Islam, Science, and the Challenge of History


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Ahmad Dallal

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An acclaimed scholar provides the most comprehensive examination available of the Islamic scientific tradition and its relationship to religion and philosophy

In this wide-ranging and masterful work, Ahmad Dallal examines the significance of scientific knowledge and situates the culture of science in relation to other cultural forces in Muslim societies. He traces the ways in which the realms of scientific knowledge and religious authority were delineated historically. The realization of a discrepancy between tradition and science often led to demolition and rebuilding and, most important, to questioning whether scientific knowledge should take precedence over religious authority in a matter where their realms clearly overlap.

Dallal frames his inquiry around three concerns: What cultural forces provided the conditions for debate over the primacy of religion or science? How did these debates emerge? And how were they sustained? His primary objectives are to study science in Muslim societies within its larger cultural context and to trace the epistemological distinctions between science and philosophy, on the one hand, and science and religion, on the other. He looks at religious and scientific texts and situates them in the contexts of religion, philosophy, and science. Finally, Dallal describes the relationship negotiated in the classical (medieval) period between the religious, scientific, and philosophical systems of knowledge that is central to the Islamic scientific tradition and shows how this relationship has changed radically in modern times.

Ahmad Dallal is provost and professor of history, American University of Beruit.

"Dallal's account of Islamic scientific introspection is fascinating to read as history, and instructive in its exploration of issues that remain familiar today in various formulations of conflict between science and religion."—Tom Siegfried, Science News

“Dallal masterfully controls the narrative with his encyclopedic approach to Islamic intellectual history and his full acquaintance with the literature. He is up-to-date on all aspects of Islamic intellectual and religious history, and has the superb skill of seeing many fields within that civilization within the shadows of each other.”—George Saliba, Columbia University

“It is the first serious treatment of the whole subject, superseding all earlier partial, incompetent and, for the most part, biased (through ignorance) works.”—Dimitri Gutas, Yale University, author of Greek Thought, Arabic Culture

“…..this is an important book, with a grand narrative and a bold thesis.”—Nidhal Guessoum, Journal of Islamic Studies Vol.23 No.1

“. . . demonstrates the author’s passionate and lifelong involvement with the topic of the relationship between religious and scientific knowledge. . . . a significant contribution.”—Muzaffar Iqbal, Islamic Sciences 

"Ahmad Dallal’s fluent book is a useful study for general readers and specialists of the field in the sense that it provides a nice summary on the history of Islamic science, and offers eye-opening, novel arguments and questions. . . . Dallal’s book is a remarkable source not only because it reviews the existing literature with a critical perspective but also because it indicates the areas and subjects of history of Islamic science that must be studied."—Hasan Umut, Nazariyat Journal for the History of Islamic Philosophy and the Sciences

ISBN: 9780300177718
Publication Date: February 7, 2012
256 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
2 line illus.
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