Distancing from Science; Devastating Deprivation for Muslims

Muslim World is passing through most difficult times in its history of fifteen hundred years. There was a time during long years of Middle Ages when Muslims ruled two-thirds of the old, civilized world but afterwards their ignorance of what was going on around them caused their civilization to decline.

By: Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi                                      

(Dr. Mohammed Iqtedar Husain Farooqi)                                                           

Related Stories
Frankincense/Olibanum – A Scientific review
Islamic Renaissance – Need of the Hour
IIT Madras team explores how organs communicate with one another
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: Advocate of Modern Education in India
Oh, My Lord: Increase me in Knowledge (Quran)

Deputy Director/Head (Retrd.), Plants Chemistry Div.,

National Botanical Research Institute

(Govt. of India), Lucknow                                                                                                                

Mobile: +91 9839901066. Email:

Muslim World is passing through most difficult times in its history of fifteen hundred years. There was a time during long years of Middle Ages when Muslims ruled two-thirds of the old, civilized world but afterwards their ignorance of what was going on around them caused their civilization to decline.

They developed, unnecessarily, a superiority complex based on their past victories and achievements and abandoned the path of progress in the field of science and technology. They distanced themselves from Science as if acquiring knowledge of Science was not part of their religious duty. This was the real devastating deprivation for Muslims around the world.

Many Muslim intellectuals of the world have expressed their opinion on the rise and fall of their Ummah and most of them believe that the closeness and then distancing from science and technology, is the real story of their rise and fall.

Historically, it is very obvious that the main reason for the decline of Muslims is their carelessness to science and closeness to all other activities that was all but not Science. The reason for the humiliation of Muslims for the past several centuries is very obvious. They got rid of the science and technology that they had acquired in the Middle Ages and due to which they had gained their prestige and economic superiority in the whole world.

Western civilization continues to create its huge influence in the Islamic society like a flood. If Muslims wish to move towards renaissance, they must be fully accountable. Aligning Islam with the new scientific trend is the call of times (Urdu: Waqt ki Pukar).

Islam is actually a religion of rationalism and is in accordance with nature. Not allowing Islam to adapt to the new world order and keeping itself away from Western sciences is a practice that is highly deplorable.

In this era of the 21st century, there is no need for any conflict between the Islamic and Western society, but to stop the exploitation of Muslims by the Western powers, Islamic society should come back to its previous ways of scientific and technological activities.

In his book What Went Wrong? historian Bernard Lewis notes that “for many centuries the world of Islam was in the forefront of human civilization and achievement. “He further adds “The relationship between Christendom and Islam in the sciences was now reversed. Those who had been disciples now became teachers; those who had been masters became pupils, often reluctant and resentful pupils.”

As science in the Islamic world declined and retrogressed, Europe absorbed and translated classical and scientific works, mainly Science centers of Islamic World.

After its Renaissance, Europe started making great advances in science, which it had borrowed from Islamic civilization. Europe became world power and colonized almost entire Muslim world and humiliated them for centuries by their ruthless Rule.

Except in a few semi-independent states (Afghanistan, Turkey, Yemen and Arab Peninsula), the Muslim might and political authority – the symbols of Muslim Ummah’s dignity – was totally eliminated from around the globe. The fall of Turks in 1920 was the last big insult meted out to them.

Ironically some Muslims thought that this was the wrath of God since they disobeyed Him during recent past. However, the fact is that Islamic world lacked in Science and Technology after the 15th century. Presently, Muslim nations are no match with the West in economic and military power.

They were once known for new inventions and ideas for almost seven to eight hundred years to the world. After that they could only repeat their ideas as RECYCLERS.

What Islamic world needs today is the scientific and technological advancement so that its presence on the international stage is distinct and effective.

Without such an accomplishment, Muslim countries cannot serve the Ummah’s interests, fulfill its aspirations and safeguard its rights. Absence of ideas, both scientific and philosophical, freedom of thought, creativity, and intellectual self-determination, are the main causes that the Muslim World is not in a position to fulfill God given mandate of universal leadership.

Intellectuals rightly assert that Muslim world will never be able to improve the lot of its people unless the Muslims around the world realize the importance of upgrading the status of science and technology.

At present the Muslim Ummah is confused. Their Past was shining, the Present is gloomy and Future uncertain. In the following passages, self- appraisal of well – known Muslim scholars is recorded.

