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Muslim scholars have developed a spectrum of viewpoints on science within the context of Islam.[1] The Quran and Islam allows for much interpretation when it comes to science. Scientists of medieval Muslim civilization (e.g. Ibn al-Haytham) contributed to the new discoveries of science.[2][3][4] From the eighth to fifteenth century, Muslim mathematicians and astronomers furthered the development of almost all areas of mathematics.[5][6] At the same time, concerns have been raised about the lack of scientific literacy in parts of the modern Muslim world.[7]

Aside from contributions by Muslims to mathematics, astronomy, medicine and natural philosophy, some have argued a very different connection between the religion of Islam and the discipline of science. Some Muslim writers have claimed that the Quran made prescient statements about scientific phenomena that were later confirmed by scientific research for instance as regards to the structure of the embryo, our solar system, and the creation of the universe.[8][9] However, much of science in Islam relies on the Quran as a basis of evidence and Islamic scientists often use one another as sources.[10] Early Muslims pursued science with an underlying assumption of confirming the Quran.[5]

Terminology

Science is often defined as the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.[11] It is a system of acquiring knowledge based on empiricism, experimentation and methodological naturalism, as well as to the organized body of knowledge human beings have gained by such research. Scientists maintain that scientific investigation needs to adhere to the scientific method, a process for evaluating empirical knowledge that explains observable events without recourse to supernatural notions.

According to Toby Huff, there is no true word for science in Arabic (the language of Islam) as commonly defined in English and other languages. In Arabic, "science" can simply mean different forms of knowledge.[12] This view has been criticized by other scholars. For example, according to Muzaffar Iqbal, Huff's framework of inquiry "is based on the synthetic model of Robert Merton who had made no use of any Islamic sources or concepts dealing with the theory of knowledge or social organization"[5] Each branch of science has its own name, but all branches of science have a common prefix, ilm. For example, physics is more literally translated from Arabic as "the science of nature", علم الطبيعة ‘ilm aṭ-ṭabī‘a; arithmetic as the "science of accounts" علم الحساب ilm al-hisab.[13] Religious study of Islam (Tasfir, musnad, etc.) is called الديني العلم "science of religion" (ad-dinniya al-ilm), using the same word for science as "the science of nature".[13] According to the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Arabic, While علم’ ilm is defined as "knowledge, learning, lore," etc. the word for "science" is the plural form علوم’ ulūm. (So, for example, كلية العلوم kullīyat al-‘ulūm, the Faculty of Science of the Egyptian University, is literally "the Faculty of Sciences ...")[13]

Perspectives on Islam and science

Whether Islamic culture has promoted or hindered scientific advancement is disputed.

Many Muslims agree that doing science is an act of religious merit, even a collective duty of the Muslim community.According to Toby Huff, there is no true word for science in Arabic (the language of Islam) as commonly defined in English and other languages. In Arabic, "science" can simply mean different forms of knowledge.[12] This view has been criticized by other scholars. For example, according to Muzaffar Iqbal, Huff's framework of inquiry "is based on the synthetic model of Robert Merton who had made no use of any Islamic sources or concepts dealing with the theory of knowledge or social organization"[5] Each branch of science has its own name, but all branches of science have a common prefix, ilm. For example, physics is more literally translated from Arabic as "the science of nature", علم الطبيعة ‘ilm aṭ-ṭabī‘a; arithmetic as the "science of accounts" علم الحساب ilm al-hisab.[13] Religious study of Islam (Tasfir, musnad, etc.) is called الديني العلم "science of religion" (ad-dinniya al-ilm), using the same word for science as "the science of nature".[13] According to the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Arabic, While علم’ ilm is defined as "knowledge, learning, lore," etc. the word for "science" is the plural form علوم’ ulūm. (So, for example, كلية العلوم kullīyat al-‘ulūm, the Faculty of Science of the Egyptian University, is literally "the Faculty of Sciences ...")[13]

Whether Islamic culture has promoted or hindered scientific advancement is disputed.

Many Muslims agree that doing science is an act of religious merit, even a collective duty of the Muslim community.[14] According to M. Shamsher Ali, there are around 750 verses in the Quran dealing with natural phenomena. According to the Encyclopedia of the Quran, many verses of the Quran ask mankind to study nature, and this has been interpreted to mean an encouragement for scientific inquiry,[15] and the investigation of the truth.[15][additional citation(s) needed] Some include, “Travel throughout the earth and see how He brings life into being” (Q.29:20), “Behold in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding ...” (Q.3:190)

Historical Islamic scientists like Al-Biruni and Al-Battani derived their inspiration from verses of the Quran. Mohammad Hashim Kamali has stated that "scien

