September 16, 2011
Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Carthage College Yamina Mermer discusses the Islamic philosophy of science. Photo by Anna Montoya.
The month-long holy Islamic holiday of Ramadan corresponds with the beginning of the school year, and Rollins celebrated this cultural heritage with the community. During Ramadan, the Muslim community fasts from sun-up to sun-down every day for a month in an effort to bring awareness to those who suffer the pains of hunger, and, by feeling their experiences, to elicit a greater sense of compassion and charity.
As part of the celebration, Rollins invited noted Islamic scholar Yamina Mermer to campus to discuss the "Islamic Philosophy of Science," as part of the Thomas P. Johnson Distinguished Visiting Scholar series. Mermer is associate professor of Islamic studies at Carthage College in Wisconsin. Dedicated to the need for interfaith work, she is also a member of a scriptural reasoning group that brings Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures in a faithful conversation with each other.
During her presentation, Mermer discussed how science is well suited to observe and describe the natural world, but only philosophy and religion can provide meaning. According to Mermer, scientific observation can name regularities and make predictions by formulating scientific laws, but does not explain why things happen any more than the term “spring” explains why the weather is changing. For example, when Mermer dropped a pen, it did not fall because of the law of gravity; rather, gravity is what science has labeled this regular relationship between objects.
In Islam, nature is the cosmic Quran. “So as the scripture is sacred, so too is the world around us,” said Mermer. “Everything is a symbol pointing to the transcendent reality of God.” She cited the Quran as an example of this, emphasizing how the majority of the Islamic holy book is not concerned with religious practices, but with the natural world around us.
To show religion’s ability to provide meaning, Rollins’ Muslim Student Association (MSA) offered two opportunities for the campus community to partake in Ramadan. On Friday, August 26, they invited the campus community participate in a fast with them for a day, followed by a traditional Middle Eastern break-fast feast as well as a discussion about Ramadan and the origins of this tradition. On Friday, September 2, in honor of Eid Ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, students, faculty and staff shared a delicious Middle Eastern meal and partook in philosophical conversations to create a sense of community.
To learn more about Ramadan, Islam and the ways you can become involved in religious discussions and festivities on campus, visit the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
By Michael Barrett (Class of 2013) and Anna Montoya (Class of 2013)
Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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