Anatomic Basis of Human Morality

Anatomic Basis of Human Morality

Our brain and morality

The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that helps process our moral decision making. The medical science views the prefrontal cortex as the anatomic basis of human morality. The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain’s frontal lobe that occupies the area behind our forehead.

The Quranic symbolism

The word “Nasyah” is an ancient Arabic idiom that means forehead, forelock, or complete control. Arabic words can have multiple meanings depending on the context. Quranic revelation used “dragging by Nasyah” to describe the consequences of persecution and killing by a pagan leader named Abu Jahl.

Anatomic basis of morality. Story of abuJahl

History of Abu Jahl, the father of ignorance

The word Abu Jahl means the father of ignorance. Abu Jahl was a prominent polytheist known for his critical opposition towards Muhammad (Peace be upon him). His savage beating made a Muslim slave blind. He killed a Muslim woman named Sumayah, by inflicting her with a mortal wound. He forbade prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his followers from worshiping in the Holy Qaba. Allah revealed the following Quranic verse to warn him of his hateful actions.

Prefrontal cortext is the area of the brain that helps  process moral decision making

The Quran 96:15-16

“…Nay, if he does not stop, We shall most surely drag him by the forehead (Nasya), a lying, sinful forehead…”

” A lying, sinful forehead…”

Allah mentions in the verse that if Abu Jahl does not stop immoral acts, he will be dragged by his “lying and sinful forehead” on Judgment Day. The people of the prophet’s (Peace be upon him) time did not know the human brain’s function. They understood “A lying sinful Nasya” as a figure of speech. Consequently, people understood the verse as a warning to Abu Jahl about the shameful punishment promised from God in the day of Judgement for his persecutions of Muslims.

Relating the forehead to lying and sinning

It is essential to realize that our forehead supports and protects the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of our brain that processes many of our moral actions and attitudes. In particular, our prefrontal cortex controls our greed, selfishness, lying, deception, brutality, anger, and aggression.

Does the verse give hints about the frontal lobe’s function affecting our behavior when it mentions “the lying, sinful forehead”? The people in the seventh-century did not have a frontal lobe in their vocabulary. They did not know anything about the frontal lobe or its function. The function of the frontal lobe is a recent discovery. Early Muslims believe that the narrative “A lying sinful forehead” was a figure of speech, pointing to Abu Jahl, for his deception, torture, and aggression against others. Knowing that the frontal lobe, located behind the forehead, controls sinful behaviors, including lying, the additional new meanings of the verse appear to the newer generation of readers.

Sujud: touching our forehead to the ground

Prostration (sujud) is part of the Muslim daily prayer. During prostration, we bow down to God with our forehead (Nasyah) touching the ground. To put it another way, this is a gesture of surrendering our executive power to God. Also, this is one of the most spiritually uplifting and intimate positions Muslims can have.

To learn more about the significance of the Qurans’ consistency with modern science, please follow the link:

Prefrontal cortext is the area of the brain that helps  process moral decision making

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