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Islam and knowledge

Islam is the religion of science and knowledge

The path to happiness is without a doubt bound to pass through avenues of knowledge and civilization, but it cannot, in any way, pass through valleys of ignorance or backwardness. There is no religion or ideology that has raised the status of scientists and scholars, treated them with honor, urged its followers to seek knowledge and use reason, and called for studying and contemplating as has the religion of Islam, which was conveyed by the Prophet (pbuh ) who built a great civilization that expanded all over the world. This is the reason why his mission could be considered as a revolution of knowledge in an environment that was not accustomed with the spirit of knowledge and had never become used to it. The religion of Islam was revealed to bring knowledge and illuminate the world with the light of divine guidance. Allah says: {Do they then seek the judgement of (the Days of) Ignorance? And who is better in judgement than Allâh for a people who have firm Faith.}(Al-Mâ’idah:50)

For there is no place in this religion for ignorance, conjecture, doubt or suspicion. The first verse that was revealed to the illiterate Prophet (pbuh) was: {1. Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists), 2. Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). 3. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, 4. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen [the first person to write was Prophet Idrees (Enoch)], 5. Has taught man that which he knew not.}(Al-’Alaq:1-5)

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Pierre Francois Robert

French Lawyer, Politician and Professor of Public Law
READ…The Call of Islam
“There is no doubt that Islam – which is a religion of science and knowledge - invites its adherents to acquire knowledge and act upon it. There is nothing surprising about that for the first verse of the Qur’an is the verse: ‘Read in the name of your Lord who created (All that exists.)’”

The status of science in the Quran and the Sunnah

It is clear that this issue is the key to understanding Islam, the key to understanding this world, and even to understanding the Afterlife - to which all people shall return.

Indeed, it can be noted that the attention given by the Qur’an to knowledge did not appear only in the first moments of its revelation. Rather, it first appeared at the beginning of the creation of man himself, as recounted in the verses of the Qur’an. Allah created Adam and made him His viceregent on earth and commanded the angels to prostrate themselves to him. He honored and dignified him, and raised his status. Subsequently, He informed us and the angels that the reason for this honor, dignity and high rank is knowledge. The Almighty says the following when recounting this fact: {30. And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth.” They said: “Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, - while we glorify You with praises and thanks (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You.” He (Allâh) said: “I know that which you do not know.” 31. And He taught Adam all the names (of everything), then He showed them to the angels and said, “Tell Me the names of these if you are truthful.” 32. They (angels) said: “Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All-Knower, the All-Wise.” 33. He said: “O Adam! Inform them of their names,” and when he had informed them of their names, He said: “Did I not tell you that I know the Ghaib (unseen) in the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you have been concealing?”}(Al-Baqarah:30-33)

What indicates the importance of knowledge and its value in Islam is not only that the first verse revealed in the Qur’an talks about knowledge, as mentioned in Allah Almighty’s saying: (Read!) Rather, this is a consistent approach in this eternal constitution. Almost every surah in the holy Qur’an mentions knowledge, either directly or indirectly. Allah commanded us to be knowledgeable about the greatest, clearest truth, which is the Oneness of Allah Almighty. In the proceeding Ayah, Allah Says: {So know (O Muhammad [sal-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam]) that Lâ ilâha ill-Allâh (none has the right to be worshipped but Allâh), and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for (the sin of) believing men and believing women. And Allâh knows well your moving about, and your place of rest (in your homes).{ (Muhammad or Al-Qitâl:19)

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Stanly Lane-Pool

British Scientist
The masjid is a university
“Mosques were - and some of them still are –the universities of Islam. They were swarmed with students who were completely filled with a desire for knowledge. They came to listen to the lectures of scholars on the sciences of religion, law, philosophy, medicine and sports. The scholars themselves came from all over the Arab speaking world, and they welcomed all students, whatever their nationalities were.”

