Why Does the Muslim World Lag in Science?
any index, the Muslim world produces a disproportionately small
amount of scientific output, and much of it relatively low in
numerical terms, forty-one predominantly Muslim countries with
about 20 percent of the world's total population generate less
than 5 percent of its science. This, for example, is the proportion
of citations of articles published in internationally circulating
science journals.2 Other measures -- annual expenditures on research
and development, numbers of research scientists and engineers
-- confirm the disparity between populations and scientific research.
situation leads to some hard questions: Is Islam an obstacle to
modern science? If not, how does one explain the huge gap in scientific
output between the Muslim world and the West or East Asia? And
what must change so that science can flourish in Muslim countries?
Islam has yet to reconcile faith and reason, other factors such
as dictatorial regimes and unstable funding are more important
obstacles to science and technology's again flourishing in the
Muslim world. Significant progress, in other words, depends on
changes in values and institutions -- no small order.
start with a brief history of science and technology in the Muslim
world, the first place to search for clues to these questions.
In a nutshell, the Muslim experience consists of a golden age
in the tenth through thirteenth centuries, a subsequent collapse,
a modest rebirth in the nineteenth century, and a history of frustration
in the twentieth century. The deficiency in Muslim science and
technology is particularly intriguing given that Muslims were
world leaders in science and technology a millennium ago -- something
that distinguishes them from, say, the peoples of Latin America
or sub-Saharan Africa.
Age. The period 900-1200 A.D. represents the approximate apogee
of Muslim science, which flourished in Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo,
and Cordoba, among other cities. Significant progress was made
in such areas as medicine, agronomy, botany, mathematics, chemistry,
and optics. As Muslims vied with Chinese for intellectual and
scientific leadership, Christian Europe lagged far behind both.3
golden age was definitely Muslim in that it took place in predominantly
Muslim societies, but was it Islamic, that is, connected to the
religion of Islam? States were officially Islamic, and intellectual
life took place within a self-consciously Islamic environment.
Ahmad al-Hassan and Donald R. Hill, two historians of technology,
see Islam as "the driving force behind the Muslim scientific
revolution when the Muslim state reached its peak."4 But
non-Muslims had a major role in this effort, and much of the era's
scientific achievements took place in a tolerant and cosmopolitan
intellectual atmosphere quite independent of the religious authorities.
Things started to go awry in the early thirteenth century, when
the Muslim world began to stagnate and Europeans surged ahead.
Even revisionist historians who challenge this date as the time
that decline set in do accept that decline eventually took place.
Thus, Marshall Hodgson -- who argues that the eastern Muslim world
flourished until the sixteenth century, when "the Muslim
people, taken collectively, were at the peak of their power"
-- acknowledges that by the end of the eighteenth century, Muslims
its timing, this decline meant that Muslims failed to learn from
Europe. In Bernard Lewis's phrasing, "The Renaissance, Reformation,
even the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, passed unnoticed
in the Muslim World."6 Instead, Muslims relied on religious
minorities -- Armenians, Greeks, Jews -- as intermediaries; they
served as court physicians, translators, and in other key posts.
With their aid, the Muslim world accomplished what is now known
as a limited transfer of science and technology.
in science resulted from many factors, including the erosion of
large-scale agriculture and irrigation systems, the Mongol and
other Central Asian invasions, political instability, and the
rise of religious intolerance. In particular, the great theologian
Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (1059-1111) used the tools of the
philosophers to undermine philosophical and scientific inquiry.
revival of science. In combination, the Enlightenment and French
Revolution made European science accessible to the Muslim world.
The former detached science from Christianity, thereby making
it palatable to Muslims. The latter, and especially Napoleon's
invasion of Egypt in 1798, with its entourage of scholars and
supplementary mission of knowledge, imposed European power on
and brought European science to a Muslim people. Within years,
some rulers -- led by Muhammad `Ali of Egypt -- recruited European
technicians and sent students to Europe.
takes root. An extraordinarily rapid diffusion of Western technologies
throughout most of the Middle East took place in the period 1850-1914.
