This was my midterm paper for REL 263, Islam in the Modern World, taught by Prof. Louise Marlow at Wellesley College in spring 2008.
According to contemporary commentator Sadiq al-Azm, the faith of Islam is “collapsing completely” under the undeniable facts of modern science. The natural response of many Muslims to scientific advancement has been to argue that there is no conflict between Islam and science, a position al-Azm terms concordism. Throughout the last few centuries, many Muslim thinkers have adopted the concordist position to reconcile their faith with the intellectual upheaval which follows scientific discovery. Two of the most notable concordists are Sayyid Ahmad Khan, an Indian Muslim reformist of the late 19th century, and Maurice Bucaille, a French physician of the late 20th century. Khan’s position as an internal member of the Islamic faith and a “convert” to science contrasts sharply with Bucaille’s professional scientific training and approach to Islam as a decidedly external observer. Both attempt to reach harmony between Islam and modern science through an objective, philological interpretation of the Quran which proves the text to be both scientifically valid and the authentic Word of God. In this undertaking, however, Khan and Bucaille differ considerably in their use of existing commentaries on the Quran, the degree to which the text must be interpreted literally, and the extent which scientific fact may be extracted from Quranic verse. Khan’s interpretation favors extending existing Muslim scholarship and allows an idiomatic or allegorical reading of some passages, while Bucaille strikes a radically new, exclusively literal reading which often over-zealously reads scientific content into the text. Despite methodological differences, however, both Khan and Bucaille share the ultimate concordist goal of preventing al-Azm’s predicted collapse of the Islamic faith under the challenge of modern science.
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