Lecture delivered to 1st year medical students at Kuantan, Pahang on July 3rd 1997 by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. Deputy Dean for Research and Post-graduate Affairs, Kulliyah of Medicine IIUM



Definition of methodology

Importance of methodology

Reform of methodology

Ummat’s rich methodological heritage

History of methodology

Muslims and the empirical methodology

Secularisation of methodology



Tauhidi paradigm

Natural laws

Empirical observation and interpretation




Scientific exigesis (tafsir ‘ilmi) & data interpretation

Subject-based exigesis (Tafsir mawdhui) & data interpretation

Abrogation (‘Ilm al naskh) & up-dating scientific theories

Science of narrators (‘ilm al rijaal) and scientific honesty

Science of critiquing hadith (‘ilm naqd al hadith) & critical reading of  literature

Science of analogy (Qiyaas) & inductive reasoning

Purposes of the law (Maqasid al shariat) & technology



a priori assumptions: the unseen, universality, materialism,

Limitations of human senses

Limitations of human intellect



Universality & tauhid

Scope: the seen & the unseen

Sources: revelation, empirical, and intellect

Basic Principles: one-ness, vicegerancy, moral responsibility

Basic Concepts: purpose, truth, human free will, causality

Peculiarity: comprehensiveness


Importance of Methodology: Study of methodology is rapidly emerging as an important and independent field. Methodology and not content defines a discipline;  a discipline can not be recognized as independent until it evolved a methodology.. According to the tauhidi paradigm, there is a methodological framework common to all disciplines since there is unity of knowledge and the source of knowledge is one, Allah. This common methodology can be reached by deep study and reflection of any discipline. Muslim scientists with the tauhidi framework of thought owe a big debt to humanity to discover and describe this methodology.

Reform of methodology: Muslim history has shown that successful reform movements have always started with reform of knowledge. Movements that were based on purely political or military action with no knowledge reform were not as successful. Knowledge reform requires methodological reform. Reform of the ummat today will have to start from its methodological heritage recast in a contemporary framework, referred to as contemporary Islamic originality (asaalat islamiyyat muasirat) by Dr Abdulhamid Abusulayman.


Ummatic methodological heritage: The ummat is proud to have been the first to develop uluum al hadith and ‘ilm al usuul as methodological sciences that ensure correct transmission of text (khabar), distinguishing the right from the wrong, and valid objective interpretation of facts. Tools from these Islamic methodological sciences are comparable to those of the empirical method. Science investigates matter and energy and their uses whereas Islamic methodological sciences investigate revealed text seeking to understand its practical use. The fields of investigation may be different but the intellectual tools used as well the possible methodological biases are similar to a large extent. Both face the challenge of working from incomplete evidence and making general explanatory theory.


Ijtihad: Ancient Muslim scientists were encyclopedic being involved in several fields of inquiry at the same time. Research is a type of ijtihad. We are of the opinion that the door to ijtihad has never been closed in the ummat at any epoch. The decrease in scholarly output that occurred at certain epochs in history was more due to lack of new challenges for scholars than to lack of intellectual curiosity. The physical and social environment changed very little between the 4th and 10th centuries of hijra. The period starting with the 13th century has witnessed major changes and challenges and is therefore producing more reformers and thinkers. Innovative intellectual output of the ummat is now on the rise.


Pre-history: Science and technology are as old as humanity. The first recorded scientific activity was teaching Adam the names of things. Naming and classification are basics for scientific research and communication. The historical record is silent after that first event. We however know from archeological evidence that a lot of empirical discoveries were made. Human curiosity and the search for practical solutions to problems of life led to discoveries by empirical observation or trial and error. In this way early man discovered fire, agriculture, animal husbandry, manufacture and use of weapons.


The historical period: The S&T we have today is a product of human endeavor to which all known civilizations contributed: ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Roman empire,  Phoenecia, Persia, China, and India. These societies were the first to develop agriculture and a sedentary life-style. The need to solve practical problems as well as the stability and order that existed in settled communities allowed the development and spread of ideas on S&T.  The beginnings of the empirical methodology can be traced to these communities. Knowledge was able to spread easily because these communities had also developed writing.


Transfer of knowledge to the Muslim world: Muslims played a crucial role in preserving and improving ancient Greek learning and passing it to Europe just before the scientific revolution at the start of the 16th century CE.  The Umayyad Khalif, Khalid Ibn Yazid, started translations of Greek science and philosophy into Arabic. This effort intensified in the 3rd century AH under the Abassid rulers. Muslims became leaders of science in its various disciplines by correcting defects in Greek science but also making innovative additions of their own.


Rise and fall of Muslim science: The golden era of Muslim science was during the early Abassid perod.  Science in the Muslim world declined after that. In this era the disciplines of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and chemistry reached their pinnacle. The decline can be dated to (a) the Mongol invasion and sacking of Baghdad (1258 CE) when over a period of 40 years they killed scientists and destroyed books and the expulsion of Muslims scientists and (b) catholic destruction of Muslim institutions of learning and research in Andalusia (1491 CE). By the 14th century AH the ummat was weak in technology and superstition had come back.


