Does the religion of Islam contradict science? What happens if an issue that has been proved scientifically to have been true contradicts the Quran and hadiths?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

8.2.5-Religion-Science Conflict

   Another question that needs to be answered here is this: What will happen if a scientifically proven issue conflicts with the Quran and hadiths? In 1911, Nursi gave a clear answer to this question acting upon the Islamic methodology:

     “It is an established methodological principle that when any item of religious knowledge reported to be based on either the Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet appears to be in conflict with  reason, the  judgment of  reason—provided that it is genuine—takes priority and, consequently, the item in question is subjected to  interpretation”.1

     What is meant by reason here is the proven scientific result achieved by human mind and experience. However, the quality of the reasoning to make the final decision on this issue is also important. This is the mind that knows both the essence of the religion and its own limits in the Kantian sense.

     Açıkgenç states that this reason is “illuminated” by revelation, which is important for understanding the issue. Otherwise, it is clearly stated in another statement of Nursi that the purpose here is not pure reason. According to him, since whatever the prophet says is reasonable, the mind commands man to obey his message.2

     Another thinker in the history of Islamic thought that gives priority to reason in the conflict of religion and science is Fakhruddin ar-Razi (1148-1209), the great commentator of the Quran. According to Razi, what needs to be done when the rational evidences conflict with the apparent meanings of verses and hadiths is clear:

      “If rational evidences show something very clearly and if we encounter verses and hadiths that show the opposite, what we can do is one of the following four things:

  • To accept the requirements of both rational and religious evidences.
  • To reject both of them.
  • To accept the religious evidences and to reject the rational ones.
  • To accept the rational evidences”.3

     According to Razi, when the first option is accepted, “we will have confirmed two opposite things at the same time, which is impossible”; when the second one is accepted, it will mean to deny both of the two opposite things, which is also impossible. The third option is wrong. Thus, we will have to accept the fourth possibility, to accept what reason, which is a blessing given to us by Allah, necessitates.4

        Application of the method

 In his books, Nursi applied his above-mentioned views on religion and science, which we tried to summarize; he explained the religious information criticized and rejected by modern man due to not being rational and scientific by interpreting it.

     The first and most important example is the claims of some scholars about the roundness of the world in the name of religion. According to Nursi, there is no doubt about the roundness of the world for the scholars who were researchers. He gives examples from traditional scholars and states that scholars such as SaduddinTaftazani and Sayyid Sharif Jurjani “held a globe like a ball in their hands” and examined it very carefully.Furthermore, Razi states that İbrahim Hakkı and Ghazali hold the same view. Nevertheless, he accuses those who “deny and reject” the roundness of the world “under the pretext of protecting the religion”  acting upon some “apparent” and “extreme” interpretations of  some religious texts not upon the results of reason and science of “a great murder and betrayal5

The relationship between religion and science, which Nursi based on the Quran and oneness represents a harmonious understanding. He argues that religion (Islam) is the greatest advocate for the emergence and development of science, let alone conflicting with science.

In conclusion, the relationship between religion and science, which Nursi based on the Quran and oneness, represents a harmonious understanding. He argues that religion (Islam) is the greatest advocate for the emergence and development of science, let alone conflicting with science. According to him, the issues seen as a conflict between religion and science do not originate from the essence of religion but from the understanding of the interpreters of the religion in their own age. Acting upon the example of Ibn Sina (Avicenna), every scientist is “a child of the age he lives in” even if he is a genius and very intelligent. It is the fact that this understanding based on history is shaped and limited by the time and environment in which we live. Thomas Kuhn shows this dimension of science in detail with the concept of “paradigm” he developed as a historian and philosopher of science.6

     When Nursi’s views are considered as a whole, we see an understanding that knows the limits of reason but also accepts the power of reason illuminated by revelation instead of glorifying reason and science blindly. He draws attention to the structure of the universe, which can be understood by reason and formulated by scientists, by emphasizing the order, system, hierarchy, beauty and esthetics in the universe self-confidently and persistently. Thus, all of the scientific results that are obtained occur within the framework of the wholeness of the principle of oneness; according to Nursi, this product, produced by the alliance of the mind and heart, is defined as wisdom in the Quran.

     The relationship between religion and science, which Nursi based on oneness was defended by some contemporary Muslim thinkers such as I. R. al-Faruqi (1921-1986), Naquib al-Attas, and Seyyed Hossein with similar evidences too; it is emphasized in detail that there is no conflict of religion and science in Islam as the one in the Western civilization.7

1.Nursi,B.S. Muhakemat, p.13.
2.Nursi, B.S.Sözler, p. 466.
3.Razi, 1986). Asasut-Taqdis, Tahqiq: Ahmad Hijazi as-Saqa, Cairo: Maktabatul-Kulliyyatil-Azhariyya. p. 220.
4.Razi, ibid
5.Nursi,B.S. Muhakemat, p. 49-50.
6.Kuhn, S. T., (2000).Bilimsel DevrimlerinYapısı,translated byNilüfer Kuyaş), Istanbul: Alan Yayınevi, (5th impression).
7.Bigliardi, 2015. ibid.

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