Fourteen centuries ago, God sent down the Qur'an as a guide to all
At the time the Arab society was in a state of complete degeneration,
chaos and ignorance. They were a barbarous people who worshipped idols
of their own making, believed warfare and bloodshed to be virtuous and
were even capable of killing their own children. They had little interest
in intellectual matters, let alone a scientific outlook to the natural
However, through Islam they learned humanity and civilization. Not
only the Arabs but all the communities which accepted Islam escaped
the darkness of the age of ignorance and were illuminated by the divine
wisdom of the Qur'an. Amongst the faculties the Qur'an brought to humanity
was scientific thinking.
The Scientific Paradigm Given in the Qur'an
The genesis of scientific thought is the sense of curiosity. Because
people wonder how the universe and nature work, they investigate and
become interested in science. But most people lack this curiosity. For
them, the important things are not the secrets of the universe and nature
but their own small worldly profits and pleasures. In communities where
people who think in this way are in charge, science does not develop.
Idleness and ignorance rule.
The Arab community before the Qur'an was of this type. But the verses
of the Qur'an called upon them to think, to investigate and to use their
minds, perhaps for the first time in their lives.
In one of the first revealed verses of the Qur'an, God drew the attention
of the Arabs to the camel, a part of their everyday lives:
Have they not looked at the camel-how it was
And at the sky-how it was raised up?
And at the mountains-how they were embedded?
And at the earth-how it is spread out?
So remind them! You are only a reminder. (Qur'an, 88: 17-21)
In many other verses of the Qur'an, people are instructed to examine
nature and learn from it because people can know God only by examining
His creations. Because of this, in one verse of the Qur'an Muslims are
defined as people who think about the creation of the heavens and the
Those who remember God, standing, sitting and
lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and
the earth (saying): "Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing.
Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire."
(Qur'an, 3: 191)
An early manuscript of the Qur'an.
As a result of this, for a Muslim, taking an interest in science is
a very important form of worship. In many verses of the Qur'an, God
instructs Muslims to investigate the heavens, the earth, living things
or their own existence and think about them. When we look at the verses,
we find indications of all the main branches of science in the Qur'an.
For example, in the Qur'an, God encourages the science of astronomy:
He who created the seven heavens in layers. You
will not find any flaw in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look again-do
you see any gaps? (Qur'an, 67: 3)
In another verse of the Qur'an, God encourages the investigation of
astronomy and the composition of the earth that is the science of geology:
Do they not look at the sky above them? How We
have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it? And the earth-
We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and
produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)-To be observed
and commemorated by every devotee turning (to God). (Qur'an, 50: 6-8)
In the Qur'an, God also encourages the study of botany:
It is He Who sends down water from the sky from
which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth
the green shoots and from them We bring forth close-packed seeds, and
from the spathes of the date palm date clusters hanging down, and gardens
of grapes and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar.
Look at their fruits as they bear fruit and ripen. There are Signs in
that for people who believe. (Qur'an, 6:99)
In another verse of the Qur'an, God draws attention to zoology:
You have a lesson in livestock... (Qur'an, 16:66)
Here is a Qur'anic verse about the sciences of archaeology and anthropology:
Have they not traveled in the earth and seen
the final fate of those before them? (Qur'an, 30: 9)
In another verse of the Qur'an, God draws attention to the proof of
God in a person's own body and spirit:
There are certainly Signs in the earth for people
with certainty; and in yourselves as well. Do you not then see? (Qur'an,
As we can see, God recommends all the sciences to Muslims in the Qur'an.
Because of this the growth of Islam in history meant at the same time
the growth of scientific knowledge.
The Scientific Renaissance of the Middle East
Muslim scholars in Baghdat, the world's
scientific capital of the time.
As we have mentioned, when the Prophet Mohammed (pbh) began to preach
Islam, the Arabs were a community of ignorant, superstitious tribes.
However, thanks to the light of the Qur'an they were rescued from superstition
and began to follow the path of reason. As a result of this, one of
the most astonishing developments in world history took place and in
a few decades Islam, which emerged from the small town of Medina, spread
from Africa to Central Asia. The Arabs, who previously could not even
rule a single city in harmony, came to be rulers of a world empire.
