Creationism 101

What is created by God and what is created by man? Where lies the secret of originality? Here is part of a recent conversation between me and my six year old that took place about an hour ago:

Ahmed (writing names of things made by God for his home assignment): Baba, tell me two more things created by Allah.

Me (occupied with my work on computer): Write anything. Everything is created by Allah.

Ahmed (noticeably lost and slightly agitated): But there are things made by Allah and there are things made by Insaan (human being)….

Reminds me of a similar dialogue, three years ago.

The Dialogue that Started with a Firefly

“Show me Allah!”, he asked me while looking towards the night sky with a slight tinge of peevishness in his babyish accent.

I was having the routine after-dinner stroll with Ahmed and Muhammad (my three year old twins) on my sides. Three of us decided to move out without their mother who was glued to the telephone in an unusually long conversation. I was aimlessly conversing, teaching them silly things like how to walk on the wayside, when the bunch of fireflies in a nearby frontyard caught my attention. Kids were unable to pick them up from some distance so I decided to take them closer in order to have a better look.

The glow was captivating enough for me too, however enthrallment on their faces was completely obvious. Ahmed, the more talkative among the duo, asked me to let him have an even closer look. I carefully picked one of them and fearful that I might hurt the restless insect, bent my palms to make a hollow cup. As I showed them the glowing abdomen, they excitedly tried to touch it with their little hands, moving me ultimately to release the little creature. This triggered our brief dialogue which might grew them up as thinking persons and which surely matured me as a parent.

“Why does it glow?”, Ahmed asked me inquisitively, not interested in touching it anymore. Having no clue how to explain him the phenomena, I escaped with a quick reply that there is some luminescent powder under their bellies. “Why is it there?”, he quickly responded with another question. This was enough to make me realise that a three-year-old cannot possibly be satisfied with any more biological reasons. He did not actually want the ‘reason’ why nocturnal beetles do what they do; rather, through a completely natural mechanism, he was just trying to simplify the world around him. At least, that is what I thought at that moment and told him that it is called a firefly (Jugnoo in Urdu) and Allah has made it as such. I didn’t want to engage his mind at that time with my own questions and was completely caught by surprise when he asked me where is Allah.

Keeping quiet, I did not reply for few moments as he repeated his question several times. “What should I tell him!”, I asked myself as my mind restlessly moved in various domains.

I instantly remembered the slave girl of Muawiah ibn al-Hakm whose incident is recorded in Muwatta of Imam Malik (and I believe in Muslim’s Sahih too). In response to a similar question by the Prophet, she pointed towards the heavens silently or said fi al-sama (in the sky) according to a different version. I thought about Quran which mentions that Allah is closer to us than our jugular veins. The face of that pious-looking old man also came to my mind who used to recite Allah’s 99 names on television in Ramadhan transmission in a studio with heavenly background and who was God according to most of us when we were very young. I remembered asking my mother similar questions when I was growing up. I couldn’t remember exactly what she said but I had a vague memory that she somehow made us believe that God is everywhere. “How he is everywhere?” is a question that we never thought to ask her in those days.

In that continued state of helplessness, I did a miserable job and told him that Allah is above in the heavens. As a result, his present demand was pretty logical. Like all the parents, I came out of this situation as a winner, telling him that nobody can see God and he will understand it when he’ll grow up. Not interested anymore in the dialogue, he turned his attention somewhere else.

In his own cute little way, he understood, and probably got the first lesson of suspending judgements.

I got my own lessons too.

Since that night, I couldn’t get those questions off my mind for too long. How many of us do believe REALLY in an invisible, always communicating, governing and law-sending God, each and every second of our lives. How many of us are unable to do without a Creator-Hypothesis when we sit to calculate various probabilities that concern our lives each day. Are we completely at home with notion of a providing Creator. To put it simply, how many of us can describe God to an innocent’s intellect whose raw logic is not yet trained to impulsively deal with universals.

To All the Parents…

I wonder sometimes if they are really little children or angels sent by Almighty on earth. The perplexity fades away slowly when they exhibit emotions which are very much human. They have their own lilliputian way of ad-lib expressionism. The emotional make up of which is too familiar and strange simultaneously. Familiar as it is not unpredictable like grown ups – strange as it is magically dexterous and shrewd. Yet the blend looks completely natural as the flow of emotions is ostentatious and unpretentious at the same time. With time they learn to act like adults but their reactions portray their strangeness to the mature world around them.

A display of extraordinary deviation from the adult behavior is absolute fearlessness, perhaps because of the raw energy that they inherently possess in mammoth amounts. It also proves the psychological hypothesis that fears are not inherent yet we let ourselves trained to be afraid by internal and external agents. Another surprising feature of their disposition is absolute and selfless love. They simply do not know how to hate – the notion is totally alien to their physiological patterns. In short they are the shadow of original and impure matter of creation – which might be the nature’s way of reminding us how far we have deviated from the standard.

As parents, we fall into believing almost instinctively at subconscious level that our children are because of us. Which may be true in a hackneyed sense, yet in a realistic sense, nature uses us to bring them into this world. They have to face their own pitfalls, conquer their own heights and get stuck in their own quagmires as they naturally proceed to grow up. Heading towards the unknown terminus, they have their own labyrinths to navigate through and completely strange puzzles to solve. It is true that we share the same genetic make up with our children but do not own and predict their destinies. We as parents generally fail to overcome the urge that our child’s future must trace the not-so-well-trodden tracks of our past. This urge is a process, dynamics of which are dictated by a myriad of intangible inputs like the glow of their eyes, the sound of their giggles, touch of their rubber skins and warmth of their arms when they cling to us. The outputs of this transformational process are high expectations, desires to exercise control, excessive possessiveness and most importantly desperation, when they fail to achieve what we want. Those of us who overcome the negatives of this emotional quandary are exceptional human beings beyond doubt.

The extremes of this behavior are the manifestations of conscious and subconscious drivers. At one extreme plays the desire to hit the bull in the eye and on other lies the belief that we could have chosen not to take the aim. The borderline notion that we had the ultimate choice to bring our children to this spatial reality and can lead their course to the other one is completely subjective and false. On one hand its a paradoxical trap to which we actually fall prey and at the same time, – the most difficult testing ground for human faith. A glaring example is uncontrollable grief of the one who loses a child. The deprivation is certainly incomparable to any material loss. Yet the absoluteness that humans tend to attach with this spontaneous feeling of loss is philosophically wrong. At the end we can only lose what is ours…

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,
not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you
with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.[1]
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1. Khalil Gibran, On Children, The Prophet.