The Sunnah and belief about Allah
The second most important source of authority for Muslims is the Sunnah. This refers to the practices, customs and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad that are considered to be a perfect example. They are found in Hadith and other texts.
Many of Muhammad’s followers memorised his teachings while he was alive. These were later written down and scrutinised and then collections were made of them. Different groups of Muslims accept different collections of Hadith as reliable sources of authority.
The Sunnah and belief about Allah
When reading the Hadith, Muslims can experience the way Muhammad explained and illustrated the teaching in the Qur’an including the teaching about Allah. For example, the following Hadith might help a Muslim better understand the idea that Allah is all-forgiving:
Allah the Almighty has said: 'O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me, and hope in Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds in the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I shall forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with an earthful of sins and were you then to face Me, without having associated anything with Me, I shall grant you an earthful of pardon.'
Recorded by Al-Tirmidhi (An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith -42)
Miracles are not a major concern of Islam. There are examples of miracles recorded in the Qur’an, in particular the Al-Mi‘raj when Muhammad was taken through the heavens to meet Allah. The Qur’an makes clear that Allah can perform miracles if he wishes. The Qur’an itself is sometimes seen as a living miracle because of the way in which it has been passed down unchanged.
The origins of the universe
In the Qur’an (the Divine Book revealed to the Prophet Muhammad) there are details of the Creation:
"Surely, your Lord is Allah. Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods; then He settled Himself on the Throne. He makes the night cover the day, pursuing it swiftly. He has created the sun and the moon and the stars, all made subservient by His command…
He it is Who sends the winds… Good land brings forth vegetation plentifully by the command of the Lord."
"I have created men, high and low, that they may worship Me. I desire no support from them, nor do I desire that they should feed Me. Surely, it is Allah who is the Great Sustainer, the Lord of Power, the Strong."
There is no particular order given for the Creation and there is no suggestion as to how long the ayyam (periods of time) were.
- Cosmology is the study of the universe, and humanity’s place in it.
- One of the theories put forward by cosmologists is the Big Bang theory. This suggests that about 15,000 million years ago there was a massive explosion. This was the point at which all matter in the universe began; space and time began then too. Over time the universe that we know, and human and animal life, emerged.
- This theory is generally accepted by scientists as being the best theory they have to explain the origins of the universe.
- If this theory is true, then it could mean that the universe ‘just happened’ and that it did not emerge as a result of the activity of a creator God.
- The idea that life might have evolved was first mentioned as early as the 4th century CE by St Augustine, who wrote that God probably only created very simple life forms and that these developed over time.
- Today we associate evolutionary science with scientists such as Charles Darwin who wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ in 1859. He argued that life begin with very simple cells and later developed into what we see today. He said that Natural Selection was one of the major mechanisms driving evolution.
- Darwin upset many people with his views and even some respected scientists such as Philip Gosse argued that the fossils which were discovered in the ground had been placed there by God deliberately to fool people.
Muslims would argue that science does not affect their belief in Allah’s (God's) creation of the world, instead it explains what the Qur’an does not say. An important part of being a Muslim is to strive for clear understanding, therefore scientific explanations are welcomed as they help Muslims to have a greater understanding of Allah.
Muslims would say that the Qur’an has an account of the beginning of Creation which appears very close to modern scientific theories:
"Do not the disbelievers realise that the heavens and earth were a solid mass, then We split them asunder, and We made from water every living thing? … He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon each gliding freely in its orbit."
Because of the Muslim interest in and respect for science which helps them come to know and understand more about Allah, ideas from cosmology and evolutionary biology do not cause any problems.