The Decline of Islamic Civilization and Terrorism
The Great Tragedy -Decline of Muslim Scholarship
By: Aftab Ahmad Khan
“O’ Lord! increase my knowledge”(Qur’an;20:114)
Significance of Knowledge in Islam :
Human being has been blessed with many qualities, some are evident while others are latent. The most important quality is the ability of man to learn and use the knowledge to his advantage. Allah says in Qur’an: “And He (God) imparted in to Adam the knowledge of the names of all things ; then He placed them before the angels and said: "Tell Me the nature of these if ye are right.”(Qur’an;2:31). From this it may legitimately be inferred that the “the knowledge of all names” denotes here man’s faculty of logical definition and, thus of conceptual thinking. God created and sent the human to this world by imparting the knowledge, intelligence and the faculty of rationale thinking to exploit all which is in the heaven and earth to his benefit. This make human a superior specie to all others even to angels, to enable him to be His vicegerent. It is now up to the man to prove himself worthy of His trust by making use of these faculties to explore the mysteries of the nature and the world (made subservient to him) to get benefited in this world and hereafter. It is mentioned in Qur’an: “He is the One Who spread out the earth and placed thereon mountains and rivers, created fruits of every kind in pairs, two and two and makes the night cover the day. Certainly in these things there are messages for those who think.”(Qur’an;13:3). “He has created the heavens and the earth to manifest the Truth; Exalted be He above they all that they associate (with Him).”(Qur’an;16:2), “Surely it is Allah Who causes the seed and the fruit-stone to split and sprout. He brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living. It is Allah, Who does all this; then why are you being misled?”(Qur’an;6:95). “It is He Who has made the earth manageable to you, to walk through its tracts and eat of His provided sustenance. To Him is the return at resurrection.”(Qur’an;67:15). Man has managed to make paths through deserts and over mountains: through rivers and seas by means of ships; through the air by means of airways; he has made bridges and tunnels and other means of communication. But this he has only been able to do because Allah has given him the necessary intelligence to acquire knowledge and has made the earth tractable through it.
In the first revelation of Qur’an, the acquisition of knowledge is emphasized: “Read: In the name of thy Lord who created,”(Qur’an;96:1). Islam is the faith based upon knowledge and thinking with wisdom, for it is ultimately knowledge of the Oneness of God combined with faith and total commitment to Him that saves man in this world and hereafter. Allah says in Qur’an: “Call people to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and best advice, and reason with them, if you have to, in the most courteous manner: for your Lord knows best who strays from His Way and He knows best who is rightly guided.”(Qur’an;16:125). The Qur’an is full of verses urging man to use his intellect, to deliberate, to think and to know, for the objective of human life is to ascertain the Truth, which could be achieved by recognizing and exploring the sings of Allah all around: “Surely in the heavens and the earth there are signs for the true believers.”(Qur’an;45:3), “Of His signs, one is that He created you from dust; and then behold you men are scattered throughout the earth. And of His signs, another one is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may find comfort with them, and He planted love and kindness in your hearts; surely there are signs in this for those who think about it. And yet others of His signs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors; surely there are signs in this for the knowledgeable.(Qur’an;30:20-22). In order to understand the ‘signs’ in the ‘creation of the heavens and the earth’ one has to be ‘knowledgeable’. The main branches of knowledge include; Logic, Mathematics, Sciences (Physical, Behavioral, Social, Earth, Biological, Medicine, and Technological Sciences), Humanities and Philosophy. The knowledge in one or more of these branches can be attained by the study of nature and study in respective fields of knowledge by any believer or non believer alike. For the believer one source of knowledge is Qur’an and Sunnah, while other source is the knowledge of these branches attained and preserved by humanity over a long period of human history. This knowledge is gained and retained through the intellect endowed to man by Allah at the time of his creation as mentioned at verse 2:31 in Qur’an. In case of a believer, the understanding of ‘signs’ will strengthen his faith, while a non believer will be inclined to fully comprehend the reality of Islam. Qur’an has repeatedly drawn the attention of man towards the signs of God at; Qur’an;3:190, 6:37,38 & 100, 17:12, 36:41-44, 71-76, 40:80,81, 56:63-67 and also at many other places. Allah says in Qur’an: “He also made subservient to you whatever is between the heavens and the earth; all from Himself. Surely there are signs in this for those who think.”(Qur’an;45:13), “Will they not then ponder on the Qur’an?..”(Qur’an;4:82). Hence it becomes obligatory for the believers to acquire the knowledge of this world along with the religious sciences to understand the signs of Allah and to harness the powers of nature at ‘heaven and earth; made subservient’ to man to derive benefit out of them. Ignoring the knowledge of religious sciences at the cost of other knowledge or vice versa may be against the spirit of Qur’an (Qur’an;45:13, 13:3). The scholar have always enjoyed respect in the Islamic societies. The emphasis is on acquisition of useful and beneficial knowledge. According to Qur’an: “But among men there is many a one that prefers a mere play with words (to divine guidance) so as to lead (those) without knowledge astray form the path of God, and to turn it to ridicule: for such there s shameful suffering in store.”(Qur’an;31:6).
