Science and Our Ummah

Necessity of Learning Other Sciences

There is no division of opinion on the necessity of acquiring knowledge particular to religious studies.

Accordingly, we shall abstain from any further discussion of the subject. [^24] Instead, it is worthwhile to con­centrate on the question of necessity of learning other sciences in the view of the Quran and sunnah. In this regard there are a number of argu­ments whose discussion we shall take up immediately.

  1. If knowledge of a science is a preliminary requirement for attaining an Islamic goal as envisaged by the Shari ah, its pursuit is an obligation (wajib) since it entails the preliminary condition for fulfill­ment of a duty prescribed by the Shari`ah. For example, the physical welfare of individuals in an Islamic society is necessary, hence it is a wajib kifa'i for the Muslims to study medicine.

Some are of the opinion that in this context the duty to learn any specific science depends on the need of the society for it. For example, in our day, in order to succeed in large-scale agriculture or commerce, specialized knowledge of these subjects is necessary. Accordingly, it is a wajib kifa'i for Muslims to acquire specialty in these fields.

Evidently, if the Muslims restrict themselves to the religious sciences and limit themselves to a minimum of what is necessary for their survival, they can never hope to overtake the non?Muslim world in its scientific progress.

  1. The society envisioned by the Quran is an independent society of majesty and grandeur, not one subservient to and dependent on the unbelievers, as can be seen from this verse of the Quran:

...and Allah does not grant the unbelievers any way (of domination) over the believers. (4:141)

In order to realize this goal set by the Quran, it is essential that the Islamic society should have cultural, political and economic indepen­dence; this in turn necessitates training of specialists of high calibre in every field and creation of the necessary scientific and technical facili­ties in Islamic societies. It is clear that one of the reasons of decline of Muslim societies in the recent centuries is that they left the study of those sciences to others which they themselves deserved to study most and made themselves dependent on others.

Should not the Muslims equip themselves in every way to defend themselves against the non?believers as stressed by the following verse?

And prepare against them what force you that you may dismay the enemy of God and your enemy and others beside them whom you know not; God knows them. Whatever you spend in the way of God it will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be cheated. (8:60)

And is it not true that in our world today, possession of defence facilities to face the enemies of Islam requires all kinds of scientific and technical know?how? Then why don't the Muslims give the neces­sary attention to the issue of preparing themselves adequately for their self-defence?

In the modern age, human life is inextricably linked with the effort for scientific advancement and the key to success in all affairs lies in knowledge. It is an obligation of Muslim scholars and researchers, living in the countries of the Eastern or Western block and are engaged in education, to acquire the latest and most complete scientific and tech­nical knowledge. Otherwise their societies will inevitably remain under the domination of one superpower or another. Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A) says:

A knowledgeable man who is abreast of his time will not be overwhelmed by unexpected problems. [^26]

To sum up, if the Muslims want to succeed in their struggle against the evil powers of this age, they should equip themselves with the essentials of scientific advancement and endeavour to make up their lag in scientific and technical fields. Whatever subject is essential for safe­guarding the existence and vitality of the islamic societies should be learnt.

  1. The Holy Quran invites mankind to study the system and scheme of creation, the wonders of nature and the causes and effects of all things that exist, the conditions of living organisms, and in short all signs of God discernable in the external universe and the inner depths of the human soul. The Quran enjoins thought and meditation about all aspects of creation and requires human beings to apply their reason and perceptual faculties for the discovery of the secrets of nature. Few of these verses we shall quote here:

What, have they not beheld heaven above them, how We have built it, and decked it out fair, and it has no cracks? And the earth?We stretched it forth, and cast on it firm mountains, and We caused to grow therein of every joyous kind for an insight and a reminder to every penitent servant. (50:7)

What do they not consider how the camel was created, how heaven was lifted up, how the mountains were hoisted, how the earth was outstretched? (88:18-21)

Say: Journey in the land, then behold how He originated creation; then God causes the second growth; God is powerful over everything. (29:20)

In the earth are signs for those having sure faith; and in yourselves; what, do you not see? (51:20-21)

Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and day there are signs for men possessed of minds who remember God, standing and sitting and on their side, and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth: `O Lord, Thou hast not created this out of falsehood. Glory be to Thee! Guard us against the chastisement of the Fire..' (3:190-191)

Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day and the ship that runs in the sea with profit to men, and the water God sends down from heaven therewith reviving the earth after it is dead and His scattering abroad in it all manner of crawling thing, and the turning about of the winds and clouds compelled between heaven and earth??surely there are signs for a people having understanding. (2:164)

As can be seen from the foregoing verses, God refers to all existing things in the universe as the "signs" of their Creator, and the system of the universe as the imprint of an omniscient designer and programmer. The study of the universe and what exists in it is considered one of the most important means for knowledge of God and recognition of the majesty of its Creator. The prophets also based their invitation to belief on this point. The Prophet Moses (A) makes a similar argument in his confrontation with Pharaoh. The Quran quotes Moses as putting his argument in these words:

He said, `Our Lord is He who gave everything its creation, then guided it... He who appointed the earth to be a cradle for you and therein threaded roads for you and sent down water out of heaven, and therewith We have brought forth diverse kinds of plants. (22:50-53)