Rise of secularism: During the renaissance or age of enlightenment, the catholic church’s suppression of science was rejected. At the same time Muslim science, carrying with it the empirical method, reached Europe through translations or study of Europeans at Muslim universities in Spain and other countries. It is possible but not proved that it was the Muslim influence that triggered the intellectual and knowledge renaissance of Europe which was a pre-cursor to the scientific revolution in Europe of the period 1500-1750 CE. Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the first European to write about the empirical methodology, was repeating ideas and concepts that Muslim scientists had already elaborated. Transfer of the empirical method to Europe was imperfect; the Europeans took the facts but not the tauhidi context. A new European and largely secular context was developed. The empirical method was presented as the source of knowledge par excellence. Other sources of knowledge were rejected especially revelation because of its association with the rejected church. This was an overreaction to the transgressions of the church against science. The experience of the Muslims had shown that the empirical method could be used alongside other sources of knowledge and that it was not anti-religion.


Muslim-European interaction: There were 3 periods of intense scientific interaction between Europe and the Muslim world: (a) 3-6th centuries AH Greek science was transferred to the Muslim world. The Muslims had a methodological basis that allowed them to make selective absorption and also be able to innovate (b) during the crusades that lasted 8 centuries, the Muslims were intellectually stronger than the Europeans. The Muslims taught and did not find much to learn. Transfer of Muslim science to Europe was limited because of the intense rivalry (c) 13-15th centuries AH the Muslims were only consumers and not producers of S&T because they had lost their methodology and could not make original contributions. Lack of methodological originality led to neglect of pure sciences.


Transfer of Technology: With the start of the 15th century of hijra, calls for a renewal in the ummat were made to develop or transfer technology in a selective, critical and innovative way. Experiences of indiscriminate technology transfer in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and other Muslim countries over the past 50 years have not been wholly successful; they have made the Muslims even more dependent than before.


Need for an Islamic methodology: Methodology built on the Muslim heritage will inspire more R&D than methodology developed in another world-view and is transplanted into the Muslim world. It will at the same time relieve the inferiority complex that afflicts Muslims. The ummat will absorb what is available in S&T. As Roger Garaudy advised this must be selective, critical, and creative. The ummat will also have to develop its methodologies so that it can in its own unique way make innovative additions to the corpus of human knowledge and experience. The ummat can not achieve technological autonomy or develop an innovative and vigorous indigenous science base if it does not build on an Islamic framework.



Qur’an and knowledge(‘ilm): Previous civilizations were condemned for reading and not understanding their revelations (2:78). This is a situation of intellectual blindness. For Muslims the revelation is the start of understanding and knowledge.  Some of the contemporary Muslim weaknesses are attributable to defects in understanding and using the Qur’an. Many Muslim communities today have abandoned the Qur’an (hijr al Qur’an) in that they do not use it as the sole guide of their affairs. Muslim scientific and technological renaissance will require a return to the Qur’an as an inspiration and a methodological guidance. The learning, collection, study, and interpretation of the Qur’an was the start of the methodological and knowledge revolution ushered in by Islam.  This revolution was mainly the liberation of human intellect and will from the clutches of superstition and blind following. This is a continuous revolution that is missed sorely today.


Nature of the Qur’an: Qur’anic verses deal with basically 4 concentric themes: (a) the self, nafs; (b) relation with other humans; (c) relation with the ecosystem; (d) relation with the creator. In the temporal dimension the Qur’an deals with the past, the present, and the future. The past and the future are generally subsumed under the concept of the unseen, al ghaib. The Qur’an is a book of general and basic guidance and not a textbook for any discipline. It is a methodological guideline for the development of science and technology as well as other areas of human knowledge. The Qur’an and sunnat have their wisdom, hikmat, in the scientific tarbiyat of Muslims. There is a hikmat in the Qur’an and sunnat being in generalities and not details. There is hikmat in why the companions did not ask the prophet many questions. There is also hikmat in verses of the Qur’an being validly interpretable in more than one way. There is hikmat in the revelation of the Qur’an in bits and pieces over a prolonged period of 23 years. The hikmat is to develop a spirit of inquiry and reflection as the way to scientific facts and understanding of the empirical reality. Scientific facts in the Qur’an are there for purposes of guidance to aqida and not a substitute for empirical research. The Qur’an  encourages humans to study the universe in order to get empirical knowledge. This is achieved by indicating that the universe is large, knowledge is wide in scope, and human knowledge is limited. The field of human endeavor is the seen and not the unseen. It will be a transgression for a human to try to research or deal with the unseen. All knowledge of the unseen needed for methodological guidance of empirical study of the world is provided by the Qur’an. The Qur’an also provides information to understand uluhiyyat and rububiyyat and their implications in daily practical life. The Qur’an is comprehensive (shumuliyyat al Qur’an). It has to be accepted as a whole (2:85). The reader must understand the changing time-space dimensions as he or she contemplates the Qur’an because the Qur’an is for all places and all eras.


