Islam and Science — Harmony or Conflict

Irum Godil
18 min readNov 9, 2020

(This article was written for the course ‘Faith and Science’ in my final Undergrad year at the University of Toronto)

By: Irum Godil, May 2002

Incompatibility between science and religion is one of the greatest philosophical conflicts of the modern human dialect. Although this incompatibility has been addressed in the last few decades, the focus of such discussions has usually been the conflict between science and the Judeo-Christian traditions. Islam and its claimed revelatory foundation — the Qur’an are usually excluded from such a discourse.

In the West, Islam is viewed as a fundamentalist religion, which far from being compatible with modern science, is commonly seen as the cause of regression and intolerance. It is misperceived to be an exclusive religion of the Arabs, originating from a primitive and outmoded culture.

However, it is not generally known that the word Islam is absolutely non-exclusive, universal and timeless, since, unlike most religions, it is not tied to a culture, nationality, race, region, personality or somebody’s personal belief; rather it is a description of a state of mind and action, linguistically denoting voluntary peaceful submission to the singular Creator, where one flows in concordance with the universal natural order of cosmic scheme.[1]

Despite the Western misunderstanding, no dichotomy or chasm exists between science and the Qur’anic beliefs.

Islamic teachings and scientific reasoning have the same basic objectives: to seek the truth, to acquire knowledge by observing and thinking and to use this knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

The word “science” means “knowledge, the state or fact of knowledge.”[2] The primary goal behind scientific reasoning is to acquire greater understanding of the world around us. This is also the objective of Islamic teachings.

Islam places great emphasis on seeking knowledge. The very first verse of the Qur’an that was revealed to the Prophet of Islam is:

“Read in the name of your Lord”(Qur’an 96:1).

The Prophet (Peace be upon him, PBUH) further elaborated this emphasis on knowledge and proclaimed that every Muslim man and woman must continue to acquire knowledge from the cradle to the grave.[3]

One of the attributes of Allah (God) mentioned in the Qur’an is Aleem, which means “one who possesses knowledge.”

The possession of knowledge is therefore a Divine quality and its acquisition is an obligation for the believers. Humans are created as intelligent beings and they have the capacity to learn and acquire knowledge. It is knowledge that distinguishes humans from angels and from the rest of the creation and it is through knowledge that one can reach Truth, and Truth is another name for the Real and the Ultimate.[4]

From the Islamic point of view, knowledge has the main purpose of bringing man closer to reality and it serves as a pointer reading to Allah, and thus an obligation on every Muslim.[5]

Both science and Islam emphasize that knowledge must be acquired by using sensory perceptions and humans must constantly observe and think to come to the truth. The scientific method is to first observe facts, classify facts, establish relationships between facts and then construct a theory based on the facts. The theory must be revised if new facts are established that invalidate the theory. Thus, scientific reasoning involves constant observation and thought. The same is true for the Islamic way of thinking.

In many places in the Qur’an, the need and utility to make observations and to wonder is emphasized:

“Observe what is in the Heavens and in the earth”(Qur’an 10:101), “Do you not observe? Do you not think? Do you not contemplate?”(Qur’an 37:155)

The Qur’an repeatedly asks mankind to seek in-depth knowledge of God’s creation:

“In the earth are clear signs for those who get convinced (after thorough investigation and research); and also within yourself. Then, will you not exercise your vision?” (Qur’an 51:20–21).

Osama Ghanim succinctly presents this idea:

After all we believe that the Creator created everything, then the Creator must have created our means of searching and knowing. This leads to an understanding that the human person is responsible and accountable for the conscious operation and employment of his or her means of knowing, hearing, seeing, feeling, acting and thinking. Such an understanding of faith not only supports but extends the notion of science as based on experimenting, observing and concluding logically.[6]

Knowledge, both from the scientific and Islamic point of view, serves the purpose of working for the benefit of humanity and making this life easier and successful.

All science has a utility and significance both on the individual and on the social level. For instance, research in medical science has alleviated human suffering and the recent information technology has transformed the world into a global village.

This aspect of science, to work for humanity, is also encouraged by the Qur’an.

From the Islamic point of view, God has created the laws by which nature works. However, humans are invited to discover these laws of nature and use them for human benefit. The Qur’an asserts that:

“All that is in the heaven and in the earth has been subjugated to man” (Qur’an 45:13).