With the approval of local elites, European colonial authorities
imposed public-health measures to contain cholera, malaria, and
other contagious diseases.7 The Suez Canal, opened in 1869, reduced
shipping time and distance and generated new trade. Railways,
telegraphs, steamships and steam engines, automobiles, and telephones
all appeared. Much of this technology transfer took the form of
Middle Eastern governments' granting monopoly concessions to European
firms. Muslim rulers had little concern about developing indigenous
capabilities in technology adaptation, design, or maintenance.
was an afterthought, at best embedded in scientific technologies
but not transferred explicitly as knowledge or method. Instead,
members of minority communities continued to intermediate by providing
clerical and skilled labor. Minorities also helped to establish
the first Western education institutions in the region, such as
the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut (founded in 1866) and
the Jesuits' St. Joseph's College (founded in 1875). These schools
and others in Istanbul, Tunis, Tehran, Algiers, and elsewhere
primarily served minority communities and Europeans, though some
elite Muslims also attended. Middle Eastern medical schools quickly
accepted and taught the medical discoveries of Pasteur, Koch,
and others concerning microbes and bacteria. The schools contributed
to the translation and publication in Arabic of major scientific
works and to the organization of the first scientific societies
in the region. Such societies were founded in Beirut, Cairo, Damascus,
and Istanbul in the late nineteenth century, often sponsoring
journals that featured translations. Thus, Charles Darwin's On
the Origin of Species, published in 1859, was translated in Arabic
journals by 1876, though not in book form until 1918. Throughout
this period, Muslim intellectuals presented minimal resistance
to the diffusion of Western scientific ideas. For example, the
major opposition to Darwinian ideas of evolution came not from
Muslim scholars but from Eastern-rite Christians.8
stagnates. In the 1914-45 period, Muslims slowly, and often in
frustration, attempted to strengthen indigenous science against
the imported variety. New universities with an emphasis on engineering
and medicine sprang up in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and the Sudan.
During the depression years, however, reduced employment for graduates
and increased discontent over the dominant role of expatriates
and minorities constrained science and technology.
nationalist politicians who arose after World War I mainly concentrated
on gaining political independence; science and technology hardly
concerned them. The one exception was Turkey, which under Kemal
Mustafa Atat-rk after 1922 launched an ambitious program of
industrialization and an expansion of engineering education. Elsewhere
-- in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran -- politicians made only faltering
attempts at industrialization to serve small local markets. Turnkey,
off-the-shelf projects prevailed, especially in engineering; this
meant that few scientific inputs existed, most technologies were
imported, maintenance was a persistent problem, and limited shop-floor
learning took place. Only in the petroleum industry, which after
1914 took on major proportions in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia,
did the pattern differ, for multinational firms subcontracted
locally such tasks as maintenance engineering and geological surveying.
the aftermath of World War II, for the first time, a perceived
need for indigenous science and technology spread in the Muslim
world. Such events as the creation of Pakistan and the 1948 Arab-Israeli
war made Muslims very acutely aware of their deficiencies in science
and technology. The attainment of independence fostered a technological
(but not a scientific) nationalism. States took responsibility
for managing technology as an instrument of national power and
made relatively ample resources available for technology (though,
again, not science).
than sixty new universities and technical schools opened during
this period in the Arabic-speaking countries alone9 but none of
them has world-class standing. Science and engineering programs
received the most resources and so attracted the finest students;
further, they have grown to the point that hundreds of thousands
of students now graduate annually in the Muslim world. In addition,
several hundred thousand Muslim students have since the 1950s
studied science and engineering in the West, the former Soviet
Union, India, and elsewhere, and a majority have returned home.
Trouble is, these results have been more impressive quantitatively
implementation of science and technology policy takes place at
the national, not regional, level.10 Most governments have established
councils to oversee science and technology, drafted some sort
of national plan, and made an attempt at implementation. National
science policies vary widely. Turkey has achieved the most research
cooperation between the public and private sectors, especially
in hydrology, textiles, and agriculture. Egypt has a cumbersome,
centralized research bureaucracy and policy with little diffusion
or practical results. Pakistan pursues a comprehensive, government-directed
research effort with a priority for nuclear energy and other highly
centralized projects, but implementation has been slow and expensive.
Malaysia has a sophisticated applied-research policy focused on
getting local private investors to work together to expand the
export of electronic items. Indonesia has opted for a high-tech
policy based on a national aerospace industry with high-cost risks.
Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have poured vast
amounts of money into science and technology. But the research
output has not matched the state-of-the-art facilities. The prevailing
mentality continues to be that of buying science and technology
rather than producing it. Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia each operates
its own modest version of French-style centralized research policies
but their lack of linkages to the private sector or ability to
diffuse results limits their productivity. Iran and Iraq concentrate
on petroleum and weapons research to the detriment of other sectors.
Other countries, such as the Sudan, Yemen, or the newly independent
Central Asian republics, lack a critical mass of researchers or
have experienced extensive emigration, or both. Political repression
has crippled science in Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.
governments in Iran and the Sudan have shown no interest in developing
a specifically Islamic science. They appear more concerned about
pornography or women's attire than the teaching of quantum mechanics.
Further, the emigration of so many scientists and engineers from
Iran after 1979, coupled with the devastating effects of the war
with Iraq, meant that the authorities were most concerned with
nurturing the remaining research community. Indeed, the priority
to reconstruct the war-damaged petroleum and petrochemical industries
has dictated generous treatment of scientists and engineers. The
science curriculum in the schools and universities has been largely
retained along pre-1979 lines. Iranian scientists have preserved
international contacts; even Abdus Salam, the Pakistan particle
physicist and the only Muslim11 Nobel Prize winner in science,
has visited Iran.
Sudan has experienced one of the most severe instances of brain-drain
anywhere in the world. It appears that a half-million Sudanese
technicians and professionals have emigrated, primarily to Saudi
Arabia and the Persian Gulf, since 1960.12 Scientists, engineers,
and physicians have left, primarily to the Persian Gulf countries.
The military-fundamentalist junta that came to power in 1989 has
been concerned to slow down this exodus of talent and to retrieve
what remains of Sudanese scientific and technological capabilities.
Hasan at-Turabi, philosopher-theologian of the regime, envisions
a moral, democratic, Islamic state with ample room for research.13
The Sudanese government, with its enormous internal problems,
appears to have no interest in attempting an
do fundamentalist movements in opposition aspire to Islamize science.
Movements in Algeria and Tunisia, for example, demand the replacement
of French with Arabic at all educational levels, but their objectives
are political and cultural rather than anti-scientific.
in Pakistan, due to internal political pressures and the particularly
influential role of the mullahs (clergy), have fundamentalists
attempted to impose a version of Islamic science. The government
of Zia-ul-Haq in 1987 introduced fundamentalist doctrines in the
teaching of science at all levels, from primary schools to universities.
The regime organized international conferences and provided funding
for research on such topics as the temperature of hell and the
chemical nature of jinns (demons).14 After considerable damage
had been done to science education, secularists counterattacked
and in 1988 won the right to teach and research modern science.
In spite of extensive publications and academic exchanges, Islamic
science has not taken hold outside of Pakistan, where its support
appears to be on the decline.
Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani physicist and science policy writer, identifies
three broad Muslim responses to modern science.15 A small number
of fundamentalist Muslims reject science for the Muslim world,
seeing it as immoral and materialist; for example, a leader of
the Muslim Brethren in Egypt declares epidemics to be a form of
divine punishment ("God developed the microbe and kept it
away from those He wished to spare") and argues against scientific
efforts to eradicate the problem.16 A larger number seek, through
suitable interpretations of the Qur'an, a reconciliation between
revealed truth and physical reality. A third, and perhaps predominant,
faction regards religion and faith and modern science as essentially
unrelated. This last viewpoint sustains the vague belief that
Islam and science are not in conflict, without ever closely examining
in keeping with this imprecise approach, it is striking to note
how the Muslim world has hardly debated the issue of the reconciliation
of Islam with science and technology. Few theologians are versed
in science or interested in dealing with this issue. Few scientists
wish to incur the wrath of the religious community by publicly
raising it. Few institutional forums exist for such a debate,
and their dependence on the state further dampens incentive. In
most Muslim countries, including Iran, a tacit agreement therefore
exists between scientists and theologians not to debate issues
that could harm both sides. That Islamic leaders seldom rail against
the tenets of science means that scientific doctrines and concepts
are mostly free from religious challenge. The teachings of Darwin
on evolution, for example, are allowed everywhere but Saudi Arabia.18
has the debate over reconciling Islam and science addressed the
Qur'an itself and the claims made for its infallibility. A work
of exalted and unadulterated monotheism, the Qur'an presents God
as the Creator bringing into being all material objects and all
life. God's will is responsible for earthquakes and other natural
events; Nature is a oneness derived from Him. Some scholars find
in the Qur'an the prototype of environmental sciences, such as
ecology and biology. But finding "proto-science" in
a holy book dating from the seventh century A.D. raises all sorts
of problems. One verse (6:1)19 reads, "He created the heavens
and the earth in six days, and then mounted his throne."
