Wednesday, January 18, 2012

7. Man – the Intelligent, Conscious and Free-Willed Robot of God

Allah created man to serve Him. Man is addressed by Allah as “abd” meaning robot (servant). “I created jinn and man only to serve Me.” (Q. 51:56). The Arabic word abd is synonymous with the English word robot (servant). The root of this word may be traced to the Czech play ‘Rossum’s Universal Roboters’ of the 1920s in which human workers were portrayed as ‘robots’ (‘robota’ in Czechoslovakian language means servitude). A robot is a programmed machine designed to perform desired physical tasks. A humanoid robot is shown in Figure 1.  Robot is essentially a computer with three additional features namely, sensors (which receives data from the environment), microprocessors (which transform data into information) and actuators (or muscles, which control the energy requirement). The human robot, which is designed and created by God to serve Him, should certainly be special. The worldview about man as no more than a species on Earth is fundamentally wrong. That view is created by the atheist scientific lobby without realizing the God’s purpose of creating man as His robot and the unique features God bestowed on him to suit the purpose. Creation of man was discussed earlier (see posts 4 and 6). Here we will discuss the unique attributes of human biosystem designed to serve Allah and the need of testing human biosystem before it is deployed as Allah’s robot. The Quran sheds light on several characteristic features of human biorobot system, which cannot be derived from any other sources. All these features, as you will see, agree well with the divine purpose of creating man and justify the test he is subjected to in this life.

Figure 1. A humanoid robot (Asimo Honda, Japan), the most advanced robot system made so far

Mind (qalb) – the conscious free-willed processor
Every component of the universe including living species other than man was created by Allah as unconscious, fully subservient biosystems (i.e., totally programmed dedicated systems) with absolutely no freedom to act on their own (Q. 16:48-50; 30:26). They all form part and parcel of the facility created for testing man. They are totally programmed dedicated systems like our current breed of robots. “Do they not look at things Allah created? Their shadows tilt towards right and left prostrating to Allah in humility. And to Allah prostrate all living things in the skies and in earth, and the angels. And they are not arrogant. They all fear their Lord above them and they function as they are instructed (i.e., as programmed).” (Q. 16:48-50). Man is the only species bestowed with freedom to take decision and act. “Did you not see that whoever in the skies and whoever in the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the animals and a large number of human beings prostrate to Him? But a large number (of men also) deserve punishment. Whoever Allah disgraces, none will be there to honour him. Allah does what He intends.” (Q. 22:18). This verse mentions that although all other things in the universe submit (i.e., programmed) to God, not all human beings do that. Clearly the universe is a totally programmed system with the exception of human beings. The discretionary freedom given to man is further indicated in verses 17:84 and 76:3. “Say: “Everyone acts according to his own disposition. But your Lord knows best who is best guided on the path.” (Q. 17:84). “We (i.e., Allah) showed him the (right) way; either he can be grateful or ungrateful.” (Q. 76:3).

In order to understand the functioning of human biosytem, it is necessary to distinguish the freewill-based tasks from the rest of the activities. Freewill-based functions are the voluntary actions which the biosystem is conscious of. The part of human body that takes decision for conscious action and the one that experiences it and gives the “I” feeling to the biosystem is the mind. Human mind is the only thing in the whole universe that is bestowed with freedom to take decision and act on its will. The Quran refers to that part as the qalb. In computer parlance, human mind can be considered as conscious intelligent free-willed “processor”. It is the qalb with these special attributes that makes man a class of his own and distinguishes him from the rest of the world. All other organisms lack mind and hence freewill (Figure 2). It is the processor mind that imparts consciousness and freewill to human robot system. Apart from the conscious activities, the system also performs numerous house-keeping internal activities, which the mind is unaware of. These are involuntary functions. This indicates that there is another processor (CPU) responsible for executing life-sustaining biological activities in accordance with the biosoftware. This is unconscious processor. Maybe it is these two processors that are generally distinguished as two parts of the mind and referred to as conscious and subconscious mind. In the computer model, they are considered as two different processors namely mind and CPU, linked to each other (Figure 2). Thus human biosystem can be described as biprocessor system [1, 2]. Since animals do not have mind, they are neither conscious nor are able to take own decisions to act. All their activities are unconscious involuntary activities determined by the CPU in accordance with their biosoftware. The animal biosystem is comparable with present-day man-made robots. The importance of the qalb and its attributes are very much highlighted in the Quran. The special place the Quran gives to Earth among the universal components (see post 8) and the special place it gives to qalb compared to other parts of human biosystem indicate their importance from the point of view of divine purpose of creation. The features of qalb are revealed by the Quran through several verses. Consider the following.

