Islam, Science and Learning
Quoted from M.H. Sadar in Science and Islam, in Z. Sardar edt: The Touch of Midas; Manchester University Press; 1984. p.17-24:
Islam, unlike modern Christianity does not differentiate between matters of `state' and matters of religion. In this respect, Islam should not really be regarded as a religion for it is a Total system. It is a religion, a culture, a civilisation-all at once. And as a holistic system it touches every aspect of human endeavour. Islamic ethics and values permeate all human activity.
As Islam does not permit priesthood or a religious hierarchy, it commands each and every believer to seek knowledge and be aware of his/her obligations and responsibilities to society as well as to God. Thus, in Islam, the pursuit of knowledge is both a personal and social obligation.
Scholars like al-Ghazali and ibn Khaldun have argued that total reflection also includes inner reflection; and the pursuit of knowledge should not be divorced from ethical and value criteria. And it is this consideration that makes the Quranic approach to science so much different from the Western approach to science.
Conflict can arise when science and its methods is made into an all embracing value at the expense of others. The pursuit of knowledge in Islam is not an end in itself; it is only a means of acquiring an understanding of God and solving the problems of the Muslim community.
So, experimental and empirical work cannot be completely divorced from one's heart, inner intuition, insight or conscience. Thus, the Quran sees science within a framework of total human experience: reason and the pursuit of knowledge have a very important place in an Islamic society but they are subservient to Quranic values and ethics. In this framework, reason and revelation go hand in hand.
Modern science, on the other hand, considers reason to be supreme, beyond the boundaries of ethics and values. The apostles of modern science are generally oblivious to such basic religious concepts as `the Day of Judgement' or `Life after Death.' These are amongst the prime values. (In their majority, not to say all, modern secular scientists have absolutely no ethical sense of any sort, or concern whatsoever of right and wrong. Science obeys the preoccupations of the day, responds to the demands of the funding source, or personal vanity. Islam, however, makes everyone responsible for their acts, and the outcomes of their acts.)
The prime difference, then, between modern science and the Quranic approach is that in Islam there is no difference between the means and ends of science. Both are subject to the ethical and value parameters of Islam. Science is an essential activity for an Islamic community, for it increases the understanding of the signs of God and hence brings the Ummah, the world-wide Muslim community, closer to the Creator. And as scientists are accountable to God for their activities, they are required both to serve the community and protect and promote its ethical and moral institutions. The way they use science, therefore, must reflect the values of the society they seek to serve.
Thus, the Quranic approach to science is at once dynamic and static: it promotes reason, objectivity and the pursuit of truth and excellence, but at the same time, it places this endeavour firmly within the boundaries of Islamic ethics and values.
by: Quoted from M.H. Sadar, Sun 21 July, 2002