Islamic attitudes towards science
Muslim scholars have developed a spectrum of viewpoints on science within the context of Islam. The Quran and Islam allows for much interpretation when it comes to science. Scientists of medieval Muslim civilization (e.g. Ibn al-Haytham) contributed to the new discoveries of science. From the eighth to fifteenth century, Muslim mathematicians and astronomers furthered the development of almost all areas of mathematics. At the same time, concerns have been raised about the lack of scientific literacy in parts of the modern Muslim world.
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Aside from contributions by Muslims to mathematics, astronomy, medicine and natural philosophy, some have argued a very different connection between the religion of Islam and the discipline of science. Some Muslim writers have claimed that the Quran made prescient statements about scientific phenomena that were later confirmed by scientific research for instance as regards to the structure of the embryo, the solar system, and the creation of the universe.
Science is often defined as the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence. It is a system of acquiring knowledge based on empiricism, experimentation and methodological naturalism, as well as to the organized body of knowledge human beings have gained by such research. Scientists maintain that scientific investigation needs to adhere to the scientific method, a process for evaluating empirical knowledge that explains observable events without recourse to supernatural notions.
According to Toby Huff, there is no true word for science in Arabic (the language of Islam) as commonly defined in English and other languages. In Arabic, "science" can simply mean different forms of knowledge. This view has been criticized by other scholars. For example, according to Muzaffar Iqbal, Huff's framework of inquiry "is based on the synthetic model of Robert Merton who had made no use of any Islamic sources or concepts dealing with the theory of knowledge or social organization" Each branch of science has its own name, but all branches of science have a common prefix, ilm. For example, physics is more literally translated from Arabic as "the science of nature", علم الطبيعة ‘ilm aṭ-ṭabī‘a; arithmetic as the "science of accounts" علم الحساب ilm al-hisab. The religious study of Islam (through Islamic sciences like Quranic exegesis, hadith studies, etc.) is called العلم الديني "science of religion" (al-ilm ad-dinniy), using the same word for science as "the science of nature". According to the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Arabic, while علم’ ilm is defined as "knowledge, learning, lore," etc. the word for "science" is the plural form علوم’ ulūm. (So, for example, كلية العلوم kullīyat al-‘ulūm, the Faculty of Science of the Egyptian University, is literally "the Faculty of Sciences ...")
Perspectives on Islam and science
Many Muslims agree that doing science is an act of religious merit, even a collective duty of the Muslim community. According to M. Shamsher Ali, there are around 750 verses in the Quran dealing with natural phenomena. According to the Encyclopedia of the Quran, many verses of the Quran ask mankind to study nature, and this has been interpreted to mean an encouragement for scientific inquiry, and the investigation of the truth. Some include, “Travel throughout the earth and see how He brings life into being” (Q29:20), “Behold in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding ...” (Q3:190)
Historical Islamic scientists like Al-Biruni and Al-Battani derived their inspiration from verses of the Quran. Mohammad Hashim Kamali has stated that "scientific observation, experimental knowledge and rationality" are the primary tools with which humanity can achieve the goals laid out for it in the Quran. Ziauddin Sardar argues that Muslims developed the foundations of modern science, by "highlighting the repeated calls of the Quran to observe and reflect upon natural phenomenon".
The physicist Abdus Salam believed there is no contradiction between Islam and the discoveries that science allows humanity to make about nature and the universe; and that the Quran and the Islamic spirit of study and rational reflection was the source of extraordinary civilizational development. Salam highlights, in particular, the work of Ibn al-Haytham and Al-Biruni as the pioneers of empiricism who introduced the experimental approach, breaking way from Aristotle's influence, and thus giving birth to modern science. Salam differentiated between metaphysics and physics, and advised against empirically probing certain matters on which "physics is silent and will remain so," such as the doctrine of "creation from nothing" which in Salam's view is outside the limits of science and thus "gives way" to religious considerations.
Toshihiko Izutsu writes that in Islam, nature is not seen as something separate but as an integral part of a holistic outlook on God, humanity, the world and the cosmos. These links imply a sacred aspect to Muslims' pursuit of scientific knowledge, as nature itself is viewed in the Quran as a compilation of signs pointing to the Divine. It was with this understanding that the pursuit of science, especially prior to the colonization of the Muslim world, was respected in Islamic civilizations.
