Atheists proclaim there is no God, except Science, whilst the Sacred Holy Quraan (final divine revelation) strongly affirms there is no god but ALLAH. This Qu’ranic statement, itself, is an eye opener and provides greater food for thought. SUBHANALLAH.
Prior to embarking upon this burning topic, I have given strong thought on the subject given its sensibility and, in particular, for those who are not equipped with a critical mind to accept certain truths which might conflict with their literal but archaic religious interpretations. Allah in His majestic immensity has encouraged us to seek knowledge which is fast evolving. Sometimes rational mind cannot avoid asking such question “Are my logical ideas about science and my personal convictions about religion compatible?”. Having given a great deal of thought to this very sensitive question, I am completely convinced that Islam and science are not at arms’ length and are not in conflict with each other.
Elaborating on such a topic would demand the production of a voluminous and bulky document. I have focused on some major issues. I have also, to the best of my ability, avoided the trap of the Creationist Movements originating in the US but under the disguise of “Mission Civilisatrice”, still clinging to the strict literal version of the Bible such as the Young Earth Movement. It is unfortunate to note that many Muslim scholars of high calibre have been entrapped by these creationist movements thus abandoning their original source, their sacred and divine Book.
At the outset, it should be pointed out that the Qu’raan, in itself, is not a scientific textbook but a book of signs. However, it does provide a number of hints regarding scientific phenomena we observe today. I will emphasise on a few ones only. The Qu’raan is Allah’s words transmitted to His beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the Archangel Jibreel.
We should start with a brief understanding of what science is. Put most simply, it is the activity through which man enhances his understandings and control of nature. The scientist observes and experiments. He dreams up theories and tests them. Then he discards the bad ones that do not match with the observable facts, and works to improve the good ones. All scientific theories are conjectures, even those that have successfully passed many severe and varied tests. Science is very good at answering the “HOW” of things. Religion, unlike Science, is primarily concerned with “WHY”. This is perfectly compatible with Islam. Science itself is not static but dynamic and keep changing as more discoveries and mysteries are being unfolded. Outdated theories are being revised and replaced by new ones after their validity has been tested and confirmed, which may in turn be abandoned at a later stage. In fact, with the advent of new technology, the more science is unravelling the mysteries of the universe and the complexity of life, the younger the Qu’raan is growing and we can see in them the manifestation of Allah’s grandeur -SubhanAllah – ‘Yaa Allah, thou has not created the universe in vain’.
According to Karl Popper, Austrian Philosopher and eminent professor, Science operates within certain given parameters some of which are observation, falsifiability, testability and replicability etc. Thus, proving the existence of Allah within these tight parameters is outside the purview of science as belief in Allah is based on faith and reasoning alone (to be demarcated from blind faith). Faith cannot be scientifically tested just as love. It is of metaphysical essence and outside the realm of science. Even the eminent scientist Richard Dawkins, an avowed atheist, recognised that he cannot prove the non-existence of God. His opinion is purely personal. Allah has no quantitative and verifiable scientific indicators/measures/qualities to assess his existence or non-existence. Besides, Allah does not warrant any scientific evidence, if not faith (IMAAN) would be deprived of all its mystical/spiritual sense and would be worthless. Absence of scientific evidence is not evidence of absence. People are free to express their personal opinions on basis of scientific evidences, but they may not be necessarily right. Though Albert Einstein, being himself a pantheist, yet was really fascinated and marveled by the structured order present in nature just as Mario Livio famous mathematician (his book ‘Is God a Mathematician’ though, having nothing to do with religion and God), was highly impressed by the physical constants and fundamentals in nature. Nature is talking to us in mathematical language may we be tempted to say.