The traditions (Hadith) of Prophet (peace be upon him) are full of references to the significance of knowledge. Such sayings of the Prophet as; "Seek knowledge even in China", "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave", and "Verily the men of knowledge are the inheritors of the prophets", are well known to Muslims urging them to seek all types of useful knowledge (not restricted to religious sciences only) from whatever sources it might be found. Transmitted by Ahmad and Darimi, narrated by Abu Hurayrah: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “The knowledge from which no benefit is derived is like a treasure out of which nothing is spent in the cause of Allah.”(Al-Tirmidhi Hadith.280). Narrated by Abu Hurayrah: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “When a man dies, his acts come to an end, but three (acts), recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him (for the deceased)”.(Sahih Muslim Hadith. 766). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), basically conveyed guidance of Allah to the mankind. As far as knowledge of this world, the opinions of expert in particular field be made use of: Narrated by Anas ibn Malik & Aisha; Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) happened to pass by the people who had been busy in grafting the trees. Thereupon he said: If you were not to do it, it might be good for you. (So they abandoned this practice) and there was a decline in the yield. He (the Prophet) happened to pass by them (and said): What has gone wrong with your trees? They said: You said so and so. Thereupon he said: You have better knowledge in the affairs of the world. (Sahih Muslim Hadith.1101). Narrated by Anas ibn Malik: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: He who issues forth in search of knowledge is busy in the cause of Allah till he returns from his quest. (Al Tirmidhi Hadith.420). AbuHurayrah Narrated with reference to Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) as saying: “.. He who treads the path in search of knowledge, Allah will make that path easy, leading to Paradise for him and those persons who assemble in one of the houses of Allah (mosques), recite the Book of Allah and learn and teach the Qur’an (among themselves)…”(Sahih Muslim Hadith.1245). The importance of education is evident from the historical fact that, the pagan prisoners of war, captured by Muslims in the battle of Badr were asked to teach the illiterate Muslims to earn their freedom. Obviously the pagans were not to teach religious knowledge! Most of the companions also possessed a high standard of knowledge and wisdom, narrated by Ali ibn Abu Talib: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "I am the house of wisdom and Ali is its door."(Al-Tirmidhi Hadith, 6087). “Yahya related to me from Malik that he heard that Luqman al-Hakim made his will and counseled his son, saying, "My son! Sit with the learned men and keep close to them. Allah gives life to the hearts with the light of wisdom as Allah gives life to the dead earth with the abundant rain of the sky."(Al-Muwatta Hadith 59.1). Like men, woman are equally required to excel in the pursuit of education and knowledge. The Prophet (peace be upon him) declared: “Search for knowledge is a sacred duty imposed on every Muslim man and woman.”
Education System :
Keeping in view the importance of knowledge highlighted by Qur’an and the Prophet (peace be upon him), the system of education in the Muslim world was developed. The learning took place in a variety of institutions, among them; the Maktab (kuttab), or elementary school; the palace schools; the Halqah, or study circle, bookshops and literary salons; and the various types of colleges, the meshed, the masjid, and the madrasah. All the schools taught essentially the same subjects. The simplest type of early Muslim education was offered in the mosques, where scholars who had congregated to teach the Qur’an and Hadith began, before long, to teach the religious sciences to the keen adults. Mosques increased in number under the caliphs, Some mosques, such as that of al-Mansur, built during the reign of Harun ar-Rashid in Baghdad, or those in Isfahan, Mashhad, Ghom, Damascus, Cairo, and the Alhambra (Granada-Spain), became centres of learning for students from all over the Muslim world. Each mosque usually contained several study circles (Halqah), so named because the teacher was, as a rule, seated on a dais or cushion with the pupils gathered in a semicircle before him. Elementary schools (maktab, or kuttab), in which pupils learned to read and write, were developed into centres for instruction in elementary Islamic subjects. Students were expected to memorize the Qur’an as perfectly as possible. Some schools also included in their curriculum the study of poetry, elementary arithmetic, physical sciences, penmanship, ethics (manners), and elementary grammar. Maktabs were quite common in almost every town or village in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Sicily, and Spain.