Were this verse, borrowed from Genesis I, interpreted literally,
it would devastate astrophysics, cosmology, geology, and other
disciplines. But Muslims have neither interpreted the verse (as
have most Christians and Jews) to understand that a "day" means some length of time to God other than twenty-four earth
hours, nor have they given it a metaphorical meaning. For their
part, Muslim geologists practice their profession without trying
to reconcile the Qur'an with the assumptions of their profession.
is curiously missing from the passionate and ongoing debate over
Islam and the West. Religious extremists have attacked the social
order, corruption, and immorality, but not the minor heresies,
of science. No Islamic theological splits or fractures have occurred
comparable to that between evolutionists and Christian creationists.
Instead, Islamic intellectual history is characterized by loosely
grouped individual thinkers attempting single-handedly in their
writings to achieve a reconciliation. Technology benefits from
often unqualified approval.
Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-98), for example, devoted much of his life
to convincing Muslims in India "that western scientific thought
was not antithetical to Islam." He reinterpreted the Qur'an
to find passages consistent with reason and nature, and insisted
that "Muslims have in the Koran the source of a rational
religion attuned to modern man's scientific interests."20
In a bold approach, he stripped the Qur'an and the hadith (anecdotes
concerning the Prophet Muhammad) to render them compatible with
the science of his time. In perhaps the most influential modernist
effort vis--vis science, the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905)
developed a belief system based on reason. He argued that "religion
must be accounted as a friend to science, pushing man to investigate
the secrets of existence, summoning him to respect the established
truths and to depend on them in his moral life and conduct."21
to the present, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Iranian Shi`i and professor
of Islamic studies at George Washington University, defines contemporary
Islamic science in terms of humanist values he finds in the Qur'an
and the hadith.22 Inspired by mystical ideals, Nasr articulates
less a practical program than a vague Islamic science free of
nuclear energy and devoted to environmental harmony. Similarly,
Ziauddin Sardar, a Pakistani science-policy specialist, envisions
an "Islamic science" rooted in humanistic values. He
wants no weapons research (though it is hard to find Islamic support
for such a ban). He has written detailed proposals for networks
of Muslim scientists, joint projects, and regional cooperation,
all based on Muslim solidarity.23 Nasr and Sardar do not address
the problems that Islamic doctrine poses to science; nor do they
admit the totality of science (for instance, nuclear energy can
be used for peaceful purposes). Also, they fail to comprehend
the universal, international, and open-ended nature of science.
Salam is the Muslim world's foremost scientific secularist. In
an important collection of essays published in 1987, he insisted
that science is universal and international rather than Islamic.
Adapting to Islam the nineteenth-century Christian and Jewish
reconciliation of faith and reason as separate, complementary
paths to knowledge, Salam maintains that "there truly is
no disconsonance between Islam and modern science."24 He
also asserts that "there is not a single verse in the Qur'an
where natural phenomena are described and which contradicts what
we know for certain from our discoveries in science." In
spite of identifying the roots of science in the Qur'an, Salam
insists on separating faith and reason. He calls faith "the
timeless, spiritual message of Islam, on matters which physics
is silent, and will remain so."25 To flourish, science requires
autonomy, freedom to inquire, and assured resources, not the stifling
embrace of religion.
Hoodbhoy joined the ranks of militant secularists with his 1991
book Islam and Science, in which he appealed for tolerance to
permit reason and faith to coexist within each sphere. "While
recognizing that religion and science are complementary and not
contradictory to each other, a clear demarcation between the spheres
of the spiritual and the worldly is necessary."26 He also
insisted that science is universal, not Western.
