For centuries, the Ummah’s achievement in science and technology outpaced European nations. However, this progress was only possible when Islam was comprehensively implemented. The current state of the Ummah is due to the fact that Muslims are governed by the Capitalist system. Once the Khilafah is re-established, the Ummah will once again, by Allah’s سبحانه وتعالى leave, lead the world in all matters – including technological advancement.
Islamic Aqeedah: The Role of the Mind
In Islam, the issue of science and technology has not been a controversial one. Belief in Islam is based on rational thinking – a Muslim comes to believe in Allah سبحانه وتعالى by examining the world and arriving at the firm conclusion that the world could not exist without the intervention of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. Many ayat in the Quran challenges man to think and ponder about the world:
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لآيَاتٍ لِّأُوْلِي الألْبَابِ
“Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alteration of night and day, these are indeed signs for men of understanding.” [TMQ 3:190]
أَفَلَا يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى الْإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ
وَإِلَى السَّمَاء كَيْفَ رُفِعَتْ
وَإِلَى الْجِبَالِ كَيْفَ نُصِبَتْ
وَإِلَى الْأَرْضِ كَيْفَ سُطِحَتْ
“Will they not look at the camels, how they are created! And the heaven, how it is raised! And the mountains, how they are set up! And the earth, how it is spread!” [TMQ 88:17-20]
Allah سبحانه وتعالى also sent His Messengers with miracles to give people clear signs that they were indeed from Allah سبحانه وتعالى. Prophet Muhammad’s صلى الله عليه وسلم proof of Prophethood is the inimitability of the Quran. Allah سبحانه وتعالى has revealed:
وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
“If you are in doubt as to whether the revelations which We have sent to Our servant (Muhammad) are from Us or not, then produce one Surah like this; and call your witnesses besides Allah to assist you, if you are right in your claim.” [TMQ 2:23]
Allah سبحانه وتعالى made our rational intellect the tool for embracing Iman. However, this does not mean that we must rationally understand why each law was revealed. Instead, we believe each law is correct because that law is from Allah سبحانه وتعالى; the All-Knowing and All-Wise.
Shariah’s Ruling on Science
In all matters we must refer to the Quran and Sunnah for guidance. Science and technology is no different. It was narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said about the matter of manual pollination of date trees: “You are more aware of the routine issues of your daily life (amr dunyakum).” [Ahmad] It is also narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم sent two of the Muslims to Jurash of Yemen to learn weapons manufacturing.
As a result, the Ummah has always understood that in matters of the Deen (ibadat, politics, economics, etc) we must extract solutions from the Quran and Sunnah only. However, when it comes to matters of science and technology – Allah سبحانه وتعالى has given us permission to use our knowledge to investigate the mechanics of the world that surrounds us. As a consequence, the Islamic Ummah has never found science and wahy (revelation) to disagree with one another. This is due to the fact that Islam is the Haqq (Truth), which does not contradict reality.
Furthermore, the scientists that lived during the time of Islamic rule found the ayat of Quran to be a source of inspiration that motivated them to investigate the universe. Allah سبحانه وتعالى revealed:
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لآيَاتٍ لِّأُوْلِي الألْبَابِ
الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
“For sure, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day there are signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and meditate on the creation of the heavens and the earth, then cry out: ‘Our Rabb! You have not created this in vain. Glory to You! Save us from the punishment of Fire.'” [TMQ 3:190-191]
Therefore, pondering and investigating the laws that govern the universe is a way to reflect upon the creation of Allah سبحانه وتعالى and become closer to Him.
Islamic State: A Leader in Science
When Islam was implemented, a number of academies were established in many places in the Muslim world to translate the scientific works of the Persians, Greeks, Indians, and others. During the rule of the ‘Abbasi Khulafa’a (particularly al-Mansur and al-Ma’mun), an enormous amount of effort was invested in preparing and translating scientific works. The translators belonged to different ethnic and religious groups. For instance, Naubakht was of Persian origin. Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Fazari was an Arab. Hunain ibn Ishaq was a Nestorian Christian.
Muslim scientists recognized the physical/qualitative and the mathematical/quantitative aspects of science. For instance, Ibn Khurdadhbeh determined the latitudes and longitudes of various places in the Muslim world. Al-Biruni ascertained the specific gravity of a number of substances.
Islam also has had a lasting influence in the field of medicine. For example, Ibn Sina (known in the West as Avicenna) is renowned as one of the greatest thinkers and medical scholars in history. His most important medical works were the Qanun (Canon) and a treatise on Cardiac drugs. Under the leadership of Banu ‘Umayyah, the Muslims developed the institution of hospitals. During the time of the Khalifah Harun al-Rasheed, a hospital was built in Baghdad, which was the first in the history of the city. Many new hospitals were established shortly afterwards. Some of them had their own gardens in which medicinal plants were cultivated. The larger hospitals had medical schools attached to them.
