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THE QUR’AN AND THE BRAIN

Human beings are far from perfection and surrounded with limitations.

Limitations brought on our perception by our five senses, for example, prevent us from

understanding many phenomena in the cosmos, such as the righteous comprehension of

our own reality, the consciousness and therefore of “Allah.” Thus we need to expand our

perceptional range by increasing the capacity of our brains. In the Qur’an it has

mentioned about the brain, its functions and deliberation. Therefore, the functions of our

senses including our brain were explained in the Qur’an. Even though its not as explicit

as we see it, but the definition is clear to make us know and understand better about the

miraculous of the Qur’an.

All the activity in the brain is nothing but bioelectric activity in several distinct

parts of it, among various sets of neurons (cellular groups) each assigned to a specific

duty functioning as a whole. Each and everyday 14 million neurons that make up the

brain, are in a constant interaction with 16 billion neighboring neurons. All our activities

and our understanding, that is all the functioning of a brain is the result of countless

bioelectric flows that are brought to existence in these sets of neurons occurring as a

result of interactions. 1

1
http://abrizal.blogspot.com/2008/08/zikr-quran-and-brain.html
When we are talking about the brain in which we can observe and learn,

we should not forget about the unobservable elements of the brain which is the

‘aql. From this particular discussion on the Qur’an and brain, we could be

pondering that the ‘aql is not something in which we can produce, but it is a

creation of Allah SWT gifted to mankinds. Therefore, to feel very grateful and to

appreciating God’s creation human being should be learning or acknowledge the

functions of the lowest or tiniest part of the brain until the very important part of

the brain which human cannot live with. As the khalifah or vicegerence of Allah,

we are ought to know about His creation especially the brain because of its

functions and its implications for mankinds. It is important to know about these

functions because mankinds is the only creations who have the special roles in

this world and gifted with the best creations from Allah SWT that is ‘aql.

Now, let us see the lowest part of the brain so that we could understand the

basic functions of the brain. The brain structures involved the brain stem which

consists of the medulla, pons, the reticular formation and cerebellum. Let me

explain a bit about these brain stem functions as follows:

1. Medulla is placed at the very bottom of the brain and top

of the spinal column. It controls life-sustaining functions such as breathing

and swallowing. The nerves from each side of the body also cross over in

this structure to opposite sides.2

2. The pons is above the medulla and acts as a bridge

between the lower part of the brain and the upper part. it influences sleep,

2
Ciccarelli K.Saundra&White J.Noland, Introduction to Psychology (New Jersey: Pearson Education,
2009) p.
dreaming, arousal, and coordination of movement on the left and right sides

of the body.3

3. Whereby the reticular formation runs through the medulla

and the pons and it controls our selective attention and arousal.4

4. Finally, you can found the cerebellum at the base and back

of the brain. It coordinates fine, rapid motor movement, learned reflexes,

posture and muscle tone. 5

Whereas

the limbic

system

consists of

the thalamus,

hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdale, and the cortex. Limbic system was

3
ibid
4
ibid
5
ibid
the structures found in the inner margin of the upper brain and it involved in

learning, emotion, memory and motivation. 6

. After knowing and learning about the basic parts of the brain, we could

distinguish the part which another creation did not have. Meaning that, mankinds

are not the same with other creations such as animals and plants. For the animals,

they do have brains, but what make mankinds different from the animals is ‘aql.

In biological psychology, it said that the animals also have structures in their brain

stems. While the limbic systems in an animal such as fish and reptiles are

primitive and the mammals have more developed limbic systems. The functions

of the structures in the brain stem such as life-sustaining functions (medulla),

sleep, arousal, and body co-ordination (pons), attention (reticular formation),

cerebellum (movement), learning, emotion, memory, and motivation (limbic

system) support the idea of early Muslim scholars on the characteristics of the

6
ibid
animal souls i.e. movement/motivation (al-muharrikah) and perception (al-

mudrikah). 7

Furthermore, the frontal lobe which placed at the cerebral cortex. This is

where I found it amazing since the Qur’an has mentioned about it.

Meaning: “A lying, sinful forelock!”

In surah Al-‘Alaq verse 16, it has mentioned that the front of the brain

which is the frontal lobe is involved when a person is telling lies, do the wrong

doings or mistakes or even sins. This ayat is in line with the modern biological

psychology which has found that the frontal lobe is involved in moral reasoning.

This is clearly shows that, the Qur’an already mentioned about the functions of

the brains long before the human being has discover it. 8

7
http://blogs.iium.edu.my/alizi/2010/02/08/the-psychology-of-the-brain-integration-with-
islamic-perspective/

8
ibid
Meaning: Cursed were the companion s of the trench

(Al-Buruj:4)

Cerebral cortex makes the human being as the most advanced creature on earth.

It has been mentioned in the ayat above. Although most animals have cerebral cortex,

human being’s cerebral cortex, as compared to other mammals which have fully-

developed cortex, has the biggest cerebral cortex in relation to his body size, the greatest

quantity of folding and refolding (called gyrus), valleys (called sulcus), and ridges, the

largest surface of area (approximately 2-3 square feet), and the largest quantity of grey

matter (unmyelinated neurons). It should be noted that birds and reptiles have very

primitive form of cerebral cortex, whereas fish has none. Again, this fact would make

Muslim psychologists appreciate early Muslim scholars’ idea of vegetative, animal, and

rational souls. 9

9
http://blogs.iium.edu.my/alizi/2010/02/08/the-psychology-of-the-brain-integration-with-
islamic-perspective/
In a conclusion, the brain is something which is still mysterious to the mankinds.

The Qur’an here manage to explain about the functions of the brain which is varies. As

the Khalifah on this earth, we should be learning more about the varies functions of the

brain. The reason is because we could make a good benefit of it in spreading the da’wah

in the name of Islam. Also to bring harmony and peace in this world and here after.