Nidhal Guessoum is an Algerian astrophysicist. He obtained his PhD (and MSc) from the University of California at San Diego (USA) and spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher (and later, extended periods of time as a visiting scientist)at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He has also had long on-going collaborations with various institutions, particularly in France, resulting in many papers, mostly in gamma-ray astrophysics. He is currently Professor and Interim Head of Physics at the American University of Sharjah, UAE.
In addition to his technical papers, Prof. Guessoum has published many articles on issues related to science, education, the Arab world, and Islam, and authored or co-authored several books, including:The Story of the Universe – from primitive conceptions to the Big Bang (in Arabic, 4 editions) and Islam’s Quantum Question – reconciling Muslim tradition and modern science (IB Tauris, 2011).
He also writes regularly on the above subjects, for Gulf News, The Huffington Post, Nature Middle East, and other venues. He was recently featured in a full-page article in Science (July 2011).
Finally, he has lectured at many renowned universities (Cambridge, Oxford, Cornell, Wisconsin) and has been interviewed in various international media, including Al-Jazeera, BBC, NPR, France 2, Le Monde, etc.
Q & A on ‘The Young Muslim’s Guide to Modern Science’
- What’s so important and special about this book?
This book is unique in aiming to achieve two important objectives in a short volume: a) provide the reader with a simple, clear, and complete picture of how modern science works and what essential knowledge it has brought us; b) show that this knowledge does not contradict Islam, if we only make the right interpretations of what both the Qur’an and Science say.
There is simply no book in the market that attempts or achieves this double objective.
- Why did you write this book? What is your motivation?
I wrote the book with young Muslims in mind, both teenagers and young men – let’s say ages 13 to 23. My experience with young Muslims is that, in the absence of good books and teachers that show them what modern science really says and, most importantly, how it does not conflict or contradict their religious education and background, they are torn between the two. They are fascinated by science, its successes and its applications in every corner of the world today. And they believe in the core truths of their religion. And oftentimes they are told that science and Islam disagree on a number of issues, e.g. evolution. How to resolve this conflict is a matter of considerable stress, sometimes leading to a loss of faith.
I wanted to show the youngsters that there is a way to harmonize the two. But one must perform two tasks: first understand science correctly, secondly know that there can be a variety of interpretations of Qur’anic verses (without distorting their meaning).
Once I finished writing the book and I gave it to several people to read and advise on, it became clear that the book can be relevant and useful to adults, particularly teachers, as much as to youngsters and students.
I hope it achieves wide readership and helps its intended audience resolve the tension that may exist between modern scientific theories and fact and Islam.
- Who’s the core audience for the book, and why will they care about it?
As I said above, the core audience for the book is youngsters and students, between the ages of, say, 13 and 23. But one can easily see that the book, in its contents and its message, can be extremely useful to adults as well, particularly teachers.
These different audiences will care about the book because it presents a clear, broad, extensive, but succinct summary of the essential knowledge we have today from natural science (astronomy, physics, biology). It also shows how this knowledge is fully compatible with Islamic doctrines. It further addresses modern issues such as stem cell research, genetic engineering, global warming, etc., from both scientific and religious perspectives.
- What is your general goal for this book?
My hope is that the book will be useful for youngsters, students, and teachers. That will make them appreciate science and through it the wonderful universe and nature that surround us, and realize that this only adds to one’s religious faith, not take anything away from it. Science is only uncovering what God created and the laws that He built the universe on. Science and reason are gifts from God; we must use them and be grateful for them, not deny them or be afraid of them.
I hope this book will reconcile science and faith for the young generation, and perhaps the older generation as well.