Technology Transfer from Islamic World to the West

By O. A. Joseph

Technology TransferThe traditional view of Western historians is that European culture is the direct descendant of the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. According to this theory, the works of classical authors-mostly in Latin, but some in Greek-were preserved by the Church during the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, to re-emerge as a potent source of inspiration in the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Few would deny the strong influence of classical literature on European thought. Until recently, the works of Homer, Thucydides and the Greek dramatists, of Tacitus, Virgil, and Horace, to name but a few, were part of the cultural background of every educated European.

In science, however, the situation is very different. During the sixth century after the Hijra (twelfth century CE) the writings of such scholars as al-Farabi, al-Ghazali, al-Farghani (Afragamus), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) were translated into Latin and became known and esteemed in the West. The works of Aristotle, soon to become the predominant influence on European thought, were translated from the Arabic together with the commentaries of Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd to the medieval Europeans. These commentaries were as important as the works of Aristotle himself in forming European scientific and philosophical thought. Many other scientific works, which had originally been translated from Greek into Arabic centuries earlier, were now translated into Latin. However, most of these were from the Hellenistic period, and though they were written in Greek, their authors came from all the countries of the Near East and the eastern Mediterranean. It seems, therefore, that some European writers, being deeply appreciative of the literary masterpieces of Greece and Rome, have been led to believe that Western civilization, in all its aspects, was based upon Greek and Roman foundations. This is not the case with science and technology.

Charles Singer has discussed some of the points already touched upon. The Graeco-Roman heritage was built upon the great civilizations of the Near East and, furthermore, the major achievements in science and technology that are called Hellenistic and Roman were mainly Near Eastern achievements due to the scholars and artisans of Egypt and Syria. The pre-Islamic civilizations from Spain to Central Asia and northern India were inherited by Islam. Under the influence of Islam and the Arabic language, the science and technology of these regions was developed and improved. Referring to the Eurocentrism of Western historians, Singer wrote: ‘Europe, however, is but a small peninsula extending from the great land masses of Afrasia. This is indeed its geographical status and this, until at least the thirteenth century CE, was generally also its technological status.’ In skill and inventiveness during most of the period CE 500 to 1500, Singer continues: ‘the Near East was superior to the West… For nearly all branches of technology, the best products available to the West were those of the Near East… Technologically, the West had little to bring to the East. The technological movement was in the other direction.’

The adoption by Europe of Islamic techniques is reflected by the many words of Arabic derivation that have passed into the vocabularies of European languages. In English, these words have often, but not always, entered the language from Italian or Spanish. To cite but a few examples: in textiles-muslin, sarsanet, damask, taffeta, tabby; in naval matters-arsenal, admiral; in chemical technology-alembic, alcohol, alkali; in paper-ream; in foodstuffs-alfalfa, sugar, syrup, sherbet; in dyestuffs-saffron, kermes; in leather-working-Cordovan and Morocco. As one would expect, Spanish is particularly rich in words of Arabic origin, especially in connection with agriculture and irrigation. We have, for example, tahona for a mill, acena for a mill or water-wheel, acequia for an irrigation canal.

The contributions of Islamic civilizations to science, notably mathematics and astronomy, have long been recognized. The application of this scientific expertise to technology, however, has been neglected. The story of Islamic technology is far from complete. Research in this area is still at an early stage and, notwithstanding what has been published so far, contributions by Islam to science and technology have yet to be fully revealed. During the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth centuries, Western research into Islamic science yielded outstanding results, but only after a long period of silence has that interest now been revived. There is still a need for additional coordinated research if significant results are to be obtained. The field of alchemy/chemistry and chemical technology is a case in point. At present this is an almost totally neglected area in which few seem to have taken even a slight interest since the admirable research several decades ago of Kraus, Ruska, Stapleton, and Wiedemann.


Adapted from “Transfer of technology from the Islamic world to the West” Fountain Magazine

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Ten Principles for Those Seeking the Path of Allah

By Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali

Seeking the Path of AllahPrinciple 1: Have a sincere, unwavering intention.

Prophet Muhammad said, “each person will be rewarded for what he intended” (Muslim). This calls for determination in the heart to continuously act or to abstain from something only for God’s sake. A sign of having sincere intentions is that one does not change his resolve for fleeting reasons; what is done for God, the Truth, should not be forsaken to please His creation.

