Islam and Science Essay

This essay has a total of 2808 words and 11 pages.

Islam and Science

Islam and Science
The 6th century Islamic empire inherited the scientific tradition of late antiquity. They
preserved it, elaborated it, and finally, passed it to Europe (Science: The Islamic Legacy
3). At this early date, the Islamic dynasty of the Umayyads showed a great interest in
science. The Dark Ages for Europeans were centuries of philosophical and scientific
discovery and development for Muslim scholars. The Arabs at the time assimilated the
ancient wisdom of Persia and the classical heritage of Greece, as well as adapting their
own ways of thinking (Hitti 363).

The Islamic ability to reconcile monotheism and science prooves to be a first time in
human thought that theology, philosophy, and science were coordinated in a unified whole.
Thus, their contribution was "one of the first magnitude, considering its effect upon
scientific and philosophic thought and upon the theology of later times" (Hitti 580). One
of the reasons for such development of science is probably due to God's commandment to
explore the laws of nature. The idea is to admire all creations for its complexity and to
cherish the creator for His ingenuity. Possibly holding to this belief, Islam's
contributions to science had covered many roots of thought including mathematics,
astronomy, medicine and philosophy.

A common misconception today is that religion and science cannot coincide because they
contradict each other. In the case of Islam, however, this statement has been disproven by
verses in the Qur'an, hadeeth (prophetic tradition), and scientific discoveries by
prominent Muslim philosophers. On the contrary, one of the traditions left by Prophet
Muhammad teaches Muslims "to seek knowledge, though it be in China," or not at arm's
length (Science in the Golden Age 8). Muslims are encouraged to use intelligence and
observations to draw conclusions. Islamic civilizations, in fact, were the "inheritors of
the scientific tradition of late antiquity. They preserved it, elaborated it, and,
finally, passed it on to Europe" (Science: The Islamic Legacy 3). Much of Europe's
scientific resurrection can be attributed to the translations of over 400 Arab authors in
the subjects of ophthalmology, surgery, pharmaceuticals, child care, and public health
(Tschanz 31). The fusion of both Eastern and Western ideas caused Islamic civilizations to
thrive in all aspects of life, specifically science and technology.

There are many instances in which the Qur'an accurately portrays scientific details not
available at the time of its revelation. One fallacy against the advancement of science
through religion is that discrepancies between verses in the ancient manuscripts of the
Qur'an and the modern ones could have been edited out, but when compared, both texts are
identical. Some argue that Prophet Muhammad is the founder of Islam and is responsible for
authoring the Qur'an, but "the compatibility between the statements in the Qur'an and
firmly established data of modern science with regard to subjects on which nobody at the
time of Muhammad—not even the Prophet himself—could have had access to the knowledge
we posses today" (Bucaille 3-5). Parallels between modern science and verses in the Qur'an
exist even in the origins of the universe. Modern cosmology specifies that the universe
originated from a hot, high density gas, or more simply put, smoke. Scientists now observe
new stars forming from the same smoke. The Qur'an states that "He [God] turned to the
heaven when it was smoke…" (Qur'an 41:11). The Big Bang Theory is also supported by the
Qur'an in that God asks "have not those who disbelieved known that the heavens and the
earth were one connected entity, then We separated them?" (Qur'an 21:30). Dr. Alfred
Kroner, one of the world's most prominent geologists, expressed that without knowledge of
nuclear physics 1400 years ago, one could not figure out that the earth and the heavens
had the same origin on his own, especially since "scientists have only found out within
the last few years, with very complicated and advanced technological methods, that this is
the case" (Ibrahim 14-16). The Qur'an even describes the orbits of the sun and the moon.
While the Greeks thought the sky was a revolving dome with the sun, moon, and stars
affixed into it, the Qur'an told Muslims that each had their own orbits. In fact, until
recently, the sun was thought to be stationary and the center of the universe, while the
Qur'an stated that the two "float each in an orbit" fourteen hundred years ago (Qur'an
36:40).

In addition to the origins of the universe, there are also verses in the Qur'an related to
origins of life and embryonic development. The Qur'an states, "We created man from an
extract of clay. Then We made him as a drop in a place of settlement, firmly fixed. Then
We made the drop into an alaqah…" (Qur'an 23:12-14). The Arabic word "alaqah" has three
meanings: leech, suspended thing, and blood clot. All of these meanings could be
attributed to a developing embryo. It is like a leech because it obtains nutrients from
its mother, similar to the way a leech feeds on the blood of others. The embryo is
suspended in the mother's womb, and it resembles a blood clot. At this stage, there are
large amounts of blood present which circulate through the embryo until the end of the
third week (Ibrahim 6-8). In addition to describing the physical characteristics of an
embryo, the Qur'an and hadeeth describe the timetable in which the embryo grows. According
to Professor Emeritus Keith L. Moore, even Aristotle did not provide details about the
stages of embryology, though he recognized that stages were present based on his
observations of hen's eggs in the fourth century B.C. Further knowledge about the stages
of embryology was not discovered until the twentieth century (Ibrahim 11). A hadeeth
states that all components of creations are collected in the first forty days in the womb,
and "if forty-two nights have passed over the embryo, God sends an angel to it, who shapes
it and created its hearing, vision, skin, flesh, and bones" (Ibrahim 28). Dr. Joe Simpson
agrees that "the first forty days constitute a clearly distinguishable stage of
embryo-genesis" (Ibrahim 28). The Qur'an also states that "Allah hath created every living
thing of water" (Qur'an 24:45). Evolutionary science confirms that 80-85% of the
protoplasm is water, and life on the planet initially began from water (Ahmed 45). It
describes the barrier between salt water and fresh water, which allows humans to drink.
This barrier makes salt and fresh water able to run alongside each other without mixing in
numerous places around the world (Ahmed 44). In addition to detailing the importance of
water to sustaining life, the Qur'an describes the water cycle, and its findings were
proven correct centuries later (Bucaille 6).

The duty Muslims felt to acquire knowledge led great civilizations and scholars to advance
scientifically in the name of Islam. Al-Razi, Al-Farabi, and Avicenna are regarded among
the greatest scholars of their time. Al-Razi was born in 841 near Tehran. He spent his
youth as a musician, mathematician, and alchemist. He moved to Baghdad at the age of 40 to
pursue medicine and died in 926. Al-Razi had no organized system of philosophy, but
compared to his time he must be reckoned as the most vigorous and liberal thinker in Islam
and perhaps in the whole history of human thought. He was a pure rationalist, extremely
confident in the power of reason, free from every kind of prejudice, and very daring in
the expression of his ideas without reserve. He believed in man, in progress, and in God
the Wise. He spent his lifetime collecting data for Al Kitab al-Hawi, or The Comprehensive
Work, which was a summary of all of the medical knowledge of that time. His book The
Diseases of Children makes historians consider him the "father of pediatrics" (Tschanz
27); he was the first to distinguish the differences between small pox and measles in
Al-Judari Wa Al Hasbah. He is credited with the discovery of sulfuric acid, which is vital
to modern chemistry and chemical engineering as well as ethanol-alcohol and its use in
medicine.

Al-Farabi, another great Muslim scholar, died shortly after, in 950. He studied Aristotle
and Plato in detail, and it became evident in his later writings that they were a strong
influence on him. He wrote more than 100 works, many of which have been lost, including
many of his commentaries on Aristotle. He was one of the earliest Islamic thinkers to
transmit to the world of his time the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle. He is considered
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