The tauhidi paradigm from the Qur’an: Tha tauhidi paradigm has the following concepts: one-ness of Allah, unity of creation, unity of truth, unity of knowledge, unity of life, and unity of humanity. The concept of unity is the bedrock for causal relations and a rational predictable universe. Science shows that the complex universe is actually a simple one made up of a few fairly identical building blocks called atoms, sub-atomic particles and molecules. The natural laws that govern the interactions among these particles are simple and are usually written as simple mathematical equations. Under the tauhidi paradigm, wahy and aql are complementary. Since knowledge and truth are a unity, both wahy and aql are searching for the same goal of truth. The tauhidi paradigm also implies an all-embracing aspect (shumuuliyyat). Since everything has the same creator and one source, there must be order and harmony (nidhaam) since that creator knows all His creation (ihaatat). Tauhid liberates the human intellect from stagnation (jumuud), dependency (tab’iyat), blind following (taqlid a’ama). It frees the human from being a slave of his own whims and fancies (hiwa al nafs). Tauhid encourages innovation (ibda) by emphasizing the unity of the universe and its wide expanse. Tauhid makes us understand why the Qur’an addresses the whole person and not parts. Tauhid is the final guarantor against methodological biases because the human observing and interpreting natural phenomena is in the same tauhidi frame of reference as the events being studied.


The Natural laws (sunan llah fi al kawn): The Qur’an calls for empirical observation of the environment and its interpretation in many verses. Human senses were given their responsibility in this matter with warning against transgression. The Qur’an calls for use of the human intellect in many a verse. It provides actual examples of scientific research in which causal relations between phenomena are unravelled. The principle of causality, ie a physical phenomenon must have a preceding humanly-understandable cause, is very clear in many verses of the Qur’an. The exceptions when the principle is suspended are described; they involve intervention of divine will beyond human understanding like the prophetic miracles or are in the realm of the unseen (‘ilm al ghaib). Humans can ignore the principle of causality with the consequence of lack of creativity, innovation, and activity and they lapse into a stuporous state of tawaakul. Sunan Allah are of 2 types: those known by Allah alone and those knowable by humans. The sunan in the world of the unseen (‘aalam al ghaib) are different from those in the world of the seen (a’alam al shahadat); the former are beyond human reach. Ghaib is of two types: haqiiqi, knowable only by Allah,  and idhaafi, knowable by some humans.


Inductive methodology: The Qur’an clearly refers to methodology (Maida:48, An’am:155). The Qur’anic methodology is induction. It was most unfortunate that Muslim scholars, under Greek influence, turned to deductive and neglected inductive reasoning. Most break-throughs in S&T today are a result of inductive processes.


Basis for empirical observation and interpretation: The Qur’an calls for the inductive method by ordaining looking at nature.  Verses of the universe (ayat kawniyyat)  relate directly to human intellect because Allah gave humans the power of intellect and put at their disposal what is in the earths and heavens (taskhiir) and called upon humans to look and investigate. The Qur’an trains the human to observe nature by use of terms such as nadhar and tabassur. Interpretation is emphasized by terms such as: tadabbur, tafakkur (p 241-242 74:1, 17:48…74:21, 3:191…88:17-20, 30:8, 6:50…34:46), i’itibaar, and tafaquhu. Use of evidential knowledge is emphasized by terms such as bayyinat and burhan. Terms used to condemn tendencies to biased observations are taqliid and dhann. The Qur’anic story about Ibrahim’s search for the truth by observing natural phenomena like the moon and the sun is a good example of formulating and testing a hypothesis by empirical observation.


Objectivity: The concept of istiqamat promotes valid and un-biased research. The Qur’an mentions the straight path (sirat mustaqim p 100 7:16…81:28) as leading to success. Allah enjoins following the straight path (p 100 9:7…42:15). Those who stick to the straight path are rewarded (p 100-101 41:30-32…72:16). Following the straight path is required in acts of ibadat (p101 3:51…42:64) and in measurement (p 101 17:35…26:182). Muslims always pray to Allah to guide them to the straight path (p 101 1:6…48:20). The straight path (istiqamat) is defined by the following measures of central tendency to the golden mean or equilibrium ’adl, wasatiyyat, tawazun,hikmat, and  i’itidaal. The concept of wasatiyyat can be the basis for statistical measures of central tendency (mean, mode) that are the basis of much scientific inference. Istiqamat can also be defined negatively as rejection of what leads to bias such as hiwa al nafs and  dhann. The Qur’an came to fight false knowledge that manifests as: usturat, khurafat, kadhb, lahw, wahm. It condemns intellectual stagnation that manifests as taqlid. It warns against mistakes (khata) and  forgetting (nisyaan). It warns against diseases of the heart (amradh al qalb) that can color and distort objective observation and interpretation resulting in bias. It teaches practical measures for avoiding mistakes such as insisting on a written record and calling witnesses. It calls for use of evidence by use of the following terms: burhan, daliil, bayyinat, tathabbut, and sidq. (nisa: 83, Hujraat:18).


Basis for technology: Islamic teachings about building and maintaining a civilisation are based on three concepts that will be discussed later in the manual: istikhlaf, taskhir, and isti’imar. Technology is applied science in the practical arena of civilisation-building. The concept of ‘ilm nafei underlies the imperative to transform basic knowledge into useful technology.



