In 1997, Stephen Gould coined the term ‘Non-Overlapping Magisteria’ (NOMA) to label the conviction that science, dealing in the realm of ‘facts’, and religion, dealing (as he suggests) in the realm of ‘values’ should be carefully distinguished as fields of enquiry. This cleaving of the investigation of nature and its phenomena from the study of the Divinity is, for many theists, problematic. The casual reader of the Qur’an quickly understands why this is true for many Muslims, so insistent it is on celebrating the natural world as the supreme manifestation of the sovereignty and mercy of God.
One recent Muslim reaction to the notion that religion and science do not mix has been the attempt to show the inherent compatibility of the Qur’an with all that modern science has to offer. This trend, termed ‘scientific exegesis’ is, however, incapable of countering the firm trajectory of modern science in its resolute dissolution of the relationship between the realms.
Considering how Muslim mutakallimūn of the classical and post-classical periods related to nature and its study within their works of kalām offers an alternative perspective to what Gould considers the ‘standard position’ on the boundaries between ‘science’ and ‘religion’. We will find that physical theory, that is, the investigation of matter, features within a global enquiry into all reality and that for the theist, since reality includes the Divine, there need be – can be – no neat divisions of magisteria.