Islam & Science -The road to renewal


After centuries of stagnation science is making a comeback in the Islamic world

Picture No. 10662330

THE sleep has been long and deep. In 2005 Harvard University produced more scientific papers than 17 Arabic-speaking countries combined. The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have produced only two Nobel laureates in chemistry and physics. Both moved to the West: the only living one, the chemist Ahmed Hassan Zewail, is at the California Institute of Technology. By contrast Jews, outnumbered 100 to one by Muslims, have won 79. The 57 countries in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference spend a puny 0.81% of GDP on research and development, about a third of the world average. America, which has the world’s biggest science budget, spends 2.9%; Israel lavishes 4.4%.

Many blame Islam’s supposed innate hostility to science. Some universities seem keener on prayer than study. Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, for example, has three mosques on campus, with a fourth planned, but no bookshop. Rote learning rather than critical thinking is the hallmark of higher education in many countries. The Saudi government supports books for Islamic schools such as “The Unchallengeable Miracles of the Qur’an: The Facts That Can’t Be Denied By Science” suggesting an inherent conflict between belief and reason.

Many universities are timid about courses that touch even tangentially on politics or look at religion from a non-devotional standpoint. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a renowned Pakistani nuclear scientist, introduced a course on science and world affairs, including Islam’s relationship with science, at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the country’s most progressive universities. Students were keen, but Mr Hoodbhoy’s contract was not renewed when it ran out in December; for no proper reason, he says. (The university insists that the decision had nothing to do with the course content.)

But look more closely and two things are clear. A Muslim scientific awakening is under way. And the roots of scientific backwardness lie not with religious leaders, but with secular rulers, who are as stingy with cash as they are lavish with controls over independent thought.

The long view

The caricature of Islam’s endemic backwardness is easily dispelled. Between the eighth and the 13th centuries, while Europe stumbled through the dark ages, science thrived in Muslim lands. The Abbasid caliphs showered money on learning. The 11th century “Canon of Medicine” by Avicenna (pictured, with modern equipment he would have relished) was a standard medical text in Europe for hundreds of years. In the ninth century Muhammad al-Khwarizmi laid down the principles of algebra, a word derived from the name of his book, “Kitab al-Jabr”. Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham transformed the study of light and optics. Abu Raihan al-Biruni, a Persian, calculated the earth’s circumference to within 1%. And Muslim scholars did much to preserve the intellectual heritage of ancient Greece; centuries later it helped spark Europe’s scientific revolution.

Not only were science and Islam compatible, but religion could even spur scientific innovation. Accurately calculating the beginning of Ramadan (determined by the sighting of the new moon) motivated astronomers. The Hadith (the sayings of Muhammad) exhort believers to seek knowledge, “even as far as China”.

These scholars’ achievements are increasingly celebrated. Tens of thousands flocked to “1001 Inventions”, a touring exhibition about the golden age of Islamic science, in the Qatari capital, Doha, in the autumn. More importantly, however, rulers are realising the economic value of scientific research and have started to splurge accordingly. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which opened in 2009, has a $20 billion endowment that even rich American universities would envy.

Foreigners are already on their way there. Jean Fréchet, who heads research, is a French chemist tipped to win a Nobel prize. The Saudi newcomer boasts research collaborations with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and with Imperial College, London. The rulers of neighbouring Qatar are bumping up research spending from 0.8% to a planned 2.8% of GDP: depending on growth, that could reach $5 billion a year. Research spending in Turkey increased by over 10% each year between 2005 and 2010, by which year its cash outlays were twice Norway’s.

The tide of money is bearing a fleet of results. In the 2000 to 2009 period Turkey’s output of scientific papers rose from barely 5,000 to 22,000; with less cash, Iran’s went up 1,300, to nearly 15,000. Quantity does not imply quality, but the papers are getting better, too. Scientific journals, and not just the few based in the Islamic world, are citing these papers more frequently. A study in 2011 by Thomson Reuters, an information firm, shows that in the early 1990s other publishers cited scientific papers from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (the most prolific Muslim countries) four times less often than the global average. By 2009 it was only half as often. In the category of best-regarded mathematics papers, Iran now performs well above average, with 1.7% of its papers among the most-cited 1%, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia also doing well. Turkey scores highly on engineering.

Science and technology-related subjects, with their clear practical benefits, do best. Engineering dominates, with agricultural sciences not far behind. Medicine and chemistry are also popular. Value for money matters. Fazeel Mehmood Khan, who recently returned to Pakistan after doing a PhD in Germany on astrophysics and now works at the Government College University in Lahore, was told by his university’s vice-chancellor to stop chasing wild ideas (black holes, in his case) and do something useful.

