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The Open-Mindedness of Islam

What allowed Muslims to create such an advanced scientific culture was derived from the faculties of the Islamic understanding. One of them was, as we have noted, the motive to learn about the universe and nature according to the Qur'anic principles. Another one was open-mindedness. Both the Qur'anic wisdom and the Prophetic teaching gave Muslims a global outlook to the world, trespassing all cultural barriers. In the Qur'an, God states:

Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other..." (Qur'an, 49:13)

This verse clearly encourages cultural relationships between different nations and communities. In another verse of the Qur'an is it stated that "Both East and West belong to Allah" (2:115), thus Muslims should see the world in a universalist and cosmopolitan vision.

The hadiths, or sayings, of the Prophet also encourage this vision. In a popular hadith, the Prophet tells Muslims that "wisdom is the lost property of the Muslims; he takes it from wherever he finds". This means that Muslims should be very pragmatic and broadminded in adapting and using the cultural and scientific achievements of non-Muslims; those non-Muslims are also creatures and servants of God, even they might not recognize so. The "People of The Book", i.e. Christians and Jews, are even much more compatible, since they believe in God and stick to moral code He revealed to man.

In the rise of Islamic science, the role of this open-mindedness is very clear to see. John Esposito of the Georgetown University, one of the most prominent Western experts on Islam, makes the following comment:

The genesis of Islamic civilization was indeed a collaborative effort, incorporating the learning and wisdom of many cultures and languages. As in government administration, Christians and Jews, who had been the intellectual and bureaucratic backbone of the Persian and Byzantine empires, participated in the process as well as Muslims. This "ecumenical" effort was evident at the Caliph al-Mamun's (reigned 813-33) House of Wisdom and at the translation center headed by the renowned scholar Hunayn ibn Isaq, a Nestorian Christian. This period of translation and assimilation was followed by one of Muslim intellectual and artistic creativity. Muslims ceased to be disciples and became masters, in process producing Islamic civilization, dominated by the Arabic language and Islam's view of life... Major contributions were made in many fields: literature and philosophy, algebra and geometry, science and medicine, art and architecture... Great urban cultural centers in Cordoba, Baghdad! , Cairo, Nishapur, and Palermo emerged and eclipsed Christian Europe, mired in Dark Ages. 3

According to one of the great Muslim scholars of our time, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic science was "the first science of a truly international nature in human history". 4

Another Medieval Muslim manuscript describing the planetary motion. Yet Muslims did not only incorporate other cultures, but developed their own. Some commentators neglect this and try to link the Islamic scientific development solely to the influence of the Ancient Greece or Far East. But the real source of Islamic science was the experimentation and observations of Muslim scientists. In his book The Middle East, Professor Bernard Lewis, an undoubted expert in Middle Eastern history, explains it as follows:

The achievement of medieval Islamic science is not limited to the preservation of Greek learning, nor to the incorporation in the corpus of elements from the more ancient and more distant East. This heritage which medieval Islamic scientists handed on to the modern world was immensely enriched by their own efforts and contributions. Greek science, on the whole rather tended to be theoretical. Medieval Middle Eastern science was much more practical, and in such fields as medicine, chemistry, astronomy and agronomy, the classical heritage was clarified and supplemented by the experiments and observations of the medieval Middle East. 5

As noted by Westerners, this advanced scientific culture of the Islamic world paved the way for the Western Renaissance. Muslim scientists acted in the knowledge that their investigation of God's creation was a path through which they could get to know Him. Esposito stresses that "Muslim scientists, who were often philosophers of mystics as well, viewed physical universe from within their Islamic worldview and context as a manifestation of the presence of God, the Creator and the source and unity and harmony in nature." 6 With the transfer of this paradigm and its accumulation of knowledge to the Western world, the advance of the West began.

The Theist Origins of Western Science

Medieval Europe was ruled by the dogmatic regime of the Catholic Church. The Church opposed freedom of thought and pressured scientists. People could be punished by the Inquisition simply for holding different beliefs or ideas. Their books were burned and they themselves were executed. The pressure on research in the Middle Ages is often referred to in history books, but some interpret the situation wrongly and claim that the scientists who clashed with the Church were against religion.

The truth is the exact opposite-the scientists who opposed the bigotry of the church were religious believers. They were not against religion, but against the harsh clericalism of the time.

For example, the famous astronomer Galileo, whom the Church wanted to punish because he stated that the world rotated, said, "I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries." 7

The other scientists who established modern science were all religious.

