3. Our View
We believe that the Holy Qur’an is a book of guidance for human development, and it contains whatever human beings need in the domains of faith and action. We do not consider it a scientific encyclopedia, neither we believe that it is right to adapt the Holy Qur’an to changeable scientific theories. On the other hand, one cannot deny that the Qur’an contains references to some natural phenomena. But these are not for the sake of teaching science; rather, they are used as an aid in attracting people’s attention to Allah’s glory an, thereby, bring them closer to Him.
We also believe that the advancement of science makes it easier to understand certain Qur’anic passages. For example, the verse:
Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the earth were closed up, but We have opened them? And We have made of water everything living. (21:30)
refers to the revolution of the solar system and the role of water in life, and the verse:
And of every We have created pairs that you might be mindful. (51:49)
informs us of the polarity evident in all creation. Modern science makes it much easier to understand this kind of verses. In short, our view about the scientific interpretation of the Qur’an is the same as that of Shaykh Mustafa al-Maraghe’I, the late rector of al-Azhar University, as expressed in the introduction to Isma’il Pasha’s Islam and Modern Medicine.
It is not my intention to say that this Holy Book contains, in detail or summary all of the sciences in the style of textbooks; rather I want to say that it contains general principles by the help of which one can derive all that is needed to know for the physical and spiritual development of human beings.
It is in fact the duty of the scientists involved with various sciences to explain for people details that are known up to their time….
It is essential not to extend [the meaning of] a verse to such an extent that it would enable us to interpret it in the light of science. Neither one should stretch [the interpretation of] scientific facts so that one could adapt it to a Qur’anic verse. However, if the apparent meaning of a verse is consistent with an established fact, we interpret this verse with the help of that fact.15
If we adapt the Qur’an to philosophical schools or sciences of a period, we reach the point where, in a period of the dominance of positivism, we find a Muslim scholar trying to extract this philosophy from the Qur’an, considering it to be the basis of Qur’anic wisdom,16 and disregarding the fact that this outlook leaves no room for metaphysics or any transcendent being.
Yet we would say that although the Qur’an is not a scientific encyclopedia, there is an important message in the verses involving natural phenomena, and Muslim scientists should focus their attention on that message rather than contenting themselves with the miraculous aspects of the Qur’an in the scientific domain or its consistency with contemporary science.