Book One: Religion Encourages Science
Islam is the religion of reason and conscience. A person recognizes the truth proclaimed by God through the use of his wisdom, but derives conclusions from the truth he has seen by following his conscience. A person using the faculty of his reason and conscience, upon examining the features of any given object in the universe, even though he be not an expert in such matters, would understand that it was created by a Possessor of great Wisdom, Knowledge and Might. And, while perhaps only discovering a few of the thousands of factors that render life possible on the earth, it is sufficient for him to understand that the world was designed to sustain life in it. Therefore, one who makes use of his reason and follows his conscience quickly apprehends the absurdity of the claim that the world came into being by chance. In brief, one who applies his mind by using these faculties recognizes God's signs in their full clarity. A verse refers to such people in the following manner:
Those who remember God, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth:'Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire. (Surat Al 'Imran: 191)
In the Qur'an, God calls on people to reflect upon and examine the signs of creation around them. The Prophet Muhammad, God's Messenger, peace be upon him, also enjoined people to acquire knowledge. He even stressed that it is our obligation to search for knowledge. We read the following authentic Ahâdît:
Seeking of knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim.1
Acquire the knowledge and impart it to the people.2
Everyone who probes the inner-workings of the universe, living and non-living things, and considers and investigates what he sees around him, will come to know God's superior wisdom, knowledge, and eternal power. Some of the issues God invites man to ponder are pointed out in the following verses form the Qur'an:
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). And We send down from the sky rain charged with blessing, and We produce therewith gardens and grain for harvests; And tall (and stately) palm-trees, with shoots of fruit-stalks, piled one over another. (Surah Qaf: 6-10)
He Who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion will you see in the Creation of (God) Most Gracious. So turn your vision again: do you see any flaw? (Surat al-Mulk: 3)
Now let man but think from what he is created! (Surat at-Tariq: 5)
Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made? And at the Sky, how it is raised high? And at the Mountains, how they are fixed firm? And at the Earth, how it is spread out? (Surat al-Ghashiyah: 17-20)
As the above verses make clear, God summons mankind to study and examine various aspects of the world, such as the heavens, rain, plants, animals, birth and geographical landmarks. One way to explore these is, as we previously mentioned, through science. Scientific observation introduces man to the mysteries of creation, and ultimately, to God's eternal knowledge, wisdom and power. Science is a way to achieve a just estimate of God, for which reason, throughout history, a great number of the scientists who have been of great service to humanity were devout believers in God.
Belief in God Makes Scientists Enthusiastic and Motivated
As we mentioned above, religion encourages science, and those who use their reason and follow their conscience in the pursuit of scientific research acquire a strong faith because they apprehend God's signs at close hand. They are confronted with a flawless system and a perfect subtlety created by God in every avenue of research they follow, and in every discovery they make. As Prophet Muhammad, God's Messenger, peace be upon him, said, they act by knowing that "One who goes out to search for knowledge is (devoted) to the cause of God till he returns."3
A scientist conducting research into the eye, for instance, discovers, even upon recognizing its complex system, that it could never have come into being through a gradual process of coincidences. Further examination will lead him to realize that every detail in the structure of the eye is a miraculous creation. He sees that the eye is made up of dozens of components working together in harmony, thus increasing his wonder in God Who created it.
Similarly, a scientist investigating the cosmos will find himself immediately confronted with thousands of remarkable equilibria. He further gains a great thirst for knowledge upon discovering that billions of galaxies, and billions of stars within these galaxies, continue to exist in a grand harmony, in a vastness of space that has no limits.
As such, a man of faith becomes greatly enthralled and inspired to conduct scientific studies to uncover the mysteries of the universe. In one of his articles, Albert Einstein, considered the greatest genius of the previous era, referred to the inspiration scientists derive from religion:
…I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labour in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics!
Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious workers are the only profoundly religious people.4
Johannes Kepler related that he engaged in science to delve the Creator's works, while Isaac Newton, another great scientist, stated that the main thrust behind his interest in science was his wish to have a better sense and knowledge of God.
These were the remarks of only a few of the most eminent scientists in history. These, and hundreds of other scientists that we will consider in the pages ahead, came to believe in the existence of God by exploring the universe, and, impressed by the laws and phenomena God has gloriously created, craved to discover more.
As we will see, the desire to learn the manner in which God created the universe has served as the greatest motivating factor for many scientists in history. That is essentially because, someone who perceives that the universe and all living things are created also perceives that this creation has a purpose. Purpose then leads one to meaning. It is the aspiration to grasp this meaning, to uncover its signs, and discover its details, that can greatly expedite scientific studies.
If, however, the fact that the universe and living things are created is denied, this meaning escapes too. A scientist believing in the materialist philosophy and in Darwinism will suppose that the universe is purposeless, and that everything is the work of blind chance. Therefore, investigation of the universe and living things would be without a pursuit for meaning. Addressing this fact, Einstein stated, "I have found no better expression than 'religious' for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism."5
In such a case, the sole purpose of a scientist would either be to achieve fame through a groundbreaking discovery, to be remembered in history, or to become wealthy. Such aims may easily divert him from his sincerity and scientific integrity. For instance, in the event that a conclusion he had reached through scientific research was in contradiction with the conventional view of the scientific community, he may be forced to keep it as a secret, so as not to be robbed of his fame, or be vilified, or degraded.
The long-held acceptance of the theory of evolution in the scientific world is an example of this type of lack of sincerity. Basically, many scientists, in the face of scientific fact, are aware that the evolutionary theory is far from being able to explain the origin of life, but they cannot state it openly, simply out of the fear of encountering a negative reaction. In that line of thought, British physicist H.S. Lipson makes the following confession:
We now know a great deal more about living matter than Darwin knew. We know how nerves work and I regard each nerve as a masterpiece of electrical engineering. And we have thousands of millions of them in our body… "Design" is the word that springs to mind, on this subject. My biologist colleagues do not like it.6
The word "design" is cast aside in the scientific literature merely because it is disliked, with many scientists succumbing to such dogmatism. In addressing the issue, Lipson says:
In fact, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to 'bend' their observations to fit in with it.7
This undesirable situation is the result of the deception of "ungodly science" that held sway over the scientific community beginning in the mid of the 19th century. However, as Einstein stated, "science without religion is lame"8
. The delusion has not only directed the scientific community towards mistaken goals, but has also created scientists who, despite recognizing the error, remain indifferent to it.
We will deal with the former matter in detail in the pages ahead.
Believing Scientists' "Eagerness to Serve"
Because scientists who believe in God's oneness and omnipotence have no desire for worldly gain, such as status, rank, reputation, or money, their efforts in scientific research are sincere. They know that every mystery of the universe they unravel will increase mankind's understanding of God, helping to reveal God's infinite power and knowledge. Confirming God's existence for humanity, demonstrating to it the reality of creation, is a truly important act of worship for a believer.
Driven by such sincere concerns, believing scientists conduct important extensive research with a great enthusiasm, to discover the laws of the universe, the miraculous systems in nature, and the perfect mechanisms and intelligent behaviors in living things. They achieve great results and make tremendous progress. They never falter in the face of the problems they encounter, nor do they lose heart when they fail to be appreciated by others. They only seek to gain God's approval for the work they do.
They strive to serve other believers purely for God's good pleasure. And, they recognize no limits to their endeavor. They do their best to be of utmost use to people, and to serve them in the best way. Furthermore, their sincere efforts make them highly productive, and their studies lead to positive results.
Those who assume that science must be distinguished from religion certainly fall into great error. First of all, those who do not believe in God cannot experience the spiritual upliftment of faith. The scientific projects they initiate with great zeal soon turn out to be monotonous and uninspiring. Their motivation, in such a mindset, becomes solely to reap short-lived worldly profit. Pursuing the fulfillment of worldly desires, such as wealth, rank, reputation, or prestige, they are only committed to conducting research that will directly contribute to such personal benefits. For instance, a scientist with such a mindset and motivated by career interests would pursue research only in those fields that will lead to a promotion. He would not be willing to conduct research in a subject he believes to be useful to mankind unless it served his best interest. Or, if he were in a position to make a choice between two research topics, he would choose the one that would earn him more material gain, prestige, or rank, while discarding the one that might be more beneficial to mankind. In short, scientists of this sort are rarely of benefit to humanity, failing to serve the greater good unless there is some promised gratification in return. When the opportunity for personal gain fades, so wanes their eagerness to serve humanity.
Prophet Muhammad, God's Messenger, peace be upon him, also referred to the harms of this mentality. He said:
Do not acquire knowledge in order to fall into polemics with other scholars and prove his superiority over them, or to dispute with the ignorant or to attract the attention of the people.9
On the other hand, Prophet Muhammad praised the dissipation of beneficial knowledge. A hadith reads:
God calls down blessings on those who instruct people in beneficial knowledge.10
Aware of the blessings he will receive, the enthusiasm and sincere motivation experienced by a person who believes in God opens up new vistas for him, not only in the field of science, but also in many other spheres of life, such as art, culture, and so on. These high spirits never fade, but rather, become increasingly intense.