Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Friday, March 22, 2024

From Science to Faith: Using a scientific approach to strengthen faith by Adrien Chauvet, A Muslim Scientist

Tune your spirituality and observe the world through the interplay of science and religion, for The Signs of God do not lead to the same path. 

Rich in reflection, this book provides answers to a fundamental question: How can we approach faith using scientific methodologies and frameworks?


The author impressively speaks from a vast scientific culture as well as a rigorous approach of the Islamic tradition. Accordingly, the author avoids falling prey to either scientific or religious dogma, precluding dialogue between two paradigms that are unfortunately seen as diametrically opposed to one another.

This book, punctuated with summaries that help the reader follow the argument, takes the reader on a journey across various themes such as the weather, electrons, waves, photosynthesis and the origin of life. But beyond scientific themes, it also addresses metaphysical themes such as freewill, predestination, good and evil, success and failure, renunciation and engagement. The author courageously tackles the question of evolution.

Hani Ramadan, Director of the Islamic Centre of Geneva

About the Author

Adrien Chauvet was born and raised in France, in a small village of Soultz-les-Bains. He was educated in a society in which science prevailed over all other forms of knowledge. Accordingly, he began his intellectual journey studying the natural sciences at Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France. At the age of 21, he travelled to the United States to pursue his studies, convinced that science was the ultimate way of knowing the world. He obtained his Doctor in Philosophy in Physics from Purdue University. During his studies, Adrien had the opportunity to interact with American Muslims communities. The Islam he discovered not only resonated with his Christian upbringing, but also appeared to coincide with his scientific view of the world. Adrien embraced Islam at the age of 24. He then progressed in his scientific career, while seeking to refine the convergence of science and Islam. This book recounts Adrien’s journey of bringing together science and faith. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


My life-long goal has been and continue to be one of seeking meaning about this world, my place within it, and the path I must take. This pursuit essentially seeks an inner peace, which my travails have come to indicate comes from Truth. By “Truth” I mean a conception of the world that is logical, practical and universal, i.e. encompassing all disciplines and all beings. I hope that this truth will give me the satisfaction of having made the right choice, and of being on the right path. And since I doubt that I am the only one looking for this kind of reassurance, I am here sharing my experiences.

Since a young age, I was immersed in the world of so-called “hard” sciences: mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. This socialization was first created by the scientists and teachers in my family. This nurturing was then reinforced in school, where I was acquainted with formal Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Through these studies I learned about the material world and about its governing laws. I also come from a place where the church’s campanile towers above all other houses in the town, and where chapels and crosses are scattered throughout the surrounding hills. I was thus raised as a practicing Christian. But besides the context of the church, religion was never made relevant in my every-day life. These monuments and rituals were only vestiges of a past that was made obsolete by science. Indeed, with modern sciences being in direct conflict with some of the Christian texts (when taken literally), I consequently left all religious practice and opted for a type of agnosticism. Religious moral and norms where still part of my mindset, but when it came to make sense of this world, I was conditioned to make science prevail over all other conceptual frameworks.

On the way to becoming a scientist, I however realized that science was not as “hard” as I initially thought it was. During these studies, I also had the chance to travel and discover various cultures and mentalities. Interestingly, out of all my experiences, only spirituality has allowed me to achieve a peace of mind and a sense of satisfaction that transcends the challenges of this life in a way that is lasting and all encompassing. It is only during my post-graduate studies where I was invited to Islam. I was appealed by its apparent logic and practicality. I then learned about the different aspects of this religion alongside local and international scholars, through private lessons, public lectures and through various scholarly and recreational travels. I discovered in Islam a much more convincing and practical philosophy of life that was not in apparent conflict my scientific background. As a result of my upbringing, I never put aside this love for science and I naturally decided to continue this spiritual journey in harmony with a certain scientific rational. More specifically, I sought to use this scientific rational to validate my spiritual quest.

While my religious studies were marked by spirituality, my scientific studies were instilled with materiality. Unfortunately, many people around me have set these two notions at odd with each-others by associating materiality with rational and

associating spiritual with irrational. Often times, material and spiritual ends up being opposed to each other to the point of becoming contradictory. Today, to believe without material evidences is absurd. Moreover, in the academic world, religion disturbs; it is synonymous with irrational, manipulative, old-fashioned and backward. Materialistic ideology, on the other hand, because it is founded on purely scientific ground, is of greater value. Indeed, why should we accept to be constrained by an ideology that is more than 1400 years old and to follow cultural practices in the name of a God whose existence we cannot scientifically evaluate? The secular discourse of today's societies is essentially fuelled by scientific advances used to discredit the existence of a superior entity. In general terms, materialist societies reject anything that cannot be measured by physical instruments. They reject anything that cannot be “dataified”. Whether it is from palaeontology, genetics, astrophysics, chemistry, etc., all the arguments and demonstrations lead us to believe that these so-called “exact” or “hard” sciences are worth much more than mere religious thinking; especially if our life choices depend on it.

