Bid`ah at the Genetic Level

Who needs prayer, fasting, and other acts of worship when you can simply inject yourself with the Qur’an? Apparently a young “biohacker” named Adrien Locatelli did just that. He translated Biblical verses as well as surah Ar-Ra’d into DNA sequences and proteins which he then shot into his thighs, consequences be damned. At least he documented it quite nicely in the name of science.

Although this is nothing more than a gimmicky sideshow, I couldn’t help but wonder how this might evolve in the Brave New World in which we’re living. If “biohacking” becomes more prominent, could this method be utilized to push modern forms of bid`ah [blameworthy innovation]? Ignorant Muslims can be naive and superstitious just like anyone else. For example, some Muslims believe that if they blindly follow so-and-so sheikh, he is going to answer for them in the Grave and on the Day of Judgment. Others wear good luck charms and get involved in other superstitious nonsense. If some Muslims adopt these practices today, is it really that far fetched that future generations might buy into the idea that injecting Qur’anic verses into their veins will help protect them in some way?

We’ve all heard of the people who say, “I don’t need to pray because Allah is my heart.” Well soon they’ll be able to kick it up a notch! They can become “one” with the Qur’an without ever reading it! The Words of Allah will be in their blood and flow through their heart, or so the local biohacker “sheikh” might advertise. The people making the Qur’an charms will need to adapt or risk losing valuable bid`ah market share. Of course all of this sounds unlikely and ridiculous now, but that’s how bid`ah usually starts.

The field of genetic engineering is also gaining steam. So far humanity seems to be opposed to genetically engineering humans and designer babies but that attitude may change before we know it. If it does become more prominent, will Muslims jump on the bandwagon and want to ensure their children have the “God Gene”? This is the hypothesis that faith is largely determined by genetics and is hereditary. Perhaps some theists of the future will believe that this is a positive act of worship and will give their children a leg up in their chances for Paradise.

As a convert to Islam I never understood why some Muslims are so fond of following baseless acts of worship that the Prophet (s) never did. What attracted me to Islam was its pragmatism, clarity, and lack of baseless mysticism. Yes, we believe in the Unseen but only that which is clearly documented in the Qur’an and authentic Sunnah. The primary sources of knowledge are clearly laid out for all to read and their authenticity is beyond any reasonable doubt. The Words of Allah are clearly distinguished from the words of the Prophet (s) and the words of the Companions. Islam doesn’t spell every last detail out for us but rather provides us with a beautiful framework to live by. It gives us no shortage of wisdom and inspiration to get through difficult times. So why do some Muslims throughout history feel the need to complicate this with unfounded superstitions?

In the end, we have to be vigilant and aware of both existing and new forms of bid`ah. There is no shortcut to paradise or special knowledge that only a few select people in the Ummah have access to. We cannot change the Qadr of Allah. Bid`ah is nothing more than a claim in a book that has no legitimate source to back it up. It offers nothing but the illusion of wisdom and transcendence and can lead us very close to the unforgivable sin of shirk.

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Audu Khalil

Put succinctly :imitation will not save you on yawmul qiyaamah if you don’t shape up.