Quran and Science – The Connection
Fourteen centuries ago, God sent down the Qur’an to mankind as a book of guidance. He called upon people to be guided to the truth by adhering to this book. From the day of its revelation to the day of judgement, this last divine book will remain the sole guide for humanity. The matchless style of the Qur’an and the superior wisdom in it are definite evidence that it is the word of God. In addition, the Qur’an has many miraculous attributes proving that it is a revelation from God. One of these attributes is the fact that a number of scientific truths that we have only been able to uncover by the technology of the 20th century were stated in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago. Of course the Qur’an is not a book of science. However, many scientific facts that are expressed in an extremely concise and profound manner in its verses have only been discovered with the technology of the 20th century. These facts could not have been known at the time of the Qur’an’s revelation, and this is still more proof that the Qur’an is the word of God.
In this article, let us discuss the connection between Faith in our Creator and Science.
Who created the Universe?
Does faith stop Human Scientific Endeavors?
One who proceeds on a path in the pursuit of knowledge, God makes him proceed herewith on a path of the Garden(Paradise)…
It is narrated that the Prophet(pbuh) used to say after dawn prayer, “O God, I ask You for beneficial knowledge, acceptable action, and good provision.”
Religion Encourages Science
Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): “Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire. (Quran – 3:191)
In the Qur’an, God calls on people to reflect upon and examine the signs of creation around them. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), God’s Messenger also enjoined people to acquire knowledge. He even stressed that it is our obligation to search for knowledge. We read the following authentic sayings:
Seeking of knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim.
Acquire the knowledge and impart it to the people.
Everyone who probes the inner-workings of the universe, living and non-living things, and considers and investigates what he sees around him, will come to know God’s superior wisdom, knowledge, and eternal power. Some of the issues God invites man to ponder are pointed out in the following verses form the Qur’an:
Do they not look at the sky above them? How we have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it? And the earth- We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)- To be observed and commemorated by every devotee turning (to God). And We send down from the sky rain charged with blessing, and We produce therewith gardens and grain for harvests; And tall (and stately) palm-trees, with shoots of fruit-stalks, piled one over another. (Quran 50:6-10)
Who has created the seven heavens one above another, you can see no fault in the creations of the Most Beneficent. Then look again: ” do you see any flaw?” (Quran – 67:3)
Now let man but think from what he is created! (Quran – 86: 5) Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made? And at the Sky, how it is raised high? And at the Mountains, how they are fixed firm? And at the Earth, how it is spread out? (Quran – 88: 17-20)
As the above verses make clear, God summons mankind to study and examine various aspects of the world, such as the heavens, rain, plants, animals, birth and geographical landmarks. One way to explore these is, as we previously mentioned, through science. Scientific observation introduces man to the mysteries of creation, and ultimately, to God’s eternal knowledge, wisdom and power. Science is a way to achieve a just estimate of God, for which reason, throughout history, a great number of the scientists who have been of great service to humanity were devout believers in God.
Belief in God Makes Scientists Enthusiastic and Motivated
Religion encourages science, and those who use their reason and follow their conscience in the pursuit of scientific research acquire a strong faith because they apprehend God’s signs at close hand. They are confronted with a flawless system and a perfect subtlety created by God in every avenue of research they follow, and in every discovery they make.
As Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), God’s Messenger, peace be upon him, said, they act by knowing that “One who goes out to search for knowledge is (devoted) to the cause of God till he returns.”(Tirmidhi)
A scientist conducting research into the eye, for instance, discovers, even upon recognizing its complex system, that it could never have come into being through a gradual process of coincidences. Further examination will lead him to realize that every detail in the structure of the eye is a miraculous creation. He sees that the eye is made up of dozens of components working together in harmony, thus increasing his wonder in God Who created it.
Similarly, a scientist investigating the cosmos will find himself immediately confronted with thousands of remarkable equilibria. He further gains a great thirst for knowledge upon discovering that billions of galaxies, and billions of stars within these galaxies, continue to exist in a grand harmony, in a vastness of space that has no limits.
