By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Albert Einstein, the man of the 20th century according to the Time magazine, once said, “All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.” (1)
So, if Islam be a true religion from All Knowing God, it should stand the test of science. In fact the same argument was advanced by St. Augustine of Hippo, in favor of Christianity, a few centuries before the dawn of Islam. Saint Augustine said, “Let the Bible be a book for you so that you may hear it; let the sphere of the world be also a book for you so that you may see it.” (2) In this saying he suggests a paradigm that word of God or scripture should be in accord with the act of God, our world or what we broadly label as nature.
Saint Augustine became convinced of Christianity by finding evidence for it in another tradition, that of Paganism as described by the Platonists of Athens. Describing this, in his book Confessions, he provided a bridge from Paganism to Christianity.
Why does Augustine become convinced that Christianity is true? What does Augustine propose that Athens have to do with Jerusalem? What does Plato have to do with the Bible and more specifically with the Gospel of John? How can you examine the truth of one tradition of thought and reasoning in light of another parallel tradition? William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman answer these questions for us:
”Augustine tells us that he read books ‘written by the Platonists’ … he parapharases these books, rather than quoting them directly. His parapharase is also a parapharase of one of the most important texts of the Christian Scripture, the beginning of the gospel according to John. The surprising and, to some extent, shocking claim that he makes is that these Platonists teach the same thing as the Gospel of John. Augustine’s claim is that even though these words may not have been exactly what was said in the text of these philosophers, they accurately represent the substance of what he saw in them. Thus, in these pagan philosophical texts, he finds a way of articulating Christian beliefs.” (2)
Andrew Dickson White, the Founding President of the Cornell University, found in the 19th century that Augustine’s bridge was broken beyond repair. He authored a landmark treatise, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (3).
Perhaps we needed a new bridge to lead us to the eternal truths. Dr. Maurice Buccaile came to our rescue almost a century later, but now he was serving Islam and his scripture of choice was the Quran. Bucaille (1920 – 1998) was a French medical doctor and author, he was the senior surgeon in a French study on mummy of Pharaoh, he converted to Islam from Christianity, while serving in Egypt. 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.
He writes in the introduction to his book, The Bible, the Quran and Science, “Like Saint Augustine for the Bible, Islam has always assumed that the data contained in the Holy Scriptures were in agreement with scientific fact. A modern examination of the Islamic Revelation has not caused a change in this position. As we shall see later on, the Quran deals with many subjects of interest to science, far more in fact than the Bible. There is no comparison between the limited number of Biblical statements which lead to a confrontation with science, and the profusion of subjects mentioned in the Quran that are of a scientific nature. None of the latter can be contested from a scientific point of view. This is the basic fact that emerges from our study. We shall see at the end of this work that such is not the case for the Hadiths. These are collections of the Prophet’s sayings, set aside from the Quranic Revelation, certain of which are scientifically unacceptable.” (4)
His book, in my estimation, is one of the best apologies for the holy Quran, from the last century (5).
Fast forward a few decades, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the previous international leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, wrote a comprehensive treatise on the theme of Religion and Science, with the title, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth. The back cover the book introduces it as:
“Any divide between revelation and rationality, religion and logic has to be irrational. If religion and rationality cannot proceed hand in hand, there has to be something deeply wrong with either of the two. Does revelation play any vital role in human affairs? Is not rationality sufficient to guide man in all the problems which confront him? Numerous questions such as these are examined with minute attention.
All major issues which intrigue the modern mind are attempted to be incorporated in this fascinatingly comprehensive statute. Whatever the intellectual or educational background of the reader, this book is bound to offer him something of his interest. It examines a very diverse and wide range of subjects including the concept of revelation in different religions, history of philosophy, cosmology, extraterrestrial life, the future of life on earth, natural selection and its role in evolution. It also elaborately discusses the advent of the Messiah, or other universal reformers, awaited by different religions. Likewise, many other topical issues which have been agitating the human mind since time immemorial are also incorporated.
The main emphasis is on the ability of the Quran to correctly discuss all important events of the past, present and future from the beginning of the universe to its ultimate end. Aided by strong incontrovertible logic and scientific evidence, the Quran does not shy away from presenting itself to the merciless scrutiny of rationality. It will be hard to find a reader whose queries are not satisfactorily answered. We hope that most readers will testify that this will always stand out as a book among books—perhaps the greatest literary achievement of this century.” (6)
For the last few years, I have been the chair of the Religion and Science section for the Muslim Sunrise.
