Thursday, May 22, 2008

ISLAM AND SCIENCE: AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE*

By:

Abu 'Amrullah Muhammad ADIS El-Merbawiy**

Abstract:

“This article will discuss the importance of knowing precisely between knowledge and science. Regarding this matter, the discussion would like to introduce two different points of view about Universe; from Scientists and Islamic perspective, because from which philosophers and Scientists formulate or synthesized their findings and results of their observations according to the preconscious Ideas. This is a preliminary effort to discuss on how the reality of sciences (haqa’iq al-‘ulum) and the knowledge (al-ma‘rifat) can help mankind knowing, establishing and acknowledging Allah and His present and existence. By knowing these, we could learn the privilege of Islamic fundamentals and requirements for sciences and knowledge. Hence, they should entails upon Muslims especially or Non-Muslim in general into the ultimate truth and justice to the Knowledge and Science & Technology.
This is what is supposed to be in scientific and technological application
in the worldly lives.”


Introduction

In general, knowledge (al-ma‘rifat) and Science (al-‘ilm) are infered simplistically synonimous meaning by public. Any way if we do examine and analyze exactly, we can find that they have far different meaning. which later can be refered to the main bussiness of subject matter in the system of knowledge inside the intellect (al-‘aql) and the psychological of human soul (al-nafs). Since human being is given the power of intellect and apprehension, he is disserved to be the most genius creature and has related to knowledge and scientific mastery. But the question are who is the knowledge provider, how does it attains into human’s intellect and heart?. Is there any basic value of the knowledge?.Why do they be responsible to the crisis present knowledge? These are among the very interesting part to be solved. This Islamic point of view, shall try to unveil the ability and nature of knowledge and Science in Islam.

The Importance of Universe

Philosophically, nature is the source of intellectuality and scientific activities. To search for the reality meaning of some thing was the basic role-played by Philosophy, which affirmed, by philosophers and thinker-scientists started from the earlier ages of the history of human kind. Hence, how the nature or cosmos has been observed or verified and found is indicated a certain point of view about cosmos later it derives the knowledge of nature that is called Cosmology. Knowing Cosmology is very crucial part of scientific enterprises, especially from epistemic view of conventional scientist or from prominent Muslim scholars or from Islamic point of view. This part is very nice to be discussed, because from which we could understand that, these are what had been demarcated upon knowledge; between Western Science and Islamic Science. From this angle also, we could see the difference between knowledge and science from the reality of human intellectual activities. Thus it might be revealed also the depriving, disturbing and scientific abuses occurred while the purposes of knowledge and sciences and technology had already been distorted everywhere and ever since. The responsibility lies to academicians, practitioners and those professionals in education.

Universe from Scientist’s View

Scientists had observed and decided the cosmos came out into existence naturally and not exist according to any kind creational theory. Thus the suitable theory established was the Big Bang in Physics or Astrophysics and the Theory of Evolution of Charles Darwin representing in natural creations and biology. These assumptions rely on the theory of cosmos came into existence by itself according to Law of Nature. Even though scientifically and logically nature could not ever exist by itself, but according to the principle of materialists and material foundation, the nature must be able to organize itself very well into establishment through the Evolution Theory and the Big Bang Theory.

We do accept that the study about universe or cosmos is very important, but some scientists reached at a level of bias or extreme to his discipline and ignore religion and his position as mankind, as such he believes that human are much more lowest condition compared to the existence of atoms, protons, photon, molecules and so forth, because these are the reality of things but human being and the concrete creations are not a reality of existence.

Universe from Islamic Point of View

Al-Quran explains that the universe and what ever connected with the unseen world (‘alam al-gahyb) and the visible world (‘alam al-syahadah). The facts that al-Quran reveals;