To illustrate this opposition, let me narrate an experience I had during a visit to the University of Zurich, one of the leading research institute in Europe. It was in 2014 and, between two presentations of the Swiss Chemical Society, walking across the Irchel campus, I stopped in front of a small anthropology museum whose primary function was to illustrate the evolution of the human species through about twenty thematic booths. To my surprise, the first booth quoted a passage from the Bible stating that the world was only 6000 years old. This sentence was then ridiculed by contemporary scientific discourse. With implicit and abusive generalizations, the message was clear: the goal was to discredit religious views and make prevail a secular vision of the world supposed to be based on sound and objective scientific facts. A few meters further down the exhibit, the second booth proposed a genealogical tree of the human species. It explicitly showed by means of lighted pathways that after each discovery of ancient human skeletons, this tree had to be entirely remodelled… about a dozen times during the last century! A question naturally came to my mind: How on Earth, would such “scientific facts” be less illusory than a religious text, when both are subjected to equally aleatory interpretations?

The evolution of the human species is only one example, but the opposition between science and religion transpires throughout all aspects of our society. Whether it is through the radio broadcasts, newspapers or thorough our school curriculum, one is constantly incited to make prevail the scientific over the religious, the material over the spiritual. It is therefore without any surprises that many of my classmates choose to not believe in God as an outcome of their scientific studies. However, I argue that I found in Islam a logical and practical guide that allows me to walk along a rational path on spiritual land and achieve an inner peace.

In this essay my hope is to correct this apparent opposition between scientific and religious thinking. My goal is not to scientifically prove that God exists, at least not directly, but to demonstrate that scientific logic is not foreign to religious logic. On the contrary, I shine light on their complementarity and, consequently, justify, using scientific methods and arguments, a theist vision of the world, Islamically speaking. In

this aim, I share in a first chapter few of the introspective steps that I used to start this journey. The goal is to agree on definitions and on a frame of reference that helped me go beyond my “comfort zone”. In the second chapter I demystify science as it is perceived today. Through a series of examples drawn from my own experiences, I expose the limits of science. The goal of this chapter is to not fell prey to the current scientific dogma. In this passage I refer to scientific notions that I have simplified in order to make them accessible to non-specialists. Technical details are kept available in footnotes to satisfy the more curious. The third chapter is concerned with the establishment of a scientific theory and its requirements. I then compare these requirements to those that form the basis of faith, Islamically speaking. By comparing the two modes of thinking, the goal is to underline the rationality of the Islamic faith. It is in this chapter that I justify and describe an Islamic vision of the world. Consequently, the language used is biased, in the sense that it assumes the truth of Mohammed as a prophet. His name is then followed by the honourable mention “”, which means “May God’s peace and blessings be upon him”. Likewise, the mention of every other prophets is be followed by “” which means “Peace be upon him”, and that of the Companions of the Prophet  are followed by “”, which means “May God be pleased with him”. Some passages in this chapter also include extensive footnotes, which give the reader the choice to hover over or delve into the details of the arguments presented. I however encourage whoever is compelled by the so-called “scientific miracle of the Qu’ran” to read them carefully, as they address some of the common misconceptions. In a fourth chapter, I discuss the limits of a purely materialist thinking. The goal is to keep a harmony between the brain and the heart, between the intellect and the feelings, in our path towards God. Finally, in appendix is a more detailed discussion about the theory of evolution. The goal is to assess both the scientific arguments and the religious texts. With regard to the Quranic passages, I based all translations on the Sahih International. All verses are referenced according to the so-called Uthman codex. Regarding the prophetic narrations, they are referenced according to the electronic classification of the USC-MSA. Given the universal nature of the arguments in chapter one, two and four, this text is addressed to whoever is in search of spirituality, whatever their belief. It is only in the third chapter that I justify an Islamic world view, which implicitly leaves the followers of all other denominations the duty to justify their own beliefs. My goal is not to impose a vision of the world, but to propose one that I find appealing and to discuss it.


Dr.Adien Chauvet's Website : Dr Adrien Chauvet is an interdisciplinary Muslim scientist dedicated to exploring the interplay between science and religion.His research expertise bridges across the fields of physics, biology, chemistry and engineering. He studied fundamental physics in Strasbourg (France) and pursued a PhD in biophysics at Purdue University (USA, 2012). He then worked as a Marie-Curie fellow in bio-photonics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland) and at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). In 2016 he was appointed assistant professor of physical chemistry at the University of Sheffield. In his research, Dr Chauvet develops and applies novel laser-based spectroscopies and imaging techniques to characterise and assist the synthesis of novel functional materials; be it solid materials, single molecules, molecular complexes, polymers, and whole living organisms.Within the University of Sheffield, he is board member of the cross-faculty Energy Institute, for which he leads the development of early career researchers by upholding the equality, diversity and inclusion ethos. He is also part of the Institute for Sustainable Food as well as an active member of the University’s Muslim chaplaincy.


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