One of the most important facets of this empire was that it provided
the stage for a scientific development previously unmatched in history.
At a time when Europe was living through the Dark Ages, the Islamic
world created the greatest legacy of scientific knowledge seen in history
to that date. The sciences of medicine, geometry, algebra, astronomy
and even sociology were developed systematically for the first time.
Great centers of religious learning were also centers of knowledge
and scientific development. Such formal centers began during the Abbasid
period (750-1258 A.D.) when thousands of mosque schools were established.
In the tenth century Baghdad had some 300 schools. Alexandria in the
fourteenth century had 12,000 students. It was in the tenth century
that the formal concept of the Madrassah (school) was developed in Baghdad.
The Madrassah had a curriculum and full-time and part-time teachers,
many of whom were women. Rich and poor alike received free education.
From there Maktabat (libraries) were developed and foreign books acquired.
The two most famous are Bait al-Hikmah in Baghdad (ca. 820) and Dar
al-Ilm in Cairo (ca. 998). Universities such as Al-Azhar (969 A.D.)
were also established long before those in Europe. The Islamic world
created the first universities - and even hospitals - in the world.
|Islamic scientific manuscripts of the Medieval Age;
meticulous studies on human anatomy and zoology.
This fact may be very surprising to modern Westerners, who generally
have a different kind of picture about Islam in their minds. But this
picture emerges from ignorance about the origins and history of the
Islamic civilization. Those who get rid of this ignorance - and several
prejudices - acknowledge the true nature of Islam. One example of these
is a recent documentary film by PBS, titled Islam: The Empire of
Faith, in which the commentator rightly states that:
In the unfolding of history, Islamic
civilization has been one of humanity's grandest achievements... For
the West, much of the history of Islam has been obscured behind a veil
of fear and misunderstanding. Yet Islam's hidden history in deeply and
surprisingly interwoven with Western civilization... It was they
(Muslim scholars) who sewed the seeds of the Renaissance, 600 years
before the birth of Leonardo da Vinci. From the way we heal the
sick to the numerals we use for counting, cultures across the globe
have been shaped by the Islamic civilization. 1
In an article published in Salon.com, a prominent voice of the liberal
American media, author George Rafael writes in an article titled "A
Is For Arabs" that;
From algebra and coffee to guitars,
optics and universities... the West owes to the People of the Crescent
Moon... A millennium ago, while the West was shrouded in darkness,
Islam enjoyed a golden age. Lighting in the streets of Cordoba when
London was a barbarous pit; religious tolerance in Toledo while pogroms
raged from York to Vienna. As custodians of our classical legacy, Arabs
were midwives to our Renaissance. Their influence, however alien it
might seem, has always been with us, whether it's a cup of steaming
hot Joe or the algorithms in computer programs. 2
The Open-Mindedness of Islam
What allowed Muslims to create such an advanced scientific culture
was derived from the faculties of the Islamic understanding. One of
them was, as we have noted, the motive to learn about the universe and
nature according to the Qur'anic principles. Another one was open-mindedness.
Both the Qur'anic wisdom and the Prophetic teaching gave Muslims a global
outlook to the world, trespassing all cultural barriers. In the Qur'an,
Mankind! We created you from a male and female,
and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know
each other..." (Qur'an, 49:13)
This verse clearly encourages cultural relationships between different
nations and communities. In another verse of the Qur'an is it stated
that "Both East and West belong to Allah" (2:115),
thus Muslims should see the world in a universalist and cosmopolitan
The hadiths, or sayings, of the Prophet also encourage this vision.
In a popular hadith, the Prophet tells Muslims that "wisdom
is the lost property of the Muslims; he takes it from wherever he finds".
This means that Muslims should be very pragmatic and broadminded in
adapting and using the cultural and scientific achievements of non-Muslims;
those non-Muslims are also creatures and servants of God, even they
might not recognize so. The "People of The Book", i.e. Christians
and Jews, are even much more compatible, since they believe in God and
stick to moral code He revealed to man.
