Science is not the private property of any one people in the world. It is the common heritage of all mankind. Its period of infancy began with mankind's period of infancy. When intellectual culture in the West attained a sufficient maturity, attained in great part through the achievements of other nations, especially of Asian peoples, the experimental sciences in particular were ripe for a new, comprehensive flourishing through the Renaissance.
The West did not neglect, while borrowing science from its ancient origins, absorbing and appropriating it, to import also the ways of developing it. Although the West has tended to deny the Eastern origin of science and how it was transferred, its relations with the Orient did not prevent it from transferring the zeal and resolution necessary for scientific development. Of course, science cannot be borrowed and then 'worn' like a medal of success or other symbol of outward show. It has to permeate through the veins of the society where it develops and functions like a substance of life diffused into the 'air' of every new day.
If true science consists in directing the intelligence towards eternity without expecting any material gain and making tireless and detailed study of existence in order to discover the absolute truth underlying it, and to follow the methods required to reach this aim, then without these essential points, science cannot fulfil what we expect of it. Although usually presented as a conflict between Christianity and science, the conflicts in the the Renaissance period were mainly between scientists and the Church. Neither Copernicus nor Galileo nor Bacon were anti-religious. It may even be said that it was their religious commitment which ignited in men's souls the love and thought of finding truth. In advance of Christianity, it was Islam, the religious thought springing from eternality, the love and zeal arising from that thought, accompanied by the feeling of poverty and impotence before the Eternal Creator of the cosmos, which lay behind the great scientific advance observed in the Muslim world for five hundred years until the close of the l2th century. The concept of science as based on the Divine Revelation, which gave impetus to scientific studies in the Muslim world, was represented almost perfectly by the illustrious figures of the time who, intoxicated with the thought of eternality, studied existence tirelessly with the aim of attaining to eternity. It was by virtue of their commitment to the Divine Revelation that Its intellect diffused a light which fermented in human souls a new concept of science. If that concept of science, approved and appropriated by all the sections of the community as if a part of the Divine message and pursued with the zeal of an act of worship, had not been exposed to the destructive tumults of invasions from Asia and the seemingly endless and pitiless Crusades from Europe, the world today would surely be more enlightened than it is at present, its intellectual life richer, its technology more wholesome, and its sciences more promising. For that concept of science to which Islam gave rise was embedded in aspiration for eternality, the ideal of being useful to mankind and responsible in handling things for the sake of earning the pleasure of God.
It is the love of truth which gives the true direction to scientific studies. What we mean by the love of truth is approaching existence without any consideration of material advantage and worldly gain and observing and recognizing it as it really is. While those equipped with such love can by all means reach the final destination in their studies, those who are infected with worldly passions, material aspirations and ideological prejudices and fanaticism, and who cannot develop any love of truth, will either be unsuccessful in their studies or, worse, divert the course of scientific studies and make science a deadly weapon to be used against the best potentials of humanity.
It is impossible for any intellectual activity arising from and directed by worldly passions and egocentricity to lead to an outcome which will be truly beneficial for humanity. If such passions darkening our souls and forcing us to certain unapprovable behaviour are combined with ideological fanaticism and prejudices, then they will inevitably put insurmountable obstacles in the way of reaching the truth and using the results of scientific studies for the good of humanity. If, therefore, intellectuals, educational institutions and mass-media have a vita1 task to undertake for the good of humanity, it is to deliver modern scientific studies from the lethally polluted atmosphere of materialistic aspirations and ideological fanaticism, and to direct scientists toward true human values. The first condition of directing scientific studies in that way is to free minds from ideological superstitions and fanaticism and to purify souls of the filth of aiming at worldly gains and advantages. This is also the first condition of securing true freedom of thought and doing good science. Having waged wars for centuries against the 'clergy' and corrupt conceptions formed in the name of religion, and having blamed them for regression, narrow mindedness and fanaticism, scientists themselves should try to remain free from being the target of comparable accusations.
There is no difference between intellectual and scientific despotism arising from interest and power-seeking and ideological fanaticism and restrictive reasoning because of corrupt and distorted religious conceptions and the dominion of a clergy. God-revealed religion whose original name has always been Islam- peace, salvation and obedience to God-whether taught by Moses or Jesus or communicated by Muhammad, upon them all be peace, preaches and propagates courtesy, respect toward human values, love, tolerance and brotherhood. Especially the Islam communicated by the Last of the Prophets, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as can be clearly seen in numerous verses of the Qur'an, urges the study of nature, which it sees as a place of exhibition of the Divine works; it urges reflection upon creation and the created, and approaching it responsibly, without making mischief and causing corruptions in the world. Studied without prejudices and preconceptions, the Qur'an will appear, as it is in reality, to be promoting love of science, love of humanity, justice and order. On a comparatively smaller scale of exploiting science and its products for the sake of power and base worldly ambitions against weaker peoples, it is true that some have appeared to use the Qur'an as a means of satisfying the hatred and enmity arising from their dark souls. Unfortunately, in the hands of those who see their 'fortune' in eradication of Islam, such attitudes have served as a weapon to accuse Islam of being a religion of hatred, enmity and vengeance.
'Islam' literally means peace and salvation; 'Muslim', according to the definition of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, means one from whose hand and tongue everyone is safe and secure; and 'mu'min' (believer), derived from the word 'amn' meaning security and safety, means one who believes and is the guarantee of security, order, justice, love and knowledge. Through the light disseminated by Islam, many have dedicated their lives to the happiness of others in self-denial and many others have been resolved to carry human beings to eternity. Founded on the Divine Word, the Qur'an, Islam has founded knowledge and the quest for it on the intention of discovering the meaning of existence in order to reach the Creator and to be beneficial to all human beings, indeed to all the creation, and combined it with belief, love and altruism. This is what we learn from the Qur'an, as well as from the exemplary life of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and the conduct of many who have represented it perfectly in thought and action. January-March 1997, Issue 17