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Science and Islam – One Magazine’s Perspective

November 29, 2011

All over the world, no matter what the cultural or language differences, science is more or less guided by scientific principles. Except in Islamic countries, where it is guided by the Qur’an. A cover article on “Science and Islam” in Discover magazine presents the problem that arises when trying to do science without a scientific method of “systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” Discover magazine went to find out for themselves what is meant by “Islamic science.” Here’s what they found.

Cover of July 2007 edition of Discover Magazine

Even the secular press recognizes the many perils that exist between Islam and science.

“There is no conflict between Islam and science,” Zaghloul el-Naggar declares as we sit in the parlor of his villa in Maadi, an affluent suburb of Cairo. What people call the scientific method, he explains, is really the Islamic method: “All the wealth of knowledge in the world has actually emanated from Muslim civilization.”

Author, newspaper columnist, and television personality El-Naggar is also a geologist whom many Egyptians, including a number of fellow scientists, regard as a leading figure in their community. El-Naggar is a member of the Geological Society of London and publishes papers that circulate internationally. But he is also an Islamic fundamentalist, a scientist who views the universe through the lens of the Koran. He hands me three short volumes he has written about the relationship of science and Islam. These include The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Holy Koran, and Treasures in the Sunnah, A Scientific Approach. There are scientific signs in more than one thousand verses of the Qur’an, according to El-Naggar. El-Naggar quotes from the Qur’an: “And each of them (i.e., the moon and the sun) floats along in its own orbit.” “The Messenger of Allah’ el-Naggar writes, “talked about all these cosmic facts in such accurate scientific stile at a period of time when people thought that Earth was flat and stationary. This is definitely one of the signs which testifies to the truthfulness of the message of Muhammad.”

Elsewhere, he notes that Prophet’s references to “the seven earths”; El-Naggar claims that geologists say that Earth’s crust consists of seven zones. In another passage, the Prophet said that there were 360 joints in the body, and other Islamic researchers claim that medical science backs up the figure. Such knowledge, the thinking goes, could only have been given by God.

But Discover magazine notes that “Critics are quick to point out that Islamic scientists tend to use each other as sources, creating an illusion that the work has been validated by research. The existence of 360 joints, in fact, is not accepted in medical communities; rather, the number varies from person to person, with an average of 307. These days most geologists divide Earth’s crust into 15 major zones, or tectonic plates.” p. 38-39

Brain Drain. Cairo University has not received Western professors since the 1950s, and because of the scientific method has been suppressed many Arab scientists were excluded from the university. “The biggest disaster in the region, I am sorry to say, is the loss of brainpower,” admits Hassan bin Talal, brother of the late King Hussein of Jordan. Muslim scientists come to the Free World and accomplish great things. That is because they are following the scientific method, a method that seems to be suppressed in the Islamic world.

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