DOES THE MUSLIM WORLD LAG BEHIND?
contributes to the Muslim world's lagging behind in science insofar
as its tenets have not satisfactorily been reconciled with those
of science. Islam's most deleterious effect may be to remove most
Muslims from direct contact with science. Except for a brief exposure
in school, there is little science in Islamic popular culture.
Scientists rarely turn up in the media. Pleas by scientists like
Abdus Salam to the religious authorities for sermons about elements
of science in the Qur'an and hadith go unheard. A modus vivendi
has been arrived at in several countries (for example, Morocco,
Tunisia, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Indonesia, and Malaysia) after
informal, low-profile discussions between clergy, academics, and
scientists. This works on a practical level without providing
the intellectual context, sustained financial commitment, or human
resources needed for science again to flourish in the Muslim world.
is not, however, the key problem facing scientific achievement
in the Muslim world. Rather, the low level of achievement results
from the cumulative effect of multiple factors, and not from a
single dominant cause. Here are some ten of those factors:
The number of research scientists and engineers remains well below
that of rich countries as well as Latin America and South and
East Asia. Science and engineering students are drawn primarily
from urban middle-income backgrounds; few of the much larger number
of poor students can pursue research careers. Participation by
women in science remains low, as the disincentives, formal and
informal, for women to study science or engineering are formidable.
Only a handful of mostly urban, middle-class male students have
sufficient exposure to science to even consider making it a career.
With an estimated 80 percent of the world's scientific literature
appearing first in English, the literature in Arabic, Persian,
Urdu, and other languages is inadequate for teaching students
as well as researchers. Scientific work, therefore, requires a
competence in reading, writing, and comprehending English, an
area in which Muslims overall lag behind other peoples, such as
Chinese, Thais, and Brazilians. Even though the Arab League has
systematically promoted scientific translations and an updated
Arab vocabulary, Where English or French are the language of instruction
(the former in the Arabic-speaking countries of the Persian Gulf,
the latter in North Africa), hostility often develops between
students in science, who study in a foreign language, and those
in other disciplines, who work in Arabic.27
Effective science education at primary and secondary levels is
available in many countries only at a handful of urban private
schools. There is too much rote learning, a legacy in part of
Qur'anic schools, and far too little support for science education
at all levels. Universities and technical schools emphasize teaching
rather than research. Few strong doctoral programs or research
centers of academic excellence exist. Overcrowded, underfunded,
and turbulent universities have been unable to protect space and
resources for research.
The Muslim world suffers no shortage of scientists and engineers,
but it does have an acute scarcity of career researchers. While
several countries boast outstanding individual researchers and
projects, there is little mentorship or in-house ability to train
young researchers. And many of the few science and engineering
graduates being trained in research are then employed in bureaucratic
posts. Inadequate equipment and access to data also reduces scientific
output per researcher, as do the few incentives to publish and
the absence of quality doctoral programs within the region. Attempts
to develop research capabilities -- whether in universities, research
institutes, government ministries, nonprofit foundations, multinational
corporations, or local corporations -- have rarely succeeded.
corporations. Given the increasing links between science and technology,
state-owned corporations have a potentially important role, especially
in Algeria and Syria, but they have woefully neglected science.
Research by parastatals such as Sonatrach, the state petroleum
firm in Algeria, has been plagued by poor management, erratic
funding, political instability, and personnel problems. Lack of
accountability and inability to diffuse research -- even within
the firm -- are persistent problems. Unwilling to build linkages
to university researchers or to collaborate with admittedly weak
government ministries, the parastatals have wasted resources.
import substitution often continues to rely on turnkey projects
and foreign maintenance. There are signs, especially in Pakistan,
Turkey, and Lebanon, of local firms' developing adaptive research
capabilities. Multinational firms active in the region prefer
to conduct research at European or North American sites. Some
adaptive research in the petroleum and petrochemical industries,
mostly small-scale quality control, provides few incentives for
joint ventures in research with state-owned companies. Except
for Algeria, Iran, and Iraq, state oil companies are more managers
of concessions than operators with strong technical capabilities.