Science is even crossing the region’s deepest divide. In 2000 SESAME, an international physics laboratory with the Middle East’s first particle accelerator, was set up in Jordan. It is modelled on CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory, which was created to bring together scientists from wartime foes. At SESAME Israeli boffins work with colleagues from places such as Iran and the Palestinian territories.

By the book

Science of the kind practised at SESAME throws up few challenges to Muslim doctrine (and in many cases is so abstruse that religious censors would struggle to understand it). But biology—especially with an evolutionary angle—is different. Many Muslims are troubled by the notion that humans share a common ancestor with apes. Research published in 2008 by Salman Hameed of Hampshire College in Massachusetts, a Pakistani astronomer who now studies Muslim attitudes to science, found that fewer than 20% in Indonesia, Malaysia or Pakistan believed in Darwin’s theories. In Egypt it was just 8%.

Yasir Qadhi, an American chemical engineer turned cleric (who has studied in both the United States and Saudi Arabia), wrestled with this issue at a London conference on Islam and evolution this month. He had no objection to applying evolutionary theory to other lifeforms. But he insisted that Adam and Eve did not have parents and did not evolve from other species. Any alternative argument is “scripturally indefensible,” he said. Some, especially in the diaspora, conflate human evolution with atheism: rejecting it becomes a defining part of being a Muslim. (Some Christians take a similar approach to the Bible.)

Though such disbelief may be couched in religious terms, culture and politics play a bigger role, says Mr Hameed. Poor school education in many countries leaves minds open to misapprehension. A growing Islamic creationist movement is at work too. A controversial Turkish preacher who goes by the name of Harun Yahya is in the forefront. His website spews pamphlets and books decrying Darwin. Unlike his American counterparts, however, he concedes that the universe is billions of years old (not 6,000 years).

But the barrier is not insuperable. Plenty of Muslim biologists have managed to reconcile their faith and their work. Fatimah Jackson, a biological anthropologist who converted to Islam, quotes Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the founders of genetics, saying that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. Science describes how things change; Islam, in a larger sense, explains why, she says.

Others take a similar line. “The Koran is not a science textbook,” says Rana Dajani, a Jordanian molecular biologist. “It provides people with guidelines as to how they should live their lives.” Interpretations of it, she argues, can evolve with new scientific discoveries. Koranic verses about the creation of man, for example, can now be read as providing support for evolution.

Other parts of the life sciences, often tricky for Christians, have proved unproblematic for Muslims. In America researchers wanting to use embryonic stem cells (which, as their name suggests, must be taken from human embryos, usually spares left over from fertility treatments) have had to battle pro-life Christian conservatives and a federal ban on funding for their field. But according to Islam, the soul does not enter the fetus until between 40 and 120 days after conception—so scientists at the Royan Institute in Iran are able to carry out stem-cell research without attracting censure.

But the kind of freedom that science demands is still rare in the Muslim world. With the rise of political Islam, including dogmatic Salafists who espouse a radical version of Islam, in such important countries as Egypt, some fear that it could be eroded further still. Others, however, remain hopeful. Muhammad Morsi, Egypt’s president, is a former professor of engineering at Zagazig University, near Cairo. He has a PhD in materials science from the University of Southern California (his dissertation was entitled “High-Temperature Electrical Conductivity and Defect Structure of Donor-Doped Al2O{-3}”). He has promised that his government will spend more on research.

Released from the restrictive control of the former regimes, scientists in Arab countries see a chance for progress. Scientists in Tunisia say they are already seeing promising reforms in the way university posts are filled. People are being elected, rather than appointed by the regime. The political storms shaking the Middle East could promote not only democracy, but revive scientific freethinking, too.

http://www.economist.com/news/international/21570677-after-centuries-stagnation-science-making-comeback-islamic-world-road

Evolution or Creation? Or BOTH?


horse-evolution-species

It says, Allah is – Al Khaliq (The Creator)

It also says, Allah is – Al Bari (The Evolver)

For the Muslim there is no need for separation between religion and science. It is understood from the Quran, revealed over 1,400 years ago, that there is both; “Creation” and “Evolution.” And in both instances, it is only Allah who is “Able to do all things.” In fact, it was the Muslim scientists, more than 1,000 years ago, who set the stage for the advancement of learning, technology and disciplines in science that we know today.

Allah has explained how He created everything in the universe and brought all life out of water. He created humans from earth (not monkeys) and there is no need to attempt fabrications of “links” to the animal world in Islam.