As such, a man of faith becomes greatly enthralled and inspired to conduct scientific studies to uncover the mysteries of the universe. In one of his articles, Albert Einstein, considered the greatest genius of the previous era, referred to the inspiration scientists derive from religion:
…I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labour in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics!
Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious workers are the only profoundly religious people.
Johannes Kepler related that he engaged in science to delve the Creator’s works, while Isaac Newton, another great scientist, stated that the main thrust behind his interest in science was his wish to have a better sense and knowledge of God.
Believing Scientists’ “Eagerness to serve”
Because scientists who believe in God’s oneness and omnipotence have no desire for worldly gain, such as status, rank, reputation, or money, their efforts in scientific research are sincere. They know that every mystery of the universe they unravel will increase mankind’s understanding of God, helping to reveal God’s infinite power and knowledge. Confirming God’s existence for humanity, demonstrating to it the reality of creation, is a truly important act of worship for a believer.
Driven by such sincere concerns, believing scientists conduct important extensive research with a great enthusiasm, to discover the laws of the universe, the miraculous systems in nature, and the perfect mechanisms and intelligent behaviors in living things. They achieve great results and make tremendous progress. They never falter in the face of the problems they encounter, nor do they lose heart when they fail to be appreciated by others. They only seek to gain God’s approval for the work they do.
They strive to serve other believers purely for God’s good pleasure. And, they recognize no limits to their endeavor. They do their best to be of utmost use to people, and to serve them in the best way. Furthermore, their sincere efforts make them highly productive, and their studies lead to positive results.
Those who assume that science must be distinguished from religion certainly fall into great error. First, those who do not believe in God cannot experience the spiritual upliftment of faith. The scientific projects they initiate with great zeal soon turn out to be monotonous and uninspiring. Their motivation, in such a mindset, becomes solely to reap short-lived worldly profit. Pursuing the fulfillment of worldly desires, such as wealth, rank, reputation, or prestige, they are only committed to conducting research that will directly contribute to such personal benefits. For instance, a scientist with such a mindset and motivated by career interests would pursue research only in those fields that will lead to a promotion. He would not be willing to conduct research in a subject he believes to be useful to mankind unless it served his best interest. Or, if he were in a position to make a choice between two research topics, he would choose the one that would earn him more material gain, prestige, or rank, while discarding the one that might be more beneficial to mankind. In short, scientists of this sort are rarely of benefit to humanity, failing to serve the greater good unless there is some promised gratification in return. When the opportunity for personal gain fades, so wanes their eagerness to serve humanity.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), God’s Messenger, peace be upon him, also referred to the harms of this mentality. He said:
Do not acquire knowledge in order to fall into polemics with other scholars and prove his superiority over them, or to dispute with the ignorant or to attract the attention of the people.
On the other hand, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) praised the dissipation of beneficial knowledge. A hadith reads:
God calls down blessings on those who instruct people in beneficial knowledge.
Aware of the blessings he will receive, the enthusiasm and sincere motivation experienced by a person who believes in God opens up new vistas for him, not only in the field of science, but also in many other spheres of life, such as art, culture, and so on. These high spirits never fade, but rather, become increasingly intense.
Religion Helps Science to be Rightly Guided
Science is the investigation of the material world we live in through observation and experiment. Accordingly, in conducting such investigation, science will lead to various conclusions based on the information collected through observation and experimentation. In addition, however, every discipline of science also has certain norms that are simply taken for granted, or accepted without further verification. In scientific literature, this set of norms is called a “paradigm”.
This initial outlook charts the “course” of all related scientific investigation. As is known, the first step in scientific investigation is the formulation of a “hypothesis”. To begin with, for their research topic, scientists must form a hypothesis. Then, this hypothesis is tested through scientific experimentation. If observations and experiments verify the hypothesis, the “hypothesis” is called an “established principle or law”. If the hypothesis is disproved, then new hypotheses are tested, and the process continues.
The formulation of the hypothesis, which is the first step of the process, is often dependent on the scientists’ basic viewpoint. For instance, scientists, if committed to an erroneous outlook, could base their work on a hypothesis that “matter has a tendency to self-organize without the involvement of a conscious agent”. Then, they would conduct years of research to verify that hypothesis. Yet, since matter has no such capability, all these efforts are bound to fail. Furthermore, if scientists are overly determined about their hypothesis, the research may well last for years, and even for generations. The end result, though, would be but a huge waste of time and resources.
