17 May 2019

Nigeria: Ramadan and the Almighty Formula

He is the Almighty! There is no god but He; the Living, the Eternal. He neither slumbers nor sleeps; to Him belongs all that is in the Heavens and the Earth; who can intercede with Him without His permission?; He knows what is before them and what is behind them; they cannot gain access to anything out of His knowledge except what He pleases; His throne is more vast than the heavens and the earth, and their protection does not (in anyway) fatigue Him; He is the Exalted, the Supreme. (Quran: 2:255).

While pondering His majesty and magnificence, I remembered the story of one of my teachers in my secondary school. He was the most popular teacher in the school. His first and only love was mathematics and because of this he was loved by some and loathed by others. Students who loathed him did so because his subject of interest was far from, in their reckoning, their existential realities. Each time he talked about the quadratic equation, his students always wondered how that could lead to a dramatic increase in the quantity of rice and beans that would be served to them at "break time". Then one day, he entered the class and gleefully announced: "Today, I want to teach you an important formula in Mathematics: The Almighty Formula! This is the only formula which you can use in solving all "mathematical problems"!

Almighty Formula? Yes! But No! For a formula to be called Almighty, for a mathematical formula to enjoy an attribute which belongs to the Almighty, it must indeed be capable not only of solving all mathematical problems, it must also be capable of decoding and diagnosing all human problems and offer solutions to same. The idea of the Almighty formula is therefore all about the search for unity; the quest for One which would be for All. This was prefigured in Newton's creation of a single theory to describe the motion of celestial bodies; "the reconciliation, by Galileo, of sublunar and supralunar worlds when his telescope revealed mountains and valleys on the surface of the moon"; and perhaps the most famous of all, that of Albert Einstein, who "melded space and time, until then distinct, into a unified space-time concept". Einstein was said to have considered himself spiritual but not religious. His mathematical inquiries were derived from his desire to "know how God created this world". He soon realized the truth that the world did have a creator. But that discovery did not take him beyond that point; it did not make a religious person out of him. He says again: "The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavours in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is."

The main point of interest is this: that Mathematics, particularly geometry and number, is thus an enthralling subject. It is the science of number. The greatest number, mathematicians would contend, is that after which none exists: that number is ONE. From one you proceed to two, to three; beyond ONE there is nothingness; save for ONE, there would be chaos and anarchy. Our world, yours and mine, would simply implode.

For the past couple of days, Muslims all around the world have been involved in reconnecting with the Almighty through fasting. It has been an experience that brings the statement of the scholar, Mahmud Shabistari, to sharper focus. He is quoted to have said: Know that the world is a mirror: in each atom are found a hundred blazing suns. If you split the center of a single drop of water, a hundred pure oceans spring forth. If you examine each particle of dust, a thousand Adams can be seen". Ramadan is here to assist you discover the 'ocean' of spiritual bliss in you. It is here to teach this to you and me: there is no other formula apart from 'there is no god but God'.


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