chapter  8
26 Pages

Islamic Paradigms for the Relationship between Science and Religion

ByAhmad Dallal

Modern studies in the history o f science show that productive, original scientific research persisted into the 16th century A.D. in the Islamic world. Yet, histories o f Islamic civilization consistently repeat and expand an influential theory which maintains that the consolidation o f an Islamic worldview already in the 11th century caused the rational sciences to stagnate. This theory even posits an essential contradiction between science and Islam, and is part of a larger contention in postEnlightenment historiography that opposes science and religion in general in post-medieval civilizations. Thus, according to various accounts based on this theory, scientific activities in Muslim societies were consistently opposed (ostensibly by religious authorities o f Islam), and they survived despite, and not as a result of, Islamic culture.1 Yet, in addition to its apparent counter-intuitiveness, this theory fails to explain the growing body of evidence which confirms the rise, rather than decline, o f science in the Islamic world after the 11th century.2 Further evidence suggests that scientific activity was integrated with, rather than marginal to mainstream intellectual life in Muslim societies.3 A different approach to the study o f the relationship between science and religion in Islam is clearly needed, one that examines both the cultural environment, and the interaction among different cultural dynamics at work.