The astrophysicist Nidhal Guessoum argues that the Quran has developed "the concept of knowledge" that encourages scientific discovery. He writes:
"The Qur'an draws attention to the danger of conjecturing without evidence (And follow not that of which you have not the (certain) knowledge of... 17:36) and in several different verses asks Muslims to require proofs (Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful 2:111), both in matters of theological belief and in natural science."
Guessoum cites Ghaleb Hasan on the definition of "proof" according the Quran being "clear and strong... convincing evidence or argument." Also, such a proof cannot rely on an argument from authority, citing verse 5:104. Lastly, both assertions and rejections require a proof, according to verse 4:174. Ismail al-Faruqi and Taha Jabir Alalwani are of the view that any reawakening of the Muslim civilization must start with the Quran; however, the biggest obstacle on this route is the "centuries old heritage of tafseer (exegesis) and other classical disciplines" which inhibit a "universal, epistemiological and systematic conception" of the Quran's message. The philosopher Muhammad Iqbal considered the Quran's methodology and epistemology to be empirical and rational.
Guessoum also suggests scientific knowledge may influence Quranic readings, stating that "for a long time Muslims believed, on the basis on their literal understanding of some Qur’anic verses, that the gender of an unborn baby is only known to God, and the place and time of death of each one of us is likewise al-Ghaib [unknown/unseen]. Such literal under-standings, when confronted with modern scientific (medical) knowledge, led many Muslims to realize that first-degree readings of the Quran can lead to contradictions and predicaments."
Islamists such as Sayyid Qutb argue that since "Islam appointed" Muslims "as representatives of God and made them responsible for learning all the sciences," science cannot but prosper in a society of true Islam. (However, since Muslim majority countries governments have failed to follow the sharia law in its completeness, true Islam has not prevailed and this explains the failure of science and many other things in the Muslim world, according to Qutb.)
Others claim traditional interpretations of Islam are not compatible with the development of science. Author Rodney Stark argues that Islam's lag behind the West in scientific advancement after (roughly) 1500 AD was due to opposition by traditional ulema to efforts to formulate systematic explanation of natural phenomenon with "natural laws." He claims that they believed such laws were blasphemous because they limit "God's freedom to act" as He wishes, a principle enshired in aya 14:4: "God sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will," which (they believed) applied to all of creation not just humanity.
Taner Edis wrote An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam. Edis worries that secularism in Turkey, one of the most westernized Muslim nations, is on its way out; he points out that the population of Turkey rejects evolution by a large majority. To Edis, many Muslims appreciate technology and respect the role that science plays in its creation. As a result, he says there is a great deal of Islamic pseudoscience attempting to reconcile this respect with other respected religious beliefs. Edis maintains that the motivation to read modern scientific truths into holy books is also stronger for Muslims than Christians. This is because, according to Edis, true criticism of the Quran is almost non-existent in the Muslim world. While Christianity is less prone to see its Holy Book as the direct word of God, fewer Muslims will compromise on this idea – causing them to believe that scientific truths simply must appear in the Quran. However, Edis argues that there are endless examples of scientific discoveries that could be read into the Bible or Quran if one would like to. Edis qualifies that Muslim thought certainly cannot be understood by looking at the Quran alone; cultural and political factors play large roles.
Proposed scientific miracles in the Quran
The Quran contains many verses describing creation of the universe—the sun, moon, stars, earth, humanity, etc. The Quran describes God as creating the heavens and earth ("Lord is Allah Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days" (Quran 7:54); the earth as created in two days (41:9), and in two additional days (for a total of four) God furnished the earth with mountains, rivers and fruit-gardens (4:10). The heavens and earth were formed from one mass which had to be split (21:30). Originally the heavens were smoke (41:11). Another verse explains that there are "seven heavens, one above the other", (67:3). The lowest heaven is adorned with lights (thought to refer to stars 41:12, the sun and the moon (71:16), "both constantly orbiting, and has subjected the day and night for you" (14:33), the stars, "for decoration" (37:6), and the constellations -- "we have placed constellations in the sky" (15:16). "Do the disbelievers not realize that the heavens and earth were ˹once˺ one mass then We split them apart? And We created from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" (Quran 21:30); While many of these descriptions clash with the findings of modern science, according to claims in recent Islamic popular literature these verses and many others reveal "scientific facts" and demonstrate that the Quran must be of divine origin. Critics argue, verses which allegedly explain modern scientific facts, about subjects such as biology, human evolution, and the beginnings of human life, or the history of Earth, contain fallacies and are unscientific. Most claims of predictions rely on the ambiguity of the Arabic language, another point of criticism. Despite calling itself a clear book, the Quranic language lacks clarity.