Madrasahs existed as early as the 9th century, but the most famous one was founded in 1057 by the vizier Nizam al-Mulk in Baghdad. The Nizamiyah, devoted to Sunnite learning, served as a model for the establishment of an extensive network of such institutions throughout the eastern Islamic world, especially in Cairo, which had 75 madrasahs, in Damascus, which had 51, and in Aleppo, where the number of madrasahs rose from six to 44 between 1155 and 1260. Important institutions also developed in the Spanish cities of Córdoba, Seville, Toledo, Granada, Murcia, Almería, Valencia, and Cádiz, in western Islam, under the Umayyads. Al-Azhar University Cairo, Egypt is the chief centre of Islamic and Arabic learning in the world, founded by the Fatimids in 970 C.E. The basic program of studies was, and still is, Islamic law, theology, and the Arabic language. Late in the European Middle Ages philosophy and medicine were added to the curriculum, but these subjects were soon eliminated. In the 19th century philosophy was reinstated. The modernization have resulted in the addition of social sciences at its new supplementary campus. Presently a number of Islamic Universities have been established in the Muslim countries where apart from theology, the other sciences are also taught, but they are few in numbers. There are thousands of traditional madrasah and Dar-ul-Aloom in countries with Muslim populations where only Islamic theology and religious sciences are taught, producing millions of ulema (religious scholars) with almost no knowledge of social, physical sciences and other branches of knowledge.
Theological and Scientific Knowledge :
Early Muslim education emphasized practical studies, such as the application of technological expertise to the development of irrigation systems, architectural innovations, textiles, iron and steel products, earthenware, and leather products; the manufacture of paper and gunpowder; the advancement of commerce; and the maintenance of a merchant marine. After the 11th century, however, denominational interests dominated higher learning, and the Islamic sciences achieved preeminence. Greek knowledge was studied in private, if at all, and the literary arts diminished in significance as educational policies encouraging academic freedom and new learning were replaced by a closed system characterized by an intolerance toward scientific innovations, secular subjects, and creative scholarship. This denominational system spread throughout eastern Islam between about 1050 and 1250 C.E.
Thus during first half of millennia of its history, Islamic civilization has been keen to gain knowledge, be it physics, chemistry (alchemi), algebra, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, social sciences, philosophy or any other field. The high degree of learning and scholarship in Islam, particularly during the 'Abbasid period in the East and the later Umayyads in West(Spain), encouraged the development of bookshops, copyists, and book dealers in large, important Islamic cities such as Damascus, Baghdad, and Córdoba. Scholars and students spent many hours in these bookshop schools browsing, examining, and studying available books or purchasing favourite selections for their private libraries. Book dealers traveled to famous bookstores in search of rare manuscripts for purchase and resale to collectors and scholars and thus contributed to the spread of learning. Many such manuscripts found their way to private libraries of famous Muslim scholars such as Avicenna, al-Ghazali, and al-Farabi, who in turn made their homes centres of scholarly pursuits for their favourite students. Europe owes it awakening form the dark ages to the Renaissance and Enlightenment by the transfer of knowledge including lost Greek heritage through the Muslim scholars and centers of learning at Spain and their contact with the Muslim world through Crusades. As long as Muslims continued the pursuit of all branches of useful worldly knowledge of physical science, technology along with the religious sciences, the Islamic Civilization was at its zenith.
Stages of Evolution:
The education and learning process may be divided in to various stages among the Mulsims. The renaissance of Islamic culture and scholarship developed largely under the 'Abbasid administration in Eastern side and under the later Umayyads in the West, mainly in Spain, between 800 and 1000 C.E. This latter stage, the golden age of Islamic scholarship, was largely a period of translation and interpretation of classical thoughts and their adaptation to Islamic theology and philosophy. The period also witnessed the introduction and assimilation of Hellenistic, Persian, and Indian knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, algebra, trigonometry, and medicine into Muslim culture. Whereas the 8th and 9th centuries, mainly between 750 and 900 C.E, were characterized by the introduction of classical learning and its refinement and adaptation to Islamic culture, the 10th and 11th were centuries of interpretation, criticism, and further adaptation. There followed a stage of modification and significant additions to classical culture through Muslim scholarship. Then, during the 12th and 13th centuries, most of the works of classical learning and the creative Muslim additions were translated from Arabic into Hebrew and Latin. The creative scholarship in Islam from the 10th to the 12th century included works by such scholars as Omar Khayyam, al-Biruni, Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi, Avicenna (Ibn Sina), at-Tabari, Avempace (Ibn Bajjah), and Averroës (Ibn Rushd).
