One of the things I do is teach young people science, one to one. I tell them the whole universe was once contained within a single particle smaller than an atom. They are gob smacked, especially those who are Muslim. It is well worth thinking about.
The first point is that there is nothing in the Qur’an that should lead us to be surprised by these facts. Whilst the Qur’an is in part a set of detailed instructions as to how a society should order itself for the mutual benefit and protection of its members there are also verses that are a window onto infinity. The very opening verse of the Qur’an is one such “Praise is to God, the sustainer of the worlds”. Another is 6:103 “He is above all comprehension, Yet is acquainted with all things”. So it is with the Bible. The verse "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God" is given pride of place in the Christian cycle of Gospel readings.
It is not simply a question of understanding that the universe is both huger and smaller than we thought. There is a further dimension, one of immeasurable complexity. Around the family hearth the eldest son is looking at pictures from the Hubble Telescope and the youngest daughter is making cakes with her mother; both stand on the threshold of the infinite. The eighteenth century English poet and mystic William Blake wrote “A Robin Redbreast in a cage, puts all heaven in a rage”, nothing about galaxies and Empires here.
Thinking about the infinite nature of God can be a liberating experience. There are times, lots of times, when a young and inquisitive mind meets nothing but obstacles; the dreaded trinity of Uncle, Mum and Mosque. I would not want to undermine parental or religious authority but it is a truth embedded in the Qur’an that we all, young and old, see through a glass darkly, we pass on to others mere glimpses of the truth and a little humility would not go amiss.
The purpose of education is supposed to be to prepare young people for life. In a practical sense we all need to learn to follow instructions and schools certainly do that job very well, perhaps too well. But whilst we obey the traffic lights and pay our taxes there are always, always those who "spread corruption in the land". Young people need to be educated so they can identify and resist such corrupters, whoever they may be and however highly placed.
Ken Mafham is a Muslim Insitute Fellow and a Town Planning Consultant with 40 years experience. His work has taken him to Mauritius, Bauch State Nigeria , Merseyside and the East Midlands. He has also taught lessons to 30-40 individuals a week for the last fifteen years, from Year 1 to A level. This leaves little time for hobbies but he does like to play the violin and sing. Not both at the same time though.