Islam and Contemporary Science: Partners, Enemies or Strangers?
4 Apr 2018
Astronomy, Miracles / I'jaz
Nidhal Guessoum, author and astrophysicist from Algeria, joins moderator Stefano Bigliardi (a well-published author also) to answer prepared questions from students at al-Akhawayn University in Morocco.
The questions generally ask about different aspects of science and Islam, as Guessoum is well known for his book, Islam’s Quantum Question (2011). The first questions address issues of the magisteria of science and religion. Guessoum notes that he prefers to consider how to harmonize the two rather than seeing them as non-overlapping. In discussing this, Guessoum brings up a number of pre-modern Muslim scholars, such as al-Ghazali, Ibn Sina, al-Biruni, Ibn Haytham and al-Kindi, contextualizing their positions in relation to one another.
Guessoum affirms that every adult should be able to think for him- or herself. He suggests several times that everyone should read, investigate, and not simply accept what preachers or their primary school teachers tell them.
Guessoum forcefully addresses the “scientific miracles” (iʿjāz ʿilmii) construction. He notes that his research of these miracles has shown that none of them are miraculous, and some, such as the discussion of splitting the moon, can be shown to be inaccurate with just a half an hour of research on the internet.
In the final question, he addresses the topic of evolution. He notes that there have been scholars, Muslims and non-Muslims, talking about evolution for a very long time, and that Darwin’s special genius was discovering the mechanism, the evidence for which is overwhelming. Guessoum notes that the science shows that humans are “a part of creation, related to everything else”. Not created like a magician, but “a beautifully unfolding plan, worthy of a God.”
This lecture took place at al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco on 23 March 2018. The questions were prepared ahead of time, and projected on the screen. The camera occasionally pans out to show the filled auditorium.
Islam: The material on Islam is within the bounds of what Muslims have historically understood as acceptable.
Science: The scientific discussion here is accepted by contemporary scientists.
History: The historical presentation reflects contemporary understanding of the people and events involved.
About Nidhal Guessoum
Born in September 1960, Nidhal Guessoum is a renowned astrophysicist from Algeria. Guessoum received his Bachelors of Science in Theoretical Physics from the University of Science and Technology of Algiers in 1982, his Masters of Science in Physics and his Ph.D. in Theoretical Astrophysics (1988) from the University of California at San Diego. After spending a two-year stint at the NASA-Goddard Flight Space Center as a researcher, and another ten years teaching, divided between the University of Bilda, Algeria and College of Technical Studies in Kuwait, Guessoum settled at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), United Arab Emirates in 2000. As of 2015, he is still a Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Interim Head of Physics at AUS.
Guessoum has a long list of publications to his name – articles, technical papers, and books – in Arabic, English, and French, and often writes on the intersections of Islam and science. He was a columnist for Huffington Post from 2011-2012, publishing six articles that discussed aspects of the relationship between Islam and science. Guessoum has lectured at many universities around the world and participated in the international media for many years. In addition, he is a member of the board of trustees for the John Templeton Foundation, a foundation supporting discoveries “relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.”
As of 2015, Guessoum operates an active Twitter page in Arabic, a personal Facebook and website where he often blogs in Arabic (as recently as May 2015). A more extensive faculty biography, CV, and list of publications may be found on AUS’s website.
“AUS Faculty Bios.” American University of Sharjah. AUS, n.d. Accessed 06 June 2015.
Guessoum, Nidhal. Facebook. Facebook, n.d. Accessed 06 June 2015.
Guessoum, Nidhal. Huffington Post. HPMG News, n.d.
Guessoum, Nidhal. Nidhal Guessoum. N.p., n.d. Accessed 06 June 2015.
Guessoum, Nidhal. Twitter. Twitter, n.d. Accessed 06 June 2015.
“Mission.” The John Templeton Foundation. N.p., n.d. Accessed 06 June 2015.
“Nidhal Guessoum.” The John Templeton Foundation. N.p., n.d. Accessed 06 June 2015.
“Nidhal Guessoum.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Accessed 06 June 2015.