June 15, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10020

Saudi Journalist: Clerics Must Stop Disparaging Science, Recognize Its Immense Contribution To Humanity

June 15, 2022
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 10020

On May 3, 2022, in his column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, senior journalist Hossein Shobokshi came out against Islamic clerics who disparage science and challenge the validity of its findings in fields such as medicine or astronomy. Science, he said, does not contradict religion, but can actually help achieve the aims of religion if clerics treat it with respect. He underscored the great contribution of science to the development of the world in the last century, and stated that the coming generations will accept only an outlook that recognizes the importance of science.   

Hossein Shobokshi  (Source: Al-Shurouq, Egypt)

The following are translated excerpts from his column.[1]

"Every time they try to sight the moon on the blessed month of Ramadan, or on the month of Shawwal in order to determine [the start of] Eid Al-Fitr, the debate resurfaces about whether the moon should be sighted with the naked eye, with strong binoculars or with a large telescope, as opposed to relying on an accurate astronomical calculation for this purpose. This recurring debate exposes the complex relationship that exists between the clerics and the various branches of science. This issue is not new, of course, and is not confined to the sighting of the moon. It is very old and has many diverse aspects.

"Confining science to the religious [sciences], and questioning the validity of other branches of science, such as medicine, astronomy and geology, for example, is what caused many great and reliable scientists like Ibn Al-Haytham,[2] Ibn Sina,[3] Al-Razi,[4] Al-Kindi[5] and others to be routinely accused of disbelief, immorality and heresy. This [early] precedent established the distinction between the 'worldly' sciences  – a belittling and disparaging description – and the divine sciences, namely the ideas of the clerics. This complex and uneasy relationship [between science and religion] made possible the spreading of fairytales and the adoption of myths instead of science as a source of knowledge.

"This poisonous attitude towards the sciences and the constant questioning of their [validity] enabled the emergence of ostensibly religious opinions that are, in essence, a tragic farce, such as opinions that question whether the world is round, or which assert that a women driving a car will damage her ovaries and thus her ability to bear children!  

"[Only] when a significant number of clerics accept that the sciences, in the broad sense of the term, are a means of providing definite proof regarding many issues relevant to the religion itself,  and [start] showing respect for human intellect, will there be an extraordinary shift in the relationship between religion and science, and people will understand that they complement, rather than contradict, each other…

“The relationship [between religion and science] will become more complicated given the immense and unprecedented leap science has taken in [recent] human history. The arrogance displayed by many clerics towards science is nothing more than disrespect. This [attitude] will gradually cause them to lose touch with reality and turn their opinions into a combination of fairytale and myth.

"The sciences are not at odds with religion, and once they are understood [and shown] respect and appreciation, they will be effective and powerful tools for realizing an immense goal, namely the goal of preserving human dignity.

"The coming generations will acknowledge only [ideas] that respect science and its methodology, and will reject an outlook that sees science as nonsense and is not based on proof at least as convincing [as the proofs presented by science] – especially in fields that are developed and can present evidence for their claims, such as astronomy, medicine, nuclear physics, geology and agronomy… 

"if we realize that over 80 percent of the scientists in human history emerged in the last 70 years, and that mankind has never known an era that amassed as much knowledge as the last 100 years, we will understand the significance of the age of science in which we are living, and that that we must take this issue seriously and change our attitude towards it. Science is a gift and guidance from heaven, and as such it must be respected. Scientists in various fields actively contribute to developing the world and preserving human dignity, which are two of the most important and significant goals of the faith."    


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 3, 2022.

[2] Ḥasan Ibn Al-Haytham (695-1040), also known as Alhazen, was an Arab thinker who made significant contributions to the sciences of optics, anatomy, engineering, mathematics and other fields.

[3] Ibn Sina (980-1037), also known as Avicenna, was a Persian philosopher, physician and scientist and the author of over 450 books, mainly on medicine and philosophy.

[4] Abu Bakr Al-Razi (865-925) was a Persian philosopher who wrote in Arabic and one of the greatest physicians in the Muslim world in his day.

[5] Abu Yusuf Al-Kindi (801-873) was an Arab Muslim philosopher, mathematician and physician hailed as the "father of Arab philosophy"

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