These thought provoking views on tolerance, scientific temper, pluralism and global peace may help the Ummah to know their past, asses the present and also to determine their future based on Science Renaissance.

Turkey. Malaysia and Qatar etc. have decided to triple their spending on (R&D) soon which is certainly a welcome announcement.                                                                             

Despite the humiliation of the nineteenth century, the Muslim Ummah remained in a deep slumber in the twentieth century and was lagging behind other nation seven in basic literacy. In 1980 the average literacy of the Muslim world was less than 30 %. Fortunately, in the 21st century, adequate steps have been taken by many Muslim Countries towards education (Literacy). In a global survey of 2022, it has been reported that 23 countries of the Muslim world have achieved more than 90 percent literacy.

They Spend 4 to 9 percent of their DGP. The top among them is Azerbaijan (100 percent). Saudi Arabia (98 %)- Turkey (98 %), Jordan (98 %), U.A.E. (98 %), Brunei (98 %) and Indonesia (96 %). However, because of some poor countries and some highly populated countries, average literacy of Muslim World is still less than the World average.

Unfortunately, apart from basic Literacy, scientific research (R&D) has not been given much emphasis. The entire Islamic world (population: 180 Crores) spends a total of $75 billion on scientific research, while the U.S. (Population.32 Crores) spends $660 billion on scientific research (R&D).

Japan (population: 13 Crores) $194 billion. Germany (population 8 Crores) spends $148 billion and South Korea (population 5 Crores) spends $105 billion. These figures illustrate the gap between Islamic countries and scientifically developed countries.

Muslim nations have to change their attitude towards science and return towards the scientific and intellectual era of the past which we consider Golden Period and are proud of.

However, it is somewhat satisfactory situation that recently Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and few other countries have decided to raise their expenditure threefold on R & D in their countries.

Below are the ideas of some important intellectuals of the world, who express their grief and surprise at the decline of Muslims and suggest ways and means to get out of this terrible period.

Barack Obama: (Former President of U.S. Born 1961). It was Islam that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.  (June 4, 2009, speech in Cairo)

Jamal Al-Din Afghani: (1839-1897- Muslim Reformer, Afghanistan) – Nothing but science and technology could eliminate economic and cultural backwardness of Muslims. Modern science is universal, transcending nations, cultures and religion. Those who imagine that they are saving religion by imposing a ban on some sciences and knowledge are enemies of religion.

Mahathir Mohammad: (Born 1925, Former P.M., Malaysia).  Allah has said in the Quran that we have to help ourselves before He will help us. To ward off attacks on us, we must learn science and consider acquiring modern knowledge as the part of ibadah.

Seyyed Hussain Nasr: (1933 Scholar Iran/US) Iran. Translation – The basic assumptions and beliefs of the Qur’an and the exemplary behavior of Muhammad, peace be upon him, provided the foundations for the development of Islamic culture and scientific civilization.

In the Islamic world, the fertile origin and caliphate of science and technology remained until the 16th century. Its decline began in the 17th and 18th centuries when mathematics and other advanced subjects were excluded from the curriculum of madrasas.

Tinku Abdul Rahman: (1903-1990 Former P.M. Malaysia). In today’s world, it is necessary that Muslims adopt the Islamic method to face the new challenges by rejecting irrational beliefs.

‘Amr Musa: (1936. Islamic Scholar, Egypt): The era in which we are breathing is the age of science and technology and it demands tireless work and action from us so that we too can keep up with its speed.

Therefore, it is imperative that we stick to the basic principles of Islam and not waste our precious time in sub-divisions. The world is moving at a very fast pace. We have to create skills from its sciences and arts. (Seminar Syed Sulaiman Nadvi Bhopal).

Mohammed Haikal: (1888 –1956, Writer, Egypt/Saudi Arabia) – Islamic civilization had been raised on a foundation of science and rationalism, same foundation on which western civilization of today is based. (Life of Muhammad).

Zia Gokalp: (1876-1924 – Scholar, Turkey) – Islam has been equipped with an adequate framework to accommodate and adapt to morphological changes in time and space. Islam is the religion that exhorts change.

A. Bausani: (1921 –1988, Rome, Islamic Scholar): It is true that during Middle Ages the Muslim world was considered more or less like America now, i.e., the world to which one had to go to perfect oneself in science and technology. (Web)

Hamid Golpira: (1960 – 2015 Scholar, Iran): The Islamic world is at the crossroads-either we have an Islamic Renaissance now or we will experience greater backwardness. We have to balance modernity and tradition. We had spirituality and also academic scholarship and science.