Starting in the 1970s and 80s, this "popular literature known as ijaz" (miracle), and often called "Scientific miracles in the Quran" by supporters and "Bucailleism" by others, developed and spread to Muslim bookstores, websites, and television programs of Islamic preachers. The movement contends that the Quran abounds with "scientific facts", and since they appeared centuries before their discovery by science and "could not have been known" by human beings. According to author Ziauddin Sardar, the movement has created a "global craze in Muslim societies". The ijaz movement/industry is "widespread and well-funded" with "millions" from Saudi Arabia. Some names mentioned in connection with the movement are Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, who established the Commission on Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunnah; Zakir Naik, the Indian televangelist; and Adnan Oktar, the Turkish creationist.
Enthusiasts of the movement argue that among the miracles found in the Quran are "everything, from relativity, quantum mechanics, Big Bang theory, black holes and pulsars, genetics, embryology, modern geology, thermodynamics, even the laser and hydrogen fuel cells".
Zafar Ishaq Ansari describes the idea that "the Quran (and the Sunna)" contain "a substantially large number of scientific truths that were discovered only in modern times" as one of the "new themes and emphases" of "scientific exegesis of the Quran".
Some examples are the verse "So verily I swear by the stars that run and hide ..." (Q81:15–16) or "And I swear by the stars' positions-and that is a mighty oath if you only knew". (Qur'an 56:75–76) which proponents claim demonstrates the Quran's knowledge of the existence of black holes; "[I swear by] the Moon in her fullness; that ye shall journey on from stage to stage" (Q84:18–19) refers, according to proponents, to human flight into outer space.
The verse "Your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then settled Himself firmly on the Throne" (Q7:54) is explained by the Arabic word for day -- youm—referring not to a 24-hour period from one sunrise to the next, but to much longer eons of which there (must be) six distinct ones in the history of universe.
Embryology and the Quran
One claim that has received widespread attention and has even been the subject of a medical school textbook widely used in the Muslim world is that several Quranic verses foretell the study of embryology and "provide a detailed description of the significant events in human development from the stages of gametes and conception until the full term pregnancy and delivery or even post partum."
In 1983, an authority on Embryology, Keith L. Moore, had a special edition published of his widely used textbook on Embryology (The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology), co-authored by a leader of the scientific miracles movement, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani. This edition, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology with Islamic Additions, interspersed pages of "embryology-related Quranic verse and hadith" by al-Zindani into Moore's original work.
At least one Muslim-born physician (Ali A. Rizvi) studying the textbook of Moore and al-Zindani found himself "confused" by "why Moore was so 'astonished by'" the Quranic references, which Rizvi found "vague", and insofar as they were specific, preceded by the observations of Aristotle and the Ayr-veda, and/or easily explained by "common sense".
Some of the main verses are
- (Q39:6) God creates us "in the womb of your mothers, creation after creation, within three darknesses," or "three veils of darkness" . The "three" allegedly referring to the abdominal wall, the wall of the uterus, and the chorioamniotic membrane.
- Verse Q32:9 identifies the order of organ development of the embryo—ears, then eyes, then heart.
- Verses referring to "sperm drop" (an-nutfa), and to al-3alaqa (translated as "clinging clot" or "leech like structure") in (Q23:13-14); and to "sperm-drop mixture" (an-nuṭfatin amshaajin) in (Q76:2). The miraculousness of these verse is said to come from the resemblance of the human embryo to a leech, and to the claim that "sperm-drop mixture" refers to a mixture sperm and egg.
- (Q53:45-46) "And that He creates the two mates -- the male and female -- from a sperm-drop when it is emitted," allegedly refers to the fact that the sperm contributes X and Y chromosomes that determine the gender of the baby.
