So much deviance in the Muslim community in modern times has been due to the influence of science and scientific epistemology.
For example, reformists outright reject or use dubious metaphorical interpretations to explain ayat, hadith, or essentials of creed simply because they consider their apparent meanings “unscientific.” Things that were never seriously doubted by Muslim scholars in the past, e.g., the creation of Adam, the Virgin Birth of `Isa, the Night Journey, etc., now are up for debate by ill-informed pseudo-scholars with little knowledge of science and even less knowledge of the history and philosophy of science.
The reality is modern Muslim thinkers have given little serious philosophical consideration to the foundations and epistemology of science, especially in a critical mode. The recent death of Stephen Hawking brought this to light.
While the issue of salvation for non-Muslims was foregrounded in the communal “debate,” no one questioned the narrative of Hawking’s superior intellect allowing him to probe the profound secrets of our world. Have we, as Muslims, naively taken for granted that theoretical physics and science in general are unimpeachable pathways to understanding the very structure and mechanisms of the universe, i.e., the creation?
What actual, well-thought-out reasons do we have for accepting this other than the fact that that seems to be what the relevant authorities and gatekeepers have told us and hammered into us?
And, by the way, I am the last person to be against authority and devoutly following authority. But legitimate authority needs to be authorized, whether by reason or by revelation — ideally both, and since there is no divine authorization of the kind of mathematically based, speculative theoretical physics practiced by the likes of Hawking, et al., what reasons are there to accept the authority of what is essentially theoretical mathematics to generate knowledge about the workings of creation?
Clearly for most Muslims who don’t even have the educational background to be able to understand much less scrutinize the papers published in this field, the reasons are nothing more than reliance on cultural and institutional authority. And that takes us back to square one.
There is too much that needs to be said on this topic that cannot be adequately covered in short articles.
There is a subtle hypocrisy when one exercises utmost skepticism and critical energy attempting to deconstruct and reevaluate the Islamic scholarly tradition while also naively accepting dominant cultural ideologies such as those regarding the epistemic authority of science.