societies. Professional societies of physicists, engineers, dentists,
physicians, and other disciplines generally sponsor journals and
meetings but have no structures or resources for research. Sometimes
harassed politically (as in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Iraq),
the professional societies often opt for the most narrow and technical
concept of their mission. Broad-based interdisciplinary professional
societies for science and engineering have been slow to develop
in the Muslim world. The one exception is the Royal Scientific
Society of Jordan, which has monarchical patronage and interdisciplinary
A lack of financial resources and incentives has been a major
barrier to research except in some oil-rich states. Whereas Japan,
the United States, Germany, and other Western countries spend
2 percent or more of their gross domestic product (GDP) annually
on research, no Muslim country spends more than .50 percent of
its (much lower) GDP on research.28 Not only is money scarce but
what little is available comes sporadically, further bedeviling
long-term research (which requires equally long-term financial
commitments). Even where funds are available, research-management
capabilities are in short supply. The prospects for stable research
funding and effective institution-building are both poor.
Authoritarian regimes deny freedom of inquiry or dissent, cripple
professional societies, intimidate universities, and limit contacts
with the outside world. A horrific detailed account by the U.S.
National Academy of Sciences documents the long-term destruction
of the scientific community in Syria29 by a nationalist regime,
not a fundamentalist one. Authoritarian regimes also reinforce
the prevailing pattern of relying on technology transfer. Distrustful
of their own elites and institutions, the rulers prefer to buy
rather than generate technology. The oil-exporting countries especially
see science and technology as commodities to be purchased, an
outlook that has a pernicious effect on the development of indigenous
cooperation. Regional cooperation in science and technology has
a checkered history in the Muslim world. It makes eminent sense
in principle, for a handful of countries (like Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia) are oil-rich and short of researchers, while other countries
(Egypt and Pakistan) export them. Also, the similarity of applied-research
needs and priorities, such as solar energy, desertification, and
desalination, should produce shared interests. Meetings held over
two decades to coordinate regional research have produced much
rhetoric and little action.
incompetence. Applied-research units in government ministries,
such as agriculture or construction, have often become sinecures
for political appointees with little or no interest or capabilities
relative importance do these factors have in terms of impeding
science in the Muslim world? The matter of reconciling faith and
reason would seem to be among the less consequential. The prevalence
of authoritarian regimes counts more. Also, while obscurantists
reject science, popular ignorance and indifference to science
are far more problematic than fundamentalist hostility. Lastly,
science and technology research is not adequately institutionalized:
continuity of funding and personnel, long-term goals, and management
autonomy are all lacking.
nearly fifty years of would-be institution-building, the Muslim
world has failed to provide a satisfactory home for science. The
failure to build viable research institutions at the national
level has thwarted most attempts at regional cooperation. Talented
researchers must still leave the region to obtain advanced postgraduate
spite of this pessimistic assessment, measures do exist to improve
Muslim achievements in the sciences. Fiscal and other incentives
can promote shop-floor learning and informal research, especially
in locally owned enterprises. Professional societies can, given
sufficient autonomy, play an important role in improving science
education, scientific communications, and the place of science
in popular culture. Small-scale projects can establish links between
the public and private sectors and universities and technical
schools. The basis exists for fostering regional and subregional
cooperation, for there is a consensus on research priorities in
much of the Muslim world. These include solar energy, desalination,
arid lands agriculture, irrigation, animal sciences, and petrochemicals.
While these are applied-research and demonstration-and-development
priorities, they do involve a substantial amount of science. With
agreement on priorities, long-term funding can be developed.
these incremental and pragmatic measures must still confront a
hostile environment. For science again to flourish in Muslim countries
requires a recognition that it requires long-term continuities,
the lessening of authoritarianism, and a serious effort to reconcile
faith and reason.
By science we mean, along with New Merriam-Webster Dictionary
(1989), "systemized knowledge derived from observation, study,
and experimentation carried on in order to determine the nature
or principle of what is being studied." This definition specifically
excludes such applied fields as technology and engineering; at
the same time, advances in technology mean that distinctions between
the two are eroding. The dictionary defines technology as "applied
2 Abdus Salam, Ideals and Realities: Selected Essays of Abdus
Salam (Philadelphia: World Scientific, 1987), p. 109. Seven Muslim
countries -- Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia,
and Saudi Arabia -- account for 90 percent of this total. Citation
counts measure the extent to which articles are read and used
by other scientists, and so indicate both output and influence.
