The Holy Qur'an

Scientific Outlook of the Holy Quran

Scientific Outlook of the Holy Quran (Professor Saleh Mohammed Alladin) A salient feature of the Holy Ouran is that it repeatedly draws our attention to the various phenomena of nature and exhorts us to observe and ponder over them. It thus creates an urge for the study of science. Since the main purpose of the Holy Ouran is to guide mankind towards their Creator, the Holy Ouran emphasises that we should make our studies in science not merely a means of understanding the material universe but also a means of recognising the Creator of the universe and strengthening our relationship with Him. The Holy Ouran gives arguments from the phenomena of nature for the existence of God. It is the aim of this paper to illustrate how beautifully both aspects, namely the impetus for the study of science and inspiration of yearning for God, are incorporated in the Holy Ouran. The Holy Ouran says: “Your God is One God, the Gracious, the Merciful. Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day, and in the ships which sail in the sea with that which profits men, and in the water which Allah sends down from the sky and quickens therewith the earth after its death and scatters therein all kinds of beasts, and in the change of the winds, and the clouds pressed into service between the heavens and the earth – are indeed Signs for the people who understand. And there are some among men who take for themselves objects of worship other than Allah, loving them as they should love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in their love for Allah . . .” (2:164-6). It may be noted how beautifully the study of the phenomena of nature has been blended with the essence of religion, namely, the love of God. It may also be noted that attention is drawn to several phenomena of nature, thus encouraging the study of science in all its diverse aspects. In another place the Holy Ouran says: “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 40 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS understanding. Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth, ‘Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain; nay, Holy art Thou, save us then from the punishment of the Fire.’ ” (3:191-2). These verses provide very powerful motivation for the study of science, the effectiveness of which is reflected in the proficiency and excellence achieved by the Muslim scientists in the centuries that followed the advent of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of God be on him). I have seen in the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad and in the Khudabaksh Library in Patna, manuscripts of Muslim scientists who begin their work with the above words of the Holy Ouran thus acknowledging their indebtedness to the Holy Book for providing motivation. Here the Holy Ouran tells us that things are not created in vain. This urges us to study the properties of the various things and investigate the benefits that we can derive from them. Attention has been drawn to the creation of the heavens and the earth in the above verses as well as in several other verses of the Holy Ouran. The problem of the creation of the heavens and the earth is a problem of prime importance in science. Albert Einstein, the great scientist of this century, had said that he was not interested in this or that spectrum or this or that phenomenon, but was interested to know how God created the heavens and the earth. We are taught in these verses that our investigations should be accompanied by the remembrance of. Allah. While pondering over the creation, we should not forget the Creator, otherwise we cannot become men of understanding in the Ouranic sense. The Holy Ouran has taught us the valuable prayer: “0 my Lord increase me in knowledge.” (20:115). While on one hand this verse exhorts us to seek knowledge, on the other it teaches us that it is the Almighty God Who is the real source of knowledge and we should seek His help. This verse also indicates the inexhaustibility of knowledge and hence the vast scope for progress. As another example of the excellent manner in which the Holy Ouran motivates the study of science and at the same time adds a spiritual dimension to it, consider the following verses: “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 white and red, of diverse hues and others SCIENTIFIC OUTLOOK OF THE HOLY QURAN raven black; And of men and beasts and cattle, in like manners there are various colours? Only those of His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah. Verily Allah is Mighty, Most Forgiving.” (35:28, 29). 41 The study of colours is an important aspect of science. Stars are also of different colours, the study of which gives clues of their physical structure. Spectroscopy, which is a study of colours in detail, is of immense importance in contemporary science. The study of nature should also impress upon us the greatness of God. According to the above verse, fear of God is an essential trait of a truly learned person. As a further example of the exquisite manner in which the Holy Ouran draws attention to the natural phenomena and simultaneously takes one’s mind to the Almighty God, consider the following verses, which particularly draw attention to life science. The Holy Ouran says: “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 clothed the bones with flesh; the We developed it into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators.” (23:13-15). How beautifully the Holy Ouran has referred to the different stages of the physical development of man culminating in the glorification of God in the highest esteem! Consider also the following very appealing verses of the Holy Ouran which motivate the study of science as well as