THE LEGACY OF ABRAHAM-ISLAM-6
Islam encourages thinking and acquisition of knowledge, which also include the scientific knowledge (Qur’an;3:190-191). The Qur’an uses word ‘Ulema’ only once, in the context of scholars, who ponder over the natural phenomena (scientist):
“Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky with which We bring forth fruits of various colors? Similarly, in the mountains there are streaks of various shades including white, red, jet-black rocks. Likewise men, beasts and cattle have their different colors. In fact, only those among His servants who possess knowledge fear Allah; surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Forgiving.”(Qur’an;35:27,28).
Hence the Islamic civilization enormously contributed towards the well being of humanity through advancements in all other fields including science and technology.
The contributions in the advancement of knowledge by the Islamic scholars, scientists and philosophers are enormous, which have been summed up by Encyclopedia Britannica:
The contributions in the advancement of knowledge by the Islamic scholars, scientists and philosophers are enormous, which have been summed up by Encyclopedia Britannica:
“The madrasahs (Islamic seminaries) 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 action, 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.” It further adds: “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 of most Islamic works into Latin during the 12th and 13th centuries had a great impact upon the European Renaissance. As Islam was declining in scholarship and
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
Most of the important Greek scientific texts were preserved in Arabic translations. Although the Muslims did not alter the foundations of Greek science, they made several important contributions within its general framework. When interest in Greek learning revived in
Western Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries,
scholars turned to Islamic Spain for the scientific texts. A spate of
translations resulted in the revival of Greek science in the West and coincided
with the rise of the universities. Working within a predominantly Greek
framework, scientists of the late Middle Ages reached high levels of
sophistication and prepared the ground for the scientific revolution of the
16th and 17th centuries.” According to Will Durant, the Western scholar, “For
five centuries , from 700 to 1200 (C.E), Islam led the world in power, order
and extent of government, in refinement of manners, scholarship and
Islam has been completed as a way of life (Din), through Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). At the time of Farewell Pilgrimage (632 C.E) at Makka, it was Revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him): “..Today I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you and approved Al-Islam as a Din (way of life for you) (Qur’an;5:3). the Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have lived for eighty one days after this revelation, he did not receive any new order or commandments regarding permissible or prohibitions. Hence Islam does not require innovations in its doctrine (fundamentals of faith & pillars of Islam), teachings and worship rituals. The challenges of modern age can adequately be met by the competent scholars through Ijtihad; which is the ‘exercise of rational judgment with independent reasoning’ with in the framework of Qur’an and Sunnah. Islam emphasizes learning the religious knowledge along with the other branches of knowledge. People involved in learning of religious sciences have been exempted for participation in war. Allah says: “It is not proper that all the believers take the filed (in time of war). From every group with in their midst some should refrain from going for the war, so that they may obtain the understanding of deeper knowledge of the Faith (Al-Islam), and teach their brethren when they return to them so that they may guard themselves (against evil)”(Qur’an;9:122). Muslims as inheritors of Qur’an are obliged to learn the message to pass on to others: “We have given the Book as an inheritance to those of Our servants (Muslims) whom We have chosen..”(Qur’an;35:32). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his life time himself prepared the pious companions in the knowledge of Islam, who very keenly asked the questions to clarify their doubts. Apart from four rightly guided caliphs, there were many scribes of Qur’an like Zaid bin Thabit, knowledgeable men like Ibn Abbas and Abdullah bin Umar. The list of such learned companions is very long, running in to hundreds. The treasure of valuable traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was carried from teacher to pupil, father to son and so on. It was segregated through an elaborate process known as the Science of Hadith and compiled in the form of books of authentic traditions (Ahadith) lead by Muhammad ibn Isma'il al- Bukhari (810-870 C.E), Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (817-875 C.E), Abu Da`ud (817-889 C.E), Tirmidhi (d 892 C.E), Nasa’i (830-915 C.E) and Ibn Maja (824-886 C.E).
The traditional orthodox Islamic scholars (Ulema) of all schools of thought have always played very important role in up keep of Muslims and spread of message of Islam as guardians of treasure of knowledge. However they developed tendency to remain confined to their respective schools of thought, enjoying considerable influence over their followers. This Scholasticism (the close adherence to the methods, traditions, and teachings of a sect or school) became impediment in the growth of progressive faith of Islam to meet the challenges of modern developments.
