Islam and Ecology: Toward Retrieval and Reconstruction
Daedalus Journal Special Issue Religion and Ecology:
Can the Climate Change?
Written by S. Nomanul Haq
A consideration of the question of Islam and ecology ought to begin with one fundamental observation of a historical kind: in the construction of what we call the modern world, Islam has had only an indirect role to play. To be sure, one cannot possibly imagine, nor meaningfully speak of, the phenomenon generally known as the scientific revolution, or that which we refer to as the Renaissance, without keeping in view the formidable intellectual influence of Islam on Latin Christendom. But this legacy was appropriated—and here we see the complexities and ironies of the historical process—in ways that often were alien to the world of Islam itself. The reception in both the Islamic and Christian worlds of the work of the towering giant Alhazen (Ibn al-Haytham, d. 1038), or that of the great Avicenna (Ibn S2n1 , d. 1037), constitutes a case in point. Alhazen, who revolutionized the field of optics, was ignored in the Islamic world even as he became a central scientific figure in the West. Avicenna, an outstanding philosopher and physician, was the medical authority in Europe well into the early seventeenth century; but his system was developed on highly abstract mystical-spiritual lines in Islam, where he was often seen more as a “Visionary Reciter”1 than a Hellenized rational thinker. Indeed, it is the Latin career of these figures that endured in the modern world, not the elaboration of their thought by latter-day Muslims.
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