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A Muslims Reflection on Hawking and the Likes…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

As a student of Astrophysics, I have always found myself plunging into studying the cosmos. Lately I have also started reading about particle physics. In short I can describe my experience as breath-taking! I am stunned by the creation of Almighty.

At the same time, I always wonder, why the likes of smart people, highly intelligent, like Hawking (Theorotical Physicist – highly known for his work on Black Holes and Hawking Radiation, who died today), Ed Witten (proposer of M-theory) etc. did/do not receive guidance to believe in a Superme Creator..

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(Hawking has produced some amazing research on Black Holes. Hawking Radiation describes the process on how a black hole slowly evaporates and loses its existence)

I found my answer in the Nobel Qur’an, where Allaah عز وجل says,

وَعَادًا وَثَمُودَ وَقَدْ تَبَيَّنَ لَكُمْ مِنْ مَسَاكِنِهِمْ ۖ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ وَكَانُوا مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ

“And ‘Ad and Thamud (people)! And indeed (their destruction) is clearly apparent to you from their (ruined) dwellings. Shaitan (Satan) made their deeds fair-seeming to them, and turned them away from the (Right) Path, though they were intelligent.”

-Sura Al-Ankabut, Ayah 38

For anyone who knows the history of the people of ‘Ad and Thamud, it becomes apparent that they were highly intelligent, strongly built, carved homes in sand hills – a feat which requires planned engineering (refer Tasfir ibn Kathir). This becomes explicit in the ayah,

أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ كَانُوا أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَأَثَارُوا الْأَرْضَ وَعَمَرُوهَا أَكْثَرَ مِمَّا عَمَرُوهَا وَجَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ۖ فَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيَظْلِمَهُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ كَانُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ

“Do they not travel in the land, and see what was the end of those before them? They were superior to them in strength, and they tilled the earth and populated it in greater numbers than these (pagans) have done, and there came to them their Messengers with clear proofs. Surely, Allah wronged them not, but they used to wrong themselves.”

-Sura Ar-Rum, Ayah 9

Going back the former ayah in Surah al-Ankabut, Allaah عز وجل uses the word مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ to describe the people of ‘Ad and Thamud – that means they were given baseerah – they were a people with deep insights. That’s why, Dr. Muhsin Khan and Taqi ud Deen al-Hilali (May Allaah have mercy upon both of them) interpreted the word مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ as ‘they (people of ‘Ad and Thamud) were intelligent’.

So it becomes explicit now, people with high intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be guided. Why aren’t they guided then?

Dr. Muhsin Khan and Taqi ud Deen al-Hilali mentioned the five reasons why people fall into major disbelief in the appendix of their interpretation of the Noble Qur’an,

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(To understand what a true Muslim believes and what are the six articles of faith, please download the concise thirteen page book here – Belief of a Muslim)

So basically, it is one of the reasons above, the well known scientists today persist in their disbelief and hence lack guidance towards the ultimate truth.

I’d like to conclude this article by including another ayah from the Noble Qur’an and سبحان الله , this from Surah al-Ankabut again,

Allaah عز وجل says,

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

“As for those who strive hard in Us (Our Cause), We will surely guide them to Our Paths (i.e. Allah’s Religion – Islamic Monotheism). And verily, Allah is with the Muhsinun (good doers).”

-Sura Al-Ankabut, Ayah 69

May Allaah عز وجل guide all those who sincerely strive to seek the truth.

– Compiled by Sarfarāz ibn Shuja

 

PicsArt_03-19-12.46.56

First Ask Why

Professor Hefley sat on the empty table across John Doe and with a  cheerful smile on his face asked him, 
“So why did you come late to class John?”
John was caught completely by surprise and in a shy voice muttered the words,
“I missed the early bus”, 
hoping that the rest of the class wouldn’t hear. But of course, they did. Professor Hefley’s smile widened and then he asked John, 
“Why did you miss the bus?”
John quickly answered, 
“I couldn’t make it to the bus stop on time”.
“Why couldn’t you make it on time?”.
John took a moment to recall and then replied, 
“I was speaking to someone on the phone.”
Professor Hefley didn’t stop there, he asked, 
“Why were you speaking on the phone?” 
John was having fun at this point, and once again resorted to the mode of thinking. 
“There was this package that I was expecting from India that did not arrive on time. I needed to make an inquiry.”
The professor theatrically exclaimed, 
“Aha! That is the problem you see!”
The professor pointed out to John that the phone call wasn’t made on the right time and also that his package not arriving on schedule was a reason for John to come late to class.

