At the time the Arab society was in a state of complete degeneration, chaos and ignorance. They were a barbarous people who worshipped idols of their own making, believed warfare and bloodshed to be virtuous and were even capable of killing their own children. They had little interest in intellectual matters, let alone a scientific outlook to the natural world.
However, through Islam they learned humanity and civilization. Not only the Arabs but all the communities which accepted Islam escaped the darkness of the age of ignorance and were illuminated by the divine wisdom of the Qur’an. Amongst the faculties the Qur’an brought to humanity was scientific thinking.
The genesis of scientific thought is the sense of curiosity. Because people wonder how the universe and nature work, they investigate and become interested in science. But most people lack this curiosity. For them, the important things are not the secrets of the universe and nature but their own small worldly profits and pleasures. In communities where people who think in this way are in charge, science does not develop. Idleness and ignorance rule.
The Arab community before the Qur’an was of this type. But the verses of the Qur’an called upon them to think, to investigate and to use their minds, perhaps for the first time in their lives.
In one of the first revealed verses of the Qur’an, God draws the attention of the Arabs to the camel, a part of their everyday lives:
Have they not looked at the camel-how it was created? And at the sky-how it was raised up? And at the mountains-how they were embedded? And at the earth-how it is spread out? So remind them! You are only a reminder. (Al-Ghashiyah 88:17-21)
In many other verses of the Qur’an, people are instructed to examine nature and learn from it because people can know God only by examining His creations. Because of this, in one verse of the Qur’an Muslims are defined as people who think about the creation of the heavens and the earth:
Those who remember God, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth (saying): “Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Aal `Imran 3:191)
As a result of this, for a Muslim, taking an interest in science is a very important form of worship. In many verses of the Qur’an, God instructs Muslims to investigate the heavens, the earth, living things or their own existence and think about them. When we look at the verses, we find indications of all the main branches of science in the Qur’an.
For example, in the Qur’an, God encourages the science of astronomy:
He who created the seven heavens in layers. You will not find any flaw in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look again-do you see any gaps? (Al-Mulk 67:3)
In another verse of the Qur’an, God encourages the investigation of astronomy and the composition of the earth that is the science of geology:
Do they not look at the sky above them? How We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it? And the earth, We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs), To be observed and commemorated by every devotee turning (to God). (Qaf 50:6-8)
In the Qur’an, God also encourages the study of botany:
It is He Who sends down water from the sky from which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth the green shoots and from them We bring forth close-packed seeds, and from the spathes of the date palm date clusters hanging down, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar. Look at their fruits as they bear fruit and ripen. There are Signs in that for people who believe. (Al-An`am 6:99)
In another verse of the Qur’an, God draws attention to zoology:
You have a lesson in livestock… (An-Nahl 16:66)
Here is a Qur’anic verse about the sciences of archaeology and anthropology:
Have they not traveled in the earth and seen the final fate of those before them? (Ar-Rum 30:9)
In another verse of the Qur’an, God draws attention to the proof of God in a person’s own body and spirit:
There are certainly Signs in the earth for people with certainty; and in yourselves as well. Do you not then see? (Adh-Dhariyat 51:20-21)
As we can see, God recommends all the sciences to Muslims in the Qur’an. Because of this the growth of Islam in history meant at the same time the growth of scientific knowledge.
Excerpted from “The Islamic Origins of Modern Science.” To read the original article, visit www.harunyahya.com. Reprinted with slight editorial changes with permission from the author.