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The Significance of Islamic Science Today in an Islamic Critique of Modern Science

NOA Community Centre (Ferry Centre)
Summertown, Oxford

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Until recently the traditional sciences have by and large been neglected in the West, being viewed as superstition or as elementary steps in the direction of modern science. Such sciences, however, contain a profound view of the order of nature seen from a perspective different from that of modern science. Through them one is able to behold other faces of nature than the one studied so thoroughly by modern science, which assumes that the face thus studied is the only face or aspect of nature, and that modern science is the only legitimate science of the natural order. This claim is based on a totalitarian perspective rarely perceived for what it is, and has not been sufficiently challenged in the West.

Islamic science, like other traditional sciences (Egyptian, Chinese, Indian and Greek), is based upon certain metaphysical principles that also constitute the principles of religion and tradition within whose context it is cultivated. It may legitimately be called "sacred science" to distinguish it from "profane science", which has cut off its links with the sacred. Where Islamic science differs from Western science is in its adherence to the unifying perspective in which every form of knowledge from that of the material substances to the highest metaphysics is organically interrelated, reflecting the structure of Reality itself. Furthermore, it recognizes the relation of the cosmos to the Universal Man (al-insãn al kãmil), in whom the fullness of the human state is realized, and through whom the multiplicity of creation returns to unity.

Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr is one of the foremost scholars of Islamic science, philosophy and spirituality, as well as a renowned critic of Western secular philosophy and materialist science. The author of over fifty books and five hundred articles, his publications include Science and Civilization in Islam (1968), Man and Nature (1968), Knowledge and the Sacred (1981), The Need for a Sacred Science (1993), Religion and the Order of Nature (1996), The Heart of Islam (2002) and Islam, Science, Muslims and Technology (2007). Professor Nasr is University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University.

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