Modern Science is mapping the human brain waves today and we, the Muslims, are put to sound sleep. Alas, our sleep has been stretched too long and too deep. ‘The story of Seven Sleepers’, in our context is transmuted into a pathetic narrative. We are meandering down a slope that is leading to an abyss of ignorance. But why it is happening? Some facts of negative progress or retrogress are simple to parody but hard to comprehend; some realities are too stubborn and stare directly into our faces; some lapses and misfortunes compel us to look back into retrospect and some chapters of our own history inspire to brood why the darker nights of ignorance have so horribly enveloped the believers of ‘Towheed’? What has happened to our faculties of observation, analysis and our perceptions? Why are we rendered so intellectually numb and why are we failing to envision for the new dawn? The tragedy that the cohesive whole of our Ummah is highlighted in the following paragraph that I had picked from some periodical long ago:
“In 2005 Harvard University produced more scientific papers than 17 Arabic-speaking countries combined. The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have produced only two Nobel laureates in chemistry and physics. Both moved to the West: the only living one, the chemist Ahmed Hassan Zewail, is at the California Institute of Technology. By contrast Jews, outnumbered 100 to one by Muslims, have won 79. The 57 countries in the ‘Organization of the Islamic Conference’ spend a puny 0.81% of GDP on research and development, about a third of the world average. America, which has the world’s biggest science budget, spends 2.9%; Israel lavishes 4.4%.”
The chasm between a Muslim and Knowledge, especially in the field of the applied Sciences, is too wide. However, it would be a futile effort if we keep crying over the split milk. Let us try to explore the causes and remedies.”
The Islam as introduced by the Prophet Hazrat Mohammed Mustafa (PBUH) was a doctrine that was concomitant of Progress. Progress is fruition of Knowledge and Science is nothing but Knowledge.
What is Science?
To define it in nutshell – “Science is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.”
The word science comes from the Latin “SCIENTIA,” meaning knowledge. How do we define science? According to experts of diction and philosophy, science is “knowledge attained through study or practice covering general truths that are obtained and tested through reliable and repeat processes. These methods are purely concerned with the physical world.” What does that really mean? Science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge. This system uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena.
Science as defined above is sometimes called ‘Pure Science.’ The application of research evolved from science in relation to human needs is known as ‘Applied Science’ It could be further classified into Natural Sciences which cover the study of natural world and Social Science that encompass the systematic study of human behavior and society.
The pertinent question challenging us today – Is Islam inimical or hostile to Science?
If you could afford to forget the blood curdling and gun trotting fanatic terrorists with black tunics and hoods and imagine the clear advice our Prophet (PBUH) had delivered more than fourteen hundred years ago, we would realize that he had emphasized that the material world can only be understood through scientific inquiry. Islamic culture is a knowledge based culture. He valued science over extensive worship and declared: ‘An hour’s study of nature is better than a year’s prayer’. He had directed his followers to ‘listen to the words of the scientist and instill unto others the lessons of science’ and ‘go even as far as China in the quest of knowledge’.
Today it might sound odd to our westernized generation but Islam had actually encouraged the pursuit of scientific knowledge right from its inception. The Holy Book places immense emphasis on scientific knowledge. The first Quranic word revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is ‘Read’. It refers, amongst other forms of readings, to reading the ‘signs of God’ or the systematic study of nature. It is a basic tenet of Muslim belief that the material world is full of signs of God; and these signs can only be deciphered through rational and objective inquiry.