Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Safar / Rabi-Ul Awwal 1422 H
May 2002
Volume 15-05 No:185

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Quran and Science


Arabian Scholars carried the Banner of Science



Arabian Scholars carried the Banner of Science

The holy Quran occupies a unique and exalted status among the scriptures. It was through the influence of this holy Book alone that the camel-rearing desert boys of Arabia soon turned to be the lords of sciences

By Moulana Mohammed Shihabuddin Nadvi

A study of the Quran reveals that through its various verses, it invites its followers to study the universe and to discover the various phenomena of nature and their systems. It is this positive and revolutionary assertion of the Quran that enthused its followers of the medieval period to assemble the remnants of the knowledge of the time. They built upon the ancient knowledge and revised it, laying the foundation of practical science. The earlier science was mostly theoretical. The Muslims at Baghdad, Cardova, Damascus, Egypt, Sicily and other places established great universities, libraries, academies, observatories and laboratories. Due homage was paid to great scholars, literateurs and scientists. This encouraged the sciences as well as the scientists. In a very short span of time, such great scientists, researchers and inventors like — to name a few — Jabir Bin Hayyan, Mohammed Bin Moosa Qawarizmi, Ibne Haisem, Abul Abbas Farghani, Mohammed Jabir Battani, Mohammed Bin Zakariyya Razi, Ibne Sena, Abu Raihan Al-Biruni, Ibne Nafees, Abu Hafifa Deenuri, Omer Khayyam, Ibne Baithar, Abul Qasim Zahravi etc. took birth.

Revolutionary Teachings of Islam

At this point, it must be remembered that for reaching the zenith in the field of science, Europe had to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of men due to conflict between the Church and science. But on the other hand, the Islamic history is not marked with any such tale of trial and oppression. The reason is simple. Islam, unlike Christianity, was never antagonistic to observation and experimentation and it has never strangled knowledge and science. Instead, it vigorously encouraged observation and experimentation.

That, all the progress and development, the renaissance of Europe witnessed was the direct outcome of the observations, experimentations and research carried out by the Muslim Scholars and Scientists of the medieval period need no mention. It is a historical and irrefutable fact. The works of the Muslim scholars and scientists were basically different from the Greek thought. Further, they viewed all acquired and adopted knowledge through the standards set by the holy Quran. The Quran is the first revelation that condemns the mistaken concepts and blind imitation and urges man to reflect upon the orderly way the whole universal system functions. It calls upon man to observe and study deeply all natural bodies like earth, heavens, moon, sun, stars, clouds, atmosphere, mountains, animals and plants. We have verily set constellations in heaven, and decked them out for the beholders. (Hijr:16) Can they (the Makkans) not look up to the camels to see how they are formed? And to the sky, how it is upraised? And to the mountains, how they are fixed? And to the earth, how it is out-spread? (Ghashia:17-20) (O Prophet!) Say to them, ‘ponder ye on all that there is in the heavens and on the earth (and see what they portend to you)’. (Yunus:101).

Say (O Prophet to your people), ‘go through the earth and note how He first createth’. (Ankaboot:20) Look ye at the fruit thereof as it (gradually) grows and ripens! Truly herein are signs for a people who have faith (in Divine Providence). (Anam:99).

In all these verses, the main word is ‘Look’ (Nazr). According to the Arabic lexicographers and exegetes of the holy Quran it means contemplation and reflection (Vide: Al-Qamoos Al-Moheet, Lisanul Arab, and Mufradatul Quran ). Naturally, when one reads these verses and thinks about their meaning it becomes evident that the reflection has all worlds of the rocks, plants, animals and heavens in its purview and even extends to all material, visible and perceptible objects.

The outstanding feature of the holy Quran

It urges mankind to make a detailed study of the universe through both negative and affirmative assertions. It further requires to reflect upon the cause and effect of the existence and events, so that it leads to the creator. Thus there are two aims of these verses:

1. To confirm the fundamentals of Islam and to establish the basic beliefs like Unity of god, Prophethood, Resurrection corroborating them with arguments from the natural phenomena and to propound before the non-Muslims the conclusive argument. The Qur’an says: And in the earth are signs for those who are of firm faith. And in your own selves. Can you not notice them? (Zariyat:20-21)

2. To induce the Muslims to subdue the universe and to exploit the physical and biological benefits embedded in it in the form of the laws of nature thereby enhancing the standard of living and to attain technological excellence in order to fulfill the objectives of the vicegerency of earth.

