Influence of Islam on Science

0 Shares

IN THE GOLDEN AGE

Qur’an
Hadith
The Ulama
Scientists and Philosophers
Subjects
Views of Contemporary Scholars

Qur’an

The Qur’an emphasizes the need for intellectual investigation no less than 750 times[i]. These verses hugely inspired Muslim Scientists. All Muslims used study the Qur’an. It was a must.[ii] Many Muslim scientists had the whole Qur’an known by heart.[iii]Let’s look at few verses[iv]:
4:190 – Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. (Astronomy)
16:69 – There truly is a sign in this for those who think. (Philosophy – equate this with several other ayat)
13:4 – There are, in the land, neighboring plots, gardens of vineyards, cornfields, palm trees in clusters or otherwise, all watered with the same water, yet We make some of them taste better than others: there truly are signs in this for people who reason. (Botany)
10:5 – It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases – that you may know the number of years and account [of time]. Allah has not created this except in truth. He details the signs for a people who know. (Mathematics)
29:20 – Say, [O Muhammad], “Travel through the land and observe how He began creation. Then Allah will produce the final creation. Indeed Allah, over all things, is competent.” (Geography)
57:25 – And We sent down iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people. (Mechanical Engineering)
27:64 – Produce your proof, if you should be truthful. (Experimental Scientific Method)
6:97 – And it is He who placed for you the stars that you may be guided by them through the darknesses of the land and sea. We have detailed the signs for a people who know. (Astrolabe)
(Saheeh International and M.A.S Abdel Haleem translation used)

Hadith

There are numerous hadiths which ask Muslims to acquire knowledge.[vi]Mainly those hadiths inspired Muslims to work in the path of knowledge and thus, science.
Muslim 131 – Allah is beautiful and loves beauty (Cosmetology)
Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2646 – Whoever takes a path upon which to obtain knowledge, Allah makes the path to Paradise easy for him (Geography)
Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1376 – When a person dies, his deeds are cut off except for three: Continuing charity, knowledge that others benefited from, and a righteous son who supplicates for him (Acquiring Knowledge)
Sahih Bukhari 5678 – There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment. (Medical Science)

The ulama

There wasn’t a single influential character in the history of Islam who opposed reason and rationality.[viii]Never was someone punished, forget about being killed, for promoting science or philosophy.[ix] Scientific knowledge and religious knowledge were seen as the same in the Islamic world.[x] [xi] And scientists, were given the same respect as the ulama.[xii]
Right at the beginning, Ahmad ibn Hanbal adduced, in the process of establishing the foundations of theology (uṣūl al-dīn), “a larger number of definitive proofs (adilla qaṭʿiyya), based in both revelation and reason, than all other major authorities.”[xiii]
Promoting medical science, al-Shafi’I said, “”I do not know a field of learning (‘ilm), other than [the determination of] what is lawful and what is unlawful, that is more noble than medicine.” He deplored the fact that Muslims neglected medicine and said that they ignored a third of learning and entrusted it to Jews and Christians. And he said: “The people of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians] have achieved supremacy over us in medicine.”[xiv]
Few orientalists have opined that the fall of science in Muslim lands[xv]was caused by Muslim theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. Which are nothing but fairytales. Al-Ghazali directly promoted medicine in his magnum opus.[xvi]He wrote in his autobiographical Munqidh min al-Dalal, ““A grievous crime indeed against religion has been committed by the man who imagines that Islam is defended by the denial of the mathematical sciences”[xvii]. Furthermore, Professor George Saliba of Columbia University says that it was actually al-Ghazali’s writings, which ushered ‘The Golden Age of Astronomy’. He further adds, it was actually after al-Ghazali that the age of fecundity for science in the Islamic world began, not before.[xviii]
Another great ‘alim, Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyya has been accused of going against reason and rationality. Even few Muslim historians went on to blame ibn Taymiyya of anti-rationality.[xix]Again, fables. Ibn Taymiyya believed that reason is intrinsic to revelation. That pure reason would never contradict revelation.[xx]He upholded that there are two ultimate sources of knowledge: reason and revelation.[xxi]He went as far as to say that, “Any state that is achieved in the absence of intellect is deficient, and any statements that contradict the intellect are false”.[xxii]
Ibn Taymiyya’s star student and himself one of the greatest of Islamic scholars, ibn al-Qayyim rigorously criticized those who rejected established scientific facts in the name of achieving ‘pure faith’ such as the roundness of the orbits or the Earth, or that the light of the moon is reflected from the Sun, or that a lunar eclipse occurs because of the Earth’s position between the moon and the sun casting the moon in its shadow.[xxiii]
Ibn al-Qayyim also wrote a book on medicine named Tibb al-Nabawi.[xxiv]In this book, he picks hadiths and uses the then available science to show the scientific validity of the medicines. In another book, he went against great names such as Galen and Aristotle to make his point based on hadith. And his was, more accurate than the Greek scientists.[xxv]
On Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, whom many consider as the 6th mujaddid (revivalist) of Islam, Peter Adamson commented that his philosophy wasn’t for the 12thcentury people. Rather it’s so profound, that only 21st century philosophers are going to get that![xxvi]
Abu al-Fida ibn Kathir, whose book al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya is considered the greatest book on the history of Islam, and whose exegesis on the Qur’an also stands out as one of the best[xxvii], was a highly qualified geographer. His influence was on scientists as great as Robert Boyle.[xxviii]John Greaves, John Wallis were also influenced by him.[xxix]He was a well-known name in the 17th century Royal Society of England.[xxx] A crater in the moon has been named after him considering his magnificent work on geography.[xxxi]
The great dhahiri scholar, Ibn Hazm is considered the greatest original thinker of Muslim Spain.[xxxii]He elaborated on the roundness of the Earth.[xxxiii]Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, while doing maths on surveying, commercial transactions and inheritance, presented the rules according to Abu Hanifa. This even helped out the spread of Hanafi madhhab.[xxxiv]

Scientists and Philosophers

Yaqut al-Hamawi’s Mujam al-Buldan is a valuable geographical book which has achieved the status of a classic and is still used as a reference work by scholars in the East as well as in the West. His inspiration to compile such a geographical dictionary came from the Qur’an, as he himself writes in his introduction.[xxxv]His parents were Greek as he was a convert to Islam.
Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, in the introduction of his pioneering al-Jabr wa al-Muqabala wrote that he did the brilliant work hoping that the readers of the book would make Du’a (Supplication) for him.[xxxvi]
al-Kindi established the Basis of cryptography by deeply analyzing the Qur’an.[xxxvii]
Ibn Sina considered Prophet Muhammad (sm) to be the greatest philosopher.[xxxviii]He wrote that he couldn’t prove bodily resurrection with philosophy, yet believed in it only because the Prophet had said it (Islamic principle of Sami’na wa Ata’na).[xxxix]
Al-Farabi said that philosophy was liberated only when it reached Islamic lands.[xl]Most of al-Farabi’s philosophical ideas, though originated from Greek philosophical thought, were molded with Islam.[xli]
Badi al-Zaman al-Jazari[xlii], ibn al-Haytham[xliii]were devout Muslims. Ibn al-Nafis[xliv], Qutb al-Din Shirazi[xlv]were themselves scholars of Islam. Nasir al-Din al-Tusi’s works on Shi’I aqeedah are still read in Iranian madrasah’s.[xlvi]al-Jahiz was a mu’tazilite scholar of Islam and he is presumably the only person to have contributed in all 3 categories of the miraculousness of the Qur’an.[xlvii]Till the end, we see Islamic influence on scientists. Working in the 16thcentury, Taqi al-Din ibn Ma’ruf worked as a qadi and maintained close relationship with the ulama, always.[xlviii]
Ali ibn Rabban al-Tabari was a great physician of the 9th century. His Furdaus al-Hikma is a valuable book. Here, I quote him in the verbatim[xlix]:

When I was a Christian I used to say, as did an uncle of mine who was one of the learned and eloquent men, that eloquence is not one of the signs of prophethood because it is common to all the peoples; but when I discarded (blind) imitation and (old) customs and gave up adhering to (mere) habit and training and reflected upon the meanings of the Qur’an I came to know that what the followers of the Qur’an claimed for it was true. The fact is that I have not found any book, be it by an Arab or a Persian, an Indian or a Greek, right from the beginning of the world up to now, which contains at the same time praises of God, belief in the prophets and apostles, exhortations to good, everlasting deeds, command to do good and prohibition against doing evil, inspiration to the desire of paradise and to avoidance of hell-fire as this Qur’an does. So when a person brings to us a book of such qualities, which inspires such reverence and sweetness in the hearts and which has achieved such an everlasting success and he is (at the same time) an illiterate person who did never learnt the art of writing or rhetoric, that book is without any doubt one of the signs of his Prophethood.