- The "three darknesses" or three walls (Q39:6) could easily have been observed by cutting open of pregnant mammals, something done by human beings before the revelation of the Quran, ("dissections of human cadavers by Greek scientists have been documented as early as the third century BCE").
- Contrary to the claims made about Q32:9, ears do not develop before eyes, which do not develop before heart. The heart begins development "at about 20 days, and the ears and eyes begin to develop simultaneously in the fourth week". However, the verse itself doesn't mention or claim the order of how the embryo will form first in the womb. "Then He proportioned him and breathed into him from His [created] soul and made for you hearing and vision and hearts; little are you grateful."
- The embryo may resemble a leech (ala "clinging clot" or "leech like structure" of al-3alaqa in Q23:13-14), but it resembles many things during the eight week course of its development—none for very long.
- While it is generally agreed the Quran mentions sperm (an-nutfa in several verses), "sperm-drop mixture" (an-nuṭfatin amshaajin in Q76:2) of a mixture of sperm and egg is more problematic as nowhere does the Quran mention the Egg cell or ovum—a rather glaring omission in any description of embryo development, as it the ovum the source of more than half the genetic material of the embryo.
- With mention of male sperm but not female egg in the Quran, it seems likely Q53:45-46 -- "And that He creates the two mates, the male and female, from a sperm-drop when it is emitted"—is talking about the erroneous idea that all genetic material for offspring comes from the male and the mother simply provides a womb for the developing baby (as opposed to the sperm contributing the X and Y chromosomes that determine the gender of the baby). This idea originated with the ancient Greeks and was popular before modern biology developed.
In 2002, Moore declined to be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal on the subject of his work on Islam, stating that "it's been ten or eleven years since I was involved in the Qur'an."
Critics argue, verses which allegedly explain modern scientific facts, about subjects such as biology, the origin and history of the Earth, and the evolution of human life, contain fallacies and are unscientific.
As of 2008, both Muslims and non-Muslims have disputed whether there actually are "scientific miracles" in the Quran. Muslim critics of the movement include Indian Islamic theologian Maulana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanvi, Muslim historian Syed Nomanul Haq, Muzaffar Iqbal, president of Center for Islam and Science in Alberta, Canada, and Egyptian Muslim scholar Khaled Montaser. The movement has been dismissed as the product of a “deep, deep inferiority complex”, “apologia of the worst type.”
Pakistani theoretical physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy writes that
the problem with such claims to ownership is that they lack an explanation for why quantum mechanics, molecular genetics, etc., had to await discovery elsewhere. Nor is any kind of testable prediction ever made. No reason is offered as to why antibiotics, aspirin, steam engines, electricity, aircraft, or computers were not first invented by Muslims. But even to ask such questions is considered offensive.
Giving the example of the roundness of the earth and the invention of the television, a Christian site ("Evidence for God's Unchanging World") complains the "scientific facts" are too vague to be miraculous:
if God intended to communicate the shape of the earth, why didn’t he just put a verse in that says, “Have you not considered how we made the earth not flat, but a ball, which revolves around the sun?” Or if God intended to predict the television, he could have clearly said, “people shall one day watch images on boxes in their dwelling-places.”
In addition, organizations promoting ijaz (Commission on Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunnah) have been accused of spreading misleading, out-of-context statements and video clips in an effort to show support of the miraculousness of the Quran by non-Muslim scholars, after inviting the scholars to "conferences with first-class plane tickets for them and their wives, rooms at the best hotels, $1,000 honoraria, and banquets with Muslim leaders".
Critics argue that while it is generally agreed the Quran contains many verses proclaiming the wonders of nature,
- it requires "considerable mental gymnastics and distortions to find scientific facts or theories in these verses" (Ziauddin Sardar);
- that the Quran is the source of guidance in right faith (iman) and righteous action (alladhina amanu wa amilu l-salihat) but the idea that it contained "all knowledge, including scientific" knowledge has not been a mainstream view among Muslim scholarship (Zafar Ishaq Ansari); and
- "Science is ever-changing ... the Copernican revolution overturning polemic models of the universe to Einstein’s general relativity overshadowing Newtonian mechanisms". So while "Science is probabilistic in nature" the Quran deals in "absolute certainty". (Ali Talib);
- Nidhal Guessoum has also been highly critical of "pseudo-scientific claims" made about the Quran.