Kepler, regarded as the founder of modern astronomy, told those who asked him why he busied himself with science, "I had the intention of becoming a theologian... but now I see how God is, by my endeavors, also glorified in astronomy, for 'heavens declare the glory of God'". 8

As for Newton, one of the greatest scientists in history, he explained the reason underlying his zeal for scientific endeavor by saying:
"...He (God) is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. …We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things... [W]e revere and adore him as his servants…" 9

The great genius Pascal, the father of modern mathematics, said that: "But by faith we know His (God's) existence; in glory we shall know His nature." 10

Many other founders of modern Western science were also strong believers. For example:
" Von Helmont, one of the leading figures in modern chemistry and the inventor of the thermometer, declared that science was a part of faith.
" George Cuvier, the founder of modern paleontology, regarded fossils as surviving proofs of the Creation and taught that living species had been created by God.
" Carl Linnaeus, who first systematized scientific classification, believed in the Creation and stated that the natural order was a significant proof of God's existence.
" Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics, and also a monk, believed in Creation and opposed the evolutionary theories of his time, such as Darwinism and Lamarckism.
" Louis Pasteur, the greatest name in the history of microbiology, proved that life could not be created in inert matter and taught that life was a miracle of God.
" The famous German physicist Max Planck said that the Creator of the universe was God and stressed that faith was a necessary quality of scientists.
" Albert Einstein, regarded as the most important scientist of the twentieth century, believed that science could not be godless and said, "science without religion is lame." A large number of other scientists who guided modern scientific progress were religious people who believed in God. These scientists served science with the intention of discovering the universe that God had created - a paradigm that was first developed and implemented in the Islamic world and then incorporated into the West. All these theist scientists thought about the creation of the heavens and the earth and investigated in the awareness of God - as God decreed in the Qur'an and the Bible. The birth of science and its development were the result of this awareness. During the nineteenth century, however, this awareness was replaced by a misconception called materialism.

The Rise and Fall of the Materialist Deviation

The nineteenth century was a period that witnessed the greatest errors in human history. These errors began with the imposition on European thought of materialist philosophy, an ancient Greek teaching.

The greatest error of this period was Darwin's theory of evolution. Before the birth of Darwinism, biology was accepted as a branch of science that provided evidence of the existence of God. In his book Natural Theology, the famous author William Paley maintained that, to the extent that every clock proves the existence of a clockmaker, natural designs prove the existence of God.

However, Darwin rejected this truth in his theory of evolution. By distorting the truth to fit materialist philosophy, he claimed that all living things were the result of blind natural causes. In this way he created an artificial antagonism between religion and science.

In their book The Messianic Legacy, English authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln have this to say on the subject:

For Isaac Newton, a century and a half before Darwin, science was not separate from religion but, on the contrary, an aspect of religion, and ultimately subservient to it. …But the science of Darwin's time became precisely that, divorcing itself from the context in which it had previously existed and establishing itself as a rival absolute, an alternative repository of meaning. As a result, religion and science were no longer working in concert, but rather stood opposed to each other, and humanity was increasingly forced to choose between them. 11

Not only biology, but also branches of sciences such as psychology and sociology were twisted according to materialist philosophy. Astronomy was distorted according to the materialist dogmas of ancient pagan Greece; a metaphysical faith in an "eternal cosmos" came to be the norm. The new aim of science was to confirm materialist philosophy.

These incorrect ideas have dragged the scientific world into a dead end for the past 150 years. Tens of thousands of scientists from different branches worked in the hope of being able to prove Darwinism or other materialist theories.

But they were disappointed.

The scientific evidence showed the exact opposite of the conclusion they wanted to reach. That is, it confirmed the truth of Creation. Today the world of science is astonished by this truth. When nature is examined it emerges that there is a complex plan and design in every detail and this has cut away the foundations of materialist philosophy.

For example, the extraordinary structure of DNA shows scientists that it is not the result of blind chance or natural laws. The DNA in a single human cell contains enough information to fill a whole 900-volume encyclopedia. Gene Myers, a scientist from the Celera Company which administers the Human Genome Project, says this:

What really astounds me is the architecture of life… The system is extremely complex. It's like it was designed… There's a huge intelligence there. 12

This astonishment affects the whole scientific world. Scientists are viewing with surprise the invalidity of the materialist philosophy and Darwinism which they were taught as truth, and some of them are declaring this openly. In his book Darwin's Black Box, biochemist Michael Behe, one of the leading critics of Darwinism, describes the situation of the scientific world as follows:

Over the past four decades modern biochemistry has uncovered the secrets of the cell. The progress has been hard won. It has required tens of thousands of people to dedicate the better parts of their lives to the tedious work of the laboratory…

The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell-to investigate life at the molecular level-is a loud, clear, piercing cry of "design!" The result is so unambiguous and so significant that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science…

But, no bottles have been uncorked, no hands clapped. Why does the scientific community not greedily embrace its startling discovery? The dilemma is that while one side of the [issue] is labeled intelligent design, the other side must be labeled God. 13

The same situation exists in astronomy. The astronomy of the twentieth century has demolished the materialist theories of the nineteenth. First with the Big Bang theory, it emerged that the universe had a beginning, the moment of Creation. Since then it has been realized that in the universe there is an extraordinarily delicate balance which protects human life - a concept known as the anthropic principle.

For these reasons, in the world of physics and astronomy atheism is in rapid decline. As American physicist Robert Griffiths jokingly remarks: "If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn't much use." 14

In short, in our day and age materialist philosophy is collapsing. Science is rediscovering certain very important facts rejected by materialist philosophy and in this way a new concept of science is being born. The "Intelligent Design" theory, which has been on a successful rise in the United States during the past 10 years, is a leading part of this new scientific concept. Those who accept this theory stress that Darwinism was the greatest error in the history of science and that there is an intelligent design in nature that gives evidence of Creation