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What is the relationship between science and religion?

Science regards as �scientific� only the facts established through empirical methods. Therefore, assertions not established through observation and experiments are but theories or hypotheses.

As science cannot be sure about the future, it does not make definite predictions. Doubt is the basis of scientific investigation. However Prophet Muhammad, who was taught by All-Knowing, made many decisive predictions. Most have come true already; the rest are waiting for their time to come true. Many Qur�anic verses point to recently discovered and established scientific facts. The Qur�an mentions many important issues of creation and natural phenomena that even the most intelligent person living fourteen centuries ago could not have known. Furthermore, it uses the Prophets� miracles to allude to the farthest reaches of science, which originated in the Knowledge of the All-Knowing One.

Does the Qur�an contain everything?

The Qur�an describes everything about humanity and the universe. It declares:

With Him are the keys of the Unseen. None but He knows them. And He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls but with His Knowledge, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, nothing of wet or dry but (it is noted) in a Manifest Book. (6:59)

Ibn Mas�ud says that the Qur�an provides information on everything, but that we may not be able to see everything in it. Ibn �Abbas, the �Interpreter of the Qur�an� and �Scholar of the Umma,� asserts that if he loses the rein of his camel, he can find it by means of the Qur�an. Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, a major scholar who lived in Egypt in the 15th century CE, explains that all sciences or branches of knowledge can be found in the Qur�an.

How can a medium-sized book, which also contains a great deal of repetition, contain everything we need to know about life, science, conduct, creation, past and future, and so on?

Before explaining this important matter, we should point out that to benefit from the Qur�an, which transcends time and location and is not bound by its audience�s intellectual level, we have to prepare ourselves to do so. First, we should have firm belief in it and do our best to implement its principles in our daily life. Second, we must refrain from sin as much as possible. Third, the Qur�an declares we only get what we strive for (53:39), so we should, like a deep-sea explorer, dive into its �ocean� and, without becoming tired or bored, continue studying it until we die.

Fourth, we need a good command of Arabic and sufficient knowledge of all branches of the natural and religious sciences. Therefore, a good interpretation necessitates cooperation among scientists from all natural and social sciences, and religious scholars who are experts in Qur�anic commentary, Hadith, fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), theology, and spiritual sciences. Fifth, while reciting and studying the Qur�an, we should regard it as being its first addressee, consciously aware that each verse addresses us directly. If we consider, for example, its historical accounts of the Prophets and their peoples as unrelated to us, we will derive no benefit.

According to its nature and significance, worth and place in existence, everything has its own place in the Qur�an:

The Qur�an contains everything, but not to the same degree. It pursues four purposes: to prove the existence and Unity of God, Prophethood, bodily resurrection, and worship of God and justice. To realize its purposes, the Qur�an draws our attention to God�s acts in the universe, His matchless art displayed through creation, the manifestations of His Names and Attributes, and the perfect order and harmony seen in existence. It mentions certain historical events, and establishes the rules of personal and social good conduct and morality, as well as the principles of a happy, harmonious social life. In addition, it explains how to worship and please our Creator, gives us some information about the next life, and tells us how to gain eternal happiness and be saved from eternal punishment.

Is everything really found in the Qur�an? Yes everything is there, but at different levels. Therefore, not everything is readily apparent. As the Qur�an�s main duty is to teach about God�s perfection, essential qualities, and acts, as well as our duties, status, and how to serve Him, it contains them as seeds or nuclei, summaries, principles, or signs that are explicit or implicit, allusive or vague, or suggestive. Each occasion has its own form, and is presented in the best way for making each Qur�anic purpose known according to the existing requirements and context. For example:

Human progress in science and industry has brought about such scientific and technological wonders as airplanes, electricity, motorized transport, and radio and telecommunication, all of which have become basic and essential for our modern, materialistic civilization. The Qur�an has not ignored them and points to them in two ways:

� As will be explained below, by way of the Prophets� miracles;

� by way of certain historical events. In other words, the wonders of human civilization only merit a passing reference, an implicit reference, or an allusion in the Qur�an.

For example, if an aircraft told the Qur�an: �Give me the right to speak and a place in your verses,� the aircrafts of the sphere of Divine Lordship�the planets, the Earth, the moon�would reply on the Qur�an�s behalf: �You may take a place here in proportion to your size.� If a submarine asked for a place, the submarines belonging to that sphere�the heavenly bodies �swimming� in the atmosphere vast �ocean� would say: �Compared to us, you are invisible.� If shining, star-like electric lights demanded the right to be included, the electric lights of that sphere�lightning, shooting stars, and stars adorning the sky�s face�would reply: �Your right to be mentioned and spoken about is proportional to your light.�

If the wonders of human civilization demanded a place based on the fineness of their art, a single fly would reply: �O be quiet! Even my wing has more of a right than you. If all of humanity�s fine arts and delicate instruments were banded together, the delicate members of my tiny body would still be more wonderful and exquisite. The verse: Surely those upon whom you call, apart from God, shall never create (even) a fly, though they banded together to do it (22:73), will silence you.�

The Qur�an�s viewpoint of life and the world is completely different from the modern one. It sees the world as a guest-house, and people as temporary guests preparing themselves for eternal life by undertaking their most urgent and important duties. As that which is designed and used mostly for worldly purposes only has a tiny share in servanthood to and worship of God, which is founded upon love of truth and otherworldliness, it therefore has a place in the Qur�an according to its merit.

