SCIENCE AND TECH­NOL­OGY IN IS­LAM

It is sup­port­ive of re­search that brings ben­e­fit to hu­mankind, but knowl­edge that is harm­ful is dis­cour­aged

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is found­ing CEO of the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced Is­lamic Stud­ies (IAIS) Malaysia

QUES­TIONS have been asked on how Is­lam re­lates to science and tech­nol­ogy. We re­spond to this from the per­spec­tive of maqasid, which refers to the higher pur­pose of syariah, and the ben­e­fits it seeks to re­alise for the peo­ple.

Many have ar­gued that the whole of syariah is meant to pro­mote hu­man ben­e­fits, which are, how­ever, beyond enu­mer­a­tion and too many to count.

Mus­lim schol­ars have, there­fore, iden­ti­fied cer­tain types of maqasid and clas­si­fied them from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

Some of the maqasid, es­pe­cially in the daruriyyat (es­sen­tial pur­poses) cat­e­gory, are taken from a gen­eral read­ing of the Qu­ran and Sun­nah, and are, there­fore, tex­tu­ally based.

There are five es­sen­tial maqasid of syariah — pro­tec­tion of life, faith, in­tel­lect, prop­erty and lin­eage — and a sixth is added ac­cord­ing to a vari­ant read­ing. A mi­nor­ity opin­ion adds pro­tec­tion of hon­our to the list.

Daruriyyat is only one of sev­eral other clas­si­fi­ca­tions of the maqasid, which need not be elab­o­rated here, but only to say that all classes of maqasid are not scrip­turally grounded — some are also based on in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ijti­had (the ef­fort put in an ac­tiv­ity). Yet, it is be­lieved that all of the rul­ings (ahkam) of syariah have their pur­poses, some of which have been iden­ti­fied in the text and the rest may be dis­cov­ered through in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ijti­had.

Is­lam is sup­port­ive of sci­en­tific re­search that brings ben­e­fit to hu­mankind, but knowl­edge of science and tech­nol­ogy that is pre­dom­i­nantly harm­ful is dis­cour­aged. The Is­lamic view of tech­nol­ogy and science is, thus, geared to­wards the pur­poses they ad­vance.

If science and tech­nol­ogy can be used to fa­cil­i­tate bet­ter meth­ods of truth dis­cov­ery while in­volv­ing no vi­o­la­tion of the Is­lamic prin­ci­ples, there is no ques­tion over their ac­cep­tance.

For in­stance, if new meth­ods of fact find­ing, such as DNA anal­y­sis, can re­solve con­fu­sion over pa­ter­nity or iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of war dead, and those who die in a plane crash, this will serve in a bet­ter way the syariah ob­jec­tive of the preser­va­tion of lin­eage (nasab), and ties of love and com­pas­sion (sil­lat al-rahim) in the fam­ily, who may need to know the facts of death of their loved ones.

Sim­i­larly, if tech­nol­ogy can de­ter­mine the pre­cise time and lo­ca­tion for prayer and fast­ing in un­known places and outer space, this will be in line with the pro­tec­tion of re­li­gion, which is also one of the daruriyyat.

Then again, if science can help find a bet­ter cure for lethal dis­eases, this will help to pro­tect life, which is also one of the es­sen­tial pur­poses of syariah.

Yet, if sci­en­tific re­search is pur­sued only to pro­duce weapons of mass de­struc­tion for hege­monic pur­poses, which also ex­ac­er­bates hos­til­ity and con­flict among peo­ple, this would vi­o­late Is­lamic prin­ci­ples with re­spect to preser­va­tion of life, and the build­ing of a safe and peace­ful or­der on earth. It can­not, there­fore, be sup­ported in the name of Is­lam or syariah.

The harm to peo­ple would be even greater if a coun­try with mea­gre re­sources al­lo­cate vastly dis­pro­por­tion­ate amounts of their na­tional wealth to bel­liger­ent pur­poses, when peace­ful ap­proaches and poli­cies would of­fer prefer­able op­tions.

Ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing ap­pli­ca­tions that are used to fun­da­men­tally al­ter hu­man na­ture and con­sti­tu­tion is broadly con­sid­ered a vi­o­la­tion and pro­hib­ited.

Hu­man cloning is one such in­ter­fer­ence. Whereas the nor­mal child has 23 chro­mo­somes from the mother and 23 from the fa­ther, a cloned child has twen­tythree pairs of chro­mo­somes from just one per­son.

The Qu­ran, on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, refers to the nat­u­ral way of hu­man cre­ation from male and fe­male, and en­ti­tles the child to the care of a mother and fa­ther. Hu­man cloning is, thus, a vi­o­la­tion of nor­mal fam­ily life, which is one of the es­sen­tial maqasid.

In a sim­i­lar vein, prop­a­ga­tion of mis­lead­ing and hereti­cal doc­trines, and those that en­tail ter­ror­ism and loss of in­no­cent life in the name of re­li­gion or ji­had, vi­o­late the maqasid both of re­li­gion and life.

Sci­en­tific ev­i­dence show that the harm­ful ef­fects of in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion have reached alarm­ingly dan­ger­ous lev­els that threaten dire con­se­quences for hu­mans and other life forms on planet earth.

Per­sis­tent vi­o­la­tors and big­gest car­bon emit­ters should, there­fore, be held ac­count­able in line with the ha­dith-cum-Is­lamic le­gal maxim: “Harm may nei­ther be in­flicted nor tol­er­ated in (the name of ) Is­lam.”

This is sup­ported, in turn, by a large num­ber of com­ple­men­tary le­gal max­ims, which re­quire care­ful as­sess­ment of the harm in­volved and the fea­si­bil­ity and fair­ness of com­pen­sa­tion claims.

Science and tech­nol­ogy, as we have known, are ca­pa­ble of bring­ing great ben­e­fit and also great harm, and are want­ing of an eth­i­cal vi­sion if they were to be guided by val­ues, such as those of the maqasid, that seek to pro­tect hu­man wel­fare, re­gard­less of con­sid­er­a­tions of race, lan­guage and re­li­gion.

This is a man­i­fes­ta­tion also of the Is­lamic prin­ci­ple of tawhid, the One­ness of Be­ing, that runs deep in shap­ing the Is­lamic epis­te­mol­ogy of knowl­edge. When science and tech­nol­ogy are in­formed by eth­i­cal norms, they help to ad­vance a hu­mane so­ci­ety and civil­i­sa­tion.

Hence, a cred­i­ble cri­tique of the epis­te­mol­ogy of con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­ogy and science is want­ing. Is­lam’s holis­tic vi­sion of a merger be­tween science and ethics can make a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the cre­ation of a re­vised epis­te­mol­ogy of mod­ern science.

Is­lam’s holis­tic vi­sion of a merger be­tween science and ethics can make a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the cre­ation of a re­vised epis­te­mol­ogy of mod­ern science.

REUTERS PIC

The test launch of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile. If sci­en­tific re­search is pur­sued only to pro­duce weapons of mass de­struc­tion for hege­monic pur­poses, it can­not be sup­ported in the name of Is­lam or syariah.

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