Program on Medicine and Religion

Scientific Discoveries and Theological Realities: Exploring the Intersection of Islam and the Human Sciences

Scientific Discoveries and Theological Realities: Exploring the Intersection of Islam and the Human Sciences


This project, supported by generous funding from the John Templeton Foundation, brings experts in Islamic theology and human science together to create a new vocabulary for thinking about and addressing two core questions:

  1. Can scientific notions of risk (e.g medical, statistical) and religious concepts of necessity be combined to generate a schema of human health needs?
  2. What is the soul and how are its capacities manifested bodily?

These questions will serve as the contextual basis for examining Islamic epistemological theories and theological frameworks, and deliberating upon social scientific, public health, and medical data. Instead of addressing these questions at the ethical level, we will aim to tackle deep epistemological, philosophical, and metaphysical questions and generate a conceptual vocabulary that allows for bringing scientific methods of inquiry, and the resulting data, together with theological reasoning and knowledge, to generate greater understanding and insight about the world around us and our place within it.

Working Group Plan

Retreat Number Location Preliminary Agenda Expected Outputs Materials
1 (April 12/13) Darul Qasim -Share reflections on the 2 framing questions
-Discuss Islamic epistemological frameworks for assessing science and scientific data
2 (Aug 3/4) University of Chicago -Present an overview of the science of medical prognostication, risk assessment, and population health epidemiology
-Review Islamic theological notions of public benefit and individual necessity and the priorities of human society
-One to two page outlines of at least 2 papers
3 (Nov 22/23) Darul Qasim -Revisit framing question #1: Can scientific notions of risk and religious concepts of necessity be combined to generate a schema of human health needs?
-Group work on abstract for academic, scholarly, and lay presentation
-Revised paper outlines
4 (Jan 24/25) Darul Qasim -Study theological conceptions of the soul and the soul-body connection -Discuss neuroscientific and philosophical data on brain, brain-body connection, and about the mind -One to two page outlines of at least 2 papers
5 (Mar 6-8) Concurrent w/ PMR conference in Cambridge, MA -Revisit framing question #2: What is the soul and how are its capacities manifested bodily?
-Group work on abstracts
-Revised outlines
-At least 3 abstracts crafted for submission at meetings and conference
6 TBA, Coinciding with II&M Conference -Critique and revise individual paper and panel presentations
-Group work on presentations for academic, scholarly, and lay communities
-Full drafts, with revision suggestions, of at least 4 papers
-At least 3 draft powerpoint presentations resulting from the project

Working Group Members

Taha Abdul Basser is an independent scholar of Islamic ethics and law who has acted as a shari`a compliance reviewer, examiner and consultant to investment funds, investment banks, retail banks, financial advisories, legal advisors and other for-profit and not-for-profit entities since 1998. He was lead contributor to the Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program’s database software on Islamic financial ethics and jurisprudence, independent study course instructor (“Principles of Islamic Finance”) at Harvard Business School and a Senior Tutorial Advisor at Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Language and Civilizations. He is currently the Harvard Islamic Society Chaplain and a member of the Harvard Chaplains. He received his Bachelors (A.B.) in the Comparative Study of Religion from Harvard College, a Master’s (A.M.) in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University and is an ABD from the same department. In addition to his father (with whom he began the study of standard Arabic as a child), he has studied the traditional Islamic disciplines with teachers from the Sudan, the Yemen, Tanzania and Bahrain. He has received traditional licenses (ijazat) in Islamic ethics and law, Prophetic traditions (hadith) and other disciplines from several teachers, including Shaykh Nizam Ya`quby

Dr. Ahsan Arozullah is currently a medical director in patient safety and pharmacovigilance at Astellas Pharma Global Development. Prior to joining Astellas, he was an Associate Professor in the sections of General Internal Medicine and Health Promotion Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago with research interests including the impact of low health literacy and social support on racial/ethnic disparities in healthcare utilization. He continues to mentor fellows and junior faculty members as a clinical associate professor at the University of Illinois. Dr. Arozullah is a senior student member of the board of directors of Darul Qasim, an institute of higher Islamic learning. He also serves as a volunteer physician and a member of the advisory board for the IMAN (inner-city Muslim Action Network) Health Clinic Initiative, a free health clinic in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Dr. Arozullah graduated from Northwestern University Medical School and completed his Internal Medicine residency and Chief Residency at Northwestern as well. Following residency training, he complted a General Internal Medicine Fellowship and Master’s in Public Health (MPH) at Harvard  with training in clinical epidemiology and health services research.

Shaykh Jihad Hashim-Brown is Director of Research at the Tabah Foundation in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. After receiving degrees in Psychology and Near East Studies from Rutgers University, New Jersey in 1994, he went on to study Arabic rhetoric, dialectic theology, and Islamic legal theory with prominent religious authorities in Damascus. In accordance with the criteria of traditional learning methods he studied privately with notable scholars like Muhammad Adib al-Kallas, Dr. Saeed Ramadan al-Buti, and Muhammad Ali al-Shuqayr receiving his scholarly licenses (ijazah) after ten years of intensive training. This included a year in the Minor Atlas of Morrocco reading the Comendium of Compendia of al-Taj al-Subki with the scholar and jurist Muhammad Ghali al-Dadisi in the “antique” madrasa of Tanalit. Mr. Hashim-Brown travels widely, teaching and lecturing in the service of engaging classical jurisprudence and theology with the contemporary age. He has also appeared frequently on numerous satellite television programs in the region.

