The Holy Qur'an

Islam and Science

Islam and Science (Syed Fazal Ahmad) Islam is generally known as a religion (Mazhab), which is an Arabic word. However, nowhere in the Quran, is Islam called “Mazhab” (religion), it is termed as “Deen”. The word “Deen” in Arabic has very many meanings including “Qanun” (Law), an unchangeable decision etc. One may ask why is Islam termed as “Deen” and not as “Mazhab”. The reply is: there is great difference in the intrinsic meaning of the word “Mazhab” and “Deen”. “Mazhab” leaves a man free in other avenues and aspects of life after observance of certain religious formalities and rituals. On the contrary, the word “Deen” encompasses and controls the whole gamut of man’s life and his daily conduct. It lays down guidelines, rules, laws to regulate all aspects of human work and conduct and permits no deviation from the basic principles of “Deen”. This could be illustrated from the attendance of Church by the Christians on Sundays after which the religion leaves them free to resort to war and drop an atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on peaceful citizens and thus bring about total destruction and annihilation. Conversely, Islam lays down strict rules about the conduct of wars. Islamic history tells a story that in a battle, Hazrat Ali, son-in-law of the Holy Prophet of Islam, overpowered his opponent and was ready to.kill him. The vanquished foe, seeing no way out, spat into the face of Hazrat Ali. At this Hazrat Ali left him and got up. People were amazed at this conduct of Hazrat Ali and enquired from him why he did it. Hazrat Ali replied that he was fighting for a cause, but when his adversary spat into his face, he was enraged and, if he had killed him then, it might have been construed as a sort of personal revenge and as that was not permitted in the Islamic Deen he let him go. In short, “religion” permits and leaves a man free to do anything according to his likes and dislikes after observing certain religious rituals; but “Deen” enjoins every human conduct to be according to the will of God and according to the rules prescribed by the “Deen”. The Meccans used to perform Haj (pilgrimage) before Islam. If the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him) had only prescribed prayers and fasting and had left them free in their other conduct, the Meccans would not have opposed him so virulently. They found, however, that the “Deen” of ISLAM AND SCIENCE 21 Islam enjoined, encompassed and controlled all aspects of their conduct and laid down rules and codes for every kind of human intercourse and activity. They resented and revolted against these controls. Later on, however, Muslims themselves adopted Islam as Mazhab and deviated from Islam as “Deen”. This resulted in their alienation from the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Quran became a property of the dead instead of the living. The Quran as “Deen” has explicitly claimed that it was for the living: “It is but a Reminder and a Quran that makes things plain so that it may warn all who live”. (36:70, 71). Unfortunately, for the Muslims the recitation of the Quran became just a ritual at best to be just read near the head of a dying or a dead man. In the first century of Islam, the stress was on management and consolidation of the Islamic kingdom, but from the second century the Muslims and the Arabs responded to the call of the Holy Quran and the directives of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him). The Quran enjoined: “Say, ‘I only exhort you to do one thing; that you should stand up before Allah in twos and singly and then reflect’ “. (37:47). The Quran directed them to ponder on their surroundings, study and research about the universe, the various aspects of the earth and heavens, science and technology. This was carried on with great vigour and interest for three full centuries and the Muslims devoted their interest, labour, finances towards scientific researches and achieved great heights which resulted in their valuable contributions towards all branches of science, culture and technology in the world. In the second Hijri of Islam, Hakim Eben Ata could scientifically produce something like a shining moon which used to rise up in the atmosphere and provide great light. Maulana Shibli Nomani has written in his book “Almamoon” that during the reign of Mamoon-al-Rashid (198 to 218 Hijri/813-833) scientific researches made great progress. Unfortunately, however, after the 4th century Hijri, the directions of the Holy Quran to study, ponder, think, research and experiment were gradually given up by the Muslims. Nevertheless, within 300 years they had left a legacy of scientific researches, investigations and experimentations which, even to the present day, provided Europe with scientific knowledge. This advancement was responsible for and 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS proved to be the main precursor to the Renaissance in Europe. This is being acknowledged even now by many European writers and thinkers.’ Breffolt writes: “There is no branch or aspect of western civilisation from which the traits and signs of Arab culture do not reflect and emanate. In one branch, specially we are totally indebted to the Arabs, that is the knowledge of matter and the scientific spirit. Not only our science is indebted to the Arabs, not only to the extent of their presenting new weapons, new experiments and researches, but in fact the whole gamut of our scientific knowledge is squarely and totally indebted to the Arab contributions. Before Islam the world was not a world of science and till the 15th , century, Europe for all their knowledge of science, art and craft, inherited what the Arabs left for them.” Professor Margoliouth has further acknowledged the Arab contribution and has written: “All that we Christians have done to bring consonance between science and Christianity and all the efforts that we have made in this direction today, Islam and Quran had all these from the very beginning.” On the 14th October, 1957, Russia put its first Sputnik in space which successfully went beyond the gravitational pull of the earth and around which it orbitted. People thought it to be the contribution of German scientists. Learning this, Moscow Radio announced on 1st November, 1959, that their achievement had got no connexion with the Germans, rather the knowledge of putting a man-made satellite into space was derived from an 800-year-old Arabic book from the study of which they had started making experiments and achieved success. Another thing which