Although the Qur’an is not a book of science, Allah explicitly ordains man to study all forms of sciences in this world, which reflect the signs of God.

Furthermore, the findings of modern science are completely compatible with the scientific signs mentioned in the Qur’an. In his book, The Bible, The Quran and Science, Maurice Bucaille writes:

These scientific considerations, which are very specific to the Qur’an, greatly surprised me at first. Up until then, I had not thought it possible for one to find so many statements in a text compiled more than thirteen centuries ago referring to extremely diverse subjects and all of them totally in keeping with modern scientific knowledge.[7]

Humans are repeatedly asked to reflect upon the creation of the heavens. Allah says:

“Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then We clove them asunder and We got every living thing out of the water. Will they not then believe?”(Qur’an 21:30).

The greatest realization of the 21st century, has been that the universe has evolved from a ‘singularity’ — commonly referred to as the Big Bang. According to this theory, all matter in the universe was once concentrated to a cosmic singularity and the universe originated in a colossal explosion of this matter.[8]

Apart from the verses that specifically describe creation, there are roughly about forty verses in the Qur’an, which provide information on Astronomy.[9]

At one point, God held the receding stars as a witness of the truth of His words:

“So verily I call to witness the stars that recede, and the comets that float without hindrance and then go into hiding”(Qur’an 81:15–16).

God is telling man that a sign of the truth of this message is the fact that the stars are receding. Humans are asked to explore and find this for themselves, as they did not know about this 1,400 years ago. Today, it is an established fact that the universe is expanding and the galaxies are receding.[10]

A man in the time of Muhammad (PBUH) did not know that the sun was a star that generated intense heat and light by its internal combustion, whereas the moon merely reflected the sun’s light. These two have been distinguished in the Qur’an when man is asked to ponder upon them:

“Did you see how God created seven heavens one above another and made the moon a light therein and the made the sun a lamp?” (Qur’an 71:15–16)

The moon is defined as a body that gives light from the same root as the Arabic word nur (the light applied to the Moon). The sun however is compared to a torch (Arabic word, siraj) or a blazing lamp.[11]

The Qur’an urges man to learn a lesson from the fact that the sun and moon are floating and moving to their appointed ends:

“And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. They float, each in an orbit.”(Qur’an 21:33), “Have you not seen how Allah causes the night to pass into the day and causes the day to pass into the night and has subdued the sun and the moon, each running unto an appointed term…”(Qur’an 31:29).

Recent discoveries have shown that the sun is moving around the center of the Milky Way and that the sun will consume all its fuel one day — thus it will reach its appointed term. Numerous other verses ask man to think pointing to the matter between the earth and heavens, the existence of other worlds and other aspects of heavenly bodies. Thus, the Qur’an urges man to study astronomy, and the astronomical facts in the Qur’an are not in contradiction with the scientific findings.

Another branch of knowledge that the Qur’an asks man to discover — and where the correlation with science has been startling, is the area of Embryology. The Qur’an says:

“Read in the name of your Lord, who created the human from a thing which clings (‘alaqa)” (Qur’an 96:1–2).

The original meaning of the word ‘alaq is “something which clings.”[12]

A University of Toronto embryologist, Dr. Keith Moore, examined these verses of the Qur’an and said at an occasion:

“I am surprised at the scientific accuracy of these statements which were made in the seventh century.”[13]

Dr. Moore and the others found that the Arab leech bears a striking resemblance to the embryo at 24 days, and the embryo does cling to the wall of the uterus at this stage.[14] Another verse that they interpreted read:

“God makes you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, within three veils of darkness.” (Qur’an 39:6).

Dr. Moore said the three veils could reasonably be interpreted to mean the mother’s abdominal wall, the wall of the uterus and the amniochorionic membrane. The Qur’an mentions:

Verily We created man from a product of wet earth; Then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe lodging; Then fashioned We the drop a clot, then fashioned We the Clot a little lump, then fashioned We the little lump bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation… (Qur’an 23:12–14).

The Qur’an also says:

“Verily we created man from a drop of mingled fluid. Then we caused him to pass through various stages, until We made him one possessing the faculties of hearing and sight” (Qur’an 76:2).