Muslims believe that souls are assigned to humans 40 days after the human inception. The Quran says that angels retrieve human souls on two occasions. One occasion is when humans die. The other occasion is every time humans fall asleep. When humans wakeup, the angels release those souls back to them:

It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that did not die, during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back, but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who reflect. [Noble Quran 39:42]

And Allah has Created every animal from water; of them are some creeping on their bellies; some walk on two legs; and some on four. Allah Creates what He wills: for sure Allah has Power over all things. [Noble Quran 24:45]

The Quran has set a precedent 14 centuries before modern science, explaining in simple and direct terms about his “creation” of animals and their various functions and then assures us it is He who has the Power over everything. This statement includes the fact Allah can if He Wills, reshape and alter his creation as He Chooses. There is clear evidence within many species of alteration and changes within the species. However, there is no concrete evidence to support a cross over in development from one type to another, such as reptiles turning into birds or alligators turning into cows. The statements made in Quran are quite clear when Allah tells us of having brought forth other life forms and then destroying or replacing them with others. This again, does not imply evolution in the sense of one type becoming or changing into another.

Allah tells us He is Al-Bari, (The Shaper or Evolver) but once again, this does not mean He has a need to bring about each individual life form all from one kind. Actually, while reading the Quran you learn He has brought many types and shapes and sizes as He Wills. Changes within species occur even as quickly as one or two seasons, not even taking a whole year, much less millions as was supposed by Darwin.

Speaking of Charles Darwin, he was only an armature naturalist and had only observed the finches (birds) on the Galapagos Islands for the first time in the mid 1850s. He noticed that on each island the birds had different shaped beaks according to the type of food available on their particular island. For this reason, he assumed, the birds had progressed over millions of years and only the hardiest of the species had survived the climate and vegetation changes. However, this is totally inaccurate and was dismissed as a mere humor in a TV series on the educational channel in October of 1998. According to the scientists’ discoveries in that very same year, the effects of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino, the climate on these same exact islands had drastically changed in a single year within a number of months. And to their surprise, the eggs of the finches on each island hatched open producing birds with beaks already altered to accommodate the changes of their environment.

The commentator even said this shoots Darwin’s theory completely down and he laughed.

There is no DNA research pointing to a connection between apes and humans as was supposed by the scientists and those who had financed them over the years. In fact, the barnyard pig is closer to humans in many aspects, than a monkey or a gorilla. Consider the fact, doctors use the skin from pigs to replace needed tissue on burn victims and the famous movie actor, John Wayne had a pig’s heart valve installed in his own heart in a 1977 operation to save his life. It worked, too – until his smoking caused him to die of cancer.

The rational approach to the whole subject is rather simple. Just as He is able to Create the universe and bring forth life, it is simple also for Him to produce as many different types of forms of life as He Wills. No problem for Him, after all – He is the Creator and He is the Shaper. And most important, He can change anything as He Wills – even today.

Let read Non- Muslim’s view

1) http://allallt.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/how-can-the-religious-explain-evolution/

2) http://tedhowardnz.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/human-evolution-2/

3) http://brandonrobshaw.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/evolutionary-theory-maintains/

Islamic mathematics


Some examples of the complex symmetries used in Islamic mosque decoration

The Islamic Empire established across Persia, the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, Iberia and parts of India from the 8th Century onwards made significant contributions towards mathematics. They were able to draw on and fuse together the mathematical developments of both Greece and India.

One consequence of the Islamic prohibition on depicting the human form was the extensive use of complex geometric patterns to decorate their buildings, raising mathematics to the form of an art. In fact, over time, Muslim artists discovered all the different forms of symmetry that can be depicted on a 2-dimensional surface.

The Qu’ran itself encouraged the accumulation of knowledge, and a Golden Age of Islamic science and mathematics flourished throughout the medieval period from the 9th to 15th Centuries. The House of Wisdom was set up in Baghdad around 810, and work started almost immediately on translating the major Greek and Indian mathematical and astronomy works into Arabic.

The outstanding Persian mathematician Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi was an early Director of the House of Wisdom in the 9th Century, and one of the greatest of early Muslim mathematicians. Perhaps Al-Khwarizmi’s most important contribution to mathematics was his strong advocacy of the Hindu numerical system (1 – 9 and 0), which he recognized as having the power and efficiency needed to revolutionize Islamic (and, later, Western) mathematics, and which was soon adopted by the entire Islamic world, and later by Europe as well.

Al-Khwarizmi‘s other important contribution was algebra, and he introduced the fundamental algebraic methods of “reduction” and “balancing” and provided an exhaustive account of solving polynomial equations up to the second degree. In this way, he helped create the powerful abstract mathematical language still used across the world today, and allowed a much more general way of analyzing problems other than just the specific problems previously considered by the Indians and Chinese.

Binomial Theorem

Binomial Theorem

The 10th Century Persian mathematician Muhammad Al-Karaji worked to extend algebra still further, freeing it from its geometrical heritage, and introduced the theory of algebraic calculus. Al-Karaji was the first to use the method of proof by mathematical induction to prove his results, by proving that the first statement in an infinite sequence of statements is true, and then proving that, if any one statement in the sequence is true, then so is the next one.