1. Allah almighty is truly creator in volition but not necessary, the Most willing and the Most knowing. All creatures are dependent on Him, in term of existence, perennial and eternal kind of entity. And He himself the Most eternal, His will overwhelming and His knowledge comprehensively covers His creations (ta‘aluq al-ihatah). p.57
2. The creation has no influence unto God to create necessarily, but He voluntarily does. And He created them in very systematic, established and tight locked as mechanical phenomena, but it is His who entervanes continually into a new creation in momentous actions. p.58
3. The universe is a reality (al-kawn haqiqatun). It is not illusion. They were created before mankind. Allah almighty did create with great purposes. Through the variety of creations and the repeatedly new creations into time frame (al-ahdath) manifesting that His attributes and Names as the great creator, the bounty provider, the presenter, the designer, the merciful, the justice, the life-giver and the death-restorer, the forgiver, the reckoner and the master of resurrection. p.59
4. The classified creations in various entities.Everything was created by Allah almighty in conglomerated entities (tarkeeba), physical Shaping (shakla), certain paterns (hajaman mu ‘ayyana) and inspired designations (tazwid al-hidayah).p.60
5. Allah almighty had created things in perfect manner (yattasim bi al-kamal), and they must have a stability between the equalibrium (tawazun) and various creative-changing process (al-insijam) by the willing of Allah alone.p.61
6. The responsibility of Allah almighty to be wealth provider (tazwid al-ghadha’) and guidance ( tazwid al-irsyad) to especially humankind.
7. Humankind is among the creation of God, philosophically is called Microcosm – Arb., ‘alamun saghir. Has given the proper shape, pattern and beatitide disignation in his physical postures.p.62
8. Humankind is the representative of Allah on earth (na’ibuLlah ‘ala al-‘ard) – so called vicegerent. They have been given the power over all earth treasuries (al-tharwat al-‘ardiyyah) and the great dignity (karamat al-Insan) over other creations of God. p.63

What are the Knowledge (al-ma‘rifat) and Science (al-‘ilm)

Knowledge means that “what one has known about including the facts, information, skills, and understanding that one gains especially through learning or experience.” Meanwhile science means that “(the study of) knowledge which can be made into a system and which usually depends on seeing and testing facts and stating general natural law.” Sometimes it is defined as a branch of such knowledge like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Mathematics and so on and so forth. Muhammad Mu‘in said that the science is “a guided human activities, with the strong encouragment, higher value-spirit, through the systematic bodies, using the research methodologies which has known as the Scientific Research, Emperical Studies and acceptable findings. The aim of the research is to know something like the essence of things, the natural cannons, scientific integration, causality and the reality base on the emperical studies.”

According to Islamic framework knowledge is derived from Arabic root word as ‘arafa – ya‘rifu - ma‘rifat, meaning to apprehend or to conceive accurately with the very depth into the real crux meaning of something which can be named as principle, fundamental and the essence of thing or subject matter. That is why the knowledge has no problematic condition if the fact is equitably conformity with the ultimate truth within the Divine Law of Nature – Arb., sunnatuLlah fi al-‘alam. Yet it is still exposed to distortion due to the present of contemporary knowledge, in other word it is still at the hypothetical satge but does not reach at the level of universal cannon of certain discipline of existence. For instance, the knowledge of regularity of planetary system in Astrophysics, an Identification knowledge of humankind through DNA and living causality of humankind and animals which is so called spiritual life. Again knowledge is some kind of formulation coherently exists exsoterically and esoterically into the reality of universe.

Science in Islam is derived from the term ‘alima - ya‘lamu – ‘ilman means to get information, factual and empirical subject matter or physical entities through the logical empiricism. It has been transferred from the highest reality of existence of Allah Almighty the Most Knowing (al-‘alim). This transmission into human heart, mind (intellect) and psychological faculty (human soul) through experience, inspiration and logical demonstration (burhan). What we have understood from the above definition about science is a process of actualization of science into practical nature or into existence. But before this incident took place, our intellect and psychological of human soul – nafs, had experienced and apprehended the condition of scientific hierarchy of truth and had replaced it into the natural place to be established as the reality of science.

Thus the correlation between knowledge and science is very close and integral. Because science without knowledge is pseudo-science, knowledge without science is absurd. How serious one has to pursuit knowledge starting from seeking informations and data manipulation on researches at the level of conceiving and inspired finding, finally he discovers the ultimate reality of scientific foundation or what is so called as theorem or the principles of certain scientific discipline. When the findings are inline with the ultimate truth, knowledge of something would be achieved successfully. In short our heart apprehend the knowledge and our sensual and intellectual faculty manipulate and strive to find the real meaning of something within every discipline of scientific research and discoveries.

The Islamic Fundamentals of Science

Islamic has a very concise stand regarding nature. These creations of God are considered as the reality (haqiqiy) and never be ambiguous (laysa bi wahm) about existences. And Allah had provided mankind with the hearing faculty, the sight and the intellect to observe and infer upon the most fascinating material world (al-‘alam al-maddiy). Instead of the outer nature, there must be a grand designer, Allah almighty. From Him all kind of Universal Cannons (al-Qanun al-Kawniy) were systematically established and created. He who also provided the Islamic Law (Syari‘at al-Islamiyah), which is part of the Universal Cannons. All kind of Cannons is submitted under the supreme council, who had known to the finest and the most merciful to His slaves.