Principle 2: Work purely for God, (the One) without partners or associates.

Prophet Muhammad said: “worship God as though you see Him, but if you do not see Him (know that) He sees you” (Muslim). A sign of working purely for God is to not accept anything except the truth and to see everything else besides the truth as vain and fleeting. As the prophet said, “Let the slave of the dinar perish” (Bukhari). One should also beware of falling into doubtful matters. As Prophet Muhammad: “Leave what is doubtful for what is not doubtful” (Tirmidhi and Nasa’i).

Principle 3: Align one’s desires with the guidelines and rulings of the Shari`ah (Islamic law).

Be patient in times of hardship and difficulty, when struggling with personal desires, and in avoiding sinful acts and pleasures. Whoever practices this regularly reaches a state whereby he is in his sleep as if he were awake [worshipping], in his mixing with people as if he were in seclusion, in his fulfillment as if he were hungry, in his pride as if he were humiliated, and in talking to others as if he were silent.

Principle 4: Base one’s actions on following [the prophet’s way and scholarly opinions], and not on innovation.

This prevents the following of one’s own desires and becoming proud of one’s own opinion. Surely, a person who takes himself as his own ruler will not succeed.

Principe 5: Have high ambitions, and do not procrastinate.

It is said: “do not leave today’s work until tomorrow,” because actions are built on each another; and whoever is content with a lower [status] will be deprived of a higher one.

Principle 6: Be aware of one’s incapability and insignificance.

This is not referring to laziness in worship or lack of productivity in work. It is about realizing that one is not capable of doing any action without support from God, the Most Capable, and Most Generous. This awareness is also manifested in viewing other people with respect and reverence, for people are means and helpers of one another on the path to God, the Exalted and Most Bountiful.

Principle 7: Have fear and hope, and do not be sure that your good deeds are accepted until you have witnessed this [on the Day of Judgment].

One should have hope not because of the good deeds themselves, but because God Himself is the Most Benevolent and Generous.

Principle 8: Be consistent in one’s wird (a regular litany of worship), for the one without a wird does not have an additional source of support from God.

With a wird, the soul opens up in public and private; it becomes more mindful of the rights of others; it increases in loving and hating for others what it loves or hates for itself. Also, having that wird makes one work more for God in order to please Him, just as a person would love that God does for him what he finds pleasing.

Principle 9: Be constantly observant of your actions and do not stray away from the remembrance of God even the blink of an eye.

For the one who is always observant of his heart for the sake of God, and does not let other than God enter his heart besides, is one who has truly found God, experienced His Benevolence and has reached ‘ilm al-yaqeen (certain knowledge). This is manifested in seeing God as the Enabler or Mover of everything that remains still or in motion around us. One’s mindfulness then increases from there until he recognizes that God is the Sustainer of everything, so His interaction with the creation is characterized by the best of manners. (Exemplifying this), the Prophet said: “My Lord taught me good manners, and He gave me the best of manners.”

Principle 10: Know what one should be occupied with.

Know what one should be occupied with, both internally and externally for whoever thinks that he is not in need of obeying [God and His messenger] is a broke man who is in opposition to God’s words: “…Say ‘If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you’” (Aal `Imran: 31)

This is the foundation upon which have been built castles like no other.


Taken with slight editorial modifications from SuhaibWebb – Imam Ghazali.


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Darwinism Poses a Threat to Society

Darwinism Poses a Threat to Society

By A. O.


We must be aware that people raised in this way will bring nothing but harm to the societies in which they find themselves.

Nobody who thinks in an unbiased, honest, and free manner can genuinely believe that unconscious atoms came together by chance, organized themselves, and finally brought about people who think, reason, feel, see, hear, establish civilizations, make discoveries, create works of art, rejoice, feel sorrow, or even study the atoms that compose their own bodies under the electron microscope. Yet this is the irrational belief that Darwin’s theory imposes upon people. Despite the scientific terminology they use, that is the essence of Darwinist logic.

People who accept such “logic” begin to lose their powers of rational analysis and judgment. After accepting the most impossible scenario as quite logical, they become unable to see the most obvious proofs of religious faith. Such people, who have lost the ability to think and to see the most obvious truths, to understand the suggestions and propaganda to which they are subjected for what they are, and who blindly accept that idea just because the majority do so, can easily be drawn in any direction. After arriving at that stage, such people cannot even use their own intelligence, a condition that makes it much easier to give them a gun and send them off to be a terrorist or else convince them that “Darwin says that this person belongs to an inferior race, so you may kill him or her.”