Many Muslims agree that doing science is an act of religious merit, even a collective duty of the Muslim community.[14] According to M. Shamsher Ali, there are around 750 verses in the Quran dealing with natural phenomena. According to the Encyclopedia of the Quran, many verses of the Quran ask mankind to study nature, and this has been interpreted to mean an encouragement for scientific inquiry,[15] and the investigation of the truth.[15][additional citation(s) needed] Some include, “Travel throughout the earth and see how He brings life into being” (Q.29:20), “Behold in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding ...” (Q.3:190)

Historical Islamic scientists like Al-Biruni and Al-Battani derived their inspiration from verses of the Quran. Mohammad Hashim Kamali has stated that "scientific observation, experimental knowledge and rationality" are the primary tools with which humanity can achieve the goals laid out for it in the Quran.[16] Ziauddin Sardar argues that Muslims developed the foundations of modern science, by "highlighting the repeated calls of the Quran to observe and reflect upon natural phenomenon".[17]

The physicist Abdus Salam believed there is no contradiction between Islam and the discoveries that science allows humanity to make about nature and the universe; and that the Quran and the Islamic spirit of study and rational reflection was the source of extraordinary civilizational development. Salam highlights, in particular, the work of Ibn al-Haytham and Al-Biruni as the pioneers of empiricism who introduced the experimental approach, breaking way from Aristotle's influence, and thus giving birth to modern science. Salam differentiated between metaphysics and physics, and advised against empirically probing certain matters on which "physics is silent and will remain so," such as the doctrine of "creation from nothing" which in Salam's view is outside the limits of science and thus "gives way" to religious considerations.[18]

Islam has its own world view system including beliefs about "ultimate reality, epistemology, ontology, ethics, purpose, etc." according to Mehdi Golshani.[19]

Toshihiko Izutsu writes that in Islam, nature is not seen as something separate but as an integral part of a holistic outlook on God, humanity, the world and the cosmos. These links imply a sacred aspect to Muslims' pursuit of scientific knowledge, as nature itself is viewed in the Quran as a compilation of signs pointing to the Divine.[20] It was with this understanding that the pursuit of science, especially prior to the colonization of the Muslim world, was respected in Islamic civilizations.[21]

The astrophysicist Nidhal Guessoum argues that the Quran has developed "the concept of knowledge" that encourages scientific discovery.[22] He writes:

"The Qur'an draws attention to the danger of conjecturing without evidence (And follow not that of which you have not the (certain) knowledge of... 17:36) and in several different verses asks Muslims to require proofs (Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful 2:111), both in matters of theological belief and in natural science."

Guessoum cites Ghaleb Hasan on the definition of "proof" according the Quran being "clear and strong... convincing evidence or argument." Also, such a proof cannot rely on an argument from authority, citing verse 5:104. Lastly, both assertions and rejections require a proof, according to verse 4:174.[23] Ismail al-Faruqi and Taha Jabir Alalwani are of the view that any reawakening of the Muslim civilization must start with the Quran; however, the biggest obstacle on this route is the "centuries old heritage of tafseer (exegesis) and other classical disciplines" which inhibit a "universal, epistemiological and systematic conception" of the Quran's message.[24] The philosopher Muhammad Iqbal considered the Quran's methodology and epistemology to be empirical and rational.[25]

Guessoum als

Guessoum also suggests scientific knowledge may influence Quranic readings, stating that "for a long time Muslims believed, on the basis on their literal understanding of some Qur’anic verses, that the gender of an unborn baby is only known to God, and the place and time of death of each one of us is likewise al-Ghaib [unknown/unseen]. Such literal under-standings, when confronted with modern scientific (medical) knowledge, led many Muslims to realize that first-degree readings of the Quran can lead to contradictions and predicaments."[26]

Islamists such as Sayyid Qutb argue that since "Islam appointed" Muslims "as representatives of God and made them responsible for learning all the sciences,"[27] science cannot but prosper in a society of true Islam. (However, since Muslim majority countries governments have failed to follow the sharia law in its completeness, true Islam has not prevailed and this explains the failure of science and many other things in the Muslim world, according to Qutb.)[27]

Others claim traditional interpretations of Islam are not compatible with the development of science. Author Rodney Stark argues that Islam's lag behind the West in scientific advancement after (roughly) 1500 AD was due to opposition by traditional ulema to efforts to formulate systematic explanation of natural phenomenon with "natural laws." He claims that they believed such laws were blasphemous because they limit "God's freedom to act" as He wishes, a principle enshired in aya 14:4: "God sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will," which (they believed) applied to all of creation not just humanity.[28]