In the rise of Islamic science, the role of this open-mindedness is
very clear to see. John Esposito of the Georgetown University, one of
the most prominent Western experts on Islam, makes the following comment:
The genesis of Islamic civilization
was indeed a collaborative effort, incorporating the learning and
wisdom of many cultures and languages. As in government administration,
Christians and Jews, who had been the intellectual and bureaucratic
backbone of the Persian and Byzantine empires, participated in the process
as well as Muslims. This "ecumenical" effort was evident at
the Caliph al-Mamun's (reigned 813-33) House of Wisdom and at the translation
center headed by the renowned scholar Hunayn ibn Isaq, a Nestorian Christian.
This period of translation and assimilation was followed by one of Muslim
intellectual and artistic creativity. Muslims ceased to be disciples
and became masters, in process producing Islamic civilization, dominated
by the Arabic language and Islam's view of life... Major contributions
were made in many fields: literature and philosophy, algebra and geometry,
science and medicine, art and architecture... Great urban cultural centers
in Cordoba, Baghdad, Cairo, Nishapur, and Palermo emerged and eclipsed
Christian Europe, mired in Dark Ages. 3
According to one of the great Muslim scholars of our
time, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic science was "the first science
of a truly international nature in human history". 4
Another Medieval Muslim manuscript describing the planetary motion.
Yet Muslims did not only incorporate other cultures, but developed
their own. Some commentators neglect this and try to link the Islamic
scientific development solely to the influence of the Ancient Greece
or Far East. But the real source of Islamic science was the experimentation
and observations of Muslim scientists. In his book The Middle East,
Professor Bernard Lewis, an undoubted expert in Middle Eastern history,
explains it as follows:
The achievement of medieval Islamic
science is not limited to the preservation of Greek learning, nor to
the incorporation in the corpus of elements from the more ancient and
more distant East. This heritage which medieval Islamic scientists handed
on to the modern world was immensely enriched by their own efforts and
contributions. Greek science, on the whole rather tended to be theoretical.
Medieval Middle Eastern science was much more practical, and in such
fields as medicine, chemistry, astronomy and agronomy, the classical
heritage was clarified and supplemented by the experiments and observations
of the medieval Middle East. 5
As noted by Westerners, this advanced scientific culture
of the Islamic world paved the way for the Western Renaissance. Muslim
scientists acted in the knowledge that their investigation of God's
creation was a path through which they could get to know Him. Esposito
stresses that "Muslim scientists, who were often philosophers
of mystics as well, viewed physical universe from within their Islamic
worldview and context as a manifestation of the presence of God, the
Creator and the source and unity and harmony in nature." 6
With the transfer of this paradigm and its accumulation of knowledge
to the Western world, the advance of the West began.
The Theist Origins of Western Science
Medieval Europe was ruled by the dogmatic regime of the Catholic Church.
The Church opposed freedom of thought and pressured scientists. People
could be punished by the Inquisition simply for holding different beliefs
or ideas. Their books were burned and they themselves were executed.
The pressure on research in the Middle Ages is often referred to in
history books, but some interpret the situation wrongly and claim that
the scientists who clashed with the Church were against religion.
The truth is the exact opposite-the scientists who opposed the bigotry
of the church were religious believers. They were not against religion,
but against the harsh clericalism of the time.
For example, the famous astronomer Galileo, whom the
Church wanted to punish because he stated that the world rotated, said,
"I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me
alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all
previous centuries." 7
The other scientists who established modern science were all religious.
Kepler, regarded as the founder of modern astronomy,
told those who asked him why he busied himself with science, "I
had the intention of becoming a theologian... but now I see how God
is, by my endeavors, also glorified in astronomy, for 'heavens declare
the glory of God'". 8
As for Newton, one of the greatest scientists in history, he explained
the reason underlying his zeal for scientific endeavor by saying:
"...He (God) is eternal and infinite,
omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity
to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all
things, and knows all things that are or can be done. …We know him only
by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things... [W]e revere
and adore him as his servants…" 9
The great genius Pascal, the father of modern mathematics,
said that: "But by faith we know His (God's) existence; in glory
we shall know His nature." 10
Many other founders of modern Western science were also strong believers.