Critics also argue that some classical beliefs based on interpretations of the Quran have been abandoned following the introduction of modern technology/science in the Muslim world. Nidhal Guessoum points out (as noted above), that a literal interpretation of some Quranic verses indicates that before a baby is born its gender is known only to God, i.e. is Al-Ghaib. This was what Muslims believed for centuries, but ultrasound technology has "led many Muslims to realize that first-degree readings of the Quran can lead to contradictions and predicaments".
Classical science in the Muslim world
One of the earliest accounts of the use of science in the Islamic world is during the eighth and sixteenth centuries, known as the Islamic Golden Age. It is also known as "Arabic science" because of the majority of texts that were translated from Greek into Arabic. The mass translation movement, that occurred in the ninth century allowed for the integration of science into the Islamic world. The teachings from the Greeks were now translated and their scientific knowledge was now passed on to the Arabs world. Despite these terms, not all scientists during this period were Muslim or Arab, as there were a number of notable non-Arab scientists (most notably Persians), as well as some non-Muslim scientists, who contributed to scientific studies in the Muslim world. The mass translation movement in the ninth century allowed for the integration of science into the Islamic world.
A number of modern scholars such as Fielding H. Garrison, Sultan Bashir Mahmood, Hossein Nasr consider modern science and the scientific method to have been greatly inspired by Muslim scientists who introduced a modern empirical, experimental and quantitative approach to scientific inquiry. Certain advances made by medieval Muslim astronomers, geographers and mathematicians were motivated by problems presented in Islamic scripture, such as Al-Khwarizmi's (c. 780–850) development of algebra in order to solve the Islamic inheritance laws, and developments in astronomy, geography, spherical geometry and spherical trigonometry in order to determine the direction of the Qibla, the times of Salah prayers, and the dates of the Islamic calendar. These new studies of math and science would allow for the Islamic world to get ahead of the rest of the world.‘With these inspiration at work, Muslim mathematicians and astronomers contributed significantly to the development to just about every domain of mathematics between the eight and fifteenth centuries”
The increased use of dissection in Islamic medicine during the 12th and 13th centuries was influenced by the writings of the Islamic theologian, Al-Ghazali, who encouraged the study of anatomy and use of dissections as a method of gaining knowledge of God's creation. In al-Bukhari's and Muslim's collection of sahih hadith it is said: "There is no disease that God has created, except that He also has created its treatment." (Bukhari 7-71:582). This culminated in the work of Ibn al-Nafis (1213–1288), who discovered the pulmonary circulation in 1242 and used his discovery as evidence for the orthodox Islamic doctrine of bodily resurrection. Ibn al-Nafis also used Islamic scripture as justification for his rejection of wine as self-medication. Criticisms against alchemy and astrology were also motivated by religion, as orthodox Islamic theologians viewed the beliefs of alchemists and astrologers as being superstitious.
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (1149–1209), in dealing with his conception of physics and the physical world in his Matalib, discusses Islamic cosmology, criticizes the Aristotelian notion of the Earth's centrality within the universe, and "explores the notion of the existence of a multiverse in the context of his commentary," based on the Quranic verse, "All praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds." He raises the question of whether the term "worlds" in this verse refers to "multiple worlds within this single universe or cosmos, or to many other universes or a multiverse beyond this known universe." On the basis of this verse, he argues that God has created more than "a thousand thousand worlds (alfa alfi 'awalim) beyond this world such that each one of those worlds be bigger and more massive than this world as well as having the like of what this world has." Ali Kuşçu's (1403–1474) support for the Earth's rotation and his rejection of Aristotelian cosmology (which advocates a stationary Earth) was motivated by religious opposition to Aristotle by orthodox Islamic theologians, such as Al-Ghazali.
According to many historians, science in the Muslim civilization flourished during the Middle Ages, but began declining at some time around the 14th to 16th centuries. At least some scholars blame this on the "rise of a clerical faction which froze this same science and withered its progress." Examples of conflicts with prevailing interpretations of Islam and science – or at least the fruits of science – thereafter include the demolition of Taqi al-Din's great Constantinople observatory in Galata, "comparable in its technical equipment and its specialist personnel with that of his celebrated contemporary, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe." But while Brahe's observatory "opened the way to a vast new development of astronomical science," Taqi al-Din's was demolished by a squad of Janissaries, "by order of the sultan, on the recommendation of the Chief Mufti," sometime after 1577 CE.