Many scholars, to name few like: Ibn Hazm (d 1064), Ghazzali (1058-1111) Zamakhshri (d 1144 C.E), Fakhr al Din Razi (d 1209 C.E), Ibn Taymiyah (1263-1328), Ibn Kathir (d 1373 C.E) made valuable contributions to advance the Islamic scholarship and knowledge. Besides some isolated efforts here and three, overall there has been stagnation in the learning and development process with emphasis on conforming to the existing knowledge base compiled back in 8th & 9th centuries C.E. Islam encourages thought process, Allah says: “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;38:39). Though the efforts made by scholars like Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-1792 C.E) and Shah Wali Ullah (1703-1762 C.E) to revive the original sprit are noteworthy, however it must be kept in view that the main thrust of the efforts of Ulema have been mostly directed towards safeguarding and preserving the dogmatic, ritualistic and institutional structure of Islam writes Dr.Israr Ahmad: As regards fulfilling the requirements and demands of reviving Islam in the present Westernized milieu, and re-establishing the ascendancy of the politic-socio-economic system of Islam, they are often unaware of even the existence of such need. Therefore, the services of the Ulema can be seen as a continuation of the efforts – like the services of present day Ulema are mainly focused on preservation rather than renascence.
The respectable ancestors were justified in narrowing down their fields of activity because the cultural and legal system of Islam was still very much intact in those days, and the predominant need of their time was merely to preserve the religious faith in its original form and defend it against alien influences. As a result, all the past reformers concentrated their energies in the academic fields or at most in the moral and spiritual purification of common Muslims. None of them tried to launch any organized political or militant movement, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had strict restrictions on such rebellion against Muslim rulers, as long as Shari’a was being enforced and no flagrant violation of Islam was being committed.
It was not considered permissible to revolt even if the rulers are themselves wicked and oppressive. Therefore as soon as the situation was changed and non Muslims started to conquer and occupy Muslim lands the reformist efforts quickly turned in to armed struggles, prominent among them are the Mujahideen movement of Sayyed Ahmad Shaheed (1786-1831) in India, the Sanussi movement in Libya by Syyid Muhammad Ibn Ali As-Sanussi (1787-1859) and struggle against Italian occupation up to 1932, the Mahdist movement initiated by Muhammad Ahmad (1844-1885) to resist British invasion in Sudan. Imam Shāmil (1797-1871) struggled against Russians occupation of Dagestan-Chechnya lasting for 25 years (1834-1859), which was again revived recently and goes on. The Afghan Jihad started in nineties, initially against Russians occupation, has turned against their benefactor US. The armed struggle in
and Palestine against
occupation forces, has also been colored by religious fervor. The recent
misadventure by Israelis in Iraq
was thwart by Hizb-Allah, a militant out fit with religious spur. Lebanon
It is obvious that even today the traditional Ulema are following in the footsteps of earlier reformers who had worked under completely different conditions. In other words traditional Muslim scholars have in general restricted themselves and their abilities within a rather narrow circle of activity which is essentially defensive rather than revivalist. Moreover even the task of defending Islamic doctrines is not being properly done by the Ulema as they are more often than not completely out of touch with developments in contemporary philosophical, social, and scientific thought. Imam Ghazzali (1058-1111 C.E) and Imam Ibn Taymiyah (1263-1328 C.E) were able to defeat the onslaught of Greek Philosophy and Aristotelian logic only after a careful and deep study of these invading ideas. Ibn Taymiyah employed a massive battery of philosophic, theological, and legal arguments against every shade of Bid’ah (deviation) and called for a return to the beliefs and practices of the pious ancestors. Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624 C.E) a reformer in India reemphasized Qur’anic orthodoxy and tempering Hindu pantheistic influences and reasserting what he deemed the clear distinctions between God, man, and the world. Despite some impact, however, attempts of this kind remained isolated and were either ignored or reintegrated into the mainstream, until the coming of the modern reformers.
Unlike the doctrinal and philosophical movements of the Middle Ages, the modern movements were chiefly concerned with social and moral reform. The first such movement was the Wahhabi, named after its founder, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, which emerged in
Arabia in the 18th century and became a vast revivalist
movement with offshoots throughout the Muslim world. The Wahhabi movement aimed
at reviving Islam by purifying it of un-Islamic influences, particularly those
that had compromised its original monotheism. Wahhabi theology and
jurisprudence, based, respectively, on the teachings of Ibn Taymiyah and on the
legal , stress literal belief
in the Qur'an and Hadith and the establishment of a Muslim state based only on
Islamic law. school of Ahmad ibn Hanbal was founded in
1867 in Deoband
The theological position of Deoband has always been heavily influenced by the
18th-century Muslim reformer Shah Wali Allah and the early 19th-century
giving it a very puritanical and orthodox outlook. They have considerable
influence in India ,
and Pakistan .