Among other things, Al-Karaji used mathematical induction to prove the binomial theorem. A binomial is a simple type of algebraic expression which has just two terms which are operated on only by addition, subtraction, multiplication and positive whole-number exponents, such as (x + y)2. The co-efficients needed when a binomial is expanded form a symmetrical triangle, usually referred to as Pascal’s Triangle after the 17th Century French mathematician Blaise Pascal, although many other mathematicians had studied it centuries before him in India, Persia, China and Italy, including Al-Karaji.

Some hundred years after Al-Karaji, Omar Khayyam (perhaps better known as a poet and the writer of the “Rubaiyat”, but an important mathematician and astronomer in his own right) generalized Indian methods for extracting square and cube roots to include fourth, fifth and higher roots in the early 12th Century. He carried out a systematic analysis of cubic problems, revealing there were actually several different sorts of cubic equations. Although he did in fact succeed in solving cubic equations, and although he is usually credited with identifying the foundations of algebraic geometry, he was held back from further advances by his inability to separate the algebra from the geometry, and a purely algebraic method for the solution of cubic equations had to wait another 500 years and the Italian mathematicians del Ferro and Tartaglia.

Al-Tusi was a pioneer in the field of spherical trigonometry

Al-Tusi was a pioneer in the field of spherical trigonometry

The 13th Century Persian astronomer, scientist and mathematician Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi was perhaps the first to treat trigonometry as a separate mathematical discipline, distinct from astronomy. Building on earlier work by Greek mathematicians such as Menelaus of Alexandria and Indian work on the sine function, he gave the first extensive exposition of spherical trigonometry, including listing the six distinct cases of a right triangle in spherical trigonometry. One of his major mathematical contributions was the formulation of the famous law of sines for plane triangles, a(sin A) = b(sin B) = c(sin C), although the sine law for spherical triangles had been discovered earlier by the 10th Century Persians Abul Wafa Buzjani and Abu Nasr Mansur.

Other medieval Muslim mathematicians worthy of note include:

  • the 9th Century Arab Thabit ibn Qurra, who developed a general formula by which amicable numbers could be derived, re-discovered much later by both Fermat and Descartes(amicable numbers are pairs of numbers for which the sum of the divisors of one number equals the other number, e.g. the proper divisors of 220 are 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 20, 22, 44, 55 and 110, of which the sum is 284; and the proper divisors of 284 are 1, 2, 4, 71, and 142, of which the sum is 220);

  • the 10th Century Arab mathematician Abul Hasan al-Uqlidisi, who wrote the earliest surviving text showing the positional use of Arabic numerals, and particularly the use of decimals instead of fractions (e.g. 7.375 insead of 738);

  • the 10th Century Arab geometer Ibrahim ibn Sinan, who continued Archimedes‘ investigations of areas and volumes, as well as on tangents of a circle;

  • the 11th Century Persian Ibn al-Haytham (also known as Alhazen), who, in addition to his groundbreaking work on optics and physics, established the beginnings of the link between algebra and geometry, and devised what is now known as “Alhazen’s problem” (he was the first mathematician to derive the formula for the sum of the fourth powers, using a method that is readily generalizable); and

  • the 13th Century Persian Kamal al-Din al-Farisi, who applied the theory of conic sections to solve optical problems, as well as pursuing work in number theory such as on amicable numbers, factorization and combinatorial methods;

  • the 13th Century Moroccan Ibn al-Banna al-Marrakushi, whose works included topics such as computing square roots and the theory of continued fractions, as well as the discovery of the first new pair of amicable numbers since ancient times (17,296 and 18,416, later re-discovered by Fermat) and the the first use of algebraic notation since Brahmagupta.

With the stifling influence of the Turkish Ottoman Empire from the 14th or 15th Century onwards, Islamic mathematics stagnated, and further developments moved to Europe.

source : storyofmathematics.com

The Scientific Precision of the Qur’an


Dr Zaghloul Mohammad Al Najjar is an Egyptian scholar and a prominent figure in scientific miraculousness in the Quran, He had been chosen the Dubai International Holy Quran Award’s (DIHQA) Islamic Personality of 2006.

He has a PhD from Wales University in geology, specializing in micropalaeontology. He has worked in a variety of Universities around the world and currently is a Professor at King Saud University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Topic: The Scientific Precision of the Qur’an
Prof Zaghloul Al-Najjar speaks to an audience regarding the scientific facts revealed in the Qur’an at Lecture Theatre, University Hospital of Wales Cardiff. 2nd Feb, 1999.