draw attention towards the Creator. “Do they not look at the camel, how it is created? And at the heavens how it is raised high? And at the mountains how they are set up? And at the earth how it is spread out? Admonish, therefore, for thou art but an admonisher, Thou hast no authority to compel them. ” (88: 18-23). Incidentally attention is also drawn here to the important principle that there is no compulsion in religion. Our beloved Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) has been asked to admonish but not to compel. The reference to the Holy Prophet as an admonisher also kindles in our hearts the gratitude and love for the Holy Prophet. It was through him that the sublime message of the Holy Ouran had reached us. As an astronomer, I find the following verses very appealing: “Have they not looked at the sky above them, how We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it? And the earth We have 42 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS spread it out and placed therein firm mountains, and We have made to grow there in every kind of beautiful species. As a means of enlightenment and as a reminder to every servant that turns to Us.” (50:7-9). The message of the Holy Ouran is very significant. Astronomy has played a very important part in the development of scientific thought. The heavenly bodies not only give light but also give us enlightenment. The great French celestial mathematician H. Poincare wrote: “the stars send us not only the visible and gross light which strikes our bodily eyes, but from them also comes to us a light which illuminates our minds.” The Holy Ouran intends that heavenly bodies should also remind us to turn to God. As another example of the excellent manner in which reflection over natural phenomena is coupled with spiritual aspiration, consider the following verses: “And We have built the heaven with Our own hands, and, verily, We have vast powers. And the earth We have spread out, and how excellently do We spread it out! And of everything We have created pairs that you may reflect. Flee ye, therefore unto Allah. Surely, I am a plain Warner unto you from Him. And do not set up another god along with Allah. Surely, I am a plain Warner unto you from Him.” (51:48-52). Many Divine attributes are manifested in the creation of the heavens and the earth. God has created all things in pairs, a point of great interest in science. Even heaven and earth make a pair and there is a union between them. Man is exhorted to flee to God and achieve union with Him. Thus the Holy Book teaches us to make progress both in science and spirituality. By following the Holy Ouran humanity can make advances in science without destroying itself. Almighty God is described as the Gracious, the Merciful, and the Holy Prophet as a mercy for all the peoples (21:108). A true follower of the Holy Ouran can therefore only use his knowledge for the benefit of humanity. The Holy Ouran develops interest in science by giving examples from nature while teaching lessons in spiritual and moral values. As another example consider the following verses: “The sun and the moon run their courses according to a fixed reckoning. And the stemless plants and the trees humbly submits to His will. And the heavens He has raised high and set up a measure, that you may not transgress the measure. So weigh all things in justice and fall not short of the measure.” (55:6-10). SCIENTIFIC OUTLOOK OF THE HOLY QURAN 43 Note how beautifully attention is first drawn to the remarkable balance existing in the motion of the heavenly bodies and then we are given the commandment of maintaining a just balance in our social affairs keeping in mind the Divine example. The Holy Ouran lays great stress on the pursuit of truth, a quality which is so essential for a scientist. Islam is based on absolute monotheism. Yet the Holy Prophet is directed to say that if Almighty God really had a son, he would have been the first to worship Him. (43:82) Thus even if one’s most cherished ideas clash with truth, truth should be withheld. The Holy Ouran exhorts us to work hard. It says: “Man will have nothing but what he strives for.” (53:40). The Holy Ouran also inspires courage and confidence by giving us the very comforting assurance that God will guide those who strive in His path. It says: “And as for those who strive in Our path, We will surely guide them in our ways. And verily Allah is with those who do good.” (29:70). Thus the Holy Ouran not only exhorts us to study science but also develops those qualities which are needed for success in science. The Holy Ouran is the Word of God and science is the study of the work of God. There cannot be a conflict between the two if we understand both correctly. Some profound scientific truths contained in the Holy Ouran have been elucidated by the discoveries of modern science. Monsieur Maurrice Bucaille, in his book, “The Bible, the Ouran and Science”, has mentioned some of them. I would like to mention one profound truth mentioned in the Holy Ouran which the scientists have not yet discovered. At present a problem of exceedingly great interest in science is to discover life beyond the earth. As a matter of fact in 1982 a commission of the International Astronomical Union was established for “Search for Extraterrestrial Life.” The Holy Ouran, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago, contains this remarkable verse pertaining to life beyond the earth. “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 together when He pleases.” (42:30). The Holy Ouran thus stimulates scientific curiosity even on a most modern topic. In short it encourages the study of science and develops scientific temper. At the same time it draws our attention to the Almighty and inspires yearning for Him.