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Quote Shanavas Replybullet Topic: Science and Contemporary Muslims
    Posted: 13 June 2014 at 2:13pm

A Depressing Story of the Contributions to Science and Technology by contemporary Muslims.

                                     T.O.Shanavas. M.D


The universal Muslim excuse for the self-inflicted illiteracy in science and the lack of Muslim scientific productivity is colonialism and their rulers. But what is their excuse for anemic presence of Muslim students in the Intel Science Talent Search among American high school students?

The most prestigious science research competition for US high school seniors is Intel Science Talent Search. Within the lists of 300 semifinalists for each year (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014), there are 49, 56, 46, 60, and 62 names of high school students of Indian-American community respectively. There are many more from Chinese community among the semi-finalists.  However, there are only 1, 3, 5, 3, and 4 Muslim sounding names in the list of Intel Science Talent Search Semi-finalists during the same period.

The anemic presence of US Muslim high school students among the semi-finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search cannot be linked to Muslim rulers or foreigners by any stretch of imagination.

Yet, there is another possibility for Muslim failure in science and the dismal scientific track record of Muslims even in America. It may be suggested that Islam is inherently inimical to research. However, George Sarton, a professor of History of Science at Harvard University states:

            "Briefest enumeration of the Arabic contributions to knowledge would be too long to be inserted here…The creation of a new civilization of international and encyclopaedic magnitude within less than two centuries is something that we describe, but cannot explain. Indeed the superiority of Muslim culture, say in the eleventh century, was so great that we can understand their intellectual pride. It is easy to imagine their doctors speaking of western barbarians almost in the same spirit as ours do of the ‘Orientals.’ If there had been some ferocious eugenists among the Moslems they might have suggested some means breeding out all the western Christians and Greeks because of their hopeless backwardness. 

[Ref: George Sarton: “The History of Science and The New Humanism.” New York. 1956. Page 87-90]


Therefore, there must be a difference between the Islam preached and practiced in the initial history of Muslims than the Islam practiced today. And the current gloomy plight of Muslims in the scientific field is the outcome from Muslim communal physiology. Nobody else is to be blame except Muslims themselves.

Elements of Muslim Communal physiology: A Barrier against scientific Progress

1. Human progress occurs in places where there is an unrestricted welcoming conduit for new ideas. Unfortunately, Muslim leaders, scholars, and Imams across the world, even in America, feel intimidated by science so that they avoid any honest discussion of science or new ideas in the community and mosques.

2. Productive scientists who invent new technology or discover new laws or propose new theories question the soundness widely accepted concepts, theories, and facts. Islamic centers, Imams, and Muslim scholars, even 99.9 % Muslims at large discourage questioning certain views of widely accepted scholars even if it is outrageously illogical.

3. Islamic centers and community leaders discourage critical thinking especially when the outcome conflicts with their point of view. The major characteristics of critical thinkers are in capital letters and what happens in Islamic center, Muslim communities, and homes is within brackets for easy comparison. Critical thinkers are skeptical [Islamic centers do not allow skeptical enquiries], open-minded [Islamic centers are not open-minded], respect evidence [Islamic centers do not respect scientific or other evidences that may conflict Imams’ opinion] and reasoning [reasoning is rejected if it contradicts Imams’ reasoning], look at different points of view [all Islamic centers are impervious fortresses against different point of view including new approach to the interpretations of the Qur’an], and will change positions when reason leads them to do so [The Islamic centers, and its leadership never allow to change position when reason leads to do so]. This is true with most Muslims parents also. When children grow up in an environment where critical thinking is not appreciated and generally discouraged, they grow up with a fear to think critically (i.e., out of the box thinking) and become non-productive in scientific research.

5. Another reason for the weakness of Muslim scientific productivity is the shameful lack of interest in science displayed by Imams and Muslim leadership. Science is almost never discussed in mosques and Muslim conferences. Sadly, even Muslim umbrella organizations in United States avoid discussion of science in their national meetings although science is the driving force for human progress and power.

6. For most Imams, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Among other things, the way of life for scientists includes investigation of the meaning of the Divine Book in material medium, the Universe. Science is in fact only an interpretation or tafsir of the Universe.  Unfortunately, most Imams as well as many in the Muslim organization leadership have minimal or no training in science.  Islamic scholars refuse to acknowledge it and so, cannot give effective guidance for Muslims’ life in the scientific field in order to escalate Muslim productivity in science.

