Can religion-science relationship be established in a healthy way?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

8.2.5- Every branch of science is based on a name of Allah

“These current advancements are based on the signs taken from religions and inspirations obtained from aphorisms”.Badiuzzaman Said Nursi

     In a work written in the same period, Nursi shows in a different way that  Islam is the master of science by basing each branch of science on a name of Allah. With a style that reminds of the Neo-Platonic interpretations of Plato’s conception of ideals, Nursi states the following: “All attainments and perfections, all learning, all progress, and all sciences, have an elevated reality which is based on one of the Divine Names. On being based on the Name, which is concealed under numerous veils and has various manifestations and different spheres, the sciences and arts and attainments find their perfection and become reality. They are not some incomplete and deficient shadow.1

     The greatest miracle of Hz. Adam is being taught the names of things. This quality, which is a miracle of Hz. Adam, was given to his descendants as “ability” and “opportunity”. Man has faculties (including reason) that can understand the universe, which was created by Allah based on a certain order and predestination. In other words, man, whom Allah created in the most beautiful way and equipped with endless faculties and abilities, can find and understand the book of the universe and its creator with those “faculties and abilities.2

     In the process when the Ottoman society suffered a great trauma after the Second Constitutional Monarchy and when modern science was adopted as a new religion,Nursi stated the following clearly: “These current advancements are based on the signs taken from religions and inspirations obtained from aphorisms.” Thus, he criticized the basic theses of positivism; on the other hand, the tried to show that religion-science relationship is based on the Quran.3

     There are two hypotheses here:

Firstly, “Nor anything fresh or dry (green or withered), but is (inscribed) in a record clear (the Quran).”4 It is a theological assumption that scientific achievements and technological developments in human history should also be in the Quran according to the verse of the Quran above.

Secondly, acting upon the same thought, the miracles of the prophets mentioned in the Quran can have different meanings for us. According to him, the Quran, which is a general address to humanity, does not “neglect” those important developments in the history of humanity.

“For example, medicine is a science, and also an art; its final point and reality are based on the Absolutely Wise One’s Name of Healer, and through observing that Name’s compassionate manifestations in the vast pharmacy of the earth, medicine finds its perfection and becomes reality” Badiuzzaman Said Nursi

     After this assumption, Nursi’s interpretation is important in terms of showing the harmony between religion and science. The point to which he drew attention related to the miracles of prophets shows  of the Prophet shows what a holistic and deep understanding he had related to  the Quran.

     According to Nursi, “One who searches for truth should be like a diver, freed of the effects of time, able to dive into the depths of the past, weigh ideas on the  scales of  reason, and discover the source of everything”.5

     The statement above reminds of Gazali’s expression “diving into ocean like a diver and collecting pearls” about understanding the Quran.6 Acting upon the same understanding, Nursi makes a different interpretation related to the miracles of prophets. 

     Firstly, prophets were sent to human societies as pioneers and leaders “in terms of spiritual advancement”.

     Secondly, the miracles given to prophets are examples of the material development and advancement of people. His conclusion is that since the Quran mentions the spiritual perfection of prophets, it encourages people to make use of them and since it mentions the miracles of prophets, it encourages people to make things similar to them and to imitate them.

     Thus, the stories in the Quran are no longer regarded as stories; in addition, the miracles are also given a different meaning. What man needs to do is to try to make things similar to those miracles by developing and using the unlimited faculties created by Allah in his nature through learning. In this context, according to Nursi, like spiritual and moral attainments, material attainments and wonders were first given to mankind as a gift by the hand of miracles. An example of this is the ship, which was a miracle of Hz. Nuh, and the clock, which was a miracle of Hz. Yusuf.7

     According to Nursi, all of the great Quran commentators and scholars unanimously agree that each verse of the Quran has many various and different meanings in the sense of “guidance” in terms of the purposes of the religion. Thus, the verses of the miraculous Quran related to the stories of prophets, which are the most brilliant verses,  cannot be historical stories. Moreover, those verses have many meanings within the framework of the purposes of the Quran. On the other hand, the dimension related to our is that “they determine the ultimate boundaries of the human science and art”.8

     Thus, the Quran becomes a living book; it encourages the scientists living today as it did in history. On the one hand, it “emphasizes the most advanced goals” of science; on the other hand, “it determines the ultimate goals”. Moreover, with this approach, “it strikes the hand of encouragement on man’s back, urging him to that purpose”.9

      The Muslim generations that understood and interpreted the Quran like Nursi in this way in the past turned toward science with great love, enthusiasm, effort and devotion; they built the Islamic science tradition and then the Islamic Civilization as a necessary result of this scientific heritage. Having done something in history is proof that it can be done in the future too if Muslims do not change their view of the Quran and if they see it as a living text full of wisdom.

     Allah’s names “has numerous veils and various manifestations and different spheres” in the realm of beings. Therefore, if a branch of science is based on that name, “the sciences and arts and attainments find their perfection and become reality. They are not some incomplete and deficient shadow”. He tries to explain it through three examples:

For example, engineering is a science; its reality and final point reaches to Almighty God’s Names of All-Just and Determiner, and observes with all their majesty the wise manifestation of those Names in the mirror of engineering.

And, for example, medicine is a science, and also an art; its final point and reality are based on the Absolutely Wise One’s Name of Healer, and through observing that Name’s compassionate manifestations in the vastpharmacy of the earth, medicine finds its perfection and becomes reality. And, for example, the natural sciences, which discuss the reality of beings; through seeing the regulating, nurturing supreme manifestations of Almighty God’s (May His glory be exalted) Name of All-Wise in things, in their benefits and advantages, and through attaining to the Name, and being based on It, these sciences may contain true wisdom. Otherwise they are either transformed into superstition, or become nonsense, or open up the way to misguidance like Naturalist philosophy..10

     Acting upon those three examples, Nursi tries to show that the relationship between religion and science can be established in a healthy way. In addition, he emphasizes that the Quran “strikes the hand of encouragement on man’s back, urging him to the highest peaks, the furthest limits, the final degrees, which he is far behind at the present degree of his progress. It points its fingers at those degrees, saying: ‘Forward march!’”.11

1.Nursi,B.S. Sözler, p. 311.
2.Nursi, Sözler. 20. Söz; 23. Söz.
3.Nursi,B.S. İşarat-ül İcaz, translated by A. Nursi. Ankara: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, p. 656.
4.al-An’am, 59.
5.Nursi,B.S. Muhakemat, p. 22.
6.Ghazali.(2011). Kur’an Mücevherleri (Jawahirul-Quran),translated by A Duram, Istanbul: Hikmet Neşriyat.
7.Nursi, B.S.Sözler, 299 ff.
8.Nursi,B.S. Sözler, p.301.
9.Nursi, B.S. Sözler, p.301.
10.Nursi,B.S. Sözler, p. 310-311.
11.Nursi,B.S. Sözler, p. 312.

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