Traditional sciences and the Muslim mind: The traditional Islamic sciences especially fiqh have had  a major impact on the Muslim mind all down the centuries and in all parts of the Muslim world. They can even now be a springboard for originality in the evolution of a Muslim methodology. The major sciences or methodological tools discussed below are: ‘ilm al tafsir al ‘ilmi, ‘ilm al tafsir al mawdhu’i,  ‘ilm al nasikh wa al mansuukh, ‘ilm al jarh wa al ta’adiil, ‘ilm naqd al hadith, qiyaas, istihbab, istihsan, istislah, maqasid al sharia, and qawaid al fiqh.


Tafsir ilmi concentrates on verses of the universe (ayaat al kawn). The scope of tafsir ilmi is empirical implications of the verses for example those that deal with the study of the origin of the universe, shape of the earth, the 7 heavens and earths, life on other planets, and origin of man. There are new and old controversies about the appropriateness of tafsir ‘ilmi. The discipline can be approached in a positive and a negative way. Positively it can help to increase iman by revealing the power of the creator. It can also be a source of methodology. Negatively it can be lead to confusion when it is used as showing the scientific miracles of the Qur’an (ijaz ilmi li al Qur’an). Such misuse of tafsir ‘ilmi is due to poor science or poor understanding of the Qur’an as will be discussed in volume 5 of this series. Tafsir ‘ilmi has a parallel in empirical research. It relates to the exercises of data interpretation. The process involved is the same, finding a scientific explanation for given data or information.


Tafsir Maudhui tries to discover and explain the internal consistency in the Qur’an that may not be apparent to the casual reader. It is an intellectual challenge to sort out relations among things. The problem is that it is not static tafsir. New developments in society and technology give rise to new subjects matter that can make us have a different and new look at the Qur’an. The methods of tafsir maudhui include: looking at a sura as one subject and looking for verses on one subject in the whole Qur’an. Tafsir maudhui, like tafsir ‘ilmi, relates to data interpretation. In both tafsir and empirical scientific research an attempt is made to reach conclusions from given data which may sometimes not be complete.


‘Ilm al naskh wa al mansuukh: Naskh is a matter of study in Qur’anic, hadith, and usul al fiqh. There is agreement that Qur’an abrogates Qur’an and that Qur’an abrogates sunnat and that sunnat abrogates sunnat. There is no agreement on whether sunnat mutawaatirat can abrogate Qur’an. The Qur’an itself acknowledges naskh (p 56 2;106…105:3).  Naskh in relation to the Qur’an has 3 meanings: (a) abrogation of previous revelations and books by the Qur’an (b) textual abrogations of verses of the Qur’an like the verse of rajm but with continuation of their practical application (c) abrogation of a verse of the Qur’an by a later verse as text, application or authority. The theory of naskh has given rise to a lot of controversies most of them unnecessary. Some scholars assert that it does not exist and reconcile the ‘abrogated’ and ‘abrogating’ verses proving thereby absence of any abrogation. Among those who accept the occurrence of abrogation, there are disputes about which verses were abrogated. Some scholars look at abrogation as making the general particular for example are the verse on the complete ban on alcohol was a more specific command that abrogated an earlier verse that was a more general prohibition in that it forbade prayer only while intoxicated.


Interpretation of naskh: If we take spatio-temporal circumstances into consideration the problem of naskh becomes clearer. Our inclination is to the opinion of scholars who assert the eternal validity of the Qur’an and to explain naskh as a consequence of the revelation of the Qur’an in a dynamic and changimg society and over a period of 23 years. Abrogating verses came to address people at a different level of development without necessarily making the abrogated ones invalid. The later verse elaborates or amends the previous one. The first verse could find application in spatio-temporal circumstances comparable to those in which it was revealed. The discourse about naskh has been complicated by looking at it from a legal context which requires that only one unique law be operative at a time and the previous laws would be rendered completely useless. The conceptual confusion about naskh can be resolved when this legalistic context is ignored. The theory of naskh is very relevant to the progress of science in which new discoveries are continually updating previous theories. Abandoned theories still have a grain of truth and can be a correct explanation of phenomena at a certain level. Study of atoms started with the theory that the atom was the smallest indivisible particle of matter. This is still valid when we consider ordinary chemical reactions. Later discoveries of sub-atomic particles revealed that the atom is not the smallest particle but this did not make any changes in the basic concepts of the ordinary chemical reactions. The initial laws of conservation of energy and conservation of mass are valid for routine engineering applications but invalid when nuclear fusion of fission are considered. Newtonian laws of motion are valid  for most ordinary low-speed motion but have to be supplanted by the relativity-based laws when high velocities and accelerations are involved.