This episode took place in a Project Management class where the subject of the day was Project Quality Management. Specifically, what do when there is a problem in quality. And this is how Clinical Professor Hefley would teach us, by giving us real-time, understandable examples of the subject matter he was presenting at hand, with a touch of humor. He would use the environment around him and spontaneously come up with remarkable examples to explain complex concepts. He once had to explain this concept of  object ‘encapsulation’ in software development during object oriented analysis in the problem domain, which was for information hiding that enforces protection of what goes on inside an object from the outside world  to ensure no one can change the way the software operates without permission and they just have to trust it works. To explain this jibberish, he grabbed a glass of water that just happened to be in front of him and took a big gulp. And then he asked the class while rubbing his tummy,
“Do you know whats going on inside?”
The class replied, “No!”
“But do you trust it?”, he asked with a grin.
And the class all nodded their head in approval of the point they had got.
And then there was this other instance where he had to explain the messaging that takes place between objects in an information system and that a return value is a reply that a message may invoke from the receiving object after an operation has been complete. To explain this, he just shouted “Marco!” and someone from the back of the class who knew the game shouted back “Polo!”. The concept was seared into the mind from that moment onwards.

This man was very talented as a teacher and I would always be at the edge of my seat in his class while he passionately delivered his genius on the subject until he would start to lose his breath. No wonder he has accomplished so much in his profession from being a Project Manager and System Developer in top class MNC’s; researcher and Ph.D holder in Computers, Organizations and Society; Professor, adviser and Program Director at Carnegie Mellon University and now a prestigious clinical professor at University of Texas at Dallas, the place where I happened to study under him.

Back to the John Doe incident in the Project Quality Management class. The professor was giving everyone a live example of a technique called the ‘5 Whys Technique’. This is a technique that is used when there’s a complaint for a quality problem in a project.This technique helps us to do two things:

  1. Trace complaints about quality problems back the responsible production operations, back to where the cause of problem might have erupted from.
  2. Take a corrective action to resolve the cause of the problem.

In simple words, the technique helps you to find the root cause of a problem and then solve it.

So John Doe’s case can be summarized as follows:

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
The Cause:
Made an inquiry call about package delivery at the wrong time
Corrective action:
Adjust time for making calls

Let’s say after further questioning we discover that the cause to John Does problem is not the call that he made. After asking him ‘Why’ he called at a time like that, he tells us that he had planned to make that call earlier but because he got into the washroom late, he ended up delaying the call. In this case, we notice that the cause of the problem has changed. And so subsequently the corrective action needs to change!:

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
The Cause:
Got into the bathroom late
Corrective action:
Adjust time for bathroom use

And another ‘Why?’ question reveals to us that he got into the bathroom late because his alarm clock didn’t go off, which would yet again change the corrective action to take against the cause:

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
The Cause:
Got up late because Alarm didn’t go off
Corrective action:
Check Alarm clock batteries

And with these discoveries we can draw what’s called a ‘Cause-and-Effect’ diagram, or a ‘Fishbone’ or ‘Ishikawa Diagram’. The problem or effect is placed at the ‘fish head’. The causes of the effect are then laid out along the ‘bones’. This diagram helps us easily present the entire case to simplify the analysis.

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This is a very basic example of the profound use this technique has to offer. We notice that the problem remains the same, but a proper approach to problem solving helps us discover so many corrective measures to take that would help us best solve the case, because here we have to understand one very important principle that Professor Hefley taught us:

We have to correct the Cause, not the Problem

We see that upon asking a simple ‘Why’ to the individual we learn more about the problem. We discover new pathways that could potentially help us to arrive at the root cause of the problem.
By spending some time analyzing the problem and by introducing the ‘Cause‘ variable to the scenario, we can take a more appropriate and closer to accurate stance of implementing the corrective action against the Cause, and not the Problem itself. Thereby making our problems practicably solvable for a long term because we plug the cause of the problem forever.  What if we hadn’t introduced the variable of the ‘Cause’ in our measures to solve the problem? We would probably have ended up with:

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
Corrective action:
Warn John to catch the bus on time

or

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
Corrective action:
Scold John

or

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
Corrective action:
Tell John that he is lazy

or

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
Corrective action:
Punish John by commanding him to go clean the class room white board

We see that none of the corrective actions discussed above have any guarantee of solving the problem. We don’t even know whether they address the thing that lead to the Problem. It’s like throwing the dart in the air without knowing where the center of the dartboard is. Or like giving a patient a remedy without knowing what the source of the disease is! You will only score the maximum points if you know the correct way of throwing (corrective action) and hit the dartboard (the Problem) at the bullseye (‘the Cause’). And you will only have a chance of curing a cancer patient if you kill the source of the cancer cells, the Cause of the cancer cells.

Such blind problem solving skills often result in the wrong outcome such as:

  • Not being able to solve the problem at all
  • Making the problem worse because of taking the wrong corrective action
  • Offending the doer of the mistake by alleging a charge against him that he did not commit.

Taking the corrective action to ‘Warn John to catch the bus on time’ (above) is almost an indirect allegation that he deliberately missed the bus, let alone the wrong corrective action.

The ‘5 Whys Technique’ was introduced by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of the 12 billion dollar ‘Toyota Industries’ and father of Kiichiro Toyoda who found the gigantic 30 Trillion dollar company called the ‘Toyota Motor Corporation’. The technique was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. Since then it has been fine-tuned within the Toyota Motor Corporation as a critical component of its problem-solving training.

Taiichi Ohno, the architect of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s, says in his book ‘Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production’ that the ‘5 Whys Technique’ is “the basis of Toyota’s scientific approach . . . by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.”[1]

The technique is now used in Six Sigma DMAIC [2], Lean Manufacturing [3] and Kaizen [4] project management methodologies.

