Muslim Unity Through Science and Technology in the 21st Century
As we enter the 21st century, Muslims are so looked down upon, and they are treated with disrespect and they are suspect for terrorism. Muslims are also the most oppressed people anywhere in the world. Everywhere Muslims are bullied, detained, bombed and massacred with impunity. The Muslim countries are weak and are unable to do anything to defend themselves, their people and their fellow Muslims anywhere in the world.
Common sense dictates a Muslim
country needs guns and rockets, warships and warplanes, armored cars, etc to
defend its sovereignty. A Muslim country cannot depend on imported military
equipment, particularly from countries that are opposed to us. Muslims should
invent, design, produce and test their own weapons of defense.(1)
The injunctions of the Qur'an are ignored completely, although these injunctions stress making judgment with justice. And because we ignore this stress on justice enjoined by Islam, we create an image of Islam that is uncaring and unjust.(1)
Islam has been misinterpreted
and deliberately ignoring the teachings of Islam. It is because of this that
Muslims of today are backward, lacking in knowledge, unable to defend themselves
and their religion, and some Muslims are forced to resort to terror in order to
Dangers of globalization (2)
Dr Mahathir said non-Muslims were busy exploiting new technologies to the full, while Muslim countries were being left behind. He warned that Muslim countries that were technologically backward and economically poor risked being bullied and recolonised by the non-Muslim world.
To achieve the unity of Muslim in Britain (3), it is recommended that all Muslims should become true Muslims themselves. (This doesn’t seem to be happening either, perhaps it might happen in future). Some people want to establish an Islamic Khilafat (a single Muslim government in all the Islamic countries) by changing the minds of the Muslims. However in the present era it appears to be impossible to achieve unity.
Qur'an and Muslim Unity (4)
Muslims are required to work together towards a common goal set by the Noble Qur'an and shown by the Prophet (PBUH) through his Sunnah. They are brothers and sisters because they are bonded by the common ideology of the unity of God and the unity of mankind.
These are the foundational principles of Islam. The Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) require Muslims to work for the unity of the Ummah. Muslims are required to be merciful towards each other (The Qur'an (48:29)) and be like the body where if any part hurts the whole body should feel the pain (Hadith). But, are Muslims practicing this injunction of the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH)? Muslims and various Islamic organizations are working hard but it is frustratingly obvious that the above goals are ever so illusive. Instead of Muslims being united in mercy towards each other, they are, on the whole, far from it. Instead of feeling the pain and misery of other Muslims (Chechens, Palestinians, Kashmiris, for example), most of us are happily enjoying our material comforts of life. Is Muslim unity only a dream that cannot be fulfilled? Some may argue that all this talk of Muslim unity is out of date. There was a time when Islam united Muslims but present reality makes it impossible. Talk of Muslim unity is nice, and makes Muslims feel good but it is an unrealistic goal that cannot be achieved. In fact, this is what is happening to Muslim Ummah today. Probably, there are no people in the world today who have been as divided as Muslims. They are divided along religious, political, ethnic, cultural, racial, linguistic, and sectarian lines. These divisions extend further into subdivisions. Status, wealth, fame, and fortune have also created social differences among Muslims. Dr. Mansoor Alam says, "Muslims are divided at the root into Sunnis and Shias. Sunnis are further divided into Hanafi, Maliki, Sha'fi, and Hanbali. Shias too are divided into Kesania, Zaidia, Imamia or Ithna ‘Ashari, Ismailia, etc. Sunnis are also divided into Ahle-hadith and Ahle-fiqha. In the Indian subcontinent (at least) Ahle-fiqha are further divided into Deobandis and Barelwis. Similar differences exist in other places as well. Are all these divisions and differences schools of thought as many Muslims claim? Whether or not we admit it, these differences and divisions do create physical, emotional, and psychological barriers amongst us. Iqbal says that these differences create prejudice in human beings." (4).