We have tried to continue the study of religion and science, in the footsteps of the best traditions before both in Islam and Christianity. The idea has been to know our world better, both in light of religion and science, and to engage with our fellow Americans, a large majority of whom are coming from the Christian background.
In the three great Monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, God is viewed as a supreme, transcendent being, beyond time, space and matter, and yet the foundation of all that meets our senses that is described in terms of matter, space, and time. That is the Al Batin or the Hidden God of Monotheism. Furthermore, this God is not the god of deism, who created the world and then left it alone, or the god of pantheism, who is equated with all of existence. The Islamic and the Judeo-Christian God is a nanosecond-by-nanosecond participant in each event that takes place in every cubic nanometer of the universe. He has full knowledge of all things. God listens to every thought and participates in each action of His very special creation, a minute bit of organized matter called humanity that moves around on the surface of a tiny pebble in a vast universe. The Holy Quran declares: “Allah’s is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah are all affairs returned for the final judgment.” (Al Quran 57:6)
Whereas the nineteenth century physics was about to frame God out of physical understanding of the universe, the twentieth and twenty first century physics has turned the tables in favor of Monotheism.
Read about this theme further in the article, Religion and Science: The Indispensable God-Hypothesis, in the fall 2008 volume of the Muslim Sunrise (7).
The Muslim Sunrise has published several other articles to present the Creator God of Abrahamic faiths in general and Islam in particular in several other articles, in light of modern science and cosmology. For example, Al Wassay and the Expanding Universe: Scientific discoveries in support of faith (8), Quantum Theory – Sign of a Personal God (9), Al-Hakeem: The Wise, The Creator With A Purpose (10) and Allah the Protector of Life on Earth (11).
While there are several articles written from the theist perspective for the agnostic or atheist audience, we also aim to invite the Christian brethren and sisters to the Muslim theology, banking on the latest science.
Evidence for evolution has been piling in the last few decades especially in the field of molecular biology and has been a topic of several articles in the Muslim Sunrise. Not to speak of our human family, all life forms on our planet earth, plants and animals, 350,000 species of flowers, bacteria and viruses and elephants and rhinoceroses have common ancestry.
The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey is a 2002 book by Spencer Wells, an American geneticist and anthropologist, in which he uses techniques and theories of genetics and evolutionary biology to trace the geographical dispersal of early human migrations out of Africa. The book was made into a TV documentary in 2003.
An article in the winter 2016 volume, Biology of Our Human Family: Who are We Related To? examined the human origins: “It is believed, on the basis of genetic evidence that all human beings in existence now descend from one single man who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. The earliest groups of humans are believed to find their present-day descendants among the San people, a group that is now found in western southern Africa. The San are smaller than the Bantu. They have lighter skins, more tightly curled hair, and they share the epicanthal fold with the people of Central and South East Asia.” (12)
With the Biblical Adam being only 6000 years old, it can now be conclusively proved from molecular biology that he is not the father of all of humanity. In light of such evidence, I clearly demonstrated with scientific proofs in a 2008 article that Original Sin, a fundamental dogma of Christianity, does not hold water anymore.
It is not every day that one comes up with scientific reasoning against a religion followed by almost 2 billion people. In that sense, this 2008 article of the Muslim Sunrise, Evaluating Original Sin against scientific discoveries, has historic and landmark significance, in guiding the Abrahamic faiths to more pure Monotheism and enlightened theology (13).
The fall 2009 volume aimed at describing the limitations of Intelligent Design movement in USA and had an article titled: Intelligent Design Movement: A Branch of Philosophy (14).
The summer 2012 volume examined different religions in the light of science, The Root Cause of Conflict Between Religion and Science: Wrong Theology! (15)
We published an article in pursuit of truth in 2015, From the Muslim Sunrise: Truth and Science. (16) Later the same year we had a similar article with additional insights, Science in service of scriptures. (17)
Several additional subjects under the umbrella of Religion and Science have been covered in the Muslim Sunrise in the last 15 years or so. For example, Neurobiology of Dreams and Revelation (18) and Can Artificial Intelligence have Consciousness — A Quranic Perspective? (19)
In conclusion, the theme of Religion and Science has not only been important since the time of Saint Augustine, but is catching greater momentum in our information and scientific age. Therefore we will continue to pursue the subject with greater zeal and God willing, even greater success.
- Quote taken from ‘The Ultimate Quotable Einstein’ from Princeton University Press. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/albert-einstein-quotes-inspiring-clever-funny-famous/
2. William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman. St. Augustine’s Confessions. The Teaching Company course guidebook, 2004. Page 40.