Muslim Contributions in the Field of Medicine, Science and Technology :
The contritbutions in the advancement of knowledge by the traditional Islamic institutions of learning (Madrasahs, Maktab, Halqa & Dar-ul-Aloom) are enormous, which have been summed up in Encyclopedia Britannica: “The madrasahs generally offered instruction in both the religious sciences and other branches of knowledge. The contribution of these institutions to the advancement of knowledge was vast. Muslim scholars calculated the angle of the ecliptic; measured the size of the Earth; calculated the precession of the equinoxes; explained, in the field of optics and physics, such phenomena as refraction of light, gravity, capillary attraction, and twilight; and developed observatories for the empirical study of heavenly bodies. They made advances in the uses of drugs, herbs, and foods for medication; established hospitals with a system of interns and externs; discovered causes of certain diseases and developed correct diagnoses of them; proposed new concepts of hygiene; made use of anesthetics in surgery with newly innovated surgical tools; and introduced the science of dissection in anatomy. They furthered the scientific breeding of horses and cattle; found new ways of grafting to produce new types of flowers and fruits; introduced new concepts of irrigation, fertilization, and soil cultivation; and improved upon the science of navigation. In the area of chemistry, Muslim scholarship led to the discovery of such substances as potash, alcohol, nitrate of silver, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and mercury chloride. It also developed to a high degree of perfection the arts of textiles, ceramics, and metallurgy.”
The traditional Islamic institutions of learning produced the great scholars and scientists to quote few like: Jabir Ibn Haiyan (Geber) is known as the father of Chemistry-Alchemi, he died in 803 C.E. Al-Khwarizmi (Algorizm) (770–840 C.E) was a researcher of mathematics, algorithm, algebra, calculus, astronomy & geography. He compiled astronomical tables, introduced Indian numerals (which became Arabic numerals), formulated the oldest known trigonometric tables, and prepared a geographic encyclopaedia in cooperation with 69 other scholars. Ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi (Alkindus) (800–873 C.E) was an intellectual of philosophy, physics, optics, medicine, mathematics & metallurgy. Ali Ibn Rabban Al-Tabari(838–870 C.E) was a scholar in medicine, mathematics, calligraphy & literature. Al-Razi (Rhazes) (864– 930 C.E), a physical and scientist of medicine, ophthalmology, smallpox, chemistry & astronomy. Ar-Razi's two most significant medical works are the Kitab al-Mansuri, which became well known in the West in Gerard of Cremona's 12th-century Latin translation; and Kitab al-hawi, the "Comprehensive Book". Among his numerous minor medical treatises is the famed Treatise on the Small Pox and Measles, which was translated into Latin, Byzantine Greek, and various modern languages. Al-Farabi (Al-Pharabius) (870- 950 C.E) excelled in sociology, logic, philosophy, political science & music. Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahravi (Albucasis; 936 -1013 C.E) was an expert in surgery & medicine known as the father of modern surgery. Ibn Al-Haitham (Alhazen) (965-1040 C.E); was the mathematician and physicist who made the first significant contributions to optical theory since the time of Ptolemy (flourished 2nd century). In his treatise on optics, translated into Latin in 1270 as Opticae thesaurus Alhazeni libri vii, Alhazen published theories on refraction, reflection, binocular vision, focusing with lenses, the rainbow, parabolic and spherical mirrors, spherical aberration, atmospheric refraction, and the apparent increase in size of planetary bodies near the Earth's horizon. He was first to give an accurate account of vision, correctly stating that light comes from the object seen to the eye.
