Barbour's Typologies and the Contemporary Debate on Islam and Science

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Despite various criticisms, Ian Barbour's fourfold classification of the possible relationships between religion and science remains influential. I compare Barbour's taxonomy with the theories of four authors who, in the last four decades, have addressed the relationship between science and religion from a Muslim perspective. The aim of my analysis is twofold. First, I offer a comparative perspective to the debate on science and Islam. Second, following Barbour's suggestion, I test the general applicability of his categories by comparing them with a discourse on science and religion that is not focused on Christianity. In the first section, I reconstruct Barbour's typologies, recalling some major objections to them, and arguing why despite the latter, Barbour's model is employed for the present analysis. I also reconstruct Barbour's parallel model for the relationships between different religions. In the second section, I reconstruct the discourse on science and religion developed by the Palestinian-American scholar Ismail Raji al-Faruqi. The third section is devoted to the ideas of the Persian-American scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr. In the fourth section, I examine the views of the Iranian author Mehdi Golshani. The fifth section reconstructs the theories of the Algerian author Nidhal Guessoum. In the final section, I argue that a generalized use of the integration concept to refer to the entire debate on Islam and science is unhelpful. While these positions do not appear to instantiate Barbourian integration of science and religion, they do move toward what Barbour (skeptically) describes as integration between religions.


  • Stefano Bigliardi
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Social Sciences


  • Ismail Raji al-Faruqi, Ian Barbour, Mehdi Golshani, Nidhal Guessoum, integration, Islam and science, Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-519
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch