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Is the Islamic State “anti-science/anti-technology”?

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    Is the Islamic State “anti-science/anti-technology”?

    Is the Islamic State anti-science/anti-technology?

    The prevailing image is that the Islamic state is a state governed by simple-minded, camel-riding nomads who have a revulsion towards any kind of scientific or technological advancement. Some Muslims have a tendency to distance themselves from science or technology, not realizing that science and technology are universal and have no relation to any point of view. This revulsion stems from the way in which the West portrays the relationship between its outlook to science and technology. When the West adopted Capitalism, it experienced a tremendous explosion in scientific and technological advancement. In order to facilitate the spread of Western culture, the West propagated the notion that the scientific and technological progress that it experienced was a natural byproduct of Western culture. The intertwining of Western culture with science was so effective that, in the minds of many, the terms science and technology became synonymous with Western culture. In response, many Muslims believed that by rejecting science and technology, they are in fact rejecting Western culture.

    Such a position is a false one because it fails to distinguish between culture and the material aspects of a civilization. Culture, or hadarah, is a set of values, concepts, and ideas that define a unique outlook towards life, whereas the material aspects of a civilization, or madaniyah, are universal and are not related to any particular viewpoint in life. For example, the observation that water boils at a certain pressure and temperature is a scientific observation. This phenomenon is universal because, given the same conditions, water will boil at the same temperature and pressure for a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian, or a Capitalist. Similarly, a rocket is an object of technology that operates according to certain principles. The rocket will function according to the same principles for everyone, regardless of his belief. Thus, there is no such thing as a Muslim rocket as opposed to a Christian rocket or Jewish rocket.

    Therefore, what differentiates each nation from the other is not the sciences or the technological aspects but the culture and way of life that each nation adopts. The claim upheld by the West that science and technology are a unique aspect of Western culture is a false claim because science and technology are universal. This fact is proven by the history of nations. When the Arabs adopted Islam as a way of life, they advanced in the material sciences and technology. Furthermore, when the Russians adopted Communism, they also advanced in science and technology. If science and technology are unique to the Western culture, then why did Islam and Communism, which are distinct from Western culture, also result in the advancement of science and technology for their respective people?

    Every nation adheres to a specific set of thoughts which defines a particular viewpoint of life, and based upon this viewpoint, the nation will proceed along a specific course of action. Each nation will use the available scientific knowledge and technology in order to implement, protect, and advance its culture. Today, we are witnessing the Western powers making tremendous strides in science and technology. However, what must be known is that this advancement is driven by a momentum, and this momentum stems from the belief that the Western people have in their culture and way of life. This belief is so strong that many in the West believe that Capitalism should be the way of life for all people of the world, including Muslims. It is this belief that is pushing the people in the West to utilize whatever knowledge of science and technology exists, in addition to encouraging the advancement of thesefields, for the purpose of establishing the supremacy of their ideology and way of life in the world.

    Similarly, the Muslims should look to science and technology in the same way as tools that will be, and should be, used to establish the supremacy of Islam. In light of this, we witnessed the Prophet (saaw) incorporate the concept of the trench from the Persians and send some of his Companions to Yemen to learn how to manufacture swords. In addition, we noticed Umar ibn al Khattab utilizing the administrative system used by the Romans to maintain records of the military.

    Thus, contrary to popular belief, the Islamic State will strive to be at the cutting edge of scientific research and technology. Assuming that the Islamic State is born today, if the West has already succeeded in landing men on the moon, then the Islamic State should strive to be the first to land men on Mars. If the West was the first to build cities on the water, then the Islamic State should be the first to build cities under the ocean. One only needs to be reminded of all the scientific and technological achievements that were made during Islamic rule achievements that provided the seeds and momentum of the European Renaissance to realize that there is no conflict between science and technology on the one hand, and Islam on the other.

    "Only for Allah and to gain His pleasure"