The Qur�an does not explicitly mention everything necessary for our happiness in this world and the next for another reason: Religion is a divine test to distinguish elevated and base spirits from each other. Just as raw materials are refined to separate diamonds from coal and gold from soil, religion tests conscious beings to separate precious �ore� in the �mine� of human potential from dross.

Since the Qur�an was sent to perfect us, it only alludes to those future events pertaining to the world, which everyone will see at the appropriate time, and only opens the door to reason to the degree necessary to prove its argument. If everything was explicit, the test would be meaningless, for the truth of the Divine obligations would be readily apparent. Given that we would then be unable to deny or ignore them, the competition behind our testing and trials would be unnecessary, for we would have to confirm their truth. �Coal� spirits would remain with and appear to be no different from �diamond� spirits.

An ordinary person and a great scientist can benefit from the Qur�an, regardless of his or her specialization.

As the great majority of people are always �average�, the Qur�an uses a style and language that everyone can understand. An ordinary person and a great scientist can benefit from the Qur�an, regardless of his or her specialization. A most suitable way to do this is through symbols, metaphors and allegories, comparisons and parables. Those well-versed in knowledge (3:7) know how to approach and benefit from the Qur�an, and conclude that it is the Word of God.

Earlier civilizations would neither have benefited from nor understood Qur�anic accounts of modern scientific and technological discoveries, so why mention them? Also, scientific �truths� change constantly and therefore are not eternal.

God Almighty gave us intelligence, and the Qur�an urges us to use it to study ourselves, nature, and surrounding events. If it mentioned modern scientific and technological discoveries or everything pertaining to life, nature, history, and humanity, creating us in our present form would have been pointless. God created us as the best pattern of creation, and gave us many intellectual faculties. But if everything were clear, we would not need these, for we would already know everything.

Finally, if the Qur�an contained explicit references to everything we want to know, it would be so large that its complete recitation would be impossible. We would be unable to benefit from its spiritual enlightenment, and get really bored while reciting it. Such results contradict the reasons for the Qur�an�s revelation and its purposes.

What should Muslim attitude be toward science and technology?

Despite the disasters caused by science and technology, their mistaken approach to the truth, and their failure to bring human happiness, we cannot condemn them outright and become pure idealists. Science and technology do not bear the full responsibility for humanity being devalued, human feelings being diminished, and certain human virtues along with health and the ability to think being seriously weakened. Rather, the fault lies with scientists who avoid their responsibilities, who cause science to develop in a materialistic atmosphere, and then let it be exploited by irresponsible people. Many worrying conditions probably would not exist if scientists had remained aware of their social responsibility, and if the Church had not forced it to develop in opposition to religion.

Flowing to the future like a rapid flood full of energy and vitality, and sometimes resembling a dazzling garden, the natural world is like a book for us to study, an exhibition to behold, and a trust from which we can benefit. We are responsible for studying the meaning and content of this trust so that we and future generations may benefit from it. If we wish, we can call this relationship �science.�

Science also can be described as comprehending what things and events tell us, what the Divine laws reveal to us, and striving to understand the Creator�s purpose. Created to rule creation, we need to observe and read, to discern and learn about our surroundings so that we can find the best way to exert our influence and control. When we reach this level, by the decree of the Exalted Creator, everything will submit to us and we will submit to God.

There is no reason to fear science. The danger does not lie with science and the founding of the new world it will usher in, but rather with ignorance and irresponsible scientists and others who exploit it for their own selfish interests.

True science directs human intelligence toward eternity without expecting any material gain, undertakes a tireless and detailed study of existence to discover absolute truth, and follows the methods required to reach this aim. Although usually presented as a conflict between Christianity and science, the conflicts during the Renaissance were mainly between scientists (not science per se) and the Church. Copernicus, Galileo, and Bacon were not anti-religious; in fact, we could say that their religious commitment drove them toward scientific truth.

Before Christianity it was Islam, the religious thought springing from eternality, and the resulting love and zeal accompanied by feelings of poverty and impotence before the Eternal, All-Powerful and All-Wealthy Creator of the cosmos, that enabled the Muslim world�s great five-century scientific advance until the close of the twelfth century CE. Its driving concept of science as based on Divine Revelation was represented almost perfectly by illustrious figures who, imbued with eternality, tirelessly studied existence to attain eternity. Their commitment to Divine Revelation caused It to diffuse a light that engendered a new concept of science in human souls.

If Islamic civilization had not been so badly damaged by the horrific Mongolian and numerous destructive Crusader invasions, the world today certainly would be very different. If the Islamic concept of science as being approved and appropriated by the community, as if it were part of the Divine Message and pursued as an act of worship, had continued to flourish, our world would surely be more enlightened, its intellectual life richer, its technology more wholesome, and its sciences more promising. All Islamic science sought, based on eternality, was to benefit humanity by helping us to aspire for the other world and to handle things responsibly for the sake and pleasure of God Almighty.

