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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.