Science, Medicine and Technology

Scientific Spirit of Islam – Myth or Reality?

Rafi Ahmed, USA


Many atheists claim that science and religion are two completely different domains.[1] [2] [3] [4] They argue that in order to separate the domains of religion and science, one must recognise that science is the means by which we understand the material universe, whereas religion is the abandonment of reason with regard to those questions – e.g., the ultimate purpose of human life and moral values – which are outside the reach of science. 

The cliche, ‘science tells us how the heavens (i.e., the firmament) go, and religion tells us how to go to heaven’ is often cited to emphasise the exclusivity of these two domains. Stephen Jay Gould, an eminent evolutionary biologist, coined the phrase non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) to describe this view.[5] We beg to differ.

In the rest of this article, we will eschew the all-inclusive term ‘religion’, which encompasses a host of contradictory claims, unethical teachings, and unreliable scriptures and present the idea from an Islamic perspective.[6]

Islam and Scientific Enquiry

The Holy Qur’an urges men to recognise God by reflecting upon the universe and by exercising their faculty of reason. It assures us that there can be no contradiction between the scriptural universe (i.e., the word of God) and the material universe (i.e., the work of God). 

This emphatic rejection of any dichotomy between science and Islam is yet another way of endorsing the principle of rationality. The Fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), offers a well-reasoned discourse on this subject in his magnum opus, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge, and Truth by showing that these two universes are in conformity.[7]

The Holy Qur’an invites us to reflect upon the universe and the extraordinary conditions that govern it. It recommends pondering over the prime cause of creation and the evident wisdom and power of its Creator. The Holy Qur’an invites the believers to scientific enquiry on the premise that they will be guided by this knowledge to their Creator. It declares: 

Verily in the creation of the heavens and of the earth, and in the alternation of night and of the day, there are signs for men of understanding.’[8]

The Holy Qur’an further says:

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.[9]

It would be impossible to conceive of a more powerful encouragement for the limitless scientific exploration of the universe. Over 130 years ago, the Promised Messiah and the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), wrote: 

‘I consider Maulavis [clerics] who are opposed to the acquisition of modern knowledge to be in error…They have convinced themselves that research into modern sciences leads to error and alienates a person from Islam. They seem to hold that reason and science are inconsistent with Islam. … For the service of the faith and for upholding the Word of Allah, it is essential that you study the modern sciences and study them diligently.’[10]

Here, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) emphasises that reason and science are consistent and compatible with Islam. He does away with the idea that science should be rejected in favor of theology – a belief that is commonly held by many religious scholars. 

In response to a comment by the renowned meteorologist Professor Clement Wragge, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) said: 

‘That is why God has sent me so that we show it to the world that there is nothing in our religion that contradicts true and proven verities of science.’[11]

This is a great endorsement of science and the scientific method from the man who claimed to be the reformer of the age. The true and proven verities of science form the baseline to which the conformity of Islam and the Holy Qur’an must be demonstrated. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) used the critical qualifications of true and proven for science so that we must exercise caution in accepting speculative ideas proposed by some scientists.

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) further explains this very idea and rejects the claim that rationality and revelation fall into two opposite and conflicting domains.[12] He argues that rationality must be the primary means of evaluating the validity of religious beliefs. He holds that both revelation and rationality play an integral role in life and that a Supreme Creator exists who communicates with man through divine revelation. Therefore, he proposes a judicious application of revelation, reason, and rationality with regard to those questions that are outside the reach of science.

The Qur’an and Science

Dr Abdus Salam, the recipient of the 1979 Physics Nobel Prize and a devout Ahmadi Muslim, wrote regarding the Holy Qur’an and science: 

‘In contrast to 250 verses which are legislative, some 750 verses of the Holy Qur’an exhort the believers to study Nature, to reflect, to make the best use of reason and to make scientific enterprise an integral part of the community’s life… The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be on him) said that it was incumbent upon every Muslim – man and woman – to acquire knowledge.’[13]

The Holy Qur’an makes profound and accurate statements about well-established scientific facts discovered only in the last two centuries, such as the origin of life from water [21:31], the origin of the universe as a Big Bang [21:31], the expansion of the universe [51:48], planetary motions along independent orbits [21:34; 36:39,41], different types of light emanating from the sun and the moon [71:17], and evolution of man in planned and progressive stages [71:15], to name a few.[14] This is what inspired Dr. Abdus Salam, and it continues to inspire the true believer today.

At this point, some may question the reliability of science. Answering this question, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) writes: 

‘How far we can trust the conclusions drawn from such comparisons between scriptural observations and known scientific facts… To raise such questions is justified indeed but only partially so. All the concepts of the past have not necessarily changed in subsequent ages… For instance, about the chemical composition of water there are no two opinions. One cannot suggest that with the passage of time its formula will change, and a new formula may be discovered to replace it, such as H3O5 instead of H2O. The main body of scientific knowledge, once established, remains essentially the same except for some fine modifications in the fringe area… Again, there are things which become certain, not because they have been tested over a long period of time, but because their truth is universally demonstrable’.[15]

The above statement of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) resonates with that of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) when he talked about ‘the true and proven verities of science’.

