This article is about the relationship between Islam and science. From an Islamic standpoint, science, the study of nature, is considered to be linked to the concept of Tawhid (the Oneness of God), as are all other branches of knowledge.[1] In Islam, nature is not seen as a separate entity, but rather as an integral part of Islam’s holistic outlook on God, humanity, and the world. Unlike the other Abrahamic monotheistic religions, Judaism and Christianity, the Islamic view of science and nature is continuous with that of religion and God. This link implies a sacred aspect to the pursuit of scientific knowledge by Muslims, as nature itself is viewed in the Qur’an as a compilation of signs pointing to the Divine[2]. It was with this understanding that science was studied and understood in Islamic civilizations, specifically during the eight to sixteenth centuries, prior to the colonization of the Muslim world[3].

According to most historians, the modern scientific method was first developed by Islamic scientists, pioneered by Ibn Al-Haytham, known to the west as “Alhazen[4].” Robert Briffault, in The Making of Humanity, asserts that the very existence of science, as it is understood in the modern sense, is rooted in the scientific thought and knowledge that emerged in Islamic civilizations during this time[5].

However, the colonizing powers of the western world and their destruction of the Islamic scientific tradition forced the discourse of Islam and Science in to a new period. Institutions that had existed for centuries in the Muslim world were destroyed and replaced by new scientific institutions implemented by the colonizing powers and suiting their economic, political, and military agendas. This drastically changed the practice of science in the Muslim world, as Islamic scientists had to interact with the western approach to scientific learning, which was based on a philosophy of nature completely foreign to them[6].From the time of this initial upheaval of the Islamic scientific tradition to the present day, Muslim scientists and scholars have developed a spectrum of viewpoints on the place of scientific learning within the context of Islam, none of which are universally accepted or practiced[7]. However, most maintain the view that the acquisition of knowledge and scientific pursuit in general is not in disaccord with Islamic thought and religious belief[8][9].


The religion Islam has its own worldview system including beliefs about "ultimate reality, epistemology, ontology, ethics, purpose, etc."[10] Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the literal word and the final revelation of God for the guidance of humankind.

Science in the broadest sense refers to any falsifiable system of knowledge attained by verifiable means,[11] and in a narrower sense to a system of acquiring knowledge based on empiricism, experimentation, and methodological naturalism, as well as to the organized body of knowledge humans have gained by such research. Scientists maintain that scientific investigation must adhere to the scientific method, a process for evaluating empirical knowledge that explains observable events in nature as results of natural causes, rejecting supernatural notions.
One of the most important features of Science, notably Physics is the precise quantitative prediction based on its current level understanding of a phenomenon. In this aspect it differs from many religious texts where physical phenomena are depicted in a very qualitative way, often by the use of words carrying several meanings.


Classical Islamic scienceEdit

See also: Islamic science and technology, Islamic cosmology, Islam and astronomy, Islam and mathematics, Islam and physics, and Foundations of Islamic medicine

In the history of science, Islamic science refers to the science developed under Islamic civilization between the 8th and 16th centuries,[12] during what is known as the Islamic Golden Age.[13] It is also known as Arabic science since the majority of texts during this period were written in Arabic, the lingua franca of Islamic civilization. Despite these terms, not all scientists during this period were Muslim or Arab, as there were a number of notable non-Arab scientists (most notably Persians), as well as some non-Muslim scientists, who contributed to scientific studies in the Islamic world.

A number of modern scholars such as Fielding H. Garrison,[14] Bertrand Russell,[15] Abdus Salam and Hossein Nasr consider modern science and the scientific method to have been greatly inspired by Muslim scientists who introduced a modern empirical, experimental and quantitative approach to scientific inquiry. Some scholars, notably Donald Routledge Hill, Ahmad Y Hassan,[16] Abdus Salam,[17] and George Saliba,[18] have referred to their achievements as a Muslim scientific revolution,[19][20] though this does not contradict the traditional view of the Scientific Revolution which is still supported by most scholars.[21][22][23]

It is believed that it was the empirical attitude of the Qur'an and Sunnah which inspired medieval Muslim scientists, in particular Alhazen (965-1037),[24][25] to develop the scientific method.[26][27][28] It is also known that certain advances made by medieval Muslim astronomers, geographers and mathematicians was motivated by problems presented in Islamic scripture, such as Al-Khwarizmi's (c. 780-850) development of algebra in order to solve the Islamic inheritance laws,[29] and developments in astronomy, geography, spherical geometry and spherical trigonometry in order to determine the direction of the Qibla, the times of Salah prayers, and the dates of the Islamic calendar.[30]