It is generally perceived that the Taliban are influenced by them; but recently
the Deoband has unanimously condemned and renounced all forms of terrorism
declaring it to be un-Islamic. Afghanistan
Similarly in order to deal with the modern ideologies that are seeking to destroy the foundations of Islamic faith one needs to first clearly discriminate between what is and what is not against the spirit of the Qur’an. Afterwards one can refute that part of the invading ideologies which are in conflict with the Qur’anic spirit and to accept and incorporate after reconciling that part which is in accordance with its spirit in to a new and contemporary exposition of Islam without compromising on the fundamentals of Islam. Unfortunately this is not being done by the traditional scholars (Ulema). Dr.Israr Ahmed has rightly pointed out that; the role of Ulema today, instead of being that of an engine capable of propelling the ship of Islam forward, is actually nothing more than that of a heavy anchor which prevents the ship from drifting away in any wrong direction. Although, under the present circumstances, even this is a commendable and substantial service, the fact remains that this is by no means enough. Another aspect of the activity of Ulema that needs correction is their usually strong emphasis on sectarian matters. A serious stagnation of thought along with dogmatism has set in, ever since the practice of Ijtihad (‘independent reasoning’ as opposed to ‘taqlid’-imitation) was done away with. The religious seminaries and Ulema of every sect are therefore spending most of their time and energies in defending and propagating their particular brands of dogma and rituals, often insisting that any variation in such matters is nothing short of apostasy.
The doctrine of Takfir; is being used in the modern era in sanctioning violence against leaders of Islamic states who are deemed insufficiently religious. Takfir is a pronouncement that, some one is an unbeliever (kafir) and no longer a Muslim. It has become a central ideology of militant groups such as those in
(now also in Egypt and
adjoining tribal areas of Afghanistan )
which is claimed to be derived from the ideas of Sayyid Qutab. Mainstream
Muslims and Islamic groups reject the concept as a doctrinal deviation. Leaders
such as Hassan al-Hudaybi (d.1977) and Yousf al–Qaradawi reject ‘Takfir’ as un-Islamic and marked by
bigotry and zealotry. Such narrow mindedness has exacerbated the evil of
sectarianism and the resulting intolerance among the masses has led to a
dangerous trend towards sectarian militancy. Pakistan
The 19th and 20th-century reformers include Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897), Muhammad 'Abduh (1849-1905), but Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), is the first modern Muslim philosopher to deal with the intellectual challenges faced by Muslim Ummah in any comprehensive manner. He made an effort to address the real issues, by saying: “With the reawakening of Islam, therefore, it is necessary to examine, in an independent spirit, what
Europe has thought and how far the conclusions reached
there can help us in the revision and if necessary, reconstruction, of
theological thought in Islam.” Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958) initiated struggle
for Islamic revival in ,
but was discouraged due to opposition by some traditional Ulema, he got
disillusioned and gave up the struggle to join nationalist politics of India . The
twentieth century revivalist movement of Jama’at–e-Islami by Abul A’la
Moududi (1903-1979) in India ,
later in India
and Ikhwan al Muslimun in Pakistan by Hassan Al-Banna in 1928 have left lasting impact. Some
organization operating in Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon, Chechnya, Philippines,
Kashmir, Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics and elsewhere getting inspiration
from these movements have developed radical out look, despite differences and
disagreement in their approach, their significance can not be ignored. The
Iranian revolution has its own importance and long term implications. Egypt
Due to lack of interest in religion by the Muslims in general and the rulers in particular, and later colonization of large part of Muslim world, the responsibility to acquire even basic knowledge of Islam was left to the religious scholars only.
The Madaris which produced the scholars like Jabir ibn Hayyan, Abu Musa Al-Khwarizmi (Algorizm), Ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi (Alkindus), Ar-Razi, Al-Farabi, Alhazen, Al-Biruni, Avicenna, Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and many more, by teaching all branches of knowledge including mathematic, algebra, astronomy, science and technology, medicine and social sciences along with religious sciences, philosophy and logic, teaching in Madaris was restricted to religious sciences only. This void created a new class of semi-literate religious scholars (mullah) devoid of knowledge of science, political, economic, social and other fields, so important for the smooth management of Muslim societies. Instead of leading the prayers (salah) and delivering the weekly sermon (khutba) on Fridays, the Muslim rulers encouraged and created a class of Mullahs (religious teachers, cleric) with priestly tendencies alien to Islam. Mostly these semi literate people are leading prayers in mosques as prayer leader (Imam), the function which can be performed by any Muslim. Since ordinary Muslims are dependent upon Mullah for the socio-religious functions like Nikah (marriage contract), reciting Adhan (prayer call) and Qur’anic verses in the ear of new born babies, washing the dead, burial prayer etc, the Mullah enjoys considerable influence over ordinary Muslims. While delivering sermons, specially on weekly Friday prayer congregation they do not hesitate to deliver talk on any topic be it politics, economics, social, sexual relations or international affairs without much background knowledge.