Figure 2. A comparison of human and animal biosystems based on computer model

Had they not travelled through the earth so that they would have minds (qalbs) with which they could understand and ears with which they could hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind but their minds that are in their memories.” (Q. 22:46). Your God is one God. But those who do not believe in the Hereafter, their minds (qalbs) are denying and they are arrogant ones.” (Q. 16:22). These verses tell us qalb is the part that thinks, learns and takes decisions (indicating freewill).

Qalb is a data entry port like the ear or the eye. The divine revelation (the Quran) was conveyed to the qalb of Prophet Muhammad. The Satan also puts suggestions to the qalb to deviate man from the righteous path. “Say (O Muhammad!): “Whoever is an enemy of Gabriel, (let him understand) that certainly it was he (Gabriel) who transmitted the (revelation) onto your mind (qalb) by Allah’s order confirming the (revelations) that came before it and as guidance and glad tidings to the believers.” (Q. 2:97).He (i.e., Allah) makes (the evil suggestions) put in by Satan a trial for those in whose minds (qalbs) is a disease and (whose) minds are hardened. Verily the wrongdoers are in a schism far (from the truth).” (Q. 22:53)

The Quran further reveals to us that Allah made faculties of hearing, seeing, feeling and understanding only for man. “Say: “It is He who created you and made for you the faculties of hearing and seeing, and mental faculties (afidat). Little thanks it is you give.” (Q. 67:23). “Verily We created man from a mixed drop in order to test him. So We gave him faculties of hearing and sight.” (Q. 76:2). The Arabic word “afidat” has been translated as “feeling and understanding” [3], which are conscious activities. Therefore, these may be considered as attributes of the qalb. To sum up, the qalb (mind) is a processor that has the ability to learn, think and understand, to act as input port, to impart consciousness (“I” feeling) and hence feelings including pain, to exercise freewill and decide course of action by the individual.

Although animals have external data input ports like eye, ear, etc., the signals coming through them are processed by the CPU (and not by mind as in human beings) and hence do not result in conscious perception of the environment. They do not see or hear “consciously” as we do.  “We have made many of the jinns and human beings for Hell. They have minds with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see and they have ears with which they do not hear. They are like cattle; nay more misguided. They are the heedless people.” (Q. 7:179). “Or do you think that most of them do listen or understand? They are only like cattle; nay, they are farther off the (righteous) path.” (Q. 25:44).

These revelations indicate that qalb is required for conscious perception. These Quranic verses convey very important messages about sensory perception. Allah informs us that the animals do not see or hear as we do. However from the observations of animal behaviour, it may be argued that animals also see and hear like us and that the Quranic comparison of man with animal (Q. 7:179; 25:44) is only to make the message more emphatic and forceful. However this argument is weakened by the assertion that the faculties of hearing, seeing, feeling and understanding are created only for man (Q. 67:23). What does this mean? It means that the qalb creates the physical reality of the universe which we experience. The world is nothing but information – the divine instructions carried by the energy. When a signal is received from the environment through an input port say eye, it is processed by the qalb in accordance with our biosoftware and the signal gets transformed into visual perception, a conscious activity. Thus we get a 3D image of the object. In other words, the world acquires colour, size, etc., the way mind processes the information (carried by energy) in accordance with our biosoftware. The world around us is basically without sound, colour, taste, size, etc., but only divine information. It is human mind that imparts these characteristics to the outside world in accordance with the biosoftware. Thus conscious perception occurs only in human beings and man alone perceives the world with colour, sound, etc., and no other species does. The Quranic message that Allah made faculties of hearing, seeing, feeling and understanding only for man (Q. 67:23) points to that. The Quranic verse 7:179 further implies that mere possession of organs like eye and ear is not enough to provide the system with faculties of seeing and hearing. Animals have eyes and ears but they do not see or hear as we do (Q. 7:179; 25:44).

