Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
13 - 19 July 2000
Issue No. 490
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

BOOKS: a monthly supplement of Al-Ahram Weekly

In the Name of God

Re: The repercussions of the controversy surrounding the publication of Haydar Haydar's A Banquet for Seaweed

Sir -- History testifies to Islam being in favour of science. That it embodies a different perception of reality to that of the now predominant secular epistemology is a different matter. Faced with the challenges of an increasingly globalised world, maybe it is time to reflect on the actual reasons behind Muslims falling behind and their greatness becoming something of the past, pondering the various implications thoroughly and precisely.

For one thing, it would be interesting to enter into a dialogue about the kind of methodology employed during the great eras of Muslim science, noting the objectivity of these leading Muslims, their being both independent of spirit and creative in their ceaseless pursuit of knowledge and various scientific endeavours.

To function in the light of our perception of the Truth never did engender ignorance or destructive extremism, but instead nurtured great and brilliant pillars of the history of science, to whom the world at large remains greatly indebted.

We should not be discouraged by the West's accusations, the present claims being made by both their educational and social establishments, to the effect that we are reactionary and regressive because of our belief in the Religion of Islam. Islam is a way of life: everything complements every other thing, and mankind's inner light, allowing a diversity of visions of the Truth within both heart and mind are of the essence. Such a balanced perception of reality, which provides for all aspects of life, places, in the hearts and minds of mankind, a true spirit of goodwill whose object is to benefit humanity and give guidance; it far from aims for unmediated profit.

We know by now that in spite of the achievements of materialism, knowledge that is devoid of the consciousness of God has numerous negative consequences -- environmental medical, social, mental, economical -- the list is infinite.

We know the Truth, but we are not living it. Talking about Islam, we do not seem able to incorporate our iman (faith and conviction) into the fabric of our lives; thus we squander the true spirit of our consciousness of the sacred and instead adopt all kinds of extremist postures, whether in the name of Islam or secularism. The global world is now a reality in which we live, whether we like it or not, and our children will be facing all kinds of impossible challenges and cruel conflicts between good and evil, in the course of an ongoing struggle that humanity has endured since the beginning of time. By using our perception of scientific truth, we should rather establish a fundamental source of confidence and build self-esteem in the budding hearts and spirits of our innocent children, teaching the new generation the importance of selectivity in knowledge.

What we should also do is teach them to ignore the arrogance of the West, which having capitalised on the modern world's achievements and developments, adopts a distinctly derogative position. Our children must retrieve their spiritual and historical honour, emphasising the Muslim sources of current Western knowledge. Centuries ago, Islam was the light that fertilised the world's epistemological soil in every field of scientific endeavour -- and this is established beyond the shadow of a doubt. Europe was flooded with the teachings of Muslims. Christian scholars began to study Arabic. The books of Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina became required reading in the great schools of Europe. Islamic thought and scholarship nurtured a pale and ignorant Europe out of what was to be known as the Dark Ages.

In Al-Ahram Weekly of 13-19 April, 2000, Fatemeh Farag touches on the book, From the Throne to the Earth, by Eid Werdani, which argues that there could have been, and that there is, a genuine conflict between Islam and science. Maybe the author is best ignored, but since his theories will undoubtedly the minds of our children, adding to the overall confusion, we should respond to his writings and enter into a debate against his arguments, so as to clear up any possible misunderstanding of our great heritage, which has left a profound mark on the history of science as a whole.

Eid, alas says a lot about our scholars' state of mind -- that the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia has insisted that the world in fact is flat, explaining satellite images that prove otherwise as part of a conspiracy against the Islamic World. In fact the Holy Qur'an itself states (1) that the earth has the oval shape of an egg (using a word that some Arabs still use for "egg"; and (2) explains the earth's rotation with more detail in several suras. The eternal message of the Holy Qur'an is true at the time of its revelation, but it is equally true that satellites are in existence. That it is the last universal message to all humanity, and that it fits into any world, however globalised, are among the miracles that establish the Holy Qur'an's divinity.

The Arabic language too lives on, well preserved. Since it belongs to the dynamic Polymantic group of tongues, which do not spell out all of their meanings at once, it forces the human mind, heart and intellect to reflect and think, literally drowning in its interpretation.

As the Egyptian writer, Ahmed Bahgat says in his book The Stories of the Prophets, "one of the purposes of the creation of Adam was to teach him freedom and knowledge." There is, too, the description of the universe as Allah's open book, a book full of miraculous signs and words illustrating His Divine Manifestation and His Divine Uniqueness alike. He is the Creator, and we believe that His Laws are absolute, unlike our relative laws of nature. And here as elsewhere we hope the sun will not be eclipsed forever. Through constructive self-criticism and dialogue, perhaps we can revive the sunshine, the true spirit of Islam, and rise up from the humiliation, restoring the sense of being independent and purified rather than blindly imitating and following the methodology and the so-called freedom of the West. I wonder why the Muslim voice is missing out of the world's most important discussions and debates -- about ethics in science, the confidence of upholding moral values, a responsible attitude that goes beyond emotional response, and is deeply rooted in the traditions of Islam. Our knowing the Truth credits us with a responsibility towards the world at large, and towards the objective of living in it. But the balanced and peaceful way goes far beyond both the emotions of contemporary Muslim individuals, which are occasionally provoked, and the extremism that is rife in our social lives and negatively affecting societies in which Muslims are living.

Amina Rolsdorph, (A Western convert to Islam),
Boulkly, Alexandria

   Top of page
Front Page