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Featured Essay no.2: Islam, Science and Islamic Moderation

September 9th, 2014 | by MuslimScience
Featured Essay no.2: Islam, Science and Islamic Moderation
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By Ingrid Margarita Florez Fortich

The relationship between religion and science is a very controversial one. The antagonism between Christianity and science is well known and documented, being the case of Galileo Galilei and Kaplan.  Any scientific inquiry questioning or challenging the scientific position of the Church was declared heretic.

In the case of the relationship between Islam and science, Islam considers the natural world and scientific inquiry as non-“sacred” spheres in the sense of Christianity’s view, for Islam, the nature of scientific inquiry is error and changeable laws and paradigms for explaining the natural world, even though the natural world is sacred as a manifestation of the creator, scientific inquiry is dynamic and serves as a tool of knowing and getting closer to the creator, changes in scientific paradigms is the natural course of the natural worlds realm and study.

The question of the reconciliation between Islam and science, is assuming, that there is a tension or contradiction between the two. As it has been stated, from the philosophical point of view, there is no tension since the study of the natural world is considered in Islam as a human activity, a way of knowing the creation and the divine manifestations through the study of nature. As a result, Islam does not claim that its revelation contains sacred and eternal scientific truths.

For Islam, the Qur’an is a miracle itself, it contains enormous references to science from encouragement, to studying the natural word, to the pursuit of knowledge and scientific references, to embryology, sea life etc. It is important to mention, that some marginal school of thought intends to prove the divine source of the Qur’an, by stressing the scientific discoveries mentioned in the Qur’an, discoveries unknown by humanity until the twenty-century. This position does not represent the mainstream discourse about the relationship between Islam and science.

The Qur’an is not a scientific book, it is a divine revelation for humanity, the guidance for the Islamic way of life. Revelation is the primary source for the believer, reason is very important, but it is secondary with respect to revelation. Putting reason as a primary source for belief, is not in line with the teachings of Islam. Reason is the tool for science; revelation is the tool for life.

The idea of the reconciliation between Islam and modern science, came from the controversy about the idea of evolution and natural selection. In this respect, Islam is not against the idea of evolution, it is against the idea of natural selection since it contradicts creationism. In other words, it is against the dogmatic imposition of “scientific truths”, in order to promote atheism, secularism or religious doctrines, for which the role of the creator in the universe is secondary. On the other hand, Islam is in favour of knowledge, scientific inquiry, the deconstruction of scientific dogmas, and especially represents an alternative, in terms of ethics in the modern and contemporary science.

Without the recognition of the creator, the purpose of the universe and the natural world in the relationship between God and man and the ethical responsibility of man towards nature and humankind, humanity will continue to witness the destruction of the environment, the unethical usage of science to promote war and genocides, especially the war and persecution of religions based on their rejection of the dominant scientific truth, for the “progressive scientists” and “free spirits”, whoever rejects the scientific truth belongs to fundamentalism, extremism and a “danger” for children and youth. Modern and contemporary science is in need of the infusion of ethical values, accountability, responsibility and the humanization of science.

The assumption of a free value science, is no longer arguable in light with use in academic circles of plagiarism, corruption of the evidence and data for ideological purposes. The scientist should have the right to apply positive ethical values to their practice, and the imposition of the dominant values against creationism is the opposite of free inquiry, since revelation is not the source of scientific inquiry, it is the source of ethics and in order to apply those values to the scientific enterprise, it is necessary that the metaphysical recognition of the existence of divine entity, together with the axiological ethics put science to the service of humanity, instead of nature to the service of capitalism, materialism and consumerism.

The most important factor in promoting creativity and innovation within the Muslim societies, is by inculcating the principle of moderation in the scientific enterprise. Thus, Islamic moderation must promote the accountability and responsibility of man towards nature as a sign and manifestation of the creator of the universe, removing the ego of modern man denying the creator and divinizing the domination of reason over revelation, by claiming that the scientific enterprise can deliver absolute truths, like the Darwinian interpretation used to deny creationism.

In this context, the purpose of the scientific enterprise is the pursuing of knowledge as a virtue encouraged by divine revelation and the ultimate goal is to get closer to the creator through his creation. The Islamic civilization have achieved the peak of scientific flourishment, especially in al-Andalus, one of the factor for the advancement of science superior to any civilization even Christian Europe at that time, was also the practice of moderation. In fact, the respect for cultural diversity, the social cooperation among Muslims, Christian and Jews on scientific and philosophical matters is emblematic.

The Islamic civilization considers knowledge as a non-sacred territory, Andalusi Muslims were able to Islamize and re-interpret the knowledge and works of Greeks and other civilizations’, in order to promote the universal “ornament of the world”. It was the practice of “fundamentalist” doctrines, denying cultural diversity and respect for cultures within and outside Muslim communities, as one of the factors dealing with the decline and end of an almost eight hundred years of scientific advancement, lead by the Islamic civilization.

There is a possibility for the Muslim world to practice “Islamic science”, the scientific enterprise infused by the tawhidic worldview, which is not in contradiction with the study of the existing technical and scientific knowledge, benefiting societies from it and redefining the metaphysical, philosophical and axiological assumptions of contemporary science, by restoring the prominence of the creator in the future scientific enterprise.

 

References

1. Muzaffar Iqbal. The Making of the Islamic Science. Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 2009

2. Menocal, Maria. The Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture. New Have: Yale University Press, 2008.

3. Menocal, Maria. The Ornaments of the World: How Muslim, Jews and Christian created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. New York: Brown and Company, 2002.

4. Goldstein, Bernard. “Astronomy as a “Neutral Zone”: Interreligious Cooperation in Medieval Spain”. Journal of Medieval Encounters 15(2009): 159-174.

5. Jim al –Khalili .The House of Wisdom How Arabic Science saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance. New York: Penguin Books, 2010

6. Saliba, George. Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance. Massachussetts Institute of Technology Press, 2007.

7. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Muzaffar Iqbal. Islam, Science, Muslims and Technology. Islamic Kuala Lumpur: Book Trust, 2010.

8. Sheldrake, Rupert. The Science Delusion. Hooder & Stoughton, 2012.

9. Turner, Howard. Science in Medieval Islam. Austin: University of Texas, 2006

 

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