Science and religious practice
Scientific methods have been historically applied to find solutions to the technical exigencies of Islamic religious rituals, which is a characteristic of Islam that sets it apart from other religions. These ritual considerations include a lunar calendar, definition of prayer times based on the position of the sun, and a direction of prayer set at a specific location. Scientific methods have also been applied to Islamic laws governing the distribution of inheritances and to Islamic decorative arts. Some of these problems were tackled by both medieval scientists of the Islamic world and scholars of Islamic law. Though these two groups generally used different methods, there is little evidence of serious controversy between them on these subjects, with the exception of the criticism leveled by religious scholars at the methods of astronomy due to its association with astrology.
Arrival of modern science in the Muslim world
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, modern science arrived in the Muslim world but it was not the science itself that affected Muslim scholars. Rather, it "was the transfer of various philosophical currents entangled with science that had a profound effect on the minds of Muslim scientists and intellectuals. Schools like Positivism and Darwinism penetrated the Muslim world and dominated its academic circles and had a noticeable impact on some Islamic theological doctrines. "There were different responses to this among the Muslim scholars: These reactions, in words of Professor Mehdi Golshani, were the following:
- Some rejected modern science as corrupt foreign thought, considering it incompatible with Islamic teachings, and in their view, the only remedy for the stagnancy of Islamic societies would be the strict following of Islamic teachings.
- Other thinkers in the Muslim world saw science as the only source of real enlightenment and advocated the complete adoption of modern science. In their view, the only remedy for the stagnation of Muslim societies would be the mastery of modern science and the replacement of the religious worldview by the scientific worldview.
- The majority of faithful Muslim scientists tried to adapt Islam to the findings of modern science; they can be categorized in the following subgroups:
- (a) Some Muslim thinkers attempted to justify modern science on religious grounds. Their motivation was to encourage Muslim societies to acquire modern knowledge and to safeguard their societies from the criticism of Orientalists and Muslim intellectuals.
- (b) Others tried to show that all important scientific discoveries had been predicted in the Quran and Islamic tradition and appealed to modern science to explain various aspects of faith.
- (c) Yet other scholars advocated a re-interpretation of Islam. In their view, one must try to construct a new theology that can establish a viable relation between Islam and modern science. The Indian scholar, Sayyid Ahmad Khan, sought a theology of nature through which one could re-interpret the basic principles of Islam in the light of modern science.
- (d) Then there were some Muslim scholars who believed that empirical science had reached the same conclusions that prophets had been advocating several thousand years ago. The revelation had only the privilege of prophecy.
- 4. Finally, some Muslim philosophers separated the findings of modern science from its philosophical attachments. Thus, while they praised the attempts of Western scientists for the discovery of the secrets of nature, they warned against various empiricist and materialistic interpretations of scientific findings. Scientific knowledge can reveal certain aspects of the physical world, but it should not be identified with the alpha and omega of knowledge. Rather, it has to be integrated into a metaphysical framework—consistent with the Muslim worldview—in which higher levels of knowledge are recognized and the role of science in bringing us closer to God is fulfilled.
Islamic scholar Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi has noted that important technological innovations—once "considered to be bizare, strange, haram (religiously forbidden), bidʻah (innovation), against the tradition" in the Muslim world, were later accepted as "standard".
One of the main reasons the Muslim world was held behind when Europe continued its ascent was that the printing press was banned. And there was a time when the Ottoman Sultan issued a decree that anybody caught with a printing press shall be executed for heresy, and anybody who owns a printed book shall basically be thrown into jail. And for 350 years when Europe is printing, when [René] Descartes is printing, when Galileo is printing, when [Isaac] Newton is printing, the only way you can get a copy of any book in the Arab world is to go and hand write it yourself.
In the early twentieth century, Shia ulema forbade the learning of foreign languages and dissection of human bodies in the medical school in Iran. On the other hand, contrary to the current cliché concerning the opposition of the Imamate Shiite Ulama to the modern astronomy in the nineteenth century, there is no evidence showing their literal or explicit objection of the modern astronomy based on Islamic doctrines. They even became the advocates of modern astronomy by the publication of Hibat al-Dīn Shahristānī' al-Islām wa al-Hayʾa (Islam and Astronomy) in 1910. After that, Shia ulama not only were not against the modern astronomy but also they believed that the Quran and Islamic hadiths of Imams admit it.
