to the story of one of his Ahmadi students, who was sadly killed in Pakistan. We fail to see the connection between dhimmis and Pakistani Ahmadis. He also insinuates that Pakistani people, as educated as they may be, are absolutely heartless towards minorities such as Ahmadis. The lecture, delivered in front of a generally Islamophobic audience, turns into a bashing of sectarian differences within Muslims and then he delivers the absolute gem: mismanagement of rape cases “could be magnified many times over if, God forbid, Pakistan should become a genuine Islamic state” (watch video). This statement made by Hoodbhoy was clearly against the constitution of Pakistan. This goes to show that he is not only out to appease the Islamophobia industry, he despises the very reason Pakistan came into existence. Here is what the constitution of Pakistan (article 2) states:
“Islam shall be the state religion of Pakistan.”
Perhaps Hoodbhoy needs to pay more attention to the oath a president must take according to the constitution of Pakistan:
“That I will strive to preserve the Islamic ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan”. (Third Schedule, Oaths of President, Article 42)
His history knowledge also seems to be limited to his emotions. He clearly feels bitter about Islamic law and bitterness is what he sees in history. In the video, Hoodbhoy uses the “Constitution of Medina” (a circumstantial document), while ignoring the rest of Islamic sources, to assert that early Muslims had nothing else to demonstrate their ability to govern. We can lead him to read up on early Islamic history so that he can learn how early Muslims governed effectively. The professor should consult the works of experts such as Petra Sijpesteijn (Shaping of a Muslim State: The World of a Mid-Eighth-Century Egyptian Official, 2013). He must also consult the “New Cambridge History of Islam, 2010” (volume 1) for a basic understanding of early Islamic history. Perhaps these sources will lead Hoodbhoy to change his views on early Islamic history. More on Hoodbhoy’s history “credentials” later…
PS: All Pakistani newspapers or bloggers are free to publish this article.