In fact, the damage done to young people by Darwinism in many countries is seen to be irreversible. Hooligans in England, neo-Nazis in Germany, the skinheads in America, and the majority of young people throughout the world have lost all human qualities. Such people, who are killers and monsters, are living examples of Darwinism’s danger. The reason why such countries are having terrible trouble with their young people is that those young people received a Darwinist education.

We must be aware that people raised in this way will bring nothing but harm to the societies in which they find themselves. One day, today’s young people will be adults, administrators, diplomats, and teachers. So if we hope to see a modern, scientifically advanced and rational civilization in the future, we must educate our young people with that aim in mind. This can be done only if we free our young people from Darwinist ideas and falsehoods and explain to them that they are not evolved animals, but rather God created them, have a soul, and possess the greatest knowledge among all living things. In other words, we must tell them the truth.

If young people know that they have been created with an honorable and superior soul and consciousness, they will behave accordingly. If they are made to believe that they have evolved from animals, share a common ancestor with apes, and other similar ideas, they will look at life as a fight and resort to all methods to win it. A selfish and irresponsible generation, capable of all kinds of cruelty and with no concept of tolerance, love, respect, or brotherhood will then emerge. In any case, they will see themselves and other people as essentially valueless due to their belief that all people are descended from animals. Believing that there is no point in leading an honorable and moral life, they will selfishly display all kinds of wickedness and immorality.

What needs to be done, therefore, is to eliminate the dictatorship of evolutionist concepts and theories in schools, books, the press and the media, social platforms – in short, everywhere – and to direct people toward the rationality and deep thinking demanded by both the Qur’an and science.


Taken with slight editorial modifications from the book titled, “Why Darwinism Is Incompatible with the Qur’an” by the author.

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The Color of Blood: Red Blood Cells

By A. O.

Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells are produced by the stem cells in the bone marrow, that rubbery tissue in the largest bones in the body.

Red blood cells, or erythrocytes, are the most numerous cells in the blood. Their job is to transport oxygen, the most essential material for the survival of all the body’s cells. They go further than this, however, and in order to purify the body, also carry away the carbon dioxide that accumulates in the cells as a byproduct of metabolism.

Approximately 99% of the blood cells in a drop of blood is made up of red blood cells. There are around 25 trillion of these erythrocytes in our bodies. This figure is hundreds of times the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. To realize that the red blood cells in your body could easily cover half of a football pitch will help you grasp the magnitude of this number. Stretched end to end, these cells would form a tower 50,000 kilometers (or 31,070 miles) high. If we were able to spread the erythrocytes in the body out like a carpet, then these cells would cover an area of 3,800 square kilometers (or 1,467 square miles). There are so very many red blood cells in the body that every second up to 3 million new red blood cells enter the bloodstream just to replace those that have died.

Red blood cells are produced by the stem cells in the bone marrow, that rubbery tissue in the largest bones in the body. During its four-month lifespan, a single red blood cell travels between the lungs and the other tissues of the body 75,000 times before returning to the bone marrow. By the time you turn this page, you will have lost some 3 million red blood cells throughout your body. At the same time, a similar number will also have been produced in your bone marrow.

Maintaining this equilibrium is most important. Blood cells that have completed their life spans are always replaced by new ones because the bone marrow is in a constant state of production. Its cells begin this intensive process with the receipt of a chemical signal, and this production then comes to an end once the need has been met.

The chemical communication that brings this about is truly staggering to contemplate. Cells communicate by means of hundreds of different kinds of molecules. The message that needs to be transmitted to the stem cell is attached to a protein and sent on its way. The target cell extends a protein receptor that will let the incoming signal be recognized. When this receptor binds to the protein carrying the chemical message, the information reaches the target cell.

This process, briefly described here in just a few sentences, is actually far more complex. Today’s scientists are still trying to unravel the secrets of this communication system. The “decision” by which stem cells send the daughter cells they have produced to the place in the body that requires them is one of the most important fields of present-day research. The fact that this system in the body is of a complexity whose secret human beings have been unable to unravel is just one clear indication that it was created by Almighty God, Who possesses infinite wisdom.

