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RELIGIOUS LITERALISM AND SCIENCE-RELATED ISSUES IN CONTEMPORARY ISLAM

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Abstract:

Abstract

The complex relations between Islam and modern science have so far mostly been examined by thinkers at the conceptual level. The wider interaction of religious scholars and preachers with the general public on science issues is an unexplored area that is worthy of examination, for it often is characterized by a literalistic approach. I first briefly review literalism in its various forms. The classical Islamic jurisprudential school of Zahirism, widely regarded as bearing the flag of juristic literalism, is also briefly presented. I then address specific science-related issues currently being discussed in literalistic ways by many religious scholars and preachers in their general-public discourse. I focus on the practical case of the determination of crescent-based Islamic months and holy occasions, the conceptual issue of evolution (biological and human), and the rule for the consumption of meat by slaughter of animals. In the last part of the essay I propose a constructive alternative to the literalistic mode: the Maqasidi (objectives-based) approach. This rather old method has seen some revival lately, mainly among Islamic jurists concerned with solving the new issues of modern times, especially for Muslims living in the West, but this approach has not yet been applied to science-related issues. I present the main ideas of this method and show their relevance and usefulness to science-related topics.

Keywords: (scriptural) literalism; Islam; evolution; science

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01135.x

Affiliations: Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the American University of Sharjah, P.O. Box 2666, United Arab Emirates;, Email: nguessoum@aus.edu.

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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