Ibrahim B. Syed,
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA
TEXT OF ADDRESS DELIVERED BY Dr. IBRAHIM
B. SYED, Ph.D PRESIDENT OF ISLAMIC RESEARCH FOUNDATION AND CONVENER
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ISLAMIC RENAISSANCE: ACTION PLAN
FOR THE 21st CENTURY, MALCOLM X COLLEGE,
CHICAGO, MAY 26, 1995 IN HIS WELCOME ADDRESS TO THE CONFERENCE DELEGATES.
Dear brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in Islam and
ladies and gentlemen. I cordially extend to you all a very warm and hearty
welcome to this International Conference on Islamic Renaissance, perhaps the
first in North America and the world.
I would like to personally and on behalf
of the Islamic Research Foundation gratefully acknowledge the voluntary services
of Sr. Mazhar Ahmed and Br. Hamid Ahmed and Br. Majeedullah Khan in making this
Conference a reality. Last but not the least, I am very much indebted to
Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, for so graciously consenting to become the
Chairman of the this Conference. Also it would have been extremely difficult to
hold this Conference without the generous support of our 55 individual and
One of the missions of the Islamic Research Foundation is to
accelerate the momentum to achieve Islamic Renaissance. To me Islamic
Renaissance means the intellectual growth of the Muslim Ummah. Intellect is the
greatest gift of Allah (SWT) to mankind. Intellect grows through thinking or
Tafkir. There are several Ayath in the Qur'an which mention the word "
Yatafakkaroon." We are interested to encourage young Muslims to learn and apply
research methodology to interpret the Qur'an and Hadith in the light of modern
knowledge. To conduct essay writing competitions to the Muslim youth to make
them aware of our rich Heritage. Muslims in the western world as well as Muslims
in the Muslim lands ruled by colonial powers have been deprived of the knowledge
of the achievements of our ancestors. Gravitation, Evolution, spherical
trigonometry, blood circulation and thousands of discoveries in the areas of
science, technology and medicine were known to our ancestors at least 800 years
before they were re-discovered by the Westerners. During the golden age of
Islamic civilization, Europe was in the dark and undeveloped. The orientalists
have acknowledges that it is the Muslims and their achievements in all the
branches of knowledge that paved the way to Renaissance in Europe. Our model for
Islamic Renaissance is not European Renaissance but the golden age of Islamic
The decline of Islamic Civilization started with the loss of
Muslim Spain or Andalusia in 1492. Earlier there were setbacks due to external
attacks such as the Crusades and the Mongol invasion during the eleventh and
thirteenth century. However a major cause of this decline is Obscurantism. The
Western society advanced in
sciences and technology when they rebelled
against their religion. On the otherhand, the Muslims fell down from their
achievements in science and technology
when they moved away from the Noble Qur'an.
The first word revealed to Prophet
Muhammad(Peace be upon him) was "IQRA" which means to read and not "Allah",
"Rasool", "Salat","Siyam", "Zakat" or "Hajj". Both the Qur'an and the Hadith
have laid great emphasis on Education. However today the Muslim Ummah is 1.2
billion, but unfortunately the literacy rate is between 25 to 35 per cent, and
among rural women it is only 2 per cent. The highest literacy rate is 92 per
cent among the Muslims of Kerala state in India. Ibn Khaldun said 700 years ago
that a nation that does not respect Education will not make progress. Today
education is a "must" for the survival of Muslims as Muslims. Investment in
education is the best investment. The hallmark of any civilization is its
intellectual achievement. Without education there can be no intellectual
achievement. The Islamic Research Foundation supports all educational
institutions and organizations such as the Iqra International Educational
Foundation. Intellectual freedom is the bedrock of intellectual growth.
Alhamdulillah, there are over 60 Muslim countries. But how many countries
promote intellectual freedom? The answer is ZERO. The Islamic Research
Foundation publishes a humble Newsletter called "ILM". I am proud to inform you
that it is the only Muslim publication in the world with a motto which says
"stimulating intellectual growth through differing viewpoints." The editor, Dr.
Syed Eqbal Hasan strictly adheres to this policy.
Poverty is the greatest enemy of mankind. Vast majority of
the Muslim Ummah is in this state. Poverty killed more than 20 million people in
1993, says the World Health Organization(WHO). These people died of infectious
disease-malaria and tuberculosis, or from prenatal, neonatal and maternal
causes, all consequences of poverty in the form of poor sanitation, lack of
clean water and malnutrition. Impoverished conditions also contributed to the
deaths of 12.2 million children less than 5 years old in 1993. Of 5.6 billion
people in the world, half lack access to the essential drugs, more than one
fifth live in extreme poverty, and almost one third of all children are
malnourished. These are shocking figures! Let us reflect-honestly and
realistically. In this Conference we will be addressing to the issues of poverty
alleviation, Islamic financing and nutrition.
Our ancestors established an integrated society by
integrating religion, science, politics and administration-all inspired by the
same Islamic ideal-the Islamic ideal of Balance and Compassion- Adl and Ihsan
(justice and good). There is a need to achieve a balance between Islam and
modernity through Ijtehad(creative interpretation), the un-utilized methodology
and foundation of our Sharia, after the Qur'an and Hadith. We need to rebuild
our Educational System, Human Rights, Law and Order, Entitlements of women and
minorities and to close the gap between the rich and the poor.
It is suicidal or will result in enslavement if Muslims do
not utilize modern science and technology. Muslims should adapt to modernity.
Islam is not against modernity. This neglect of modernity resulted in the
colonization of Muslim lands. For example in the last century Imam Shamil of
Chechnya fought with swords and spears whereas the Russians fought with machine
guns and artillery imported from Europe. Russians defeated Imam Shamil and
annihilated his army and the whole Central Asian Muslim Republics.
Like Tipu Sultan of Mysore in India, Imam
Shamil stood alone, Muslims never helped him. When Shamil was on his way to
perform the "Hajj" in Arabia, the Ottoman Sultan offered him his right hand to
shake, Imam Shamil, in turn, put out his left hand. "When I needed you in my
fight against the Russians and I stretched out the right hand you offered me
nothing" he said. 100,000 British controlled and ruled 300 million people in
India. Through modernity, 5 million Jews effectively kept at bay 200 million
In the last 100 years people like Imam Muhammad Abduh,
Jamaluddin Afghani, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Mohammad Iqbal and others tried
to uplift the Muslim Ummah and emphasized the importance of modernity. We must
continue their mission and improve the quality of life of the Muslim Ummah. We
cannot solely depend on the Muslim rulers and governments. This movement should
start from the grass roots. Ibn Khaldun predicted that when the Rulers become
corrupt, then they will be swiped out from the forces that come from the rural
areas. The Iranian revolution is a good example of this. We must start our
revolution with our dedication to FreeThinking, Education, Objectivity, Critical
Thinking, Freedom of statement, Courage to seek proof, Courage to challenge
falsehood and corruption.
Let us solve the problem of celebration of Eid days and the
sighting of the Hilal through critical thinking and critical analysis. Let us
not become a laughing stock in the eyes of non-Muslims. Let us aim to establish
high quality educational institutions including Universities with all the
disciplines and faculties catering to the spiritual, physical and intellectual
needs of Muslims.
If there are any short comings and deficiencies in holding
this Conference, then I take the blame and all the good things go to Allah(SWT)
and we thank Him for His blessings and rewards.
"DON'T FIND FAULT, FIND A REMEDY."