Creation of Man

The Rationale behind the Scientific Study of the Quran

Conflict between Religion and Science

The relationship between science and religion has often been a turbulent one. Historically, scientists have scorned the advent of religious ideas seeing them as in conflict with rational thinking. Much of this prejudice has stemmed from opposition by religious authorities to new scientific discoveries in the past. Christendom in particular displays a history of confrontations between the Church and scientists. This conflicting situation made the Bible subject to adulterations. The European Bishops mutilated its teachings, changed its concepts and beliefs and added philosophy to it. Scientific errors were also assorted in it. The Christian followers adopted that belief as their own, which in fact was not theirs but was an outcome of the wrong concepts added by the priests. When the scientists, after having researched, raised voice against such wrong concepts, the priests started thinking that the scientists were negating religion as against science. So they started giving the verdict of infidelity against such scientists. Scientists were tortured and tormented. Countless scientists were buried alive as a result of their prejudiced laws.

In the Sixteenth century the Polish philosopher Copernicus came to know of the Heliocentric Hypothesis, that the earth and other planets revolved around the sun, but was frightened to publish his findings for fear of Papal disapproval. However, it was Copernicus’s successor Galileo who suffered the full force of the Church’s disapproval. When he published his work “The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”, a masterful piece agreeing with the Copernican theory, Galileo was brought to trial by the Inquisition in Rome in 1632. He died in prison. These actions laid the foundations of a continuous struggle between scientific discoveries and church authorities. During the Renaissance period scientists inevitably took their revenge, which is still evident today.

Qur’ān and Invitation to Scientific Study

The case with Islam differs. In the midst of ignorance and benightedness where scientific knowledge was scorned, the Qur’ān eloquently pointed out many new found facts with such remarkable accuracy that only the Creator of man could do. It has only been in the last three centuries with specific regard being given to the present century that scientific research has unfolded and clarified the workings of the universe. This has ranged from the development and function of our own bodies to the environment that we live in. Yet the Qur’ān has already described these natural phenomena to focus man’s attention on the wisdom, benevolence and authority of the Creator. Such liberal and advanced thinking led the way to an entire host of Islamic academics and scientists between the 8th and 12th centuries’ (A.D).

At a time when Christianity laid down heavy penalties on scientific development, Muslim scholars flocked to the University of Cordoba, the cultural center of Islam, making new discoveries. There is a long list of scientists and scholars who made remarkable contributions in different fields of science. Abul Qāsim az-Zahrawī was a renowned Muslim surgeon and physician. His fame rests in his book “al-Tasrīf”. This was an amazing work on medical science which laid the foundation of the development of surgery in Europe. Abu Ishāq was a great philosopher and translator. He translated and wrote commentaries on the philosophical works of Aristotle. He was also a famous mathematician, astronomer, optician, physicist and pharmacologist. Abū Raihān al-Bayrūni was the first to discover that light travels faster than sound. He was also a learned philosopher, geographer and a physicist. Abul Wafā al-Buzajānī was a notable mathematician. His contributions to the development of Trigonometry are remarkable. Ibn al-Haytham was a prominent Muslim physicist who made the first significant contributions to the optical theory. Ibn Sinā, a renowned Muslim scientist, produced a book “Kitab-ush-Shifā’”. It discusses the natural sciences including Metaphysics, Astronomy, Geometry and Psychology. Muhammad bin Mūsa al-Khawarzimī was a famous mathematician and astronomer. He accomplished the oldest works on Arithmetic and Algebra. He was the first person to use Zero. Al-Fārābī was a great Islamic thinker who transmitted the doctrines of Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle to the Arab world. And last but not the least Jābir bin Hayyān is recognised as the father of modern Chemistry. He introduced experimental research in chemical sciences.

In the eleventh and the succeeding centuries the Arabic knowledge gained popularity in the West. Since the twelfth century knowledge seekers from all over Europe traveled to the East and the Islamic West. The books of the Arab scientists were translated on a large scale in that era. The Christian rulers of Spain followed the footsteps of the Muslim sovereigns, opened the doors of their courts to scientists and scholars and patronized dissemination of intellectual and scientific learning. Al-Fanso VI occupied Teetlah (renowned cultural city of Islamic Spain) in 1085. This conquest opened the way for the promotion of Arabic culture in Europe. A centre named “Madrasa-tul-Mutarajjimīn” (centre of translators) was established in Teetlah to introduce Arabic science to Europe. Here, Jewish scholars were appointed to translate the Muslim authors’ books on Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Philosophy, Logic and Politics. Educational centres were also set up on Islamic style in the twelfth and the subsequent centuries.

In fact the more, the modern science unfolds the reality of these phenomena, the more the truth of the Qur’ān becomes evident to us. At a time when scientific research did not even exist, let alone different fields of science, such precise knowledge could not come from any source but from the knowledge and wisdom of Allāh the Highest. For many this is a paradox, as religion has always been seen the bane of science, its antithesis. The legacy of Galileo has prejudiced the scientific community against religion, including the ambit of Islam. The following pages, therefore, present these scientific facts scattered through the verses of the Qur’ān for the benefit of Muslims and non- Muslims alike. These verses of the Qur’ān not only proclaim the truth of the book itself but also beautifully demonstrate that attribute of Allāh, the Blessed, the source of sustenance for everything in the universe.

Here I would like to clearly state my position that I do not justify changing the meaning of the Qur’ānic verses to bring them in line with scientific discoveries, nor do I regard the scientific interpretation of the Qur’ān as final, because scientific knowledge itself constantly changes and evolves. Science has very little in it, which can be called final and absolute. On the other hand the word of the Creator of the universe is not subject to any change; it is final and absolute. With these words of caution, however, I feel there are two important reasons to study the Qur’ān in the light of modern sciences.

The Qur’ān – a Supreme source of Knowledge

Firstly, the Qur’ān is a supreme source of knowledge which is multidimensional, all-comprehensive and all-embracing. None of the revealed books has this unique characteristic of the Qur’ān. Science is nothing but an empirical interpretation of the Holy Qur’ān. Since the development of science is at its zenith in our times, when we correlate the Qur’ānic studies with man’s own scientific discoveries and experiments, this opens up new avenues to strengthen the faith. Furthermore, this kind of rational thinking to enable better understanding of its verses, is also stressed by the Qur’ān itself.

Biological and Physical facts of the Universe and the Qur’ān

Secondly, biological and physical facts of the universe, as described by the Qur’ān, could not be known before modern technological advancements. If these descriptions of the Qur’ān are proved beyond any doubt, then an unbiased person should not have any hesitation to accept the rest of the teachings of the Qur’ān, especially so when the clarity, simplicity and practical application of these teachings is superior to anything existing in the world.

These reasons necessitate the study of the Qur’ān in the light of science, of course keeping in mind the factor of probability and variant interpretations of scientific observations. Such differences are similar to those which arise in application of logic, grammar and other linguistic criteria.

With this introduction let us proceed to study the subject in question.

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