we see around us is the beautiful and colourful universe with its many creatures, unaccountable panorama and research materials. Dr. Ghulam Jilani Barq in his book “Two Qurans” has written that there are two Qurans — one which was in our hand in the form of a book and the other the book of universe comprising the Sun, Moon, Man, Animals, Oceans. As the Quran consists of verses “These are the verses of a clear Book.” (12:1), in the same manner we have before us in the book of the universe various sights, colours and phenomena which the Quran calls as “Ayyat” (Signs). “In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed signs for men of understanding (3:191). Science is based on mathematics. Hence, be it the verses of the Holy Quran or the signs in the book of universe, in all we have well proved mathematics. The great research scholar of Egypt Dr. Rashd Khalifa has described in his research paper amazing problems and delineation of mathematics and ISLAM AND SCIENCE 23 numbers in the verses of the Holy Quran. In the same manner, in the book of the universe and all the science therein, visible or invisible, mathematics was involved and was based on mathematical calculations. Everything contains scientific truths apparent or hidden, and we are all left wondering. As an illustration, the Quran says about the creation of man: “Verily, We created man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a drop of sperm in a safe depository; then We fashioned the sperm into a clot; then We fashioned the clot into a shapeless lump; then We fashioned bones out of this shapeless lump; then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We developed it into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators. (23: 13-15). Have the present day medical or scientific researches added anything further to what has been already described in the Holy .Quran about the various stages of human creation and evolution? Every man is created according to fixed mathematics. Every human heart beats 71 times in a minute. Every lung inhales air 16 times in a minute. Water it keeps its own level. It has a fixed law of nature and it denotes that the earth is round. Water contains one part of oxygen and two parts of hydrogen. Take any quantity of water be it a drop or an ocean it contains the same ratio and proportion of oxygen and hydrogen. Sir David Birdstier was once experimenting on a drop of water and was thunder-struck to find that every atom of water was more complex than the mechanism of a watch. In sheer wonder he cried out: “Oh God, how marvellous is your world.” The appearance of the sun and the moon has operated since time immemorial and followed definite rules of mathematics. On the 1st January the time of the rising and setting of the sun has always remained the same and will always remain the same on this particular date. The sun and the moon fun their course according to a fixed reckoning (Quran 55:6). All this proves that the entire management of the universe operates according to a rule of law and mathematics. Knowledge of these unchangeable laws, rules and mathematics and to make researches on them is called science. Its method was experimentation. A scientist keeps a problem before him and then starts experimenting and after some time he finds that an earlier viewpoint was wrong. Then he adopts a new method and after repeated efforts and research, trials and errors, he discovers the final rule to be according to the law of the universe. There is general misconception that religious beliefs have nothing to do with science or that science alone relates to experimental truths. In fact, this was not so. Science was entirely based on those laws, which are called axioms. 24 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS No one could definitely say how these laws or axioms are so and how they came into being in the universe. It was just accepted that they were there or they just existed. How man came to know of them could not be definitely said. It was, however, believed that man came to accept them after due experimentations. In whatever manner they have been found out, this was a reality that no.actual proofs could be presented to prove them. Without accepting them a scientist could not proceed even a step ahead. In view of this it was wrong to say that science had nothing to do with religious beliefs and that it was only related to experimental truths. In fact, science was only a method for acquiring knowledge, understanding or to reach at a truth. Its structure was laid on the following foundations as laid down by the Quran: (i) The entire universe was regulated by unchanging rules and laws, (ii) By study, experimentation, truth about these laws or axioms could be arrived at. (iii) Whenever these laws or rules are followed, the results would be the same — “And he has subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; all this is from Him. In that surely are signs for a people who reflect.” (45:14). Now the question arises how to find out the axioms and the laws? For this the Holy Quran has described knowledge as an entity in itself. The Quran describes it in the following words: “And follow not that of which thou hast no knowledge. Verily, the ear and the eye and the heart •— all these shall be called to account.” (17:37). Do the above words not describe knowledge in the same terms as science presents? Hearing and seeing relate to human senses. The Quran says that your senses gather knowledge about the universe and its various phenomena. The human mind derives results from experimentation and that is the acquirement of knowledge according to scientific methods. How to find out whether the results arrived at are correct or wrong? For this the Quran lays down pragmatic tests which mean you should test this knowledge by acting on it. The result of those axioms will themselves prove the correctness or otherwise of those laws. Accordingly, the Holy Prophet of Islam had stressed that after presenting your beliefs and “Deen” tell your opponents if they do not believe in these truths then follow the other method: “Say, ‘O my people, act as best as you can. I, too, am acting. Soon will you know whose will be the ultimate reward of the abode’. Surely the wrong doers shall not prosper.” (6:136). ISLAM AND SCIENCE 25 The above method is exactly what science stresses for testing the correctness or otherwise of any experimentation or knowledge. Accordingly, the Quran accepts as learned, only those who are nowadays called the scientists: “Dost thou not see that Allah sends down water from the sky, and