Islam needs to regain the spirit of science
If Muslim society is to survive and prosper, it must embrace science as it once did, argues Ziauddin Sardar in this Nature article.
Sardar believes that colonialism changed the practice of Islam, so only the pursuit of religious knowledge came to be seen as important in Islamic culture. This, he says, is what led to the decline of science in Muslim society.
But, argues Sardar, Muslim societies can rediscover the spirit of scientific inquiry by reconstructing the open intellectual climate of the past and reinstating critical thinking.
This means rethinking two current ideas in Islamic science: that all knowledge can be found on the pages of the Qur'an, and that the learned community is restricted to a group of mystics with secret and sacred scientific knowledge.
Sardar notes some positive changes: the Organization of the Islamic Conference has set itself the task of using science to make Islam whole again, and institutions of learning, like Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, have opened up to science.
Contemporary Islamic science needs to continue this restoration of old ways of scientific thinking, says Sardar, while making them relevant to contemporary times.