Abu Raihan Al-Biruni(973-1048 C.E); was a Persian scholar and scientist, one of the most learned men of his age and an outstanding intellectual figure. Al-Biruni's most famous works are Athar al-baqiyah (Chronology of Ancient Nations); at-Tafhim ("Elements of Astrology"); al-Qanun al-Mas'udi ("The Mas'udi Canon"), a major work on astronomy, which he dedicated to Sultan Mas'ud of Ghazna; Ta'rikh al-Hind ("A History of India"); and Kitab as-Saydalah, a treatise on drugs used in medicine. In his works on astronomy, he discussed with approval the theory of the Earth's rotation on its axis and made accurate calculations of latitude and longitude. He was the first one to determine the circumference earth. In the filed of physics, he explained natural springs by the laws of hydrostatics and determined with remarkable accuracy the specific weight of 18 precious stones and metals. In his works on geography, he advanced the daring view that the valley of the Indus had once been a sea basin.
Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 981–1037 C.E); was a scientist of medicine, philosophy, mathematics & astronomy. He was particularly noted for his contributions in the fields of Aristotelian philosophy and medicine. He composed the Kitab ash-shifa` ("Book of Healing"), a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, and the Canon of Medicine, which is among the most famous books in the history of medicine. Ibn Hazm,(994-1064 C.E) was a Muslim litterateur, historian, jurist, and theologian of Islamic Spain. One of the leading exponents of the Zahiri (literalist) school of jurisprudence, he produced some 400 works, covering jurisprudence, logic, history, ethics, comparative religion, and theology, and The Ring of the Dove, on the art of love. Al-Zarqali (Arzachel) (1028-1087 C.E); an astronomer who invented astrolabe (an instrument used to make astronomical measurements). Al-Ghazali (Algazel) (1058-1111 C.E); was a scholar of sociology, theology & philosophy. Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) (1091-1161 C.E); was a scientist and expert in surgery & medicine. Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1128- 1198 C.E); excelled in philosophy, law, medicine, astronomy & theology. Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi (1201-1274 C.E); was the scholar of astronomy and Non-Euclidean geometry. Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (Ibn Battuta) (1304-1369 C.E); was a world traveler, he traveled 75,000 mile voyage from Morocco to China and back. Ibn Khaldun(1332-1395 C.E) was an expert on sociology, philosophy of history and political science.
Tipu, Sultan of Mysore (1783-1799 C.E) in the south of India, was the innovator of the world's first war rocket. Two of his rockets, captured by the British at Srirangapatana, are displayed in the Woolwich Museum of Artillery in London. The rocket motor casing was made of steel with multiple nozzles. The rocket, 50mm in diameter and 250mm long, had a range performance of 900 meters to 1.5 km. Turkish scientist Hazarfen Ahmet Celebi took off from Galata tower and flew over the Bosphorus, two hundred years before a comparable development elsewhere. Fifty years later Logari Hasan Celebi, another member of the Celebi family, sent the first manned rocket into upper atmosphere, using 150 okka (about 300 pounds) of gunpowder as the firing fuel. The list is very long. These names and their contributions in various fields of knowledge indicate the level of scholarship base developed among he Muslims one thousand years ago.
The Great Tragedy -Decline of Muslim Scholarship :
These great Muslim scientists and scholars did not study at University of Paris (1170), Oxford (1167) or MIT Massachusetts (USA; 1861), they were produced by the Islamic Madaris and Darul- Alooms. The great tragedy of Islamic Civilization happened from within, when the Islamic Madaris and Darul- Alooms shifted the priority by concentrating on the study of theological and religious sciences for gaining spiritual heights, discarding the scientific knowledge considering it to be source of evil. Consequently these Muslim institutions of learning are no more producing great scholars and scientists as they had done in the past, rather they are now being blamed as a source of extremism. This decline of Muslim scholarship traditions did not occur overnight, it occurred due to the devastation suffered by Muslims in political and military field in there stages spread over about five centuries. The first stage of devastation of Muslim resources, lives, properties, institutions, and infrastructure took place over a period of over one hundred years (1085-1099). It started with the fall of Muslim Toledo (1085 C.E), Corsica and Malta (1090 C.E), Provence(a region and former province in south east France east of river Rhone) (1050 C.E), Sicily (1091 C.E) and Jerusalem (1099 C.E). Second stage of devastation lasted for over hundred years, in the form of Crusader invasions (1217-1291 C.E) and Mongol invasions (1219-1329 C.E). Crusaders active throughout the Mediterranean from Jerusalem and west to Muslim Spain. During this period the fall of Muslim Cordoba (1236 C.E), Valencia (1238 C.E) and Seville (1248 C.E) took place. Mongols devastated from the eastern most Muslim frontier, Central and Western Asia, India, Persia to Arab heartland culminating in the fall of Baghdad (1258 C.E) and the end of Abbasid Caliphate. Besides massacre of large number of Muslims in Baghdad, the major scientific institutions, laboratories, and infrastructure were destroyed in leading Muslim centers of civilization. The third stage of devastation of Muslims occurred due to the end of Muslim rule in Spain (1492 C.E) and their forced expulsion (ethnic cleansing). More than one million volumes of Muslim works on science, arts, philosophy and culture was burnt in the public square of Vivarrambla in Granada. With the decline of Muslims in scientific knowledge and its transfer to the West, began the era of Renaissance followed by Reformation and beginning of colonization in Africa, Asia, and the Americas by the Western Civilization.