This indicates the high status of knowledge and learned men, and indeed rejects putting those who know and those who do not on an equal level. {Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allâh’s Signs and Verses).}(Az-Zumar:9)

Furthermore, Allah raised the status of those who were given knowledge to high ranks in the life of this world, and in addition to this reward they will be rewarded again in the Hereafter. Allah says: {Allâh will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge. And Allâh is Well-Acquainted with what you do.}(Al-Mujâdilah:11)

Not to mention that there is no ayat in the Qur’an that urges to seek an increase in anything except an increase in knowledge. Allah says: {“My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”}(Tâ-¬Hâ:114)

Hence it was not an overstatement when the Prophet (pbuh) said: {“If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in delight for one who seeks knowledge. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth, and the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the one who seeks knowledge. The superiority of the learned man over (one who is only) a devout worshipper is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the prophets, and the prophets do not leave dinar or dirham, only knowledge. And he who takes it, takes an abundant portion (of good).”}[Muslim]It was for that reason that after his mission, masjids became strongholds of knowledge and scholars.

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Maurice Bucaille

French medical Doctor and Scientist
The Qur’an and its miraculous scientific nature
“The Holy Qur’an contains clear verses on natural sciences, as indicated by Professor Yousef Marwa in his book Natural sciences in the Quran. It amounted exactly to (774) verses, detailed as follows: mathematics (61), physics (264), atoms (5), chemistry (29), relativity (62), astronomy (100), climatology (20), aquaculture (14), space science (11), zoology (12), agronomy (21), biology (36), geography(73), anthropology (10), geology (20), cosmology and the history of cosmic events (36).”

We will be very surprised when we numerate the number of times the word (knowledge), with all its different derivatives, is mentioned in the book of Allah. We find that it reaches (779) times, that is an average of almost seven times in every surah of the Qur’an! This is true about the word (knowledge), yet there are many other words that refer to the meaning of knowledge, but are not mentioned as much. There are, for instance, words such as: certainty, guidance, the mind, thought, consideration, wisdom, jurisprudence, evidence, proof, argument, sign and testimony. There are also other meanings that fall under the meaning of knowledge and encourage it. As for the Prophetic Sunnah, counting the number of such words in it is extremely difficult indeed for they are plentiful.

Humans are elevated by Islam

The holy book is not a book of physics, chemistry, biology or mathematics, but a book of guidance.

Nevertheless, nothing in the Qur’an violates anything that has been proven by modern knowledge.

Later, all of this had a far-reaching impact on the Islamic state, since it created broad activities of knowledge in various fields of information and science, an activity which has not been equaled in all history. This led to the achievement of a great civilized prosperity at the hands of Muslim scholars, and provided the human heritage with a wonderful repertoire of information to which the world remains ever indebted. Regarding this, Max Meyerhof said: “The evolution of chemistry in Europe can be traced directly to Jaber Ibn Hayan. The biggest proof of this is that many of the terms that he innovated are still used in various European languages.”

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Stanly Lane-Pool

British Scientist
Passion for culture
“Never, in the history of civilization, was there a movement more impressive than the sudden passion for culture that took place all over the Muslim world. Every Muslim, from the Muslim Caliph (Muslim ruler) to the workman, all seemed as if they had suddenly been hit by a longing for knowledge and a thirst for travel. That was the best thing, in all respects, that was introduced by Islam. Seekers of knowledge rushed to such centers as Baghdad, and then later to other centers that were the cradle of arts and sciences, similar to the modern trend of European scientists who swarmed universities seeking new knowledge, but it was even more magnificent than it.”

Moreover, Aldo Mieli said: “If we move to mathematics and astronomy we shall meet, from the very dawn of these sciences, first-class scholars. Of the most important of these is Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi[1] ... Khwarizmi had splendidly started a series of great mathematicians. His books continued to be taught in European universities until the sixteenth century.”

[1] The original inventor of Algebra. He was principally responsible for spreading the Indian system of numeration. He wrote many researches about mathematics, astronomy and geography.

Sigrid Hunkehad had the following to say about the surgical part of the book ‘At-Tasreef Liman ‘Ajaza ‘anit-Ta’leef’ (The Method of Medicine)[2] by Az-Zahrawi (Abulkasis): “The third section of this book has played an important role in Europe; for it laid down the foundations of European surgery. It soared with this branch of medicine to a high status. So surgery became independent and based on its principles of anatomy.” Az-Zahrawi’s book had a significant impact, over five centuries, on the European renaissance, for it was taught at universities in Europe, and European surgeons referred to and quoted from it as well.

[2] A medical encyclopedia in thirty volumes which is full of abundant drawings as well as abundant forms of machinery that its author, Zahrawi, used in the surgery. The Gerard of Cremona section on surgery of this book was translated into Latin in the twelfth century, and different editions were issued; one in Venice in 1497, and another in Basel in 1541, and a third in Oxford in 1778. Also Dr. Leclerc translated it into French in the nineteenth century.
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Gustave Le Bon

French Historian
A civilization of knowledge
“Whenever we study the Arabs’ civilization, their scientific books, inventions, and arts, new facts and broad aspects appear to us. We soon learned that credit was and is due to Arabs regarding their medieval knowledge of ancient sciences, and that western universities did not know for five centuries a scientific resource except their books. The Arabs were those who brought civilization to Europe materialistically,intellectually and morally. History did not know a nation which has produced what that nation did in such a short time, and no people have surpassed them in technical innovation.”

Muslim scholars continue to provide achievements to all of mankind. In his book ‘The Era of Knowledge’ Ahmed Zewail[3] said: “My job was located in a place within the heart of atoms where there is fusion and division of molecules, and was located in time within a second where a second becomes a giant length of time.”

[3] An Egyptian Chemist who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the year 1999 for an invention of a camera to analyze the spectrum which works in Femtoseconds (Femtosecond Spectroscopy) as well as his study of chemical reactions using it. It took the whole world into a new era which the world did not expect to comprehend, being able to control the movement of atoms within molecules during a chemical reaction through fast laser technology. Dr. Ahmed Zewail created an ultra-fast laser imaging system that has the ability to monitor the movement of molecules as they are created and while each is fusing with the other. The unit time in which the image is taken is the femtosecond, which is a fraction of a million billion fraction of a second.

This is not surprising since this knowledge, guidance and light that was brought by Muhammad (pbuh) rescued humanity from stagnant swamps and raised it with knowledge, civilization and culture that spread throughout history.

Islam has a scientific methodology

The advent of Islam introduced scientific methodology. Islam, for instance, warned of brainlessly imitating others. The Almighty says the following about the disbelievers: {When it is said to them: “Follow what Allâh has sent down.” They say: “Nay! We shall follow what we found our fathers following.” (Would they do that!) Even though their fathers did not understand anything nor were they guided?}(Al-Baqarah:170)

What’s more, about following conjecture without any scientific approach, the Almighty says: {And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allâh’s Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie.}(Al-An’âm:116)

In addition, about whims, which are contrary to knowledge and logic, reason and study, the Almighty says: {And surely many do lead (mankind) astray by their own desires through lack of knowledge.}(Al-An’âm:119)

About aversion and hatred, which distances one from justice, He says: {and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allâh. Verily, Allâh is Well- Acquainted with what you do.}(Al-Mâ’idah:8)

Regarding the objectivity of scholars, the Almighty says about the Jews: {Among those who are Jews, there are some who displace words from (their) right places and say: “We hear your word (O Muhammad [sal-Allâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam]) and disobey}(An-Nisâ’:46)

About not being oppressive and causing discord, the Almighty says: {The way (of blame) is only against those who oppress men and wrongly rebel in the earth}(Ash-Shûra:42)

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Rene Guenon

French Philosopher
The miraculous Qur’an
“I followed all the verses that have a link to science and nature, and found that these verses are all fully applicable to our modern knowledge, because I realized that Muhammad (pbuh) came with the explicit truth more than a thousand years ago, before there were any human instructors or teachers. If any scholar, scientist or artist thoroughly compares all the verses associated with the topic he understands well, as I did, he will undoubtedly acquiesce to the holy Qur’an, that is if he is a reasonable person, devoid of any dubious purposes.”

He mentions the consequences about having scientific integrity and being just with the people: {.. and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice.}(An-Nisâ’:58)

About being just and standing up firmly for justice, and giving truthful testimonials, Allah says: {O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allâh, even though it be against yourselves}(An-Nisâ’:135)

Regarding the importance of looking for evidence, proof and an argument, Allah says: {Say, “Bring forth your proofs, if you are truthful.”}(An-Naml:64)

Furthermore, there is so much more than this that formulates a scientific methodology for the path of knowledge and civilization.