Muslim Scientist Profiles: 

Dr. Ahmad Khan by Sameer Chouwadhary Upon arriving at Dr. Ahmad Khan's laboratory,  I can tell from the boisterous way he says salaam that it is not going to be a typical interview. Dr. Khan, to say the least, is  glowingly euphoric, and he seems to be consciously trying to lower the level of  excitement in his voice. By all accounts this is the same Dr. Khan  known to his geneticist colleagues as soft-spoken and shy- given to a  calm, straight-faced demeanor. As he offers me some piping hot chai (tea), and  bades me strenuously with his hands to sit within his office chambers, I  begin to wonder if in fact I had heard correctly what he, to my utter  consternation, had thought brought me to see him. Dr. Khan begins to tell me that he  had not only found evidence of the Holy Qur'an's authorship, but, in fact,  the authorship of mankind. Little did I know before walking into the  sleek mirrored-face "GenLab" on the campus of the University of New Mexico,  that on the fifth floor I would find a scientist, who by the sheer scope of  his findings may very well end up as familiar a name as a Galileo, Newton, or  Einstein. 

I thought quite simply that I was going to be interviewing Dr.  Khan about his book in development, which I was told previously was  to be a synthesis of genetics and Islam. I figure, hey, a little about the  morality of cloning here, another little bit about genetic engineering  there, and badaboom badabang- a simple little volume which puts genetics in  its proper perspective. My expectations exponentially surpassed, I ask my  first question with my mouth agape - "You're kidding? Right?" "Nehi! Subhan Allah! Nehi!" He laughs, the  largest conceivable grin on his face, as he brushes aside a few of the sundry piles of papers  clogging his pigsty of a desk. I cast a glance at the  wall behind his desk, bare save for a framed ayat-ul-kursi and a family  portrait of his former beardless self along with his wife Nur, and  their two small children. don't find any evidence of the ostentation one  might expect from some one who graduated summa cum laude from Duke  University. I distinctly get the impression that despite his status as a young  (31 years of age) and up  and  coming geneticist, that his love remains  solely for Allah and his  research.  Diplomas and awards are nothing more than  clumps of paper to him.     

My list of questions made irrelevant by Dr.  Khan's revelation, I begin  to  try to ascertain what exactly he had  discovered and how, asking him just  to  divulge a little of his research and how he  had come about it.       "For a few years now I have mused during  my Ph.D. training that there  was  the possibility for information other than  that for the construction of  polypeptides to be encoded by individual  codons or nucleotides of DNA.  But  it was only after a Jum'ah khutbah where I  heard the Imam mention a  verse in  the Holy Qur'an where I put two and two  together."      Ahmad, as I now call him, rises up from his  seat and reaches to the top  of  the massive bookshelf to the left of his desk,  grasping hold of the  Qur'an,  by its looks very worn. An interesting  combination I think to myself- a  lab  coat and a white kufi. But I have little more  time for such musings on  the  fashions of the day, as he kisses the Qur'an  and opens it to his  selected  verses.  "Audhu billahi min ash-shaytan ir-rajeem.  Bismillah Ir-Rahman  Ir-Raheem.   Sanureehim ayatinaa filafaaqi wafi anfusihim  Hatta yatabayyana lahum annahu ul-Haqq, awalam yakfi birabbika annahu 'ala  kulli shayiin shaheedoon." He pauses for a breath, and his index finger  moves over to the English text: "Soon will We show them Our Signs in the  furthest regions of the  earth, and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest  to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that your Lord  witnesses all things?"   "Which Sura is that?" "It is from the  forty-first Sura, Fussilat, the fifty-third ayat." "Shukriyya, go on..."   "You may have heard of a study by a non-Muslim  scientist by the name  of Keith Moore?" "Yes, but if you could refresh  my memory..."   "Quite simply Keith Moore is the world  authority on embryology, and after having read the Holy Qur'an he came to see  that there was a remarkable correspondence of the Qur'an's description of  embryos with the descriptions of modern science.