We bring forth therewith fruits of different colours; and among the mountains are streaks of white and red, of diverse trees and others raven black; And of men and beasts and cattle, in like manner, there are various colours; Only those of His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Mighty, Most Forgiving” (35:28,29). It further enjoins and even reprimands: “Will they not, then, ponder over the Quran, or is it that on their hearts are locks?” (47:25). Another famous thinker and commentator of the Holy Quran, Allama Tantabi Jauhri, in the introduction of the first volume of his famous book “Tafsire-Jawahir” has said that there are only 150 Ayyats about prayers, fastings, Zakat, Haj, marriage and divorce. There are, however, 750 verses in the Holy Quran dealing with the study of the universe enjoining scientific thinking and experimentation. The Quran repeatedly stresses that those who ponder, think and experiment in order to reach truths are really great. This shows what great importance Islam attaches to science. Dr. Asadullah Khan, who graduated in Science from Aligarh University, has, after forty years of labour, written a book which was published in Pakistan. It has fifteen chapters of which fourteen cover only 64 pages while the remaining 171 pages deal with the scientific truths in the Quran. Dr. Asadullah Khan complains that though Muslims respect the Holy Quran and believe it to be without any flaw or untruth and accept it to be a revelation from God, yet they nowadays do not use the Quran as a great scientific truth which could be followed and experimented like any scientific proposition. The Quran has repeatedly enjoined one to think and ponder as to how the thunder and lightning were caused and how electricity was produced; why lightning is seen before the clap of thunder. It also enjoined that we should not be afraid of the thunder or lightning but should consider them to be of great use. The Quran has repeatedly stressed the importance of excavations of old civilisations so that we may derive lessons and knowledge from them. The 26 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS story of Noah indicates that he was a ship-builder and the Quran enjoins us to learn this craft. The story of Pharaoh and the preservation of his body also provides experimental truths for us. His body was found and lies preserved in a Cairo museum. From the story of David we can derive knowledge about blacksmithy and the manufacture of armaments and machinery. Control of oceans urges us to learn about navigation and ship-building. It is a pity that in spite of all these directives Muslims from the 6th century Hijri gave up the study of science and the universe and hence lagged behind. The Westerners who continued to study science progressed along the directives, teachings, indicators and axioms of the Holy Quran and became great powers. Sir William Herschel and others proved that the sun revolves but fourteen hundred years earlier the Quran had specifically indicated that not only the sun but all the other planets revolved round their own orbits. The Quran says: “And the sun is moving on the course prescribed for it. That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing God”. (36-39). “And He it is who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, each, gliding along smoothly in its orbit.” (21-34). Scientists, even today, doubt about life and habitation on the various planets. Recently, at best, they think that Mars may have some habitation but Mercury and Venus, cannot provide any possibility of any habitation or life. According to them these two planets are too close to the sun for living beings to survive. The scientists only believe this according to their knowledge. They do not realise that there could be life of some other form on various other planets. On the other hand, Quran propounds that all the planets in the universe have habitation and life: “The seven heavens and the earth and those that are therein extol His glory; and there is not a thing but glorifies Him with His praise; but you understand not their glorification. Verily, He is forbearing, most forgiving.” (17:45). If all the seven skies or all the planets do not have any habitation, then who ISLAM AND SCIENCE 27 praises God? The Quran also indicates that a time will come when there will be communication between all these planets: “And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and of whatever living creatures He has spread forth in both. And He has the power to gather them when He pleases.” (26:30). According to the Holy Quran habitation is possible on Mercury and Venus. The habitation may not be the same as on earth, but some other form may be there. The earth was very hot when it became separated from the sun but it had some other habitation. “And surely We created man from dry ringing clay, from black mud wrought into shape”. (15:27). According to the Holy Quran all the planets in the universe have habitation. Now it is to be proved scientifically as it will be proved one day. In short, Islam and science are not two different entities, rather they are two different names of the same truth. Islam, may be termed as science and science as Islam. Many scientific truths have been described in detail in the Holy Quran, which have been proved by experimentations and there are many others which will be proved in the future. It is impossible that any scientific discovery or invention would be against the theories propounded by the Holy Quran. It may be that the present studies or the scientific experimentations may not be in consonance with those mentioned in the Holy Quran. Science with all its manifold experimentations and researches has and will in future testify to the scientific truths and conclusions propounded 1400 years ago in the Holy Quran. The rotation and revolution of the earth is a proof of the same. The four forces —• gravity, electromagnetic, weak and strong forces would lead to one force on which Einstein and Dr. Abdus Salam have experimented. The scientists of tomorrow will reach to the Quranic truth of one force as there is one God from ‘whom all power, energy, light and strength emanate. It was a pity that the Muslims themselves have left the study of the Holy Quran and have in fact deviated from it and hence they lost their grandeur, strength, power and dignity. There is only one way for them and that is back to the Holy Quran, which is a great book of science based on experimental truths of all possible sources of knowledge.

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