Science and British Muslim Leadership

On Wednesday, 22 February 2023, the University of Birmingham and Al-Mahdi Institute successfully hosted the ‘Science and British Muslim Leadership‘ workshop, supported by the Muslims in Britain Research Network.

Science and Islam is a subject that has attracted the attention of historians and Muslim theologians for many years. However, in recent years the subject’s relevance to a wider spectrum of British Muslim leaders has become increasingly apparent.

Academics at the Universities of Birmingham and Cardiff have been running a major research project based at the University of Birmingham, ‘Science and the Transmission of Islamic Knowledge in Britain’.

The results of their study were presented on the day. In addition, the workshop furthered discussion and debate around the ways in which science and British Muslim leadership, in all its forms, interact. Specifically, attendees heard from experts on themes ranging from organ donation and COVID-19 to the ‘big questions’ about the interpretation of the Qur’an and the origins of life and the universe. The workshop also showcased creative new pedagogical approaches in the science and Islam field. The groundbreaking approaches of Cambridge Muslim College were particularly highlighted as an example of best practice in this nascent field.

A central purpose of this workshop was to enable contrasting perspectives to be discussed in an open and amicable way. To this end, the panels and presentations were designed to facilitate open discussion between speakers and attendees and between people with different religious and scientific expertise.

The organising team felt that the workshop contributed to the conversation around Islam and Science, and the meeting enabled all present to get an overall sense of the current situation in Muslim leadership circles with regard to science. Especially regarding applied science, the overall sense communicated was that more proactive (rather than reactive, as with the organ donation situation) approaches are needed. The question of AI was, for example, raised as an imminently problematic one. Many in audience, furthermore, emphasised that it is crucial that we raise the Islam and science topic in order to meet the needs of young Muslims.

We were honoured to have the following speakers and panels on the day:

  • Practical Interactions between Science and Islam in the UK
    • Dr.Hina Shahid, Chair, Muslim Doctors Association
    • Arzoo Ahmed, Head of Ethics, Our Future Healt
    • Dr.Mansur Ali, Senior Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Cardiff University
    • Dr. Rafaquat Rashid, Religious scholar, General Practitioner and co-founder of al-Balagh Academy
  • Pedagogy on Science and Islam
    • Shoaib Malik, author of Islam and Evolution: Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm
    • Cambridge Muslim College student presentation (Hamzah Zahid and Mohammed Imran Khan)
  • Islam, Science and the Big Questions
    • Dr. Ali-Reza Bhojani, Teaching Fellow in Islamic Ethics and Theology, University of Birmingham, and Honorary Research Fellow, Al-Mahdi Institute
    • Ustadh Hamid Mahmood, Headteacher and founder, Fatima Elizabeth Phrontistery
    • Dr. Musharraf Hussain, Religious scholar and Translator of ‘The Majestic Quran’
  • Science and British Muslim Religious Leadership: Project Overview
    • Dr Stephen Jones
    • Dr. Saleema Burney
    • Dr. Riyaz Timol