Subjects

Huge development in mathematics took place by solving problems connected with zakat and Islamic inheritance. Many formulas were discovered trying to find out the way of qibla and the time of salah. Scientists used to give this utmost importance.[l] Because of numerous verses in the Qur’an speak about celestial things, Islam has got more scientists in astronomy than in any other subject.[li] Every Muslim was ordered to acquire knowledge and to implement that knowledge so that the society gets benefitted.[lii]Scientists of all fields used to take their job as religious duty.[liii]
A new subject emerged in the Islamic world to find out the perfect time for salah ‘Ilm al-Miqat. The Islamic month is calculated using the circulation of the moon. This had to be absolutely correct because of Ramadan and other reasons. Muslims were trying hard to find a perfect solution. At that point, Thabit ibn Qurra gave a mindblowing solution. Thabit was a sabi’i. A non-Muslim. The influence of Islam was so strong, that even non-Muslim’s were working in the path of Islam![liv]
Greek or Indians didn’t have trigonometric ratios, except for sine. The 5 other ratios were discovered by Muslims while trying to find out the correct time for salah.[lv]The determination of the time for asr prayer was harder than the other ones. As a result to just to determine when to pray asr, muslims discovered: the inclination of ecliptic, motion of solar apogee, new rate of precession, new solar eccentricity, new solar equation – which are the basic parameters of astronomy.[lvi]

Views of Contemporary Scholars

Historians of science and philosophy have a consensus on the huge influence of Islam on Muslim Scientists. Even the people who accuse Islam as the downfall of science in the Islamic world acknowledge this overwhelming influence. (Atheist) Physicist Jim al-Khalili, in his Faraday Award winning ceremony directly said that Islam was the main reason for science to culminate in the Arabic world.[lvii]This being totally apparent among historians, I’m only presenting two quotes:

We must not be surprised to find the Qoran regarded as the fountain-head of all the sciences. Every subject connected with heaven or earth, human life , commerce and various trades are occasionally touched upon, and this gave rise to the production of numerous monographs forming commentaries on parts of the holy book . In this way the Qoran was responsible for great discussions, and to it was also indirectly due the marvelous development of all branches of science in the Moslim world.[lviii]

– Hartwig Hirschfeld

The Qur’an is a book by the aid of which the Arabs … came to Europe as kings … to hold up … the light to Humanity … while darkness lay around; to raise up the wisdom and knowledge of Hellas from the dead, to teach philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and the golden art of song to the West as well as to the East, to stand at the cradle of modern science, and to cause us late epigoni for ever to weep over the day when Granada fell.[lix]