Medical science has established that the human embryo develops in stages, initially the tissues and organs of the embryo differentiate rapidly, the embryo then becomes a fetus, later, the fetus grows rapidly and finally the internal organs mature and begin functioning.[15]

The formation of the faculties was also related in a saying of the Prophet, which said that 42 days after conception, God sends an angel to give the human fetus features such as eyes and ears. This was examined by Dr. Moore, who said that embryonic research shows that indeed at 42 days, the eyes and ears are clearly visible.[16]

Thus, Islam asks humans to reflect upon their own creation, and the findings of modern embryology are in harmony with the Qura’nic descriptions.

The Qur’an also advises humans to study botany and how the plants come to life:

“You see the ground’s lifeless. When We send down water thereon it shakes and grows and puts forth every magnificent (pair of plants).” (Qur’an 22:5)

The Qur’an also says:

It is the Divine law that causes the seed-grain and the date-stone to split and sprout. It causes the living matter to issue from the non-living and the non-living to issue from the living one. Such is Allah. Then why are you deluded away from the right path? (Qur’an 6:96).

A seed itself is dormant, this seed dormancy is broken by one of several physical mechanisms — mechanical abrasion, fire, leaching of inhibitors by water, etc. As the seed germinates (begins to develop), it first takes up water. During germination, water diffuses through the seed coats into the embryo, which has been almost completely dry during the period of dormancy, causing a swelling of the seed; the swelling is often so great that the seed coat is ruptured. With the absorption of oxygen by the seed, energy is made available for growth. This way the seed grows into a plant.[17]

This is exactly in accordance with the Qur’anic point of view. The Qur’an also mentions the chemical changes in plants that produce various colors:

Do you not see that God sends down rains from above and leads it through springs in the Earth? Then He causes to grow therewith produce of various colors. Then it withers and turns yellow. Then He makes it dry up and crumble away. Truly in this is a message to men of understanding (Qur’an 39:21).

We know today that the arrangement of various atoms like Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen in a molecule produces a variety of pigments. The inclusion of a single atom of magnesium in a formula produces green color, and the inclusion of an atom of iron produces red color. The addition of oxygen to carbon and hydrogen atoms produces lutein, a yellow pigment of autumn foliage.[18]

Thus, the Qur’an encourages an in-depth research in the field of Botany.

Man is also commanded by the Qur’an to examine the other phenomena of nature and seek guidance. Meteorology, the science of atmosphere, is very widely studied today. Allah tells humans to learn from the laws of the formation and working of the clouds, rains and other atmospheric features:

God is the One Who sends forth the winds, which raised up the clouds. He spreads them in the sky as He wills and breaks them into fragments. Then you see raindrops issuing from within them… (Qur’an 30:48)

At another place:

Have you not seen that God makes the clouds move gently, then joins them together, then makes them a heap. And you see raindrops issuing from within it. He sends down from the sky mountains of hail, He strikes therewith whom He wills and He turns it away from whom He wills. The flashing of its lightning almost snatches away the sight (Qur’an 43:24).

We are aware today that lightning, is a form of visible electric discharge between rain clouds or between a rain cloud and the earth, which can be quite hazardous for man.[19]

The Qur’an also encourages Oceanography, the study of the environment in the oceans, including the water, depths of oceans, and the aquatic plants and animals. Allah says:

“He has loosed the two seas. They meet together. Between them, there is a barrier, which they do not transgress. Out of them come pearls and coral” (Qur’an 55:19–22).

At another point:

The two seas are not alike. The water of one is agreeable, sweet, and pleasant to drink. The other salty and bitter. You eat fresh meat from it and you extract from it ornaments which you wear. (Qur’an 35:12)

Recent findings have shown that rich varieties of resources, both organic and inorganic, exist below the surface of the sea. Estimates of the yearly world ocean production of organic matter, fixed from inorganic carbon and nutrients, amount to about 130 billion metric tons. Several valuable metals are known to be abundant in the sea; the sea is estimated, for example, to contain 10 billion tons of gold. Today, the major minerals being obtained from seawater are magnesium, bromine, and sodium chloride, or common salt.[20]

The salty water of the sea does not mingle with the fresh water of the river until very far out in the sea and so the freshness of the river water is preserved. The Qur’an demands of humans to reflect on the science of atmosphere, oceans and other natural phenomena. It constantly urges man to explore science, and the scientific facts in the Qur’an are perfectly compatible with current known data.