How is it possible to produce the right amount of red blood cells in the body every second and then direct them confidently to the points where these new cells are needed? It is impossible for a lone independent cell in the bone marrow to know what is happening at the other parts of the body. The signaling system employed by those cells is also the most perfect communication network possible. This perfect structure is, of course, the work of God, Who knows all the processes taking place in the body, right down to the finest detail, and Who creates and constructs them in the first place.

Red blood cells are exceedingly small because before entering the bloodstream, they expel most of their contents—their nucleus, mitochondria, ribosome and other organelles. They do this in a literally conscious manner because they “know” they must absorb a miraculous molecule known as hemoglobin (about which, you’ll find more details in the following pages). By expelling most of their organelles and picking up hemoglobin, red blood cells enable this molecule to perform its tasks in a reliable manner, during its lifespan of approximately four months.

The red blood cell membrane serves an important sheath for hemoglobin, which lacks a cell membrane of its own and is therefore exceedingly vulnerable. Thanks to various enzymes contained in this protective layer, hemoglobin is also protected against degeneration.

Red blood cells have to open up a rather wide space inside themselves to make room for the nearly 300 million hemoglobin molecules that get packed into any single red blood cell. These 300 million hemoglobin molecules will take up 90% of the space in a single erythrocyte.

Red blood cells are the only cells in the blood which have lost their nuclei. The organelles which they expel are immediately destroyed by the white blood cells, the body’s disposal operatives. What is surprising is that despite being deprived of the nucleus, which carries all their data, red blood cells still preserve the enzymes and proteins necessary for them to survive without difficulty during their 120-day lifespan. Thanks to these special precautions taken for them throughout those four months, they are able to remain alive. However, they are now merely transporters that are unable to divide and hence, unable to reproduce themselves as ordinary cells do.

As this one example will show, there is enormous complexity in the systems in the human body. Before you finish this book, you will see many astonishing details regarding the blood and the systems that it controls. The way that a red blood cell expels the organelles inside it, sacrificing its own nucleus—which contains all the essential data for its long-term survival; keeping only those elements necessary for it to live for a fairly brief length of time—is just one of those details. In order to be able to do all this, the red blood cell has to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary organelles during its short lifespan, know that it must absorb hemoglobin—and, even more crucially, be aware of the importance of hemoglobin for human life. If just one of these tiny details is neglected, if the red blood cell does not take hemoglobin into itself for example, then oxygen would not be distributed in the body.

We need to point out that this behavior—the red blood cell’s essentially agreeing to its own demise—deals a severe blow to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Charles Darwin assumed that all organisms wage war to ensure the survival of their descendants. Richard Dawkins, today’s proponent of Darwinism, suggests that this struggle for survival can be reduced even to the genetic level and that the genes of every living thing fight to ensure their existence. In fact, however, the erythrocyte, a living cell, behaves in a manner that is the exact antithesis of that hypothesis: It sacrifices itself by abandoning its nucleus and its genes. That is because it did not come into being by chance during any “struggle for survival” as Darwinists would have us believe, but was created with a specific function.

This function is never corrupted for as long as we live. God, Who has created everything totally flawlessly, has also created this special cell, which constitutes one of the countless proofs of His creation. In the Qur’an, it is revealed that God is the Lord of all:

“I have put my trust in God, my Lord, and your Lord. There is no creature He does not hold by the forelock. My Lord is on a Straight Path.” (Hud: 56)

Note by the Editor:

Allah the Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what means,

“He [Allah] hath created the heavens without supports that ye can see, and hath cast into the earth firm hills so that it quake not with you, and He hath dispersed therein all kinds of beasts. And We send down water from the sky and We cause (plants) of every goodly kind to grow therein. This is the Creation of Allah. Now show me that which those (ye worship) beside Him have created. Nay, but the wrongdoers are in error manifest!” (Luqman 31: 10-11)


“We shall show them Our portents on the horizons and within themselves until it will be manifest unto them that it is the Truth. Doth not thy Lord suffice since He is Witness over all things? How! Are they still in doubt about the meeting with their Lord? Lo! Is not He surrounding all things?” (Fussilat 41: 53-54)


A.O. is a Turkish writer and author.