It should, however, be pointed out that the qu’ranic verses need to be put in their right context and correctly interpreted, bearing in mind the richness of the Arabic language – example; a number of verses in the Qu’raan refer to Allah as the Lord of UNIVERSES, in the plural sense, implying there are a number of universes which corroborate with the scientific term of multiverse/parallel universes. Other examples may be mentioned. The Qu’raan itself refers to many allegorical (mutashabihaat) and/parabolical statements. Does not Allah say that the Universe is sustained according to His Decree and prescribed laws, which in their technical terms, science is referring to the ‘Laws of Nature’ manifesting themselves as Laws of Gravity, Thermodynamics, strong and weaker nuclear, electromagnetic, natural selection etc). The whole Universe, looked at, from any angle, is permeated with these Laws. In addition, very often we get confused with the “Kun Faya kun” (BE AND IT IS) as mentioned in the Qu’raan, This does not mean spontaneous or instantaneous, as many tend to think. It definitely involves a time lag.
The first verses to our prophet Mohammad (PBUH), himself an UMMI (unversed), as revealed to him in the cave Hira was:
“Read in the name of your Lord who created……..” (Sura Al-Alaq 1-5)
Following in-depth analysis of the above verses, eminent Islamic Scholars have pointed out that, in themselves, they relate to the human capacity for conceptual thinking, reasoning, sharpness of mind. insight and understanding which lead to a major shift in the “knowledge paradigm”. In this conjunction, it is of utmost importance that we, as believers, ponder on this particular treasure thus paving the way towards an enlightened and intellectually flourishing environment for the spiritual upliftment of the young generation. It is therefore of top priority that we transcend mere rhetorics and stereotyped sermons which a few conventional Muslim preachers are accustomed to deliver. It is high time we throw away our blinkers if not we are moving backward.
There is also need to highlight that science has always been in conflict with the Christian church due to literal meaning of the bible. The conflict between the Christian church and science was prior to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and had its main source with the discoveries of G. Galileo and N. Copernicus on the rotation of the earth (heliocentric v/s geocentric). Charles Darwin’s Theory exacerbated the situation further. But on the other hand, it is worth pointing out also that the church has also contributed to the advancement of science through the discoveries of G. Lemaitre (expansion of the universe) and Mendel (Heredity and Genetics) which were unknown at the time of Charles Darwin. The expansion of the Universe is mentioned in the Qu’raan as well as also the aquatic origin of life as highlighted in verses below:
“And the Heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed we are its expander” (Sura Adh
Dhariyat LI verse 47)
‘ Do not the UNBELIEVERS see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one Unit of Creation*) before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then BELIEVE’ (Sura Al Anbya XXI verse 30)
“And God has created every animal from water: Of them there are some that creep on their bellies; some that walk on two legs; and some that walk on four. God creates what He wills; for verily God has power over all things” (Sura Nur xxiv verse 45)
“It is He who has created man from water: Then has established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power over all things” (Sura Furquan xxv verse 54).
“There was a time when man was not mentioned of” (Sura AL Insan 76:1)
*Initial Point of singularity (The Big Bang) as validated by science
In fact William Draper in his book ‘Conflict Between Religion and Science’(1874) would refer to the origin of species as the ‘Mohameddan Theory’. It is gratifying to note that science is now gradually changing its views as more sophisticated tools are available in the scientific fields. Even scientists who were considering that the universe is static has changed their opinion and are now adhering to the Big Bang Theory (the expansion of the universe), discovered by E. Hubble, a well-reputed scientist. No doubt, we have to demarcate between science and scientism, the latter being strongly opposed to any metaphysical sanction (divine intervention) considering it as mere superstition and god-of-the-gap explanation. However, eminent but highly respectable scientists (e.g Dr F.Collins, Physician and Geneticist) known for heading the Human Genome Project (his book The Language of God) do not see any conflict between science and religion. Both are looking in the same direction for truth but their methods differ as mentioned earlier. Even Charles Darwin was himself fascinated by the wonders of nature that he exclaimed:
‘There is a grandeur in this view of life, with the several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and more wonderful have been, and are being evolved’. (Origin Of Species)
Ibn Khaldun and Al Jaahiz, eminent Islamic Scholar, expressed more or less similar views without being accused or condemned for blasphemy or heresy. Here we need to refer back to the glorious Golden Age of Islam, an era of great cultural, economic and scientific achievements which lasted from the 8thcentury to the 14th century. This period is traditionally understood to have started during the reign of Abassid Caliph Harun al Rashid with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. The various Qu’ranic statements and Hadith which emphasize on the importance of education and seeking knowledge, played a critical role in influencing the Muslims of this age in their quest for knowledge and the development of science.
