The Quran and Modern Science
Extracts from the video "The Truth"
RELIGION and SCIENCE have always been considered to be twin sisters by Islam and today at a time when science has taken great strides, they still continue to be associated. Furthermore, certain scientific data are used for a better understanding of the Quranic text. In a century where, for many, scientific truth has dealt a deathblow to religious belief, it is precisely the discoveries of science that, in an objective examination of the Islamic Revelation, have highlighted the supernatural character of various aspects of the Revelation.
After a study which lasted ten years, the famous French physician Maurice Bucaille adressed the French Academy of Medicine in 1976 and expressed the complete agreement of the Quran and established findings of modern science. He presented his study on the existence in the Quran of certain statements concerning physiology and reproduction. His reason for doing that was that "our knowledge of these disciplines is such, that it is impossible to explain how a text produced at the time of the Quran could have contained ideas that have only been discovered in modern times".
Decades later a noted embryologist Keith L. Moore and expert in his field, upon being presented with the statements made in the Quran regarding the stages of the formation of the embryo from the mixing of the male and female gametes up to the embryos full development remarked "It has been a pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Quran about Human Development. It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammad from God or Allaah because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later." Professor Moore presented his findings to scientists at several conferences. Several Canadian periodicals published many of Moores statements and in addition he presented three television programmes in which he highlighted the compatibility of modern science with what has been revealed in the Quran 1400 years ago. Consequently, he was asked: "Does this mean that you believe that the Quran is the word of God?" to which he replied "I find no difficulty in accepting this."
In fact Professor Moore was so amazed at the accuracy of the descriptions and the terminology used for the various stages of the development of the embryo that he modified his own textbook on the subject. He incorporated all the relevant Quranic passages and authentic statements of the Prophet Muhammad into his book, The Developing Human: Clinically oriented embryology with Islamic additions, which was published by WB Saunders in 1987 and was a standard university textbook in the United States. The book now contains passages of the Quran and the Hadeeth (verified statements of the Prophet Muhammad) for every stage of development and Professor Moore has also adopted the classification used in the above two sources.
Consider also the statement of Tejatet Tejasen (Professor at the Dept. of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mei University, Thailand) after his study on the Quran passages dealing with embryology: "From my studies and what I have learnt at this conference I believe that everything that has been recorded in the Quran 1400 years ago must be true. That can be proved the scientific way". Also the statement of E. Marshal Johnson (Professor and Chairman, Dept. of Anatomy, Daniel Bough Institute, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, USA) when he became aware of such statements in the Quran and investigated them: "The Quran describes not only the development of external form but emphasizes also the internal stages - the stages inside the embryo of its creation and development, emphasizing major events recognized by contemporary science... If I was to transpose myself into that era, knowing what I do today and describing things, I could not describe the things that were described... I see no evidence to refute the concept that this individual Muhammad had to be developing this information from some place... so I see nothing in conflict with the concept that divine intervention was involved..."
Upon being presented with hadeeths (verified statements of the Prophet Muhammad) concerning dominant and recessive characteristics Joe Leigh Simpson (Professor of Obstretics and Gynecology, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois, USA) said: "... these Hadeeths could not have been obtained on the basis of the scientific knowledge that was available at the time of thewriter... It follows that not only is there no conflict between genetics and religion (Islam) but in fact religion (Islam) may guide science by adding revelation to some of the traditional scientific approaches... There exist statements in the Quran shown centuries later to be valid which support knowledge in the Quran having been derived from God".
Consider also the statement of T.V.N. Persaud (Professor and Head, Dept. of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Manitoba, Canada): "Muhammad was a very ordinary man, he couldnt read, didnt know how to write, in fact he was an illiterate... were talking about 1400 years ago, you have some illiterate person making profound statements that are amazingly accurate, of a scientific nature... I personally cant see how this could be mere chance, there are too many accuracies and like Dr. Moore I have no difficulty in my mind reconciling that this is a divine inspiration or revelation which lead him to these statements".
These are just a number of quotes from the "Scientific Community" regarding the nature and the origins of the Quran. In fact the Quran and Hadeeth do not just talk about embryology but hundreds of other phenomenon including the earth and sun being round, spinning around their own axis and following their own orbits, the origin and formation of the universe, the two types of seas between which is a barrier, the role of mountains in stabilising the earths crust, the formation of milk in cows, the cause of sexual diseases, the location of pain receptors within the body, the expansion of the universe, the precise nature of the water cycle, the change in atmospheric pressure at high altitudes, the gender of the bee which is responsible for producing honey (female), the stars consuming themselves via the combustion of their gases and this being the source of their light and many more.