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Balancing Our Inner and Outer Worlds

By Mansoor Alam

Balancing Our Inner and Outer WorldsIt is now known that the old theory of a static Universe is no longer tenable. Modern science has revealed that there is nothing fixed or static in the Universe, and it has been expanding ever since it came into existence.

Thus, by the nature of its creation, our Universe is dynamic and everything in it is perpetually changing.

Our Earth has been changing as well. Scientists say that it has taken millions of years and several eons of adaptation for it to become suitable to support life.

Our mountains, oceans, deserts, and forests have traded places on Earth through the shifting sands of time; so has the life that it supports. Some species have come and gone and others have adapted to change. These natural changes have occurred everywhere on Earth: in its air, on its land, and under its seas. Here also, there is nothing fixed or static.

Our Earth has existed far longer than human beings. So have all other living species. Therefore, they are well adapted to natural change. The same may not be said of us humans, though. Endowed with the power of rational thinking, humans also have the ability and willingness to destroy themselves. According to Einstein:

“By painful experience, we have learned that rational thinking does not suffice to solve the problems of our social life. Penetrating research and keen scientific work have often had tragic implications for mankind, producing, on the one hand, inventions which liberated man from exhausting physical labor, making his life easier and richer; but on the other hand, introducing a grave restlessness into his life, making him a slave to his technological environment, and—the most catastrophic of all—creating the means for his own mass destruction.” [Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years, p. 152]

The main motivation of powerful nations pursuing this course is to dominate weaker ones – by hook or by crook. Initially, the self-destructive forces produced by following such a course remain relatively imperceptible, thus producing a false sense that their power will last forever. But as time goes on, these nations meet their eventual destruction despite their power. History is full of such stories: ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Rome and even some parts of the New World are now graveyards of powerful civilizations. This destruction is not a random act but is the result of their wrong actions based on the law of the rise and fall of nations.

Actually, there are two aspects of this law i.e., two sides of the same coin. Both are essential, for the rise, growth, and the moral and intellectual advancement of a nation: i) knowledge of the forces of the outer world, and ii) knowledge of the forces of the inner world within human beings. One without the other is bound to lead to ultimate destruction of any civilization. With the proper balance between these two forces, human societal advancement will know no bounds, both intellectually and spiritually.

But first of all, let us be clear that a nation cannot hope to recover from its abyss unless it changes its inner self. Stopgap measures or doing patch up work only to treat the symptoms would only prolong suffering and would not cure the disease. A nation needs a fundamental change in its outlook, its psychology, and its attitude if it truly wants to change its destiny.

One way to achieve glory is by assigning two separate areas of human thought: one for scientific thinking – done by people of science, and the other for religious thinking – done by people of religion. One is not allowed to interfere with the other. Religious people take charge of Religion and its hierarchy, and the science people take charge of Science and its hierarchy.

After Galileo was sentenced to death by the Church for his scientific thinking that was in conflict with the Church, it made perfect sense to the West to create these two mutually exclusive compartments of human thought. This separation has apparently enabled the West to gain mastery over the forces of the outer world as never before.

Since at the present time we are in the grips of this Western approach, we tend to believe that this is the way to glory. But let us see what modern Western thinkers have to say about this approach.

“For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary… Representatives of science have often made an attempt to arrive at fundamental judgments with respect of values and ends on the basis of scientific methods and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. These conflicts have all sprung from fatal errors. . . For the scientist, there is only “being,” but not wishing, no valuing, no good, no evil, no goal.” [Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years, p. 152]

“We began our era of scientific efficiency confident that materialistic triumphs would solve life’s problems. We are finding we were wrong. Life is not as simple as that.” [J.W.T. Mason, Creative Freedom, pp 183-4.]

“Man has created a new world with its own laws and destiny. Looking at his creation, he can say, truly, it is good. But looking at himself what can he say? … While we have created wonderful things we have failed to make of ourselves beings for whom this tremendous effort would seem worthwhile.” [Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis & Religion, pages 1-2]

Why does the West fail to deal with the complex problems of humankind? After all, the West came to their current methodology after a long, hard-fought battle with the Church resulting in the constitutional separation of the Church and the State. The answer may actually lie in the very principle of the separation of Church and State which essentially created a dualistic self: one private, the other public; one related to the Church, the other related to the State; one subjective, the other objective; one devoted to Sunday, the other devoted to the rest of the days.