Any recommendation for the unity of Muslim Ummah should be realistic and its effective application demands utmost sincerity, conviction, commitment and caution from every relevant person or authority. Although there has been gross political deviation within Islam, this can be rectified easily - because, Alhamdulillah, the Islamic framework is still alive and Al-Qur'an, the eternal constitution of the world, is ever present in the Muslim hearts. Repentance for the past negligence and pledge for the present, these two things being acceptable to Allah (SWT), are the pre-requisites for any success. Following broad recommendations are mentioned here - some for the inter-governmental bodies of the Muslim world and others for the Islamic Movements.
Lack of Consensus and Islamic Spirit
OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) and other governmental agencies, global or regional, should initiate to strengthen the cause of Muslim unity by increasing their commitment to their own declared objectives and charters. OIC has, in fact, devised some commendable schemes to promote mutual assistance and cooperation among Muslim countries in various fields. But the lethargy of the member states and incompetence of the OIC administration have made these programs ineffectual. Lack of consensus as well as Islamic spirit are the main reasons behind these apathetic situation. Methods and ways need to be found so that the relevant Muslim states can work positively on matters of common interest and avoid those that create dissensions. The following areas of cooperation and mutual help by the governmental organizations are now more demanding than ever.
These include Food, Agriculture, Energy, Trade, Basic Industry, Transport, Communication, etc. Economy is the backbone for the self-reliance and prosperity of any country, but unfortunately no Muslim country has any economic infrastructure of its own. As Muslim countries are plagued either by affluence or extreme poverty, sharing of wealth, skill and expertise can improve their collective economic predicament.
Science and Technology Exchange
As Science and Technology are fundamentally important for a nation to keep pace in the race of development, Muslim countries should promote cooperation and interaction in these areas. Muslim countries should put their joint efforts in order to develop their technological know-how in the productive areas of their economy and initiate some basic research if possible. This will help reducing the brain drain of the talented scientists from their countries.
Information and Cultural Cooperation
These include cooperation in the promotion of the features and history of Islamic Civilization, Academic and Research link in various areas of mutual interest as well as Information-related and Humanitarian activities. Cooperation in defending Muslim rights and Islamic values in Muslim-minority countries can lead to a better understanding among the Muslim countries. Serious and practical steps should be taken to promote Arabic, the language of the Qur'an and of eternal paradise, throughout the Muslim world with a view to making it the common language of the Ummah. This will definitely increase the psychological and spiritual bondage between the Muslim people.
COMSTECH is the Standing Committee
on Scientific and Technological Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic
Conference (OIC). OIC member countries should promote science and technology
to bring the Muslim nation at par with advanced nations. OIC countries should
endeavor to promote rapid industrialization, strengthen the agricultural sector,
and provide adequate health care for all, including the rural population.
The position Islamic countries hold toward the challenges faced by science and scientists are similar to those from developing countries. Environmental issues need to be on the forefront of priorities set in the agenda of the next millennium.
Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, director general of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), reiterated that one of the imbalances characterizing modern society is that assistance programs, regional and international alike, have fallen short of upgrading scientific performance in the developing countries. He adds that these countries still suffer from the weakness of public institutions, which are no longer capable of ensuring the required measure of stability. Furthermore, their educational and training facilities are not apt for the creation of qualified manpower, let alone a nucleus of scientific staff of international caliber. "The situation is further compounded by the inadequate scientific research capacities, which does not augur well for the harnessing of endogenous natural resources, the production of new technologies and the fulfilment of the needs of an ever-increasing population", explains Altwaijri. "As a result, economic and social conditions will go on exacerbating, leading to thorny problems and crises." (7).