The increased use of dissection in Islamic medicine during the 12th and 13th centuries was influenced by the writings of the Islamic theologian, Al-Ghazali, who encouraged the study of anatomy and use of dissections as a method of gaining knowledge of God's creation.[31] This culminated in the work of Ibn al-Nafis (1213-1288), who discovered the pulmonary circulation in 1242 and used his discovery as evidence for the orthodox Islamic doctrine of bodily resurrection.[32] Ibn al-Nafis also used Islamic scripture as justification for his rejection of wine as self-medication.[33] Criticisms against alchemy and astrology were also motivated by religion, as orthodox Islamic theologians viewed the beliefs of alchemists and astrologers as being superstitious.[34]

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (1149–1209), in dealing with his conception of physics and the physical world in his Matalib, discusses Islamic cosmology, criticizes the Aristotelian notion of the Earth's centrality within the universe, and "explores the notion of the existence of a multiverse in the context of his commentary," based on the Qur'anic verse, "All praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds." He raises the question of whether the term "worlds" in this verse refers to "multiple worlds within this single universe or cosmos, or to many other universes or a multiverse beyond this known universe." On the basis of this verse, he argues that God has created more than "a thousand thousand worlds (alfa alfi 'awalim) beyond this world such that each one of those worlds be bigger and more massive than this world as well as having the like of what this world has."[35] Ali Kuşçu's (1403-1474) support for the Earth's rotation and his rejection of Aristotelian cosmology (which advocates a stationary Earth) was motivated by religious opposition to Aristotle by orthodox Islamic theologians, such as Al-Ghazali.[36][37]

According to many historians, science in Islamic civilization flourished during the Middle Ages, but began declining at some time around the 14th[38] to 16th[12] centuries. At least some scholars blame this on the "rise of a clerical faction which froze this same science and withered its progress."[39] Examples of conflicts with prevailing interpretations of Islam and science - or at least the fruits of science - thereafter include the demolition of Taqi al-Din's great Istanbul observatory of Taqi al-Din in Galata, "comparable in its technical equipment and its specialist personnel with that of his celebrated contemporary, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe." But while Brahe's observatory "opened the way to a vast new development of astronomical science," Taqi al-Din's was demolished by a squad of Janissaries, "by order of the sultan, on the recommendation of the Chief Mufti," sometime after 1577 AD.[40][41]

Arrival of modern science in Islamic world Edit


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, modern science arrived in the Muslim world but it wasn't the science itself that affected Muslim scholars. Rather, it "was the transfer of various philosophical currents entangled with science that had a profound effect on the minds of Muslim scientists and intellectuals. Schools like Positivism and Darwinism penetrated the Muslim world and dominated its academic circles and had a noticeable impact on some Islamic theological doctrines." There were different responses to this among the Muslim scholars:[42] These reactions, in words of Professor Mehdi Golshani, were the following:

  1. Some rejected modern science as corrupt foreign thought, considering it incompatible with Islamic teachings, and in their view, the only remedy for the stagnancy of Islamic societies would be the strict following of Islamic teachings.[43]
  2. Other thinkers in the Muslim world saw science as the only source of real enlightenment and advocated the complete adoption of modern science. In their view, the only remedy for the stagnation of Muslim societies would be the mastery of modern science and the replacement of the religious worldview by the scientific worldview.
  3. The majority of faithful Muslim scientists tried to adapt Islam to the findings of modern science; they can be categorized in the following subgroups: (a) Some Muslim thinkers attempted to justify modern science on religious grounds. Their motivation was to encourage Muslim societies to acquire modern knowledge and to safeguard their societies from the criticism of Orientalists and Muslim intellectuals. (b) Others tried to show that all important scientific discoveries had been predicted in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition and appealed to modern science to explain various aspects of faith. (c) Yet other scholars advocated a re-interpretation of Islam. In their view, one must try to construct a new theology that can establish a viable relation between Islam and modern science. The Indian scholar, Sayyid Ahmad Khan, sought a theology of nature through which one could re-interpret the basic principles of Islam in the light of modern science. (d) Then there were some Muslim scholars who believed that empirical science had reached the same conclusions that prophets had been advocating several thousand years ago. The revelation had only the privilege of prophecy.
  4. Finally, some Muslim philosophers separated the findings of modern science from its philosophical attachments. Thus, while they praised the attempts of Western scientists for the discovery of the secrets of nature, they warned against various empiricist and materialistic interpretations of scientific findings. Scientific knowledge can reveal certain aspects of the physical world, but it should not be identified with the alpha and omega of knowledge. Rather, it has to be integrated into a metaphysical framework—consistent with the Muslim worldview—in which higher levels of knowledge are recognized and the role of science in bringing us closer to God is fulfilled.[10]