Thus, God became associated with the private life of citizens while the State took control of their public life. Forces within the inner world of human beings thus became disassociated with the forces of their outer world. This created tension in people’s inner and outer worlds. All the power the West has mustered through the control and mastery over the outer world seems unable to control the destructive forces of its inner world. One has become bright and shiny while the other has remained dark and gloomy. The fullness of body and emptiness of the soul are the obvious manifestations of practicing this Western approach to life. In the words of Erich Fromm:

“Ours is a life not of brotherliness, happiness, contentment but of spiritual chaos and bewilderment dangerously close to the state of madness — not the hysterical kind of madness which existed in the Middle Ages but a madness akin to schizophrenia in which the contact with reality is lost and thought is split from affect.”

“Those who try to find a solution by returning to traditional religion are influenced by a view which is often proposed by religionists, that we have to choose between religion and a way of life which is concerned only with the satisfaction of our instinctual needs and material comfort…Priests and ministers appear to be the only professional groups concerned with the soul, the only spokesmen for the ideals of love, truth, and justice.” [Psychoanalysis & Religion, pages 1-2.]

Contrary to the approach practiced by the West, the past glory of Muslims in Science was not the result of the separation of science and religion. Those revolutionary Muslim scientists were truly devoted to religion while carrying out their scientific studies. There were no contradictions between their scientific thinking and their religious thinking. In fact, the driving force behind their scientific discoveries was the Quranic command to observe the signs of God spread throughout the Universe (3:189-191, 16:48, 21-30-32, 23:18, 26:7-8, etc.).

The achievements of those Muslim scientists were truly astounding—maybe more than the Western scientific achievements—because they were pioneers in creating and advancing so many branches of new knowledge (without the modern facilities enjoyed by later scientists). It may even be fair to say that there would not have been a Western renaissance in such a short time without Muslim achievements in science. Western historians of science (e.g., Robert

Briffault, George Sarton, John W. Draper) generally recognize the fact that the West actually built its scientific superstructure on the giant shoulders of great Muslim scientists of the past.

So, there we have it: two distinct approaches to science. One may be called the isolationistic approach, the other holistic or integrated approach. These two approaches create their own distinctive social, cultural, and moral environments. This is where the second aspect of the rise and fall of nations comes into play. The inner soul of Western society is suffering from its isolationist approach even though it has acquired unprecedented power over the forces of nature through science. Poet Iqbal (1877-1938) has beautifully captured this dilemma of the West thus:

He, who seeks the path of stars in the outer world;

Could not travel the path of his own thoughts!

He, who has captured the rays of the shining Sun;

Couldn’t find the morn of his life’s own dark night!

In other words, human reason can subdue the forces of nature but cannot by itself find a satisfactory solution to the complexity of the problems of humankind. The holistic or integrative approach is the only way to balancing both aspects of human existence: material (the outer world) as well as spiritual (the inner world) which is: 1) to acquire knowledge of the forces of the Universe and 2) to use its power for the benefit of all humankind without any discrimination whatsoever. This is how we can create a long-term balance between the outer and inner worlds.


Taken with slight editorial modifications from

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Reviving Muslim Intellectual Position in the World (P 1)

Reviving Muslim Intellectual Position in the World (P 1)

By Mansoor Alam

Muslim IntellectualIntrospection: Demand of the Time

According to the Qur’an a nation cannot hope to recover from its abyss unless it changes its inner self (called (Nafs) by the Qur’an). Stopgap measures or doing patch-up job only to treat the symptoms (as many Muslim leaders seem to advocate) would only prolong suffering and would not cure the disease. A nation needs a fundamental change in its outlook, in its psychology, and in its attitude if it truly wants to change its destiny. The Qur’an says: “Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change their inner selves.” (Ar-Ra`d: 11) This is Allah’s law of change (Al-Anfal : 53).

This change is required because a people going through a period of downfall suffer from slavish mentality: “They have hearts wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle, – nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning).” (Al-A`raf: 179) [Yusuf Ali]

A nation suffering from the mental maladies mentioned in the above verse cannot hope to recover its power of original thinking without changing its inner self. And without the power of original thinking, a nation that is down and being pushed around, as we are, cannot acquire power over its own world let alone acquiring power over the forces of the outer world.