Figure 2 shows a single processor (CPU) in animal system, which processes all the signals (inputted from inside body as well as from outside through eyes, ears, etc.) and decides the course of action (response) in accordance with the biosoftware of the organism. On the other hand, human body has two processors namely a CPU and mind. The signals arising from inside the body (i.e., internal biological functions) are processed by the CPU and action taken as per the biosoftware (nafs). These are unconscious activities in which mind is not involved. However if any signal is transmitted to mind (e.g., pain) it is perceived consciously. Similarly if mind decides to influence certain internal activities being performed by CPU, it can. For example, if mind decides to stop the breathing process, it can do that. Similarly, signals transmitted from mind to CPU can also influence the internal activities. For example, if the mind is in a sorrowful state, the functioning of CPU will also be affected correspondingly. In this way mind-CPU linkage can be understood.

The signals coming through the external input ports (sensory organs are invariably processed by the qalb to create conscious perception. Any information (signal) ‘viewed’ by the qalb is a conscious activity and any action commanded by the qalb is also a conscious activity. This includes also data or information downloaded from memory to mind during thought process. The mind is supposed here as processor functioning independently of the CPU and is bestowed with not only the processing ability but also the discretionary power. The mind transmits its decision to CPU and the CPU executes it as per the biosoftware. This is reflected in activating the tissues/organs concerned for action. If nothing is communicated, no action will result. The decision taken by mind (whether it is for an action or for no action) also forms a conscious activity. “Sleep” can be perceived as the state in which mind is functionally (and not physically) cut off from the sensory organs.

The Quranic revelation of absence of feelings (afidat) in animals (Q. 67:23) has more significance than meets the eye particularly in respect of pain, which is also (conscious) experience. We think of animal system much like ours and hence we believe that they also have feelings as we do. But the Quran implies that it is not so. An animal is mere automata like our robot and does not experience feelings. Whatever outward expression it makes is not because it experiences any feeling including pain. It does not have mind to create feeling. For instance, a dog when beaten gives out a crying sound and runs away. We attribute its response (crying and fleeing) to the pain it felt. Since we feel pain when beaten, we also think of animals similarly. This is not correct. An animal’s outward response by way of crying, running, etc., is not because it felt pain but because it is programmed that way. Our robots can also be programmed to make such expressions when beaten. That does not mean the robot also feels pain when beaten. Most merciful Allah will not permit us to kill a living thing (except the ones banned by Him) for our food and other purposes. Allah’s permission to kill a living thing (Q. 2:173) must be viewed from this angle. If we extrapolate this argument a little further, it is likely that a human infant is an “unconscious” biosystem like animal until its mind starts functioning. Till then all its expressions and activities may be considered unconsciously performed ones. It does not have feelings including pain.

Memory (Sadr) – the record of one’s activities

Insofar as the Quran informs us that one’s actions are being recorded in real time, and that the dossier of all the deeds will be handed over to the individual on the Day of Judgement, there must be mechanism and provision available in human biosystem for accomplishing this task. At several places in the Quran (Q. 11:5; 28:69), mention has been made of sadr to imply memory that stores the particulars of one’s activities, acquired information and knowledge. Consider the following verses: “Say, whether you hide what is in your sadr or reveal it, God knows it all….” (Q. 3:29). “Nay, here are signs, self-evident in the sadr of those endowed with the knowledge and none except the unjust reject Our Signs.” (Q. 29:49). Sadr can be considered as the memory where all information on the conscious activities (i.e., decision taken and activities ordered by the qalb, as well as observations, experience, etc.) is stored. Sadr mentioned in the Quran may be treated as the brain memory. The memory constitutes the record of all activities of the individual performed during his life, which is retrievable. It is this register or the dossier that is preserved and handed over to the individual on the Day of Judgement. The following verses permit us to draw such a conclusion. “Truly, man is ungrateful to his Lord. And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds). And violent is he in his love for wealth. Does he not know when that which is (locked up) in (human) sadr(s) is made manifest – that their Lord had been well-acquainted with them that Day (the Day of Judgement)?” (Q. 100:6-11). “….On the Day of Judgement, We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open. (He will be told): Read your (own) Record; sufficient is yourself this day to make an account about yourself.” (Q. 17:13-14). “That Day you shall be brought to judgement. Not an act of yours that you hide will be hidden.” (Q. 69:18).

