Network for the Social Scientific Study of Science and Religion

Stephen Jones

Science and the Transmission of Islamic Knowledge in Britain

The relationship between Islam and science is a subject that intersects with a wide range of highly significant sociological themes, including secularisation, modernity, development, colonialism, and prejudice and discrimination. Yet there is a dearth of sociological research into Muslims’ perceptions of science, with Islamic authorities and sites of Islamic knowledge production being especially badly neglected. This project will investigate how the relationship between Islam and science is understood and discussed by those involved in the transmission of Islamic knowledge and the establishment of Islamic authority in Britain. The project is the result of a collaboration between Stephen H. Jones (Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society Research Group, University of Birmingham) and Riyaz Timol (Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, Cardiff University). It will utilise a combination of observation of educational institutions and interview research with current and in-training religious leaders to provide one of the first portrayals of whether, when and how Muslim leaders interact with scientific concepts and popular narratives about science. It will examine: if, and how, scientific concepts are used by Muslim leaders to legitimise their arguments; if Islamic education centres and religious leaders oppose any scientific theories, and if so what movements influence them; and how Muslim leaders’ answers to questions about science and Islam are affected by UK policy context and Muslims’ position within British society. The research will aim to treat Islamic discourses about science on their own terms and shed light on the influence of Islamic authorities within British Muslim communities. It will focus on areas of scientific inquiry that deal with abstract questions of human origins as well as issues with practical applications about health and wellbeing.