Explaining all these statements by chance alone is something which has been resorted to, surprisingly by those deemed to be possessors of intellect and erudition. However this is not tenable as the following demonstration will show. When you make a guess regarding the true nature of something (in an accurate and precise manner that is) there are only two possibilities. Either you are right or wrong. If you make another guess then you only have one chance in four of being correct both times. If you make a third guess then you have one chance in eight of being correct all three times and so on. The chances of correctly describing, lets say, ten phenomena are 1 in 1024. Another point to bear in mind is that the greater the number of things you describe, the chance of being wrong is greater and thus the risk you are taking of being discredited gets bigger and bigger. The Quran and the Sunnah (Authentic sayings of the Prophet (sas)) make statements on literally hundreds of phenomenen and at the same time openly calls the scientific community to verify them. If one from the scientific community was to make hundreds of new claims regarding his particular field and was then to call all his fellow specialists to prove him wrong he would know without doubt that he is standing on an undermined sand cliff which is ready to crumble with him. How then for the one who makes statements about the specialities of others?
One will be surprised to learn that such a scientific approach has been commanded in the Quran with the objective of ascertaining its truthfulness.
Do they not carefully consider (investigate) the Quran or are there locks upon their hearts.[Surah 47:24]
Do they not carefully analyse the Quran. If it had been from other than Allaah then surely they would have found many discrepancies therein[Surah 4:82]
So religious (that is Islamic) beliefs are not based upon blind acceptance as many have generalised to all religions and thus falsely attributed to the Quran and Islam. This has been the experience of Europe in the past 3-400 years in which scientific advancement and its findings were seen as heretical, its proponents ridiculed and often exiled and tortured. Islam has never had that experience.
It is true that peoples academic capabilities differ and thus some will be unable to ascertain the truth of it and therefore may accept it blindly. But again they have the opportunity to ask the people of knowledge, those who are in a position to make such a judgement, like those quoted above. It is from the principles of wisdom and justice that when you dont know you dont make a judgement yourself but rather consult one who is in a position to do so. In fact this is something Allaah has also commanded:
So ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know[Surah 21:7]
and He has also said
And those who have been given Knowledge know that that which has been revealed to you from your Lord is the Truth[Surah 34:6]
This is a clear proof of the lack of the dependance upon dogma, superstition and personal experience and an indication of the obligation to research, ascertain and to verify in a scientific manner the credibility of religious (Islamic) belief. Fortunately there are those who have done exactly that like Keith Moore and his scientific colleagues but there are others who have invented lies and slanders in order to discredit the Quran and the Prophet. However when these lies and slanders are put to the test scientifically they fail miserably and their irrationality and bias becomes evident. Some of the common claims are that Muhammad was possessed or was an eloquent poet or was a magician or was one who was brainwashed or was a soothsayer. In fact all of these have been denied and rebutted in the Quran itself in numerous places and numerous times. It is even more strange that these were the very same claims made by the people who belied the Prophet during his lifetime, and they are the only ones that are resorted to today. What a great advancement!
Nay! We hurl the Truth against falsehood and it does smash its brains and thus it perishes. And woe be to you for what you describe (with your tongues)[Surah 21:18]
The Islamic Society University of Essex November 1994.
Note : All quotes have been taken from a video in which after having been presented with the statements in the Quran and Hadeeth and given the chance to investigate, the various scientists were questioned as to their opinion regarding the Quran. There response was recorded live. The video is called "The Truth" and is available from the Islamic Society upon request. If you would like to know more or have any queries about this topic then please feel free to contact the Islamic Society on Ext. 2019 or if you prefer you are more than welcome to the Society in the Chaplaincy Centre or drop us a line via the Students Union Pigeon Holes
Acknowledgment: The source of the text is http://www.maxinet.com/yusuf/yusuf.htm
"Science and Islam" redirects here. For the historical development of science in the Islamic world, see Science in medieval Islam. For the belief that scriptures such as the Qur'an prophesied scientific theories and discoveries, see Scientific foreknowledge in sacred texts. For the documentary, see Science and Islam (documentary).
Muslim scholars have developed a spectrum of viewpoints on science within the context of Islam. The Qur'an exhorts Muslims to study nature and investigate the truth. Muslims often cite verse 239 from SurahAl-Baqara – He has taught you what you did not know. – in support of their view that the Qur'an promotes the acquisition of new knowledge. For some Muslim writers, the study of science stems from Tawhid.[page needed]. The Qur'an had, in many situations, mentioned science as very important and encouraged Muslims to learn science, whether natural or literature.
Scientists of medieval Muslim civilization (e.g. Ibn al-Haytham) made many contributions to modern science. This fact is celebrated in the Muslim world today. At the same time, concerns have been raised about the lack of scientific literacy in parts of the modern Muslim world.
