Friday, April 8, 2011

Mobile Mania - Our New Lord and Master

I was recently surfing the channels when I came across a cooking show. Not a fan of such programs, I was about to change the channel when I noticed something strange - the chef was stirring something with one hand, trying to speak to a caller and checking his messages on his mobile with the other hand! Checking your mobile on a live TV show? I wondered what could be so important that one would forget basic etiquette and even forget that one was on a live TV show. 

But he isn't alone in this mobile mania, I have seen people risk life and limb the moment an sms alert sounds. It doesn't matter if they are on a motorbike or crossing the road - sms is the new lord and master, when it beckons people will respond. But the point here is not that we need to be disciplined or that we need to understand the basic etiquette of using mobiles, the bigger question is "Why"?  Why do people forget everything when they hear a message alert? Why does rationale and common sense fly out of the window?

Perhaps at the root of this insanity lie 2 primeval emotions - fear and hope. Our moments of happiness have shrunk considerably over the past few years and for millions of people around the globe and especially in Pakistan each day brings a new survival challenge. Its not just about financial challenges but the challenge of making it home safely, the challenge of dealing with the possibility that you may be safe but your family might be in danger. The challenge of dealing with helplessness in the face of corruption, the challenge of dealing with disappointments on a daily basis. Perhaps that is why when the sms alert sounds the basic fear instinct takes over and rational takes a nose dive.

Or it might be that last thing that was set free from Pandora's box - hope. The hope that a sudden unexpected good news will relieve some of our troubles. The hope that the sms will be a really funny joke which can make us smile when we can find no reasons of our own to be happy. The hope that God will work a miracle in our lives and the next sms could be an indication of that miracle.

Regardless of our reasons one thing is for sure, the person who hits the send button on their mobile for an instant controls the time of all the recipients.  Such is the power of the mobile sms.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Adam - the first Human or first Homo Sapien?

As a Muslim my belief in the Quran is unshakeable, which is perhaps natural since each religion holds its holy book in complete reverence. That is what belief in religion is all about, you cannot be part of a religion and not believe in what constitutes its foundation. Biblical scholars have for years used archaeology as a means of discovering and proving the events narrated in the Bible. However as most Biblical scholars agree, since the Bible was compiled over several years and most of the chapters were written centuries after they were revealed there have been problems with the accuracy of dates and geographic locations. It is sad that Muslims have not devoted such a scientific pursuit of a book that they know has not changed a bit since the day it was revealed. Most of our study of the Quran has been more to do with jurisprudence and practices. We have completely ignored the fact that it is a book of history as well as science.

If there has been one question that has dogged most scholars and created the biggest rift between science and religion, it is the question of who was Adam and when did he live? If science says that humans evolved over hundreds of thousands of years till we got to our present stage and the early humans were little more than animals, then how do we explain the fact that Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions say that Adam and Eve were the first humans on this planet and that Adam was the first Prophet? Based on our understanding of what a Prophet means we know that these are people who are guided by God to bring their people on the right path and that they posses knowledge which is unknown to the others. But science tells us that this level of consciousness was perhaps beyond the first man and woman. We know that science is accurate and we also believe that religion is true, but 2 truths cannot be opposite to each other. One would be the truth and the other false – at least that’s what conventional wisdom and logic dictates. Or is it??

We seem to treat the Wisdom of God very superficially. If the Quran is a book valid till eternity then it is logical to deduce that there will be layers of meanings which will be understood by generations of human beings as their knowledge expands. This simply means that it is impossible to think that people who lived a 1000 years ago would have read the Quran and were able to appreciate its historic and scientific aspects the same way that we do or that our future generations will. Perhaps we need to examine things from a different perspective. I recently came across the National Geographic’s Genographic project on the web . It shows the migration of humans across the globe over thousands of years. At the 60,000 years ago mark there was a little dot that said “Adam” and the explanation was fascinating.

It said “ Adam is the common male ancestor of every living man. He lived in Africa some 60,000 years ago which means that all humans lived in Africa until at least that time. Unlike his Biblical namesake he was not the only man alive in his era. Rather, he is unique because his descendants are the only ones to survive to the present day. It is important to note that Adam does not represent the first human. He is the coalescence point of all genetic diversity found in the world’s disparate peoples. Adam had human ancestors as well but we have no genetic evidence of them. The changes to the Y chromosome that we follow back through the generations to identify Adam end in the commonality of that shared ancestor”.

I found this information fascinating. Perhaps Adam was the first man not because he was the first homo sapien on this planet, but because he was the first human with the consciousness which we have come to accept as the hallmark of our species. Early homo sapiens by no means seem deserving of the title of ‘Ashraf ul Makhluqat’ or Supreme Creation, but perhaps Adam was the first human who was sent down to earth with this aspect of his character and who would then continue to pass it down to all humans and which is why God destroyed all genetic evidence of other humans of that era.

Quran does not really give any specific dates to various events recorded in its pages, perhaps because the time frames were too large for people of that day to comprehend or perhaps because it is meant to spur us on a voyage of discovery. My wish is that one day Muslims would again actively take on science and history as active pursuits like the earlier followers of Islam and some solid research is conducted free of dogmas, until then people like me will continue to put forward theories which are in part fact in part conjecture.