MUHAMMADIYAH.OR.ID, YOGYAKARTA—Islam emerged as a pioneer in developing science in the middle ages. Not only did it dominate legal and social discourses, but it also excelled in science and technology. However, the enthusiasm for knowledge development is gradually diminishing, according to the Chairman of Muhammadiyah Syamsul Anwar. Various factors contributed to the decline.
First, military invasions led to scientific development and Islamic civilization setbacks. The attacks ravaged the infrastructure of civilization, obliterated research centers, and eliminated opportunities for the advancement of science and technology, requiring stable conditions.
The Mongol invasion led by Hulagu Khan in 1258 devastated Baghdad—the capital of Islamic religion and civilization— profoundly impacted the decline of science in the Islamic world. Similarly, the conquest of the Islamic Kingdom of Granada in 1492 through the Reconquista program under Ferdinand II and Isabella gradually ended the scholarly dominance of Muslims.
Second, Islam’s backwardness in scientific discourse is a consequence of a historical error. The Nizamiyyah Madrasah, established by the Seljuk Dynasty, focused solely on religious studies and neglected the teachings of exact and natural sciences.
“This gradually led to the decline of science and technology development in the Islamic world during the middle ages. Indeed, in this context, philosophy, which had not been separated from science, was prohibited by the scholars, as mentioned by Ibn Khaldun,” said Syamsul at the Seminar on the Science Integration in Hisab (Islamic Astronomy), Rukyat (Moon Sighting), and the Unifying Global Calendar conducted at Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta on Friday (2/6).
Syamsul emphasized the need for Muslims to return to the fundamental sources of Islamic teachings—the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to bridge the gap in the development of science and technology. They should internalize the two sources and comprehend the importance of science and technology. A hadith mentions that seeking and developing science is a form of jihad It is said, “Whoever takes a path upon which to obtain knowledge, Allah makes the path to Paradise easy for him” [at-Tirmidhi].
Additionally, an integrative paradigm that harmonizes religion and science is crucial to advance knowledge discourse. Throughout Islamic civilization, this integrative approach to knowledge development has been favored. The pursuit of knowledge remained within a framework in line with the fundamental teachings of Islam. Naturally, there have been intellectual dynamics, discussions, debates, and disagreements on how this integration of knowledge should be carried out.
Ibn Rushd, an Islamic philosopher known as Averroes in Medieval Europe, wrote a book entitled “Faṣl al-Maqāl wa Taqrīr mā bayna asy-Syarīʻah wa al-Ḥikmah min al-Ittiṣāl” in 1179-1180, which elucidated the interconnectedness of religion and philosophy. Moreover, Al-Ghazali was an integrative figure despite some controversial aspects of his thinking. Hujjatul Islam integrated the system of bayani knowledge and irfani knowledge in his book “Iḥyā’ ‘Ulūmddīn,” emphasizing that sharī’ah and reason are inseparable and mutually complementary. These two influential figures, often compared, serve as historical references for an integrative perspective.
“Emphasized by Francis S. Collins in modern times, this implies that faith in God can be a rational choice, and principles of faith truly complement principles of science,” said Syamsul.