Islamic Contributions to Modern Scientific Methods

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad

President & Chief Scientist, Minaret of Freedom Institute

Adjunct Prof Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced Studies.

FA&E Lecture, Islamic Center, Wayland, MA, 20 March 1999

Summary by Paul Henry Carr

Dr. Ahmad, who graduated "cum laude" from Harvard in 1970 and in 1975 obtained a Ph. D. in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Arizona, presented two themes:
(1)The conflict between science and religion is a myth that arose in the Westís unique history
(2) During the period 622 - 1492, Islam was a scientifically progressive, religious culture.

Early Muslim scholars referred the idea of zero as a place holder as the basis of "Indian Numerals." The numbers that we use today are called "Arabic Numerals." The Muslims developed this idea by introducing invaluable extensions applications to the concept. For example, Abu al-Uqlidisi of Damascus (950) introduced the idea of decimal fractions. The word algebra derives from the Arabic word "al-jabr."

The Muslims were leaders in empirical astronomy. Their observations did not agree with those predicted by the Ptolmaic system. The Moslem empirical natural philosophy differed sharply from the Greek deductive philosophy, which asserted natural observations could be derived from foundational principles. Thus, the empiricism of Bacon and the astronomy of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo had their roots in Islamic Science.

"The idea that the believer must avoid science lest it erode his faith, or that the scientist must avoid religion lest it weaken his analytical rigor, is foreign to Islam."

from "SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: A Muslim Astronomerís Perspective on Religion and Science" by Dr. Ahmad.