In recent years, the lagging of the Muslim world in science is manifest in the disproportionately small amount of scientific output as measured by citations of articles published in internationally circulating science journals, annual expenditures on research and development, and numbers of research scientists and engineers. Concern has been raised that the contemporary Muslim world suffers from scientific illiteracy. Skepticism of science among some Muslims is reflected in issues such as resistance in Muslim northern Nigeria to polio inoculation, which some believe is "an imaginary thing created in the West or it is a ploy to get us to submit to this evil agenda." Also, in Pakistan, a small number of post-graduate physics students have been known to blame earthquakes on "sinfulness, moral laxity, deviation from the Islamic true path," while "only a couple of muffled voices supported the scientific view that earthquakes are a natural phenomenon unaffected by human activity." Islamist author Muhammad Qutb (brother of and promoter of Sayyid Qutb) in his influential book Islam, the misunderstood religion, states that "science is a powerful instrument" to increase human knowledge but has become a "corrupting influence on men's thoughts and feelings" for half the world's population, steering them away from the Right Path. He gives as an example science's denial (he claims) of telepathy when in fact it is documented in hadith that Caliph Umar prevented commander Sariah from being ambushed by communicating with him telepathically. Muslim scientists and scholars have subsequently developed a spectrum of viewpoints on the place of scientific learning within the context of Islam.
The conflicts between these two ideas can become quite complicated. It has been argued that "Muslims must be able to maintain the traditional Islamic intellectual space for the legitimate continuation of the Islamic view of the nature of reality to which Islamic ethics corresponds, without denying the legitimacy of modern science within their own confines".
While the Natural sciences have not been "fully institutionalized" in predominately Islamic countries, engineering is one of the most popular career choices of Middle Eastern students, and it could be argued as one (applied) science that would work in conjunction to religion.
During the twentieth century, the Islamic world was introduced to modern science. This was able to occur due to the expansion of educational systems, for example, 1900 in Istanbul and 1925 Cairo opened universities. Unlike some of the discords between science and Islam in the past, the concerns for some of the modern students were different. This discord for Islam was naturalism and social Darwinism, which challenged some beliefs. On the other hand, there was a new light into thinking of the harmony between science and Islam. An example is the study of Kudsî of Baku, looking at astronomy with religious implications, this occurred in the mid-nineteenth century. This allowed him to connect he discovers from what he knew from the Qur’an. These included “the creation of the universe and the beginning of like; in the second part, with doomsday and the end of the world; and the third was the resurrection after death”. Here is a passage in the Qur’an that is made by God about modern science, that they should be congruent with the truth attained by modern science, “hence they should be both in agreement and concordant with the findings of modern science”. This passage however, was used more often during the time where ‘modern science’ was full of different discoveries. However, many scientist thinkers through the Islamic word still take this passage to heart when it come to their work. However, there are also some strong believers that with modern viewpoints such as social Darwinism challenged all medieval world views, including that of Islam. Some didn't even want to be affiliated with modern science, and thought it was just an outside look into Islam. Many followers who tend to see the problems with the integration of Islam and science, there are many that still stand by the view points of Ibn Hanbal (855). That the meaning of science is also knowledge, that of many different aspects. There is a sense of wonder, an open mind that allows for people to have both religious values and scientific thought. Along with positive outlooks on modern science is the Islamic world, there are many negative ones as well. It has become the idea for some that the practice of modern science, is that of studying Western science. A large issue that concerns those who don't believe in the study of Western science, is where the knowledge originated. For Muslims the knowledge comes from God, not from human definition of forms of knowledge. An example of this in the Islamic world is that of modern physics, which is considered to be Western instead of an international study. Islam values claim "knowledge of reality based not on reason alone, but also on revelation and inspiration". The ideals of modern science contradict these views and many criticisms of modern science come from the value systems that some modern scientists up hold.