No one among the audience, even an expert can dare to disagree or challenge the Mullah, because it may result in to dire consequences like being falsely declared as apostate, liable to be killed. Many such incidence have been reported in press. They are main contributor of sectarianism, intolerance and militancy, though there are some exceptionally knowledgeable and tolerant among them as well. The Russian occupation of
resulted in creation of Mujahideen by Afghanistan . After Russians defeat, they
started fighting among themselves for power, using the name of Islam. This
resulted in emergence of Taliban, the
students of seminaries (madaris) which produce Mullah, a sort of
professional priest. However it would be a great fallacy to brand all the
seminaries (madaris) as source of trouble, most of them are doing good
job. The taste of power has now made Taliban to continue fighting whosoever
oppose them be it Russians, Americans or Muslim brothers. Talibanization has
affected the tribal areas of USA
as well, they are using suicide bombers as tool for killing of innocent fellow
Muslims in violation of Islamic principles. This menace can not be tackled by
more violence. The reforms of religious seminaries (madaris), are
overdue to include modern and technical education to the students along with
the religious education. Pakistan
The graduates of these institutions should not only be looking for a mosque to earn their livelihood as Imam (priest), but may join other professions as well. There is strong need of policy shift at the national and international level to bring them to mainstream. The superfluous priesthood, (the form it has taken now) has to be restricted by the society whereby each Muslim should acquire normal religious knowledge to perform routine religious functions and reduce dependence on Mullah. A class of genuine religious scholars well versed in the theology and comparative religions should always be an asset for Ijtihad, guidance and education of the masses in their religious obligations. The massive religious mobilization by Tablighi Jama’t, by and large is playing an important role with in the larger process of Islamic Renaissance, with regards to its effort for the regeneration of fundamentals of faith among the masses, though some people express reservations. The efforts of non traditional scholars due to their rational appeal for the educated people is highly commendable. Many modern educated Muslims have been encouraged to come closer to Islam.
The Broader Perspective:
A true Muslim adheres to the convictions, the religious beliefs; confession of faith or the basic article of Muslim faith and practices. The sources of the Islamic Creed are Qur'an and Sunnah (the life, actions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him). Islam does not teach an exclusive doctrine, and is not meant exclusively for any single race or people. The Jews claimed their faith for themselves, and the Christianity in the beginning was a sect of the Jews. Even the modern organized Christian churches, though they have been, consciously or unconsciously, influenced by the Time-spirit, including the historical fact of Islam, yet cling to the idea of Vicarious Atonement, which means that all who do not believe; that Jesus died on Cross as a sacrifice to get rid the humanity of Original Sin, or who lived previously to the death of Christ are spiritually at a disadvantage. The approach of Islam is entirely different. Islam existed before the preaching of Muhammad (peace be upon him) on this earth: the Qur’an expressly asks Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to follow the religion of Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him (Qur’an;16:123). It should be kept in view that the Night Journey of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from Mecca to Jerusalem, immediately preceding his Ascension to heavens (mair’aj), was evidently meant to show that Islam is not a new doctrine but a continuation of the same divine message which was preached by the prophets of old, who had Jerusalem as their spiritual home, This view is supported by Traditions (quoted in Fath al-Bari VII, 158), according to which the Prophet (peace be upon him), during his Night Journey, also offered prayers at Yathrib, Sinai, Bethlehem, etc. His meeting with other prophets, mentioned in this connection, symbolize the same idea. The well-known Traditions to the effect that on the occasion of his Night Journey the Prophet (peace be upon him) led a prayer in the Temple of Jerusalem (Al Aqsa Mosque; The distant place of worship), in which all other prophets ranged themselves behind him, expresses in a figurative manner the doctrine that Islam, as preached by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is the fulfillment and perfection of mankind's religious development. He was the last and the greatest of God's message-bearers. Islam is the best Din (way of life) because its teachings are not restricted to doctrinaire rhetoric but practical solutions for the problems of mankind at the individual and collective levels. Islam offers the best way of life because it is a practical, universal religion not confined to any ethnic group or nationality but to the humanity, ever since its existence; hence also called the natural faith or the eternal faith. Therefore Islam should be viewed in its broader perspective as true legacy of Abraham for peace and salvation of humanity. Allah says: “Verily this Brotherhood of yours (Muslims) is a single Brotherhood and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve Me Alone”(Qur’an;21:92).
o Muslim Contributions in Medicine, Science & Technology: