Is Islam opposed to knowledge and science?
Islam is not opposed to knowledge and science. Knowledge is of two types: religious, which has to do with the understanding of the religious duties one is required to carry out, and temporal, which has to do with all that is needed to know with a view to living a comfortable and beneficial life. A Muslim is required to acquire both types of knowledge. In fact, Islam advocated attaining knowledge and education at a time when the whole world was engulfed in utter ignorance. The first revelation the Prophet of Islam (SA) received from Allah was:
(Read in the name of your Lord who created – created man from a clinging clot. Read, and your Lord is the most Generous, who taught by the pen; taught man that which he knew not.) [96:1-5]
These verses represent the first spark ever to dispel the darkness of ignorance and barbarianism in which the world had long been immersed. And Allah reminded the Muslims of His immeasurable favour to humankind, saying:
(It is He who raised among the unlettered people a Messenger from among themselves, reciting to them His verses, purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they were before in manifest error.) [62:2]
The early generations of Muslims became, in a matter of years, a learned and refined nation in religious as well as worldly matters, after having remained in the darkness of ignorance for centuries. Islam awakened in man the faculty of intellect and motivated him to serve Allah, the one true Allah.
Religious knowledge is essential, because, without it, one will not be able to perform his or her obligations in the prescribed manner. The Prophet (SA) said,
“To whomever He intends benefit, Allah grants understanding of the religion.”
Allah ordered the Prophet (SA) to pray to Him for advancement in knowledge:
(Say: ‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge.) [20:114]
Beneficial worldly knowledge is also necessary, and Muslims are encouraged to acquire it in order to benefit themselves and their fellow men. When the early Muslims understood this fact, they surpassed other nations in development and productivity and carried the torch of knowledge for many centuries.
Islam made great advances in the fields of medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history, to mention but a few. Many important new procedures such as the use of algebra, Arabic numerals, and the concept of the zero –which was vital to the advancement of mathematics-, were transmitted to medieval Europe from Muslim countries. It was the Muslims who developed sophisticated instruments, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery to the New World.
As T.W. Wallbank and A. Schrier put it:
“In medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and physics, Muslim achievements were particularly noteworthy. Well-equipped hospitals, usually associated with medical schools, were located in the principal cities. At a time when superstition still hampered the practice of medicine in western countries, Muslim physicians were diagnosing diseases, prescribing cures and performing advanced surgery… Probably the greatest of all physicians was the 19th century figure, Al-Razi, known in the West as Rhazes. He was the author of scores of scientific works, including a comprehensive medical encyclopaedia and a pioneering handbook on smallpox and measles. A 10th century physician, Avicenna, (Ibn Sina) compiled a huge Cannon of Medicine which was considered the standard guide in European medical circles until the late 17th century… Important advances were made in algebra, analytical geometry and plane spherical trigonometry.”
The Qur’an itself is a book of guidance and it contains some amazing scientific facts. They are amazing because although they were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SA) over 14 centuries ago, they were not really understood by man until scientists “discovered” them in very recent times. Although not meant to be a book of scientific facts as such, the Qur’an mentions certain realities that would only be recognized and appreciated through technological advancements in later centuries – further undeniable evidence and proof that it was not the work of Muhammad (SA) or of any person, but divine revelation from Allah.
The Qur’an says that only Allah knows what is in the womb. Does this not contradict medical science?
To answer this we should look at the verses that relate to this matter. Allah says:
(Verily Allah [alone] has knowledge of the Hour and sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs.) [31:34]
And He says:
(Allah knows what every female carries, and what the wombs lose [prematurely] or exceed. And everything with Him is by due measure.) [13:8]
If one reads the Arabic text of this verse, they will find that there is no Arabic word that corresponds to the English word ‘sex’ or ‘gender’. The Qur’an mentions only the knowledge of “what” is in the womb. Many have misunderstood this to mean the sex of the child in the womb, which is incorrect.
Today, science has indeed advanced, and we can easily determine the sex of the child in the womb of a pregnant mother using ultrasound scanning.
Therefore, the above verse refers to every aspect of the fetus’ present and future existence. What will be the child’s nature? Will the child be a blessing or a curse to the parents? What will happen to him or her throughout life? Will he or she do good or evil? How long will he or she live? Will he or she end up in Paradise or in Hell? Allah alone knows all of this… no scientist in the world, no matter how advanced the technology, will ever be able to determine these things about a child in the mother’s womb.
The Qur’an mentions that human beings are created from dust and it also mentions that they are created from sperm. Isn’t this contradictory?
(And We made from water every living thing.) [21:30]
And He said:
(Indeed, We created you from dust.) [22:5]
And He said:
(Indeed We have created them from sticky clay.) [37:11]
In the preceding verses, has mentioned various stages of human creation. The creation of man according to the Qur’an was first from water and dust, which when combined became clay. This refers to the creation of humanity’s first ancestor, Adam (AS). Then decreed that his descendants would reproduce after that according to the same natural law that is applied to many other living beings.
Sometimes the Qur’an refers to semen as “water”, meaning fluid. So when says in the Qur’an that He created every living thing from water, it can indicate that everything in creation; humans, animals and plants have all been created from water and depend upon water for their continued existence. But a similar verse: (And Allah has created every creature from water.) can also mean that human beings and animals are created from their fathers’ semen or sperm. This is confirmed by other verses, such as: (Did We not create you from a liquid disdained?)
As for scientific evidence, research has confirmed that the body of man, like that of other living beings, is made up predominantly of water, and that the elements of the human body are exactly the same as those found in the earth’s soil in greater or smaller quantities.
Why is the consumption of alcohol prohibited in Islam?
In Islam all things that are harmful or whose harm exceeds their benefit are unlawful. Therefore, alcohol would be deemed unlawful in Islam even if it were not clearly prohibited in the Qur’an and prophetic traditions. For anything that causes harm is considered unlawful.
Alcohol has been the scourge of human society since time immemorial. It continues to cost countless human lives and causes misery to millions throughout the world. Statistics showing soaring crime rates, increasing instances of mental illnesses and millions of broken homes throughout the world bear witness to the destructive power of alcohol.
Alcohol incapacitates the inhibitory center in the human brain. That is the reason that an inebriated person is often found to be indulging in behavior that is completely uncharacteristic. A drunkard finds it difficult to talk or walk properly. He may even urinate in his clothes. If a person should become intoxicated and commits something shameful just once, it may possibly remain with him the rest of his life.
There are a number of medical reasons for the prohibition of the consumption of alcohol. Millions of people die every year as a result of it. A few of the alcohol related illnesses are:
* Cirrhosis of liver
* Various forms of cancer
* Oesophagitis, gastritis and pancreatitis
* Cardiomyopathy, hypertension, angina and heart attacks
* Strokes, apoplexy, fits and different types of paralysis
* Peripheral neuropathy, cortical atrophy, cerebelar atrophy
* Numerous endocrine disorders
* Anemia, jaundice and platelet abnormalities
* Recurrent chest infections, pneumonia, emphysema and pulmonary tuberculosis
* During pregnancy, alcohol consumption has a severe detrimental effect on the fetus
Many claim that they only have one or two drinks and exercise self-control and so they never get intoxicated. But investigations reveal that every alcoholic started as a social drinker. Not a single alcoholic or drunkard initially starts drinking with the intention of becoming an alcoholic. It just happens along the way.
, in His infinite wisdom, made injunctions aimed at preserving the individual and society. Hence the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Islam. It is worth mentioning that when Muslims refrain from doing things that has forbidden, they do not do so because of detrimental effects but because has prohibited them. Their aim in this world is to obey ‘s commands, and by doing so they also benefit themselves.
 Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim. The Prophet is reported to have said that Allah does not like to be worshipped out of ignorance.
 Living World History, Scott Forseman and Company, 1990, p.191-2