To alleviate the suffering of developing countries, the required assistance should be rendered to them so that they can achieve the greatest measure of scientific and technological progress. This is to be accomplished through knitting close ties of technical and financial cooperation between developing and developed countries as well as the competent international agencies. "These ties have to focus on the transfer of scientific knowledge and expertise, the opening of sustainable development avenues before them, the extension of further financial resources, in addition to ensuring optimal planning of their projects through updating the scientific and technological development efforts as a matter of top priority, then setting forth the objectives, and allocating sufficient financial resources on the basis of national commitments to proceed in this direction," explains Altwaijri.(7)
In a move to demonstrate this commitment science and education ministers of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) endorsed a draft strategy for developing science and technology in the Muslim world. The strategy's main recommendation is that governments should allocate a minimum of one per cent of their gross domestic product for scientific and technological development. Despite agreeing to do this, many of the ministers admitted that a goal of one per cent was unrealistic. Many delegates commented that such a target would be too difficult for most OIC member countries to achieve. All developing countries have no option but to increase their investment on science if they want to lift themselves above the pile of underdeveloped nations. A particularly pressing priority is human resource development, and secondly regional cooperation-both need funding.
The Organization of Islamic Conference Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) in collaboration with the International Foundation for Sciences (IFS) is providing support in the form of research grants to young scientists of merit in OIC member countries.
According to COMSTECH sources, an amount of more than Rs 36 million would be spent over a period of five years on the project. The grants are awarded in six different research areas within the general framework of "Management, use and conservation of Biological Resources", viz Aquatic resources, animal production (including veterinary medicine), crop science, forestry/agro-forestry, food science and natural products.
The research grants are awarded up to a maximum value of $12,000 for a period of one to three years and may be renewed twice. They were intended for the purchase of equipment, supplies for experiments and laboratory analysis, for buying scientific journals and other literature etc.
One of the problems, facing the scientists in the OIC member states, is the lack of scientific equipment, scientific libraries and consumables, required for carrying out research. As a result, the scientists, who return to their countries after obtaining PhD degrees from reputable foreign universities, often find that they could not productively contribute to the development of their own country because of the lack of proper facilities.
This had been responsible for growing frustration among the scientific community and many of them go abroad, causing brain drain and further aggravating the status of science in their own country. The COMSTECH has initiated this program for supporting scientific research projects of young scientists in key areas of science and technology. The research grants are meant for applicants who are citizens of, and carry out the research in, an OIC member state.
Cooperation between Muslim countries (9)
The first verse of the Quran that was revealed and inspired Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was "Iqra" or to acquire knowledge and emphasized the importance of learning in human life.
"Read in the name of thy Lord who creates." The Noble Qur'an also says "Rabbi Zidni Ilmaa" that is to pray to Allah for increase in knowledge. According to the Qur'an only men of knowledge really fear Allah most.
There are many Ahadith, which emphasize the spiritual value of learning and of the need for all Muslims to expand their knowledge in all ways. The Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, the learned men are his heirs. Also with learning Allah (SWT) raised a people and makes them pioneers in whose path others will follow and whose examples others will take. Prophet of Islam also said, seek knowledge though it be in China. It was in such a spirit and encouraged by such words that the Arabs re-lit the torch of learning in Europe and bore it triumphantly aloft to illumine what would otherwise have remained for the West, the Dark Ages. Islamic Education brought light wherever there had been darkness before. From the very beginning Muslims were encouraged to do all they could to further the cause of education.
"The adoption of the sign of 'Zero' (Arabic Sifr or Cipher) was a step of the highest importance, leading up to the so called arithmetic of positions. With the help of the Arab system of numbers, elementary methods of calculations were perfected; the doctrines of the properties of, and relations between, the equal and the unequal and prime numbers, squares and cubes, were elaborated; Algebra was enriched by the solution of the third degree and fourth degrees, with the help of geometry, and so on. About the year 820 CE the mathematician Al-Khwarizmi, wrote a text book of Algebra in examples, and his elementary treatise - translated into Latin - was used by Western scholars down to the sixteenth century."
Scholars agree that the true
wealth of a nation lies in the quality of education with which its people are
blessed and its ability to use its educated masses for economic development. It
is a fact that the contribution of science and technology to economic growth is
now widely recognized. After gaining independence, the Muslim countries'
emphasis on science and technology is very poor. Because of this, most of the
Muslim countries are defined as poor and under-developed. There are only 8
countries, which can be described as developing. .