Taner Edis wrote An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam.[29] Edis worries that secularism in Turkey, one of the most westernized Muslim nations, is on its way out; he points out that the population of Turkey rejects evolution by a large majority. To Edis, many Muslims appreciate technology and respect the role that science plays in its creation. As a result, he says there is a great deal of Islamic pseudoscience attempting to reconcile this respect with other respected religious beliefs. Edis maintains that the motivation to read modern scientific truths into holy books is also stronger for Muslims than Christians.[30] This is because, according to Edis, true criticism of the Quran is almost non-existent in the Muslim world. While Christianity is less prone to see its Holy Book as the direct word of God, fewer Muslims will compromise on this idea – causing them to believe that scientific truths simply must appear in the Quran. However, Edis argues that there are endless examples of scientific discoveries that could be read into the Bible or Quran if one would like to.[30] Edis qualifies that Muslim thought certainly cannot be understood by looking at the Quran alone; cultural and political factors play large roles.[30]

The Quran contains many verses describing creation of the universe. Muslims believe God created the heavens and earth in six ayyam (days) the earth was created in two days,[Quran 41:9] and in two other days (into a total of four) God furnished the creation of the earth with mountains, rivers and fruit-gardens[41:10]. The heavens and earth formed from one mass which had to be split[21:30], the heavens used to be smoke[Quran 41:11], and form layers, one above the other[67:3]. The angels inhabit the Seven heavens. The lowest heaven is adorned with lights[Quran 41:12], the sun and the moon (which follow a regular path)[Quran 71:16][Quran 14:33], the stars[Quran 37:6] and the constellations of the Zodiac [Quran 15:16].[31] According to "popular literature known as ijaz" (miracle), and often called "Scientific miracles in the Quran" by supporters and "Bucailleism" by others, when properly understood, these verses and many more actually reveal "scientific facts" and demonstrate that the Quran must be of divine origin.[32]

History

Starting in the 1970s and 80s ijaz" developed and spread to Muslim bookstores, websites, and television programs of Islamic preachers.[33][8] The movement contends that the Quran abounds with "scientific facts", and since they appeared centuries before their discovery by science and "could not have been known" by human beings,[34][32] According to author Ziauddin Sardar, the movement has created a "global craze in Muslim societies".[33] The ijaz movement/industry is "widespread and well-funded"[35] with "millions" from Saudi Arabia.[33][8] Some names mentioned in connection with the movement are Abdul Majeed al-Zindani who established the Commission on Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunnah, Zakir Naik the Indian televangelist, and Adnan Oktar the Turkish creationist.

Claims

Enthusiasts of the movement argue that among the miracles found in the Quran are "everything, from relativity, quantum mechanics, Big Bang theory, black holes and pulsars, genetics, embryology, modern geology, thermodynamics, even the laser and hydrogen fuel cells".[33] Furthermore, there is not a single verse (Ayah) in the Qur’an that is proved incorrect by the science".[36][37]

Zafar Ishaq Ansari describes the idea that "the Quran (and the Sunna)" contain "a substantially large number of scientific truths that were discovered only in modern times" as one of the "new themes and emphases" of "scientific exegesis of the Quran".[38]

Some examples are the verse "So verily I swear by the stars that run and hide ..." (Q.81:15–16) or "And I swear by the stars' positions-and that is a mighty oath if you only knew". (Qur'an, 56:75–76)[39] which demonstrate (to proponents) the Quran's knowledge of the existence of black holes; "[I swear by] the Moon in her fullness; that ye shall journey on from stage to stage" (Q.84:18–19) refers to human flight into outer space.[33]

The verse "Your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then settled Himself firmly on the Throne" (Q.7:54) is explained by the Arabic word for day -- youm—referring not to a 24 hour period from one sunrise to the next, but to much longer eons of which there (must be) six distinct ones in the history of universe.[note 1]

One claim that has received widespread attention and has even been the subject of a medical school textbook widely used in the Muslim world[43] is that several Quranic verses foretell the study of embryology and "provide a detailed description of the significant events in human development from the stages of gametes and conception until the full term pregnancy and delivery or even post partum."[44]

In 1983, an authority on Embryology, Keith L. Moore, had a special edition published of his widely used textbook on Embryology (The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology), co-authored by a leader of the scientific miracles movement, Keith L. Moore, had a special edition published of his widely used textbook on Embryology (The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology), co-authored by a leader of the scientific miracles movement, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology with Islamic Additions,[45] interspersed pages of "embryology-related Quranic verse and hadith" by al-Zindani into Moore's original work.[46]

At least one Muslim-born physician (Ali A. Rizvi) studying the textbook of Moore and al-Zindani found himself "confused" by "why Moore was so 'astonished by'" the Quranic references, which Rizvi found "vague", and insofar as they were specific, preceded by the observations of Aristotle and the Ayr-veda,[47] and/or easily explained by "common sense".[43][note 2]

Some of the main verses are

However,