Religion in the age of science
The Quran began with the word ‘Iqra,’ which means to read. It not only refers to the study of the Quran but everything all around. According to religious scholars, about 750 verses of the Quran are related to nature that calls us for understanding it. At one place Quran says; O Muhammad (SAW), ‘Travel through the land and observe how He began creation (29:20).
The Prophet (SAW) said: there is no disease that Allah has created except that He also has created its treatment (Sahih Bukhari). It connotes that every disease is curable but it is essential to look for treatment through ‘research’. Thus, Islam does not tie our hands but asks us to carry out investigative activities and careful studies of nature. In other words, Islam promotes ‘science’, which is the study of the physical and natural world.
No one can forget the golden era of Islamic sciences, during which Muslims reached the zenith of science. Information about astronomy, mathematics, medicine, etc was at the fingertips of Muslims. They contributed greatly to the technology and left indelible marks. Later, the ‘truth of religion’ became the focal point of scholars and rational sciences were thrown to the wind. The downward trend in scientific disciplines continued and has now touched its nadir. Today the science is seen as a contradiction to Islam. Some self-styled acholars, who unfortunately dominate the scene, are not only holding this opinion but are also propagating it. Despite the modern view that there is no conflict between Islam and Science, these Molanas are trying every trick in their book to sever the two- Islam and Science.
In Pakistan, such acts are seen often. For example, DNA evidence is not given weight in the courts of Pakistan, the reason being the opposing viewpoint of some ‘religious’ men. In ongoing corona crises, Pakistan is the only country where mosques are witnessing gatherings as usual, albeit Saudi Arabia banned prayers even in Masjid Nabawi and Mecca.
Another controversy of relevance that recently erupted was between, Pakistan’s ministry of science and technology and Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, a department that has been established for moon sighting in Ramazan.
Ministry of Science and Technology declared beforehand that the Eid would be celebrated on that particular date. This drew the ire of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee that has been officially set up for this job. Had they protested against the government’s approach of belittling them, it would have been acceptable. However, they claimed that science has nothing to do with moon sighting and described it as ‘intervention in religious affairs’. Their standpoint was very clear that religion could not tolerate science and two are separate and diametrically opposite entities. They tried to strengthen the vicious web of obscurantism that has already hindered the Muslim progress. Except few, they surprised everyone by saying the use of technology in moon sighting is impermissible although they make use of telescopes and sometimes even of aircrafts for the same.
If we analyze the logic of impermissibility of employing technology in religious affairs then we have to discard many other things. From microphones to fountain/ball pens that the Molanas use for religious purposes, everything becomes haraam as all these are products of technology.
Although the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee is considered a credible institution for the task assigned to them, they have time after time spawned dispute because of ‘believed’ imprecision. Every year at the start and the end of Ramazan, their decisions of new-moon sighting are criticized. Scholars of Peshawar have always been at variance with the central Ruet-i-Hilal committee. They separately announce the new moon of Ramazan and Shawal every year that had contributed to intra-faith divisions. On many occasions, there have been demands from different quarters for adopting new and modern mechanism of moon sighting. And if the government has come up with a mechanism that can solve emerged issues and also possess a unifying impact, it should be appreciated. Disapproving science and its role of religion makes no sense.
The role of scholars cannot be ignored. They have a huge responsibility in every country/society. If they would use their authority responsibly, nations may undergo much-required change. Therefore, instead of creating controversy by their dyed-in-the-wool opinions, they must provide some passage for purposeful ideas, particularly those having a desirable influence on the nation, to progress without disturbing religion.
We direly need the guidance of scholars in every realm. They too should not evade their duties of mending the society and bring it in line with the religion. However, preventing people from exploring nature and new things, developing logic and rationale, and attainting scientific temper is not sanity because all these things are interconnected with our religion. Obstinacy will not furnish anything productive; however, encouraging the participation of the younger generation in the scientific arena can help us in regaining our lost glory.
I do not subscribe to the ideology of the Pakistani minister, I do not support the way he behaved. There were many flaws in his outlook that need rectification. Scholars are respect-worthy they should not be disparaged. Their exclusion in making religious decisions is unwelcome. Whatever would be the government’s decision about Ruet-Hilal committee, the scholars must be given due reverence. Nevertheless, at the same time minister deserves applause. He made an appreciable effort to reconnect science with religion and his venture produced successful results when Hilal Committee also received witnesses of the moon sighting.
- The author writes on current issues. He tweets @zeeshan_rk and can be mailed at [email protected]