‘Ilm al jarh wa al ta’adiil: The component of jarh wa al ta’adil most related to empirical science is ‘ilm al rijaal which is unique to the ummat and can be a major contribution to science. A hadith narration is accepted on the following conditions: adaalat (the narrator is a Muslim, adult, not immoral, and has social respectability, muruat) and dhabt (the narrator has good memory and accuracy). The following contradict adaalat:disbelief (kufr), being a minor (sabiyy), immoral character/conduct (fisq), innovation in religion (mubtadiu), telling lies in ordinary conversation (kadhib fi hadith al naas), financial benefit from saying hadith. The biographer (muarrikh) writes biographies of men and looks for the following traits: truthfulness (sidq), reporting literally (lafdh) and not by meaning (ma’ana), mentioning the source of information, good expression, knowledge of the meanings of words, good overall understanding of all what concerns the subject, and not being influenced by personal whims (hiwa al nafs). The biographer must have personal knowledge of his subject (knowledge, religion, and other attributes). It is important that the character of the investigator be known in order to trust his word. The modern scientific community has done a good job of policing itself. Published data is usually checked by others who try to replicate the methods. This has however not prevented cases of scientific fraud to occur from time to time. The matter may be as serious as ‘cooking’ data or may be less serious like publishing favorable results and hiding the less favorable one thus giving a false picture of the reality. The science of narrators (‘ilm al rijaal) can be a source of guidance on how to bring up an ethical scientist who can be trusted to tell the truth always. This science protected the ummat from many false hadith that could have been transmitted.


‘Ilm naqd al hadith: This branch of hadith science is concerned with building paradigms that will be used in checking whether an individual hadith is valid as well as checking its internal and external consistency. There are basically two approaches (a) Critique of the text (naqd al matn) involves looking for ‘illat in hadith and whether it differs from established and trusted narrators (b) Critique of the chain of transmitters (naqd al sanad) involves: the integrity of the narrator (adalat al raawi),, accuracy of the narrator (dhabt al raawi), and continuity of the chain of transmission (ittisaal al sanad).  There are several categories of hadith depending on the classification criteria used: good (hasan), weak (dhaif), continous chain (muttasil), discontinous chain (munqatiu), mursal, mu’udhal, mudalas, mawquuf, marfu’u, shaadh, mu’allal. The paradigms of ‘ilm naqd al hadith can be used to inculcate attitudes of critical reading and examination of scientific literature. Such attitudes will ensure that only the most valid and rigorously-done scientific work finds acceptance. It will also set up a challenge to scientists who do their best in the full knowledge that the readership is very critical.


Qiyaas: Qiyaas is a type of ijtihad. Qiyaas, or legal syllogism, is a type of systematic reason (ra’ay). Qiyaas is logical deduction or induction from the Qur’an and sunnat. Dr Sulaiman Daud referred to qiyaas as an Islamic empirical methodology. He analyzed the writings of the following European thinkers on empiricism: Roger Bacon (1214-129 CE), Francis Bacon (1561-1626 CE), David Hume (1711-1776 CE), and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873 CE). He concluded that qiyaas usuuli is in conformity with the modern empirical scientific method. Both qiyaas usuuli and the empirical methodology look for causes (illat). We need to return qiyaas to its simplicity away from the legalistic complexity imposed by the fuqaha. This will be the start of using it to motivate and develop a scientific culture in the ummat. Examples of qiyaas in empirical research are: results of drug trials in animals being applied to humans, and findings on drug toxicity in terminally ill patients being applied to the healthy


Istihbab is continuation of an established law which has not been revoked or rescinded. It is the principle of maintaining the status quo on the basis of accompanying circumstances. The concept of istihbaab is comparable to scientific laws and theories that are considered working explanations or hypotheses until disproved.


Istihsan is acceptance of a rule because of its superior equity on comparison with an already established law. Ahmad Hasan defined it as preferential reasoning, the principle that equitable considerations may override strict analogy. It can also be looked at as ‘unreasoned preference’. Istihsan finds applications in clinical work. Clinicians after many years of experience can gain an intuition that should be respected because in the end it has an empirical basis.  They can correctly prefer their intuition to new empirical evidence.


Istislah is to seek a legal ruling by reasoning on the basis of public interest(maslahat). Maslahat mursalat is the basis for istislah. Maslahat mursalat refers to any interest/benefit that falls within the purposes of the law-giver (maqasid al sharei) and was not mentioned in the law in a specific or generic sense. The concept of istislah can find application in decisions involving choosing one medical technology or treatment modality over another. A less effective technology could be preferred if that is in the public interest.


Ijma is defined as unanimous agreement of the jurists of the community of a particular age on a legal issue. It is infallible and is not subject to reason because the community can not all agree on an error. This is similar to the generally accepted stand that consensus among empirical researchers who have special expertise in their area has authority even if not backed by direct experimental data.


The Discipline of the purposes of the law (‘Ilm maqasid al shariat): The theory of maqasid provides a high-level or a bird’s eye view of the law from the context of its higher purposes and not its mechanics or details. The 5 purposes of the law, maqasid al sharia, are preservation of : din, nafs, aql, nasl, and maal. These 5 can define the scope and objectives of technology. Maqasid al sharia as a concept are more relevant to applied than to basic science. Al Ghazzali and his teacher al Juwayni were pioneers of maqasid an shari’at. Al Shatibi elaborated and systematized al Ghazzali’s ideas. The maqasid theory can transform the Muslim mind from pre-occupation with parts and branches to dealing with the big or large issues, from structures to ends and goals, from taqlid to innovations. Al Shatibi maintained that maqasid were derived from nass by induction (istiqra). The maqasid can provide the Muslim mind with high-level conceptual tools that can be used to understand and use science and technology for overall benefit of humans and the ecosystem.