Besides sadr, tissues of other organs of the body also store information (on their chromosomes) relating to their activities, as it is mentioned in the Quran that body parts will stand witness for the actions of the individual suggesting that information on the activities carried out by each organ of the body is available. “That Day We shall seal their mouths. But their hands will speak to us, and their feet bear witness, to all that they did.” (Q. 36:65). “At length, when they reach the (Fire), their hearing, their sight, and their skins will bear witness against them, as to (all) their deeds. They will say to their skins: Why you bear witness against us? They will say: (Allah) has given us speech; (He) Who gives speech to everything: He created you for the first time and to Him you are to return. You did not seek to hide yourselves, lest your hearing, your sight, and your skins should bear witness against you! But you did think that Allah knew not many of the things that you used to do! But this thought of yours which you did entertain concerning your Lord, has brought you to destruction, and (now) you have become those utterly lost!” (Q. 41:20-23). This implies that the chromosomes in human body cells have excess memory space over and above that required for storing the biosoftware. These blank sectors must be storing information on the activities carried out by the respective cells. Retrieval of the information can produce the record of those activities. It is presumed that irrespective of the genre (e.g., biological software, acquired information, etc.), information is stored on the chromosome by the same mechanism although we cannot say what the mechanism is.

Where are the qalb and sadr located? The Quran informs that the qalb resides in sadr. “…Truly, it is not their eyes that are blind but their qalb(s) which are in their sadr(s).” (Q. 22:46). Although the Quran clearly distinguishes the qalb from the sadr (Q. 22:46), the two are treated synonymously by translators of the Quran to mean heart, chest, etc. These two words mean two different organs of the body and not heart or chest. Since qalb is situated in sadr, if we can find out the location of one, the location of the other can also be known. The Quran throws some light on the location of sadr. “Every man’s fate We have fastened on his own neck: On the Day of Judgment We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open.”        (Q. 17:13). This verse associates one’s fate with the scroll (record of one’s activities) to be produced on the Day of Judgement. One’s fate, whether he will go to Heaven or Hell, is determined by this record. Therefore, it can be deduced that the ‘fate’ implies the record of one’s activities. Since the Quranic verses 100:6-11 reveal that it is sadr that forms the dossier of a person, the revelation that “Every man’s fate We have fastened on his neck” (Q. 17:13) points to the location of sadr somewhere in the neck region. It may be the lower part of the brain, cerebellum, that is indicated in the verse. If so, cerebellum can be considered as the organ where sadr is located (Figure 3). This, in turn, would suggest that the qalb, which resides in the sadr, is also situated in cerebellum. Thus we may zero down to cerebellum as the most probable location of the qalb and sadr.

Figure 3. The diagram showing the position of cerebellum, probable location of qalb and sadr, in the hind part of the brain

Going by this reasoning, the cerebellum must be a hub of information processing and transmission of commands for voluntary (conscious) activities. The available literature on cerebellum does give some indication of that. The cerebellum is located in the hindbrain at the base of the skull nearest to the neck. It is also called “little brain”. The cerebellum contains nearly 50% of all neurons in the brain, although it constitutes about 10% of total brain volume. The cerebellum receives about 200 million input fibers; in contrast, the optic nerve is composed of a mere one million fibers [4]. It coordinates voluntary movements (e.g. walking, posture, speech) and is important for learning motor (skilled) behaviours [5]. These are conscious (voluntary) activities commanded by the qalb. The cerebellum is comparable with a powerful computer, capable of making contributions to both the motor dexterity and the mental prowess of humans. It handles an enormous amount of information received by it and after processing sends out decisions (output information) to various other regions of the brain, telling them what to do and when to do it [6]. All these activities compare well with the functions of the qalb and are therefore suggestive of the location of qalb in cerebellum. More studies are, however, required to confirm the location of sadr and qalb. Research is to be taken up to understand the organization and functioning of human biosystem from the Quranic perspective.
Ability to speak and write

