Tuesday March 5, 2013
Insight into Islamic science
Efforts must be made to ensure that a strong and resilient scientific culture not only grows but also endures in the Malaysian society in general and the Muslim community in particular.
PETROSAINS, with the cooperation of several agencies and organisations including Ikim, is currently holding the “Sultans of Science – Islamic Science Rediscovered” exhibition at Suria KLCC.
Taking centrestage for six months, beginning last December and running until June this year, the exhibition showcases inventions and scientific breakthroughs achieved by Muslim scholars during the peak of the Islamic civilisation.
This, however, was not the first time such an exhibition had been organised.
In the first half of 2007, the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry held the “Scientific Excellence in Islamic Civilisation” exhibition.
In fact, compared with what can be found nearly 30 to 40 decades ago, the literature, both popular and academic, on the subject of the Muslim contributions to science and technology has increased substantially.
It is indeed true that proper recourse to intellectual and civilisational history plays an important role in reviving a society’s interest in science and technology.
Yet, this alone will not produce sufficient positive results on a much larger scale.
Other necessary and vital factors need to be included and should play complementary roles in ensuring that a strong and resilient scientific culture not only grows but also endures in the Malaysian society in general and the Muslim community in particular.
Among them is a high level of curiosity among a sufficient number of the country’s population.
It is this strong desire in a person to know and learn that drives him or her to explore and discover despite circumstances which may not always be in favour of one’s scientific interest.
However, a strong desire to know and learn alone will not guarantee the development of a scientific culture.
It has to be coupled with a disciplined mind so that what we have at the end is disciplined curiosity, a factor that is crucial for the development of such a culture.
People should be encouraged to increase their knowledge not only by focusing on pertinent problems but also by raising relevant questions.
It is in this light that, as related by ibn Abd al-Barr (d. 463H) in his Jami Bayan al-Ilm wa Fadlihi, both Wahb b. Munabbih and Sulayman b. Yasar declared: “Right question or problem is half of knowledge.”
A question does not really arise in a vacuum.
More often than not, it arises in our minds together with a set, or a series, of other related questions.
There is in fact a logical system inherent in any set or series of questions, involving a certain pattern of logical priority and posteriority.
A really scientific manner of dealing with questions and problems demands that one pay due attention to such a system and order.
As a matter of fact, this is one of the subject-matters extensively discussed by past Muslim logicians, scientists and scholars in their logico-scientific works, especially in those sections or chapters dealing with questions and problems being the major constituent of a scientific quest.
Logic as a science is meant to discipline one’s mind and thinking so that one does not commit erroneous reasoning.
This necessarily and naturally includes the disciplining of one’s mind in dealing with questions and problems.
Some questions should not be raised unless and until other more fundamental questions have been satisfactorily dealt with first.
Or such questions may not even arise in the first place if such more basic questions were answered properly.
Some questions, or problems, although justifiable, should not have been tackled in a particular science or field of study, but rather should have been the proper subject-matter of other disciplines, whether more fundamental to that science or subsequent to it.
One really ought to be aware of the logic of questions if one is to deal with problems scientifically.
This is what, among others, Muslims in particular should be taught if they are ever serious in nurturing a sustainable scientific culture.
Otherwise, simply given mere curiosity, devoid of mental discipline, they may end up giving rise to ideologies, superstitions, myths and mythologies, or worse still, prying and scandal-mongering as a number of Malaysians appear to be fond of, unfortunately.