7. Science has been defined as, “a continuing effort to discover and increase human knowledge and understanding through disciplined research. Using controlled methods, scientists collect observable evidence of natural or social phenomena, record measurable data relating to the observations, and analyze this information to construct theoretical explanations of how things work.”

Based upon this definition, physicians, engineers, chemists, physicists, pharmacists, sociologists, biologists, and many other professionals who utilize the scientific method are called scientists. Unfortunately, many Muslims among the scientific community have a mental dichotomy and lead a double life. In their professional life they are true believers in science, but, when it comes to their religious lives, they passionately reject many well-established scientific theories such as theories related astronomy and its application for moon-sighting, the theory of evolution and its applications. They have a truth tell in the mosques and another for their external professional lives. The old Latin expressions, “contra evidential credo (I believe despite the evidence)” and credo quia evidentia (I believe because of evidence),” most accurately differentiate their dual lives. Such an attitude has major negative impact on scientific productivity as well as critical thinking among Muslim children.

8. Islam practiced today by Muslims is an extremely oppressive orthodoxy that is emanating from Saudi Wohabism. Across Muslim world even the secular among them are compromising more to this orthodoxy that suppress free enquiry and critical-minded scholarship.

Solution for Muslim Failure in Science

Science is the powerhouse of the GDP of a nation. So, what are the critical components necessary for any Muslim community with serious ambitions in science?

1. Muslim leaders, Imams, and the Muslims at al large must accept the fact that the encouragement of science along with a parallel suppression of free inquiry and critical-minded scholarship will not escalate Muslim productivity in science.

2 A minimal requirement is an education system that embraces science as well as a critical approach. If Imams and Muslim leadership are willing to embrace ijtihad — unfettered reasoning — and critical investigation of the natural world, they could help unlock the immense human potential of the Muslim world.

2. Muslims at large, Imams, Muslim leadership must accept that the Qur’an and the Universe are twin manifestations of the Divine Act of Self-Revelation. The interpretation of the Qur’an is generally called tafsir and of the Universe is called science. The Qur’an is the Divine Revelation in human vernacular while the universe is the Divine Book in material medium. Both books come from the same divine source. So the interpretations of one divine revelation (the Qur’an) cannot contradict that of the other revelation (the Universe). In fact without a parallel reading of the both Divine books we may misread the meaning of the Quran and vice versa. Muslims and their leaders must acknowledge that truth emerges when the tafsirs of both Divine Manifestations merge into one.



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Quote airmano Replybullet Posted: 14 June 2014 at 12:56am
Well analyzed !

and pleased to hear the light of reason is slowly filtering into (some) Muslims mind.
I'm afraid you won't make friends with these statements though !

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Quote Matt Browne Replybullet Posted: 04 October 2014 at 3:28am
Originally posted by airmano

Well analyzed  and pleased to hear the light of reason is slowly filtering into (some) Muslims mind. I'm afraid you won't make friends with these statements though ! Airmano

Many Muslims agree with this analysis. But very few say so openly out of fear. Challenging views can be dangerous for Muslims. They don't enjoy the same freedom we non-Muslims do.

Edited by Matt Browne - 04 October 2014 at 3:29am
A religion that's intolerant of other religions can't be the world's best religion --Abdel Samad
Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people--Eleanor Roosevelt
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Quote NABA Replybullet Posted: 04 October 2014 at 11:13pm
Assalamalecum,therefore Allah gave us a beautiful dua for knowledge,"rabbi zidni ilma" ch 20 v 114, with this prayer Allah will grant knowledge of many things be it islam or science.
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Quote airmano Replybullet Posted: 07 October 2014 at 5:25am
Surah 20:114 goes:
Sahih International
So high [above all] is Allah , the Sovereign, the Truth. And, [O Muhammad], do not hasten with [recitation of] the Qur'an before its revelation is completed to you, and say, "My Lord, increase me in knowledge."

Not sure whether general knowledge is meant here. In this context it sounds rather like "...increase my knowledge of the Quran".

If Mohammed had truly wanted to increase his knowledge nobody around him would have stopped him from doing so.
He didn't!


Edited by airmano - 07 October 2014 at 5:29am
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