Mehdi Golshani, Issues in Islam and Science.Mehdi Golshani Professor Mehdi Golshani (Persian: مهدی گلشنی, born 1939 in Isfahan, Iran) is a contemporary Iranian theoretical physicist and philosopher. He received his B.Sc. , Issues in Islam and Science (Tehran: Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies, 2004), pp 152, HB, ISBN ISBN
International Standard Book Number
ISBN International Standard Book Number
ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m 964 4226 207 7
The current slow output of writing on Islam and science does not seem to match the growing demand. Every new addition to the still relatively small corpus on the subject is thus greeted with much interest. Mehdi Golshani's latest book on religion and science, Issues in Islam and Science, is a compilation of articles that he has published in different international journals during the last five years. Though the content is not new, the author, a professor of physics at the Sharif University of Technology Sharif University of Technology (Persian: دانشگاه صنعتی شریف Dāneshgāh-e San'ati-ye Sharif), formerly named Aryamehr University of Technology in Tehran, Iran decided to publish the articles in book form. This will certainly help his earlier writings to reach a wider audience in the English-speaking world beyond the regular readers of those journals. Hopefully the book would lead readers to a critical discussion of its content that would further enhance intellectual interest on the subject of Islam and science.
The book consists of six chapters dealing with different but related themes pertaining per·tain
intr.v. per·tained, per·tain·ing, per·tains
1. To have reference; relate: evidence that pertains to the accident.
2. to the relationships between Islam and science. The major themes treated in these chapters may be summarized as follows. Chapter 1 is entitled "Islam and the Sciences of Nature: Some Fundamental Questions." Its central theme is the confrontation between Islam and modern views on the meaning and significance of science for the human understanding of reality in its totality and the human quest of God. The author first presents the Qur'anic perspective on science and its relationship with religion, then contrasts it with the materialist and empiricist em·pir·i·cism
1. The view that experience, especially of the senses, is the only source of knowledge.
a. Employment of empirical methods, as in science.
b. An empirical conclusion.
3. perspectives, and simultaneously cites modern western voices from the scientific community supportive of the Qur'anic position. In trying to emphasize the multi-faceted relationship between religion and science The relationship between religion and science takes many forms as the two fields are both broad. They employ different methods and address different questions. The scientific method relies on an objective approach to measure, calculate, and describe the natural/physical/material in the Islamic context Golshani has listed many issues for discussion. These include the implications of religious faith for scientific pursuit, the multiplicity of methodological approaches to the study of nature, the limitations of science in revealing the total picture of the universe, and the controversial notion of "Islamic science
Golshani contends religious faith and scientific pursuit stand to derive mutual benefit from their encounters (pp. 11-12). Coming from a man of deep religious faith as well as a practicing scientist we can expect the claim will receive a more respectable consideration from readers than if the claim were to come from a non-scientist. I suspect readers are eager to be furnished with a good range of examples of what these "mutual benefits" are. In particular, readers may wish to know the positive consequences of religious faith for scientific pursuit especially as individually or collectively experienced by scientists with religious beliefs. Unfortunately, he is content with saying that "if a scientist approaches nature with a faith in God, his faith may be fortified fortified (fôrt´fīd),
adj containing additives more potent than the principal ingredient. by his scientific activity" without clarifying why and how scientific activity has the capacity to transform one's religious faith. An explanation is needed even in the case of someone who already possesses a "certain amount" of religious faith. Faith has many dimensions. As Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, tells us, the tree of faith (iman) has seventy branches some of which pertain per·tain
intr.v. per·tained, per·tain·ing, per·tains
1. To have reference; relate: evidence that pertains to the accident.
2. directly to knowledge and virtues. Not all religious people who talk about faith in God are passionate about science. Then we have men of science, who talk about religious faith, but they do so rather differently from the way many theologians and jurists The following lists are of prominent jurists, including judges, listed in alphabetical order by jurisdiction. See also list of lawyers. Antiquity
The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.
[Greek epist content. In talking about the possible impact of science on faith, it is this epistemological content that needs to be explored. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , we wish to know how scientific activity can fortify for·ti·fy
v. for·ti·fied, for·ti·fy·ing, for·ti·fies
To make strong, as:
a. To strengthen and secure (a position) with fortifications.
b. To reinforce by adding material. the epistemological content of one's faith. It is only in the final chapter VI entitled "Does science offer evidence of a transcendental reality and purpose?" that Golshani offers us a more detailed treatment of the epistemological and cosmological cos·mol·o·gy
n. pl. cos·mol·o·gies
1. The study of the physical universe considered as a totality of phenomena in time and space.
a. content of faith.
