When people talk about religion and science, they often assume that they’re separate things. But the two sometimes overlap and complement each other.
Islamic doctrine outlines many scientific ideas in relation to humans, animals, the environment and the universe.
Even the Big Bang Theory gets a mention in the Qur’an! “Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, then We separated them, and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” (21:30).
As Muslims we’re also encouraged to seek knowledge, no matter how far it takes us. This has inspired generation after generation of scholars to discover great things and invent new wonders.
The study of astronomy was largely developed by the Muslim world. Caliph Al-Ma’mun founded an astronomical observatory in Baghdad and Damascus in the 9th century – and the study was also taken up by the Ottomans much later. Taqi al-Din then created tables and instruments to measure the coordinates of stars in the 16th century.
Go with the flow
Separating liquids, crystallisation, evaporation and filtration are familiar to anyone who’s done a GCSE chemistry class! But not many know that these processes were established by Jabir Ibn Hayyan from Andalusia who founded modern-day chemistry in the 8th-9th centuries. He also discovered sulphuric and nitric acid.
I believe I can fly
Ibn Firnas, a Muslim engineer from Andalusia, constructed the first flying machine in the 9th century. He was even up for testing his own machine, modelled on an eagle, by jumping from the Grand Mosque in Cordoba, Spain. Although he didn’t glide as much as he would have liked, he is given credit for creating the first parachute.
The numbers game
Muhammad bin Moosaa Al-Khwarizmi is considered to be one of the founders of algebra, which is used for all sorts of calculations today. Born in modern-day Uzbekistan, the word ‘algebra’ came from the title of a book written by him about calculation.
In the 11th century, Ibn Al-Haytham analysed and advanced the idea of camera obscura, a dark room that contains a projected image of the scene outside that’s been focused through a pinhole in the wall. Without this innovation, you wouldn’t have the tiny digital camera that fits in your pocket today. The optical principles are the same! Born in the Iraqi city of Basra, Ibn Al-Haytham wrote over 200 scientific works, including optics, physics, astronomy, medicine, mathematics and philosophy.
All of these experiments and discoveries form the foundation of our modern way of life. Islam and science have always been compatible and together have helped reveal the way the world works. It is vital that we never stop broadening our knowledge and understanding.