Why We Refer to Science and Scientific Facts
We refer to science and scientific facts when explaining Islam because some people only accept scientific facts. Materialists and both non- and anti-religious people have sought to exploit science to defy religion and give their ideas more prestige than they deserve. Through this approach, they have misled and corrupted the minds of many people. Therefore, we must learn how to talk with them in their own terminology to prove that science and technology do not contradict Islam. We have to turn their arguments against them by evaluating them and then using them to guide people to the right way.
Such an approach is entirely permissible, for how can we dispute what such people say if we are not well-versed in their facts and ideas? The Qur’an urges us to reflect and study, to observe the stars and galaxies. They impress upon us the Magnificence of the Creator, exhort us to wander among people, and direct our attention to the miraculous nature of our organs and physical creation.
From atoms to the largest beings, from the first human being’s appearance on Earth until our final departure, the Qur’an places all creation before our eyes. Touching upon a multitude of facts, it tells us that those who truly fear God, among His servants, are those who have knowledge (35:28), and so encourages us to seek knowledge, to reflect and research. However, we must never forget that all such activities must comply with the spirit of the Qur’an. Otherwise, even though we claim to be following its advice and command, actually we will be moving away from it.
Science and its facts can and should be used to explain Islamic facts. But if we use them to show off our knowledge, whatever we say cannot influence our hearers in the right way, if at all. Bright and persuasive words and arguments lose their effectiveness if we have the wrong intention: they get as far as the listeners’ eardrums and no further. Similarly, if our arguments seek to silence others instead of persuade them, we actually will be blocking their way to a correct understanding. And so our efforts will fail, and our goals remain unachieved.
However, if we try to persuade with a full and proper sincerity, even those who need such arguments to believe will receive their portion and benefit. Sometimes a sincere argument may be far more beneficial than one in which you spoke rather more freely and eloquently. Our primary aim when introducing science and scientific facts, in accordance with our audience’s level of understanding, must be to win the pleasure of God.
Science cannot be regarded as superior to religion, and substantial Islamic issues cannot use science or modern scientific facts to justify or reinforce religion’s credibility. If we adopt such techniques, we are proclaiming that we have doubts about the truths of Islam and need science to support them. In addition, we cannot accept science or scientific facts as absolute. Making science the decisive criteria for the Qur’an’s authenticity or Divine origin, thereby placing science over the Qur’an, is absurd, abhorrent, and completely impermissible. Such arguments and allusions to science have, at best, a secondary and supportive use. Their only possible value is that they might open a door onto a way that certain people simply would not know exists.
Science is to be used to awaken or stir some minds that otherwise might remain asleep or unmoved. It is like a feather duster used to brush the dust off the truth and the desire for truth, which lie hidden in unstirred consciences. If we begin by saying that science is absolute, we shall end up seeking to fit the Qur’an and Hadith to it. The result of such an undertaking can only be doubt and confusion, especially when we cannot reconcile the Qur’an and Hadith with some present scientific assertions that may be proven false in the future.
Our position must be clear: The Qur’an and Hadith are true and absolute. Science and scientific facts are true (or false) only to the degree that they agree (or disagree) with these sources. Even definitely established scientific facts cannot be pillars to uphold the truths of iman (faith); rather, they can be accepted only as instruments giving us ideas or triggering our reflection on God, Who establishes the truths of iman in our conscience. To expect that this does or even could take place through science is a grave error: iman comes only by Divine guidance.
Anyone who fails to grasp this has fallen into an error from which it is hard to recover. Such people look for and gather evidence from the universe and, trying to make it speak eloquently in the Name of God, remain unconscious servants to nature and nature worshippers. They study and speak of flowers, of the verdancy and spring of nature, but not the least greenness or bud of iman sprouts in their conscience. They may never even feel the existence of God within their consciousness. In appearance they do not worship nature, but in reality that is what they are doing.
A man or a woman is a mu’min (one with iman) owing to the iman in his or her heart, not to the great amount of knowledge in his or her head. After we have understood as much as we can about the objective and subjective evidence we have gathered, we must break our dependence on the outer circumstances, qualities, and conditions of such evidence. Only by doing this will we be able to make any spiritual progress. When we abandon this dependence and follow our heart and conscience within the Qur’an’s light and guidance, then, if God wills, we will find the enlightenment for which we are looking. As the German philosopher Immanuel Kant once said: “I felt the need to leave behind all the books I have read in order to believe in God.”
Undoubtedly, the grand Book of the Universe and the book of humanity’s true nature, as well as their commentaries, have their proper place and significance. But after we use them, we should put them aside and live with our iman, as it were, face to face. This might sound rather abstract to those who have not gone deep into the experience of faith and conscience. But for those whose nights are bright with devotion, and who acquire wings through their longing to aspire to their Lord, the meaning is clear.
by Fethullah Gülen on 18 December 2002.