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INTERVIEW: Mohammed Sharaf Ansari
‘There is no conflict between Islam and science’
Dr. Mohammed Sharaf Ansari is head of the Department of Physics, Regional Engineering College, Srinagar. He is known for his criticism of western science. Dr. Ansari has produced some splendid works to end Muslims’ apologetic approach followed by some Muslim scholars while dealing with science vis-a-vis religion. He maintains the supremacy of Islamic principles over pseudo-scientific trends. In his yet to be published work Inadequacy of Logic, he has made a postmortem of the works of Ibn Rushd. Dr. Ansari is quite confident and original in his outlook and thinking.
Nasir Hussain Peerzadah of The Milli Gazette met the scientist at his residence in Srinagar for an interview. Experts:
How do you look to the achievements of the Medieval Muslim scientists?
Medieval Muslim scientists were awash with innovative ideas. In fact modern science owes much to the spade work done by these great luminaries. In every field they excelled and were blessed with great success. We had a galaxy of shinning stars like Ibn Sina, Al-Biruni, Az-Zahrawi, Al-Jahiz, Al-Khwarizmi…. the list is quite long. These luminaries left indelible marks on the development of scientific progress. But it should be said with vehemence that western scholars committed intellectual dishonesty by not giving the proper place and credit to the Muslim scientists while referring to any scientific work. For example, nowhere it is stated or written that Darwin (1809-1822 CE) had been influenced by the works of a Muslim zoologist, Al-Jahiz (d. 869 CE). In fact, Darwin has borrowed many concepts from him, though Al-Jahiz believed in creative evolution unlike Darwin whose theory is mechanistic and materialistic.
Did early Muslim scientists regard science as antagonistic to Islam?
You see, after all Muslims were guided by the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah, as such they regarded science as a legitimate activity for Muslims. They did not believe in any dichotomy. They held the view that one should ponder over the realities and the phenomena of the universe. Islam encourages experimentation and observation. This is how earlier scientists of the Muslim world tackled the problem. They went to the extent of searching that "water for life, Miracle water.’
Do you believe that Muslim scientists were influenced by Greeks?
There was a small group which was influenced by the Greeks. But the strenuous efforts of Al-Ghazali smashed the weak and baseless foundation of the Greek mythology.
As a physicist, how do you evaluate the works of Ibn Haytham?
He was a great performer. He gave some novel ideas. He for the first time stated that it is light ray which travels from the object and reaches the eye unlike the previously held view. He also formulated the laws of Reflection and Refraction. He also wrote on ‘Mechanics.’
Any comment on the present stagnation of Muslims in scientific pursuits?
You see, political domination by aliens made us suffer a lot. Still we are reeling under mental slavery and are dubbed by many as obscurantists. Westerners portray themselves as civilized and progressive and dub us as ‘terrorists’. We need to come out from the present predicament. I think awakening has started and we should gear our resources, set our independent institutions to proceed. We should achieve success, since we have a splendid past and huge resources at our disposal.
Can’t we build non-western patterns of science on Islamic paradigms?
I don’t believe science to be Islamic or un-Islamic. Islam enjoys its own universality. There is no conflict between Islam and science. Science is no way un-Islamic.
Should we use the term ‘Ilm’ in place of Science?
Yes, why not. Ilm is a much wider and comprehensive term used in the Quran. The term Ilm provides much broader and wider paradigms for building the new edifice of knowledge, its source, application and acquisition, aims and structure.
Should science be linked with ethics?
Yes science should not go out of control and experimentation in biology should be balanced with ethics.