Muslims never had a great Dark Ages where science was superstitiously rejected like the Europeans experienced. Many historians say the Islamic civilization actually inspired the European Renaissance. So, what went wrong in the Islamic world?

IOC Conference: Knowledge of religion and knowledge of the world should not be divided into two boxes. Illiteracy should be eradicated completely. Innovation and newness should be brought to the people.

Every new thing should not be attributed to Bidat. And not every new invention should be interpreted as wrong. Particular attention should be paid to the fact that Muslims live with their times.

Sheikh Muhammad Abduh: (1849-1905- Scholar (Egypt) Translation – Traditional Islam is facing the challenge of modern, rational and scientific thought. Islam and modern western civilization are compatible. Human intellect is great, and religion gives it light. Islam is the religion of reason. (History of Islam)

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad: (1888-1958- Islamic Scholar & Thinker, India): You have spent several nights of indifference (Urdu-ghaflat) and complacency (Urdu-sarshari). For God’s sake, get up now and see how much the sun has risen and how far your co-travelers (non-Muslims) have gone ahead of you-after 16th Century, the situation of knowledge in Muslim and Christian societies changed completely.

Now Christians started following Muslims way of progressive thinking and enquiry whereas Muslims copied Christian’s way of life of Middle Ages that was full of superstition, bigotry and retrograde thoughts (Ghubar-e-Khatir).

Allam Iqbal: (1897 -1938) – Poet Scholar, India) – A false reverence of past history and its artificial resurrection constitute no remedy for a people’s decay.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan: (1817-1898- Muslim Reformer, Founder, Aligarh Muslim University, India) – Harmonize Islam with modern science and rationalism. Islam is the religion of most akin to Nature and conformity to Nature is the essence of Islam. We should develop a spirit of enquiry and research. Aversion of the Muslims to Western education is the reason for backwardness.

Allama Amir Shakib Arsalan: “(1869-1948) The anti-Islamic powers make the propaganda that Islam is not capable of going along with the current civilization and the main reason are those narrow-minded people whose personal beliefs are not compatible with this new civilization. Actually they stand in the way of the current progress.”

Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi: (1914 – 1999, Founder Member,  Rabitat al-Alam al-Islami, Islamic Scholar and Thinker, India):  After sixteenth century Muslims lost interest in Enquiry and Physical Sciences and engaged themselves more in Metaphysical Sciences with the result, they could not produce great men of knowledge (Urdu: Abqari) Muslims forgot their own scientific thinking and followed only traditional knowledge. They therefore lagged behind in Science and Technology and thus became slaves of the West. (Islam & the West).

Maulana Rabey Hasan Nadvi: (1929 – 2023, Islamic Scholar, India)- Europe (West) became the leader of the world by working hard and following the path of scientific pursuit. On the other hand, we (the Muslims) became indifferent towards knowledge and lost leadership of nations.

Maulana Dr Kalbe Sadiq: (1939 – 2020- Islamic Scholar, India) – We are passing through a very difficult and critical times of 21st Century. If we do not show brilliance in Science and technology, presence of Ummah would be insignificant amongst the global Societies.

If in the said process, we become indifference with our faith Islam, we will lose our great IDENTITY amongst the global societies—Dividing Knowledge into Religious Knowledge and Worldly Knowledge was a mistake by Muslims.

Syed Sulaiman Nadvi: (1884-1953, Islamic Scholar & Thinker, India) Ulema, ignorant of modern knowledge cannot serve the Ummah.

Shah Abdul Qadir Rai Puri: (1878-1962- Islamic Scholar) “Islam cannot be established by words. If we want to stand up to the big countries of the world, we have to learn modern sciences. When a country does not stand on its own feet, it can neither serve the religion nor the world.

Saiyid Hamid: (1920 – 2014, Scholar, Chancellor, Hamdard University, India): Distancing from Science is a devastating deprivation for Muslims. “Learn or Perish’ is the lesson that has to be driven home from all the platforms and pulpits and to be echoed in the Media. In this connection, unambiguous and almost undivided attention of the Ulema is required who wield immense influence among the masses.

Sir Syed (Founder Aligarh Muslim University, India)

“Let philosophy be in our right hand, and natural science in our left. And the word La Ilaha IllaAllah Muhammadur Rasool Allah on our head.”

Back to top button