Similarly teachers/students could
be sent to be exchanged between Muslim countries for further training and
gaining more practical experience. This will also create an atmosphere of mutual
understanding and friendship. Literacy rate in some of the Muslim countries is
as high as 97.5 per cent (Central Asian Republics) whereas in Niger (Africa) the
literacy rate is only 19 per cent. In Afghanistan it is 10 percent or less
after the unending Civil War. Coordination can be worked out for exchange of
experience to raise literacy rate in Muslim African countries with the
assistance of Central Asian Republics.
We all know that Ummah is going through very crucial stage. At this juncture of time unity within our ranks is most important than ever.
There is nothing in the teachings of Islam that contends against learning, against science, and against technology. The pursuit of knowledge and scientific research is the birthright of every Muslim woman and every Muslim man.
The rediscovery of Islamic science and technology in the 21st century is an intellectually formidable task requiring a sustained effort over several decades. The first step to be taken for scientific rebirth is ijtihad, to exert the utmost effort, to struggle; to do one's best to know something. Ijtihad, after the Qur'an and Prophetic traditions, is the third source of Islamic law.
Muslim countries should unitedly aim at applying science and technology in the building of a new Islamic civilization. This will prevent the imbalance, disharmony and disintegration in almost every field of human endeavor such as social, economic, cultural, political or any other. This goal can be achieved by simultaneously implementing the following:
The Islamization of Muslim scientists and technologists who are trained by western science and technology. The training of young Muslims in Islamic science and technology.
Currently the problem in the Muslim countries is that the Ulema do not have any knowledge of modern science and technology and the Muslim scientists and technologists do not have mastery of Islamic sources of knowledge. As we know the Ulema exert the greatest influence on the Muslim masses. It appears that it is easier and practical to train Muslim scientists and technologists trained in western education in Islamic sources of knowledge instead of training our Ulema in science and technology.
To train our younger generation into Islamic science and technology there is a need to develop a new curricula incorporating Islamic values in science and technology and also writing of textbooks in science and technology at all levels of education: primary, secondary, and higher education.
Muslim countries have established organizations to meet their religious, political, economic and social needs such as the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference), Arab League, Muslim World Bank, Muslim World League, World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), etc. Organizations like COMSTECH, ISESCO should be vested with more powers and strengthened with huge funding. Therefore there is an urgent need to establish the following:
Islamic Academy of Sciences.
Think-Tank institutions to solve scientific and technological problems of the Muslim countries
Islamic Foundations to award grants.
Recognition of Muslim scientists.
Establishment of Alternatives to Nobel Prizes, such as King Faizal Awards.
Prizes for work done or accomplishments of Muslim scientists and technologists.
Islamic Atomic Energy Agency where Muslim scientists and engineers from Muslim countries can be trained in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and transfer of technology.
Exchange of Muslim scholars in the sciences and engineering at Post-graduate level, faculty level and senior faculty level.
Holding of Annual Meetings at the national and international level.
Fortunately, Allah (SWT) has given a bounty to many Islamic countries, an income over 100 billion dollars per year. Hence, Islamic countries have the opportunity and resources to make Islamic sciences and technology NUMBER ONE in the world, once again. Let us ignite the spark of our great achievements to be materialized in the near future. Let the Muslim scientists and engineers in the western world contribute to the health, welfare and prosperity of our less fortunate brothers and sisters in the Islamic countries by contributing our brilliance.
1. Muslim Unity in the Face of Challenges and Threats, a speech given by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at Cairo's Al Azhar University. The Australian newspaper, Feb. 10, 2003
2. Tuesday, 27 June 2000, UK Conference calls for Muslim unity http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/808299.stm
4. Iqbal, Quran and Muslim Unity By Dr. Mansoor Alam, www.tolueislam.com
6. COMSTECH meeting: Laraki urges Islamic countries to promote science, technology. http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/991120/1999112037.html
9. Education Links between Muslims Countries Dr Rahim Yar Abbasi http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/maxpages/faculty/gmbonham/2000-Fall-IR-Projects/Website-Group/ICN/Copy%20of%20ICNweb/Conflict%20Resolution%20P..htm
10. Syed, IB. Islamic Science, Past, Present and Future. Online at www.irfi.org
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