It’s no surprise that scientists argue that science and religion are two separate entities incapable of integration. Western thought and agenda have taken the science world by storm throughout modern history, and in return, have become the vanguards of technological development and modernity.
Undoubtedly, Western colonialism and secular hegemony have highly influenced the way Arabs, particularly Muslims, substantiate identity formation. One way Western hegemony was able to do this was to simply create a sense of confusion – better yet, a contradiction – between religion and technological advancement, which psychologically, renders religious views as the culprit for being “third world” and underdeveloped (1).
However, as many are taught, it is not quite intelligent to set the full weight of the blame on the Western world for colonizing the region. In fact, colonial establishments in the Arab world are highly due to the Muslim Ummah itself, which wronged its community by separating science from religion.
It isn’t as simple as it sounds, though.
The Muslim world, throughout history, passed through its “Golden Age”, which was a significant period of time where tolerance, natural sciences, rationalism, medicine and other noble pursuits, economic and social development were at their peaks. Leading the intellectual world from A.D. 1100 till 1350, the Golden Age ended when the European world began its advancements and the Muslim world failed to keep up(2).
Why did they fail to keep up?
Theological schools in the region restricted their education to Quranic teachings and Sunnah, excluding natural and empirical sciences from their programs and thus failing in development. Generation after generation, an antagonism between religious teachings and natural science was borne; this rendered religion as “divine” and sciences, in a sense, “kafir” or more commonly, “undesired.”
The Muslim community, unquestionably, wronged its history, progress and future through such disparaging initiatives.
Many times, schools of religious thought and theology fail to understand that the word ‘ilm – or, science – is mentioned at least 780 times in the Holy Quran. As if this does not stress the significance of seeking knowledge enough, one prominent hadith for Prophet Muhammad clearly enstates the following:
“Acquisition of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim.”
In “The Holy Quran and the Sciences of Nature,” a compilation of essays written by Iranian scholar and scientist Mehdi Golshani, science fails to be separated into “religious sciences” and “non-religious sciences” : such classification rather hinders the universality of Islam. Dr. Golshani argues that all science, whether natural or philosophical, is “religious.”(3)
The rationale behind this claim is that knowledge and science are very much intertwined with the Quran. Knowledge is vast and universal, which therefore illustrates the universality and omnipotence of God and creation itself.
While ignorance leads to misinterpretation, tyranny and downfall, knowledge leads to justice, righteousness and sustainability. By substitution, for one to interpret Quranic teachings fairly and correctly, it is vital that one acquires background knowledge in natural sciences, such as biology and physics, and finally, philosophy.
What makes a nation easy to colonize and control is its ignorance. It is easy to charge Western supremacies for the crimes which lead to underdevelopment; however, it could be inferred that our late ancestry did not do such a great job at protecting us from our defeat.
Rendering scientific research and acquisition a fundamental part of practicing religion should be the Middle East’s next goal as part of education, an initiative for resistance against intellectual colony and dependency, and advocacy for progressive Islam.
- Maziak, W. (2017). Science, modernity, and the muslim world. EMBO Reports, 18(2), 194-197. doi:10.15252/embr.201643517
- Stearns, J. (2011). Writing the history of the natural sciences in the pre-modern muslim world: Historiography, religion, and the importance of the early modern period: Natural science in the pre-modern muslim world. History Compass, 9(12), 923-951. doi:10.1111/j.1478-0542.2011.00810.x
- Golshani, M. (1986). The Holy Quran and the Sciences of Nature. Islamic Propagation Organization.