The hostility towards science shown by the orthodox Muslim thinkers[16] [17] [18] and the postmodernist philosophers present an amusing spectacle, as they seem to have fervent faith in the reproducibility of scientific laws such as Newton’s laws of motion, gravitation, aerodynamics, Mendelian laws of genetics, etc., when they travel in an airplane or benefit from other scientific and technological marvels.[19] [20]Alas, their transient faith in science is thrown out the window when unreason re-enters the door!

Method of Discourse

It is critical to rid Islam of the stigma that its adherents are just blind followers. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) writes:

‘The Qur’an is a book of reason and rationality… Thus, to interpret the verse 2:3-4 to indicate that it promotes blind faith by requiring man to believe in the ‘unseen’ (ghaib) would stand counter to the Qur’anic emphasis. Quite to the contrary, to believe in the spurious without evidence and solid justification is what the Qur’an attributes to the non-believers.’ [21]

The old adage of seeing is believing, if taken literally, can only go so far in establishing Islamic or scientific truths. The band of electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye is quite narrow: from violet to red or from 380 to about 750 nanometers of wavelengths. The human eye cannot see ultraviolet waves (e.g., X-ray) or infrared waves (e.g., radio wave), whose verification is based on experimental and deductive techniques rather than on direct observation. 

However, there is a faculty granted to us by God, which is critical to our existence as humans. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) writes:

‘The mind is the ultimate seat of consciousness. Deductive logic is the most amazing faculty of mind… The Qur’an manifestly acknowledges the role of rationality for the attainment of truth without drawing any separating line between religious and secular truths.[22]

Based on the evidence present in nature, human reason can certainly establish that there should be a Creator. This is an extremely critical and absolutely essential first step for agnostics and atheists to turn towards theism. The absolutefaith in the existence of God comes as a next step through personal experience of God. 

Harrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) explains this point in an excellent manner:

‘The orderliness of the heavens and the earth only leads to the conclusion that it indicates that universe should have a Creator, yet it is not a proof that such a Creator in fact exists. There is a great deal of difference between ought to be and is… How can such a certainty be acquired? It cannot be acquired through mere stories. It cannot be acquired through mere arguments. The only way of acquiring certainty is to experience God repeatedly through converse with Him or through witnessing His extraordinary signs or by keeping company with someone who has that experience.’ [23]

This is the most magnificent application of the scientific principle of empirical verification for the establishment of Islamic verities.


The misunderstanding regarding the conflict between science and Islam comes mainly from mistaking personal views and speculative theories of eminent scientists for well-established scientific facts. The concept of multiverse is a case in point.[24]

Dismissal or denigration of reason and proven verities of science at any point in secular or spiritual discourse is not only erroneous but dangerous. We must not fall into this trap, lest we fall victim to the same irrationality.

About the Author: Rafi Ahmed is a computer scientist with an M.S. in applied mathematics and a Ph.D. in computer science. He has published over thirty research papers in peer-reviewed conference proceedings and journals. He is the inventor of thirty-one U.S. patents. He has written several book chapters and an encyclopedia article. Currently, he is an architect at Oracle Corporation. He is a member of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and of Ahmadiyya Association of Muslim Scientists (AAMS). He regularly writes and speaks on theological subjects. He has published numerous articles and presentations in The Review of Religions, Ahmadiyya Gazette USA, and on


[1] Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge, and Truth, Islam International Publications Ltd., 1998

[2] Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Essence of Islam, Volume I-V, Islam International Publications Ltd., 2006

[3] Hazrat Mufti Mohammed Sadiq, Zikr-e-Habib, 1926

[4] Ideals and RealitiesSelected Essays of Abdus Salam, Ed. A. Kidwai and C. Lai, World Scientific Publishing, 1989

[5] Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge, and Truth, Islam International Publications Ltd., 1998

[6] Ideals and RealitiesSelected Essays of Abdus Salam, Ed. A. Kidwai and C. Lai, World Scientific Publishing, 1989

[7] Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge, and Truth, Islam International Publications Ltd., 1998

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 3:191

[9] The Holy Qur’an, 45:14

[10] Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Essence of Islam Volume IV, pg. 308, Islam International Publications Ltd., 2006

[11] Hazrat Mufti Mohammed Sadiq, Zikr-e-Habib, pg. 420 1926

[12] Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge, and Truth, Islam International Publications Ltd., 1998

[13] Ideals and Realities: Selected Essays of Abdus Salam, Ed. A. Kidwai and C. Lai, p. 344, World Scientific Publishing, 1989

[14] Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge, and Truth, Islam International Publications Ltd., 1998

[15] Ibid., p. 289

[16] Parvez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality, Zed Books, 1991

[17] Syed H. Nasr, Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, Bath, Thames, and Hudson, 1978

[18] Ziauddin Sardar, Why Islam Needs Islamic Sciences, New Scientist, April 1982

[19] Steven Wienberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist’s Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature, Vintage, 2011

[20] Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science, Picador, 1999

[21] Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge, and Truth,’, p. 271, Islam International Publications Ltd., 1998

[22] Ibid., p. 273

[23] Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, The Essence of Islam, Volume I, pg. 3-4 Islam International Publications Ltd., 2006

[24] Steven Wienberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist’s Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature, Vintage, 2011