Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
I have a few friends, whom I will not call my bosom friends, who in their moments of self-deceit and to minimize my work in the domain of religion and science, say that science and religion correlation is not needed, and religion of Islam can stand on its own two feet.
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895) was an English biologist, who specialized in comparative anatomy, he is known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. He is attributed to have said, “Science is nothing, but trained and organized common sense.”
Albert Einstein also demystified science when he said, “Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone.”
If we disallow science in the matters of religion, we have, as a matter of fact, disallowed reason and logic and as a result all communication breaks down and religion becomes no more than blind faith in a set of dogma.
Now, if my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, an American composer and music theorist, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”
In the very first part of Surah Furqan, we read:
And those who disbelieve say, ‘This Quran is but a lie which Muhammad has forged, and other people have helped him with it.’ Indeed, they have brought forth an injustice and an untruth. And they allege, ‘These are fables of the ancients; and he has got them written down, and they are dictated to him morning and evening.’
Say, ‘He Who knows every secret that is in the heavens and the earth has revealed it. Indeed, He is Most Forgiving, Merciful.’ (Al Quran 25:4-6/5-7)
The disbelievers accuse that the Quran is a forgery and the answer given to them is that it is not so, and the reality is that it is revealed by the All-Knowing God, “Who knows every secret that is in the heavens and the earth.” Now, either it is just a tall claim or the Quran actually demonstrates the claim by sharing with the readers some of the secrets of the heaven and the earth. If the latter be true, which indeed it is, as Quran is not a book of Trumpinian claims, rather a lucid book, based on reason, logic and rationality that has enjoyed tremendous appeal for billions of readers over the centuries, then we need to find all the secrets of the heavens and the earth that the Quran has shared with us.
So, here I have given a clear argument from the authority of the Quran, for the Quran and science correlation, and that is why many an insightful scholars or students of the Quran, have been working on it in the last few decades.
Nevertheless, many common Muslims cannot understand or truly honor an argument unless it is given from the human authority of their liking. So, for the Ahmadiyya Muslims, let me say that the founder of our community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah has said:
The God of Islam is the same God who is visible in the mirror of the laws of nature and is discernible in the book of nature. Islam has not presented a new God but has presented the same God who is presented by the light of man’s heart, by the conscience of man, and by the universe.
He has given seven criteria to interpret the holy Quran:
- From the Quran itself.
- From the holy prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and his Sunnah.
- From the companions of the prophet Muhammad.
- One’s honest God fearing opinion.
- The Arabic lexicon.
- The laws of nature.
- The revelations of saints.
The criterion number 6 here substantiates my thesis that we should always correlate scriptures with science.
For all the other sects of Islam, the book, the Bible, the Quran and Science, has become an impressive phenomenon in many Muslim countries and has been translated into several languages. The author of the book, Maurice Bucaille (19 July 1920 in Pont-l’Évêque, Calvados – 17 February 1998) was a French medical doctor and author. In 1973, Bucaille was appointed family physician to King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. His patients included the members of the family of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Bucaille’s work has enjoyed such wide approval that the study of correlating the Quran with modern science has been dubbed by some as ‘Bucaillism!’
In an article, Between Two Masters: Qur’an or Science? – Ziauddin Sardar, the author has been critical of Bucaillism. His main claim, which I believe is not valid, is that new scientific discoveries cannot confirm the Quranic message. I can refute his thesis by a simple observation, by demonstrating how the converse would play out.
If the Quran had made claims like Eve came from the rib of Adam, as the Bible claims, with the advent of Charles Darwin and modern biology that has followed, it would have become sufficiently clear, that the Quran, or at least some portions of it, are not the literal words of the All-Knowing God. For some additional details, please read: Did Eve Come from Adam’s Rib — That is the Question?
I do, however, partially agree with Ziauddin, in as much as I see some overzealous Muslims, extending some of the metaphorical verses of the Quran to show concordance with the modern science. I believe moderation and balance is the key. One can go wrong in either direction, overly zealot or naive on the one hand or overly critical or cynical on the other, like some of my friends mentioned earlier or Ziauddin Sardar, dismissing the whole idea of reading the scripture in the light of science, like Bucaille did.
I do also concede that in Quran and science correlation, like in any other human activity, there would be good arguments and bad arguments, there are genuine arguments and make belief arguments, and what may seem like a good case, may turn out to be a problem in a new context or after improvement in state of human scientific knowledge. But, this is the nature of human argumentation, be it in a court of law, in our daily life, our politics or our study of the scriptures.
In this article, I will limit myself to Islam and Christianity, but, I believe what is true for them is also true for other religions.
What is the best way to argue against and refute the dogma of Christianity, where it differs from other Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam? I believe it is science and to that end, I have written more than a few dozen articles. I am just going to suggest one here: Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians.
It is so easy to show that the Eucharist that the Church has practiced as the main part of their worship, for two thousand years, can be so easily shown to be not literal body or blood of Jesus. It is in fact so easy that many a Christians will come to support our thesis.
It is so easy to show that resurrection cannot be true as a stinking decaying body with millions of chemical processes cannot come to life three days and nights later, and there is no biological way to reverse these chemical processes.
Jesus cannot be perfect man and fully divine at the same time, as claimed by Christianity, as there is no scientifically plausible way to make human flesh into divine flesh. The fact of the matter is that the term is an oxymoron.
No wonder, in USA, while in the general population only about 10% are atheists, if you look at the college graduates some 40 percent are atheists and if you look at the elite scientists, a good 93% of them are atheists. Science refutes Christianity, plain and simple.
This is exactly why I have written an article: If the Atheists and the Christians Debate, Islam Wins!
So, I am always for peaceful and loving dialogue and discussion, for that is the only way to arrive at the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
But, for these ideas to work, we the Muslims, have to give up our own fantastic ideas, like the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, physically going to heaven on a horse, named Barak; or waiting for Jesus to come back on a flying saucer as a more than 2000 year old man, speaking some new language, rather than Aramaic, which he spoke during his time and that is extinct now.
The main difference is that our fantastic ideas are not coming from the Quran and are not fundamental to our faith, but, the converse is true for Christianity.
However, religion and science correlation cannot be merely an expression of our zeal for our faith, to appeal to the religiosity of the faithful. It has to be systematic enough to have an appeal across the different sects of Islam and make sense to unbiased observers of other faiths.
This discussion will be continued in future articles.
Suggested reading and viewing
1. Einstein A, Infeld L. The evolution of Physics. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1938. Page 27.
2. Tableegh-e-Risalat, Roohani Khazain Vol. VI, p. 15. Also mentioned in Essence of Islam, under the heading Allah.
3. The book the Blessings of Prayers. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Blessings-of-Prayer.pdf