Our individual scientific achievements, although worthy of appreciation, are without a central cohesive organization and really do not count much as far as recapturing the Muslim nation’s lost glory is concerned. These individual Muslim achievements are part of the grand scheme of whatever organization (for example, NASA) they may happen to be working for. For Muslim scientific achievements to be effective (like producing their own space shuttle), there needs to be an organizational structure that is organically related to the body of the Muslim Ummah, which possesses unique life of its own and not dependent on others.

Shift Needed in Purpose and Mindset

One way to achieve glory in science is through the philosophy of secularism being practiced by the West. The West achieved its scientific prowess only after giving God and Caesar their separate dues, and by assigning them two separate arenas of human thought: one for scientific thinking – done by people of science, and the other for religious thinking – done by people of religion. One was not allowed to interfere with the other. Religious people took charge of the Church and its hierarchy, and the science people took charge of Science and its hierarchy – resulting in polarized society.

Contrary to the approach practiced by the West, the past glory of Muslims in Science was not the result of separation of science and religion. Those revolutionary Muslim scientists were truly devoted to Islam while carrying out their scientific studies. There were no contradictions between their scientific thinking and their Islamic thinking. In fact, the driving force behind their scientific discoveries was the Qur’anic command to observe the signs of Allah spread throughout the Universe (3:189-191, 16:48, 21:30-32, 23:18, 26:7-8, etc.).

Therefore, if we are serious about changing our condition then we need to analyze our current situation. No matter how many Islamic conferences and workshops we organize and attend—and proclaim Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great!); no matter how many Hajj pilgrimages we perform and chant Allahumma Labbaik (O Allah! Here I am); no matter how much we pray and fast and recite the holy Qur’an; no matter how much we praise our Prophet (PBUH) and his companions; no matter how much we ask Allah to improve our condition; things will not improve for the Muslim Ummah— although all of the above are important—if we continue to tread the same path we have been on for the past thousand years, ever since we lost our preeminent position in the world of knowledge.

Our actions speak louder than our words. Our past actions have brought misery and consequent collapse of our knowledge base.  If all we do is try to preserve our status quo, then how can we expect to recapture the glory of our historic achievements? How can simply repeating words (even if they are Qur’anic words) and performing religious rituals (even if done with sincerity) uplift us intellectually in this world? Intellectual advancement of any community requires hard work, dedication, conviction, commitment, organization, discipline, perseverance, creativity, innovation, and, above of all, unity of purpose and harmony in efforts.

Are we as a Muslim Ummah doing these things or simply claiming to be ‘practicing’ Muslims by performing the five pillars as a ritual while all the time trying—individually—to move up the economic or political or professional ladder? Why would Allah change our condition when we treat Islam as a ritual and are mostly interested in personal advancement? This is simply not the way of Allah. As noted above we need to make some fundamental changes in our outlook and psychology if we are serious about reclaiming our lost knowledge base (13:11).

Reverence of the past is one thing, but blindly following it is quite another. Opening online universities and teaching Muslim youth Fiqh and Shariah in the name of Islam (developed after more 200 years after the Prophet (PBUH)) is certainly not the way to reclaim our knowledge base. The Muslim Ummah must be willing to take some bold steps in its approach to modern knowledge. As Allama Iqbal says:

“The only course open to us is to approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude and to appreciate the teachings of Islam in the light of that knowledge, even though we may be led to differing from those who have gone before us (page 78). …The teaching of the Qur’an that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems (Page 134). …False reverence to past history and its artificial resurrection constitute no remedies for a people’s decay. ‘The verdict of history’, as a modern writer has happily put it, ‘is that worn-out ideas have never risen to power among a people who have worn them out.’ The only effective power, therefore, that counteracts the forces of decay in a people is the rearing of self-concentrated individuals. Such individuals alone reveal the depth of life. They disclose new standards in the light of which we begin to see that our environment is not wholly inviolable and requires revision (page 120).” [The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, page 120]

This poses a real challenge for the Ummah because the established religious hierarchy has historically opposed any such revision. Notwithstanding this opposition, the present tumultuous time is forcing us now in that direction. But the revision which Allama Iqbal is talking about cannot be undertaken without a Muslim intellectual revolution based on proper knowledge.

To be continued


Taken with slight editorial modifications from


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