The Principles of the law (qawaid al fiqhiyyat al kulliyat /al qawaniin al usuliyyat): Al qawaid al fiqhiyyat are simple rules akin to mathematical axioms derived directly from the primary sources of law. They simplify the logical or reasoning operations involved In complex situations. The axioms can be stated and used without having to go through their complicated derivation.



The European use of the empirical method has two established characteristics: (a) It is pragmatic and basically atheistic (a) only observation is the source of valid knowledge; other sources of knowledge such as istinbat, tarikh, naql are rejected. The following characteristics of the empirical method are alleged  and may not always hold in practice (a) It is open-ended, theories are abandoned if no longer sustained by facts (b)  It is methodological (systematic, repeatable, and consistent) (c)  It is accurate, precise, and objective.


The empirical  methodology is innately good but the manner and context of its use lead to the following problems: (a) biases due to a priori assumptions (b) limitations of observation by human senses limitations of human intellect (d) lack of an integrating paradigm

Empiricism could be said to be an innate character of humans which they share with animals. Humans always want to know the explanation of natural phenomena and what relates one event to another. In the absence of empirical knowledge or wahy they have sometimes resorted to superstition.


It is not easy to assign credit for discovery of the empirical method. Available evidence shows that Muslim scientists in the golden era of Islam were pioneers of the systematic use of the empirical method. Hitti, William Smith, George Sarton concluded that it was Muslims who first used experimentation and observation in a systematic way.


Greek science was conjectural and hypothetical. Greeks preferred reasoning and looked down upon perceptual knowledge. They would spend years in their comfortable arm chairs reasoning instead of going out of the room and making observation or setting up a simple experiment to close the issue. Aristotle for example never thought of testing his theory about the speed of fall of heavy and light objects.


Dr Sulaiman Daud concluded after an analysis of Muslim and European writings that Muslims were the first to criticize Greek logic (al qiyaas al mantiqi) and that they were the first to develop a complete empirical methodology in the form of qiyaas usuuli.


Allama Muhammad Iqbal in his ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ argued that the empirical method was not a European discovery. He quoted contributions by: Ghazzali, Ishraqi, Ibn Taymiyyat, Abubakr al Razi, and Ibn Hazm. Other pioneers of the empirical method were: Ibn Sina, Al Biruni, al Kindi (d. 260 AH), Jabir Ibn Hayyan (d. 200 AH), Ibn Haytham (d. 340 AH), al Khawarizmi (d. 387 AH).


European history ascribes ‘discovery’ of the empirical method to Roger Bacon (1561-1626 CE). According to Prantl, Roger Bacon learned the empirical method from Arabs. Other European pioneers of the method such as San Simon 1760-1825 CE, August Kant 1798-1857 CE, Emile Durkheim 1858-1917 CE built on Bacon’s ideas.


The Qur’an was and continues to be a methodological inspiration to Muslim scientists. Qur’anic, hadith, and usul al fiqh sciences are a rich intellectual heritage on which Muslim scientists built their  methodology. They learned from and improved Greek science. The improvements were inspired by the Qur’an and sunnat. Muslims pioneered the empirical methodology and transmitted it to Europe just before the renaissance.  The European copied the empirical method but not its context hence their misuse of the method.


Methodological development in empirical science in the ummat has stagnated over the centuries. The Greel deductive logic hampered the development of the Qur’an-based inductive method. In inductive logic an observation is generalized in the form of a hypothesis that can be tested empirically. In deductive logic, a hypothesis is verified experimentally and the findings are used to interpret other facts based on the hypothesis. Induction usually is followed by deduction.  Biased European methodology was imposed on the Muslim world over the past 2 centuries with the claim  that it was the only source of valid knowledge. Many Muslims unaware of their heritage have accepted this.


Scientific investigation starts with hypothesis formulation. The hypotheses are tested by empirical observation and deductions/inductions are made. Ibn Haytham, in his ‘Book of Optics’ (kitaab al Manadhir) illustrates the use of the empirical method. He did a lot of experiments and interpreted the findings. He realized the importance of mathematics. He used a combination of  inductive and deductive logic. Ibn Hytham formed hypotheses in 2 ways: (a) by observation of natural phenomena for example he saw that light passing through a hole has the shape of that hole and therefore formed a hypothesis that light travels in straight lines (b) by analogy for example the moon gets light from the sun; stars by analogy get light from the sun. To verify the hypotheses about the stars above, Ibn Hytham made the observation that unlike the moon, the shapes of the stars did not change with distance from the sun. He concluded that the stars emit light of their own. Ibn Hytham moved from experiment to generalize into a law by concluding that (a) light of whatever type travels in straight lines (b) the incident ray, the reflected ray, and the normal are in the same plane.