Compatibility of Islam and the development of scienceEdit

Whether Islamic culture has promoted or hindered scientific advancement is disputed. Islamists such as Sayyid Qutb argue that since "Islam appointed" Muslims "as representatives of God and made them responsible for learning all the sciences,"[44] science cannot but prosper in a society of true Muslims. Many "classical and modern [sources] agree that the Qur'an condones, even encourages the acquisition of science and scientific knowledge, and urges humans to reflect on the natural phenomena as signs of God's creation." Some scientific instruments produced in classical times in the Islamic world were inscribed with Qur'anic citations. Many Muslims agree that doing science is an act of religious merit, even a collective duty of the Muslim community.[45]

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 "Allah's freedom to act" as He wishes, a principle enshired in aya 14:4: "Allah sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth whom He will," which (they believed) applied to all of creation not just humanity.[46]


In the early twentieth century ulema forbade the learning of foreign languages and dissection of human bodies in the medical school in Iran.[47] The ulama at the Islamic university of Al-Azhar in Cairo taught the Ptolemaic astronomical system (in which the sun circles the earth) until compelled to adopt the Copernican system by the Egyptian government in 1961.[48]

In recent years, the lagging of the Muslim world in science is manifest in the disproportionately small amount of scientific output as measured by citations of articles published in internationally circulating science journals, annual expenditures on research and development, and numbers of research scientists and engineers.[49] Skepticism of science among some Muslims is reflected in issues such as resistance in Muslim northern Nigeria to polio inoculation, which some believe is "an imaginary thing created in the West or it is a ploy to get us to submit to this evil agenda."[50]

Qur'an and ScienceEdit

Template:Mainarticle The belief that Qur'an had prophesied scientific theories and discoveries has become a strong and widespread belief in the contemporary Islamic world; these prophecies are often provided as a proof of the divine origin of the Qur'an.[51]

The scientific facts claimed to be in the Qur'an exist in different subjects, including creation, astronomy, the animal and vegetables kingdom, and human reproduction.

"a time is fixed for every prophecy; you will come to know in time" ([Qur'an 6:67]). Islamic scholar Zaghloul El-Naggar thinks that this verse refers to the scientific facts in the Qur'an that would be discovered by the world in modern time, centuries after the revelation.[51]

This belief is, however, arguable in the Muslim world, while some support it, other Muslim scholars oppose the belief, claiming that the Qur'an is not a book of science; al-Biruni, one of the most celebrated Muslim scientists of the classical period, assigned to the Qur'an a separate and autonomous realm of its own and held that the Qur'an "does not interfere in the business of science nor does it infringe on the realm of science."[51] These scholars argued for the possibility of multiple scientific explanation of the natural phenomena, and refused to subordinate the Qur'an to an ever-changing science.[51]

Specific science-related issues in the Quran and the HadithEdit

Fossils of ancient humansEdit

Main article: Islamic creationism

There are three specific verses in the Qur'an concerning human creation:[52] ([Qur'an 3:59], [Qur'an 4:1], Template:Quran-usc-range) According to the first two verses, Adam and Eve were directly created by God from clay that give sound, they did not descend from any other species as proposed by Charles Darwin and the rest of mankind is the progeny of Adam and Eve. The third verse implies that there were three stages in their creation, and can be interpreted as follows:[52]

    • Adam and Eve were created from clay that gives sound
    • They subsequently developed the ability to reproduce at a later age
    • Finally, after an additional period of time, there was a third phase in which they were perfected both physically and spiritually, and received the divine spirit from God

