The foundation of scientific thought is the sense of curiosity. People wonder how the universe and nature work, they investigate and become interested in science. But most people lack this curiosity. For them, the important things are not the secrets of the universe and nature but their own small worldly profits and pleasures. In communities where people who think in this way are in charge, science does not develop, idleness and ignorance rule.
Verses of the Qur’an called upon people to think, to investigate and to use their minds, perhaps for the first time in their lives:
Have they not looked at the camel—how it was created?
and at the sky—how it was raised up?
and at the mountains—how they were embedded?
and at the earth—how it is spread out?
So remind them! You are only a reminder.
(Surat al-Ghashiyya, 17-21)
In many other verses of the Qur’an people are instructed to examine nature and learn from it because people can know Allah only by examining His creations. Because of this, in one verse of the Qur’an Muslims are defined as people who think about the creation of the heavens and the earth:
Those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth (saying): “Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Surah al-‘Imran, 191)
As a result of this, for a Muslim, taking an interest in science is a very important form of worship. In many verses of the Qur’an, Allah instructs Muslims to investigate the heavens, the earth, living things or their own existence and think about them. When we look at the verses, we find indications of all the main branches of science in the Qur’an.
For example, in the Qur’an, Allah encourages the science of astronomy like this:
He who created the seven heavens in layers.You will not find any flaw in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look again—do you see any gaps? (Surat al-Mulk, 3)
In another verse of the Qur’an, Allah encourages the investigation of astronomy and the composition of the earth, that is the science of geology, like this:
Do they not look at the sky above them? How We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it? And the earth- We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)—To be observed and commemorated by every devotee turning (to Allah). (Surah Qaf, 6-8)
In the Qur’an, Allah also encourages the study of botany:
It is He Who sends down water from the sky from which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth the green shoots and from them We bring forth close-packed seeds, and from the spathes of the date palm date clusters hanging down, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar. Look at their fruits as they bear fruit and ripen. There are Signs in that for people who believe. (Surat al-An’am, 99)
In another verse of the Qur’an, Allah draws attention to zoology:
You have a lesson in livestock... (Surat an-Nahl, 66)
Here is a Qur’anic verse about the sciences of archaeology and anthropology:
Have they not travelled in the earth and seen the final fate of those before them? (Surat ar-Rum, 9)
In another verse of the Qur’an, Allah draws attention to the proof of Allah in a person’s own body and spirit:
There are certainly Signs in the earth for people with certainty; and in yourselves as well. Do you not then see? (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 20-21)
As we can see, Allah recommends all the sciences to Muslims in the Qur’an. Because of this the growth of Islam in history meant at the same time the growth of scientific knowledge.
SCIENCE IN ISLAMIC HISTORY
When the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, began to preach Islam, the Arabs were a community of ignorant, superstitious tribes. However, thanks to the light of the Qur’an they were rescued from superstition and began to follow the path of reason. As a result of this, one of the most astonishing developments in world history took place and in a few decades Islam, which emerged from the small town of Medina, spread from Africa to Central Asia. The Arabs, who previously could not even rule a single city in harmony, came to be rulers of a world empire.
In his book The Straight Path, the American expert on Islam Professor John Esposito describes the miraculous aspect of the rise of Islam like this:
What is most striking about the early expansion of Islam is its rapidity and success. Western scholars have marveled at it... Within a decade, Arab forces overran the Byzantine and Persian armies... and conquered Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Persia and Egypt... Muslim armies proved to be formidable conquerors and effective rulers, builders rather than destroyers. (John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, 1998, p. 33)
When different peoples, including the Turks, ecame taccepted Islam of their own free will, the Islamic empire grew even more and it bhe greatest power in the world during that period.
One of the most important facets of this empire was that it provided the stage for a scientific development previously unmatched in history. At a time when Europe was living through the Dark Ages, the Islamic world created the greatest legacy of scientific knowledge seen in history to that date. The sciences of medicine, mathematics, geometry, astronomy and even sociology were developed systematically for the first time.
Some commentators try to link this Islamic scientific development to the influence of the Ancient Greeks. But the real source of Islamic science was the experimentation and observations of Muslim scientists. In his book The Middle East, Professor Bernard Lewis, an expert in Middle Eastern history, explains it like this:
The achievement of medieval Islamic science is not limited to the preservation of Greek learning, nor to the incorporation in the corpus of elements from the more ancient and more distant East. This heritage which medieval Islamic scientists handed on to the modern world was immensely enriched by their own efforts and contributions. Greek science, on the whole rather tended to be theoretical. Medieval Middle Eastern science was much more practical, and in such fields as medicine, chemistry, astronomy and agronomy, the classical heritage was clarified and supplemented by the experiments and observations of the medieval Middle East. (Bernard Lewis, The Middle East, 1998, p. 266)
The secret was the scientific and mental discipline taught by the Qur’an to Muslim scientists. The lines written by a Muslim scientist of that period in his private diary strikingly demonstrate how much alive the Qur’an-based concept of science was:
Then for a year and half, I devoted myself to study. I resumed the study of logic and all parts of philosophy. During this time I never slept the whole night through and did nothing but study all day long. Whenever I was puzzled by a problem... I would go to the mosque, pray, and beg the Creator of All to reveal me that which was hidden from me and make it easy for me that which was difficult. Then at night I would return home, put a lamp in front of me, and set to work reading and writing... I went on like this until I was firmly grounded in all sciences and mastered them as far as humanly possible. (John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, 1998, p. 54)
Andalusia, where most Muslim scientists were born and raised, became a major centre of innovation and development especially in medicine.
Muslim physicians were trained in such varied fields as pharmacology, surgery, opthalmology, gynaecology, physiology, bacteriology and hygiene and they made important discoveries which laid the foundations of modern science. Here are some of them:
Ibn Juljul, Abu Ja'far Ibn al-Jazzar, Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, Ibn Sina, Zakariya Qazwini, Hamdullah al-Mustaufi al-Qazwini, Ibn al-Nafis, Ali bin Isa, Biruni, Ali Kushchu, Thabit ibn Qurrah, Battani, Ibn al-Haitham, Al-Kindi…
This advanced scientific culture of the Islamic world paved the way for the Western Renaissance. Muslim scientists acted in the knowledge that their investigation of Allah’s creation was a path through which they could get to know Him. With the transfer of this mentality to the Western world, the advance of the West began.
Jul 31, 2009