Salman Ahmed Shaikh
In simple words, science is knowledge established by observation and experimentation through an objective process. Scientific knowledge substantiates that the design, variety and balance in the universe is complex, intricate and detailed. Science tries to disentangle useful knowledge about matter so that this knowledge can be put to effective use.
Islamic worldview centers on Tawhid and afterlife accountability. Islamic worldview does not oppose using various tools to obtain useful knowledge and then using that knowledge for material ends both at the individual and societal level. Thus, in this functional sense, science does not pose challenge to the Islamic worldview.
When one reads Quran, Allah is again and again inviting people to ponder over their creation, environment, ecology, design, variety and balance in the organization of matter in the universe in order to decipher the meaning of life amidst all these manifestations. Question of ‘why we exist’ is the focus of Islam. Question of ‘what exists and how’ is the focus of science.
Conflict between science and religion appears when a descriptive falsifiable scientific theory is presented as a substitute and evidence to support a Godless philosophy of life. Theory of evolution attempts to describe the process through which life comes to exist in different varieties. All this theory can support is that different forms of complex life did not come to exist all of a sudden and at the same time. It merely identifies and explains few intermediate steps in the long chain of events. It does not concern with the question of meaning of life itself.
Science does nothing more than substantiating that the design, variety and balance in universe is more ‘complex, intricate and detailed’ than previously thought of before scientific advancements. In light of the scientific body of knowledge developed thus far, the assertion of chance argument for the origin and dynamic organization of this universe becomes all the more weak as argued by Eric Metaxas in his Wall Street Journal article “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God”.
Once it is believed upon in the light of inner conscience, signs in the external environment, shared common history and even archeological evidence, Islamic worldview elevates the human beings to reflect on their existence not merely as an animal looking to fulfill base desires with absolute freedom. Islamic worldview introduces the human beings to the spiritual rationality which gives meaning to worldly existence and every event, happening and action in life. It gives an incentive for good acts with the promise of perfect deterministic justice in afterlife.
Belief in any particular worldview influences preferences and hence the human behavior and choices. Islamic worldview impacts a human being holistically. If the Islamic worldview is understood, believed in and absorbed holistically, then the behavior in consumption, production and exchange will reflect that. With the concept of afterlife accountability, Islam immensely influences intertemporal choice behavior. It helps in private economic agents (consumers and producers) to modify their actions in such a way so that they take into consideration externalities and also their own welfare, both in this world and afterwards. In addition to that, afterlife accountability should stimulate positive change in behavior in a much more comprehensive and permanent manner than any regulation or material incentive could possibly do.