Conception and inherited characteristicsEdit

The most prominent of the ancient Greek thinkers who wrote on medicine were Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen. Hippocrates and Galen, in contrast with Aristotle, wrote that the contribution of females to children is equal to that of males, and the vehicle for it is a substance similar to the semen of males.[53] Basim Musallam writes that the ideas of these men were widespread through the pre-modern Middle East: "Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen were as much a part of Middle Eastern Arabic culture as anything else in it."[53] The sayings in the Quran and those attributed to Muhammad in the Hadith influenced generations of Muslim scientists by siding with Galen and Hippocrates. Basim Musallam writes: "... the statements about parental contribution to generation in the hadith paralleled the Hippocratic writings, and the view of fetal development in the Quran agreed in detail with Galen's scientific writings."[53] He reports that the highly influential medieval Hanbali scholar Ibn Qayyim, in his book Kitab al-tibyan fi aqsam al-qur'an, cites the following statement of the prophet from the Sahih Muslim:


Ibn Qayyim also quotes a different hadith from the same collection, which is quoted by other Muslim authors as well. Having been asked the question "from what is man created," the Prophet replies:


See alsoEdit


  1. Muzaffar Iqbal (2007). Science & Islam. Greenwood Press.
  2. 2. Toshihiko Izutsu (1964). God and Man in the Koran. Weltansckauung. Tokyo.
  3. 3. Situating Arabic Science: Locality versus Essence (A.I. Sabra)
  4. Rosanna Gorini (2003). "Al-Haytham the Man of Experience. First Steps in the Science of Vision", International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine. Institute of Neurosciences, Laboratory of Psychobiology and Psychopharmacology, Rome, Italy.
  5. Robert Briffault (1928). The Making of Humanity, p. 190-202. G. Allen & Unwin Ltd.
  6. Muzaffar Iqbal (2007). Science & Islam. Greenwood Press.
  7. Seyyid Hossein Nasr. “Islam and Modern Science”
  8. Seyyid Hossein Nasr. “Islam and Modern Science”
  9. Muzaffar Iqbal (2007). Science & Islam. Greenwood Press.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Mehdi Golshani, Can Science Dispense With Religion?
  11. See, e.g., the entry Science in the Oxford English Dictionary ISBN 0-19-522217-2
  12. 12.0 12.1 Ahmad Y Hassan, Factors Behind the Decline of Islamic Science After the Sixteenth Century
  13. Sabra, A. I. (1996). "Situating Arabic Science: Locality versus Essence". Isis 87 (4): 654–670. doi:10.1086/357651. 
    "Let us begin with a neutral and innocent definition of Arabic, or what also may be called Islamic, science in terms of time and space: the term Arabic (or Islamic) science the scientific activities of individuals who lived in a region that might extended chronologically from the eighth century A.D. to the beginning of the modern era, and geographically from the Iberian Peninsula and north Africa to the Indus valley and from the Southern Arabia to the Caspian Sea—that is, the region covered for most of that period by what we call Islamic Civilization, and in which the results of the activities referred to were for the most part expressed in the Arabic Language. We need not be concerned over the refinements that obviously need to be introduced over this seemingly neutral definition."
  14. Fielding H. Garrison, History of Medicine
  15. Prof. Osman Bakar (Georgetown University), Islam's Contribution to Human Civilization: Science and Culture, CIC's annual Ottawa dinner, October 15, 2001.
  16. Ahmad Y Hassan and Donald Routledge Hill (1986), Islamic Technology: An Illustrated History, p. 282, Cambridge University Press.
  17. Abdus Salam, H. R. Dalafi, Mohamed Hassan (1994). Renaissance of Sciences in Islamic Countries, p. 162. World Scientific, ISBN 9971507137.
  18. George Saliba (1994), A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam, p. 245, 250, 256-257. New York University Press, ISBN 0814780237.
  19. Abid Ullah Jan (2006), After Fascism: Muslims and the struggle for self-determination, "Islam, the West, and the Question of Dominance", Pragmatic Publishings, ISBN 978-0-9733687-5-8.
  20. Salah Zaimeche (2003), An Introduction to Muslim Science, FSTC.
  21. Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1996.
  22. Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800.
  23. Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Pr., 1957), p. 142.
  24. Bettany, Laurence (1995), "Ibn al-Haytham: an answer to multicultural science teaching?", Physics Education 30: 247-252 [247])
