Quranic cosmology and science

The Quranic, like the biblical, world-view conflicts with the scientific perspective which assumes that the cosmos is a self-contained set of patterned empirical sequences intelligible to us in terms of natural causality; the spatio-temporal continuum is subject to discoverable lawful regularity. Recently, probability laws couched in statistical terms replaced the older laws of causality as physical indeterminacy complicated the picture at the sub-atomic level. A metaphysic of events now supplants the older metaphysic of natural objects or substances uncomplicatedly locatable in three-dimensional space – but nature remains autonomous and self-sustaining. Islam posits an additional supernatural realm and denies the autonomy of nature (Quran 35:41). Directly, actively, and continuously, God sustains the world after creating it; he prevents the lowest heaven, our sky, from collapsing on sinful humanity (Quran 22:65), arranges the clouds, directs the winds that give rain and revive the dead earth (Quran 35:9), holds the birds poised in mid-air (Quran 67:19), and keeps the two seas separate (Quran 25:53; 27:61).

The Quranic cosmology presupposes continuous interaction between the natural causal world and the supra-natural realm of occult causality. Supernatural agents routinely act within and interpenetrate the natural world of empirical causality.

The jinn, elemental spirits found in the intricate nexus of Arabic poetry, possession and madness, are integral to the pre-Islamic outlook (46:29-32; 72:1-19) and remain part of modern Islam. Indeed Iblis, the Devil, is a jinn (18:50) created from fire (15:27; 38:76; his arrogant free will led him to freely reject God’s rule (7:11-12; 38:73-7). He is an actively malicious agent in human history. God too is active: he shapes the embryo in the womb as he pleases (3:6) and removes the souls of sleepers at night so that each day is a fresh resurrection as the souls of those destined to live are returned to life until an appointed hour (6:60; 39:42). In the inter-action between the two worlds, human petition, prayer, piety, pure speech and good deeds ascend to the unseen world (22:37; 34:2; 35:10).

This picture is incompatible with empirical science. Modern scientists feel obliged to reject on principle the possible existence of God, the Devil, indeed all spirits, including those of the departed dead, the jinn, demons, angels, and other immaterial or incorporeal entities lacking space-time co-ordinates.

from The Quran and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam by Dr Shabbir Akhtar pp. 169-170.

The whole book is replete with fascinating insights.

Categories: Islam, Philosophy, Qur'an, Science

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