Islamic vs. Scientific Knowledge- Part 2

21 December, 2016
Q What are the differences between the Islamic and the modern scientific points of view on knowledge? How does the Quran Regard "knowledge"?

Answer

Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question. Please find part two of the answer to your question below. Find the first part at the link here.

Inspired by the Quranic verses that encourage exploration of the natural world, Muslim scholars and scientist devised their theories with a feeling of prayer toward God and built their knowledge upon a foundation of such an understanding and approach.

Muslim scientists explored the heavens and earth in the light of such verses, and learned and researched the relationship between the universe and earth.

As a result of this approach, and by reciting the Quran while studying the universe, Muslim scholars strengthened their faith in and closeness to God.

However, due to today’s materialistic theories, Western scientists will never be free of the fear, anxiety, and unexpected surprises that might arise in their fields, even though they reach the heavens and continue to solve the mysteries of the universe.

Western society, confined within the limits of discoveries and scientific inventions, cannot see the true beauty of the material world.

But Muslim scholars and scientists, while learning and exploring life by means of Divine guidance and assistance, could read the wisdom and hidden purposes behind the things and events occurring in the material world and see God’s Divine Power behind everything in the universe.

For example, consider the Islamic point of view toward the human face and appearance. Muslims never attributed such things to nature alone, nature is only the means created by God and it is unconscious and blind, but rather saw in that wonderfully beautiful human complexion the reflection of The Most Merciful and The Most Compassionate God.

By seeking to increase their limited understanding, they made the limited unlimited. From this point of view, Muslim scientists had the chance to see hidden wisdom and knowledge side by side, and could clearly witness the things and events that were taking place in the material world.

The following Quranic verse describes such people:

{He grants wisdom to whomever He wills, and the one to whom wisdom is granted receives a benefit overflowing. However, none will grasp the Message but men of understanding} (Quran 2:269)

Such people with intellect can see the concealed wisdom. People who look to the universe without the glasses of wisdom and concealed truth see things as unreasonable and useless.

Islam understands ‘ilm to be knowledge that is built and developed upon these fundamental pillars of wisdom and limitlessness. As a matter of fact, Islam considers the purpose of knowledge to be bound to knowledge about God, His Divine Power, and His All-Mighty Wisdom.

The result of knowing God is loving God. And the result of this love is spiritual happiness. Given this reality, Muslim scholars and scientists do not feel anxiety and hopelessness; for–as they pursue their studies–they discover new existences, feel closer to God, and come to varying degrees of spiritual peace.

For those who study the universe from such perspectives, knowledge is the way to reach material and spiritual happiness.

For those who follow the path of materialism only, knowledge becomes a way to see the undesired consequences of existence and the final end of the universe. Such knowledge will cause a state of constant anxiety.

For those who do not know The Most Merciful and The Most Compassionate Lord of the universe, all they can see is that the sun will burn out in 5 billion years. Such knowledge will put fear into their hearts, for they will think that after the sun burns out, the horrible end of the worlds will begin and we will dissolve into atomic pieces and face non-existence.

In short, following a materialistic approach to science results in hopelessness, fear, and disappointment.

At this point, knowledge (in the Islamic context of this world and the Hereafter) gives confidence, and science (in the materialistic context of being limited to what the five senses can perceive) gives hopelessness. Thus, the two contradict each other.

Those who follow the path of knowledge, by His help and guidance, will always walk in enlightenment and will never be disappointed or have doubts about the future.

In order for such things to happen, all of the aspects of knowledge (‘ilm) and science must be taken into consideration. That is why many modern Muslim scholars and scientists are trying to incorporate the wisdom and limitlessness of Islamic understanding of knowledge and science into the solely materialistic theories and approaches toward science.

A number of them are convinced that, if materialistic science makes no effort to find God, and if it does not strive to become a mirror showing His Divine Beauty, humanity’s future may be dramatic and bleak.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Walaikum Asalam and please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

The Importance of Seeking Knowledge

The Ultimate Source of Knowledge

How Islam Sees “The Limits” of Science?

History of Islamic Contributions to Science