So we can see from this  that indeed the Holy Qur'an has shown us a sign in our own souls, our own  selves, by relating information that due to its microscopic nature could not  have been known fourteen hundred years ago."   "What I've come to realize is that the Holy  Qur'an has many levels of meaning, some of which are known only to Allah  subhana wa t'ala  himself.   But what I recognized is that if we look at  the Arabic, the ayat in question uses the same word for Qur'anic verses-  'ayaat.' And it says as you read along, that those same verses are 'fi  anfusihim'- are in themselves-  in the human beings. Coming as I do from the  specialty of genetics, I  realized   that the verses of the Qur'an could indeed be  within each human being- coded within our DNA."   "But aren't you just speculating that the  meaning of the ayat is that ayaat  from the Qur'an appear in some form or  another within the genome?"   "Yes, at first....At first it was speculation,  but then I began to  piece   together more indications that there was a  possibility that verses of the Holy Qur'an could be a part of the genome.  What you must realize is that much of the DNA in our genome doesn't code for  the production of proteins at all. The non-coding regions- introns- are  often called junk DNA. Mashaa Allah. As it turns out, it is the farthest  possible thing from junk,  it is the words of our Creator, a great sign that it  was Allah who gave us  the   breath of life."   "So how did you test your hypothesis, and who  else have you  consulted?"   "GenLab had a government grant to study the  genetic roots of intelligence, and at the time this idea struck me, we were  focusing on mapping the central region of chromosome 19. I talked with my  younger brother, 'Imran, who is a systems analyst, and consulted with him about  developing a way to see  if any Qur'anic ayat could be found within the intron  regions of chromosome  19 that had been mapped."   "It was quite a project, because we had to  figure out what Arabic  letter   each different possible codon stood for, by  iterating each possible coding system through the introns and seeing if any  of those combinations resulted in ayaat from the Holy Qur'an."   "January 2nd, 1999. Two o'clock in the morning  we found our first ayaat. Alhamdullilah! Audhu billahi min ash-shaytan  ir-rajeem. Bismillah Ir Rahman Ir Raheem. Iqra bismi rabbika ladhi  khalaq. Read in the name of   your Lord who created! Region p38q!"  

"The first ayat revealed to the Prophet  Muhammad, Sal Allahu Alaihi wa Salaam!?"   "Yes, I was just as astonished as you are now.  But the thing is, with each ayat we found, finding the next ayat came  faster and faster, as we  began to compile the full coding system. After that it  has been a breeze. Our only trouble with finding more ayat has been that  not enough of the genome has been mapped by geneticists to be searched. So  far we only have found 1/10 of the Qur'an."   "Although we obviously want to make our  findings known to the greater Muslim- greater world in general, we are  taking precautions to make  sure our heads are screwed on can never be  too careful. In the past few weeks I've been talking with individual Muslim  scientists, just so I could get some feedback, and make sure that our  findings are ready to be published come next fall."   "But I am confident that we've found a  phenomenon of great interest, such that I am willing to put my entire career on  the line. I've revealed  my   findings to my fellow geneticists here at  GenLab, and believe me- this has been the first time I've found Martin or Clive  [two of his co-workers] even willing to discuss religion or Islam. I've  also written to two non-Muslim skeptics inviting them to analyze my findings:  Dan Larhammar of  Uppsala University in Sweden, and Aris Dreismann at  the Technical University  of Berlin. I doubt they'll remain skeptical for  long..."  

"There is such a tremendous amount of data  that we're going to have to be analyzing it over the next few months, but I  hope to create both a  book for popular consumption as well as submit an  abstract to Science very shortly."   "I'm speechless! Subhan Allah! But can you  show me some of the verses you 've found?"   Just then I find out what some of the sheets  of paper are on his desk. He hands two sheets to me, one covered with four  roman letters, T, C, G, and A, sprawling across the sheet, separated in  columns of three letters. The other in Arabic script is clear as day- after  many 'lam's, and a  couple of random 'ayn's and 'qafs' I see what looks like  a sentence. I ask him the meaning.   "From Sura al baqarah, the sixth ayat. In  English it says: 'As to  those   who reject faith, it is the same to them  whether you warn them or do  not   warn them; they will not believe.'"  

"The other page is a listing of the actual  sequence of nucleotides, of which there are four types. Every three code  for an Arabic letter." He pulls out a laminated table, with Thymine, Adenine, Cytosine, and Guanine written vertically for the first nucleotide, then horizontally across the top for the second, and horizontally again for the third." Instead of amino acids, as you can see from  this table there are two codons for every Arabic letter, as well as for  the ta' marbuta and hamza. There is also a code for the end of each ayat, just like there would be codons which would stop gene transcription." "Subhan Allah. I just feel so blessed to find such a miracle at such a young age- I can only marvel at what else we  might find inshaa Allah, you know.. I can only hope that within our  lifetimes other Muslim scientists find out the meaning of the other 'ayaat' in nature that Allah makes reference to." "Would you happen to have any last words for our readers?" "I just hope that after the publication of my book 'The Holy Qur'an and Genetics' that Muslims begin to better understand how Allah has made Islam a complete way of life. We cannot compartmentalize our religion, keeping Islam out of our politics, education, arts, and sciences without grave detriment to ourselves, and loss of the true meaning of the Final Revelation to the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace." "I also hope that non-Muslims see that there  is no need for the controversies between religion and science, although no doubt some of them will ignore the evidence even if it is right  before their very eyes." I take one last sip of my chai, looking  intently at Dr. Khan's dark brown eyes and olive complexion, knowing full well,  that inshaa Allah I am looking at the face of the Ummah's future. 

Permission is given for reproduction and distribution of this document in all media for non-commercial use, provided  that this notice is not deleted. Copyright 1999. Sameer Chouwadhary. This article is to appear in the inaugural edition of "North American Muslim Science Journal" to be published quarterly beginning with the Fall 1999 issue. For subscription information, or a list of submission guidelines please write to: 
North American Muslim Science Journal 
Re: (subscription or submissions) P.O. Box 140306 Dallas, TX 75214


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