Science and Mathematics: Al-Ghazzali, “On the Separation of Mathematic and Religion”

The selections written on mathematics and the scientific description of smallpox imparted that Islam is based on trust and faith in God and not some theory and hypothesis which can be relied upon only if it is proven through calculation, geometry, and cosmography or by logical experimentations.

Because of mathematics and science, Al-Ghazzali was able to make a distinction between mathematics and religion. According to him, proving something using mathematics, when successful, will tend to eliminate religious foundations of that particular assumption.

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Whereas, if something is proven by religion, it does not forego or criticize mathematics. Meaning, mathematics is quantifiable and material while religious is speculative and immaterial. Believing in Islam comes from within, established because of one’s belief in God even without substantial proof.
Like in smallpox, this disease is contagious with unknown cause but it has been treated and now it is considered an inactive ailment. For Al-Ghazzali, the eruption of smallpox can be compared to the problems and challenges in life. When a person is still an infant, his resistance is still weak and can be easily infected by smallpox.
Meaning, he is too fragile to face life’s crises. As he grows up, he continuously learns and strengthens his faith. Along the many trials in life, he becomes strong thus when he develops into a young man, he has enough strength not to contain “smallpox.” As he matures and grows all, he becomes much wiser and with great wisdom, his values are stronger thus “smallpox” can hardly contaminate him.
Focus Question #2: According to Al-Ghazzali, should mathematics and religion be separated? Why or why not?
According to Al-Ghazzali, mathematics and religion should be treated separately because these two disciplines cannot be reconciled even both can explain many phenomenon in the universe. However, they do differ in their justifications since mathematics has material proof while that of religion is based on faith in God, thus immaterial. If an experience or fact is proven materially, it tends to condemn religion right then while religious proofs do not criticize mathematics.
Central to Al-Ghazzali’s theory is that all eventualities (causes and effects) in mortal life and beyond are determined by God as expressed in religion. He despised mathematics in that those highly-educated men who professed scientific proof of things tend to forget God and the Divine Law which is evil and wicked.
Moreover, Al-Ghazzali asserted that these men who bowed down to mathematics and science have lost their faith in God. As such, they praised human knowledge and capabilities without recognizing that a higher Being is there responsible for all these gifts of wisdom and intelligence.
Finally, Al-Ghazzali ended with total belief in understanding through religious experience rather than approaching it intellectually as in mathematics and science. All his actions and inferences refer to obedience and confidence in God regardless of scientific bases and calculations. For him, God should be above all earthly occurrences.
Works Cited
“On the Causes of Small-Pox.” A Treatise on Small-Pox and Measles. 1848.
“On the Separation of Mathematics and Religion.” The Confession of Al-Ghazzali. 1908.

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