Although the Ottomans and Mughal empires were very powerful but they ignored to concentrate on acquisition of scientific knowledge. They even did not take advantage of scientific development taking place in the West. Invention of Printing Press is a case in point. The Jews expelled from Spain were welcomed and accommodated by the Ottomans but their expertise in Printing Press was not used for mass production of books of religious and scientific learning, because the Ulema opposed it. Being cut off form the benefits of science and technology, the Ulema traditionally started opposing every scientific invention. Initially they even opposed the loud speaker, radio, television etc not realizing that every invention can be used for good purpose or for bad purpose. A knife commonly used for cutting of fruits and vegetables or by a surgeon to save a life while it can also be used by a criminal to kill an other man, but does not make it illegal or Un-Islamic tool.
The Influence of Islamic Learning on the Western Civilization:
The influence of Islamic learning on the West has been phenomenal, an extract from Encyclopedia Britannica is an eye opener for the Muslims: “The decline of Muslim scholarship coincided with the early phases of the European intellectual awakening that these translations were partly instrumental in bringing about. The translation into Latin of most Islamic works during the 12th and 13th centuries had a great impact upon the European Renaissance. As Islam was declining in scholarship and Europe was absorbing the fruits of Islam's centuries of creative productivity, signs of Latin Christian awakening were evident throughout the European continent. The 12th century was one of intensified traffic of Muslim learning into the Western world through many hundreds of translations of Muslim works, which helped Europe seize the initiative from Islam when political conditions in Islam brought about a decline in Muslim scholarship. By 1300 C.E when all that was worthwhile in Muslim scientific, philosophical, and social learning had been transmitted to European schoolmen through Latin translations, European scholars stood once again on the solid ground of Hellenistic thought, enriched or modified through Muslim and Byzantine efforts.”
Islam and Main Branches of Knowledge :
Islam is a faith based on the Reality and rational thought not on unscientific myths like many other religions. The learning of religious sciences go along with learning of other branches of knowledge which include social and physical sciences. Islam encourages reasoning, discussions and dialogue. Allah says: “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance.” (Qur’an;16:125). The Qur’an contains more than 6000 ayaats (‘signs’) out of which more than thousand refer to various subjects of science, such as Astronomy, Physics, Geography, Geology, Oceanology, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Medicine, Physiology, Embryology as well as General Science, mostly un known to humanity at the time. It is found that the Qur’anic information on science does not conflict with any of the established scientific fact. It may go against certain scientific hypothesis or theories, which are not grounded in facts as many a times, the science takes U-turns. The Qur’an speaks about hundreds of things that were not known fourteen hundred year ago once Qur’an was revealed; but they have been proved recently, the details are available in the book ‘Qur’an and Science’ by Dr.Zakir Naik & "The Bible, The Qur’an and Science" by Dr. Maurice Bucaille, some of them are referred here:
The creation of the universe by ‘The Big Bang’: “Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?” (Qur’an;21:30). Initially there was gaseous mass before creation of galaxies: “Moreover, He Comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: "Come ye together willingly or unwillingly." They said: "We do come (together) in willing obedience.”(Qur’an;41:11). The shape of earth; “And the earth, moreover, hath He made egg shaped.” (Qur’an;79:30). Moon has reflected light and sun has its own light; "And (who) made the moon a light (nur, reflected light) in their midst and made the sun as a (Glorious) Lamp(siraja-own light).(Qur’an;71:16). Creation of living being;“ We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” (Qur’an;21:30). Creation of man from water;(Qur’an;25:54). The Sun Rotates:” It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: All (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course.” (Qur’an;21:33). “It is not permitted to the sun to catch up the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).” (Qur’an;36:40). The other examples are: The sun will extinguish;(Qur’an;36:38),(Qur’an;13:2). The expanding nature of universe;(Qur’an;51:47).Atoms can be divided;(Qur’an;10:61). The water cycle;(Qur’an;39:21), (Qur’an;30:24),(Qur’an;23:18). Mountains are like tent pegs firmly fixed providing stability; (Qur’an;78:6-7), (Qur’an;21:31), (Qur’an;79:32). Darkness in depths of ocean; (Qur’an;24:40). Plants & Fruits have male and female; (Qur’an;20:53) (Qur’an;13:3). The bee and its skills; (Qur’an;16:68-69). Lifestyle and communication of ants;(Qur’an;27:17-18). Honey has healing for humankind; (Qur’an;16:69). Sex determination factor for child; (Qur’an;53:45-46),(Qur’an;75:37-39). Embryological stages; (Qur’an;23:12-14), (Qur’an;75:37-39), (Qur’an;82:7-8). Embryo partly formed and partly unformed; (Qur’an;22:5). First sense of hearing developed then sense of sight; (Qur’an;32:9),(Qur’an;23:78). Importance of fingerprints: (Qur’an;75:3-4) and the existence of pain receptors in the skin: (Qur’an;4:56).