The Quranic revelation of Adam’s nafs as the source of biological information in human species is further strengthened by the disclosure of the availability of programs for speech, languages, writing, etc., in man. “And among His signs is the creation of the skies and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours. Verily in that are signs for those with knowledge.” (Q. 30:22). The need of language arises because Allah has given man the ability to speak and write, two means of communication. The verse 55:4 informs that Allah taught man to speak. The Quran also informs that it is Allah Who taught us how to write (Q. 96:3-5). These abilities are also unique to human species, which is understandable from the point of view of divine purpose of creating man.
It is generally believed that if the organ(s) required for some function is available in an organism it will be able to carry out that function. Many explanations and interpretations made by evolutionists from fossil records bank on such assumption. For example, if a fossil of an organism shows wings, it will be interpreted that the organism is capable of flight. This is far from true. Many animal species do have mouth and hand but they are unable to speak or write. Indirectly this means different programs are responsible for development of a structure and its functioning. If the program for development of a structure is available in a biosystem, the structure will develop. Its functioning will be governed by another program. The structure is developed to suit the function. This is also made clear in the Quran (discussed earlier) in the case of organs like eyes and ears. Animals do not see as we see and hear as we hear even though they have eyes and ears (Q. 7:179, 25:44). The revelation that faculties of seeing and hearing are given only to man (Q. 67:23) should also be examined against this background. These can be explained based on computer model of organism.
In a computer system mere availability of hardware is not enough for its functioning. Unless the system has the necessary software installed in it, hardware will not function. For example, take the case of a printer connected to a computer. The printer will not work just because it is connected to the computer. It will work only if appropriate software package for its functioning is available in the computer. The Quranic revelation of “Allah has taught man how to speak and how to write” (Q. 55:4, 96:3-5) is allegorical expression of installing the required software for these tasks. “Teaching a computer system” means “installation of appropriate software” in the system. If you have installed the print software in your PC, you have taught the system how to print. Further we are also repeatedly reminded by Allah that there are verses of allegorical nature in the Quran (Q. 2:26). “Surely, Allah does not hesitate to use any similitude be it a (tiny) mosquito or anything bigger. The believers know that certainly it is truth from their Lord but the rejecters of Faith will ask, “What does Allah intend by this similitude?” With it He misleads many (from the right path) and He guides many (to the right path). But He misleads with it only the transgressors.” (Q. 2:26). The use of similitudes is understandable because the message conveyed through the Quran should be comprehensible to the entire humanity from the time of Prophet Muhammad. Earlier people did not have much knowledge of things we know now. Therefore it is also understandable there were no attempts in the past to scientifically explain the Quran. Modern knowledge societies can understand better the message “Allah taught man” from the knowledge of computer technology. Thus when Allah says He taught man (a biorobot) how to speak, it should be taken to mean that Allah has included the “speech program” in the nafs (biosoftware) of Adam to enable the organs (hardware) concerned to speak. The verse on teaching how to speak has much wider connotations. It implies that whatever languages man should speak were also uploaded in Adam’s system. One estimate shows human beings can learn more than 10,000 languages! 
Similarly Allah also taught us how to read (Q. 96:3) and how to write with pen (Q. 96:4). All these verses about “teaching” imply that Allah had included the appropriate programs in the human biosoftware (i.e., Adam’s nafs). That is why human beings are able to speak and write. The transformation of information stored in our memory from its intangible form into tangible form by human system can also be understood in comparison with computer or robot system. In the computer system, the information we store on hard disk exists in a form intangible to us. We install appropriate software in the computer to transform the intangible information into tangible audio or visual form in a language our mind can process. That way it understands that information. Information is downloaded onto the qalb of individual in tangible form in the language(s) installed (i.e., studied and known) in the system.  Similarly, human voice box produces signals (information) which mind transforms based on the audio program in the biosoftware into tangible sound frequency in the language one knows. Likewise, while writing, appropriate program comes into operation to transform the intangible information into visual form; i.e., to produce a hard copy by human hands. In this case, the functioning of hand is comparable to that of a printer. The meaning of “Allah taught us to read, write and speak” can be explained in this way in the light of computer analogy. 

If we examine human body in the light of these unique features, it will be possible to understand at least superficially the kind of system Allah has created to serve Him. Allah wanted intelligent, conscious and free-willed robots to serve Him. All these features can be attributed to the presence of mind. Human mind can choose what it wants and direct the system to act. These are the voluntary actions of the individual. Therefore it goes without saying that the human biosystem has to be tested for its willingness to obey Allah (His instructions conveyed through prophets) before it is put to serve Him. It is this test human beings are undergoing in this life. The test is in fact the test of human minds. It is to provide facility to test man Allah created this universe. All other organisms Allah created as part of the facility and resources for human use. We should realize this fact, recognize it and live according to Allah’s directives to make our test life on earth productive and successful. This should be our primary concern and the mission of our life. Everything else in this life should be seen as supplementary or complementary to it.    
1. Wahid, P.A. 2006. The Computer Universe: A Scientific Rendering of the Holy Quran. Adam Publishers, New Delhi, India.
2. Wahid, P.A. 2007. An Introduction to Islamic Science. Adam Publishers, New Delhi, India.
3. Ali. A. Y. 1983. The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary. Amana Corp, Maryland.
4.  Retrieved April 1, 2007.
5.  Retrieved April 11, 2007.
6. Retrieved April 11, 2007.