A large number of other scientists who guided modern scientific progress
were religious people who believed in God. These scientists served science
with the intention of discovering the universe that God had created
- a paradigm that was first developed and implemented in the Islamic
world and then incorporated into the West. All these theist scientists
thought about the creation of the heavens and the earth and investigated
in the awareness of God - as God decreed in the Qur'an and the Bible.
The birth of science and its development were the result of this awareness.
- " Von Helmont, one of the leading figures in modern chemistry
and the inventor of the thermometer, declared that science was a part
- " George Cuvier, the founder of modern paleontology, regarded
fossils as surviving proofs of the Creation and taught that living
species had been created by God.
- " Carl Linnaeus, who first systematized scientific classification,
believed in the Creation and stated that the natural order was a significant
proof of God's existence.
- " Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics, and also a monk,
believed in Creation and opposed the evolutionary theories of his
time, such as Darwinism and Lamarckism.
- " Louis Pasteur, the greatest name in the history of microbiology,
proved that life could not be created in inert matter and taught that
life was a miracle of God.
- " The famous German physicist Max Planck said that the Creator
of the universe was God and stressed that faith was a necessary quality
- " Albert Einstein, regarded as the most important scientist
of the twentieth century, believed that science could not be godless
and said, "science without religion is lame."
During the nineteenth century, however, this awareness was replaced
by a misconception called materialism.
The Rise and Fall of the Materialist Deviation
The nineteenth century was a period that witnessed the greatest errors
in human history. These errors began with the imposition on European
thought of materialist philosophy, an ancient Greek teaching.
The greatest error of this period was Darwin's theory of evolution.
Before the birth of Darwinism, biology was accepted as a branch of science
that provided evidence of the existence of God. In his book Natural
Theology, the famous author William Paley maintained that, to the
extent that every clock proves the existence of a clockmaker, natural
designs prove the existence of God.
However, Darwin rejected this truth in his theory of evolution. By
distorting the truth to fit materialist philosophy, he claimed that
all living things were the result of blind natural causes. In this way
he created an artificial antagonism between religion and science.
In their book The Messianic Legacy, English authors Michael
Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln have this to say on the subject:
For Isaac Newton, a century and a half
before Darwin, science was not separate from religion but, on the contrary,
an aspect of religion, and ultimately subservient to it. …But the science
of Darwin's time became precisely that, divorcing itself from the context
in which it had previously existed and establishing itself as a rival
absolute, an alternative repository of meaning. As a result, religion
and science were no longer working in concert, but rather stood opposed
to each other, and humanity was increasingly forced to choose between
Not only biology, but also branches of sciences such as psychology
and sociology were twisted according to materialist philosophy. Astronomy
was distorted according to the materialist dogmas of ancient pagan Greece;
a metaphysical faith in an "eternal cosmos" came to be the
norm. The new aim of science was to confirm materialist philosophy.
These incorrect ideas have dragged the scientific world into a dead
end for the past 150 years. Tens of thousands of scientists from different
branches worked in the hope of being able to prove Darwinism or other
But they were disappointed.
The scientific evidence showed the exact opposite of the conclusion
they wanted to reach. That is, it confirmed the truth of Creation. Today
the world of science is astonished by this truth. When nature is examined
it emerges that there is a complex plan and design in every detail and
this has cut away the foundations of materialist philosophy.
For example, the extraordinary structure of DNA shows scientists that
it is not the result of blind chance or natural laws. The DNA in a single
human cell contains enough information to fill a whole 900-volume encyclopedia.
Gene Myers, a scientist from the Celera Company which administers the
Human Genome Project, says this:
What really astounds me is the architecture
of life… The system is extremely complex. It's like it was designed…
There's a huge intelligence there. 12
This astonishment affects the whole scientific world. Scientists are
viewing with surprise the invalidity of the materialist philosophy and
Darwinism which they were taught as truth, and some of them are declaring
this openly. In his book Darwin's Black Box, biochemist Michael
Behe, one of the leading critics of Darwinism, describes the situation
of the scientific world as follows:
Over the past four decades modern biochemistry
has uncovered the secrets of the cell. The progress has been hard won.