But the technique of asking ‘Why’ in solving quality problems is not something new to the world. It existed centuries ago.

In his book ‘The Prophet’s Method for Correcting People’s Mistakes’ [5], Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid cites instances of how the Prophet Sallahu Alayhi wa Sallam solved social problems that could have otherwise resulted in viscous feuds just by first asking ‘Why’. Study the following case:

An-Nisaa`i (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported from Abbaad ibn Sharhabeel RadhiAllahuAnhu (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
“I came with my (paternal) uncles to Madeenah, and we entered one of the gardens of the city. I rubbed some of the wheat, and the owner of the garden came and took my cloak and hit me. I came to the Messenger of Allah (Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam – peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asking for his help. He sent for that man and they brought him to him. He (the Messenger Sallalalahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said to him,
‘What made you do that ?’ or ‘Why did you do that?’
He said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, he went into my garden and took some of my wheat and rubbed it.’
The Messenger of Allah (Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said, 
‘You did not teach him if it was the matter of him not knowing, and you did not feed him if it was the matter of him being hungry.Give him back his cloak.’
And the Messenger of Allah (Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam) ordered that I should be given a wasq or half a wasq (a measure of wheat).”
[Al-Nisaa`i, al-MuLtabaa, Kitaab Aadaab al-Qudaat, Baab al-Isti’daa’; Saheeh Sunan al-Nisaa`i, no. 4999]

So here is the case from the garden owners point of view:

The Problem:
Abbaad rubbed the wheat of my garden
Corrective action:
Take his clock and hit him

What did that result in? Did it solve the problem? Following were the results of that corrective action:

  • Abbaad RadhiAllahu Anhu became upset.
  • He went and made a complaint to the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam which was enough to scare the daylights out of anyone.
  • Most importantly, the problem wasn’t solved.

And when the case was brought to The Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam, what did he do? He taught the owner of the garden to properly inquire about the ‘Cause’ of the Problem first before deciding on the Corrective Action to take. So by saying:

‘You did not teach him if it was the matter of him not knowing, and you did not feed him if it was the matter of him being hungry.’

the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam taught the owner how to deal with problem by looking at the case differently after finding out about the ‘Cause’ variable:

The Problem:
Abbaad rubbed the wheat of my garden
The Cause:
Abbad says he is hungry
Corrective action:
Give him some wheat

How else do you think the Cause of the Problem could have ever been discovered except by the owner taking the step to first ask Why?
Here is another incident that Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid cites in the same book where the outcome was much better because the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam intervened with his wisdom to first ask Why:
Anas ibn Maalik RadhiAllahu Anhu reported:

“Whilst we were in the mosque with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), a Bedouin came and stood urinating in the mosque. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said,
“Stop it! Stop it!”
But the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said,
“Do not interrupt him; leave him alone.” (In another report by Bukhari, he said to them: “You have been sent to make things easy for people, not to make things hard.”)
So they left him until he had finished urinating…..Saheeh Muslim, no. 285
The incident continues in the following report where the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam called the Bedouin to find out the Cause by asking him:
“What made you urinate in our mosque?” or “Why did you urinate in our mosque?”
He (the Bedouin) said,
“By the One Who sent you with the truth, I thought it was just like any other place so I urinated in it.” ….Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, no. 11552, vol. 11, p.220.
The Corrective action that the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam took is reported to have been to advice the Bedouin the following:
“In these mosques it is not right to do anything like urinating or defecating; they are only for remembering Allah, praying and reading Qur`aan, or words to that effect. Then he commanded a man who was there to bring a bucket of water and throw it over the urine, and he did so.” …….Saheeh Muslim, no. 285

So here is the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam, teaching the sahabah (the companions of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam) the importance of not jumping to correct the problem without proper evaluation. We can make the following analysis based on this case:

The Problem:
The Bedouin urinated in the mosque
The Cause:
The Bedouin thought the mosque is just like any other place where one may urinate
Corrective action:
Explain to the Bedouin what a mosque is used for

It is clear from this case that the Corrective action that the sahabah were about to use was to stop the Bedouin. But the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam had the foresightedness to solve the Problem for a long term using a different and more effective corrective action. So effective that when this incident was over, the character and wisdom of the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam had left such an impression on the Bedouin that he is reported to have said:

“He got up, may my mother and my father be sacrificed for him, he did not rebuke me or insult me. He just said, ‘We do not urinate in this mosque; it was only built for the remembrance of Allah and for prayer.’ Then he called for a bucket of water and poured it over the urine.” ….Sunan Ibn Maajah

Written by Jibran Asif Shareef

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[1] https://open.buffer.com/5-whys-process/

[2] https://www.isixsigma.com/tools-templates/cause-effect/determine-root-cause-5-whys/

[3] https://hbr.org/2010/04/the-five-whys-for-startups

[4] http://www.toyota-global.com/company/toyota_traditions/quality/mar_apr_2006.html

[5] The Prophet’s Methods for Correcting People’s Mistakes