European use of the empirical method has many biases. A priori assertions or non-assertions (assertions by default) bias the selection of fields/issues of investigation, formulation of hypotheses, selection of hypotheses for testing, reporting of data, interpretation of data, and use of information. The source of frustration with European empiricism is that some assertions are understood but are not stated explicitly so that the uninitiated may not recognize their existence. European thought is basically materialist. It has several manifestations as posivitism, empiricism, pragmatism, and semanticism. A materialistic view of the universe contradicts the Islamic view of duality of matter and spirit, mind and body, soul and intellect, philosophy and religion, here and the hereafter. The theory of evolution that evolved in 19th century England and coincidentally provided ‘scientific’ justification for industrial exploitation for the less fit in Europe and the colonies by the fittest who alone had the right of survival, has a lot of influence in the thinking of many natural and social scientists. Scientific hypotheses, scientific language, choice of what to study reflect an underlying assumption of the innate superiority of the most ‘evolved’ human species in Europe.  Psychological leanings cause bias. Personal or group selfish interests can unconsciously lead to bias because of the European dichotomy between science and morality. The life of the scientist is not put in the equation. A scientist is a prisoner of his culture. Only the aqida of tauhid that is based on universality can rescue him from such a prison. Many of the leading scientists were morally corrupt even psychologically sick yet their theories and discoveries were not suspected. There is an implied unscientific assumption that a person who tells lies in his ordinary life will not do so about his laboratory research. The character and moral worth of the investigator is not taken into account when judging the validity of the data on the assertion that science is morally/ethically  neutral (hiyaad akhlaqi). This is the cause of so much scientific fraud most of which is undetectable. The Islamic approach will involve checking the moral worth of the researcher in the assessment of any research data to void the possibility of scientific fraud. Regarding natural laws as final and accepting the laws of evolution that explain the start and progress of life as chance or accidental events make the European scientist consider the existence of a creator superflous. No empirical experiment can be set up to test the proposition yet there are observable indications especially in empirical behavior of humans that there is a super-natural power.


Both European empiricists (those who assert that empirical experience is a source of knowledge) and rationalists (those who assert that human reason is source of knowledge) agree that there is no source of knowledge outside the human. The assertion that the empirical  is the only source of valid knowledge excludes 2 major fields of study: (a) the ultimate questions about the universe that can not be proved rationally: its start, its future, its end, purpose of human life, life, death and after-death (b) human behavior: motivation, and spiritual experiences).


There are ultimates of religion that can not proved rationally or empirically. The European paradigm that does not recognize existence of limits to human senses and intellect can not accept that some matters can not be investigated empirically and that  other sources of knowledge such as wahy (knowledge of ghaib) must be used. They are just ignored as if they do not exist. A proper approach would have been a declaration by the empiricists and rationalists that some questions lie outside the bounds of unaided human investigation. A clear distinction must be made between assertions that can be investigated empirically (scientific) and those that can not be investigated empirically (non-scientific).


The argument of secularist empiricists and rationalists is flawed because there are many phenomena in science that are believed but are not yet proved. A good example is the disease of cholera. It was established that contaminated water was a cause of cholera and that the disease-causing agent is transferred from the sick to the healthy by means of such water. It was only later that the vibrio cholerae organism was isolated. By that time public health measures had already controlled out the disease in the industrialised countries. These measures did not depend on complete knowledge and had a measure of belief in the unseen yet no one disputed their effectiveness.


Islam recognizes three sources of knowledge, 2 being primary and the third being dependent on the other two. Revelation (wahy) and empirical observation are independent. They however both need intellect (‘aql) for understanding. Muslim thinkers have mentioned other sources of knowledge such as intuition (hadas), inspiration (ilhaam), and instinct (wijdaan)  These either have wahy or an empirical basis that may not be obvious to the un-initiated. Wahy remains the absolute source since human senses and intellect are known by ordinary human experience to be fallible.


The empirical method performs well in investigation of the present but is awfully incompetent in its historicity and futuristicity. Investigation of the past and the future requires knowledge of the unseen (ilm al ghaib) that comes only from wahy. Ghaib can be absolute or relative. Empirical investigations continually roll back the frontiers of relative ghaib but can not even start looking into absolute ghaib. The problem is that the European use of the empirical method just assumes that un-investigatable matters just do not exist or are irrelevant. Un-testable assertions are classified as unscientific.


European empiricism, by looking at the human as only matter, does not have the tools to understand human duality. It fails in understanding causal relations in situations in which humans change the ecosystem and their own internal environment. Humans can create new facts that accord with their inner biases such that an investigator coming later is confused about the causal chain and can not tell the correct order.


Too narrow specialization in science has resulted in a situation of knowing the parts and failing to put them together. Knowing the whole picture makes the study of the parts more meaningful and is the Islamic approach. European empiricism  as used does not acknowledge the basic assertions of tauhid that there is one creator for  the universe and that therefore there must be an integrating paradigm for all human research and actions. A practical consenquence of this is that one advance in one area is a catastrophe in another to the extent that many insightful scientists fear the ultimate destruction of the ecosystem. Industrialisation causes air and water pollution. The modern society has destroyed the family. Nuclear power generates electricity but is also a potential destruction of the whole universe if nuclear weapons are ever used.