All creations on earth are ready to serve for the most revivalist humankind (li salih al-basyariyyah). Muslim had already known the appropriate knowledge about the religion of Islam and the Nature (natural sciences) – (ma‘rifat al-Syari‘at wa ma‘rifat al-‘alam al-maddiy). Using this kind of knowledge to serve for Allah’s will and favor through the submission to Him alone. When the knowledge and sciences performed in appropriate manner accordingly in line with the Islamic Law and the Nature of Natural sciences and technology, the purposes of knowledge application are considered as fully achieved. In fact there is no demarcation line between spiritual element and material one in Islam, yet it has single nature from Allah almighty. Thus it must be the nature of Allah Almighty or otherwise.

Other than Muslim and believers, who tried very persistently to separate the nature from Allah almighty, to cut the integral relation of nature and to withdraw the unicity nature of Islamic religion and Nature itself. But as Muslim, they must know that the purpose of science is to recognize the wisdom of the creator, His continuous effort of creation in minute details in time and to acknowledge the power of Allah in governing the universe very systematic.

Science and Establishing of the Existence of Allah (wujuduLlah)

Can we try to establish the existence of Allah Almighty through the sciences?. The question of term ‘establish’ (Arb., al-ithbat )or ‘logical demonstration’ (Arb., al-burhan) to be put into confirmity with the existence of Him is acceptable or not. Knowing the definition of this way of confirming Allah is very basic. The establishing (al-ithbat) or the logical demonstration (al-burhan), is some kind of logical expression and logical mathematics, which has been considered as ‘the syllogistic sciences of figure’ (Arb., uluum syakliyah).

In term of knowing Allah Almighty, if we accept this syllogistic mechanism to prove the existence of Allah, means the degree of our faith or belief was deviated or identical with the accepted scientific concept or rationality which shall lead to the corruption of faith. Further more the knowledge of Allah Almighty is also identical with the accepted syllogistic expression in previous time. In fact, belief in Allah Almighty must be totally different with the scientific knowledge, syllogistic expression and agreeable emperical statement.

Another epistemic argument is about the sources of belief is widely different between establishing scientific proof and the existence of Allah Almighty. Scientific explanation is accepted by the sensate faculty of emperical sense (rational and sensual faculty), while theological truth especially the existence of Allah has been well accepted by the faculty of heart (al-qulub). So, that is why Allah had oppointed His mesenggers and prophets in order to reveal messages from Him to be believed by all humankind. Somehow or rather if we can derive or extract the knowledge from scientific evidences, such as ‘the power’ Arb., al-Qudrat has been imparted concisely or directly from Allah into any kind technological enterprises, thus, belief in the power of Allah is considered as the bridge to the ‘attribute’- Arb., al-sifat of Allah and surely can leads to believe in the existence of Allah Almighty. To conclude, scientific evidences are the steps towards achieving the faith in Allah but it is not solely the way to establishing the existence of Allah Almighty. Science and technology are merely signs of the existing Allah, but the revelation of surat al-ikhlas is considered as knowledge about the existence of Allah Almighty.

The Responsibility of Muslim Scientists

1. The Muslim scholars or scientists, who have the urges of reformation in their societies, might feel a great responsibility in term of strategic planning or applications of sciences and knowledge. Muslim has to reflect the previous great Muslim scholars regarding to their highly ambitious (al-himmat al-‘aliyah), to love exploratory sense (hubb al-istila‘ al-hammasiy) and an ability to contribute knowledge either in revelation or practical sciences.

2. The most important thing is to know that; their great ambitious had been established within their faith (imanihim) in Allah almighty, through the Quranic admonition (al-nasihat al-Qur’aniyah), the reflecting signs of Allah in the external universe and humankind and implementation of the prophetic command to acquire knowledge till to China.

3. Muslim Scientists must not conceive scientific activities simply as what had been indulged medieval Christian Scholasticisms; the separation between natural explorations apart from metaphysics. We have to emphasize that the natural occurrences are the manifestation of the power of great creator Allah almighty (qudratiLlah al-ibda‘iyyah), His power of truth (sultanihi), His great assistance (‘inayatihi al-ilahiyyah), and these Muslim attitudes would sharpen their intellects beyond the knowledge (karrasa al-sa‘yu wara’ al-ma‘rifat bi nasyat al-fikr) which is converting to the total submission to merely the great creator, sovereignty Allah.

4. Muslim has to relate or integrate science with their own belief or Islamic creeds and applies them in a complete manner for the salvation of humankind (li salih al-Insaniyah). The earlier Muslim had established the academic and scientific foundation in original sense into many disciplines; medicine, optical sciences, chemistry, anthropology, physical geography and humanity, sociology and so forth. These disciplines were practiced to incline their attitude, belief and never be an arrogant to the creator Allah Almighty.