Conversely, Golshani maintains "religious faith can provide a good motivation for scientific work." In support of this very important claim he quotes the eleventh-century Muslim scientist-philosopher, al-Biruni, and the twentieth-century author of The Social Structure of Islam, Reuben Levy, both of whom acknowledge the centrality of religion in the Muslim motives for the study of the universe. Many contemporary westerners do not hesitate to reject Golshani's claim, but Muslims generally agree fully with that claim. There are plenty of supportive facts that may be cited from the world history of science in general and the Islamic history of science. Given the fact that in the West there is widespread ignorance of Muslim cultivation of science in their past history it is a good thing for Golshani to stress the point that religious faith can have a very positive influence on scientific work. In the same final chapter he provides a brief discussion of the scientific fruits of religious faith such as experienced by al-Biruni and the seventeenth-century English scientist Robert Boyle (pp. 135-136). Unfortunately Golshani's discussion on this very important subject is too brief. Readers need a wider and deeper understanding of the wide range of "scientific manifestations" of religious faith both at the levels of ideas and practices.
Chapter II is devoted to the multiplicity of methodological approaches to the study of nature. Entitled "Ways of understanding nature in the Qur anic perspective", this nine page chapter is too brief for such an important subject. By quoting the relevant verses from the Qur'an Golshani wants to show that insofar in·so·far
To such an extent.
Adv. 1. insofar - to the degree or extent that; "insofar as it can be ascertained, the horse lung is comparable to that of man"; "so far as it is reasonably practical he should practice as Muslims are guided by the sacred book they believe in three fundamental avenues to knowledge of nature. These are the use of the immediate senses by means of which observation and experimentation take place, the use of intellect-reason, and divine revelation Noun 1. divine revelation - communication of knowledge to man by a divine or supernatural agency
making known, informing - a speech act that conveys information and inspiration. For those who are not yet familiar with Islamic teachings on the possible sources of human knowledge this chapter provides useful introductory material to the subject. But serious students of Islamic philosophy Islamic philosophy (الفلسفة الإسلامية) is a branch of Islamic studies, and is a longstanding attempt to create harmony between philosophy (reason) and the religious teachings of Islam of science would like to see a more in-depth discussion of these channels to knowledge of nature and their interrelations.
In chapter III entitled "How to make sense of 'Islamic science'?" Golshani attempts to rationalize the widespread usage of the term 'Islamic science' in contemporary Muslim societies. On the history of the idea of Islamic science there appear to be some inconsistencies in the book. In chapter I (p. 24) Golshani writes "The idea of Islamic science has been around for the last thirty years." In chapter III he claims the history of 'Islamization of knowledge' and 'Islamic science' may be traced as far back as the 1930's with the writings of Sayyid say·yid
1. Used as a title and form of address for a male dignitary.
2. Used as a title for a descendant of the family of Muhammad. Abu'l Ala Mawdudi (d. 1979), founder of the modernist Salafi movement Noun 1. Salafi movement - a militant group of extremist Sunnis who believe themselves the only correct interpreters of the Koran and consider moderate Muslims to be infidels; seek to convert all Muslims and to insure that its own fundamentalist version of Islam will in the Indian subcontinent Indian subcontinent, region, S central Asia, comprising the countries of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh and the Himalayan states of Nepal, and Bhutan. Sri Lanka, an island off the southeastern tip of the Indian peninsula, is often considered a part of the subcontinent. , the Jama at al-Islami (p. 45). This is a controversial claim. Not a few people would like to dispute the claim. The Malaysian scholar, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas Syed Muhammad al Naquib bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Muhsin al Attas (born September 5, 1931) is a prominent contemporary Muslim philosopher and thinker from Malaysia. He is one of the few contemporary scholars who is thoroughly rooted in the traditional Islamic sciences and who is , a major figure in contemporary Islamization of knowledge Islamization of knowledge is a term which describes a variety of attempts and approaches to synthesize the ethics of Islam with various fields of modern thought. Its end product would be a new ijma ("consensus") among Muslims on an appropriate fiqh ("jurisprudence") and a discourse has maintained he was the first to have explicitly formulated the idea of Islamization of knowledge. As far as the term 'Islamic science' is concerned it was only in vogue after it was introduced in the early 1960's by the Iranian-American scholar of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Persian: سيد حسين نصر), (1933-), a University Professor of . Golshani's quotations of Mawdudi do indicate the latter had used the term 'Islamized' in reference to the problem of Muslim encounter with 'foreign' knowledge, thus implicitly affirming the need for an Islamization of knowledge for today's Muslims. However, there is no evidence to show he has ever used the terms 'Islamization of knowledge' and 'Islamic science.' In any case, Golshani's discussion of Islamic science has raised the academic issue of the origins of the two terminologies in modern Muslim scholarship, though no one has yet come up with a detailed historical account of the origin and development of the two related ideas in question. We hope such an account will be written in the very near future.
