BA Classical Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Science and Islam

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT30521
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The relationship between science and Islam is as hotly debated topic today as it was in the nineteenth century when the question first gained currency among European and Muslim intellectuals. Even today the question tends to polarise thinkers along progressive and conservative lines. European narratives about ‘Islamic science’ are used as evidence of Islam’s decline after its “enlightened” “Golden Age”. Muslim parties to the debate accept the Golden Age narrative, insisting that Islam is itself amenable to scientific speculation, and hold Muslims and Muslim cultures responsible for science’s untimely demise in Islamic world.

So, what’s really going on? Was there really a decline in the wake of a “Golden Age”? Are science and reason inimical to Islam? What roles does science play in Muslim societies, past and present? What is the legacy of European colonialism on the development of science in Muslim societies? What is the future of science in contemporary Muslim societies?

This unit will introduce students to contemporary debates about science and Islam. It will show students what roles science played in Muslim societies in the past and will document how attitudes towards science and the role it plays in modern Islam have transformed. Students will be introduced to the ideas of key Islamic scientists and innovators. Students will also be asked to think critically about the political underpinnings of current debates about science and Islam today. Among topics to be discussed are the Qur’an and scientific language, science, faith and reason, modern and premodern cosmologies, science and prophecy, and Islam and the environment.



Available on which programme(s)?

BA Religions and Theology

BA Philosophy and Religion

(BA Theological Studies in Philosophy and Ethics)

BA Comparative Religion and Social Anthropology



  • To introduce students to central debates in and about Islam and science today
  • To familiarise students with key concepts and figures in these debates
  • To understand the enduring legacy of European colonialism among Muslims
  • To appreciate the complexity and diversity of viewpoints among contemporary Muslims thinkers


Teaching and learning methods

Knowledge transfer in lectures will be augmented and consolidated by means of group work on classic texts in seminar.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a deeper understanding of key concepts, figures, and themes in contemporary discourses about science and Islam
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the link between European colonialism and contemporary Islamic thought
  • Appreciate the enormous variety of viewpoints within Islam in the Muslim world


Intellectual skills

  • Enhance your ability to formulate clear and convincing arguments in essays.
  • Demonstrate a greater ability to problematise intellectual positions that philosophers have taken.
  • Learn to critically engage with both primary and secondary sources with a view to forming your own opinions.


Practical skills

  • Debate the value and implications of key concepts, movements and thinkers in a group setting.
  • Conduct research by using more extensive primary and secondary material.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Have increased confidence in public speaking skills.
  • Form reasoned arguments in other contexts.
  • Recognise and critique other arguments or positions. 


Employability skills

- Building and developing a persuasive argument - Critical thinking and analysis -· Empathy and cultural sensitivity

Assessment methods

Assessment task 

Formative or Summative 



Source AnalysisSummative 2000 words50%
EssaySummative 2000 words 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback methodFormative or Summative
Written feedback on source analysisSummative
Written feedback on examSummative


Recommended reading

  • Hourani A (1967) Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798–1939. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  • Kassab E S (2010) Contemporary Arabic Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective. Columbia University Press: New York.
  • Pormann P E, Savage-Smith, E (2007) Medieval Islamic Medicine. Edinburgh Univeristy Press: Edinburgh.
  • Said E (1978) Orientalism. Pantheon: New York.
  • Saliba G (2007) Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance. MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Kamran Karimullah Unit coordinator

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