Note: According to Islam, the universe resembles a book written by God, a palace built by Him to make Himself known to conscious beings, primarily us. The universe essentially exists in God�s Knowledge in meaning. Creation means that through His Will, He specifies or gives a distinct character and form to that meaning as species, races, families or individuals; and then, through His Power, clothes each in matter so that it will be in this time-and-space constrained material realm. After a thing ceases to exist, it continues to live in God�s Knowledge, as well as in memories of those who saw it and through its offspring (if any). For example, a dead flower continues to exist in God�s Knowledge, in the memories of those who saw it, and in its seeds.

Everything has five stages or degrees of existence. First, and essentially, it exists in the Creator�s Knowledge as meaning. Even if God Almighty did not create it (in the material realm), it would exist in His Knowledge as meaning, for meaning constitutes the essential existence of everything. Then, it exists in the Divine Will as a form or a plan; as a material object in the material realm; as a memory and through its offspring (if any); and, finally, its eternal existence in the other world. God Almighty will use the debris of this world to construct the other one. There, animals will continue their existence, each species through a representative of its own species, while each human being will find the eternal life designed for him or her according to how he or she lived while in this world.

The universe manifests God�s Names and therefore has some sort of sanctity. Everything in it is a letter from God Almighty inviting us to study it and acquire knowledge of Him. Thus, the universe is the collection of those letters or, as Muslim sages call it, the Divine Book of Creation issuing primarily from the Divine Attributes of Will and Power. The Qur�an, which issues from the Divine Will of Speech, is the universe�s counterpart in written form. Just as there can be no conflict between a palace and the paper describing it, there can be no conflict between the universe and the Qur�an, for they are two expressions of the same truth.

Similarly, humanity is a Divine book corresponding to the Qur�an and the universe. This is why the term used to signify a Qur�anic verse�ayah�also means events occurring within human souls and phenomena occurring in nature.

Love of truth to give true direction to scientific studies

Only the love of truth gives true direction to scientific studies. What we mean by �the love of truth� is approaching existence not to receive material advantage or worldly gain, but to observe and recognize it as it really is. Those with such love will achieve their goal; those led by worldly passion, material aspiration, ideological prejudice and fanaticism, and who are devoid of such love, either will fail or, worse, make science into a deadly weapon to be used against what is best for humanity.

Intellectuals, educational institutions, and the mass media must strive to deliver modern scientific studies from the current lethal atmosphere of materialism and ideological fanaticism by directing scientists toward human values. To do this successfully, minds must be freed from ideological superstition and fanaticism, and souls purified of desire for worldly gain and advantage. If this can be done, scientists will secure true freedom of thought and perform good science. Their centuries-long battle against the clergy and corrupt concepts formed in the name of religion, and their subsequent denunciation of religious people as backward, narrow-minded, and fanatic, should serve as a warning to scientists not to fall into the same trap.

Whether scientists or clerics allow intellectual and scientific despotism to arise from their own self-interest and power-seeking, ideology and fanaticism. Furthermore, they restrict their reasoning to their corrupt and distorted religious conceptions and domination. But despotism is despotism. Islam continually urges humanity to study nature, the exhibition of Divine works, to reflect on creation and what has been created, and to approach it responsibly in order to benefit humanity.

When studied without prejudice and preconception, the Qur�an shows that it promotes the love of science and humanity, justice and order.

When studied without prejudice and preconception, the Qur�an shows that it promotes the love of science and humanity, justice and order. Islam, as can be clearly seen in numerous verses of the Qur�an, urges the study of nature, which it sees as a place of exhibition of Divine works; it urges reflection upon creation and the created, and approaching it responsibly, without making mischief and causing corruption in the world. Founded on the Qur�an, Islam has founded knowledge and the quest for it on the intention of discovering the meaning of existence in order to reach the Creator and to be beneficial to all human beings, indeed to all the creation, and combined it with belief, love and altruism. Humanity has seen such an ideal in practice: the exemplary life of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and the conduct of many of its representatives who perfected their thoughts and deeds.

So what is there to fear from science? Planned acts based on knowledge sometimes cause bad results, but certainly ignorance and disorganization always cause bad results. Instead of opposing the products of science and technology, we must use them to bring happiness to humanity. Herein lies the essence of our greatest problem, for we cannot take measures against the Space Age or erase atomic or hydrogen bomb-making knowledge from human knowledge.

Although science might be a deadly weapon in the hands of an irresponsible minority, we should not hesitate to adopt both it and its products and then use them to establish a civilization in which we can secure our happiness in this world and the next. It is pointless to curse machines and factories, because machines will continue to run and factories to operate. Science and its products will begin to benefit us only when people of truth and belief begin to direct our affairs.

We have never suffered harm from a weapon in the hands of angels. Whatever we have suffered has come from those who still believe that only might is right. This situation will continue until we build a world on a foundation of faith and science.

 

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