It has required tens of thousands of people to dedicate the better parts
of their lives to the tedious work of the laboratory…
The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate
the cell-to investigate life at the molecular level-is a loud, clear,
piercing cry of "design!" The result is so unambiguous and
so significant that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements
in the history of science…
But, no bottles have been uncorked, no hands clapped.
Why does the scientific community not greedily embrace its startling
discovery? The dilemma is that while one side of the [issue] is labeled
intelligent design, the other side must be labeled God. 13
The same situation exists in astronomy. The astronomy of the twentieth
century has demolished the materialist theories of the nineteenth. First
with the Big Bang theory, it emerged that the universe had a beginning,
the moment of Creation. Since then it has been realized that in the
universe there is an extraordinarily delicate balance which protects
human life - a concept known as the anthropic principle.
For these reasons, in the world of physics and astronomy
atheism is in rapid decline. As American physicist Robert Griffiths
jokingly remarks: "If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to
the philosophy department. The physics department isn't much use."
In short, in our day and age materialist philosophy is collapsing.
Science is rediscovering certain very important facts rejected by materialist
philosophy and in this way a new concept of science is being born. The
"Intelligent Design" theory, which has been on a successful
rise in the United States during the past 10 years, is a leading part
of this new scientific concept. Those who accept this theory stress
that Darwinism was the greatest error in the history of science and
that there is an intelligent design in nature that gives evidence of
God created the entire universe, and the whole of creation shows humanity
the signs of God. Science is the method of investigating what has been
created, so conflict between religion and science - provided that religion
is guided only by Divine revelation - is out of the question.
On the contrary, history shows that theism has been the main motive
and paradigm for scientific progress. The two greatest scientific achievements
in world history - the Islamic scientific endeavor of the Medieval Age
and the Christian scientific leap of the modern era - stemmed from faith
in God. Moreover, the latter borrowed a great deal of knowledge, method
and vision from the former. The wisdom of the Qur'an first enlightened
the Islamic world and then shed light even to the non-Muslim Europe.
If something went wrong in the Islamic world, this was because Muslims
turned away from the sincerity, wisdom and open-mindedness God teaches
in the Qur'an.
The materialist paradigm is a deviation from this pattern. It arose
in the 19th century, reached its peak in the mid-20th century and is
on the brink of collapse today. No matter how arrogant and seemingly
self-confident its supporters are, the materialist dogma and its main
pillar, Darwinism, will inevitably perish in the upcoming decades.
And science will return to its authentic and true paradigm: A search
for the discovery and definition of the great design and harmony in
the natural world, the artifact of God.
(1) Jonathan Grupper
(series writer), Islam: Empire of Faith, A Documentary by Gardner
Films, in association with PBS, 2001
(2) George Rafael "A is for Arabs",
www.Salon.com, Jan. 8, 2002; http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2002/01/08/alphabet/
(3) John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path,
Oxford University Press, 1991, s. 52-53
(4) Quoted in Weiss and Green, p. 187
(5) Bernard Lewis, The Middle East, 1998,
(6) John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path,
(7) Galileo Galilei, quoted in: Mike Wilson, "The
Foolishness of the Cross," Focus Magazine)
(8) Johannes Kepler, quoted in: J.H. Tiner, Johannes
Kepler-Giant of Faith and Science (Milford, Michigan: Mott Media,
1977), p. 197
(9) Sir Isaac Newton, Mathematical Principles
of Natural Philosophy, Translated by Andrew Motte, Revised by
Florian Cajore, Great Books of the Western World 34, Robert Maynard
Hutchins, Editor in chief, William Benton, Chicago, 1952:273-74
(10) Blaise Pascal, Pensees, No. 233
(11) Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln,
The Messianic Legacy, Gorgi Books, London: 1991, p.177-178
(12) San Francisco Chronicle, 19 February,
(13) Michael J.Behe, Darwin's Black Box,
New York: Free Press, 1996, p.231-232
(14) Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, p. 123