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The Fiqh of Lasers

This article is not a fiqhi article, nor will any fatwas be issued. What this article is designed to do is make us think.

Scholar 1: Lasers. The word lasers is taken for granted. In reality, Laser is an acronym. It stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers are single wavelength highly concentrated beams of energy. There are four steps in laser action:

  • Absorption of Energy;
  • Spontaneous Emission;
  • Stimulated Emission;
  • Population inversion. 

At the first stage, energy is absorbed by an atom, the electrons are excited into vacant energy shells. The atom then decays through the emission of a photon in a completely random process. Atoms in an upper energy level can be triggered or stimulated in phase by an incoming photon of a specific energy. The two photos that are produced can then generate more photons and the four generated can generate 8 and thus could result in a cascade of intense monochromatic radiation. This final stage is called stimulated emission. 

Now that we have understood how the lasing action occurs we can use this knowledge to build a laser. What we need are a Laser Medium, a pump source and mirrors to form an optical resonator. With these three components we can build a laser that can offer that concentrated beam of energy that can be used effectively in a number of useful functions.

“Scholar” 2: I myself am an experienced laser user. In giving lectures, I have used a laser pen frequently. I have also carried out numerous internet searches that have informed me that exposure to lasers can be dangerous. Also, popular fiction tells me that lasers will eventually be weaponised en masse. Whether this is a reality or not I feel that based on my experience and research, lasers should be made harām. If even the laser pen, when pointed at someone’s eye is dangerous, then imagine future technology developments where laser pens are advanced to the point where they become a portable firearm? Clearly this is harām. I have decided as such to name lasers as harām and any and all associated laser activity is an innovation that will make me question your aqīdah.

It is likely that you may have read the above few paragraphs and not understood any of it until you reached “Scholar” 2. It is also likely, that you appreciated that the tone of the first few paragraphs is that of the studied academic trying to make complex technical processes understood to the layman whilst the tone of the final paragraph is that of the layman who has done some research and is attempting to resolve that research in his own mind. The layman has reached some firm conclusions, some of which are valid. Yes, lasers can be dangerous. Yes, perhaps in the future they will be weaponised en masse. But does the layman also appreciate that lasers can be and are frequently used for a number of manufacturing and medical operations? Laser eye surgery is something we frequently mention and it is likely we know someone who has undergone the operation. Less known however is that lasers are used for drilling, welding, cladding and even shot peening?

If we ignore the ridiculous notion of making lasers harām, does “Scholar” 2 of the final paragraph appreciate or even fathom, that the complex processes described above can be manipulated to carry out these very useful tasks? Of course not. He has no background in engineering and not only does he not appreciate what lasers can be effectively used for but he does not understand how to mitigate for safety when they are used.

I think you can probably guess where I am going with this. The truth is that the first two paragraphs could have been completely made up. The majority of people would likely not have the slightest notion of whether the information is correct or not. In an engineering capacity my credibility as an engineer, with the associated qualifications and experience means that what I say would be taken seriously. The likelihood is that the layman would immediately “pipe down” when the credible engineer puts forward an opinion related to a subject he knows about. Not only that, if he does not stop offering his inutile (and often unasked for) opinion, there would be a significant negative impact on the discussion.

Why is it, then, that the secular scientific scholar can hold a class and put forward researched opinions from credible sources and the students will accept it all at face value? If one student decides the professor is wrong, he is usually laughed down.

However, when the Islamic scholar, again, with years of experience and credible sources, offers an opinion it is immediately subjected to a host of scrutiny from the students. Aside from the lack of respect shown to that scholar, even if the student has gained some knowledge, they have no experience. Islamic sciences are superior to secular sciences, yet our standard in secular sciences is that knowledge without application over a prolonged period of time is practically useless.

I refer now to numerous examples of Islamic Scholars providing opinions based on research and practical application of knowledge and experience. If the opinion is different to what perhaps people are used to, or if the opinion is an Ijtihād, where scholars are perhaps giving opinions on topics that have previously not existed, there is usually a tremendous backlash. The first point to mention is that there is an environment now in modern society where being wrong is considered illegal. Let us consider a hypothetical example of someone, not a scholar, giving an opinion or offering some advice. If that piece of information is incorrect, the hostility of the environment, rather than encourage that person to retract advice, would likely make them more stubborn.