It is also asserted that the former Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abd al Aziz Bin Baaz stated that the Earth is flat, but this is considered as an erroneous conception of the verse mentioned in the Qu’raan comparing the earth as a stretched/spread carpet or a bed. On the understanding that reading the complete verse and examining it in its right perspective, the verse is not referring to planet Earth as an entity as such, but rather to the surface of land on which we are living. There is no place in the Qu’raan where it is mentioned that the Earth is flat.
With regard to the discovery of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), it has been found that in every cell of the human bodies there exists a very detailed instruction code (the DNA Code), composed of four chemicals that scientists summarise as A, T, G and C. The DNA is a three-billion lettered programme telling the cell to act in a certain way. It acts as an instruction vehicle to the cell just as a full instruction manual and this cannot be due to mere hazard or biological accident as many scientists tend to make us believe. Why not call it the breath of Allah? The complexity of the genetic code amply convinced A.Flew, an English philosopher, to abandon his atheism.
Another astonishing discovery is presently under scrutiny. According to the Review “Science et Vie” No 1184 of May 2016, in an article “ L’Univers N’est pas Ce qu’on Croit”, mention is made of a new particle X, detected by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider and the largest machine in the world, on which some scientists are giving special attention. Reference is even being made to a 4th Dimension, a 5th Force in Nature, Supersymetrie? Though research in this field is still at experimental and embryonic stage, yet Nature remains really full of mysteries and beyond human comprehension. And who knows what seems “supranatural” today may become natural tomorrow? I have even the feeling that the “Mehraaj” of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) will become scientifically clear in the near future, due to major breakthroughs in the area of Teleportation, which, in brief, is the power to move instantaneously from one location to another without physically occupying the space in between. In some situations teleporting is time traveling across space.
We need also to ponder seriously on the verse 2:26 in Sura Al Baqarah :
“Allah is not ashamed to set forth an example even of a mosquito and even something above it. Then for those who believe thus they will know that is the truth from their Lord. And as for those who disbelieve, thus they will say what does Allah intend by this example”.
Reading between the line, Allah disdains not to coin the similitude even of things, however lowest and highest they are as well. From a microscopic point of view to a macroscopic magnitude, Allah is inviting us to reflect on the wonders of His creation. Each creature, however insignificant it is to our eyes, yet all has been provided with a particular function, just consider the Bees and the Ants as mentioned in the Qu’raan. Just also think about the important role of the worms within the natural soil ecosystem. They are known as ecosystem engineers.
I wish to make it clear that the article reflects my own views.
This article would be incomplete if mention is not made of, but, some of the following eminent Muslim Scientists/Thinkers/Philosophers/Scholars who have contributed a lot in reconciling Islam with science:
Abdus Salaam: Pakistani Theoretical Physicist (Nobel Prize in Physics 1979);
Dr Muhammad Allama Iqbal (Islamic Thinker and Philosopher);
Bruno Abd al Haqq Guiderdoni Director of Research at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics and French convert to Islam;
Nidhal Guessoum Algerian – PhD in Astrophysics
Mehdi Goshani, Iranian Theoretical Physicist
Dr R. Danjani, Jordanian Molecular Biologist (PhD and Associate Professor at the Hashemite University);
Azize Sancar, Turkish Biochemist and Molecular, Biologist specializing in DNA repairs etc Nobel Prize Winner 2015 Chemistry
Finally, let me end this article by quoting two famous scientists:
“Science without Religion, is lame. Religion without Science is blind”,
“Little Science takes you away from God but more of it takes you to Him”
These statements symbolize in themselves wisdom and modesty and invite for deep reflexion.
ALLAH IS GREAT