Under Islamic rule, scientists did not leave their discoveries to exist in textbooks only, but also applied them to reality. They observed the stars, and prepared star maps for navigational purposes. Ibn Yunus made use of the pendulum for the measurement of time. Ibn Sina used air thermometers to measure air temperature. Paper, compass, gunpowder, inorganic acids and alkaline bases are some of the most important examples of scientific and technological developments of Muslim scientists, which brought about an unprecedented revolution in human technological progress.
Muslim scientists made algebra a permanent branch of mathematics. The word ‘algebra’ is derived from its original Arabic root “Jabr”. Muslim scientists also evolved plane and spherical trigonometry, and applied it to astronomy.
The numerous Arabic words and scientific terms currently being used in European languages are living monuments of the Islamic State’s contributions to modern science. Some examples of words derived from Arabic include:
• “cipher” (English) and “chiffre” (French), derived from the Arabic word “sifr” (meaning empty or nil), describing a number written at the right of another numeral to increase its value ten times,
• “alkali” in chemical terminology, used for particular substance which produces a salt when combined with an acid, is a modified form of the Arabic word “al-qali”
• “squadron” (English) and “escadre” (French) for a section of armed forces, were derived from the Arabic word “‘askariyyah” used in the same sense,
• “admiral” is derived from “amir al-rahl”.
Islamic Science: Celebrating our Islamic Heritage
When reviewing these achievements we should be careful to ensure that they are attributed to Islam and not a particular race. Often Orientalists attempt to paint such achievements as “Arab”. The reality is that they occurred under the implementation of Islam. Consequently, we as an Ummah should recognize these achievements as part of our Islamic heritage and not as the achievements of a race or a particular nation-state.
Khilafah: Key to Scientific Advancement
Another important issue to remember is the role that the implementation of Islam plays in attaining such achievements in the fields of technology and science. The West often attempts to gloss over the role that the Islamic Aqeedah played in the governance of society in an attempt to sell secularism to the Muslim Ummah. Europe resorted to secularism due to the harsh reaction of the Church to science. However, the revelation of Allah سبحانه وتعالى does not contradict reality and therefore it was able to motivate Muslims to excel in the fields of science and technology.
As a result, the Khulafaa’ were big supporters of science and technology. The development of naval technology was launched during the Khilafah of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra). The Khalifah Harun al-Rashid gave a clock as a gift to Charlemagne (Christian Emperor of Rome) to demonstrate the level of expertise that the Islamic State had in the field of science.
We should also recognize that science and technology are not ends in and of themselves, but that they are only tools to be used to accomplish the objectives of the Aqeedah of one’s civilization. For example, the West excelled in technology, but it has failed to eliminate global poverty. However, this is due to the fact that Capitalism has no vision for society. Its main objective is to allow man to pursue his desires as he sees fit. Therefore, we have mp3 music players, flat panel TVs, nuclear weapons – and over a billion people living on less than $1 a day. Islam, on the other hand, uses science and technology to serve Allah سبحانه وتعالى and the objectives that He has laid down for us in the Shariah. For example, hospitals in the Islamic State are built for all – regardless of whether the patient is rich or poor.
Present Malaise: Decline in the Ummah’s Thinking
The decline of science and technology in the Muslim world came about as a result of complacency in the understanding and implementation of Islam. Study and understanding of Arabic was allowed to decline, ijtihad was abandoned and the doors were opened for the missionary, cultural and political invasions of the West. These factors effectively sealed the fate of the Islamic State itself, and by the turn of the 20th century CE, the Islamic State was no longer in a position to protect itself against the European onslaught.
No nation can progress, scientifically or otherwise, if it does not adopt a comprehensive way of life that is based on a rational Aqeedah, and the Muslims are no exception to this rule. For the Ummah to progress, we must implement Islam to excel first and foremost in the spheres of civilization (ibadat, governance, economy, etc) and secondly in the spheres of science and technology.
Advances in science and technology are a by-product of believing in Allah سبحانه وتعالى, Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, and the Last Day. Furthermore, without the implementation of Islam there can be no structure to harness the creative energies of this Ummah.
May Allah سبحانه وتعالى guide the minds and hearts of this Ummah, and bless us with the Khilafah so that we may rule by what He سبحانه وتعالى has revealed and once again lead the world in deen and dunya.
وَأَنزَلْنَا الْحَدِيدَ فِيهِ بَأْسٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ
“And We sent down iron, in which is great might, as well as many benefits for mankind.” [TMQ 57:25]