4. Qur’anic Message for Muslim Scientists
As it is well-known, there are more than 750 Qur’anic verses dealing with natural phenomena. We think that these verses involve an important message for Muslim scientists. In our view, the following are the essential points of that message:
a) In these verses, the study of all aspects of nature and the discovery of the mysteries of creation is recommended.
And in your creation and in what He spreads abroad of animals there are signs for a people that are sure. (45:4)
Say, consider what is it that is in the heavens and the earth. (10:101)
Say, travel on the earth and see how He made the first creation. (29:20)
According to the Holy Qur’an, we have to use our senses and intellect for the understanding of nature, and this shall lead us to appreciate the glory and majesty of Allah. As Allamah Tabataba’i puts:
The Qur’an invites reflection about heavenly signs, the brilliant stars and the differences in their conditions and the systematic order that governs them. It encourages meditation concerning the creation of the earth, seas, mountains, the creation of plants and animals, human beings and their inner world. Thus it invites to a study of natural and mathematical sciences and all other fields, the learning of which is in the interest of humanity and brings felicity to human society.
The Qur’an invites to these branches of knowledge on condition that people are guided by this knowledge of truth. Otherwise a knowledge that serves as an amusement and hinders one from knowing God and truth is equivalent to ignorance in the vocabulary of the Qur’an.17
When the Holy Qur’an recommends that we look around the earth to find out the origin of creation, this means that we have to obtain scientific facts through our efforts. It is against the spirit of the Qur’an that Muslims should remain idle while others get access to some of the mysteries of nature, and then we use their results and depend on them.
According to the Holy Qur’an, we can get access to cognition of nature if we use our senses and intellect. In fact the main reason our great scholars, in the glorious period of Islamic civilization, paid attention to foreign (e.g., Greek) sciences was due to the Qur’an’s emphasis on the study of nature.
They studied nature to discover the mysteries of creation and to become aware of Allah’s wisdom and power. Al-Biruni has explicitly stated that the motive behind his research in scientific fields is Allah’s words in the Qur’an:
…And reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: our Lord! You have not created this in vain….(3:191)
which persuades human beings to ponder about the creation of the heaven and the earth, a creation which is purposeful and not vain.
The study of the so-called scientific verses in the Qur’an should motivate Muslims to go after natural and physical sciences, and not remain content with the hints given there.
b) The aforementioned verses state that everything in this world is orderly and purposeful and there is no fault in the works of Allah:
…And He created everything, then He ordained it very exactly. (25:2)
And We did not create the heaven and the earth and what is between them for sport. (21:16)
…You see no imperfection in the creation of the beneficent God. Then look again, can you see any disorder? Then return back the eye again and again, your look shall come back to you dazzled, aweary. (67:3-4)
c) The Qur’an invites us to recognize the laws of nature (i.e., Allah’s patterns in the universe) and to exploit them for the welfare of human beings and without transgressing the limits of the Shari’ah:
The sun and the moon follow reckoning…. And the heaven, He raised it high and set the balance. Transgress not the balance. (55:5-8)
Of course, the exploitation of material means should lead to the spiritual development of human beings and not to their decay.
d) In the Qur’anic outlook, all sciences are different manifestations of a world which is created and governed by one God. Therefore their combination should lead to a single picture of the world.
e) Lastly, one of the most important things that we learn from the Qur’an, in relation to science, is its unique world-view and epistemology. Most of the evil resulting from the growth of science has its origin in the materialistic outlook accompanying modern science. The Qur’an warns us against these pitfalls and informs us of the impediments to correct cognition of nature. It teaches us what tools to use for the cognition of nature and what prevents us from using those tools properly.18
In short, we believe that the most important lessons we learn from the so-called scientific verses of the Qur’an are:
Priority should be given to the discovery of nature using human senses and intellect.
The Holy Qur’an can give us the correct world-view.
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