Artificial Intelligence’s development focuses on the premise that we, as humans, will create devices and technologies that are capable of seeing, hearing and acting like humans. As Muslims, the concept of the soul is fundamental to our beliefs. But the soul is not known as an essential differentiator in this field of work as to what makes a human being human. So does AI go against the principles of Islam?
Speaking to inanimate objects is now very common and, more often than not, expecting an intelligible response or some task to be carried out, such as responding to a search question, arranging an appointment or making a phone call. How can this be?
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Have you ever wondered what is happening with blinking lights behind the screen or inside the plastic boxes?
And in relation to this modern world of apparently speaking, hearing, acting and thinking stuff, is there anything for Muslims to think about?
All this has been made possible by developments in Artificial Intelligence, and in the above cases, by advances in the encoding of languages.
It is only one of hundreds of fields that have progressed exponentially in less than half a decade due to advancements in artificial intelligence to understand and generate human voice (AI).
The advancement of AI is the quest to build smart computer systems that are capable of the complex array of behaviors and mental skills associated with human intelligence.
In the board game Go, which is a game known to involve high levels of intuitive thinking and imagination, one of the major events that initiated this revival of interest in AI was when an AI system called AlphaGo, created by Google subsidiary DeepMind, defeated a leading human player.
Since then, scientists, technologists, investors, governments and policy makers have shown tremendous interest in AI, followed by billions of pounds in research funding and widespread public discussions about the social, political and ethical consequences of AI as its use increases.
The ultimate objective of AI research is to generate intelligence that is known as Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), equal to or exceeding our own.
The creation of AI and AGI is closely linked to one of the greatest mysteries in philosophy and science, which is to understand and uncover the origin of our intellect and consciousness.
Science and technology now lead the way in exploring ideas about human nature and human intelligence.
Does AI go against Islamic teachings?
For Muslims and most religious philosophies, the life of the soul is related to consciousness, intellect and human nature.
A logical approach to these issues, however, does not permit belief in something immaterial, such as the spirit.
As main Islamic teachings are challenged by new scientific ideas arising from AI science, AI should therefore be of interest to Muslims, and these scientific ideas gain legitimacy among people who do not understand how technology functions and its limitations.
Any new and seemingly mystical technology gradually deceives modern people into thinking that scientists have obtained, or will soon acquire, the ability to create living, animate beings, much like ancient people watching the magician of Pharaoh conjure up false serpents.
What Does the Quran Tell Us About Intelligence and Our Souls?
One of the main teachings we learn directly from the Qur’an is that we have a special form of perception, wisdom, and intellect that distinguishes us from animals, angels, and Jinns.
The Qur’an tells us that God commanded the angels and Iblis (the Devil) to bow to him when God created Prophet Adam (PBUH) and brought him to life by putting a soul in his body after he demonstrated his special form of wisdom.
As AI is infused with new devices and technology, and thus into more facets of our lives, we meet new entities that seem capable of listening, seeing, speaking, willing, understanding, and intellectual, but these new entities do not exist and certainly have nothing like souls.
What is the impact of AI on Islam?
The invisible effect of AI is that it makes us believe that, even with all our thinking, hearing, speaking and acting, we are nothing more than soulless machines.
Muslims should question how this complicates the main stories taught to children in the Qur’an, such as when the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) asked his people what they adored.
Ibrahim (PBUH) questioned them when his people answered that they worship gods and “remain constantly in their presence,” by asking, “Do they listen to you when you call (on them)? Or are you doing good or harm?”.
People are constantly present with their smart devices today, which seem to listen when called, and AI algorithms can drive individuals in positive or negative directions.