Acknowledgement of the Non-Muslims

These exhortations of the holy Quran not only paved the way for compilation of the modern sciences, but also laid the foundation of practical science. Inspired by the divine verses, a very great number of Muslim scientists and philosophers took birth during and after the second century AH and research and development in the physical sciences made great advances. In this context, the endeavour of the medieval Muslim intellectuals in preserving the ancient intellectual heritage in their quest for new research is commendable. George Gamow testifies to this effect thus: Arabian scholars studied and translated Greek manuscripts salvaged from the partially destroyed Hellenic libraries, and carried the banner of science while Europe was suffocating in the clutches of medieval scholasticism.... (“The Dawn of Physics” in The Realm of Science, U.S.A., 1972, Vol. 7, P. 33.).

Thus the credit for laying the foundation of modern science goes to the Muslims. In fact, many Muslim scientists have been credited with making quite a few scientific discoveries and inventions. No fewer historians and scholars than Dr. Le Bon, Von Cramer, M. Sideu, Dr. Joseph Hail and Prof. Phillip K Hitti and others have dully acknowledged it. Spain was the door to Europe. Therefore, any progress and development here in the field of knowledge would influence the various parts of Europe and particularly the neighbouring countries. Under this influence, they were able to render the premier Muslim works of the time into Latin and Greek languages. Thus, the knowledge of Muslim men of letters induced the European nations to march ahead. This march was so significant that it paved the way for the renaissance of Europe. Prof. Hitti acknowledges this fact thus: It was not only an empire that the Arabs built, but a culture as well. Heirs of the ancient civilization, they subsequently acted as a medium for transmitting to medieval Europe many of those intellectual influences which ultimately resulted in the awakening of the Western world and in setting it on the road towards its modern renaissance. No people in the Middle Ages contributed to human progress so much as did the Arabians and the Arabic-speaking peoples. (History of the Arabs, London, 1977, P. 4.) Again the author asserts thus: “Moslem Spain wrote one of the brightest chapters in the intellectual history of medieval Europe. Between the middle of the eighth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries, as we have noted before, the Arabic-speaking peoples were the main bearers of the torch of culture and civilization throughout the world. Moreover, they were the medium through which ancient science and philosophy were recovered, supplemented and transmitted in such a way as to make possible the renaissance of Western Europe. In all this, Arabic Spain had a large share.” (Ibid., P. 557). It can well be concluded that this eternal and evergreen scripture has the capacity of leading the present generation out of the mire they are in, in much the same way it awakened the Arabs from their slumber fourteen hundred years ago.

The present situation of the Muslims

It resembles to that of the Arabs at the inception of Islam. In spite of their large number, the believers in Islam seem to lack in the intellectual and mental faculties. In reality, they do exist but are lying hidden. These latent faculties have to be activised and brought out through powerful doses of Quranic inspiration. The European renaissance was a reaction against the retraction from religion. This was obvious since the shortsightedness of Christianity could not go along the scientific and intellectual developments of the times. In fact, it termed such attempts as heresy and anti-religion and adopted all possible means to check such progress. The men of eminence in many fields were persecuted. The consequences were evident. Exactly opposite was the attitude of Islam towards such attempts. Islam not only advocates the followers to contemplate on all natural phenomena and study nature, but it also suggests exploring nature and its forces. It asserts that the material progress is essential for preserving the religious and spiritual life. Thus the revival of the Muslim Ummah could never be achieved by turning away from Islam, but such endeavour has its direct patronage and guidance.Never should anyone think that the Muslim nations do not possess the capacity and ability of inventing and discovering. If right lines are followed, even today they could produce great scientists, researchers and inventors of the status of Gabir Bin Hayyan, Muhammed Bin Musa Khawarizmi, Muhammed Bin Zakaria Razi, Ibne Haitham, Al-Biruni, Ibne Sena, Battani, Ibne Nafees etc. Such men are never inferior to Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Dalton, Einstein, Planck and Rutherford.

The writer was the founder of The Furqania Academy Trust and passed away last month.

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