Some Muslim writers have claimed that the Qur'an made prescient statements about scientific phenomena that were later confirmed by scientific research for instance as regards to the structure of the embryo, our solar system, and the creation of the universe.
It's generally accepted that there are around 750 verses in the Quran dealing with natural phenomena. Many verses of the Qur'an ask mankind to study nature, and this has been interpreted to mean an encouragement for scientific inquiry. The investigation of the truth is one of the main messages of the Qur'an.[additional citation(s) needed] 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 built a case for Muslims having developed the foundations of modern science, by highlighting the repeated calls of the Quran to observe and reflect upon natural phenomenon. "The 'scientific method,' as it is understood today, was first developed by Muslim scientists" like Ibn al-Haytham and Al-Biruni, along with numerous other Muslim scientists.
The astrophysicist Nidhal Guessoum while being highly critical of pseudo-scientific claims made about the Quran, has highlighted the encouragement for sciences that the Quran provides by developing "the concept of knowledge.". 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.
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.
The religion Islam has its own world view system including beliefs about "ultimate reality, epistemology, ontology, ethics, purpose, etc."Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the final revelation of God for the guidance of humankind. Science is 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.
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 Qur'an 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.
Classical science in the Muslim world
See also: Science in medieval Islam, Islamic cosmology, Astronomy in medieval Islam, Mathematics in medieval Islam, Physics in medieval Islam, and Medicine in medieval Islam
In the history of science, science in the Muslim world refers to the science developed under Islamic civilization between the 8th and 16th centuries, during what is known as the Islamic Golden Age. It is also known as Arabic science since the majority of texts during this period were written in Arabic, the lingua franca of Islamic civilization. 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.
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.
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 Allah 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 Qur'anic 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 Istanbul observatory of Taqi al-Din 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.
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 Qur'an 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.
- 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.
In the early twentieth century, Shia ulema forbade the learning of foreign languages and dissection of human bodies in the medical school in Iran.
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 polioinoculation, 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."
Muslim scientists and scholars have subsequently developed a spectrum of viewpoints on the place of scientific learning within the context of Islam.
Muslim Nobel laureates
The relative lack of Muslim Nobel laureates in sciences in comparison to their population has been attributed to more insular modern interpretations of the religion, in comparison to how in the Middle Ages it was open to foreign ideas.
Abdus Salam, who won a Nobel Prize in Physics for his electroweak theory, is among those who argue that the quest for reflecting upon and studying nature is a duty upon Muslims.
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Whether Islamic culture has promoted or hindered scientific advancement is disputed. 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 Muslims. Many Muslims agree that doing science is an act of religious merit, even a collective duty of the Muslim community.
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 "Allah's freedom to act" as He wishes, a principle enshired in aya 14:4: "Allah 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 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 Qur'an 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 Qur'an. However, Edis opines that there are endless examples of scientific discoveries that could be read into the Bible or Qur'an if one would like to. Edis qualifies that 'Muslim thought' certainly cannot be understood by looking at the Qur'an alone – cultural and political factors play large roles.
Main article: Islamic views on evolution
The Quran contains many verses describing creation of the universe; Muslims believe God created the heavens and earth in six days;[7:54] the earth was created in two days,[41:9] and in two other days (into a total of four) God furnished the creation of the earth with mountains, rivers and fruit-gardens[41:10]. The heavens and earth formed from one mass which had to be split[21:30], the heavens used to be smoke[41:11], and form layers, one above the other[67:3]. The angels inhabit the seventh heavens. The lowest heaven is adorned with lights[41:12], the sun and the moon (which follow a regular path)[71:16][14:33], the stars[37:6] and the constellations of the Zodiac[15:16].
A faction of Muslims are at odds with current scientific theories about biological evolution and the origin of man. A recent Pew study reveals that in only four of the 22 countries surveyed that at least 50% of the people surveyed rejected evolution. For instance, a relatively large fraction of people accept human evolution in Kazakhstan (79%) and Lebanon (78%), but relatively few in Afghanistan (26%), Iraq (27%), and Pakistan (30%); a total of 13 of the countries surveyed had at least 50% of the population surveyed who agreed with the statement that humans evolved over time. The late Ottoman intellectual Ismail Fennî, while personally rejecting Darwinism, insisted that it should be taught in schools as even false theories contributed to the improvement of science. He held that interpretations of the Quran might require amendment should Darwinism eventually be shown to be true.
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- ^The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society, Pew Research Center, April 30, 2013 
- ^"The British Journal for the History of Science V48:4". Cambridge University Press.