– Emmanuel Deutsch

NOTES AND CITATIONS

[i] Abdul-Latif ibn Abdul-Aziz al-Rabah. ​Makanat al-ʿUlum al-Tabi’iyyah fi’l-tarbiyyah Islamiyyah​. Doctoral dissertation. p. 267.
[ii] Salah Zaimeche. “Education in Islam – The Role of the Mosque” Available at: http://www.muslimheritage.com/article/education-islam-role-mosque
[iii] Seyyed Hossian Nasr, An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines. (Revised. Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1978) p. 177.
[iv] One should understand that these are not the intended meanings of the verses. Rather these show how scientists were influenced by the Qur’an. Looking at few commentaries would be needed in order to understand the meanings of the verses.
[v] For more verses, see: Caner Taslaman, The Qur’an: Unchallangeable Miracle (Nettleberry/Çitlembik Publications, 2006)
[vi] Check the chapter on knowledge of Riyad as-Saliheen by Muhi al-Din an-Nawawi or visit this link: https://medium.com/@hasan.hameed/virtues-of-acquiring-knowledge-in-the-light-of-hadeeth-f319b106f1e3
[vii] For more, see: Zaghlul el-Naggar, Treasures in the Sunnah: A Scientific Approach (2 vols. Al-Falah Foundation, 2004)
[viii] Peter Adamson, Philosophy in the Islamic World(A History of Philosophy Without any Gaps. Oxford University Press, 2016)
[ix] Tim Winter (edt), The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology (Cambridge University Press, 2008)
[x] Mawlana Muhammad Fazl-ur-Rahman Ansari, Islam to the Modern Mind: Lectures in South Africa, 1970 & 1972 (Hidden Treasure Press, 1999); Mehmet Gormez, Islami Gyane Usooler Dhara or, Usool in Islamic Knowledge (Tr. Into Bengali by Muhammad Burhan Uddin, Maktab Prakashan, 2019)
[xi] One should understand, though, that the then Islamic Science and todays Materialistic Science has significant differences. To understand this in short, see: Asadullah Ali (2017), “The Structure of Scientific Productivity in Islamic Civilization: Orientalist Fables” Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research.
[xii] Sonja Brentjes and Robert G. Morrison op. cit. p. 575.
[xiii] Ibn Taymiyya in Carl Sharif el-Tobgui, Ibn Taymiyya on Reason and Revelation: A Study of Darʾ taʿāruḍ al-ʿaql wa-l-naql (Leiden: Brill, 2020) p. 114.
[xiv] Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Uthman al-Dhahabi, al-Tibb ai-Nabawi, printed in the margins of the Cairo editions of Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmln ibn Abu Bakr al-Azraq, Tashfi al-mandfi’ fi al-tibb wa-aJ-hikmah (Cairo: Bulaq, 1304/1887), p. 119, and (Cairo: Maktabat al-Jumhuriyah al-‘Arabiyah, 1367/1948), p. 125 as cited in, Emilie Savage-Smith (1955). “Attitudes Toward Dissection in Medieval Islam” Oxford Journal. 50, no. 1 (1955): 71.
[xv] See: Armen Firman. “The Fall of Science in Muslim Lands” The Muslim Vibe.
[xvi] Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ihya Ulum al-Din (Tr. Fazl-ul-Karim, Karachi: Darul Ishat, 1993)
[xvii] W. Montgomery Watt, The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazali (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1952) p: 34.
– for an explanation, see: Arun Bala. “Did Medieval Islamic Theology Subvert Science?” Muslim Heritage.
[xviii] George Saliba, Islamic Science and Making of European Renaissance (The MIT Press, 2007) ch. 7.
[xix] H. Ziai, “Recent Trends in Arabic and Persian Philosophy,” in P. Adamson and R. Taylor (eds.), The Cambridge
Companion to Arabic Philosophy (Cambridge: CUP, 2005)
[xx] Ibn Taymiyya in Carl Sharif el-Tobgui, Ibn Taymiyya on Reason and Revelation: A Study of Darʾ taʿāruḍ al-ʿaql wa-l-naql (Leiden: Brill, 2020)
[xxi] Yasir Kazi, “Reconciling Reason and Revelation in the Writings of ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728/1328): An Analytical Study of ibn Taymiyyah’s Dar al-Ta’arud” (PhD Dissertation, Yale University, 2013) p. 197.
[xxii] Ibid, 199.
[xxiii] Ibn al-Qayyim. ​Miftah Dar al-Sa’adah​ (Mecca: Dar ʿAlam al-Fawa’id, 2010) vol. 3, p. 1417-1418; as cited in Nazir Khan and Yasir Qadhi (2017), “Human Origins: Theological Conclusions and Empirical Limitations” Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research.