Muslim Nobel laureates
As of 2018, three Muslim scientists have won a Nobel Prize for science (Abdus Salam from Pakistan in physics, Ahmed Zewail from Egypt and Aziz Sancar from Turkey in Chemistry). According to Mustafa Akyol, the relative lack of Muslim Nobel laureates in sciences per capita can be attributed to more insular interpretations of the religion than in the golden age of Islamic discovery and development, when Islamic society and intellectuals were more open to foreign ideas.
Contemporary Muslim public opinion
According to a 2013 survey of Muslims in different Muslim majority countries by the Pew Research Center, the answer to the question "is there a conflict between science and religion" varied by country. In the Middle East and North Africa few agreed—Morocco (18%), Egypt (16%), Iraq (15%), Jordan (15%) and the Palestinian territories (14%). More agreed in Albania (57%), Turkey (40%), Lebanon (53%) and Tunisia (42%).
The poll also found a variance in how many Muslims are at odds with current scientific theories about biological evolution and the origin of man. Only four of the 22 countries surveyed that at least 50% of the Muslims surveyed rejected evolution (Iraq 67%, Tajikistan 55%, Indonesia 55%, Afghanistan 62%). Countries with relatively low rates of disbelief in evolution (i.e. agreeing to the statement "humans and other living things have always existed in present form") include Lebanon (21%), Albania (24%), Kazakhstan (16%).
- Quran and miracles
- Relationship between religion and science
- Religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory
- Ahmadiyya views on evolution
- Christianity and science
- Buddhism and science
- Bahá'í Faith and science
- Education in Islam
- Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences
- Superstitions in Muslim societies
- Although a long period of time/eon/era is not one of the definitions for youm in the Arabic language, Islamic scholars argue that each use of youm as used in the Quran denotes a different measurement of time. In one case, the measure of a day is equated with 50,000 years (Q70:4), whereas another verse states that "a day in the sight of your Lord is like 1,000 years of your reckoning" (Q22:47). The word "youm" is thus understood, within the Qur'an, to be a long period of time -- an era or eon. Therefore, Muslims interpret the description of a "six day" creation as six distinct periods or eons. The length of these periods is not precisely defined, nor are the specific developments that took place during each period.
- non-Muslim scientists have also found the case for Quranic prescient explanation about embryology lacking. Pharyngula. "Islamic embryology: overblown balderdash". science blogs. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
- The site "Miracles of the Quran" quotes four verses:
- It is He Who has created hearing, sight and minds for you. What little thanks you show! (Qur'an 23:78)
- Allah brought you out of your mothers' wombs knowing nothing at all, and gave you hearing, sight and minds so that perhaps you would show thanks. (Qur'an, 16:78)
- Say: "What do you think? If Allah took away your hearing and your sight and sealed up your hearts, what god is there, other than Allah, who could give them back to you?"� (Qur'an 6:46)
- We created man from a mingled drop to test him, and We made him hearing and seeing. (Qur'an 76:2)
and further claims that: "The information only recently obtained about the formation of the baby’s organs inside the mother’s womb is in complete agreement with that revealed in the Qur’an."
- Claims of the Quran foretelling the roundness of the earth can be found at Windows of Islam.com, citing as evidence
- verse 39:5 "He created the heavens and earth in truth. He wraps the night over the day and wraps the day over the night and has subjected the sun and the moon, each running [its course] for a specified term".
- Surat an-Naml, Q.27:40 "He who possessed knowledge of the Book said, ‘I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you.’ And when he saw it standing firmly in his presence, he said, ‘This is part of my Lord's favor to test me to see if I will give thanks or show ingratitude... "
- Seyyed Hossein Nasr. "Islam and Modern Science"
- The 'first true scientist'
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- Egyptian Muslim geologist Zaghloul El-Naggar quoted in Science and Islam in Conflict| Discover magazine| 06.21.2007| quote: "Modern Europe's industrial culture did not originate in Europe but in the Islamic universities of Andalusia and of the East. The principle of the experimental method was an offshoot of the Islamic concept and its explanation of the physical world, its phenomena, its forces and its secrets." From: Qutb, Sayyad, Milestones, p. 111, https://archive.org/stream/SayyidQutb/Milestones%20Special%20Edition_djvu.txt
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- see also: Ruthven, Malise. A Fury For God. London; New York: Granta (2002), p. 126.
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- see also: Ruthven, Malise. 2002. A Fury For God. London: Granta. p. 126.
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