The Relationship of Islam and Science and the Concept of Science

Swayed by Western domination of their lands, a domination attributed to superior science and technology, some Muslim intellectuals began to view Islam as the cause of the Muslim world's backwardness. Ignoring the eleven centuries or more of Islamic supremacy, they thought and wrote as if the history of Islam had begun only in the eighteenth century. Furthermore, they mistakenly identified the relationship between science and religion in general in the specific terms of the relationship between science and Christianity. They did not bother to make even a superficial study of Islam and its long relationship with science.

Other contemporary Muslim intellectuals, after seeing such as things as atomic bombs, mass murder, environmental pollution, and loss of moral and spiritual values, blamed these disasters on science and technology. They proclaimed the shortcomings and mistakes of the purely scientific approach in seeking the truth, as well as the failure of science and technology to bring happiness. Following the lead of their Western counterparts, they condemned science and technology outright and adopted an almost purely idealistic attitude.

However, Islam is the middle way. While it does not reject or condemn the modern scientific approach, neither does it deify it.

Science has been the most revered fetish or idol of humanity for nearly two centuries. Scientists once believed that they could explain every phenomenon with the findings of science and the law of causality. However, modern physics destroyed the theoretical foundations of mechanical physics by revealing that the universe is not a clockwork of certain parts working according to strict, unchanging laws of causality and absolute determinism. Rather, despite its dazzling harmony and magnificent order, it is so complex and indeterminate that when we unveil one of its mysteries, more appear. In other words, the more we learn about the universe, the greater becomes our ignorance of how it functions.

Experts in atomic physics say that no one can be sure that the universe will be in the same state as it is now a moment from now. Although the universe functions according to certain laws, these laws are not absolute and, more interestingly, have no real or material existence. Rather, their existence is deduced from observing natural events and phenomena. October-December 1999, Issue 28

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