[xxiv] Several English editions published e.g. Imam ibn al-Qayyim al-Jauziyyah, Healing with the Medicine of the Prophet (Darussalam, 2011)
[xxv] Hamza Andreas Tzortzis (2011), “Embryology in Qur’an” iERA Research. p. 15-16.
[xxvi] Peter Adamson op. cit.
– For more see: Arman Firman. “The Scientific Fakhr al-Din ar-Razi” available at: https://bit.ly/31cI1O0
[xxvii] Bilal Philips, Usool at-Tafseer: The Methodology of Qur’anic Interpretation (International Islamic Publishing House, n.d.) p. 38-39.
[xxviii] Salim T. S. al-Hassani (edt), 1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization (3rd. National Geographic, 2012) p. 311.
[xxix] Salah Zaimeche. “The Impact of Islamic Science and Learning on England” Muslim Heritage.
[xxx]“Travellers and Explorers” in “The World” in Salim al-Hassani op. cit.
[xxxi] FSTC. “Illustrious Names in the Heavens – Arabic and Islamic Names of the Moon Craters” Muslim Heritage.
[xxxii] Jim al-Khalili, Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (Allen Lane, 2010)
[xxxiii] Abdi O. Shuriye and Abdulazeez Femi Salami (2011), “Scientific Contributions of ibn Hazm” International Journal of Arab Culture Management and Sustainable Development.
[xxxiv] Sonja Brentjes and Robert G. Morrison op. cit. p. 579.
[xxxv] Muzaffar Iqbal, Science and Islam (Greenwood Press, 2007) p. 39.
[xxxvi] Ibid, 42
[xxxvii] “Global Communication” in “The World” in Salim T. S. al-Hassani (edt),1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civiliazation. Reference (4th Edition) Annotated, Text Only, 2017.
[xxxviii] Karen Armstrong, A History of God (London: Vintage Books, 1999) p. 216.
[xxxix] Morteza hoseinzadeh. “The Methodology of Ibn Sina in Acquisition of Religious Knowledge” International Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies, June 2016. pp: 105-113.
[xl] George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of European Renaissance (The MIT Press, 2007) p. 7.
[xli] Muhammad Shahjahan, Al-Farabir Darsonik Chintadhara or, Al-Farabi’s Philosophical Thought (Books Fair, 2018)
[xlii] Howard R. Turner, Science in Medieval Islam: An Illustrated Introduction (University of Texas Press, 2006)
[xliii] Jim al-Khalili op. cit.
[xliv] Abdul Fattah Abu Guddah, Ilmer Valobashay chirokumar Ulamaye Keram or, Scholars of Islam who Remained Unmarried because of the Love of Knowledge (Tr. Into Bengali by Abu Said Muhammad Nu’man, Maktabatul Azhar, 2019) pp. 177-183.
[xlv] George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of European Renaissance (The MIT Press, 2007)
[xlvi] S. H. Nasr and M. Aminrazavi (edt) An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia (I.B. Tauris publishers, 2008)
[xlvii] Bassam Saeh, The Miraculous Language of the Qur’an: Evidence of Divine Origin (International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2015) pp. 7-9.
[xlviii] Salim Ayduz. “Ottoman Contributions to Science and Technology” Muslim Heritage.
[xlix] Abdul Aleem. “ ‘Ijaz-ul-Qur’an” in Marmaduke Pikthal (edt), Islamic Culture: The Hyderabad Quarterly Review (vol. 7, Hyderabad: n.p., April 1933) pp. 215-238. p. 222.
[l] See: Muzaffar Iqbal op. cit. ch. 3.
[li] Sonja Brentjes and Robert G. Morrison, “The Sciences in Islamic Societies (750 1800)” in Robert Irwin (edt), The New Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge University Press, 2010) vol. 4, p. 587.
[lii] ibid
[liii] Muzaffar Iqbal op. cit. p. 41.
[liv] Sonja Brentjes and Robert G. Morrison op. cit. p. 595.
[lv] Ibid, 594
[lvi] George Saliba, “How the Asr Prayer led to Modern Astronomy” online video, YouTube.
[lvii] Jim al-Khalili, “The House of Wisdom and the legacy of Arabic Science” online video, YouTube.
[lviii] Hartwig Hirschfeld, New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qoran. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1902.p. 9.
[lix] Emanuel Oscar Menaham Deutsch, “Islam,” in Lady Emily Strangford (edt), Literary Remains of the Late Emanuel Deutsch with a Brief Memoir. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1874. p. 123.
0 Shares