The claim of universality and objectivity is not true. It would have been more honest to accept the minimum that European science reflects a Euro-centric view of the world. Many illustrations of this can be given. The European development model failed when transferred to third world countries. The failure was not due to intellectual deficiency among third world recipients but due to incompatibility of the underlying world-view and philosophies of life.

Empirical knowledge is relativistic and probabilistic. European science is too arrogant in stating its conclusions as established facts when the observations on which they are based may be wrong. Empiricism depends on human senses. Human senses are limited in their observation and can be deceived; this failure is not cured by use of instruments because they are aids and extensions of the basic human senses.


Diseases of the heart can lead to biased empirical observations. Among these diseases are: hiqd, kibr, kadhb. Medical literature is replete with biased research and conclusions that associate undesirable diseases and conditions like low IQ & low educational achievement with the disadvantaged races or ethnic groups. In most cases it is the poor physical and social conditions of the disadvantaged that cause the disease or the conditions and not their race or ethnicity.


Existence (al wujuud) is at 5 levels: inner/real (dhaati), empirical/perceived (hissi), imaginary (khiyaali), intellectual/abstract (‘aqli), and illusionary (shibhi). The empirical method can only observe the hissi, the rest have to be inferred. It is therefore limited in the understanding of the whole existence.


Human intellect is necessary to interpret and understand empirical observations. This intellect has limitations and there are matters like the human himself that lie outside its reach. A human can not understand himself fully. Rationalism has a basis in the Qur’an and reason is needed to understand the Qur’an and sunnat. However there are transgressions in the use of reason that lead to false results. This occurs when reason is employed in areas that are exclusive for wahy. The ummat like the Europeans has had excesses by rationalists like the mutazilites. Ibn Taymiyyat, al Ghazzali, and other scholars of the same caliber came to bring the ummat back to the original methodology after the excesses of the Muslim rationalists.



Universality of Islam: a valid fear could be expressed that correcting the European bias in science will produce another type of bias this time being towards Islam. Islam is the only religion that claims universality as a central and dominating doctrine. The Islamic world-view is the universal view and is therefore not a bias. The comprehensiveness of the Islamic frame leaves no room for bias. Bias is in essence standing apart and looking at a phenomenon from a certain pre-determined point of view only. A Muslim scientist with a universal outlook is therefore protected from such bias.

Tauhidi science starts with the following prior assumptions: (a) tauhid (Allah, His attributes, uluhiyyat, rububiyyat) (b) limitations to human knowledge (c) causality (sababiyyat) is the relation between the cause and effect.

The main field of scientific investigation are the causal relations. The causes are creatable by Allah and He could change them. Thus causal relations are not always what humans expect. The creator can disregard the so-called natural laws. A Muslim believes that miracles are associated with causal relations that are in the realm of ghaib but also recognizes that in practical terms he need not delve into this field.


Characteristics of the Islamic methodology were presented by Dr Abdulhamid Abusulayman as: (a) scope: The Islamic methodology has a very wide scope that encompasses and harmonizes both the seen and the unseen (takaamul al ghaib wa al shahadat). Empirical research is in the province of the seen and can not trespass into the unseen. Guidance from the unseen helps encourage empirical research and guide it away from potential bias (b)  Sources: There are three main sources of knowledge and methodology: Revelation (wahy), Intellect (aql), and Empirical observation (kawn). These sources are complementary and are never contradictory. Full knowledge requires use of all the sources (c) Basic principles: Islamic methodology has 3 main principles: one-ness/unity (wahdaniyyat), vicegerancy (al khilafat), moral responsibility/accountability (al masuliyyat al akhlaqiyyat) (d) Basic concepts: The Islamic methodology relies on the following basic concepts: creation and existence have a purpose (ghaiyyat al khalq wa al wujuud),  truth is absolute; however humans are at different relative distances from it (mawdhu’iyyat al haqiiqat wa nisbiyyat al mawqiu minha), humans have a free will that carries responsibilities with it ( hurriyat al qaraar wa al iradat al insaniyyat wa masuliyyatuha), ultimate reliance on Allah (SWT) (al tawakkul), causality as a basis for human action (al sababiyyat fi adaa al fi’ilu al insaani) (e) Peculiarities: A distinguishing characteristic of the Islamic methodology is its comprehensiveness ( shumuliyyat).


The above analyses have shown that the actual processes of the empirical  methodology (hypothesis, testing, conclusion) are not the problem but the context and manner in which the method is used. What is therefore needed is to define the Islamic context and make it predominant. The reframing will succeed most if it is part of the education of the Muslim scientist. The education of a Muslim scientist should encourage development of a culture involving attitudes and values that can be learned from the Islamic methodological sciences. Studying the methodological Islamic sciences of usul al fiqh, hadith, and tafsir will help mould the personality and intellectual preparation of the future researcher within an Islamic context. Studying the history and achievements of the early Muslim scientists will be an inspiration for the young generation.

July 3, 1997 Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.