Science and faith have often gone hand in hand under Islam.
The passion for scientific progress and discovery was inspired by the Quranic principle that seeking knowledge is a duty upon every human.
This ethos was also encouraged by Prophet Muhammad, who championed the pursuit of learning and inspired sayings like: “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”
The ritual of Islamic worship itself prompted scientific development, namely the need to find the exact direction of prayer along with its specific timings. Medieval Muslim astronomers established large observatories and developed highly sophisticated devices, such as the astrolabe, which accurately measured the time, identified stars and planets, and was used in navigation.
Science and culture flourished under Muslim rule for centuries in a period known as the Islamic Golden Age. It grew in Damascus, Cairo, Cordoba and in Baghdad, where a great centre of learning and science called the ‘House of Wisdom’ was created.
It was here that thousands of ancient Greek and Indian works by Aristotle, Plato, Hippocrates, Ptolemy, Galen, Charaka - the father of Indian medicine - and the Indian mathematician astronomer, Aryabhata, survived due to the Translation Movement. The findings were later transferred to Europe where they were translated from Arabic into Latin, and became pivotal to the Renaissance. Medical science made extraordinary progress during the Islamic civilisation and formed much of the basis of western healthcare today.
In the eleventh century, the Persian Muslim physician and intellectual, Ibn Sina, or Avicenna, became renowned for his ‘Canon of Medicine’, an encyclopaedia that covered all aspects of medical practice. His work was used as a standard medical textbook in European universities as late as the eighteenth century.
Today, many words from the Arabic language enter the sciences, like alchemy, alcohol, algorithm and algebra. In fact, the man known as the father of algebra was the ninth century Muslim mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, from whose name the word ‘algorithm’ is derived. Without algorithms, which perform calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning, computers would not exist today.