Science in terms of the Quran
THE Holy Quran is the book of guidance. This guidance is for the whole of humankind and covers all activities of human life. Science is an important human activity and is an essential one for the progress of human civilisation.
The Quran is not a book of science as such and hence one cannot hope to find all the principles of science embedded in it; nevertheless the Quran has its own style of dealing with the facts and principles of science. It deals with the essence of scientific principles and makes statements about a number of phenomena in a suggestive form hinting at the highest organising principles. In verse 3 191, Allah has indicated that anyone pondering over nature will reflect “our Lord! Not for naught hast thou created (all) this…..”
This assertion that nothing has been created for nothing is actually the most fundamental article of faith to the modern ecologist who realises that the universe has a fine-tuning and that we must not disturb it. There are about thirty million life forms. Only five million have been studied so far. However, many a time it has been found that man has disturbed the life styles of some of these forms and has paid very dearly for this. We should take all care to see that a life form survives, as its elimination may upset the overall ecological balance of the nature. Thus the entire basis of the science of ecology is no other than the Quranic assertion that nothing has been created for nothing.
Another example is the Quranic reference to the order and proportions of things. In verse 252 it has been stated “It is He who created all things and ordered them in due proportions.” One would realise that the issues of order and proportions are in fact linked to the question of survival of living things. For example, man could not be drastically different in size from what he is now and yet be compatible with the gravity field of earth and other environmental factors.
Also within a given living body, the different parts follow different proportions. In the case of plants these proportions can be understood in the Fibonacci numbers. It is the proportions of
things that lend beauty and symmetry to an object. Thus proportion is one of the most important aspects in the overall Grand Design of creation.
Still another fascinating example can be found in verse 92 2 which refers to the creation of man from Alaq (that which clings) within the mother`s womb. The successive phases in the development of a human being from an embryonic stage to a full-grown foetus have been mentioned in the Surah Al-Muminun. These phases were mentioned in the
Holy Quran in the seventh century when the science of embryology was not even born. Incidentally, embryology is a very recent discipline, developed over a period of not more than 100 years. Thus, it is indeed amazing that the successive phases of human embryologic development as mentioned in the Holy Quran have been discovered recently.
Allah has asked man to ponder over His creation and development so that man can go to the depths of biology and unveil the mysteries of science. Again, an explanation of the whole chain of biological phenomenon in a summarised form invites man to study medical science in all its details and also appeals to his mind to think of Allah, Creator of all creations. The Quran has a particular style of inviting attention to the craftsmanship in nature and, in this way, places great emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge.
The Quran never created any bifurcation between religion and science. Thus, talking in terms of modern perspectives of life, one would need both religion and science. Science imparts material knowledge, religion teaches us the ethics of using that knowledge. Religion invites man to ponder over creation and the Creator, science provides the language for understanding creation and it is the creation which acts as the signature of the creator. Thus, there is no real conflict between religion and science.
Unfortunately, men and women today are neither aware of the emphasis the Holy Quran puts on the acquisition of knowledge nor can they relate some of the statements in the Holy Quran to the fact of science. This lack of awareness of the scientific indications in the Holy Quran is firstly owing to the fact that many recite from the Quran but do not understand the meaning of the verses due to their poor knowledge of Arabic.
These preachers do not address the burning problems of the day like basic education, eradication of poverty, social injustice, etc., not to speak of scientific methods dealing with them. Thus the young generation gets a wrong impression that the culture of science and the culture of Islam do not go together. The Quran is based on absolute truth. “And indeed it is the book of exalted power. No falsehood can approach it from before or behind it. It is sent down by one full of wisdom, worthy of all praise”. (XLI 41-2). The modern researchers have to bear one thing in mind that if a certain verse of Quran cannot be explained by the science of today, all they can say is that at the present stage of our scientific knowledge, that verse cannot be comprehended.
Further advances in science would probably shed some more light on the verses. The delightful experience is that as man dives deeper into the secrets of matters and gains more and more knowledge, his grasp of the message of the Quran becomes clearer and clearer. It is an inward joy, difficult to describe which a researcher of the Quran experiences when the meanings of the text enlarges even as his own capacity for understanding increases.
It was the practice of science which enables the early Muslims to carry the torch of learning and that`s why they led other nations. And it is the science again which if properly practised according to ethics of the Quran, can be used as an instrument of change in the Muslim society.
Thus in order to convince the Muslim youth that there is no conflict between science and the Quran and also that the deeper scientific understanding of nature, can lead to a deeper appreciation of the wisdom and powers of the Creator, it is essential that the scientific indications in the Holy Quran are understood and explained to the uninitiated.