Science strengthens the faith of a Muslim. The very fundamental belief of a Muslim is the faith in one God, and the faith that this life is temporary and man will return to His Lord, where he/she will be questioned for his deeds. Studying science leaves no doubts about the existence of God, the unity of God and the belief in the end of this world.

“The believers contemplating about the creation of the heavens and the earth come to the conclusion that they were not created in vain”(Qur’an 3:191).

According to the Qur’an one comes to know God through His creation. The Qur’an says:

“No vision can grasp Him.” (Qur’an 6:103)

The more we explore nature, the more we become firm in our belief in the Creator. Dr. Hugh Ross has written in his book The Creator and the Cosmos:

“Not only can we measure certain aspects of the universe, but in these measurements we are discovering some of the characteristics of the One who fashioned it all.”[21]

One of the remarkable discoveries of the past 30 years has been the recognition that small changes in any of the universal constants produce surprisingly dramatic changes in the universe, rendering it unsuitable for life, not just as we know it, but for life of any conceivable type. These coincidences, known as the Anthropic Coincidences, are astoundingly minuscule factors of probability concerning everything from neutrons and electrons to supernova eruptions in space, outside of which carbon-based life would be impossible.[22]

If the strong nuclear force — the force governing the degree to which protons and neutrons stick together in atomic nuclei — were too weak, protons and neutrons would not stick together. In that case, only one element would exist in the universe, hydrogen, because the hydrogen atom has only one proton and no neutrons in its nucleus. On the other hand, if this force were of slightly greater strength than what we observe in the cosmos, protons and neutrons would have such an affinity for one another that not one would remain alone. They would all find themselves attached to many other protons and neutrons. In such a universe, there would be no hydrogen, only heavy elements. Life chemistry is impossible without hydrogen; it is also impossible if hydrogen is the only element.[23]

The strength of the force of gravity determines how hot the nuclear furnaces in the cores of stars will burn. If the gravitational force were any stronger, stars would be so hot they would burn up relatively quickly, too quickly and too erratically for life. Additionally, a planet capable of sustaining life must be supported by a star that is both stable and long burning. However, if the gravitational force were any weaker, stars would never become hot enough to ignite nuclear fusion. In such a universe, no elements heavier than hydrogen and helium would be produced.[24]

The expansion rate of the universe is another parameter that is very finely tuned. If the universe expanded too rapidly, matter would disperse so efficiently that none of it would clump enough to form galaxies. If no galaxies form, no stars will form. If no stars form, no planets will form. If no planets form, there’s no place for life. On the other hand, if the universe expanded too slowly, matter would clump so effectively that all of it, the whole universe in fact, would collapse into a super-dense lump before any solar-type stars could form. For life to exist, the expansion rate of the universe cannot differ by more than one part in 1055 from the actual rate.[25]

These are just a few of the hundreds of coincidences found in the nature. They make one wonder whether the universe is a result of mere chance or the work of an intelligent Creator. Certain coincidences are possible, but everything cannot be a coincidence. In a review article on the anthropic principle published in the journal Nature, cosmologists Bernard Carr and Martin Rees state in their summary: “Nature does exhibit remarkable coincidences and these do warrant some explanation.”[26]

The Qur’an explains it this way:

“You cannot see any fault in the Beneficent One’s creation; then look again: Can you see any rifts? Then look again and yet again, your sight will return to you weakened and dim” (Qur’an 67:3–4).

Thus, if a person already believes in God then these scientific findings will definitely affirm his belief by a much greater degree.

Recent Quantum Physics discoveries make the existence of one God even more comprehensible. Quantum Physics is working towards a unification of the forces in nature. The Grand Unification Theories attempt to unify the strong and electroweak interactions by assuming these interactions are equivalent at sufficiently high energies. The ultimate goal in physics is to formulate a Theory of Everything that would unify all interactions — electroweak, weak, strong, and gravitational.[27]

This thinking leads the human mind towards the singularity of the universe and thus the existence of a Single Creator.[28]

Studying astronomy affirms a Muslim’s belief in the end of the affairs of this world. One of the most important beliefs of a Muslim is the belief that life in this world will end one day and earth will be destroyed from its present state. That will be the day of the doom, when man will be raised again and questioned for his deeds. Qur’an mentions:

“And when the Soor (the trumpet) shall sound, One blast; Earth with the mountains, Will be lifted up and crushed with one crash; then on that day, the Event will fall…” (Qur’an 69:13–15) “When the oceans boil over…” (Qur’an 81:6), “Earth will be changed to a different earth and so will be the heavens” (Qur’an 14:48).