However, had the point of assumption been the idea that “it is impossible for matter to self-organize without conscious planning“, that scientific research would have followed a more expeditious and productive course.
This issue, that is, the issue of establishing a proper hypothesis, requires an entirely different source than mere scientific data. Correct identification of this source is critical, because, as we explained in the above example, an error in the identification of a source may cost the science-world years, decades, or even centuries.
The source sought is God’s revelation to mankind. God is the Creator of the universe, the world and of living things, and therefore, the most accurate and indisputable knowledge about these subjects derives from Him. In accordance, God has revealed to us important information about these matters in the Qur’an. The most fundamental of these are as follows:
1. God created the universe from nothing. Everything is created for a particular purpose. It follows that there is not a chaos of chance-happenings in nature or the universe, but a perfect order created with an intelligent design.
2. The material universe, and predominantly, the Earth we live in, is specially designed to allow for human life. There is a certain purpose in the movements of stars and planets, in geographical landmarks, and in the properties of water or the atmosphere, that makes human life possible.
3. God created all living things. Moreover, these creatures act through the inspiration of God, as quoted in the Qur’an in the example of the honeybees, with the verse that begins with, “And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: “Take you habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they erect…” (Quran – 16:68)
These are absolute truths communicated to us by God in the Qur’an. An approach to science based on these facts will inevitably lead to remarkable progress and serve humanity in the most beneficial manner. We find numerous examples of this in history. It was only possible with the placement of science on proper a foothold that Muslim scientists, who were then helping to forge the greatest civilizations in the world, contributed to major achievements in the 9th and 10th centuries. In the West, the pioneers in all fields of science, from physics to chemistry, astronomy to biology and paleontology, were great men of science who believed in God, and who conducted research for the sake of exploring what He created.
Einstein also maintained that scientists must rely on religious sources when developing their objectives:
Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion… I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.
Since the middle of the 19th century, however, the scientific community has divorced itself from this divine source, and come under the influence of a materialist philosophy.
Materialism, an idea that dates back to ancient Greece, maintains the absolute existence of matter and denies God. This materialistic outlook gradually made its way into the scientific community, and, beginning in the middle of the 19th century, a considerable portion of scientific investigation was initiated to support it. To this purpose, many theories were formulated, such as the “infinite universe model” suggesting that the universe exists since infinite time, Darwin’s evolutionary theory claiming that life is the work of chance, or Freud’s views holding that the human mind consists of the brain alone.
Today, in retrospect, we see that the claims put forth by materialism were but a waste of time for science. For decades, a great number of scientists have expended their best efforts to prove each of these claims, but the results always proved them wrong. Discoveries confirmed the proclamations of the Qur’an – that the universe was created from nothing, that it is tailored to suit human life, and that it is impossible for life to have come into being and evolved by chance.
Religion is the primary source for providing man with the most accurate knowledge regarding the creation of the universe and of life. When we say “religion”, however, we refer to the “Qur’an” and the traditions of our Prophet, peace be upon him, as the true source of information. The holy books of other religions have been altered over time and can no longer be considered as Divine Books.
Holy Qur’an is definitely the word of God and contains no contradictions. It is the book Almighty Allah (The God) has sent down to His servants as guidance. With many verses, God stated that the Qur’an is the ultimate revelation, and that it is under His protection. A verse in Surat al-Hijr reads:
“It is We Who have sent down the Reminder (the Qur’an) and We Who will preserve it.” (Quran 15: 9)
Therefore, science will advance speedily only if it is guided by the Qur’an, adopting its revelations, for only then may science adhere to way of God. When a way opposite to religion is adopted, scientists waste both time and resources, and impede the progress of science.
As in all other fields of endeavor, the way to be followed in the scientific field is again the “way” commanded by God in the Qur’an. As God proclaims, “This Qur’an guides to the most upright Way…” (Quran 17: 9)
They said ‘Glory be to You!’ We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.’ (Quran – 2:32)