Science and The Muslim World
For hundreds of years, while Europe was mired in the Dark Ages, the medieval Islamic empire was at the forefront of science in sad contrast to the state of many Muslim countries today. Jim Al-Khalili asks what has been impeding progress, and examines some projects that could herald a brighter future. There is no such thing as Islamic science for science is the most universal of human activities. But the means to facilitating scientific advances have always been dictated by culture, political will and economic wealth.
What is only now becoming clear (to many in the west) is that during the dark ages of medieval Europe, incredible scientific advances were made in the Muslim world. Geniuses in Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus and Cordoba took on the scholarly works of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, India and China, developing what we would call "modern" science. New disciplines emerged algebra, trigonometry and chemistry as well as major advances in medicine, astronomy, engineering and agriculture. Arabic texts replaced Greek as the fonts of wisdom, helping to shape the scientific revolution of the Renaissance. What the medieval scientists of the Muslim world articulated so brilliantly is that science is universal, the common language of the human race.
The 1001 Inventions exhibition at London's Science Museum tells some of the stories of this forgotten age.
Science is often defined as the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence. It is a system of acquiring knowledge based on empiricism, experimentation and methodological naturalism , as well as to the organized body of knowledge human beings have gained by such research. Scientists maintain that scientific investigation needs to adhere to the scientific method. Muslim scholars have developed a spectrum of viewpoints on science within the context of Islam.
The Quran and Islam allows for much interpretation when it comes to science. Scientists of medieval Muslim civilization (e.g.
Ibn al-Haytham ) contributed to the new discoveries of science. From the eighth to fifteenth century, Muslim mathematicians and astronomers furthered the development of almost all areas of mathematics. At the same time, concerns have been raised about the lack of scientific literacy in parts of the modern Muslim world.
Some Muslim writers have claimed that the Quran made prescient statements about scientific phenomena that were later confirmed by scientific research for instance as regards to the structure of the embryo, our solar system, and the creation of the universe. However, much of science in Islam relies on the Quran as a basis of evidence and Islamic scientists often use one another as sources Unlike early Christians who used science to explain scripure, Muslims pursued science with an underlying assumption of confirming the Quran.