While subject to the criticism, for example, that journals in
lesser-used languages are not tabulated, the citation count is
the single most reliable measurement of scientific achievement.
3 Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Expansion of Islam in the Middle
Periods, vol. 2 of The Venture of Islam (Chicago, Ill.: University
of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 329-30.
4 Ahmad Y. al-Hassan and Donald Hill, Islamic Technology: An Illustrated
History (Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 282.
5 Marshall G.S. Hodgson, Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe,
Islam, and World History (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1993), pp. 103-04.
6 Bernard Lewis, Islam and the West (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1993), p. 183.
7 Nancy Gallagher, Egypt's Other Wars: Epidemics and the Politics
of Public Health (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1990);
idem., Medicine and Power in Tunisia 1780-1900 (London: Cambridge
University Press, 1983).
8 Adel A. Ziadat, Western Science and the Arab World: The Impact
of Darwinism 1860-1930 (New York: St. Martin's, 1986).
9 Ziauddin Sardar, Science, Technology, and Development in the
Middle East (London: Longmans, 1982). This is the latest country-by-country
survey of universities and research centers.
10 A.B. Zahlan, Science and Science Policy in the Arab World (London:
St. Martin's, 1980) is a thorough, critical survey.
11 Abdus Salam is not a mainstream Muslim, however, but belongs
to the Ahmadi sect, which the Pakistan government in 1974 declared
to be not Muslim.
12 Africa Contemporary Record, vol. 21 (New York: Holmes & Meiers, 1992), p. B521.
13 Arthur L. Lowrie, ed., Islam, Democracy, the State, and the
West: A Roundtable with Dr. Hasan Turabi (Tampa: WISE Monograph
Series, University of South Florida, 1992).
14 Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle
for Rationality (London: Zed, 1991), pp. 140-54.
15 Ibid., pp. 65-109. Abdus Salam wrote the preface.
16 `Abd al-`Aziz az-Zuhayri, quoted in Gallagher, Egypt's Other
Wars, p. 146.
17 Muslim scientists can also opt to ignore Islam or even to dismiss
it as irrelevant to the pursuit of science, but if they live in
a predominantly Muslim society, they cannot express agnosticism
unless willing to pay a high personal price -- ostracism, loss
of funding, and unemployment, sometimes leading to exile.
18 Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science, pp. 47-49.
19 All translations are from The Koran, trans. N.J. Dawood (New
York: Penguin, 1980). Interestingly, many of the Qur'anic verses
most problematic for science derive from Biblical concordants.
20 Ira Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1988), p. 728. See also Hoodbhoy, Islam and
Science, pp. 55-59.
21 Quoted in Albert Hourani, History of the Arab People (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 308.
22 Sayyed Hossein Nasr, The Need for a Sacred State (Albany: State
University of New York Press, 1993).
23 Ziauddin Sardar, Science, Technology and Development in the
Muslim World (London: Croom and Helm, 1980); idem, Science, Technology,
and Development in the Middle East. He defines a prescriptive
Islamic science in Explorations in Islamic Science (New York:
24 Abdus Salam, Ideals and Realities, p. 212.
25 Ibid, p. 187.
26 Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science, p. 137.
27 On this general problem, see James Coffman, "Does the
Arabic Language Encourage Radical Islam?" Middle East Quarterly,
Dec. 1995, pp. 51-57.
28 E. Jeffrey Stann, foreword of Science and Technology in the
Americas: Perspectives on Pan-American Collaboration (Washington,
D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993).
Ranked globally by regions, the Middle East is ahead of sub-Saharan
Africa, slightly behind Latin America, and increasingly behind
East Asia in terms of scientific expenditures and output.
29 National Academy of Sciences, Scientists and Human Rights in
Syria (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1993).
author, Aaron Segal, professor of political science at the University
of Texas, El Paso, is the author of An Atlas of International
Migration (Bowker, 1993) and Learning by Doing: Science, Technology
and the Developing World (Westview, 1987).
Middle East Quarterly