5. It is a skeptical to learn sciences in foreign languages, because it might be changed our worldview or the Muslim scientific framework towards separation sciences from the religious principles and Islamic creeds. So, Muslim Scholars have to write scientific textbooks in the language of Muslim world, with strong emphasis on Arabic. The wisdom here is how Muslim verify and evaluate the languages and synthesize them into Islamic framework in scientific activities and having the true sources either from Islamic world (turath) or foreign sciences (al-ajnabiyyah) using the expatriates from the most authoritative translations.

6. Muslim has to define the aims of our educational, social; and economic system in order to project and materialize the ultimate objective to perform the duties to Allah Almighty and the humanities.

Conclusion and Remarks

Briefly, I had exposed what can we share about knowledge and science from Islamic point of view. In fact, the importance of knowing the differences between knowledge and science is encouraging enough because from which Muslim can know the condition of Contemporary Science. Consequently, we also can understand the issue of Islamization of Contemporary Knowledge. Knowledge itself must not be Islamized, rather the contemporary knowledge has to be. I would like to give great thanks for the critiques and constructed comments for the paper to be improved.

Related References:

Abu Ishak Ibrahim b. Ali b Yusuf, al-Shiraziy al-Shafi‘iy (393-476H), Tabaqat al-Fuqaha’ (terj.) Paizah Hj. Ismail, Generasi ‘Ulamak, Kuala Lumpur: Media Ehsan Sdn Bhd., 1990.

Ahmad Von Denffer, Research in Islam: Basics, Principles and Practical Suggestions, London: The Islamic Foundation, 1985

Alparslan Acikgenc, Being and Existence in Sadra and Heidegger: A Comparative Ontology, Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), 1993; Islamic Science Towards Definition, Kuala Lumpur:ISTAC, 1996

Annuar Ab Bakar and Abu Bakar Abdul Majeed, Islam: Science and Technology, Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM), ed.2nd, 1998

Baharudin Ahmad et al, Falsafah Sains Daripada Perspektif Islam, Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), 1994

Hoodbhoy, Pervez, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality, Kuala Lumpur: S. Abdul Majeed & Co., 1992

Prof. Dr. Muhammad Mu‘in Siddique, al-Usus al-Islamiyyah li al-‘ilm (trans) The Islamic Fundamentals of Sciences, Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, revised ed. 1416H/1995 AD.

Mohammad Muqim, Research Methodology in Islamic Perspective, Kuala Lumpur: S. Abdul Majid & Co., 1997

Osman Bakar (Prof. Dr.), Tawhid and Science: Essay on the History and Philosophy of Islamic Science, Kuala Lumpur and Penang: Secretariat for Islamic Philosophy and Science, 1991; Classification of Knowledge,

Syed Muhammad Naquib al-‘Attas, The Concept of Education in Islam: A Framework for Islamic Philosophy of Education, Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), 1991; Prolegomena to The Metaphysics of Islam: An Exposition of the Fundamental Elements of The Worldview of Islam, Kuala Lumpur: International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), 1995
Syed Othman Al-Habshi and Nik Mustapha Nik Hassan, (edit.), Islam, Knowledge and Ethics: a Pertinent Culture for Managing Organization, Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM), 1998

Taha Jabir al-‘Alwani (Dr.) and Imad al-Din Khalil (Dr.), The Quran and the Sunnah: The Time-Space Factor, Herdon: International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), 1991

Yaacob Yusoff, The Quranic Notion of Knowledge and Challenge of Rationalism, Shah Alam: Hizbi Publication, 1990

Yassin Mohamed, Human Nature in Islam, Kuala Lumpur: A. S. Noordeen, 1998, The Implication of Fitrah, pp. 84-132; The Intellectual Relevance of Fitrah, pp. 136-183

Megazines and Journals:

Jurnal YADIM, Vol. 2 November 2001, Kuala Lumpur : Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (YADIM), 2001, Muhammad Zainiy Uthman (Assoc. Prof. Dr.), Islam, Sains dan Pemikiran Objektif, pp. 135-151


Abu 'Amrullah Muhammad ADIS El-Merbawiy**
Center for Islamic Thought and Understanding (CITU)
MARA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY
Perlis Branch Campus 02600 Arau Perlis
____________________________

A brief Study (August, 2002) on the writting of Prof. Dr. Muhammad Mu‘in Siddique, al-Usus al-Islamiyyah li al-‘ilm (trans) The Islamic Fundamentals of Sciences, Riyadh : International Islamic Publishing House, revised ed. 1416H/1995 AD. The presentation shall be held at Bilik Cenderawasih under the programe of BICARA CENDIKIA promotted under the Unit of Continuous Leading Knowledge Advancement, (InKA) Mara University of Technology, Arau Campus*

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