According to the famous scientist Albert Einstein; “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” Francis Bacon, the famous philosopher, has rightly said that a little knowledge of science makes you an atheist, but an in-depth study of science makes you a believer in God. A critical analysis reveals that most of Muslim scientists and scholars of medieval period were also eminent scholars of Islam and theology. The earlier Muslim scientific investigations were based on the inherent link between the physical and the spiritual spheres, but they were informed by a process of careful observation and reflection that investigated the physical universe. The worldview of the Muslims scientists was inspired by the Qur’an and they knew that: “Surely, In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day, in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, with which He revives the earth after its death and spreads in it all kinds of animals, in the change of the winds and the clouds between the sky and the earth that are made subservient, there are signs for rational people.”(Qur’an;2:164). “Indeed in the alternation of the night and the day and what Allah has created in the heavens and the earth, there are signs for those who are God fearing.”(Qur’an;10:6). They were aware that there was much more to be discovered. They did not have the precise details of the solar and lunar orbits but they knew that there was something extremely meaningful behind the alternation of the day and the night and in the precise movements of the sun and the moon as mentioned in Qur’an: One can still verify that those who designed the dome and the minaret, knew how to transform space and silence into a chanting remembrance that renews the nexus between God and those who respond to His urgent invitation.
Redressing The Great Blunder:
The great tragedy of Muslim history occurred over five centuries ago, when the study of Islamic sciences was separated from the other branches of knowledge (logic, Mathematics, Sciences (Physical, Behavioral, Social Earth, Biological, Medicine, Social and Technological Sciences), Humanities and Philosophy) in the Islamic learning institutions, considering it be evil and against the spirit of Islam. Gradually the Islamic institutions of learning (Madrasahs, Maktab, Halqa & Dar-ul-Aloom) started teaching the religious sciences only, resultantly now it is found that they are totally cut off from the other branches of knowledge. This is one of the major causes of decline of Islamic Civilization which needs to be redressed. Islam advocates to maintain balance between the life of this world and struggle for the reward in hereafter, thus asceticism and monasticism is not part of Islam. Allah says in Qur’an:“…But the monasticism which they invented for themselves We did not prescribe for them: (We commanded) only the seeking for the Good pleasure of Allah;…(Qur’an;57:27); “We have made you (Muslims) a moderate nation so that you may testify against mankind and that your own Messenger may testify against you.”(Qur’an;2:143). “..Our Lord! Give us the good life, both in this world and in the Hereafter..”(Qur’an;2:201). God has made all that is in the heaven and earth subservient to human for their benefit, Allah says in Qur’an: “It is He Who has made the earth subservient to you, to walk through its tracts and eat of His provided sustenance. To Him is the return at resurrection.”(Qur’an;67:15); “Do you not see that Allah has made subservient to your all that is in the heavens and in the earth, and has lavished on you His evident and hidden favors? Yet there are some people who still argue about Allah without knowledge, without guidance or an enlightening Book.”(Qur’an;31:20). To harness the creations of Allah, He has blessed the man with intellect and ability to acquire knowledge, not only of religious sciences but also about all other sciences for their benefit. This will enable him to be a good believer and to exploit the blessings of nature which Allah has left to be harnessed by man. The simple example of using sun light and wind to generate electric power, use of satellites for navigation (Global Positioning System) or for communication, is making good use of blessings of Allah (Qur’an;31:20), made possible through the knowledge of physical sciences and other branches. “He is the One Who has set up the stars for you, so that you might find your way thereby in the darkness whether you are on the land or the sea. We have spelled out Our revelations very clearly for people who have knowledge.”(Qur’an;6:97). Here the ‘knowledge’ obviously refer to the knowledge of astronomy (The science of celestial objects, including the earth in relation to them, space, and of the universe as a whole.) Some of the long range intercontinental missiles and spacecraft use ‘Celestial Guidance System’, (immune to jamming or other counter measures) to reach the general are of the target or destination, thereafter the terminal guidance systems takes on. The harsh fact is that the nations which excelled in all types of knowledge are leading the world.
The Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the second source of guidance after Qur’an, he was not only a Messenger who preached the true faith, but was also a military and political leader. His source of knowledge had the Divine origin, the Muslims have to follow the means of knowledge made available by God, through the system of this world. “…Allah never changes the condition of a people until they intend to change it themselves…”(Qur’an;13:11). “That is because Allah has never changed the blessings which He has bestowed on a people until they themselves changed the condition of their souls; verily Allah hears all and knows all.”(Qur’an;8:53). Muslim societies are still among the most illiterate societies in the world which is the major cause of their socioeconomic deprivation, extremism and sectarianism. In order to change their conditions, they need to make efforts to get mastery over knowledge of science & technology, social sciences as well as the knowledge of Islamic sciences, as preached and practiced by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Islam is a complete way of life, it does not separate the religion form the state and other aspect of life, be it social or political, hence there is a need to revive the Islamic institutions of learning (Madrasahs, Maktab, Halqa & Dar-ul-Aloom) to impart complete knowledge to its students at various levels. This will not only enable them to help earn their livelihood but would also enable them to understand the complexities of political and social sciences to live in the world which is now a global village due to modern modes of communications. The communication gap between the ‘preacher’ and the ‘preached’ will reduce, which will result in batter understanding of the message of Islam by the Muslims and non Muslims alike. The knowledge of the religious and othr branches are complimentary to each other, the balance should be maintained. With a common base of religious and other sciences, the advance knowledge for specialization in various disciplines will produce experts to achieve new heights in all fields. The blending of religious and other knowledge at lower and middle levels prior to separation at higher lever for specialization in a particular discipline, would broaden the vision and provide adequate depth to the students of religious and other sciences. They will be able to comprehend the signs of Allah; “He also made subservient to you whatever is between the heavens and the earth; all from Himself. Surely there are signs in this for those who think.”(Qur’an;45:13). It will also help in harnessing the nature and discover new mysteries by pondering the Qur’an as per divine commandment: “This Book (Al-Qur’an) which We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) is highly blessed, so that they may ponder upon its verses and the men of understanding may learn a lesson from it.”(Qur’an;38:29). It will not be appropriate to conclude that the knowledge of religious and other branches be abruptly mixed up at the institutions of religious as well as social and physical sciences. I order to avoid total confusion and collapse, this infusion has to be through a well orchestrated gradual process. The advanced level of specialization in respective fields of knowledge has to be maintained to achieve excellence.
The ever increasing number of inventions has made the humanity to enjoy the fruits of scientific developments. It is high time that Muslims get out of nostalgia and join the mainstream developed world to contribute in the scientific development and social sciences. With very strong heritage and tradition of learning it is not difficult to catch up, if a good start is made now, the Islamic civilization will again be able to produce great scholars like al-Biruni, Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi, Avicenna (Ibn Sina), at-Tabari, Avempace (Ibn Bajjah), Averroës (Ibn Rushd) and many more, who should contribute towards their own as well as development of humanity as whole. With the inherent strengths of the faith of Islam coupled with the knowledge of religion and other sciences, Muslims would be able to regain their lost glory among the community of nations. This will also attract the non believers to the faith of Islam as a practical and dynamic source of guidance for the good life here and hereafter according to the guidance provided by Allah though His last Messenger to the mankind. The Qur’anic prayer: “O’ Lord! Increase my knowledge”(Qur’an;20:114), is to be supported with the practical efforts by the Muslims.
Aftab Ahmad Khan MBA,MA,LADSC(USA)
Aftab Ahmad Khan MBA,MA,LADSC(USA)