  25. Steffens, Bradley (2006), Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist, Morgan Reynolds Publishing, ISBN 1599350246 (cf. Steffens, Bradley, Who Was the First Scientist?, Ezine Articles)
  26. Ahmad, I. A. (June 3, 2002), The Rise and Fall of Islamic Science: The Calendar as a Case Study, Faith and Reason: Convergence and Complementarity, Al Akhawayn University. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  27. C. A. Qadir (1990), Philosophy and Science in the lslumic World, Routledge, London)
  28. Ahmad, I. A. (1995), "The impact of the Qur'anic conception of astronomical phenomena on Islamic civilization", Vistas in Astronomy 39 (4): 395–403, Error: Bad DOI specified
  29. Gandz, Solomon (1938). "The Algebra of Inheritance: A Rehabilitation of Al-Khuwārizmī". Osiris 5: 319–391. doi:10.1086/368492. ISSN 0369–7827. 
  30. Gingerich, Owen (April 1986), "Islamic astronomy", Scientific American 254 (10): 74,, retrieved 2008-05-18
  31. Savage-Smith, Emilie (1995), "Attitudes Toward Dissection in Medieval Islam", Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (Oxford University Press) 50 (1): 67–110, Error: Bad DOI specified, PMID 7876530
  32. Fancy, Nahyan A. G. (2006), "Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection: The Interaction of Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in the Works of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)", Electronic Theses and Dissertations (University of Notre Dame): 232-3,
  33. Fancy, Nahyan A. G. (2006), "Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection: The Interaction of Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in the Works of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)", Electronic Theses and Dissertations (University of Notre Dame): 49-59 & 232-3,
  34. Saliba, George (1994), A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam, New York University Press, pp. 60 & 67-69, ISBN 0814780237
  35. Adi Setia (2004), "Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi on Physics and the Nature of the Physical World: A Preliminary Survey", Islam & Science 2, archived from the original on 2012-07-10,, retrieved 2010-03-02
  36. Ragep, F. Jamil (2001a), "Tusi and Copernicus: The Earth's Motion in Context", Science in Context (Cambridge University Press) 14 (1-2): 145–163
  37. F. Jamil Ragep (2001), "Freeing Astronomy from Philosophy: An Aspect of Islamic Influence on Science", Osiris, 2nd Series, Vol. 16, Science in Theistic Contexts: Cognitive Dimensions, p. 49-64, 66-71.
  38. Islam by Alnoor Dhanani in Science and Religion, 2002, p.88
  39. Islamic Technology: An Illustrated History by Ahmad Y. al-Hassan and Donald Hill, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p.282
  40. Aydin Sayili, The Observatory in Islam and its place in the General History of the Observatory (Ankara: 1960), pp. 289 ff.
  41. Islamic Technology: An Illustrated History by Ahmad Y. al-Hassan and Donald Hill, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p.282
  42. Mehdi Golshani, Does science offer evidence of a transcendent reality and purpose?, June 2003
  43. Mehdi Golshani, Does science offer evidence of a transcendent reality and purpose?, June 2003
  44. Qutb, Sayyid, Milestones, p.112
  45. Qur'an and Science, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  46. Stark, Rodney, The Victory of Reason, Random House, 2005, p.20-1
  47. Mackey, The Iranians : Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation, 1996, p.179
  48. In the Path of God : Islam and Political Power by Daniel Pipes, c1983 p.113
  49. Abdus Salam, Ideals and Realities: Selected Essays of Abdus Salam (Philadelphia: World Scientific, 1987), p. 109.
  50. Nafiu Baba Ahmed, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, telling the BBC his opinion of polio and vaccination. In northern Nigeria "more than 50% of the children have never been vaccinated against polio," and as of 2006 and more than half the world's polio victims live. Nigeria's struggle to beat polio, BBC News, 31 March 20
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 51.3 Ahmad Dallal, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Quran and science
  52. 52.0 52.1 Saleem, Shehzad (May 2000). "The Qur’anic View on Creation". Renaissance 10 (5). ISSN 1606-9382. Retrieved on 2006-10-11.</cite>  </li>
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 Basim Musallam, Sex and Society in Islam. Cambridge University Press. </li></ol>

External linksEdit

By Professor Mehdi Golshani
By Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr


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