Exploring the depths of the sky has revealed that this is indeed possible. All stars have an evolutionary life. Stars form from a simple collision between two interstellar clouds, and continue to contract until they reach the main sequence, where they spend the major portion of their lives. This is the phase where hydrogen is constantly converted to helium. After the main sequence, the star expands and goes through more fusion states. Ultimately, the less massive stars end up being a cool white dwarf and the high mass stars violently blow apart in supernova explosions. As for our sun, its total main sequence of life is ten billion years, of which five billion years are already over. After this the sun will fuse helium, and ultimately expand to be a red giant, with a diameter of one Astronomical Unit, which will be 100 times of its current size, vaporizing Mercury and probably causing Venus to spiral into the sun. The giant will also be 2000 times more luminous than it is today.[29]

When this happens the earth will come very close to the sun, and this will be the end of the life on earth. Ultimately, the sun will end up being a white dwarf.[30] These facts strengthen a believer’s faith in the doomsday.

In conclusion, the harmony between Islam and science closes the gap between faith and science.

Each of them has its own important role to unveil the truth and reality of the existence, and one is insufficient on its own. Where reason is necessary to strengthen faith, some element of faith must already exist in order to reason.

The harmony between faith and science also narrows the difference between the various world religions. Although, each of the Judaism, Christianity and Islam differ in their respective traditions, where faith divides — reason unites.

An adherence to the sense of rationality brings all religions to a common platform.


[1] Haque, Nadeem. Banaei Mehran. Flawless Bridge between ‘Science’ and ‘Religion’. (20 Mar. 2002).

[2] V. Neufeldt. Webster’s New World Dictionary. (New York, 1988), p. 1202.

[3] M. Kazi, Islamic Thought and Modern Science (Islamabad, 1997), p.5.

[4] C. Qadir, Philosophy and Science in the Islamic World (New York, 1988), p.6.

[5] Ibid., p.15.

[6] O. Ghanim, “More to life than science vs. faith”, Toronto Star, (June 21, 1998), p. F2.

[7] M. Bucaille, The Bible The Qur’an And Science (Indianapolis, 1979), p.119.

[8] N. Comins, William J. Kaufmann, Discovering the Universe (New York, 2000), p.401.

[9] M. Bucaille, The Bible The Qur’an And Science (Indianapolis, 1979), p.151.

[10] N. Comins, William J. Kaufmann, Discovering the Universe (New York, 2000), p.399.

[11] M. Bucaille, The Bible The Qur’an And Science (Indianapolis, 1979), p.155.

[12] Ibid., p.204.

[13] Z. Kashmeri, “Expert on embryo growth explains Koran mystery”, The Globe And Mail, (November 22, 1984)

[14] Ibid.

[15] W. Purves, G. Orians, C. Heller, D. Sadava, Life The Science of Biology (Sunderland, 1998), p. 878-879.

[16] Z. Kashmeri, “Expert on embryo growth explains Koran mystery”, The Globe And Mail, (November 22, 1984)

[17] “Seed Germination.”Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2001. © 1993–2000 Microsoft Corporation.

[18] A. Wadud, Phenomena Of Nature And the Quran (Lahore, 1971), p.69.

[19] “Lightning.”Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2001. © 1993–2000 Microsoft Corporation.

[20]”Ocean and Oceanography.”Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2001. © 1993–2000 Microsoft Corporation.

[21] H. Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (Colorado Springs, 1993), chapter 14.

[22] Our Universe: Fine-Tuned for Life? (30 Mar. 2002).

[23] H. Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (Colorado Springs, 1993), chapter 14.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27]”Standard Model.”Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2001. © 1993–2000 Microsoft Corporation.

[28] H. Siddiqui, “The Various world-views of Science — A study in Islamic Perspective”, in Selected Papers on Science and Islam, ed. by M. Kazi (Islamabad, 1994), p.146.

[29] N. Comins, William J. Kaufmann, Discovering the Universe (New York, 2000), p.289.

[30] Ibid., p.307.


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