Let us refer to two recent examples on this very website where scholarly Fatwa has been given. The first was the recent article related to Student ‘Loans’,[1] and the second is the explanation of the scholarly approach to defining Fajr, Maghrib and ʿIshā’ times during the Summer.[2] The first article created an uproar of emotion amongst some segments of society. “How could the sheikh provide such an opinion! Doesn’t he know interest is haram?!” Well, much like our lasers analogy, in actual fact, the person giving the explanation and providing conclusions not only has knowledge of this issue, but he has knowledge around the issue. He has knowledge around the knowledge around the issue and, further to this, he has spent a large portion of his life applying his knowledge.

Another, perhaps, has watched Star Wars a few times, decided that light sabres could be dangerous in the future, carried out a few internet searches on lasers and, this is crucial, decided that HE is a scholar and that his opinion is worth the few seconds it took to form.

The second article that was reposted recently on prayer times finished with clear conclusions and advice about the various issues discussed. Inevitably a host of “in my honest opinion” or “this is what we should do really” self-promoted scholars offered their two pence. Self-promoted scholars are virtually non-existent in the world of secular scholars. The amount of qualifications and credibility you need to have to attain the title of professor at a university is staggering.

Consider this: you were about to get into a car and suddenly a helpful bystander knocks on your window and hands you a mechanical component that looks rather critical and says “this fell off your car, before you drive, make sure you put it back in its place.” Now you may suspect that what you are holding in your hand is an engine piston, and even a quick google search might confirm it, will you then put the engine piston back inside the engine and drive off? I suspect that, if you had any sense, you would immediately call a mechanic and would not dare to drive your car until it had been fixed. However, we seem quite happy to take the risk of installing the engine piston in our Dīn and potentially misfiring our ākhira.

Admittedly, this is just a long way of saying that when a reputable Islamic scholar offers an opinion, the first assumption before offering your DIY ijtihād to the world wide web should be that you are more like to be wrong than the scholar.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] https://www.islam21c.com/islamic-law/on-sh-haithams-student-loans-fatwa/

[2] https://www.islam21c.com/special/prayer-fasting-ramadan-timetables/

About AbdulRahman El-Nounu

AbdulRahman El-Nounu is a Mechanical Engineer by profession having completed a MEng and is currently pursuing his doctorate (EngD) as a Manufacturing Research Engineer. He is actively involved in arranging Islamic structured courses with international Dawah institutes and delivers basic study circles in his locality while attending regular Tafseer classes. AbdulRahman’s research and political activism focuses on international affairs and he is an author to Islam21c on current Middle-Eastern issues.

12 comments

  1. Interesting comments

    I did not understand this from the author at all. I think what he is getting at isnt that scholars can’t be wrong. But rather as is mentioned in the concluding paragraph, on matters of fiqh, they are more likely to be correct than the non scholars. Nothing is mentioned of blind faith.

    Further attacking the repute of the author is not a respectful approach. He neither claims to be a scholar nor has he offered any fatwas.

    • Riba, is not a Fiqh issue and even to the laymen some things are clear. Wrong or right all Muslims have a right to question the Fatawah of the Ulema in a respectful way. Even if the Author was not suggesting Taqleed, the results of the way that he suggest often leads to Taqleed.
      As for not being polite, lets just say my comments were very pointed. We all should be frustrated with the raising of people to stations that they are not qualified in. The acceptance of secular educated people in roles of dawah is one of the worst innovations of today. It is actually one of many ways we flatter the kufar. This matter goes a lot more deeper than what I have mentioned, but I will leave it there for now. May Allaah reward you for your advice, the Deen is naseeha.

  2. “He is actively involved in arranging Islamic structured courses with international Dawah institutes and delivers basic study circles in his locality while attending regular Tafseer classes. AbdulRahman’s research and political activism focuses on international affairs and he is an author to Islam21c on current Middle-Eastern issues.”

    It’s ironic that the author is involved in “delivers basic study circles”, “arranging Islamic structured courses with international Dawa institutes.” “Political activism focuses on international affairs” is an author to Isalm21 c on current international affairs.”
    Masha Allaah all these ores in the fire and he only admits to being a pro in the field of engineering. Seems like he too gives his unqualified opinions on issues. The kufar has a saying about this, ” jack of all trades and master at non.” A layman such as him would not be allowed to come close to Dawa by the salaf. Too often Muslims today are put into positions concerning Dawah because of their secular education or they are Arab, Allaahu Musta’an. This is a case of the saying, ” the pot calling the kettle black.”

    • “The kufar has a saying”
      Akhi why you speaking kafirsh?

      Kuffar and english are not synonymous words. Please see a doctor as you seem to be suffering from a brain injury.