Shaykh Mohammad Amin Kholwadia is a well-known Muslim scholar and theologian. Shaykh Amin received training in Islamic sciences such as the exegesis of the Qur’an, the science of Hadith transmission, and Islamic law and theology in the Indian subcontinent. His studies culminated at the world renowned Islamic seminary in Deoband, India. He received further instruction in Islamic Law at the Shariah Court of Patna in Bihar, India. He also received instruction in Islamic theism and theosophy from his mentor Shaykh Meeran at Sabil al-Rashad in Bangalore, India. Shaykh Amin has worked as a professional translator and a book reviewer in England where he was raised. Since his arrival in Chicago in 1984, he has served as a Muslim scholar in various capacities and as an advisor for Muslim schools, Muslim organizations, and the Council of Religious Leaders of Greater Chicagoland. Shaykh Amin has co-authored Islamic Finance: What it is and what it could be (published in England). He has also written a book on Qur’anic exegesis entitled A Spark From the Dynamo of Prophethood. In the works is a book on Ghazalian eschatology. In 1998, Shaykh Amin founded Darul Qasim, an institute of higher Islamic learning where both undergraduate and post-graduate studies are conducted under his direction and leadership. This effort, along with global speaking engagements and counseling services he provides, keep his academic faculties alive and sharp.

Katherine M. Klima, DNP, CNM is a certified nurse midwife with more than 35 years of clinical experience in women’s health care. She holds a doctorate in nursing practice from Madonna University, masters and undergraduate degrees in midwifery and nursing from the University of Michigan, and has completed a fellowship in clinical medical ethics at the University of Chicago’s MacLean Center. She has done research on Muslim women’s attitudes, practices, and health care needs regarding religious fasting during pregnancy, Islamic bioethical concerns related to prenatal genetic testing, and the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women in southeast Michigan. Most recently she completed a quality improvement pilot project on the use of a decision aid to promote informed choice for prenatal genetic testing in the outpatient setting.

Dr. Aasim Padela is an emergency medicine physician, health services researcher, and bioethicist whose scholarship focuses on the intersection of community health, religious tradition, and bioethics. His empirical research assesses how religion-related factors impact health behaviors and outcomes among American Muslims, and influences the practice of American Muslim physicians.  Read more about Dr. Padela here.

Dr. Faisal Qazi is the President of MiNDS, a community service organization and a charitable network of providers in Southern California that treat uninsured patients free of cost. MiNDS has the distinct honor of receiving a recognition of service award from the California State Assembly in 2013. He has also served as the President of the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP), a national Public Health group and was the architect of AMHP’s health policy initiatives in 2009. He organized a number of delegations to Washington, D.C., and Sacramento to advocate for health reform and its subsequent implementation. As a result of such efforts AMHP had the honor of being invited to attend the Healthcare reform bill signing celebration in March 2009. Dr. Qazi has been practicing Neurology in Southern California since 2006. He is an assistant professor and lecturer at Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pomona, California. Dr. Qazi is also an adjunct professor of Islamic bioethics and spiritual care at Bayan College, Claremont Lincoln University.

Omar Qureshi completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Missouri – Columbia in Microbiology in 1995 and later obtained a M.Ed. in Science Education – Curriculum and Instruction from the same institution. As a teacher in Saudi Arabia, he also studied various Islamic Sciences with Sh. Salman Abu-Ghuddah. He continued his Islamic studies in Damascus, Syria at Ma’had al-Tahdhib wa-l-Ta’lim and privately with local Damascene scholars such as Sh. Hussain Darwish. Currently Omar serves as the Dean of Academics and Instruction at Islamic Foundation School located at Villa Park, Illinois. In addition to teaching, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Comparative Education at Loyola University in Chicago, where he is focusing on Muslim moral educational philosophy.

Dr. Muhammed Volkan Yildiran Stodolsky was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. He received his undergraduate education at Bates College, graduating Summa Cum Laude with honors in History. As a Beinecke fellow, he completed his M.Phil. degree in Classical and Medieval Islamic History at Oxford University. At the University of Chicago, he studied in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, completing an M.A. degree and his Ph.D. dissertation, which was recently accepted with honors. In 2008, he traveled to Syria as a Fulbright fellow to conduct research concerning the Hanafi school of Islamic law. Dr. Volkan had the opportunity to study classical Islamic texts with Arab, Turkish, and Indian ‘Ulama. In Damascus, he benefited from the lessons of Dr. Nur al-Din Itr and his student Dr. Isam Eido, the blind scholar Hassan al-Hindi, and Muhammad Na’im al-Araqsusi. In Istanbul, he learned from Shaykhs Mehmet Savas, Ahmet Akin Cigman, Seyyid Ahmet Gezer, Seyyid Abdurrahman Balca, and Abdurrahman Ercan Elbinsoy. Last but not least, during his time in Chicago, he has studied with Shaykh Mohammed Amin Kholwadia. Dr. Volkan’s research interests include Islamic law and legal history, historiography, the instrumental Islamic sciences (syntax, semantics, logic, and rhetoric), Hadith and its methodology, Islamic theology (especially the Maturidi school), and Sufism.