The Arabsʾ Visions of the Upper Realm
Keywords:Qur'an, cosmology, Muslim science, Muslim astronomy, science and religion
Pre-Islamic (Jāhilī) Arabs viewed the heavens with great respect, admiration and fear. They held the stars responsible for every event that took place in the earthly realm. Accordingly, they shaped their entire lives in accordance with their interpretations of astral configurations and phenomena. This study offers an avenue into specific passages in the Qur’an where cosmological connotations had the purpose of reshaping the mindset of believers by offering guidelines for a comprehensive framework that took into account both the materialistic and spiritual dimensions of the universe. The theological approach employed here examines the similarities and differences between the pre-Islamic view of the universe and the Qur’anic cosmological model that is based upon a set of Qur’anic verses and their traditional interpretations. In regards to this point, it might be sufficient to clarify that this study espouses neither concordistic nor complementarianistic perspectives: it does not attempt to transfer the cosmological implications of the Qur’anic texts into a modern context, nor treat them as being totally independent from such connotations. In a nutshell, by demonstrating the role Islam played on changing the Arab perception of the universe that led eventually to the notable contributions medieval Muslims made to the science of the stars, the study aims to highlight that what can be gained from bridging the gap between science and religion would far outweigh the previous separation of the two.
This paper is one of a collection that originated in the IAHR Special Conference “Religions, Science and Technology in Cultural Contexts: Dynamics of Change”, held at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology on March 1–2, 2012. For an overall introduction see the article by Ulrika Mårtensson, also published here.
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