      • Lol. That was hilarious

      • May Allaah bless you. Bless me with the enlightenment that you have. As for the sayings, the quotes. Maybe you are not aware that many of the sayings from the lands of the disbelievers were already said by Muslims. Example; ” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” This was reported in an authentic haddith from the Prophet peace be upon Him.
        From were is it said that if a person quotes poetry or sayings from their land, that the pesron is speaking “Kafirsh?” The Deen actually affords us to keep cultural ways that are not Haram or harmful to our Deen. Jazaka Allaahu khair for the attempt to advise, the Deen is naseeha.

    • If there is one thing for sure, it is that you have not read the article but had the audacity to accuse the author. What a shame.

      The author was drawing an analogy of how with secular knowledge people refer to scholars yet with Islamic knowledge they don’t afford the same care and draw their own opinion.

      The author is thus against making your own opinions without knowledge.

      In reality you have either not read the article and should immediately withdraw your comment and apologise to your Muslim brother for having defamed him without justice (I don’t trust you will read this comment either),

      OR

      you have a problem with the Fatawa he is alluding to in the latter section by way of respecting their scholars. If you have said what you’ve said for the latter reason, then you have fallen into exactly what you have accused the author of.

      Sometimes I wonder at some of the comments people make for such normal and basic points. It shows that we need more writers to deliver beginner level Islam to us.

      • Thank You for your advice. The only thing abou the article I might have misunderstood was intent. The comparison of secular sciences to Islamic sciences is off base. Again, the only one to be blind followed or not questioned is the Prophet, peace and blessing upon him.
        When someone writes an article including me, they are subject to criticism. Even the Ulema is criticized by the Ulema. If people respectfully disagrees with a Alim, there is no harm in this, its actually part of seeking knowledge. If a person has the ability to look deeper into a fatwah that they disagree with, then they should. After looking into the matter, if found that the fatwah was not correct the information should be posted publically. That is to say, if the fatwah was public then the refutation should be public after the person discusses it with the Alim, if he is able to. This would be respectful and accepted by a true Alim. It is not a requirement that the findings be discussed with the Alim first, but respectful.
        Again thank you for your advice, the Deen is nasseha.

      • Jazaka Allaahu khair, the “The Deen is Naseeha.”
        I disagree with the principle that the author suggest. The author does not know the qualifications of each individual that disagrees with the fatwah or fatawah given by some Ulema. So, he generalized people and the situation. Worst he used analogies comparing the situation to that of the disbelievers and their ways and would have sciences. The analogies are were not even true. What Muslim of understanding does not question questionable ideas from the experts of the Kuffar? The author would been better off commenting from Qalla Allaah wa Rusullulah. Allaah knows best, his comments would have been less refutable and better understood. note: I wrote two comments on the article.
        As for if I defamed the author, I will truly reflect and look into weather or not I did by my comments. If I find that I defamed him unjustly, I will repent and apologize wholeheartedly, insha Allaah.

  3. A couple of the authors analogies are not true. You cant’t compare secular science to Islamic science. Secular science is most of the time not absolute. It is usually a work in progress, knowingly or unknowingly. The facts often change with new discoveries. In the secular world unqualified opinions are not only excepted by many but they are sort after.
    How many celebrities and self titled people are asked their opinions about world matters? How many self help books have been written by people that have knowledge based solely on their own life experiences? There are many here in America, and these people are lauded as experts.
    We learn in Islam that the only one that could not be wrong or questioned was the Prophet peace and blessing upon Him. He was the only one that should be blindly followed. We have haddith from the Salaf and ayat from the Qur’an that confirm this. Even in our salawat the imaam or scholar can be corrected. Blind following is haram especially for the one that has the ability to seek out the truth.
    It is as the author supposes to say that, if the Shaikh said there are only four prayers that are wajib in a day for the Muslim, we should accept that because the Shaikh is an Alim. The Shaikh has years of study and practice of this Ibaadah, Allaahu Musta’an. This is actually a very dangerous way that the author is calling to. This is part of the reason that we have so many young ignorant people following the ways of the innovators. Those that make the blood of the Muslims halal. Those that make suicide halal, and killing of innocent people.
    The only Shaikh that should be followed, and I stress the word followed, is the Prophet, peace and blessing upon him. He, said if you see an evil then correct it, until the end of the haddith. He, peace be upon him also said to relate or teach something even if you only know one harf.

    • I don’t think you understood the article !

      • Several reason could have caused my response to the article.
        1. I did not understand the intent of the author. (intent does not change the outcome). Many have intended good while doing evil.
        2. I understood the article deeper than you did.
        3. My understanding of the article comes from a place that you are not aware of.
        4. Or, its like you said, “I don’t think you understood the article !”
        Whatever the case please bless me with your understanding.
        Jazaka Allaahu khair for the naseeha, the “Deen is Naseeha.”

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