Golshani is aware of the different understandings of the term 'Islamic science' among Muslims, but he avoids discussing them. He affirmatively answers the question "does the idea of Islamic science make sense?" As a matter of fact, he devotes several pages to discussing the rationale for the idea and his own understanding of the term. In chapter I (pp. 25-28) and this chapter (p. 51) he has given two different sets of characteristics of Islamic science. Though different, these characteristics appear to be reconcilable rec·on·cil·a·ble
Capable of or qualified for reconciliation: reconcilable differences.
rec . Golshani also discusses what Islamic science is not. But of all the issues pertaining to Islamic science that he has raised in the chapter, the question of the relationship between science and metaphysics gains his most serious attention. Clearly he considers the acceptance of metaphysics as crucial and as the key to defending the idea of Islamic science and, more generally, the idea of religious science. In discussing the issue he has put to the best use his sound knowledge of modern physics. If the book has made some contribution to the contemporary discourse on Islamic science, then it is precisely in his strengthening of the argument that "science is not free of metaphysical presuppositions", and we have the choice of doing science either in a religious or non-religious context.
Chapter IV, another brief one with the title "Islam, science, and society" is supposed to deal with the societal dimension of science from the Islamic point of view. Within the short space given to this very important subject Golshani has dealt mainly with the Islamic view of society. The various aspects of the relationship between science and society are hardly discussed. A more substantive treatment of the subject is to be found in the next chapter (V) entitled "Values and ethical issues in science and technology." It is therefore rather surprising the author did not combine the two chapters into one. His attempt to explain why moral and ethical values in scientific and technological activities in the modern world of the last one century or so is commendable. But instead of offering a philosophical and historical treatment of the problem he presents quotations from Western philosophers and scientists that he thinks would help to answer the above question. Golshani does address the question of the urgent need for ethical concern in science and technology especially in light of recent advances such as in the domain of genetic manipulation and environmental degradation Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife. . He also stresses the important point that science needs religion in the domain of its practical applications in as much as it needs religion in its theoretical constructions. For western readers not familiar with Islamic ethics Islamic ethics (akhlāq), defined as "good character," historically took shape only gradually and was finally established in the 11th century. It was eventually shaped as a successful amalgamation of pre-Islamic Arabian tradition, the Qur'anic teaching the author has provided a good list of verses from the Qur'an that are relevant to an understanding of Islamic ethics in science and technology.
The last and final chapter of the book again takes up the issue of the meaning and significance of a metaphysical framework for science. It asks this fundamental question: Does science offer evidence of a transcendental reality and purpose? After presenting views for and against a teleological tel·e·ol·o·gy
n. pl. tel·e·ol·o·gies
1. The study of design or purpose in natural phenomena.
2. The use of ultimate purpose or design as a means of explaining phenomena.
3. explanation of the universe Golshani concludes by saying "there are some clues to the teleological aspects of our universe in modern science." He gives the example of "anthropic principle In physics and cosmology, the anthropic principle states that we should take into account the constraints that our existence as observers imposes on the sort of universe that we could observe. " which may be interpreted to mean "God planned the universe with human beings in mind" (p. 132). On the question of the existence of God the author maintains "science can at most inform us of some attributes of God, such as knowledge, power... but it cannot lead us to an Omniscient om·nis·cient
Having total knowledge; knowing everything: an omniscient deity; the omniscient narrator.
1. One having total knowledge.
2. Omniscient God. , Omnipotent God, which the Holy Koran is talking about." In his view, our knowledge based on a limited study of the universe can only lead us to the idea of an eternal, transcendent God with the help of revelation and intellectual intuition. On the theory of evolution, he is taking the controversial stand that the theory may be interpreted so as to be compatible with Muslim conception of God (pp. 143-45). To strengthen his view he enlists the support of the twentieth century Muslim scholar from Iran, Abu'l-Majd Muhammad Rida al-Najafi al-Isfahani, who insists the theory of evolution is not against theism theism (thē`ĭzəm), in theology and philosophy, the belief in a personal God. It is opposed to atheism and agnosticism and is to be distinguished from pantheism and deism (see deists). . This chapter could be considered the most well written part of the book. The author concludes well by saying "if empirical science is augmented by underlying metaphysical framework that can accommodate all levels of knowledge and domains of human experience, then we expect the science to become a ladder that can elevate one to the frontier of the physical and metaphysical" (p. 147).
The main drawback of the book is that it is repetitive on a number of issues and contains several inconsistencies. This has probably occurred because the chapters have been published at different times over a period of years and no proper editorial work was done to address this fact. On a number of very important issues the book's treatment of them is too brief. However, the book does contain new insights and makes appropriate emphasis on several issues that are important to contemporary Muslim discourse on Islamic science. The book is also especially helpful to new students of Islamic science with its compilation of Qur'anic verses relevant to the subject and the views of Western scholars supportive of the need for a religiously oriented science such as Islamic science.
Georgetown University Georgetown University, in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.; Jesuit; coeducational; founded 1789 by John Carroll, chartered 1815, inc. 1844. Its law and medical schools are noteworthy, and its archives are especially rich in letters and manuscripts by and , Washington DC, USA